Greater Greater Washington

Posts by Steven Yates

Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

Breakfast links: Paying and placing transit


Image from the State of Maryland via BeyondDC on Flickr.
Green for Purple: Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn breaks down where the money is coming from for the Purple Line. While Montgomery and Prince George's will pay more and Maryland less, it's still not final how large those amount will be. (WAMU)

Silver at bat: Follow a team as they search for a threatened bat in the path of the future Silver Line rail yard. If they find it, it could mean increased costs and delays. (Post)

No bus parking: Ivy City's Crummell School will not serve as bus parking for buses serving Union Station. But will the site be developed, preserved, or converted to some community use? (Post)

Housing paying for transit: San Francisco officials are considering charging larger, market-rate housing buildings a fee that would help fund public transit. Even developers are for the plan, but does that mean the proposed fees are too low? (CityLab)

The housing burden: Nearly half of DC-area renters are cost burdened, meaning they pay at least 30% of their income on rent. The problem is particularly bad for low earners, where 93% are cost burdened. (City Paper)

Worse before it gets better: Fairfax County will replace an aging bike and pedestrian bridge along Van Dorn Street. But that will close the current route for two weeks leaving pedestrians a shuttle bus and bikers to fend for themselves. (FABB)

Tokyo drifts toward zero deaths: How did Tokyo nearly eliminate traffic deaths? Like many of the safest cities, it was built compactly and made space for public transportation, bikes, and pedestrians. (Tech Insider, Leo)

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Two downtown parking spots just became a new public park

What if we used the space we currently devote to parked cars for something else? DC's first seasonal parklet, a mini park that takes the place of street parking spaces, opened on Tuesday.


The parKIT at its ribbon cutting ceremony. All photos by the author.

Called parKIT, the parklet is at 2020 K Street NW. While DC has had many temporary parklets to celebrate Park(ing) Day, the ParKIT will be semi-permanent, staying around until October.


ParKIT is a joint venture between DDOT, the District Department of the Environment, architecture firm Gensler, and the Golden Triangle BID. Its yellow triangles are a nod to the BID.


At the ribbon cutting, DDOE Director Tommy Wells commended all those involved for their willingness to consider a different use for space traditionally reserved for parking—removing parking spaces is undoubtedly the most controversial part of creating parklets. If parKIT is successful, it might become easier to create other parklets around the region.

The Golden Triangle BID will hold events at the parKIT every Tuesday from noon until 2:00 pm, with the theme of "making the city."

How big are Dulles and BWI airports? These maps give you an idea

Dulles and Baltimore Washington International airports can sometimes feel like they're not all that close to the District. But what would happen if they were built closer to DC? Like, in DC itself?


Dulles (black) and BWI (red) airports over DC. Rendering by the author and base image from Google Maps. Click for interactive version.

Above is where the runways would fall if you built Dulles or BWI as is in DC. In the image, each airport's terminal is roughly aligned with Union Station.

As you can see, Dulles is more spread out than BWI: from north to south, its runways span the distance from T Street NW (in the overlay, the Black Cat is among the northern-most landmarks that the "airport" covers) to south of the Navy Yard. East to west, it spreads from the Lincoln Memorial to 9th Street NE and SE.

While it's relatively compact, BWI would cover a good chunk of Capitol Hill and spread nearly to 12th Street NW.

And all that's just accounting for Dulles and BWI's runways. Contributor Adam Froehlig created an image to show just how much land all three of the region's major airports take up:

Centered on the Capitol, Dulles takes up a huge amount of land, from north of the McMillan Reservoir to Mississippi Avenue SE. It covers all of Arlington Cemetery and nearly reaches the Starburst intersection. BWI looks modest in comparison, while National looks downright tiny.

What do you notice?

Google just updated its maps of our region. Here's what's new

From time to time Google, updates the images it uses for Google Maps and Google Earth. It just refreshed its stock for parts of the Washington region.

All images from Google Maps

We've covered Google's efforts to keep up with the region's changing landscape before. Like always, this set of images includes some where big changes occurred between when they were taken and when Google made them public.

The most interesting new thing on the map is probably Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada's "Out Of Many, One" portrait on the National Mall, which is pictured above.

The Monroe Street Market in Brookland is done:

You can see the green-painted First Street Bike lane:

Construction is underway on the Takoma/Langley Crossroads Transit Center:

Lots of work getting done for the coming Wharf development in Southwest DC:

You can see the Capital Wheel at National Harbor (or, more easily, its shadow):

You may notice something missing in the rundown of new additions to the area: the Silver Line. That's because the imagery hasn't been updated west of the West Falls Church Metro. In fact, you can see the seam cut right through the West Falls Church Rail Yard:

Another place that's now much different from the image Google has: On Google Maps, you can see demolition underway on the PEPCO plant on Benning Road. Today, the structure is totally gone:

When, exactly, did Google take these pictures?

According to Google Earth, the new images are from October 7, 2014. But the "taken on" date was off by a day last time, and that could be the case again. It's hard to know for sure since October 7th was a Tuesday and most weekdays look pretty much the same from the sky, but it's a safe bet that the 7th is at least very close since we know the fair pictured below that was going on at Fort McNair from the 7th to the 10th.

What have you noticed?

Breakfast links: Takes a toll


Photo by Jimmy Emerson, DVM on Flickr.
Lower toll in Maryland: Govenor Hogan unexpectedly cut tolls starting in July. Supporters claim toll revenue that currently goes to paying off bonds for maintenance and new construction will now come from cost cutting at MTA, but that might not be true. (Post, Baltimore Sun, LEW)

Flipped off: DC Attorney General Karl Racine filed suit against a developer who sold a slew of poorly and illegally renovated homes. Racine asked the judge to stop Hofgard from selling any property and to compensate buyers. (WAMU)

Where CaBi goes: There's a huge gap between the most and least used CaBi stations. But the reason probably has more to do with hills than race or income. (City Paper)

Change the law: If you could change one law to improve bicyclist or pedestrian safety in DC, what would it be? A new task force is looking for your input. (WABA)

No stopping a traffic signal: The Maryland State Highway Administration is finally installing a traffic signal at the problem intersection of Wisconsin and Stanford in Bethesda even after SHA initially said they would not. (Bethesda Magazine)

Behind the Uber curtain: How much does an Uber driver really make? Philly City Paper does a huge expose on what it's like to be an Uber driver.

Who killed the streetcar?: Streetcars died in this country in the mid-20th century not because GM bought them out, but because too many cars clogged the streetcar lines. Artificially low fares also helped the streetcar's decline. (Vox, LEW)

Rain brings art: A Seattle artist put a coating on sidewalks that repels water, so that when the sidewalk gets wet, patterns or messages appear. (SlipTalk)

And...: Flights from BWI to Havana, Cuba, are coming soon. (Baltimore Sun, LEW) ... Is this what the new CaBi bike will look like? (TheWashCycle) ... Alexandria's budget includes more CaBi stations and a new bus. (Post)

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Transit to Wolf Trap will still run through West Falls Church

Despite speculation that the Silver Line might change how the Fairfax Connector runs to Wolf Trap, the service's Route 480 Wolf Trap Express will continue to run from West Falls Church this season. While some Silver Line stations are closer, it turns out West Falls Church still makes sense.


Photo from FCDOT.

According to Nicholas Perfili, the Fairfax Connector section chief, Wolf Trap and Fairfax County DOT officials did discuss the possibility of changing the service to run from a station on the Silver Line. Ultimately, they decided against it.

West Falls Church still has a lot to offer

The main reason for keeping the current routing is to make sure concert goers can stay at Wolf Trap for as long as possible. While the last train to DC leaves Spring Hill at 11:18 pm during the week, the last train from West Falls leaves at 11:32. Concerts can run late into the evening, and those extra few minutes can be the difference between having to leave before a show ends and catching the encore.

Perfili also pointed out that the route from West Falls Church to Wolf Trap offers a more reliable trip time because it has HOV-2 restrictions on the Dulles Connector Road and a bus-on-shoulder lane that lets buses bypass other traffic. Also, a bus from Spring Hill would be subject to Tysons congestion, which can be quite bad.


Photo from FCDOT.

While there's ample parking at West Falls Church, there isn't at any of the Tysons stations. A final thing West Falls Church has that the others don't: room for buses to park and wait if need be.

The Wolf Trap Express will undergo one change this year: it will now use West Falls Church's Bus Bay E, which is closer than Bay B, which it used to use. The move comes thanks to the Silver Line, which made it possible to cut the number of buses needing to run through West Falls Church.

That means that, albeit indirectly, the Silver Line is making trips to Wolf Trap shorter... if only by a few feet.

The Silver Line might change how you bus to Wolf Trap

Wolf Trap is one of the region's premier entertainment venues, and you can take transit to most of its major events. Thanks to the Silver Line, the exact route might change.


Photo by @jbtaylor on Flickr.

Right now, the Fairfax Connector provides bus transportation from the West Falls Church Metro station along along route 480 for events at Wolf Trap's main stage, the Filene Center. The West Falls station is a little over seven miles from Wolf Trap, about a 12-minute drive without traffic.

With the Silver Line up and running, it may make sense to run that connection from the the Spring Hill Metro station. Spring Hill is less than 2.5 miles from Wolf Trap, and the drive can take under five minutes.

Running the Wolf Trap Express from Spring Hill instead of West Falls would require half the number of buses for about the same level of service. That'd save the Fairfax Connector money, and it'd also mean passengers would spend less time on the bus.

Fairfax is open to the change, but it's not in a hurry

In a chat with Dr. Gridlock last year, Fairfax Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny said that a Silver Line connection to Wolf Trap could be an option this year. But the season of events starts in a little over a month, and so far there is no word of a change.

That could be because there's reason to consider keeping service as it is. First, passengers traveling from east of East Falls Church (which is home to the vast majority of the system) would likely not see much of a difference in total travel time. While the current routing means a longer time on the bus, it's almost all on highways, meaning it's about as fast as Metro.

Also, Spring Hill doesn't have the bus facilities or parking that West Falls Church does. Finally, a change like this would require new signs and a public education campaign.

It's unclear whether the benefits of changing the Wolf Trap Express to run from Spring Hill rather than West Falls Church would outweigh the costs. But if they did, it'd be smart to make the change before the start of this year's concert season.

Help us fund live event coverage

This past year, we hosted live chats with DC's leading mayoral candidates. A lot of you said you found them useful. Next year we'd like to do even more live chats, but we need your help.


Aimee Custis and Jonathan Neeley type during our Muriel Bowser live chat. Photo by the author.

You got to ask questions, questions that no one else was asking, which we posed to Muriel Bowser and David Catania. Many of you said you found out information that helped you decide who to vote for, information you didn't hear elsewhere.

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The software we use for the chats costs money, and so does staff time to actually organize and run them. While there is not a mayoral election next year, there are two special elections in DC and two seats up in Arlington, to start with. Plus, we can talk with elected officials on the future of our area or with area planners on exciting new projects.

If we get enough support from you we, we'd also like to start a series of live-streamed video events with fascinating speakers from around the country to give you insight into the trends in building better cities. Want to hear Harriet Tregoning's thoughts on DC's future? Have a burning question for a Montgomery County councilmember? Imagine getting real answers from a different guest every single month. Who would you like to hear from? Tell us in the comments!

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Breakfast links: Changes to and from Silver


Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.
Bus Fairfax: After a major overhaul to accommodate the Silver Line, Fairfax will take another looks at its bus service. The county will be looking for input from the public at meetings and online. (Post)

Silver bows to stormwater: The MWAA voluntarily decided to make the second phase of the Silver Line comply with more stringent stormwater runoff regulations. The decision could increase costs and cause delays. (WAMU)

Rising waters: By 2100, rising sea levels from climate change could make big floods much more common in DC and surrounding areas. This could make building even more expensive. (Post)

Hearing DC statehood: The Senate held the first hearing on DC becoming a state in two decades yesterday, though only two senators showed up. While it likely won't go very far, would DC statehood be Constitutional? (Post)

Bikelash a good thing?: Could opposition to bikers, or "bikelash," actually be a sign of progress for cyclists? Opposition can be an indication that real change is being made in the streets. (CityLab)

Too many choices?: Could there be too much choice when it comes to schools in DC? Some students are going to 5 different schools in 6 years and schools that don't attract enough students risk losing funding. (Post)

Sidewalks everywhere: Sidewalks have come back into fashion. While building them with new development is easy, retrofitting them to existing streets can be difficult and expensive. (Bacon's Rebellion)

And...: Today is the first anniversary of the Navy Yard shooting. (WBJ) ... Metro picks a developer to bring housing and retail to Grosvenor-Strathmore. (WBJ) ... BART undergoes the long, detailed process of designing new rail cars. (CityLab)

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Breakfast links: More or less


Photo by Michael Galkovsky on Flickr.
Less crime on Metro: Serious crime has decreased on Metro bus and rail. More vigilant passengers, better deployment of police, and cold weather all helped. (Post)

More and less parking needed: There's lots of parking available at the new McLean Silver Line station, but only for cars. While 600 car parking spots sit empty almost everyday, the 72 bike parking spots fill up each weekday. (WAMU)

We're the most expensive! Or least!: Washington area residents spend the most on housing and related expenses like utilities and furniture. But if you count transportation costs, the area is actually more affordable than others. (City Paper, Post)

Scrutiny for traffic cameras: A new report finds problems with photo enforcement in DC, like not knowing which of several cars is speeding, or what to do when a car's license plate isn't on the car it's registered to. (Post)

Who killed Kirby: Alexandria police think they have the man who killed Transportation Planning Board director Ron Kirby last November and two others: Charles Severance, a 2-time candidate for mayor. A grand jury indicted Severance yesterday. (City Paper)

Hear, hear statehood: The US Senate will hold a hearing on DC statehood next week. While a victory for statehood activists, any statehood measure would have to pass the Republican-controlled House, which is unlikely. (City Paper)

A sign of the times: New York uses different street signs for its historic districts, so why not DC? In neighborhoods like Georgetown, they could also incorporate the historic names of the streets. (Georgetown Metropolitan)

And...: You can now use ParkMobile in Clarendon and Ballston. (ArlNow) ... DC doesn't plan much bike infrastructure in Buzzard Point. (WashCycle) ... Condos at Navy Yard Metro will include office space and parking for WMATA staff. (WBJ)

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