Posts about April Fool
We hope you enjoyed yesterday's April Fool joke posts on Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. Our April 1 edition was a true team effort, with significant writing, editing, and image creating by Andrew Bossi, Jessica Christy, Tim Krepp, Dan Reed, Miriam Schoenbaum, Jim Titus, and Steven Yates.
Many, many more contributors and volunteers also assisted with ideas to flesh out the articles, concepts for breakfast links, or even helpful submissions we weren't able end up using. Thanks go to Agnès Artemel, Matt Caywood, Shree Chauhan, Neil Flanagan, Steve Glazerman, April January, Matt Johnson, Tracey Johnstone, Sarah Lewis, Dan Malouff, Michael Perkins, Alex Posorske, Ben Ross, Matthew Rumsey, Mitch Wander, Abigail Zenner, and anyone else I've forgotten.
A lot of other local writers had some excellent April Fool articles. John Kelly wrote a fantastic fake history article about a subway in the mid-1800s, called the "Mole Way," which had "stops near the Capitol, the White House, each of the city's markets and an adults-only nude beach near the Tidal Basin" as well as Georgetown and Tysons Corner.
Instead of escalators, people used rotating spiral "spinners" to get down to the stations. But trains entering the station blew off people's hats, which made people stop riding and the system was ultimately abandoned.
UrbanTurf broke the news of Donald Trump's planned design for the Old Post Office. New Columbia Heights reported that DC USA would place a curling rink in the underutilized parking garage. (Hey, maybe not a bad idea!)
Kaid Benfield announced that sprawl will no longer happen, Southwest TLQTC posted plans to redevelop Greenleaf Gardens, a public housing complex, and Alan Suderman discovered Marion Barry is running for mayor.
Finally, DC's elections board sent out a postcard telling residents they can only vote on April 23 at One Judiciary Square, nowhere else. Oh, wait, that last one wasn't a joke; it was just a really poorly-written note that conflated early voting and regular voting and will confuse residents.
What other local and regional April Fool posts did you especially like?
The puzzling design for DDOT's South Capitol Street project has become much more clear as the DC Spors and Entertainment Commission rolled out a plan to host regular auto races on the track.
In a press conference today, Mayor Gray announced plans to host an IndyCar race as soon as the project is complete. "DC is joining the ranks of other world-class cities like Toronto and Monaco in hosting a race on our city streets," the mayor said. "The same cars and drivers that race at the Indianapolis 500 will be racing here."
IndyCar officials expressed surprise that a city would build what appears to be a purpose-built racetrack. "Usually for our street races, we make do with city streets that people use every day, like in Houston or Long Beach. To have a city build an oval for us is a real treat. I mean, clearly that circle can't be great for moving pedestrians or cars, can it?" said Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar parent company Hulman & Company.
IndyCar drivers on hand for the announcement praised the course layout. "It looks to be fast and very wide, which should make for some great racing," said driver Will Power. "It's almost perfectly built for us."
Indeed the course has a very similar shape to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire, which is known as a "paper clip" oval as its long straights and tight turns resemble a paper clip.
This is actually not the city's first foray into auto racing. In 2002, DC hosted an American Le Mans Series race in the parking lot of RFK Stadium. You can still make out the outline of the track today. The race only ran one year after noise complaints from neighbors. "We don't think that will be an issue here," said Gray. "People here are used to cars whizzing by."
National Park Service representatives said they should have no objection to using federal land for the racetrack, as their regulations only make it very difficult to place playgrounds, food vendors, or pleasant places to sit in federal parkland, none of which the racetrack requires.
Meanwhile, the National Capital Planning Commission chairman Bryan Preston said the race will work well with their plans to put another memorial in the circle, which will probably be unappealing for people to interact with as a city park but will be perfect for cars to drive around and around all day.
Word came over Instagram today that an expedition of H Street twenty-somethings in search of a downhill bike route to Columbia Heights have returned from what was previously thought to be uncharted land north of Washington, DC.
Friday night, 23-year-old social media producer Roald Amundsen and a group of friends set out from Little Miss Whiskey's at 11th & H NE on their fixed-gear bikes in search of the fabled Northwest Passage, which would allow them to reach Wonderland Ballroom at 11th & Kenyon NW without sweating as much.
"Our friends loudly and drunkenly told everyone that fixies are unusable in these regions and that their drink specials are rubbish," he said. "We shall see," he added. "We shall see."
However, the first sepia-toned images to surface on Amundsen's Twitter account appear to be of a settlement in the little-understood territory called the Land of Mary, located due north of the District. Until now, all that anyone knew about the Land of Mary is that it was home to a boring and cultureless race of people who piloted large, metal vehicles in an erratic fashion, ate crab cakes, and were the ancestral home of the rich kid in somebody's freshman year dorm at Oberlin.
Initially, Amundsen expressed dismay about the territory's strange inhabitants after crossing Eastern Avenue, long considered to be the end of civilization, into a village he dubbed New Columbia.
"They seemed on the whole to me, to be a very uncool people," he wrote in a tumblr post. "They all go completely without scarves and mustaches, even the men, though I saw one guy who looked like he might be a DJ."
One day after landing in New Columbia, Amundsen claimed to have seen sidewalks, buildings far taller than any that exist in the District, and a grody dive bar in a basement. Around lunchtime Saturday, he tweeted photos of an Ethiopian restaurant.
"Eating tibs & injera at hole-in-the-wall with amazing smells. Theres like 100 of them on 1 block here in #unchartedterritory," he wrote.
By Sunday, Amundsen and his crew found New Columbia's three record stores and began to wonder if the uncouth villagers could be civilized. "It appears to me that the people are ingenious ... I am of opinion that they would like the new Yeasayer album," he wrote on his Facebook page. "If it's okay with my landlord, I intend to carry home six of them to crash at my place so we can listen to it on my record player."
While the savages of New Columbia, which Amundsen dubbed "Columbians," were flattered by the invitation to listen to records on the floor of Amundsen's English basement studio, they politely declined, citing job and family commitments.
Following a rash of pedestrian-car collisions across the state, Maryland legislators have proposed requiring all drivers to wear helmets. While driving activists are split on the issue, area pedestrians say it's about time drivers took responsibility for themselves.
Yesterday, state delegate Arundela Mills (D-MCDOT) announced that she plans to amend House Bill 339 to require all drivers to wear helmets. The original version of the bill, which has languished in committee, would require adult cyclists to wear helmets.
Delegate Mills notes that the number of cars hit by pedestrians in recent weeks has skyrocketed. In the past month alone, pedestrians walked into cars in Columbia, White Marsh, and Bowie, causing indecipherable damage to vehicles and making their drivers slightly late for work.
And Friday morning, three pedestrians walked into a car driven by Richard Phillips, 38, who was passing through a crosswalk in Germantown on his way to work. Phillips was unhurt, but according to a police report the car's recently-polished grille sustained minor smudges from one pedestrian's bag. The pedestrians all walked away from the scene and have not been charged.
In an interview, Delegate Mills credited the Washington Area Drivers Association (WADA) for the idea. "Helmets will protect drivers from collisions, making it safe to allow drivers on all roads throughout the state," she said. She quoted a study from the Maryland Department of Transportation that found that helmets are the "single best way to avoid head and face injuries."
Driving activists are unsure about the bill's merits. Rental-car agencies note that travelers from out of state rarely pack a helmet, while even members of WADA have distanced themselves from the legislation.
"Studies in Australia show that when helmets are required, driving declines by 35%," said WADA president Penny Farthing. "MDOT is quoting junk science."
In Prince George's County, officials welcomed the proposed legislation. Bai To Hitachi, director of the Department of Public Works & Transportation, noted that cars clearly do not belong on roads meant for pedestrians. "DPW&T cares about public safety and is concerned when members of the community ... knowingly commit acts of high-risk behavior as a mechanism to achieve a public action," Hitachi said.
Hitachi called for additional legislation to require helmets for drivers in parking buildings, where heavy pedestrian traffic puts them in danger. "I'd feel safer walking on the Capital Beltway than driving in the parking building at the New Carrollton Metro Station," he added.
Community leaders look forward to the institution of more helmet laws for any and every situation. "Fifteen years ago I wound up in the intensive care unit of the Georgetown University Hospital neurology department," said Montgomery County Councilmember Flora Noreen. "I don't really know what happened, but I do know that I was not wearing a helmet."
The bill remains in committee and with one week to go before the General Assembly adjourns, opponents of the bill are optimistic that the session will end without action.
In the meantime, police advised drivers in a recent press release to stay alert while crossing sidewalks; to drive cars in bright visible colors or even in reflective paint; to always use controlled intersections; and, before driving, to look left, then right, then left again to check for any pedestrians.
"Parents are the most important models of proper driver behavior for children," said the press release. "Remember, be an engaged driver. It may save damage to your car."
Arlington County officials announced today that they have decided to cancel plans for a streetcar on Columbia Pike, after revelations first reported in the Washington Post that higher-quality transit which moves more people, stimulates economic development, and enables preserving affordable housing also requires the use of "dollars" by the county.
Instead, the county will build a "modern BRT" system with low-floor buses, fare payment at the stop before riders board, signal priority, and platforms allowing level boarding with no gaps.
"The first two studies, in 2005 and 2012, considered and rejected a bus alternative as not having enough capacity for the ridership on Columbia Pike," said county transportation director Bacchus Seep, "but when we looked again a third time, we realized for the first time that buses are cheaper."
The program will slightly resemble the very successful BRT in Eugene, Oregon, which runs in dedicated lanes and highway medians. However, Arlington's system cannot run in a dedicated lane, as an agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) prohibits Arlington from reducing the number of general traffic lanes.
"I never realized the picture of a Eugene bus, prominently plastered across websites, wasn't what we could get here in Arlington if we built BRT," said ArlNow commenter "Piker," who opposed the streetcar plan. "I don't like this new BRT plan either. Everyone who came up with it should be fired."
Group forms to oppose new BRT plan, says it's too expensive
Following the news, the group Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit changed its name to Arlingtonians for Sensibler Transit (ASerT) and immediately blasted the new bus plan, saying that it would be "too expensive," had not undergone enough analysis, and that a regular bus would be more cost-effective.
"The so-called 'modern BRT' alternative that Arlington County is now considering is a waste of taxpayer dollars," said Paul Rousselittle of ASerT. "The low-floor buses, off-board fare payment, and signal priority which AST recommended are unnecessary as they do not add capacity along the Columbia Pike corridor."
Board member Harvey Glibbey also criticized the BRT plan as unrealistic. "A number of these [BRT] lines are not performing as advertised," said Glibbey. "In many cases, ridership is much lower than anticipated, costs are much higher."
In response to the pushback, officials promised to conduct a fourth study to determine whether rapid buses are the most cost-effective mode. That study will analyze whether to scrap the BRT plan and replace it with a set of regular buses along Columbia Pike with their own branding, tentatively dubbed "Pike Ride."
"That is a good start," said Glibbey, "but I question whether we need the separate branding, as that brings extra marketing and painting cost. This new study is a good step, but needs another alternative where the buses have no names or identifying marks at all and riders simply ask the driver which bus it is when the bus arrives at a stop."
Glibbey also recommended the county save on costs by not printing any maps.
Purple Line gets first sponsor: Maryland has a transportation funding bill, but to help get the Purple Line moving, MDOT has signed a deal with Six Flags Corporation to sponsor the Purple Line. The new roller coaster design will include a loop-the-loop at Columbia Country Club and feature significantly higher speeds, reducing travel time.
New tax plan for Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell proposes eliminating the state sales tax. He would make up the revenue by a 50% tax on hybrid or electric cars, organic produce, reusable grocery bags, and bicycle inner tube replacements. Observers now consider him a shoo-in for the 2016 GOP Presidential primary.
Congestion solved: The Texas Transportation Institute found that lost jobs from sequestration improved congestion. "Therefore, the logical policy for transportation must be further job loss," said Tim Lomax. Plus, Stockton, "foreclosure capital of the world," has the nation's lowest congestion, making it a clear model to emulate.
Where's the birth certificate?: Donald Trump is offering a reward for anyone who can prove DC Councilmember McDuffie isn't a "native Washingtonian." Stronghold resident McDuffie owns the house he was raised in and says he was born here, but no incontrovertible proof was immediately available after a 5-minute Google search.
Metro becoming more self-service: As part of its efforts to create a more "self-service" system in the Momentum plan, Metro will replaces all escalators with stairs and convert trains and buses to a Flintstone's-style power system.
Examiner will keep going: The Washington Examiner has reversed course and will continue its current publishing format. "Once we saw how upset our editorial style made David Alpert, we figured we were doing our job and had to continue," said editor Stefan Schmitt. The paper will, however, still fire Kytja Weir and Liz Essley, as both sometimes had positive things to say about transit.
Cheh apologizes: After weeks of speculation and inquiries from the local press, Mary Cheh relented and issued a letter of apology for her completely legal campaign fundraising activities. "DC residents have come to expect so much more of their elected officials," said DC voter Amy Zoneger.
We enjoyed putting together some April Fool posts for you this year. We've decided to change the name of the site from Greater Greater Wells back to Greater Greater Washington, but you can continue to enjoy our April 1 homepage here.
How many of the changes to the site could you pick out? At right is the day's Twitter avatar, preserved for your enjoyment.
Thanks go to our many contributors who put in ideas for jokes, whether for the Weekend Links, elements of the Red Line story, and ideas we weren't able to fit in during the day.
A number of other local blogs revealed some surprising and foolish news. The Cleveland Park listserv revealed a new in-home concierge trash pickup service for DC; for those who don't subscribe to the list, details should soon be posted here. WashCycle reported that Maryland plans to build a high-speed rail line which it would then immediately abandon to create a rail trail.
New York introduced a left-handed turnstile, says Transportation Nation, Project for Public Spaces started a new campaign to give public spaces rights just like people and corporations, and Philadelphia announced new sidewalk lanes for people texting.
In not-fooling April Fool news, DC's political Twitterati concluded that, as it happens, the 2014 primary election in DC will actually fall on April 1, unless the council takes action to modify the ridiculously early primary date they established beginning this year.
Did you see entertaining articles not listed here? Post them in the comments.
Scandal rocks Draft Wells campaign: The nascent campaign to draft Tommy Wells for mayor in 2014 has been suspended amid new allegations that under Wells' oversight, DC Public Libraries has been blatantly allowing people to use its books for free. The US Attorney is probing similar conduct at the Department of Parks and Recreation. (City Paper, Todd)
Evans eyes Georgetown for Redskins: A new plan from Councilmembers Jack Evans and Michael Brown would demolish Georgetown's campus and move it to Hill East. The current campus would become a practice facility for the Redskins. Some Georgetown neighbors immediately endorsed the plan, because the new facility will create almost no noise and attract very few people to the area. (Post)
Pedestrian safety solved: A new policy from the Montgomery County DOT will make it illegal to cross any arterial streets in the county, eliminating dangerous crossings. People without cars needing to traverse a roadway can get on a bus and ride it to the end of the line and back again. (Gazette, Ben Ross)
Escalator reliability reaches 100%: Metro has achieved a new milestone for escalator maintenance. They have now reached a reliability rate of 100%; all escalators are currently broken at the same time. (Examiner, Matt Johnson)
Hop on I-395 PE: With Virginia's new program to sell naming rights to roads, Sudafed has proposed sponsoring all of Northern Virginia's congestion. (WBJ, Steve Offutt)
LOV-0 coming to a road near you: Google is reportedly working on a new program to design "passengerless cars," which will transport no people at all. In anticipation of this breakthrough, VDOT announced a plan to implement "Low-Occupancy Vehicle" lanes for their exclusive use. (Wired, Neil Flanagan)
DC4D4Thomas: DC for Democracy has endorsed Harry Thomas, Jr. as a write-in candidate for the Ward 5 special election. Members cited Thomas' consistency in talking about revitalizing the ward's main streets without making anything happen, creatively moving around money dedicated to serve youth, and his plan to solve transportation problems by setting up a series of Audi dealerships. (Geoff Hatchard)
Norton targets Wyoming: After several unsuccessful efforts to lobby state legislatures to support DC statehood, Eleanor Holmes Norton announced a new strategy to try to remove statehood from Wyoming, as it is smaller than DC. (DCist, Nick Clark)
Metro will suspend all service on the Red Line for the next 8 months to allow repair crews to finish work on the line more quickly. Shuttle buses will replace trains between Shady Grove and Glenmont.
According to Metro spokesman Stan Dessel, Metro is tired of the constant weekend track work. "Frankly, we're just as sick of the slow trickle of repairs as the customers are. We decided it would simply be faster to just fix everything at once," Dessel said.
Dessel said customers should also consider alternative commuting methods, like driving. Customers who drive or take the shuttle buses should expect to add an additional 60-120 minutes to their travel time.
Riders from Shady Grove can also drive to Vienna and take the Orange Line.
Governors Bob McDonnell and Martin O'Malley announced plans to spend $10 billion to build a new freeway across the Potomac River in order to accommodate the Metro riders, but added that funding is too scarce to contribute more to speed up the Metro repairs. "We think this is the best way to use our state transportation dollars to help commuters," said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Proaughton.
In addition, MARC will add new service on the Brunswick Line. CSX announced that it would allow MARC to run more trains and actually tell its dispatchers to give priority to passenger trains on the line, as opposed to previous times when they claimed to have done so but dispatchers did not actually follow through.
Metro is launching a new public relations campaign around the closure, called "Red Line: Deal With It." Customers will see construction walls at Red Line station entrances with slogans like, "8 Months Isn't So Bad, Is It?" and "No More Delays. No More Red Line."
Organizers of large national events are also being informed. A national tea party convention has already modified its website to inform attendees driving to the region from points north on I-95 to take the Beltway to Vienna instead of driving to Glenmont or using any other station.
Metro will suspend all work on other lines, including Silver Line construction, in order to complete the work in 8 months. "We hope that by the time the Red Line reopens, we'll only have to single-track twice a month," said WMATA CEO Richard Snarles.
Dessel said Metro is working with Mayor Gray to hire thousands of unemployed District residents to help with the 24-hour repairs. The program is part of a new employment program called "One City, One Line."
A social media component of the program, called "Metro Fast Forward," will equip track workers with helmet video cameras and editing software so that they can produce videos of the work in real time.
This concept has actually been in the works for over a year. Previous WMATA spokesperson Lisa Dystone planned not to tell riders about the closure, arguing that nobody would notice. However, Michael Perkins noticed an obscure footnote in a WMATA Board presentation and encouraged officials to mount a larger campaign to inform riders.
Some have already criticized Metro's plan. The critical blog DeCrapify DC Metro said 8 months is far longer than needed to finish the work. Another blog and popular Twitter account, WTF WMATA, wrote that customers deserve better treatment and vowed to hold Metro accountable.
How will you adjust to the Red Line closing? Let us know in the comments.
The proliferation of smartphones and texting while driving has created serious problems for pedestrian and bicycle safety, but a new application, just announced, could solve these problems.
I recently interviewed local cyclists about the new TextSight application, now available for a wide variety of GPS-enabled smartphones:
The revolutionary app allows texting drivers to "see" bicyclists and pedestrians in their path, and promises to significantly cut down on incidents of drivers hitting these other road users.
Greenbelt Mayor Pro Tem Emmett Jordan, Dr. Allen Lim of Skratch Labs and author of the The Feed Zone cookbook, and cyclocross superstar Tim Johnson all shared their thoughts for the video. The product demos were done in conjunction with Tim Johnson's Ride on Washington and sponsored by Proteus Bicycles in College Park.
- How might the new Metro loop work?
- More roads won't solve traffic on I-95 in Northern Virginia
- Want the urban lifestyle? DC's best corner is...
- The reason cyclists love green bike lanes
- Can we build up around MARC stations?
- How does DC's proposed Metro loop compare?
- Metro maps out loop line between DC and Arlington