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Links


Worldwide links: The most fooling

We hope you enjoyed our April Fool's coverage Friday! Like every year, dreaming these up and writing them is a fun break from the pace of everyday issues and a chance to poke a little fun at ourselves along with others. A lot of other folks came up with their own great April Fools. Here are some of our favorites.


Photo by RAF Shawbury.

Share the runway: Recognizing that it doesn't accommodate other modes, the Royal Air Force base in Shawbury, England announced it has added a bike lane on its formerly airplane-only runway. Nice.

Pedestrian freedom, Texas-style: City Observatory had a great riff on the biannual, headline-generating, methodologically-poor Texas A&M traffic study that ranks cities not on how quickly people get to work but how fast they drive to get there.

Joe Cortright, the author of one of the major debunking studies, turned the issue around for April Fool's. If the Texas study assumes the goal is to move cars as fast as possible, what about instead measuring cities on how freely pedestrians can walk without having to wait at such pesky things as stoplights? The result: the Pedestrian Pain Index.


Image by oddrob on Reddit.

Metro's new service: Reddit user oddrob posted what might be the most extensive Metro fantasy map ever. Wherever you live, your area would probably have service under this amazing map. And we just know Metro has plenty of railcars to run the service.

The best way to talk: GiveWell, which is connected to our funder Open Philanthropy Project, had my favorite of all. A very GiveWell-like writeup explained how they're embarking on a pilot project to analyze better ways of describing their evidence-based analyses. But you just have to go read the actual "test."

And...: Silver Spring will landmark all its demolished buildings (Historian4Hire) ... The International Space Station goes mixed-use (Strong Towns) ... Donald Trump encourages violence against cars. (Alexandria News) ... Google builds a self-driving bike.

Transit


Who needs Metro? Duck Rapid Transit is the answer to the Blue Line crunch

This article was posted as an April Fool's joke.

Metro's total shutdown earlier this month forced many people to travel by other means for the day. But maybe that's just the way things should be. All the time. It would be much cheaper to get around using existing water infrastructure if the region built Duck Rapid Transit (DuRT).


Concept rendering of a possible Washington-area DuRT line from the from the Institute for Tub and Duck Policy (ITDP). Base duck photo by Jonathan Chen.

DuRT would be perfect for the Washington region, especially the overburdened Blue Line. With minimal investment, passengers could ride aboard a high-speed fleet of DC Duck Tours' amphibious boat/bus vehicles, running primarily on the Potomac River but also on dedicated Duck Occupancy/Toll (DOT) lanes in both Virginia and DC. Travel times would be competitive with Metro.

"Why isn't now the time to ask whether we should keep investing in the Metro system?" asked Thomas O. T. B. Fired, a senior fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute. "Any reasonable metric shows it's not a good form of transit compared to other ones."

If Fired had his way, he said he would close Metro. He was previously quoted by the Washington Post's Kendrick Bunkle saying he'd fill in the tunnels with dirt, but we now know Bunkle misheard him and he really meant DuRT.

Here's one possible transit line alignment, with stops at eight existing Metro stations: Franconia-Springfield, Van Dorn Street, Eisenhower Avenue, Pentagon, Rosslyn, Foggy Bottom-GWU, Dupont Circle, and U Street. A future stop could also be added at the Watergate complex.

The idea garners mixed reviews

The Georgetown Business Improvement District, which spearheaded a study of a gondola from Rosslyn, is eager to see an analysis. "I just want a feasibility study of DuRT," said BID director Stone Jerlieb. However, some residents immediately inveigled against the idea on the local listserv. In response to counter-arguments that this is far in the future, local neighborhood curmudgeon, Ima Ghenstytt, said she had to be opposed "just to be sure."

It's also unclear if Georgetown could even get a DuRT stop, but the BID isn't worried. "The line for Georgetown Cupcake starts in Foggy Bottom, anyway," said Bill Footsfield, BID Coordination Coordinator.

In addition to new Duck Loops at each of the stations, the route would require the construction of ramps to connect dedicated lanes along existing roads like I-95, Virginia 110, and New Hampshire Avenue to waterways like Backlick Run, Cameron Run, and the Potomac River, including a funicular ramp near Key Bridge.

Local transportation innovator Gabe Gross also roundly applauded the idea, saying, "This is a bold step towards having fully accountable public-private partnerships operate all of America's transit. Also, having more transportation options improves the region's resilience in the face of imminent disasters, like floods and electrical cable insulation."

DC Ducks could receive the same fares and public subsidy levels that the Blue Line currently receives, but DuRT operating costs would be lower than Metrorail, since the vehicles can be powered primarily by stale bread crumbs.

The DC government actually considered DuRT under former DDOT head Tan "Danger" Lini. That concept would have further extended the line to Columbia Heights by making the Meridian Hill Park fountain into a log flume. But that plan foundered after the National Park Service told DC it would require a public EIS process that would conclude, at the earliest, on April 1, 2036.

Some park advocates also opposed the idea at the time. Referring to the alignment near the Watergate, Ivana Park, co-chair of the Committee to Re-Engineer Extant Plans (CREEP), said, "The 1930 landscape plan for this area does not show the canal being used for boat transportation, so this use would plainly violate the historic nature of the C&O National Historical Park."

Will people ride it?

A major criticism of DuRT nationwide is whether riding on a duck boat carries a stigma as compared to more upscale-seeming vehicles. For that reason, some cities have tried using swan boats instead.

Miami politicians recently asked to replace a duck project, long in planning, to swans. "People don't like to take ducks," said Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez, "unless they have no alternative."

But proponents like Yorick Yoffe of Citylab argue that these are myths, and if a good-quality DuRT line were built, people would ride it.

The US has not successfully built a DuRT line without it devolving to a bathtub-sized project through "DuRTy Creep," but proponents hope a Backlick Run/Potomac River line could be the one that finally succeeds.

Photography


Greater and Lesser Washingtons in the Flickr pool

This article was posted as an April Fool's joke.

Here are our favorite new images from the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool, showcasing the best and worst of Washingtons.


The Hay-Adams Hotel. Photo by Wally Gobetz.


Demolition & construction impacting L Street bikeway. Photo by Washington Dept of Transportation.


Washington Capitol dome. Photo by Matt' Johnson.


Court House Metro. Photo by Jerry and Pat Donaho.


Rockville Town Center. Photo by Adam Moss.


Boundary stone. Photo by Elizabeth.

Got a picture that depicts the best or worst of the Washington DC region? Make sure to join our Flickr pool and submit your own photos!

Development


America's most unattainable housing is right by downtown DC. That's a huge problem.

This article was posted as an April Fool's joke.

Five people are currently vying for the chance to occupy the White House this November, but only one will win. This is a classic supply and demand problem, and the solution is simple: Build more housing.


Concept rendering for The Estates At President's Park. Original image by Jeff Prouse.

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW is an extremely low-density property, with 82 acres housing a population of only 5 people (and a very small amount of office space). Even without adding new buildings, the existing one could become a taller apartment building with plenty of room for the Clintons, Sanderses, Trumps, Cruzes, and Kasichs, even without changes to Washington, DC's federal height limit.

This building is also located in a gated community with large open spaces around it which serve little purpose. They are off-limits to most pedestrian foot traffic and residents of the exclusive community are rarely seen using them either. The Ellipse, just to the south, is largely used as a parking lot. Developing some of these open areas could have provided even more housing.


Significant underutilized land. Photo by US Department of Defense via Wikimedia.

The exclusionary nature of this area has already prevented numerous families from being able to move here. According to news reports, families from Florida, New Jersey, Maryland, Kentucky, Arkansas, California, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and others gave up on their hopes of being able to move here for a better job. The lack of available housing is an clear impediment to labor mobility.

Historic preservationists and other groups may complain about such a move. After all, this house is one of many which tour groups frequently pass by on their tours, and some (but not all) US Presidents lived here, adding to its historic value.

However, Washington has many historic buildings; this one is not as architecturally interesting as the office building next door to the west. The National Park Service, which controls the area, is so under-funded it may have to shut down a bridge which carries 68,000 vehicles a day. NPS needs to prioritize its funds and not waste so much money on a property which few people can enjoy.

Original architect James Hoban actually proposed a larger building, but changed his initial design, supposedly to better reflect the "monumental" nature of Washington, DC. As Kriston Capps put it, it's a "Hoban cut off at the hipbone." "It's a perfect architectural metaphor for the almost-urbanism that characterizes life in Washington," he wrote.

Candidates react to the idea

Reached on his corporate jet, Donald Trump said, "I think it's terrific. I can make a great deal to build this and I'm working with the GSA on the hotel down the street which will open early and will be the best hotel in all of DC. I'm good at building things. I'm the best. I have built so many things. Good things, you know, really good things. I know how to build. I have the skills, the best skills. And I can get this done. And I have great taste in furniture, the best taste. We'll increase the quality of the finishes substantially, marble finishes, very, very high quality of luxury marble, the most luxurious marble you've ever seen. Just phenomenal luxury."

Based on the District's inclusionary zoning ordinance, the new White House will be required to include one affordable dwelling unit, which will likely go to Marco Rubio.

In a press release, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager said they'd worked out an agreement to use the basement to build an ultra-secure server room inaccessible to the House of Representatives.

Reached on the campaign trail in Wisconsin, Ted Cruz expressed his opposition to the proposal. "I'm an outsider. I don't need a building to live inside."

The Burlington, Vermont headquarters of Bernie Sanders' campaign sent this statement: "This is why we need to break up the big banks and make sure everyday Americans benefit instead of just Wall Street and big corporations."

While many are excited about the 1600 Penn project's increased density, others have expressed concern that this is simply another situation where developers will trigger displacement of another black family from a neighborhood with an overwhelming percentage of African-American residents according to the 2010 Census.

Still, this neighborhood is very close to ample parks, stores, jobs, and transportation, including multiple Metro stations. The low quantity of housing is a clear public policy failure. Let's end the Lafayette Square housing crisis immediately.

Transit


Metro has a brilliant solution to its electrical problems

This article was posted as an April Fool's joke.

In light of the day-long Metrorail shutdown that occurred on March 16th which uncovered major problems with power cables, WMATA is moving forward with a plan to allow the system to operate at partial capacity without electrical power.


Image from FTA.

Over the next three years, 200 Rider-Powered Rail Cars, or RPRCs, will be introduced into Metro's rolling stock. The technology allows transit riders to push a train along the tracks with their feet using strategically-placed incisions in the floor of a rail car.

By running on nothing but the energy and sweat of their riders, WMATA can allow such cars to operate in all conditions, including future power cable inspections or even a system-wide blackout caused by a lack of funding.

WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said the project will help overcome what he's called a "modern Stone Age family of maintenance problems." The Federal Transit Administration has said the quality of many parts of Metro are most analogous to "a page right out of history."


Artist's rendering of the new RPRCs.

Modifying cars is simple and cheap

The first 86 RPRCs will come from retrofitted 1000-series railcars, which WMATA had been in the process of decommissioning before this decision was reached.

"The same elements that make the 1000-series 'non crashworthy' also make them perfect for turning into trains powered by people," said WMATA spokesperson Hanna Barbera. Welders are already hard at work removing floor plates in front of the seats on 1000-series cars, he said, so that riders can scoot the train to their destination even while sitting and reading the news.

The remaining 114 RPRCs will need to be designed from the ground up as the first rider-powered heavy rail system. WMATA will begin a procurement process and expects bids from industry-leading companies such as Radio Flyer. Expected features include a metronomic drum beat broadcast over the speaker system that will better coordinate the pace of riders.

Public health stands to gain

Local leaders are hailing WMATA's plan as a win for public health. "Requiring metro riders to push their own rail cars through the 117 miles of track will help make the Washington region a global model for cardiovascular health," said Mayor Muriel Bowser of the decision, noting that widespread use of RPRCs in the Metro system might help DC regain the top spot as the fittest city in America.

Much of the cost of rebuilding the subfleet of cars will be covered through event sponsorships. The 2017 Rock N Roll Marathon will be held on Metro's 26.2-mile long Orange Line tracks, eliminating complaints about closed roads and noisy outdoor concerts, while providing Metro's electricians with a bonus workday to upgrade signals and switches.

Reports indicate that Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefield is currently in negotiations with SoulCycle to provide trainers throughout the Metrorail system as additional motivation to riders.

When asked for comment, WMATA Board chairman Jack Evans said, "Yabba dabba doo!"

Links


Breakfast links: Fixed it for you

These links were posted as an April Fool's joke.


Photo by Márcio Cabral de Moura on Flickr.

Make the bikeway great again: Rubber parking stops on Pennsylvania Avenue still don't do enough to stop U-turns, so DDOT plans to build 3-foot-high walls around the protected bikeway. Said DDOT's Sam Zimbabwe, "I will make Virginia pay for that wall. Mark my words."

Count on this crossing: VDOT's newest pedestrian countdown timers have room for four-digit numbers. Engineers say wait times exceeding 1,000 seconds will be necessary to let traffic move more smoothly along Route 7 and Route 123.

Revitalizing the waterfront: A yacht maker plans to build luxury houseboats and floating amenities like coffee shops (and maybe even a Trader Joe's) along the Southwest Waterfront. Affordable boating advocates are concerned about creeping admiralization.

Safety first for highways: After 2015 saw over 2,000 more fatal motor vehicle crashes than 2014, US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has decided to shut down the entire interstate system until inspectors can verify that each individual driver is safe.

Sensible once more: Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit has regrouped to oppose the Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola, saying that the same benefit could be achieved at a much lower cost by constructing a zipline.

The physics of the streetcar: Some claim that it's faster to walk than to take the DC streetcar, but one local physicist has shown that it's even faster to walk around the inside of an empty but moving streetcar, thanks to Einstein's theory of relativity.

The scoop on ice cream crashes: DC police are urging all ice cream shops located near streets to add reflective paint to their facades after yet another car crash. Police say the ice cream shop was not in the crosswalk in a recent high-profile crash, making it hard for the driver to see. Lickable Streets advocates have long argued that using gelato instead of ice cream cuts down on crashes by 50%.

Metro totally back on track: Following one problem-free commute this morning, WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced that the rail system has been completely fixed. Riders will no longer have to deal with single-tracking, train offloading, or smoke in stations.

And...: Residents are outraged after discovering NoMa is just a giant Potemkin village. ... Skateboard modeshare ramped up to 10% after the debut of a Safe Routes to Skool program. ... The traffic jam at VA-267 and I-66 is now an Arlington Historic Place. ... George Mason's law school will rename itself for Antonin Scalia. (Really.) (Post)

Bicycling


2015's greatest hits: Nation's first bicycle HOT lanes planned for Mt. Vernon Trail

To close out 2015, we're reposting some of the most popular and still-relevant articles from the year. This April Fool's joke post originally ran on April 1. Enjoy and happy New Year!

The National Park Service and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) have announced a new partnership to construct the nation's first bicycle High Occupancy/Toll Express Lanes on the Mount Vernon Trail between Rosslyn and Mount Vernon.


Artist's rendering showing how high occupancy vehicles will benefit from enhanced capacity. Image by Peter Dovak.

The all-electronic HOT lanes will require construction of a second path parallel to the existing trail. Once completed, each path will carry one-way mixed traffic (runners, walkers, bicyclists, rollerbladers, and other self-propelled vehicles) on the right, with a left lane set aside for high occupancy vehicles or for users paying a variable toll.

Local leaders and transportation experts hailed the move as a way to relieve congestion on key arteries without digging into the already-strained National Park Service operating budget. NPS spokesperson Val O. C. Pede said that congestion at several key junctions along the trail would go from a Level of Service rating of "F" to an "A" or "B-."

The construction and operation would be funded by Trechiant Ventures, a partnership of bicycle manufacturers Giant, Trek, and Bianchi, who are developing bicycles designed specifically for such facilities.

The HOT lanes will not be separated from regular traffic by bollards or barricades, but will instead rely on strict enforcement. All HOT lane users will be required to use an E-ZPass, just as they would in motor vehicles.

NPS ranger stations, local Whole Foods stores, and participating bike shops will offer special clips to attach transponders to riders' helmets. The lanes will be free for High Occupancy Vehicles using an E-ZPass Flex, including tandem bicycles, bicycles with children in trailers, and joggers practicing for wife carrying races.

Park Rangers will be stationed at the side of the trail with special equipment to detect the number of riders in or on the vehicle, and proper E-ZPass Flex settings.

Rollerbladers will be required to pay double, by strapping one E-ZPass transponder to each of their skates. Bicycle mechanics will also be stationed every two miles to clear the lanes of any breakdowns.

Toll rates are expected to vary between 25¢/mile and $1.00/mile, which would make the Rosslyn to King Street corridor a competitive alternative to Metro's Blue Line. As with the I-495 and I-95 Express Lanes, there is no ceiling on the price. The pricing will be adjusted to maintain a guaranteed 15 mph speed for cyclists, which is also the maximum speed for the trail.

Neighboring jurisdictions hailed the announcement. Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey suggested that "VDOT's enthusiastic participation in this exciting public private partnership makes bicycle HOT lanes the perfect, low-cost-to-us replacement for the canceled Columbia Pike Streetcar."

Alexandria Town Crier understudy Hugh G. Pannier suggested that the city's new waterfront plans would be well-served by additional bicycle capacity along the waterfront, but that the city might demand that signage use a more period-appropriate typeface.

Photography


Here are the best answers to whichWMATA week 45

On Wednesday, we posted our forty-fifth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took five photos in the Metro system. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

This week, we got 23 guesses. Two of you got all five right. Great work, DAR and redfood!


Image 1: Silver Spring

Okay, okay. April Fools!

Yesterday's set was, of course, part of our April Fools programming. Thanks to all of you for playing along.

Many of you put in some hilarious answers, and I'm going to recount my favorites in this post. But several of you guessed actual stations, which could have been a winning strategy. If your answer was a station that could have had the attribute, I considered it a right answer.

Seven people guessed real stations on this image, so they all got credit for getting this one right. But the actual ticket vending machine (TVM) pictured is in the northern mezzanine at Silver Spring.


Image 2: Silver Spring

Like the last one, this could have been (almost) anywhere in the system. So if you guessed a real station, I gave you credit. The same seven people got this one "right."

But I really appreciated some of the creative answers you gave, like this one from Tom Veil:

Federal City College
Chillum
Tenley Circle
Nicholson Lane
Glebe Road
These are, of course, taken from the proposed station names in the 1968 plan. All of these stations were built, but with different names. Frank IBC also submitted five answers based on the same theme, though Frank's were a mixture of stations that were built (with different names) and stations that never were.

Excellent theme, Tom and Frank!


Image 3: Capitol South

This picture shows the waffle vault reflected on the side of a pylon at Capitol South. If you guessed a real station that has a waffle vault and a center platform, I gave you credit. Five of you got this one "correct."

Commenter endash also submitted a themed set of answers:

Potomac Yard
Backlick Road
Georgetown
Oklahoma Avenue
Wolf Trap
These are all stations that were proposed at one time, but which haven't been built (at least not yet). Potomac Yard will likely be built within the next few years. Georgetown could have a stop on the M Street Subway/Loop. But the rest are unlikely to come to fruition.


Image 4: Greenbelt

This picture shows a "light tree" (that's my name for it, anyway) at Greenbelt. Those of you who guessed a real station got it right if it was an outdoor station (except for stations opened after 2001, which don't have these). Three of you guessed "correctly."

Peter K also had a creative set of guesses, mashing up station names.

Franconia-Merrifield
Ronald Reagan Washington Union Station
Federal Bottom SW
Brookland Town Center
Medical City
I definitely laughed out loud at a few of those. Good job, Peter!


Image 5: Fort Totten

The final image shows a grouping of tiles on the lower level platform at Fort Totten. Basically every station has these hex tiles. Even stations that have had the new platforms installed (mostly on the Red Line) still have these in the mezzanine. Only the Silver Line stations lack the tiles. Seven of you guessed a real station, so good job.

I appreciated the station name puns that Patrick submitted:

Smartland
Capitol Steps
Wheel House
Fluorescent Grove
Hexagon
Each of these combines the subject of the picture with a station name in a mash-up similar to Peter's theme above. I especially appreciated the last one. Great work, Patrick!

Now, to those of you worried—cough cough Peter K—about your winning streaks, no need to despair. I won't consider this round an official set for scoring purposes.

Thanks to everyone for the laughs! Stay tuned. We'll have five more images for you next week.

Photography


How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 45

This article was posted as part of our April Fool's Day series.

It's time for the forty-fifth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of five stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

The answers will appear tomorrow. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

Update: the answers are here.

Bicycling


Nation's first bicycle HOT lanes planned for Mt. Vernon Trail

This article was posted as an April Fool's joke.

The National Park Service and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) have announced a new partnership to construct the nation's first bicycle High Occupancy/Toll Express Lanes on the Mount Vernon Trail between Rosslyn and Mount Vernon.


Artist's rendering showing how high occupancy vehicles will benefit from enhanced capacity. Image by Peter Dovak.

The all-electronic HOT lanes will require construction of a second path parallel to the existing trail. Once completed, each path will carry one-way mixed traffic (runners, walkers, bicyclists, rollerbladers, and other self-propelled vehicles) on the right, with a left lane set aside for high occupancy vehicles or for users paying a variable toll.

Local leaders and transportation experts hailed the move as a way to relieve congestion on key arteries without digging into the already-strained National Park Service operating budget. NPS spokesperson Val O. C. Pede said that congestion at several key junctions along the trail would go from a Level of Service rating of "F" to an "A" or "B-."

The construction and operation would be funded by Trechiant Ventures, a partnership of bicycle manufacturers Giant, Trek, and Bianchi, who are developing bicycles designed specifically for such facilities.

The HOT lanes will not be separated from regular traffic by bollards or barricades, but will instead rely on strict enforcement. All HOT lane users will be required to use an E-ZPass, just as they would in motor vehicles.

NPS ranger stations, local Whole Foods stores, and participating bike shops will offer special clips to attach transponders to riders' helmets. The lanes will be free for High Occupancy Vehicles using an E-ZPass Flex, including tandem bicycles, bicycles with children in trailers, and joggers practicing for wife carrying races.

Park Rangers will be stationed at the side of the trail with special equipment to detect the number of riders in or on the vehicle, and proper E-ZPass Flex settings.

Rollerbladers will be required to pay double, by strapping one E-ZPass transponder to each of their skates. Bicycle mechanics will also be stationed every two miles to clear the lanes of any breakdowns.

Toll rates are expected to vary between 25¢/mile and $1.00/mile, which would make the Rosslyn to King Street corridor a competitive alternative to Metro's Blue Line. As with the I-495 and I-95 Express Lanes, there is no ceiling on the price. The pricing will be adjusted to maintain a guaranteed 15 mph speed for cyclists, which is also the maximum speed for the trail.

Neighboring jurisdictions hailed the announcement. Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey suggested that "VDOT's enthusiastic participation in this exciting public private partnership makes bicycle HOT lanes the perfect, low-cost-to-us replacement for the canceled Columbia Pike Streetcar."

Alexandria Town Crier understudy Hugh G. Pannier suggested that the city's new waterfront plans would be well-served by additional bicycle capacity along the waterfront, but that the city might demand that signage use a more period-appropriate typeface.

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