Posts about April Fool
DC officials and candidates have long been talking about plans to try and lure the Washington NFL team back to play within the city limits. It was revealed today that, in fact, this is part of a larger deal with Maryland and Virginia to build stadiums for the team in all three jurisdictions.
Owner Dan Snyder revealed at a press conference that by spreading the team's home games between the three jurisdictions, he can end some of the squabbling over where the team plays.
Each stadium would be built entirely with team money, provided that the local jurisdictions prepare and deliver the land intact and for free, only as long as they donate approximately $700 million to the team prior to delivery.
This plan will also provide a solution to the controversy about the team name. When playing in DC, the team will use a different name, thereby allowing Snyder to please critics who wanted him to change the name while also retaining the old one, as he had vowed to do.
DC Mayor Vincent Gray said that this would allow the District to gain the "civic spirit" it is looking for, and entice players to live in the District, bringing in tax revenue.
Jack Evans explained that the existence of a stadium will bring economic development to the area. When asked whether this will still happen with the team playing only 2-3 games per year on the site, Evans pointed out that past stadium advocacy has never analyzed whether it matters how many games a team plays, so he is not considering that a factor here as well. "Besides," said Evans, "the difference between 3 games and 8 games is only 5 days, or one week, so it can't matter much."
Councilmember Vincent Orange said he thinks this just might be the thing to bring tourists to DC. In a statement, he said, "The Redskins playing in DC for a couple of weeks each year will mean huge benefits to our city, as having a stadium will give tourists a reason to visit Washington over most any other large American city."
Maryland would also build a new stadium, possibly at National Harbor. It would replace the aging FedEx Field, which at 17 years old is greatly outdated and inadequate to the team's needs. Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker said that the site would be "transit-oriented," since at least one bus per day will travel to and from the stadium site on game days.
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley said that the new stadium would bring more tax revenue to Maryland, as many of the players would likely live in Maryland as a result of the stadium.
Virginia lawmakers aren't quite sure where their stadium would go, but one person suggested replacing Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport with a new riverfront stadium. He said "the location is great, and it's such a pain for many in Northern Virginia to drive to National instead of Dulles anyway." Such a plan would require adding 12 more highway lanes through Arlington, which a Giles County lawmaker said was surely possible without causing any side effects to any important places.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe didn't take a position on the location or the roadways, but said that since many players will want to live near the stadium, it will be a big asset to the state and whatever area is ultimately chosen for the location.
Since the negotiations have been going on for some time, the Washington Post also revealed that former governor Bob McDonnell had struck a deal with a contracting firm to pay them $1 million per day as a "mobilization fee" until such time as a stadium can be constructed.
Drivers and pedestrians alike often have to face unacceptable levels of delay when they drive or walk around roads in the state of Maryland and Montgomery County. Engineers recently announced new approaches that they believe will make these problems disappear.
The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) is developing a new Pedestrian Level of Service standard to ensure that pedestrian delays are not unacceptably long, while the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) will make traffic changes that ensure smoother flow of traffic.
On state highways, pedestrians sometimes have to cross three legs of an intersection, as SHA often does not stripe a crosswalk on one leg. Under federal guidelines, walk signals must last long enough for those on foot to traverse the crosswalk. But the crosswalks need not go straight to a pedestrian's destination, so the state and localities often remove crosswalks so avoid having a long walk signal.
The new Pedestrian Level of Service (PLOS) will address this. It will work similarly to the motorist Level of Service, which grades intersections based on how long people have to wait to cross. Vehicular LOS defines an intersection as "failing" if, on average, a driver has to wait 90 seconds or more to get through the intersection.
Since a pedestrian trying to go straight across the leg where the crosswalk doesn't exist has to cross the other 3 legs of the intersection (waiting for the signal each time), they often encounter more than 90 seconds of delay, so SHA will instead define a failing intersection as one where a pedestiran has to wait 3600 seconds or more to cross.
A statewide analysis of intersections under these new standards to determine which intersections need to be upgraded didn't find any problem spots. Deputy Administrator Ida Driven is pleased. "Clearly, this study shows that Maryland is doing well with pedestrian safety. Over the past 15 years, SHA has spent tens of dollars to make sure that active transportation users can get around safely."
A representative of AAA, Hugh Jestkarr, lauded the change. "Clearly the study shows that pedestrians benefit from roadway improvement projects. It shows that drivers can have fast roads and pedestrians can still get what the government defines as adequate."
The State Highway Administration hopes the new standards and the study will help determine where to spend money. As has been done in many areas, if the PLOS does show a poor grade, state officials will simply remove the crosswalk to ensure that the intersection continues to meet the standards.
Meanwhile, MCDOT has been conducting a detailed analysis of places where the vehicular Level of Service is too low. The test measures how much time it takes cars to get through each intersection, but the county has faced increasing difficulties in meeting this test.
County rules, in fact, block construction where roads have a "Level of Service" that is too low. This test measures how much time it takes cars to get through each intersection.
A particular problem is left turns, which slow down the performance of each intersection. Therefore, beginning next year, left turns will be banned throughout the county.
"When turning cars aren't in the way," explained chief traffic engineer Ample Wandering, "drivers get through intersections faster." Current LOS defines an intersection with an excessively backed-up left turn lane as "failing," but the same intersection passes when left turns are forbidden.
LOS rules prescribe how fast cars must go through intersections, noted deputy transportation director Edsel Gasoline, but they say nothing about how quickly drivers get where they are actually going. "Our drivers will finally be free from the curse of failing intersections," boasted Gasoline.
If any intersections still have Level of Service F without left turns, the county will ban right turns there too.
AAA's Jestkarr cheered the plan. "Drivers," she said, "will at last have the fast-moving roads we crave."
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley seized on instability in the small but strategic territory of Columbia today, where local elections could return a controversial leader, who may face indictment, back to power.
Maryland-based construction contractors demanding access to District government projects and to the Fort Totten dump led columns of untagged pickup trucks over the District line this morning. College Park students, also believed to be acting on O'Malley's orders, have rallied at District polling places to demand a referendum on the territory's status, chanting "There is no State of Columbia!"
The Marylanders took over several recreation centers and library buildings in Wards 4 and 5, raising purple and black Ravens flags and demanding the territories be "returned" after being illegally "taken" from Maryland in 1801.
Pro-Maryland forces moved as far as DC USA and the Rhode Island Avenue Home Depot by early afternoon. At a press conference, O'Malley justified the move, citing "chaos" in the District and alleged mistreatment of Marylanders. Grievances were not limited to contractor rights. "Sunday church parishioners arriving from Prince George's County have been pushed out of their traditional parking lands by bike lane fascists," he claimed.
Embattled District Mayor Vincent Gray asserted there was no pretext for the incursion, and that his administration stopped enforcing parking bans around churches months ago.
O'Malley also promised that no commuters driving into the city would have to face discrimination on the basis of whether they chose to pay at a meter or not, whether they obeyed posted time limits or not, or for leaving parked cars in rush hour restricted lanes.
Tensions remain high as O'Malley appears poised to encroach further into the District from the south, with still greater Maryland forces amassing at Town Centers in Largo, Westphalia, and National Harbor. An analyst with the Coordination Strategy Group (CSG), a defense contractor, said the formations were suspicious. The analyst, Carol Chort, said, "These should be lifeless places. But we're seeing levels of pedestrian activity at these Town Centers that our models would have never predicted, even under ideal busway conditions."
Gray's rivals for power were trying to capitalize on events as they unfolded. Councilmember Jack Evans claimed credit for keeping Maryland forces out of Ward 2, citing the hordes of gentry he had mobilized on 14th Street NW at happy hour to dissuade further incursions with the area's notorious $14 cocktails.
Meanwhile, fellow rival Muriel Bowser said that while she had no specific comment on the merits of annexation at this tme, she promised residents she would fight hard against applying Maryland's laxer zoning restrictions and lack of a height limit to occupied Ward 4 territory.
At his press conference, O'Malley brimmed with confidence. "There is no ethnic or linguistic distinction between Marylanders and our District brothers. We will free them from corruption and taxation without representation." He concluded, "Under my decisive leadership, I am confident we can extend the Green Line all the way to Maryland Live! Casino in Arundel Mills by 2024."
A new controversial project has drawn vigorous support from some residents but strong opposition from others. Proponents insist that it will enhance the community, while those against see it as yet another example of change in an already changing neighborhood. Both sides agree that the change that will greatly impact the quality of life, for better or worse.
Yes/no image from Shutterstock.
Several local leaders and neighborhood activists insist that the project is an important way to help the community adapt to the 21st century and accommodate new ways of doing things that many residents want. They also argue that this is only a minor adjustment to previous plans.
Opponents disagree, insisting that the project does not fit into the character of the existing neighborhood and will ultimately render it unrecognizable from its current state. Both sides have marshaled data (and, more importantly, anecdotes) to support their vision for changing things or keeping them exactly the same.
Some community meetings have become intense affairs of shouting, foot-stomping and finger-pointing and the rhetoric on the neighborhood listserv has become increasingly vitriolic. The most passionate supporters and opponents insist that they love the neighborhood so much that they will move away if the wrong outcome comes to pass.
"I just moved here, and I would not have done so had I known that this project could have even been proposed," said one opponent. "I can't believe that no one consulted me to let me know ahead of time that such a change was even possible," said another. "I have kids. What about them?" she continued.
"I have lived in this neighborhood for a long time and I can't recall a time that our community was this divided," said a resident who supports the project. "This is yet another example of how the side I disagree with on this issue continues to put their own interests over mine."
Several residents have argued that this change will push elderly people out of their homes, while others insist it is necessary to ensure they can continue to live in their homes. The needs of poor residents have frequently come up, as affluent proponents say this change will help the less fortunate while wealthy opponents are certain it will harm the poor.
The fierce debate over the project has even garnered attention from the local media. After the last community meeting, one reporter filed a memorable story, "Community Members Square Off Over Controversial Project." Several notable local newspaper columnists have written that this project is a prime example of the tensions over change in the region.
Both sides do agree that the current public process has not involved enough residents. Those who support the project and those who oppose it both believe that certain voices in the community have spoken up at public meetings out of proportion to their numbers, while a "silent majority" of other residents who agree with their side of the issue have not yet been heard. Local elected officials have generally agreed that the government agency or private organization promoting the project has not done enough to involve the community.
Tensions continue to run high, but a decision should be reached soon. Whether the community rallies behind the eventual outcome and the project is advanced or rejected, or whether the project moves forward or stalls and the rift carries on for years to come, remains to be seen.
Termites: the new face of gentrification?: Angry neighbors in Woodley Park argued with zoo keepers at a public meeting last night, saying that the African Termite mound at the zoo's new insect exhibit is taller than what existing zoning allows.
Silver line encounters another setback: Officials have discovered that the Silver Line does not meet the current Virginia fire code and construction will have to start over from scratch. A MWAA spokesperson says the estimated opening is now the year 2525, "if man is still alive."
A religious need for speed?: One motorist sect seeks a religious exemption from traffic laws. The Supreme Court will hear a case that followers of the Futurist Manifesto, who must "sing the beauty of danger" and exalt the "roaring motor-car which seems to run on machine-gun fire," are unfairly burdened.
If this bus is rockin' then it's probably full of passengers: The DC Commission on Human Rights has officially ruled in favor of recommending changing the name of WMATA's H8 bus line to something more friendly like L0V.
Streetcar opponents agree: Skeptics of the Columbia Pike streetcar had asked for a new study comparing the return on investment of streetcars versus enhanced bus on Columbia Pike. When the study, tailored to their specific requests, showed huge benefits to streetcars, at least two skeptics admitted they were wrong.
Takoma Park residents discover station: Some in Takoma Park were surprised to find out that adjacent to the Takoma Green, a park mostly made up of asphalt with some trees around the edge, there is also a Metrorail station. One surprised resident said, "Now I can tell my neighbors they can take the train when I see them walking on the sidewalk while I'm driving to my job near Union Station."
What rhymes with "No Parking"?: A new developer has joined the ongoing debate on the controversial parking lane on Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park, submitting a plan to redevelop the road into a 35-yard hopscotch course. Proponents who want to see the lane kept for parking are, naturally, hopping mad.
DC to hold election: The District of Columbia will select nominees for mayor, DC Council, and federal races today, over 7 months before the general election and 9 months before any new winners would take office. If Mayor Gray does not win renomination, the DC government may achieve absolutely nothing of note for ¾ of a year while staff have no idea who will run their agency come 2015.
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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.
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