Posts about Benning
WMATA's latest data release confirmed what we already knew: most Metrorail riders take the train from the suburbs into DC. But relatively few ride to the District neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. Where are they coming from and going to?
About 75% of total trips in the AM peak terminate at one of the 42 stations in or immediately adjacent to the District (within 500 feet). Only 2% of these riders, or 1.5% of all trips, get off at one of the 7 stations in or bordering the portion of the District east of the Anacostia River.
Of the more than 3500 riders who make up the numerator of this statistic, 40% get off at Anacostia and 20% at Minnesota Ave, affectionately known as the downtowns of their respective wards (8 and 7). The reason nearly 5 times as many people take the train to Farragut North as to all East of the River stations combined is obvious: Land use.
The Anacostia and Minnesota Ave station areas offer fairly similar non-residential uses, which include a limited number of destinations one would commute to on a weekday morning. Both have a few schools nearby, one relatively new District government office building, a smattering of small retail stores and restaurants, mostly carryout, and a number of light industrial sites.
Anacostia has a couple additional office or medical buildings, while Minnesota Ave boasts a grocery store. For those who do commute to work or school in these neighborhoods, parking is cheap or free, and buses often offer a superior option to rail for those who are traveling between East of the River neighborhoods.
But what about the chosen few who do take Metrorail to these 7 stations? In contrast to the system-wide statistics, 63% of trips ending east of the river originated in DC, 28% in Maryland, and 9% in Virginia. The share coming from the suburbs is certain to increase when the federal Department of Homeland Security campus at Saint Elizabeths is completed.
Interestingly, 9% of riders traveling East of the River boarded at the Columbia Heights or Georgia Avenue-Petworth stations. Without additional data, one can only hypothesize why so many people (relatively) are making this specific commute. One driver may be the schools. For example, Thurgood Marshall Academy, a high performing public charter high school across the street from the Anacostia metro station, draws students and teachers from all over the city.
Perhaps WMATA could release a subset of their data showing trips made with discounted student passes? That would make it possible to further explore this hypothesis.
Cross-posted at R.U. Seriousing Me?
Once the initial H Street segment opens (now estimated for early 2014 at the earliest), the next step for DC's streetcar system is to extend the line east across the Anacostia River. DDOT will present the options in a report this month, but major decisions remain, such as whether to end the line at Minnesota Avenue or Benning Road Metro stations (or both).
DDOT staff and AECOM consultants told the approximately 50 attendees at a Nov. 27 public meeting that the government is focused on completing a streetcar line linking Ward 7 to Georgetown via H Street by 2025.
Its moniker, the "One City Line," references Mayor Vincent Gray's campaign slogan, which has become an official slogan of the District government. A study on the Union Station-Georgetown segment of the line will begin next year.
Having held the final public hearings as part of the study's final concept development phase, the study team will release its final report next month, which will be followed by the environmental impact review process.
Among the decisions left to be made is whether the Minnesota Avenue or Benning Road Metro station will be the line's (initial) eastern terminus, or if streetcars will serve both stations. The final report will present options for either terminus, but not both simultaneously. DDOT staff acknowledged that if the community put significant pressure on the DC Council to pursue having the streetcar serve both stations, that would be possible.
The other key unresolved question is whether streetcars will run alongside the curb or in the road's median as they continue east along Benning Road. The main disadvantage of curbside running is that it takes away on-street parking spaces, but median running means either widening the road or taking travel lanes away from motor vehicles.
Options for streetcar track placement at Minnesota Avenue Metro. Yellow indicates proposed streetcar platform locations; turn-around track shown in purple. Image from DDOT/dcstreetcar.com.
At either Metro station, both streetcar tracks will merge into one and extend briefly onto off-street right-of-way to allow streetcars to pause for several minutes and reverse direction. To be determined is whether this terminal track will be in the median of Minnesota Avenue or between the road and the Metro tracks (if Minnesota Avenue is chosen as the terminus), or in the median of East Capitol Street versus into the small parking lot next to the Benning Road Metro entrance escalator.
Keeping the proposed streetcar configuration at Minnesota Avenue would mean taking at least one travel lane from the avenue. That would turn it from a 4-lane road with only a double yellow line in the middle to a 3-lane road, 2 regular lanes plus a center turn lane or a reversible lane like the one on Connecticut Avenue.
The study determined, however, that streetcar operation would not worsen existing traffic congestion at the Minnesota-Benning intersection, which is already over its designed capacity.
At Benning, having the terminus in the small Metro parking lot would allow streetcars going both directions to serve one platform and provide more convenient access to Metro, but would make it more difficult and expensive to extend the line farther east in the future. Having the terminal station and turn-around track in East Capitol Street's median, on the other hand, would make it simple to continue the line east to Capitol Heights Metro.
The study found there to be a "huge" demand for transit in the Benning Road corridor. The X bus line is overcrowded, and there are now more employment opportunities and activity centers in Ward 7, the Minnesota-Benning intersection being one of them. DDOT is also doing a lot of work on pedestrian safety around this intersection and along the block of Minnesota Avenue leading to the Metro station.
During the first round of public hearings, community members told DDOT they wanted to see bus and streetcar service integrated so that they don't duplicate each other. They also wanted more efforts at placemaking along the corridor, such as public art.
It will be possible to build streetcar tracks across the twin-span bridge that carries Benning Road across I-295 and the CSX railroad tracks, but it will require raising the entire road surface to the height of the tracks above the undergirding, or building new undergirding lower than the existing. There is enough room to do this while maintaining required highway and railroad clearances.
The FBI is looking to move its headquarters, and some DC leaders are trying to woo the Redskins back to the District. The soon-to-be-shuttered Pepco power plant would make an ideal site for either one.
The FBI requires 55 acres surrounded by a large security "moat," which makes it impossible to locate downtown and undesirable in most any DC neighborhood. Prince George's and Fairfax counties are both vying to make one of their Metro stations the future home for the FBI.
As the map above shows, Pepco's main parcel (outlined in black) covers approximately 80 acres. There is plenty of space here for a new FBI headquarters. This could be an option if DC truly wanted to fight to keep the FBI here.
There would be other obstacles, though. A Senate committee required that the GSA place the FBI within 2½ miles of the Beltway, and within 2 miles of a Metro station. The Pepco site is less than ½ mile from the Minnesota Avenue Metro, but more than 5 miles from the Beltway. It is, however, adjacent to a freeway that directly connects to the Beltway in two places, but Congress would need to amend the requirement to make the Pepco site eligible.
FedEx Field, the current home of the Redskins, and its adjacent parking lots encompass approximately 160 acres. A National Park Service maintenance facility and land used as a trash-transfer station lie immediately north of the power plant. These could be combined with the plant site, creating a 90-acre parcel (outlined in red).
While this is significantly smaller than the area currently used by the Redskins, it's not much smaller than the approximately 95 acres of RFK Stadium and its adjacent parking lots, which the Redskins used for decades (when the team actually won multiple championships). Plus, a new stadium could take up less space by replacing the massive asphalt deserts that surround RFK and FedEx Field with more compact parking decks while still leaving some surface space for tailgating.
The west facade of the power plant. Imagine incorporating this into a new stadium; would you be ready to watch football at "The Powerplant"? Image from Google Maps.
The Pepco plant abuts a freeway, two Metrorail lines, a major street that provides direct access to downtown, and eventually, a streetcar line which will run along that street. Bicycle infrastructure in the form of trails and Capital Bikeshare stations are being added adjacent to the site; the Anacostia River trails are already close by. An infill Metrorail station could be built at the western end of the parcel, serving a stadium or a headquarters building as well as the River Terrace neighborhood to the south.
A serious obstacle with this site is that building anything first requires environmental remediation. While that might delay any construction there, Pepco and the District Department of the Environment have reached a preliminary agreement on site cleanup (more here and here (PDFs)). Planning for an actual use for the site could help make cleanup a higher priority for all parties involved.
A football stadium or FBI headquarters building would not foster good urbanism, but this site is already cut off from the neighborhoods to the east by the freeway, while the highway-like Benning Road and the Metrorail tracks form a formidable barrier to the south. Parkside, the neighborhood to the north, is not yet fully developed, and the Anacostia River lies directly to the west.
Administration officials are actively negotiating with the Redskins about putting a practice facility at Reservation 13, on the western side of the Anacostia. Unlike the Pepco site, this area can directly connect to the adjacent neighborhood if DC extends the street grid, as is planned.
If the District's leadership continues to insist on bringing the Redskins back, the Pepco would make more sense in the long run than Reservation 13. If they believe we shouldn't let the FBI walk away from DC, this could be a location worth looking into. In addition, there could be many other uses for this site, from adaptive reuse of the plant itself, to light industry (perhaps renewable energy generation?), a unique mixed-use neighborhood, or expanded parkland.
The District shouldn't wait to seriously plan for the reuse of this valuable piece of riverfront property, but will city leaders be able to pursue a use that's creative?
Other events coming up include the Kidical Mass bike ride, a gathering on Met Branch Trail safety, a streetcar happy hour, and Arlington's Capital Bikeshare expansion meeting.
For the Anacostia day, we will meet at the museum at noon for a brown-bag lunch and networking hour. From 1-3 pm we will divide into two groups for a guided tour of the museum and the art gallery.
Space is limited, so registration is required for tours. RSVP here.
The Anacostia Community Museum is located at 1901 Fort Place SE. The W2 and W3 buses from the Anacostia Metro Station stop across the street from the museum. There is also a free shuttle from the National Mall.
This Saturday, June 18, is Kidical Mass, the monthly family-friendly bike ride. This month's starts at Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Brookland at 10:30 and heads up to Mt. Rainier for a pool party. For those farther south, there will be a bike caravan going from Capitol Hill and stopping in Bloomingdale, Eckington, and Edgewood.
There are two great transportation-related events on Wednesday, June 22. From 4 to 7 pm is a Met Branch Trail safety open house at the 4th and S pocket park along the trail, organized by GGW contributor and Rails-to-Trails coordinator Stephen Miller. MPD and DDOT officials will talk with riders about recent safety and dispatching problems on the trail.
The Guardian Angels are also organizing trail safety patrols, and will talk with trail users at the event. They need people to sign up to patrol, which you can do at the event or online.
After that, bike or ride Metro (because the streetcar isn't yet running) over to the Sierra Club's streetcar happy hour at Ray's the Steaks, 3905 Dix St. NE by the Minnesota Avenue Metro, starting at 6 pm.
Finally, Arlington's meeting on CaBi expansion is Monday, June 27, 7 pm at the Arlington county offices at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Cherry and Dogwood conference rooms.
You can find these and other events on the Greater Greater Washington calendar. If there's something else we should know about, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get it added.
In a ward that usually has ANC races with no one running for some of the single-member districts, it is refreshing to see so many contested races. While there are six SMDs with no candidates, each ANC in Ward 7 at least has one contested SMD race.
7A07 sits at the Pennsylvania Avenue gateway to Ward 7. A key property in this SMD is the MPD 6D Substation that the community has been fighting for years to keep open. During this commissioner's term, the lease extension will expire.
The incumbent Villareal Johnson has two challengers, Adwoa Aggrey and Robert Idlett. Some residents hold him in high regard, while others handpicked Aggrey to run against him for to her efforts opposing a permit for a daycare operating out of a private residence. Idlett is a young resident who has worked in city government his entire career. He has wants to organize monthly clean-ups and push for economic development.
Although Johnson comes with mixed reviews from residents in his SMD, he has been a vocal champion of creating community benefits agreements that provide a sustainable benefit to the community as opposed to one-time benefits, such as turkey dinners, which have satisfied some ANC commissioners.
ANC 7B has traditionally been one of the stronger ANCs in Ward 7, containing Hillcrest, Randle Highlands, Penn Branch, Fairlawn, and Fort Davis neighborhoods. Robert Jordan is challenging incumbent Richard Evans in 7B06, which includes Fairfax Village. Jordan comes with fresh ideas to assist the ANC in running more structured and professional meetings. In addition, he is focused on economic development, public safety, and keeping the community litter free.
Evans has missed several ANC meetings and when he is in attendance he does not stay the entire meeting. Most members of the SMD have no idea who he is as he does not communicate with them. Evans sits on a lot of boards and committees, such as DC's Bicycle Advisory Council, Pedestrian Advisory Council, Deanwood Main Streets, and the East Washington Foundation board. However, his participation in each of those committees has been consistently spotty.
Ronnie Streff has been labeled a rabble-rouser due to vocally expressing opinions that sometimes go against the grain of more longtime residents. However, in his role as in the Capitol View Civic Association he has been instrumental in working with the city to have their basketball courts repaved and tennis courts refurbished, in addition to an annual community day.
He is also a volunteer member of MPD and a DDOT Livability Community Advisor. In 7C03, around Kelly Miller, he is challenging incumbent Catherine Woods, who has missed several ANC meetings and when she does attend she is usually arguing for the sake of arguing. Most disturbing to a community over run with liquor stores, she has missed key ABRA hearings over making substantial changes to liquor licenses.
Sylvia Brown, who represents 7C04 in Deanwood, has been one of Ward 7's most effective and visible commissioners. She tweets constantly, showed the City Paper around the neighborhood, and pushes for better transit-oriented development in the area's Metro stations. She is running unopposed, but deserves special mention for her advocacy and particularly her ability to build relationships across both sides of the river.
Veronica Ranglin, a long time fixture in the community, apparently opposes everything. She has been attacking the Kingman Park/Rosedale Community Gardens, citing the garden is a breeding ground for mosquitos, rodents, and other unwanted insects.
Lisa White is running against Ranglin for the Kingman Park district 7D01, the only SMD in Ward 7 west of the Anacostia. White is a fourth generation Washingtonian and a supporter of the community garden.
Both Liz Pecot, challenging Rick Tingling-Clemmons in ANC 7D05 around Benning Road Metro, and Derrick Daniels against Sharita Slayton in Eastland Gardens' 7D02, would bring new life to districts where the longtime incumbents have ceased to put much energy into the community and the role of commissioner. Tingling-Clemmons is also on the ballot challenging Eleanor Holmes Norton as a representative of the Statehood Green Party.
Incumbent Evelyn Hunter Armstrong in Marshall Heights' 7E06 deserves reelection over hopeful Marquette Austin. Armstrong has been working with fellow commissioner Maxine Nightingale-Starling to bring all the commissioners of Ward 7 together. Ward 7 needs to have people like Armstrong working to unite the ward.
This one is easy. On Smart Growth, Gray is on the right side.
Sorry, antis. It's true that many who oppose a growing city and think that a three-story townhouse is a skyscraper supported Vince Gray early, figuring he must be better than Mayor Fenty. However, they would be disappointed with a Gray mayoralty.
Gray recently walked along Wisconsin Avenue from Tenleytown to Friendship Heights with a group of residents of the area. They pointed out the many glaring flaws in Wisconsin's streetscape. There's the CVS at Wisconsin and Brandywine, where the sidewalk becomes a sharply sloped ramp to a roof parking deck leaving a 2-foot space for pedestrians between fences and telephone poles. Near the other end, there's the Western bus garage, a half-block blank wall right along Wisconsin and literally atop the Metro. And there are plenty of examples in between.
Gray nodded eagerly when residents and even his own campaign manager outlined their ideas for how Tenley Circle could feel more like a college town if more retail and housing accompanied American's plans to move the law school there. And his reaction bordered on incredulity when Friendship Heights residents told him that many people would oppose any new buildings on the site of the bus garage.
Gray is also very excited for the potential of "downtown Ward 7," the corner of Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road, to become a walkable hub for the surrounding neighborhoods (complete with streetcars!) His approach and that of Mayor Fenty may differ a bit only in implementation: Gray's approach is to plan then act, while Fenty's Office of the Deputy Mayor seems far more focused in simply closing real estate deals.
Sometimes getting the deal done moves the ball forward more than a plan, but when buildings last for 50 years or more, moving hastily can lock in bad design for a generation. In Ward 7, the Donatelli development at the northwest corner of Minnesota and Benning has shaped up to be a real disappointment even in ways that have little to do with the economy. DMPED chose Donatelli's plan despite community consensus around another bid. DMPED also plunked a parking lot down at 5th and I and totally blew it with the Tenley Library.
On development, Gray's approach will be to create a good plan and hear out all the opponents before moving ahead, while Fenty's approach has been to move ahead without any plans or much listening. Here, both approaches have merit, and I'd give a small edge to Gray's. Perhaps some bold planning and community engagement could have resulted in improvements along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor, where recent development has more often produced a boring low-scale bank rather than anything transformative.
But as one Smart Growth proponent recently pointed out, we are fortunate. We have two candidates who have made a clear commitment to many parts of a Smart Growth vision. They'd implement it with different styles and might focus on different elements, but four years from now, there will be more housing opportunities near commercial corridors and Metro stations regardless of who is Mayor.
Fenty and Gray share a lot of other policy ideas as well. Education reform? Fenty's for it. Gray's for it.
Next: But what about streetcars?
This afternoon, the DC Council Committee on Economic Development will decide whether to give Donatelli Development an entire large parcel at the corner of Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road for free, or whether to give them almost all of the parcel while maintaining a public right-of-way around the perimeter for a future road connection and a reasonable Community Benefits Agreement.
In the last few years, DC acquired this prominent parcel at the intersection often called "downtown Ward 7." The DC government originally planned to construct municipal offices on the site, but then decided to offer the parcel for private development. The 2006 Comprehensive Plan recommends focusing development in Ward 7 at this corner to create a large-scale "regional center," the only one east of the Anacostia River. As such, projects in this area need good urban design, good quality, and community benefits. They should also comply with the longer-term plans for the area, including the Minnesota Avenue Great Streets Plan, which calls for a future road connection adjacent to the railroad tracks, connecting the Metro station to the Benning Road viaduct.
This road connection would reduce conflicts between cars and pedestrians, bicycles, or a future streetcar at this heavily used corner, and make it possible for the intersection to become a great "neighborhood gateway." ANC 7D passed a resolution calling for the project to move forward, but with the right-of-way reserved and a community benefits agreement. Unfortunately, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander has decided to put the developer's pressure ahead of the neighborhood's longer-term interest, and won't push for the road.
Kwame Brown, the Chairman of the Economic Development Committee and an at-large Councilmember with possible Mayoral aspirations, has the opportunity to block the land disposition agreement today and ask for a public right-of-way to be added. Reserving the land won't stop development here. It'll just make it better, and ensure that Ward 7 residents can enjoy a vibrant and safe local center once this and other projects come to the area.
Please contact Brown at (202) 724-8174 or Twitter him @KwameBrownDC.
DC's traditionally quiet summer is over. There are lots of events coming up this weekend and across the next few weeks. September is always a particularly big month in transportation, as Park(ing) Day and Car-Free Day both show up just days apart, sandwiching Walking
The Surfrider Foundation is paddling the Potomac from 10 am to 2 pm, starting at the Thompson Boat Center where Virginia Avenue meets Rock Creek Parkway. And the DC Building Industry Association is helping out all day to improve Fort Mahan Park.
The following Tuesday, September 22nd, is the more official non-car event, Car-Free Day. As they have the last few years, DC will hold a celebration at 7th and F, NW. You can take the pledge to try to get around without driving for the day. The week is also Try Transit Week in Virginia, designed to encourage Virginians to give transit a try.
Speaking of long bike rides, the following weekend is WABA's 50 States Ride, which hits all 50 of Washington's state-named avenues on a tough ride of over 60 miles. For those who want to see some state streets without so many hills, there's also a 13 Colonies ride hitting the original 13 colonies, all of whose streets come into DC's center, from Rhode Island just north of downtown to South Carolina on Capitol Hill. Both rides are on September 26th, start between 8 and 9 am, and cost $10-15.
In Montgomery, the Takoma Park Folk Festival is this Sunday (the 13th) from 11 to 6:30, and the Magical Montgomery Festival celebrates the arts in Downtown Silver Spring on Saturday, September 26th from 12 to 6.
The Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association is having a discussion of bicycling in Brookland, including the Metropolitan Branch Trail and other trails, featuring folks from the Met Branch trail coalition, WABA, and Rails-to-Trails. That's Tuesday, September 15th, 7 pm at the Brooks Mansion, 901 Newton Street, NE right near the Metro.
Zipcar founder Robin Chase will talk about transportation in a lecture entitled "Beyond Zipcar" at the National Building Museum on Monday the 21st at 12:30. That event is free, but you have to RSVP.Copenhagen Cycle Chic, will discuss the nexus between making bicycling fashionable and getting more people to use this sustainable form of transportation. The talk is on Wednesday, September 30th, at 6 pm at the NCPC offices, 401 9th St, NW, 5th floor.
If this is totally overwhelming, all of this is on the Greater Greater Washington calendar, with the next week or so of events always appearing on the right sidebar on the main page.
DC economic development rep Ayris Scales claims that a planned road connection around the intersection of Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road is a "road to nowhere." But according to a traffic study prepared for DDOT, the connection will meaningfully relieve traffic congestion in the area. It'll also make the main intersection safer by lowering the numbers of cars competing with pedestrians, bicycles, and buses.
DC Councilmember Mary Cheh, who chairs the committee responsible for selling or giving away public land that DC doesn't need, raised questions at a July hearing based on testimony from local residents, citywide groups and a Greater Greater Washington article. DC purchased parcels at the northwest corner of Ward 7's main crossroads, originally for a government building, then decided to give the land to private developers for housing and office space.
DDOT's Great Streets plan included a recommendation to run a street around the back, from the Metro garage to the Benning Road viaduct over the railroad. The CityInterests plan, one of two finalists, included the road, while the other, from Donatelli development, did not. DMPED chose Donatelli, and has now been lobbying against the connection.
According to the traffic study (large PDF), cars today experience 101 seconds of delay at the intersection in the morning peak. Without changes, the study estimates that will rise to 136 seconds by 2025 with the new development, but the road connection would cut that to 84 seconds. That means the connection would save about 17% today and 32% in the future. The difference is even starker in the afternoon peak: delay is 94 seconds now and will rise to 124 by 2025, but would decline all the way to 48 if DC built the connection. In other words, traffic would be 2½ times worse at the Minnesota-Benning intersection without the road than with.
Of course, vehicular LOS is not the only factor on which to base transportation decisions. The study also computed pedestrian level of service, and the road improves that as well. Unfortunately, the scanned copy I have does not show the pedestrian chart with enough detail to make it out clearly. It is clear that some areas do change from E or F (red) to other letters (black), however. Update: Pedestrian LOS, like vehicular LOS, also doesn't measure the most important factors. Ped LOS just determines how crowded the sidewalk is, not the safety of the intersections or whether pedestrians have to walk long distances out of the way. The apartments could have an entrance facing the back road, allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to walk or ride from the development across the Benning viaduct without going all the way around.
If the main intersection is too harrowing, bicyclists trying to head north or going to the Minnesota Avenue Metro could take the back road. Giving cars an alternative could make it easier to give the many buses that traverse the main intersection a little more space. And as some suggested in the comments on the earlier post, the new connection might also be helpful for streetcars, depending on how DDOT ends up designing the eastern end of the H Street-Benning Road line and its connection to the Minnesota Avenue Metro.
DMPED is arguing that the land is "surplus." Of course, they also argued that it had been "blighted" and "long abandoned," yet the African Heritage Dance Center had happily operated there until the DC government evicted them to clear the land for the development. This doesn't sound like surplus land.
Fortunately, keeping the land isn't incompatible with letting the project go forward. At a July 31 community meeting, Donatelli told the community they could work the street into the plan, "to Scales' vocal disagreement." The Council is only permitted to approve or deny the land transfer, but DMPED should stop fighting against their own city's interests and resubmit the land disposition request with a right-of-way or easement reserved for the road connection.
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