Posts about Fort Totten
Fort Totten is a convenient transfer point between Metro lines outside the core, but the station layout results in unnecessary crowding. Better signage could improve passenger flow and speed up trains, by helping users know where to stand on the platform.
Though crowding at Fort Totten is not as severe as at Gallery Place, the crowding at Fort Totten does cause delays to southbound Green and Yellow trains, and can also cause passengers to miss the train.
The basic problem is that the only access to the Green/Yellow platform is at the extreme northern end. Since Metro trains now pull all the way to the front of stations, there is a gap at the end of the platform for 6-car trains.
At most stations this isn't a problem, because escalators drop passengers closer to the middle of the platform. But at Fort Totten, riders on the Green/Yellow platform arrive well behind the end point of southbound 6-car trains. When a southbound train arrives, there is often a mad rush to get to the last door.
The result is that dozens of people try to push through a single door, which forces trains to stay on the platform longer, delaying the trip and gumming up the schedule. Even then, a clump of passengers is sometimes left on the platform to wait for the next train.
Metro could help alleviate this problem with clever signs. One potential solution is already in place elsewhere in the system. National Airport and Union Station both have entrances that are at extreme ends of the platform, similar to Fort Totten. They are also stations that have a lot of non-regular riders.
Because the escalators at these stations eject riders onto the platform well behind where 6-car trains stop, WMATA placed signs encouraging riders to walk further down the platform.
Signage like that could help at Fort Totten. However, simple overhead signs often blend into the background and are overlooked. A more visible and therefore more useful solution might be floor signage:
Montreal makes good use of signs like the one pictured above in its Metro. At Fort Totten, a large, colorful floor sign could clearly indicate to riders that they should move down the platform. Such a floor sign might look something like this:
Another option is to put signs on the wall across the tracks from the southbound platform, more precisely indicating where the sixth car stops.
To make boarding even easier, WMATA might consider encouraging riders to walk at least down to where the fifth car stops, rather than merely to the end of the sixth.
This is because with southbound trains, the sixth car is often the most crowded before it even gets to Fort Totten. Savvy Green Line riders intending to transfer to the Red Line cluster in the sixth car, to put themselves as close as possible to the escalators leading up to the Red platform, and thus reduce the likelihood that they will miss a Red Line train that's about to leave. Also, the escalators and stairs at Prince George's Plaza and West Hyattsville deposit riders at the sixth car's position, so a lot of people just end up in that car anyway.
During rush hour, as many as half the riders in the sixth car can be trying to get out at Fort Totten. In many instances, it takes the entire time the train has its doors open for all the exiting passengers in the sixth car to alight. There is frequently no time for people waiting outside the sixth car to start boarding. On the other hand, those who've walked further down the platform are already on board.
When 6-car southbound trains arrive at Fort Totten, the cluster of patrons who've been standing at the position of (non-existent) cars 7 and 8 dash up and cluster around the last door of the train, making it harder for the stream of riders leaving the train to reach the escalators to the mezzanine and the Red Line.
A touch under half of southbound rush hour trains at Fort Totten's lower level are 8-cars long. This signage would discourage riders at Fort Totten from boarding those cars, but that's not a problem. Riders from other stations would still use those cars, and people just arriving from the Red Line would still be able to board from the end of the platform.
At any rate, the advantage of moving passengers further down the platform outweighs any possible disadvantage of having fewer Fort Totten riders board the last 2 or 3 cars.
3 of the 6 stores will be unquestionably urban. 1 will be a hybrid with some urban characteristics. 2 will be almost completely suburban.
Gonzaga: The closest store to downtown is suitably the most urban. With apartments above and smaller-format retailers lining the street, Walmart's H Street location is a model of what urban big boxes should be.
Fort Totten: Almost as good as the Gonzaga design, this store is inferior only because it's in a much more isolated location, and because the building materials appear to be somewhat cheaper. But still, the design is unquestionably strong.
Georgia Avenue: Although this design lacks the mixed-use amenities of the previous two, it's still primarily urban, with greater emphasis on pedestrian access than vehicular. It greets the street and parking is provided underground. It's a reasonable choice for a neighborhood that has not seen much investment in recent years.
Skyland Town Center: Resembling something one might expect to see in Gaithersburg, this location is a bit like a shopping mall; it's internally walkable, but poorly connected to any surrounding neighborhoods.
Capitol Gateway: The farthest out proposal from downtown is clearly primarily suburban. It's a strip mall. But it does take a few tentative steps towards walkability, with both street-facing and parking lot-facing entrances.
New York Avenue: The intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road is probably DC's most car-oriented corner. And so it was predictable that Walmart would choose it for a store, and propose a totally suburban design.
The store faces away from the biggest street and fronts onto a big open-air parking lot. The only indication that this location is in a city instead of an exurb is that the Walmart will be stacked on top of another big box store (probably a Home Depot).
Is DC a testing ground?
Each of the 6 stores has such unique characteristics that one wonders if Walmart is using DC as an experiment to see which types of layouts work in the urban environment. By comparing the sales at the more urban stores to the more suburban ones, Walmart will gain many valuable insights.
Inevitably, Walmart will probably want to establish stores in other central cities around the country. The DC example will very likely influence the design of those future stores.
All images in this post are from Walmart.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
DDOT took a big step toward continuing the Metropolitan Branch Trail when it released a draft Environmental Assessment this month. This examines the places the trail will utilizes National Park Service: the section from Kansas Avenue to Catholic University, the Prince George's County Connector and the section from Van Buren Street to the District line.
In each area, the trail would be 10-12 feet wide where possible and built as a separate path. There would be waysides and seating available at key points, such as overlooking the Fort Totten Metro tunnel. DDOT would assume maintenance and costs for the trail.
The report is the first look into the trail's potential route that the public has seen in a few years.
From it's current terminus at the north end of John McCormack Drive NE to Riggs Road, there is only one proposed route. The trail would pass between the trash transfer station/concrete plant and the railroad tracks. There is currently an open culvert there and that would be encased so that the trail would pass over it.
It would then go over the Metro tunnel just west of the Ft. Totten station. The trail would descend down the hill, at a slope meeting ADA standards if practical, to the west side of 1st Pl. Additionally, a set of stairs with rolling grooves is also proposed to provide a direct connection to the Metro.
Along First Pl, the trail would travel along a widened sidewalk or parallel trail to Riggs Road. It would cross Riggs Road at grade (no bridge as originally proposed) and go west along Riggs Road on an improved sidewalk.
At the end of the retaining wall along Riggs Road the trail would do one of two things:
- In two alternatives (A1 and A3) it would go north just behind the houses on 1st St. NE to Kennedy St. Then it would become an on-street route using Kennedy, 1st and South Dakota Ave. to cross New Hampshire Ave.
- In the other two alternatives (A2 and A4) it would run closer to the railroad tracks and connect to 1st St. NE just north of Madison St. It would then cross New Hampshire at South Dakota Ave.
Across New Hampshire there are again two options:
- An on-street or on-sidewalk route along MacDonald place to Blair Road and then north on a sidepath along Blair
- Continuing east of the community garden as a path to Oglethorpe St NE, then west to Blair and north on Blair.
The trail then follows Blair to Van Buren Street. At this point, there are four options:
- A sidepath east (C1) along Van Buren St, Sandy Spring Road, Maple St., Carol St., Cedar St. and Eastern Avenue to the District line at Takoma Avenue. This option crosses Piney Branch Road at grade.
- A sidepath west (C2-bridge) along Van Buren St, 4th Street, Blair Rd and Chestnut street with a bridge over Piney Branch Rd. Then along the sidewalk along Piney Branch's north side. At Eastern Avenue turn north on a sidepath to the District line at Takoma Avenue.
- A sidepath west (C2-no bridge) along Van Buren St, 4th Street, Blair Rd and Chestnut street with a switchback down to Piney Branch Rd. Then along the sidewalk along Piney Branch's south side. At Eastern Avenue, cross Piney Branch at grade and follow Eastern to the District line at Takoma Avenue.
- A sidepath east (C3) along Van Buren St, Sandy Spring Road, Maple St. and Carol St. to the Takoma Metro station. Then onto an elevated structure that crosses Metro property and the driveway to run parallel to the tracks, between them and the apartments. It would go over Piney Branch on a bridge east of the railroad bridge. And then along the edge of the Cady-Lee mansion property parallel to the tracks to the District Line at Takoma Avenue. This alignment is new to the discussion.
Additionally, the EA lays out the options for the DC section of the Prince George's County connector.
That trail proceeds from the Ft. Totten station to South Dakota Ave on a route yet to be decided. It crosses South Dakota at grade. Then it becomes either a striped, on-street route (B2) or a sidepath (B1) along Gallatin Rd. Finally it connects to a new 220 foot long trail from Gallatin Street across NPS land to the PG County trail north of St Ann's driveway.
The environmental impacts described in the report are mostly negligible or minor. Some A and B alternatives involve cutting down trees or removing vegetation. One C alternative might interfere with views of the Cady-Lee Mansion.
The best options are the ones that make the trail straightest and easiest, limiting at-grade crossings of busy streets and giving cyclists the option to get off road (since on-road options will always remain). Options A2, B1 and C3 best achieve those goals. However, it is likely that they cost more than other options.
Comments may be submitted by email at email@example.com or by mail at the following address:
Heather Deutsch, Trail Planner,
Planning, Policy and Sustainability Administration,
District Department of Transportation,
2000 14th Street, NW, 7th Floor,
Washington, DC 20009
Cross-posted at The Washcycle.
Some wards divide up their ANCs by neighborhood. Ward 5, already a geographically large ward, is carved into only three ANCs, each containing a whopping 12 single-member districts and even splitting Brookland up between ANCs.
That means people vote on issues often very far from their own neighborhoods, such as ANC 5C where commissioners from as far away as Fort Totten Park voted to oppose Big Bear's license way down in Bloomingdale, against the wishes of Bloomingdale's own representatives. That's about the distance from the White House to Columbia Heights.
We support Jioni Palmer, who is running to unseat incumbent Marshall Phillips in Edgewood's 5C08. Palmer wants to do more to improve retail in Edgewood, which has lost some high-profile businesses such as the Safeway on Rhode Island Avenue. Phillips appears to have missed qualifying for the ballot, but is trying to hold his seat as a write-in. With the small turnout of many ANC SMD races, a write-in candidacy can succeed, so we urge residents to vote for Palmer.
Another worthy challenger is James Fournier, who is challenging incumbent Barrie Daneker in Stronghold and northern Bloomingdale's 5C07. Daneker has taken a combative and condescending tone on the ANC, which has created more strife over the McMillan development than need be. Daneker also opposed the Big Bear license, as did all but two of the commissioners.
In 5C06, spanning Rhode Island Avenue with parts of Eckington and Edgewood, Darin Allen would do more to communicate with constituents on the street and through his Twitter account than longtime incumbent Mary Farmer-Allen.
Bloomingdale's John Salatti (5C04, Rhode Island to Adams Street) has been a model commissioner and has led the way in encouraging more commercial development that responds to residents' needs, and is running unopposed. In 5C03, south of Rhode Island, green business entrepreneur Hugh Youngblood is running unopposed as well, also with the support of the friends of Big Bear and of a more vibrant Bloomingdale.
Intense debates over development at CUA and the Brookland Metro drove tempers high in Brookland last year. Carolyn Steptoe, the ANC Commissioner for 5A07 from Irving to Michigan east of the railroad tracks, vociferously opposed projects to make better use of the parking lots at the Metro. John Daggett, her opponent, more reasonably pointed out that some development won't "destroy" the neighborhood or the local parks that residents treasure. Steptoe is also extremely combative toward residents on neighborhood email lists. We endorse Mr. Daggett.
Just to the east, in 5A10 east of 15th and 16th Streets, there is a three-way open seat race between Jehan Carter, Corey Griffin and Allen Tillman. We don't have much information on Carter and Tillman, but residents who've spoken with Griffin came away impressed by his ability to have a strong opinion about the direction of the city, while simultaneously displaying a great deal of respect for dissenting opinion. He would bring a younger perspective to an ANC that has been dominated by an older demographic and created speed bumps for local businesses trying to enhance the 12th Street corridor.
In Trinidad, along Ward 5's southern border, incumbents Thalia Wiggins (5B06, West Virginia Avenue and the Florida Market) and Tina Laskaris (5B08, southeast Trinidad) have very ably represented their neighborhood and enjoy widespread respect. Both should be reelected.
India Henderson, the incumbent in 5B10 which contains the Carver half of Carver-Langston, is not a communicative commissioner and is rarely seen in the district. Camille Tucker seems very likely to do better. India Henderson is also the daughter of Council primary candidate and Kathy Henderson, who often acts as the de facto ANC commissioner and was recently embroiled in a bizarre sign-removing scandal.
A common complaint about many ANC commissioners surrounds their level of outreach to the community, through regular district meetings, email lists, and other mechanisms. Many commissioners stop reaching out to those they don't know after being in office for a period of time, and many don't use new means of reaching constitutents like email and the Web.
While we don't have concrete information on policy positions in all districts, based on the potential for more community engagement we lean toward challengers Joyce Robinson-Paul against incumbent Sylvia Pinkney in Eckington and southern Truxton Circle's 5C02, Tim Clark over sitting commissioner Denise Wright in eastern Eckington's 5C05, Vaughn Bennett against Rayseen Woodland in 5B04 in southern Brookland, and Laura Casperson versus Arthur Yarbrough and incumbent David Hooper in central Trinidad's 5B07.
On the other hand, Angel Alston, representing 5A03 in
Fort Totten Riggs Park, has made strides recently to listen more to residents instead of just casting votes on most distant matters, such as Brookland development, based on a few people's opinions.
Last night, Toole Design Group presented alternatives for the redesign of 1st Place and Galloway Street NE near the Fort Totten Metro station.
The alternatives significantly improve walking and bicycling throughout an area that is today suburban and difficult to traverse. In particular, Riggs Road at 1st Place will include pedestrian refuges, a section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail will be built, 3rd Street will be opened to pedestrians until the roadway is completed in the future and both the station's Kiss and Ride and bus bays will be redesigned pending WMATA review to better accommodate pedestrians.
Despite these improvements, the National Park Service remains uninterested in working with the neighborhood to improve well-established dirt paths worn by pedestrians accessing Metro from the surrounding area.
The Metropolitan Branch Trail would receive a boost from this project in the form of a 14 foot wide sidepath planned for the west side of 1st Place. A narrower sidepath is planned for the south side of Galloway Street as part of the Prince George's County Connector trail.
Toole's alternatives propose bike lockers outside the main station entrance, although exactly what type of bicycle storage is provided would be left up to WMATA. Since Fort Totten will be the nexus of both rail lines and a trail system, perhaps WMATA should think bigger than the standard bike lockers and include a weather-protected bike cage instead.
Because these specific path improvements were not included in the General Management Plan for Rock Creek Park or the Management Plan for Fort Circle Park, NPS claims it does not have the resources or the mandate to work with DDOT to improve conditions for neighbors. The plan for Rock Creek Park, of which Fort Totten is a part, was rewritten last year. A new version of the Fort Circle Park plan was adopted in 2004.
These problem is that these plans are rewritten only every few decades. For example, the last version of the Fort Circle Park Management Plan was from 1968. NPS representatives at last night's meeting claimed that until the plans are rewritten around the year 2040, there will be no improvements. "We're concerned," the representative said, "about a slippery slope where you formalize one [path] and then you formalize another," thereby "reducing green space."
Although this seems far away, the preferred alternative will be developed soon and public input is key. Last night's agenda explains the alternatives in some detail; Toole also has a community mapping site available where the public can plot existing problem zones.
Along with the inclusion of crosswalks on all four sides of a redesigned intersection of Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue, the progress of this plan indicates a brighter future for pedestrians in Fort Totten.
DDOT has listened to the many Greater Greater Washington readers and others who asked for a more pedestrian-friendly intersection at Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue near Fort Totten.
The original design prioritized the needs of drivers exclusively over pedestrians, leaving out a crosswalk entirely on one leg of the intersection so it could be wide enough to move drivers as fast as they might like. But forcing pedestrians to either cross three legs or brave a dangerous crossing isn't appropriately balancing the needs of drivers, pedestrians, transit riders and cyclists.
Fortunately, DDOT Director Gabe Klein does believe in balancing these interests. He wrote back to people who submitted comments on the issue:
Thank you for sharing your concerns about the Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue project. Please know that I absolutely share your commitment to pedestrian and bicycle safety at this intersection and throughout the city. We continue to make significant gains in this area and this will remain one of my biggest priorities for DDOT.
I have reviewed your recommendations and am pleased to report that we are exploring specific options for installing a 4th crosswalk at this intersection. In order to do this we will likely need to narrow the proposed cross-section of both Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue by at least one-lane. This may result in some level of traffic queuing during peak hours. It is worth noting that the intersection is sufficiently large to accommodate traffic demands during off-peak hours without any vehicular delays. These tradeoffs are a part of the delicate process that our engineers and planners embark upon as we work toward accommodating all users of our multi-modal transit system.
Additionally, we are exploring improvements to 1st and Galloway Streets which could provide some traffic relief in the heavily trafficked peak hours. I am confident that these modifications together will benefit both the pedestrians and motorists who utilize this intersection.
Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns with us. We value and rely on this type of insight, and I am pleased to work together to identify solutions that benefit the community. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if you have additional questions or comments.
Reader "Totten Nettot" sent in two more photos that illustrate the transformation of the Riggs Road/South Dakota Avenue area in Fort Totten and the folly of excluding pedestrians from one side of this intersection.
The lower right image shows a lively street corner with many pedestrians at the southeast corner, which from the other renderings looks like it will be a park. Yet these people are forbidden from crossing the road on the left to reach the buildings that are there or whatever might replace them in the future.
Pedestrians deserve the right to cross every road. If forbidden, they'll just do it anyway. Then some people will die, especially seniors, and the police will shrug because they "weren't supposed to be there." The traffic engineers who say it's not possible to have two turn lanes and enough signal time for a crosswalk are just designing an intersection to be deadly to pedestrians.
Here's CSG's page to send a letter to Gabe Klein and ask him to keep the intersection for everyone.
DDOT plans to reconfigure a completely pedestrian-hostile intersection near Fort Totten into one that's only a little bit pedestrian-hostile.
You can encourage them to go further and make pedestrians and cyclists full citizens of this area.
Today, the intersection of Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue is a high-speed net of curving ramps more appropriate for a suburban freeway than an low and moderate density urban neighborhood next to a Metro transfer station. The area is slated to get several major development projects to turn some of the warehouses and big box stores into mixed-use communities, including one right at this intersection and the recently-approved Arts Place just to the south.
One day, this area could be a vibrant, walkable district where many more residents walk to Metro than the disappointing 20% today. That definitely won't happen if they all have to take their lives in their hands crossing the street.
To its credit, DDOT wants to reconfigure the intersection into a traditional four-way. They also plan to add on-street parking on two of the roads. Unfortunately, the design team came up with something that looks more like what you'd find on Route 7 or Rockville Pike than in DC. Two-lane roads widen to four approaching the intersection, with multiple turn lanes in various directions.
Most importantly, there are only three crosswalks instead of four. The designers say that a crosswalk wasn't compatible with two left-turn lanes from northbound South Dakota to westbound Riggs. Even if that's true, why not therefore say that two left-turn lanes was incompatible with the necessary crosswalks and cut one of the turn lanes? Somehow we seem to get by with four crosswalks at busy corners like 14th and U. If these consultants were designing that intersection today, would they insist that we have to ban pedestrians from the west side of 14th?
Pedestrian refuge in extended median.
These roads don't need 12-foot travel lanes. Those encourage speeding and also incite drivers to try to pass bicyclists very close without changing lanes. Many DC roads, including many of the L'Enfant avenues, have 10-foot lanes. These would fit into an intersection with a "design speed" of 25 mph, an appropriate speed for an urban neighborhood which should one day accommodate large numbers of pedestrians and cyclists.
Today, most of the buildings around this intersection are low, commercial or industrial structures with large paved expanses around. It doesn't feel like U Street or Clarendon. But one day, it will. One day, people will live at the northwest corner and want to walk to the Fort Totten Metro to the southwest. Designing what will one day become a central mixed-use corner in this neighborhood to move cars very fast while shuttling pedestrians the long way around will only become an albatross around DC's neck 20 years from now. And with senior housing among that planned for the area, do we really want to design another intersection that will exacerbate the recent epidemic of seniors getting mowed down by drivers?
We should design every intersection (even on Route 7 and Rockville Pike) with the same design philosophy: no one mode trumps another, and we don't prohibit one mode, like pedestrians, from using part of the road network just to make it faster for another.
It's not too late for DDOT to change this plan, and you can encourage them. The Coalition for Smarter Growth has created a petition to ask DDOT to improve pedestrian access at this corner, particularly by adding the missing crosswalk.
There's a final wave of community meetings on interesting mobility-related projects this week before the Thanksgiving break.
Tonight, you can weigh on making two important areas more walkable and vibrant: Fort Totten and Lower 8th Street, SE. DDOT is kicking off a study of pedestrian and bicycle access to Fort Totten Metro, one of the city's least walkable Metro vicinities. That meeting is at the WMATA police substation at the Metro station, 6:30-8 pm.
The Lower 8th Street Visioning Process is discussing what to do with Lower 8th Street, the area between Barracks Row and the Navy Yard. Urban planning students including several GGW readers studied the problem last year for a project; now community members and leaders are doing it for real in a study funded by the Capitol Riverfront BID. The second in a series of monthly meetings is also tonight, 7 pm at The People's Church, 535 8th Street, SE.
The action in the developing Capitol Riverfront/Near Southeast area doesn't stop, as DDOT is holding a community meeting on the performance parking pilot around the ballpark. They will get resident input on how the parking rules are working and what to do with revenue to improve the neighborhood.
Outside DC, you can stand up for transit tomorrow. The Northern Virginia Streetcar Coalition is having their kickoff meeting to build support for a streetcar network in Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax, connecting Columbia Pike, Crystal City, the Mark Center, NVCC, and more. That's 7-9 pm at the Alexandria campus of NVCC, Bisdorf Building Room 158.
And in Maryland, remember those town hall meetings Metro had about the budget? They're actually not done: the Prince George's forum is also tomorrow, 7 pm at Prince George's Community College's Rennie Forum in the Largo Student Center, 301 Largo Road, Largo.
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