Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Mount Rainier

Transit


An express bus line from downtown to Mount Rainier is one step closer to reality

Neighborhoods around Rhode Island Avenue NE were built to depend on transit. A new express bus, the G9, is one step closer to running along the corridor, from downtown to Mount Rainier.


If Far East Movement took the bus. Base photo by Dan Malouff.

WMATA first proposed the G9 in 2014, after studying the way transit use was changing along Rhode Island Avenue into Prince George's County. The DC Council made a huge push toward making the line a reality Tuesday night, with a unanimous first vote for a FY17 budget that includes $1.04 million for the G9.

"The proposed G9 bus line will service Rhode Island Avenue from 14th Street NW to just beyond the District's border at Eastern Ave NE, thereby filling that gap and alleviating congestion on the G8 and other bus lines that offer partial service to the Rhode Island Avenue NE corridor," said Ward 5 councilmember Kenyan McDuffie.

Here's a full map of the planned route:


The proposed G9 route, from WMATA. A bigger version is on page 25 of this report.

This is extremely welcome news to residents of the Rhode Island Avenue corridor, who are looking at an almost one-month shutdown of their portion of the Red Line during SafeTrack.

As of press time, neither WMATA nor McDuffie's office had responded to questions about when, exactly, residents can expect the G9 to start running. We'll update the post as soon as we hear back.

But for now, let's take a moment to celebrate this bit of good transit news—it's a welcome bit of sunshine on a rainy horizon.

Popping bottles in the ice, like a blizzard
When we drink we do it right gettin slizzard
Sippin sizzurp in my ride, like Three 6 689
Now I'm feeling so fly like a G6 G9
Like a G6 G9, Like a G6 G9
Now I'm feeling so fly like a G6 G9
Like a G6 G9, Like a G6 G9
Now I'm feeling so fly like a G6 G9

Transit


A new bus line would give Rhode Island Avenue the transit it was meant to have

The G9, a new bus line that would run along Rhode Island Avenue from Mount Rainier into downtown, could become a reality if the DC Council decides to fund it this week. The G9 would give residents in the corridor a much-needed way to get downtown by transit, which their neighborhoods were built around in the first place.


Right now, only the infrequent G8 (the line in red) runs along Rhode Island Avenue between the Metro stop and downtown. Images from WMATA.

Right now, the neighborhoods surrounding the nearly four miles of Rhode Island Avenue that run from Bloomingdale to Mount Rainier, Maryland are connected by only a single, weaving local bus route, the G8, which is characterized by less frequent service (especially off-peak) and an indirect route at its eastern end.

Still, the G8 is usually packed to capacity during rush hour because it's literally the only bus line to downtown from most of these neighborhoods (except Bloomingdale, which also has the notoriously late 80 bus). That's because all inbound bus routes on Rhode Island Avenue from the Maryland border terminate at the Rhode Island Avenue Metrorail station.

This service map means residents of the Rhode Island corridor going almost anywhere have to make multiple transfers or use "minor" bus routes, except for the lucky souls in Eckington and Brentwood who work on the Red Line.

After studying this corridor in 2014, WMATA proposed the G9, a limited-stop MetroExtra route, as a solution. While the G9 would only run during rush hours initially, it would be faster than the G8 because of limited stops and would supplement supply to relieve crowding. Ultimately, the G9 could be transitioned from being Metro Extra to being a full seven-day service.

Most vital for residents living east of Brentwood, the line would provide the first direct transit connection to points west and downtown in years, restoring a historic connection and energizing the blossoming Rhode Island Avenue Main Street.


The proposed G9 route.

However, non-regional routes are paid for by the corresponding jurisdiction, which means the G9 must come out of DC's budget. Now, the DC Council's Committee on Finance and Revenue is considering the G9 in the FY 2017 budget. The comment period is open until the end of this week.

Neighborhoods along Rhode Island were built for transit like the G9

The original L'Enfant Plan for DC stopped at Florida Avenue.

In the late 18 and early 1900s, many neighborhoods north of Florida Avenue, like Eckington, developed as streetcar suburbs. Just before the turn of the century, a streetcar line from Eckington to what's now Mount Rainier opened, giving way to transit-oriented development along the Rhode Island Avenue corridor.

By the 1950s, myriad streetcar lines had consolidated into DC Transit, and the 82 line ran from 5th and G Streets NW (near the modern-day Verizon Center), out Rhode Island Avenue NE, all the way past College Park.

With the collapse of the streetcar system, communities along Rhode Island lost the transit that linked them, and that made them viable in the first place.

But the riders are still there

When you build places to be transit-oriented, residents will demand transit. Even with its pitfalls, the G8 is typically packed to capacity during rush hour.

In fact, G8 demand along the Rhode Island corridor has grown at nearly double the rate of overall Metrobus ridership. The weekday average ridership on the G8 in 2011 was 3,571, but by May 2014, it was 4,221an increase of 18.2%. Overall Metrobus ridership during the same span rose 10.0% (while demand on the "major" 80 bus declined 4.3%).

The G9 would help people get to western downtown, specifically.

For Rhode Island Avenue residents who work in western parts of downtown, the G9 would create shorter, faster connections between work and home.

Currently, Metrobus options for residents who work west of 17th Street NW and north of K Street NW (i.e. West End, Golden Triangle, Dupont Circle) are limited to the infrequent G2 crosstown bus that starts in LeDroit Park, the slow and meandering 80, or taking the G8 to the end of its route at Farragut Square.

Since the G9 would connect to Rhode Island Avenue as far west as 13th and 14th Streets NW—whereas the G8 connects at 11th and 9th—office jockeys who work in the northwest portion of downtown could get off or board several blocks further west while spending less time on the bus.

You can help make the G9 happen

The G9 would make it a whole lot easier for residents along Rhode Island Avenue to travel between neighborhoods and to downtown. It'd make a big positive difference for people in Ward 5 and Mount Rainier, but also in Wards 1 and 2 as well.

If you think the G9 running on Rhode Island Avenue is a good idea, tell the DC Council your story this week. You can submit written testimony or just write an email to the members of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, who include Ward 2's Jack Evans (the chairman) and Ward 5's Kenyan McDuffie, and their respective staffs, until this Friday, May 13.

You may also want to email the mayor's office (eom@dc.gov) and spread the word on social media.

Update: It turns out the Committee on Transportation and the Environment recently had oversight on funding WMATA local transit, and did not include funding for the G9 bus route in its budget recommendations. Transportation Committee member Jack Evans (who is, incidentally, chairman of the aforementioned finance committee) expressed support for the G9 during the hearing.

There's still an opportunity to fund the G9. The Chairman of the DC Council, Phil Mendelson, has authority to modify the budget. Should you want to advocate for this, email Chairman Mendelson and his staff, and cc: your councilmember (especially if you're in Ward 5 or Ward 2) and the mayor's office, to ask that funding for the G9 be included in the budget.

Zoning


Can a new zoning code make Mt. Rainier inviting and affordable?

Long considered up and coming, Mount Rainier is a Prince George's neighborhood just east of the District line that's attracting investors and where house prices are rising. Typically, more zoning means higher housing costs, but Mount Rainier residents are trying to use zoning to keep their neighborhood inclusive and affordable. Is that possible?


Photo by Mr.TinDC on Flickr.

Mount Rainier's MO: cheap and funky

Mount Rainier is a historic streetcar suburb bordering DC's Ward 5 that has, for decades, been an affordable destination for renters and owners as well as a haven for interracial, gay, and immigrant families. It's a diverse community, where multiculturalism is not an ideology, but a way of life.

A major part of the city's charm is this neighborly community vibe, which in turn is created and encouraged by the city's urban fabric: early 1900s vernacular architecture including porches near the sidewalks, front yard art installations, and other community-building features. Today, the motto of the local grocery co-op sums it up: "still cheap, still funky."

Today, Mount Rainier is still mostly a cozy collection of small bungalows and Victorians. But home prices are spiraling up, making renovations a hot topic.

Mount Rainier has been here before: Prior to the bursting of the early 2000s real estate bubble, Mount Rainier saw a wave of ambitious home renovations that peppered cheap and/or architecturally deaf flips and McMansions amidst the subsequent foreclosure crisis.


A Mount Rainier house during renovations. Photo by Milo Shepherdson.

Mount Rainier might change its zoning

In a process tracing back to the aforementioned era, the Mount Rainier community is considering a new zoning overlay to cover its single family homes. This Architectural Conservation Overlay Zone (ACOZ) has been proposed as a middle ground between a flipping free-for-all and a restrictive historic district.

The goal of the ACOZ is to encourage renovation and new home construction that is compatible with the existing built environment while preventing poorly executed projects.

As currently proposed, new code would impose detailed design standards and significantly expand the cases in which a building permit is required for residential home construction and renovations.

All homeowners would receive a "pattern book" with guidance and resources about maintaining Mount Rainier's residential architectural fabric, and a local committee would review applications for any project that required a permit to ensure compliance with the standards.

This might sound scary to some, but this is actually exactly how the process works now: A volunteer design review board already reviews many house renovation permits in Mount Rainier, so there is ample precedent for this type of review. Considering that current county zoning requires the board to review permits for residential fences, fears of the ACOZ creating a significant new permitting hurdle may well be overstated.

This has worked in Mount Rainier before

Conventional wisdom says that land use controls like zoning increase the cost of construction and restrict supply, making housing less affordable. And while most would support the laudable goal of maintaining the much loved sleepy neighborhood look, there is always a concern for unintended consequences.

Luckily, this is not Mount Rainier's first experiment with trying to invent a type of zone that both welcomes growth and incorporates the existing built environment.

In 1994 Prince George's County created the first Mixed Use Town Center zone in Mount Rainier, the goal being to revitalize traditional storefronts and invigorate the commercial district. The award-winning 2010 update of this plan established a community vision for a revitalized downtown Mount Rainier as a walkable, green, lively neighborhood-oriented retail center.

As many communities nationwide chase major chains or tourism dollars, Mount Rainier has recommitted to the local, the independent, and the original, saving environmental and financial resources with adaptive reuse of our historic buildings. The MUTC plan incentivizes historic reuse by imposing far more stringent review requirements on new construction, and establishes design standards to promote compatible and quality development.


Image from Prince George's County.

Redevelopment in Mount Rainier is also shaped by a second, larger zoning overlay known as the Gateway Arts District that stretches from the District border up Rhode Island Ave through Brentwood, North Brentwood, and Hyattsville. The Arts District was created in 2001 to provide policy infrastructure for the further development of the local economy and existing arts community, prohibiting many land uses and establishing at times extremely detailed visual standards for buildings and signage.

Nationally, multijurisdictional arts districts are all but unheard of, and the Gateway Arts District remains very much a community-driven experiment in progress. The dream of rezoning specific properties from conventional residential, commercial, and industrial categories to flexible mixed-use zoning that enables arts entrepreneurs to locate is in part confounded by the challenges created by requiring compliance with the zone's detailed design standards. It is unclear if recent developments like conversion of Mount Rainier's historic firehouse into Red Dirt Studios happen because or in spite of the zoning overlay.

A positive outcome isn't guaranteed

There's no guarantee that we can truly achieve our shared goals through yet more zoning. Chapel Hill, NC, used a similar zoning overlay somewhat differently to police tensions between owners and investors managing homes as rentals. There, advocates for "neighborhood conservation" draw a distinction between renting homes to families versus group houses of unrelated individuals, a sign of both town-gown and anti-immigrant tensions.

Payton Chung recently drew attention to a case in LA "of what Mike Davis called 'slow-growth Know-Nothingism,' Anglos are using their superior access to the machinery of zoning and local elections to write into law their feelings about 'those' people."

The Mount Rainier community is at a turning point where it must make choices. Do we let the hand of the free market move over the city, or is our local government capable of implementing a well-intentioned and well-designed public process to regulate residential development? Will the ACOZ worsen already difficult permitting processes, drive up the cost of renovation, and create a historic preservation mafia? Or can preservation and affordable housing coexist?

The past and the present are colliding in Mount Rainier, as they have in many other once-affordable historic neighborhoods like Brookland, Takoma Park, and Silver Spring. We believe Mount Rainier is special. Can we achieve a different outcome?

Arts


Art doesn't have to be intimidating or distant. Here are 5 great ways to see art besides in a museum.

We hear a lot about building new housing, retail, and offices, but space for artists to work is also a valuable part of neighborhoods. It's not just for the artists themselves. When artists have work spaces in our communities, it can make art more accessible to the regular person.


Lucinda Murphy discusses her art with open studio visitors. All photos from Mid City Artists.

Many artists open up their studios to the general public, either regularly or during special events, and May is a big time for these "open studios." The next few weekends are great times to look at art, meet artists, and see the kinds of spaces artists use for their creative work, with events in Dupont/Logan/U Street, Trinidad, and Mount Rainier/Hyattsville, plus regular opportunities in Brookland and Alexandria.

Open studios are also a chance to better understand art in a non-judgmental environment. Talking to local artists about their work is a great way to make art more approachable.

For many of us, art evokes images of revered masterpieces, mostly by long-dead people, chosen by unseen professional curators and placed in marble-lined grand and imposing halls of museums.

There's nothing wrong with that, for the purpose it serves—great works from the past should be on display in places that befit their significance. But there's a lot more to art. And visual art is not just paintings, but photography, sculpture, glasswork, quilts, furniture, and much more.

Some people make art as a hobby; a significant group of people, for their living. But the visual arts can often seem intimidating to those not steeped in that world.


Robert Wiener discusses his glass artwork with visitors during Mid City Artists' open studios.

I went to the open studios for the Mid City Artists, in the Dupont, Logan, and U Street area, last year, and found everyone to be very friendly and not at all haughty. They are proud of what they have created. And yes, they are potentially interested in selling something, though I never encountered any pressure.

In fact, according to Sondra Arkin, a founder of Mid City Artists (and a neighbor), many of the artists who participate feel it as a much a way to spread the word about the fact that living people make art in living spaces than purely as a commercial effort (though, still, they would be happy for some sales, too).

She writes,

Some established artists in the neighborhood ... don't find the activity of open studios fits with their practice. It is more difficult than one could imagine to disrupt your work for what amounts to a weekend party. [But] for the artist, it is a great opportunity to test the waters on new work, demonstrate techniques, and explain their passion to create visual art. It is worth the work, and ... makes the city more like the small town we envisioned.
Here are some ways to interact with art and artists this month:

Mid City Artists' open studios is May 17th and 18th, with 13 artists along and near 14th Street. Most studios are open from about 12-5. There are guided tours by experts at select times each afternoon, but it's also fun to just wander around and pop in, including to see the studio spaces for the artists in residential buildings.

Gateway Arts District, around Rhode Island Avenue in Mount Rainier and Hyattsville just over the DC line, is having open studios this Saturday, May 10, also from 12-5.

Art in the Alley in Trinidad showcases artists' work in an alley off Florida Avenue, between Montello and Trinidad Avenues (near 12th Street NE). That's also this Saturday, May 10, from 6-10 pm.

Other artist spaces with seasonal open studios include 52 O Street (whose website hasn't been updated with 2014 open studios information) (update: but which is having its open studios this weekend as well), and the Jackson Art Center in Georgetown (which had its open studios in late April).

Plus, many art spaces have open studios on a regular basis, or all the time.

Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market is a promenade in a new building by the Brookland Metro lined with artist studios. The artists each have their own open hours, and the studios coordinate to all be open on the third Thursday of each month.

The Torpedo Factory, at the waterfront end of King Street in Alexandria, is a sort of permanent open studio, where participating artists have work space in a building where anyone can stop by when they are there.

And the occasional Artomatic event brings together local artists to all show off their work, at least when its organizers can find a temporarily vacant office building and a willing landlord.


Brian Petro discusses his work with open studio visitors. Photo by Colin Winterbottom.

Public Spaces


Topic of the week: Where we live

Our contributors all roughly share similar views on ways the city could be built and operate, yet we all chose to live in different places across the region. So we asked them, "where do you live, and why did you choose to live there?" Here are some highlights:


Logan Circle. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Andrew Bossi, Logan Circle: When I moved here from Laurel in 2010, I saved money on taxes, utilities, and transportation—easily making up for the increase in rent. I live by Logan Circle, a 10-15 minute stroll from every Metro Line, Chinatown, and the 9th, 14th, and U Street corridors, and there are buses that fill in the subway's gaps—getting me to Georgetown, Columbia Heights, and Adams Morgan. Still need to find a decent way to Capitol Hill... but I often just go by foot; even that is an easy walk.

My 50-minute commute to work consists half walking, half rail—and I love it. My commute is my exercise. In my spare time I find a delight to going on a stroll that takes me past major world landmarks, always with my camera in hand. Lastly, I'm surrounded by four grocery stores (so many of my friends aren't even near one) and enjoy a quiet neighborhood with a great view of the Washington Monument and National Cathedral from my roof. I just wish I could actually afford to own a place in my neighborhood.

Veronica Davis, Fairfax Village: In 2005, I was living with my dad in Potomac. I was perfectly happy being a freeloader, but the commute to L'Enfant Plaza was killing my time and my wallet. It was time to start looking for my own place. (The real reason I was motivated to move: my dad was selling the house). I wanted to live in a condo and I didn't want to drive for any portion of my work trip. The minute I saw Fairfax Village I knew this was the place for me. The selling points were:

  1. 1 seat bus ride to L'Enfant Plaza for $2.50 round trip (2005 bus fares)
  2. The crime was relatively low, which was important as a single woman in my mid-20s.
  3. Older neighbors who knew everyone and everything in the neighborhood gave my mom comfort that I'd have people checking in on me.
  4. A suburban feel without being in the suburbs. It's a quiet neighborhood with manicured lawns and plush trees.
  5. Skyland Town Center was "coming", promising new amenities less than a mile from my condo.

Mount Rainier. Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

Brent Bolin, Mt. Rainier: I moved here in 2002 and ended up in Maryland because I couldn't afford DC and the MD politics were a good fit. We looked in a lot of different places before we discovered Mount Rainier and fell in love with the sense of community and the overall vibe. A historic streetcar suburb right on the DC border, the city has great fabric and great architecture that promotes front porch culture and close ties with neighbors.

I live a block from Glut Co-op, a funky progressive food store that's the heart of our neighborhood and a good lens on the diverse, progressive, working class values that have defined the community. We have incredible bus service from our town center down Rhode Island Ave in addition to the West Hyattsville Metro station on the north side of town. We are very near the Anacostia Tributary Trail network to get out by bike or on foot to great park amenities.

Topher Mathews, Georgetown: I moved to Georgetown from Arlington in 2003 because my roommate and I found a ridiculously cheap two bedroom apartment overlooking Montrose Park on R St. The unique juxtaposition of the bucolic charm of the park with the dense neighborhood was enough for us to break our lease on a drab garden apartment in Courthouse. I've stayed and started a family here because I love the history, the dense walkability, the parks, and of course the close proximity of over 500 shops and restaurants.

I also love that I can quickly get to all the other great central DC neighborhoods with a short bus or bike ride. I look forward to raising my daughter in such a beautiful and multifaceted neighborhood, but with a mind towards emphasizing to her the need to foster the literal and figurative connections between Georgetown and the city it belongs to.


Falls Church. Photo by Thomas Cizauskas on Flickr.

Canaan Merchant, Falls Church: I live in downtown Falls Church. I moved there in August where I traded proximity to the metro in Arlington for a little more space in my apartment but without sacrificing overall walkability. Regardless, I'm well within a 1/2 mile of a hardware store, music shop, bowling alley, dry cleaner, barber, several restaurants, and even a major music venue.

Bus service is pretty frequent on routes 7 and 29 which allows me to function very well without a car of my own. And I can still walk to East Falls Church Metro if I need to. Falls Church is a great example of how being a suburb doesn't automatically mean one must have a car to get around and how good principles of urban development can work at several different levels of density.

Dan Reed, Silver Spring: When I finished graduate school in Philadelphia, I was unemployed and moved back in with my parents in Silver Spring. I knew that whenever I moved out, I wanted to have what I had in West Philly: a grocery store, coffeeshop, and bar within walking distance, the ability to get to work without driving, saving my time in the car for fun trips; and chill, friendly neighbors with a strong sense of community. And I wanted to live in Montgomery County, where I'd already gotten my hands dirty in blogging and activism for several years.

It wasn't easy, but I found it all one mile from downtown Silver Spring, and I plan to stick around, if only to give my DC friends an excuse to visit and learn that yes, there is life beyond Eastern Avenue, and better food too.

Aimee Custis, Dupont Circle: In the 6 years I've lived in the District, I've lived in 3 separate neighborhoods, but my current neighborhood, Dupont Circle, is my favorite. I love being in the middle of things in central DC—going out for froyo or picking up a prescription at midnight on a weekday.

In Dupont I've always felt completely safe, even living alone as a 20-something single woman and walking home from a service industry job late at night. Also, it's surprisingly (to me) affordable and a great value for what I do pay. In my price range, with the amenities I want, I've been able to find lots of choices in Dupont, when I've been priced out elsewhere.

David Versel, Springfield: When I returned to the DC area 2011 after 10 years away, I was met with sticker shock when I tried to find a 3-4 bedroom home for my family near my job at the time in the Fort Belvoir area. We ended up renting a townhouse in Springfield; later, we bought a 47-year old fixer-upper and got to work.

As far as suburbs go, you could do a lot worse. I am a short drive from the Franconia-Springfield Metro, and can walk or bike to several Metrobus and Fairfax Connector lines. I have also found this area to be very diverse and interesting in terms of the people and the ethnic dining options, and my neighborhood is also one of those rare places where kids still play outside with only occasional glances from parents. And the schools really are great in Fairfax County.

All that said, I am still largely car-dependent, and no matter how I get to my current job in Arlington, it still takes an hour each way. When my youngest kid finishes high school, my wife and I will be returning to the city.

These are just a few of the responses we got. There were so many, we couldn't fit them all in one post, but we could fit them on a map.


Click for interactive map.

What about you? Where do you live and why?

Events


Join GGW at Anacostia Community Museum & Art Gallery

Greater Greater Washington invites you to a Sunday afternoon tour of the Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum and the Anacostia Art Gallery on July 10.


Anacostia Community Museum. Photo from Congress Heights on the Rise.

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 events@ggwash.org and we'll get it added.

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