Posts about New York Avenue
DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie tweeted yesterday that he wants the city to look into either a Metro or MARC station at the corner of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road. MARC could work, though streetcar might do more to bring transit-oriented development to the area.
That corner is easily the most suburban place west of the Anacostia River in DC, and maybe in the entire District, so it could certainly use a transit investment to help it develop a more urban character. But what sort of transit would make sense?
Metrorail is not a sensible solution, because there's not a Metro line anywhere nearby. WMATA's Brentwood rail yard is very close, so adding a new station at Bladensburg and NY Ave wouldn't require all that much new track construction. But that would result in a 1-station spur of the Red Line, which would have limited usefulness.
A bigger problem is that a new spur would decrease the capacity of the Red Line's existing Silver Spring leg. Operationally it just wouldn't make sense. And even if it did, a new Metro station would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
MARC could be a good solution, because MARC's Penn Line (the best one) does pass by just 1 block north of New York Avenue. An infill station there would be easy to build, and would provide about 60 trains per day. MARC stations are extremely simple, so this is something that could be accomplished relatively easily.
But 60 trains a day isn't actually very many, if your goal is to induce transit-oriented development. The relative simplicity of a MARC station makes it an attractive short-term goal, but in the long term a better solution may be needed.
One mode McDuffie didn't mention, but that maybe should be considered, is streetcar. None of DDOT's proposed streetcar lines pass through here, but the H Street line and the Florida Avenue / 8th Street line are both close. It wouldn't cost very much to add a spur from those lines that goes up West Virginia Avenue and ends at New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, like this:
Potential new streetcar route, using portions of the H Street and 8th Street lines, with a spur up West Virginia Avenue.
Another option for a streetcar spur would be to go up Bladensburg Road itself, breaking off from H Street at the Starburst intersection. That would better serve the Carver Langston neighborhood and National Arboretum, but wouldn't be as good for Ivy City.
A third permutation could spur off of the Rhode Island Avenue streetcar, using Montana Avenue to cut south to New York Avenue. This might be the cheapest streetcar option, but it would also probably be the least useful, since it wouldn't go to many new places.
DC has so many great transit projects in the works that anything will likely be hard to budget. Metro is probably not realistic at all, and a MARC station is the best bet for something soon. But a streetcar on West Virginia Avenue, Bladensburg Road, or Montana Avenue may well be something to shoot for.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
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.
Ever since Wal-Mart announced earlier this week that they intend to build four stores in the District of Columbia, the question on the mind of urbanists has been: What will they look like?
This is the second of a four-part series examining the urban design of each proposal. The first part looked at the Brightwood location. Today: New York Avenue.
This proposal occupies most of the triangle bounded by New York Avenue, Bladensburg Road, and Montana Avenue. The site is 15 acres, which approaches the 20 acre average for a suburban Wal-Mart location.
According to developer Rick Walker, this site will have 360,000 square feet of overall retail development, consisting of a 120,000 square foot Wal-Mart (the largest of the four that will be in DC), one other big box retailer, and a number of smaller stores. The proposal does not call for residential or office.
Essentially, this will be a very tightly-packed power center.
The image, which I created based on Mr. Walker's verbal description, shows approximately (very approximately) how the site will be laid out. The red line is the 15 acre property. The blue area is the two-story big box space. Wal-Mart will occupy the top floor, with primary access from Bladensburg Road. The other big box retailer will occupy the bottom floor, with primary access from New York Avenue. The dark gray area along Montana Avenue will be a multi-story parking garage. The teal area will be small-format retail, with surface parking in front shown in light gray, in more or less typical strip-mall form.
The ideal redevelopment for this corner would be a mixed-use town center that could induce a larger-scale transformation from suburban strip highway to walkable urban neighborhood. This part of town is crying for major improvements, and something along the lines of Clarendon Market Common might be the first step in such a reinvention.
Unfortunately, this proposal misses that opportunity.
On the other hand, it could also be a lot worse.
This corner is Washington's most suburban in character. It is probably the one place in the entire District of Columbia where Wal-Mart's traditional suburban approach might have worked. Although it's unfortunate that the proposal won't be transformative in the way a mixed-use project might be, it is at least good news that even here at this simplest of sites, we'll be getting something better than the standard one-story asphalt ocean big box.
It seems likely that this will be the least urban out of the four proposals. If indeed this is as car-oriented as Wal-Mart's plans for Washington get, at least it shows how far we've come since the Rhode Island Avenue Home Depot.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
three four locations set up so far for shoveling out bus stops this afternoon as Dennis suggested:
- Columbia Heights: West side Metro entrance (Dennis)
- Dupont Circle: North entrance at Q Street (David)
- H Street: 16th and H, NE on the north side to shovel out the X2 stop (Lance Brown)
- Georgetown: On the M street bridge from Foggy Bottom, to shovel the sidewalk (rallycap and mogwit)
Each will go from 3 pm to 4 pm. We'll shovel what we can in that hour.
There's also one tomorrow:
- New York Avenue: M Street entrance, Monday 10 am to 1 pm (Tony Goodman)
If you can join in any of these four outings (or organize another), please comment below to help us plan. There are plenty of bus stops and sidewalks that need shoveling, so if we have more people, we'll split into groups and tackle more areas.
For the Dupont one, I have an old garden shovel or two, which I will bring and any shovel-less participants can help break up ice. Based on that, we might try clearing the sidewalk where Q goes over Connecticut Avenue, which is very icy.
Dennis and I
are going to buy a couple of extra shovels, assuming our local hardware stores have them have two extra shovels each. However, please bring one if you can. If you will show up but have no shovel, say so in the comments so we know how many to try to get; if you have extras you can bring, say that too.
DDOT is moving ahead with plans to rebuild and widen the 11th Street Bridge over the Anacostia with its stimulus dollars. The project will create a new local bridge so drivers, walkers and bicyclists can cross the Anacostia without merging on and off a freeway. It will also provide space for a future streetcar. However, it will also increase cut-through traffic, enticing some drivers to pass through DC between Maryland and Virginia instead of going around over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. DDOT has asked regional TPB planners to investigate a possible solution: swapping freeway capacity to New York Avenue for the new capacity on 11th Street.
This plan would close the Center Leg Freeway (I-395) between Massachusetts Avenue and New York Avenue. To illustrate the rationale, here are some diagrams showing the traffic on our freeways for drivers coming from the US-50 and BW Parkway corridors to destinations in DC. These aren't to scale or based on hard traffic numbers, but instead illustrate the general concepts. The TPB study, when released, should provide hard numbers to defend or refute this thesis.
Illustration of current traffic flow for drivers from the northeast.
Today, the best route from Bowie or Fort Meade to Arlington involves taking New York Avenue to 395, under the Mall, and out the Southwest Freeway to the Virginia part of 395. The other sensible route, staying on Kenilworth/295 until the 11th Street Bridge, is inconvenient because there's no connection from southbound 295 to the bridge. Drivers have to get off 295, circle around on local streets in Anacostia, then get onto the 11th Street or Sousa bridges.
Of course, other drivers use the bridge, such as northbound 295 drivers, but they are mainly headed into DC. For the purposes of this discussion, we're most concerned with cut-through drivers from the north and east.
Likely flow after completion of 11th Street Bridge project.
Once DDOT rebuilds the bridge, a new ramp will let drivers on southbound 295 directly access the bridge. That'll create an appealing cut-through route that avoids the traffic lights and congestion on New York Avenue. According to the Smart Mobility traffic analysis, some people who were using the Wilson Bridge will switch to this new route. It may also entice some commuters to drive instead of taking the Orange or Blue Lines all the way through DC, or to buy houses in Maryland and commute to Virginia thanks to the faster drive.
Potential closure of the New York Avenue ramp to 395.
In exchange, we should discourage cut-through traffic from using the old route. If we add capacity on one cut-through route but substract from another, we can keep the total cut-through volume the same.
New York Avenue is a major boulevard into downtown. It should continue to serve that function. But drivers headed downtown don't need I-395 under the Mall. 395 only goes to Southwest, the House side of the Capitol, and Arlington. Those drivers should just take the new, wider 11th Street Bridge instead.
Drivers using 395 in the other direction don't need this ramp. Those coming from Capitol Hill, River East, and points south who use 395 get off at the US House or Massachusetts Avenue, where they can head downtown. It's impossible to go downtown from northbound 395 at New York Avenue, since all traffic must turn right.
Without the ramp, we can reduce traffic on New York Avenue. It might even be possible to remove one lane each way. With lower traffic, we can make the road safer for pedestrians and less of a forbidding gulf dividing the neighborhoods around Mount Vernon Square. We can remove the freeway-style signs and lengthen pedestrian crossing times.
If we open the 11th Street Bridge and keep the ramp open, drivers will get used to having more and faster options. It'll then be hard to take something away, even if that only restores the total capacity ex ante. Instead, DDOT should close the ramp at the same time as soon as the new bridge opens. It can be temporary at first: a few concrete barriers and signs would do it. Then, drivers will see the new bridge as switching them from one route to another, instead of taking something away. In fact, if traffic models predict that we could remove a lane from New York Avenue entirely without the 395 traffic, DDOT should also close that lane at the same time.
Once New York Avenue crosses Florida, it passes through historic neighborhoods just like Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Georgia and all the other major routes from Maryland do. It should serve as both a commuter route and a neighborhood boulevard, just like its cousins. Yet it's more a freeway than a boulevard, since it connects to a freeway. Now we're building a better freeway route to the same destination.
I'm working on a series about the controversial 11th Street bridge project and its impact on the DC region. To illustrate various proposals, I've created this diagram of the major highway routes between Greenbelt/New Carrollton and Springfield via DC and Arlington.
Comments welcome. In particular, please let me know if anything is incorrect, including the numbers of lanes (designated by the numbers with arrows). The complex interchanges on the Beltway and the Parkway are mostly stylized; the specifics of the interchanges isn't relevant to the traffic analysis.
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