Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Rosslyn

Public Spaces


Rosslyn's sidewalks are getting a makeover

Sidewalks are critical parts of where we live. They connect us to restaurants and businesses, make for a safe environment, and foster a sense of community. A plan for Rosslyn's future is focusing on making its sidewalks easier and more pleasant to use.


All images from the Rosslyn BID.

Cities today are focused on sustainability and on developing mixed-use areas, with businesses and residential sharing the same space. Passed in 2015, "Realize Rosslyn" is Arlington County's long-term sector plan to transform the city into a "live-work-shop-play" urban center. To make access by foot, bike, or car easier, one element of the plan is a call for smarter street designs wider sidewalks.

The plan also prioritizes expanded parks and public spaces and better access to public transit, including Metro.

In a separate but connected project, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) launched the Streetscape Elements Master Plan. During the planning process in 2013, the BID collaborated with Arlington County and Ignacio Ciocchini, a New York-based industrial designer, to develop the streetscape initiative that would extend the benefits of the public sector improvements envisioned by the larger plan down to the sidewalk and pedestrian levels.

To do this, the BID carried out a comprehensive look at Rosslyn's sidewalks to determine what was missing and what could help create a unified and active streetscape. The BID also studied examples of other dense urban districts that had successfully transformed their pedestrian environments.

After researching, the BID decided on what to install as part of the streetscape. New benches, newspaper corrals, and planters will improve the pedestrian experience; way-finding signs and a mobile informational kiosk will make it easier for visitors to navigate; bike racks will encourage multimodal transportation; and the mobile curbside parklets will support retail and dining establishments. Many of these elements are mobile, meaning they can be moved to where they'll best support the community at a moment's notice.

Combining form and function, the sidewalk elements also complement the unique identity of the neighborhood and the business and residential development happening all around us. For example, the perforated design used in many of the street elements, including benches and chairs, is unique to Rosslyn and derived from the window lights of prominent buildings on our skyline that were simplified and digitally transferred to form the pattern.


Benches with etchings of the Rosslyn skyline.

Currently, the streetscape project is in a demonstration phase: the public can see many of the elements at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and Oak Street. The hope is to eventually roll out over 600 elements in all of Rosslyn's 17 blocks.

A key aspect of this project was the proactive communication and collaboration between all of the stakeholders, from city planners and policymakers to business leaders and the public. While the Rosslyn BID leads the streetscape initiative, it has received immense support from Arlington County. The BID will use private money to fund the project.

The guiding mantra behind the Rosslyn BID's efforts has been to ensure that all development is people-centric and a reflection of the community's identity. Much like the BID did with the mobile vending zone pilot, the BID will be actively gathering feedback from the community and using that input to guide the next phase of the project as it expands to the rest of Rosslyn.

We hope that everyone who lives or works in Rosslyn—or who visits from DC and elsewhere in northern Virginia—will come and experience our new streetscape elements and let us know what you like, what can be improved upon and what additional steps we can take to build a better Rosslyn.

Retail


Rosslyn's new mini Target fills an urban retail niche

A miniature Target is now open in Rosslyn, occupying the ground floor of an office tower. At less than a sixth the size of a typical suburban Target, it shows how retailers are adapting to America's increasingly urban reality.


Inside Rosslyn's Target. Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

The store had a soft opening last week, and an official opening Sunday. At 23,000 square feet, it's about the size of a large Trader Joe's, or a small Safeway. It's minuscule compared to normal Target stores, which often top 150,000 square feet.

And yet, it's got a little of everything, just like a normal Target.


Inside Rosslyn's Target. Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

A few years ago, when I lived in a Ballston high rise, I'd have killed to have a Target on the Orange Line. The only department stores I had easy access to were the Macy's in Ballston and downtown DC. And, for a recent college grad spending way too much on housing, Macy's wasn't in my budget for housewares.

Now urban department stores are sprouting everywhere.


Rosslyn's Target, from Wilson Boulevard. Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

This is, by my count, at least the Washington region's fourth fifth urban-format Target. The first opened in the 1990s in Gaithersburg. Then came Columbia Heights in 2008 and Merrifield in 2012, then our first mini Target earlier this year in College Park.

Walmart joined the game beginning in late 2013, with urban stores downtown and on Georgia Avenue.

Smaller stores may be the new normal

It's not just Target and Walmart looking to get in on this game. Other chains are launching a new breed of mid-size stores, like this mini Target, in a race to fill the urban retail niche.

In 2013, Walgreens opened a new "flagship" store in Chinatown. At 23,000 square feet, it's almost exactly the same size as the new Rosslyn Target, and twice a normal Walgreens.


The flagship Walgreens. Photo from Google.

And although their merchandise selections are a little different (the Target has more clothes and housewares, while the Walgreens has more beauty & health products), the Rosslyn Target and the Chinatown Walgreens are clearly evolving towards becoming a similar category of store: The not-quite-department-store, or the 21st Century general store.

Whatever you call it, it's a growing retail niche.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Transit


When Metro's busiest pinch point shut down today, what did you do?

Thousands of commuters faced gridlock at the peak of rush hour today when smoke at Foggy Bottom station forced Metro to close the crucial Rosslyn tunnel. With trains shut down and many alternatives overwhelmed by the flood of Metro riders, how did you cope?


Metro riders at Rosslyn this morning. Photo by @ABouknight on Flickr.

What happened

Around 8:00 this morning, an insulator along the third rail between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn Metro stations began giving off heavy smoke. From around 8:15 until about 11:15, WMATA suspended all Orange and Silver Line service between Virginia and DC. Blue Line trains diverted to the Yellow Line bridge.

The good news is nobody was hurt. The bad news was a hellish morning commute.

The Rosslyn tunnel is one of DC's most crucial transportation pinch points. It's one of the worst places for Metro to have to shut down service. And this morning's event happened at the worst possible time, at the peak of rush hour, too late for WMATA to plan adequate backups, or for many commuters to seek alternate routes.

With no trains, and with buses, bikeshare, taxis, and roads overwhelmed by cast-off Metro riders, it was a particularly bad day.

How did you get to work?

My office is in Court House and I live in DC. Bikeshare wasn't an option for me this morning, so my first thought was to take Metrobus 38B, aka the "Orange Line with a view". But when I heard reports of how long lines were for buses, I figured the 38B would be uncomfortable at best.

Instead, I Metro-ed down the Yellow Line to the Pentagon and took ART 42 from there to my office. Happily, it was running on time and there were plenty of seats.

By the time I arrived at work, I'd been traveling an hour and a half. Bad, but not nearly as bad as many others.

How did you get in?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Public Spaces


Bikes in the snow in the Flickr pool

Here are our favorite new images from the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool, showcasing the best and worst of the Washington region.


Photo by nevermindtheend.


The National Mall. Photo by Payton Chung.


Photo by Clif Burns.


Yards Park. Photo by Rob Cannon.


Rosslyn. Photo by Brian Allen.


Union Station. Photo by Mark Andre.

Got a picture that depicts the best or worst of the Washington region? Make sure to join our Flickr pool and submit your own photos!

Pedestrians


Sidewalk snow shoveling hall of shame: "DC government is the worst offender" (and Arlington too)

After a warm Sunday, many buildings and property owners were able to clear their sidewalks, as the law requires. But some did not. We asked you to submit your photos of snow clearing scofflaws or, as reader Jasper Nijdam dubbed them, "snoflaws."


Photo by Jasper Nijdam.

He sent along this photo of the sidewalk past the Key Bridge Marriott, at the corner of Lee Highway and Ft. Myer Drive in Rosslyn. He writes,

I'd like to nominate eternal snoflaw The Marriott at Key Bridge. Their own parking lot is so well treated that I doubt snow ever reaches the ground. But they utterly refuse to do anything about their busy sidewalk.
Update: Commenter charlie says that this is National Park Service land, and thus NPS is responsible for clearing it rather than Marriott. However, both agree in the comments that Marriott could do a public service and clear it anyway.

Nijdam continues:

Also nominated, whomever lives on the west side of 35th [in Georgetown] between Prospect and M Street. Note how the east side is nicely cleaned.

Georgetown from the Key Bridge. Photo by Jasper Nijdam.

Bridges remain treacherous

While local governments have avidly plowed streets, sidewalks along bridges have not gotten the same love. These are especially problematic for pedestrians since the bridges often represent the only nearby path across a major barrier like a highway, railroad tracks, or a river.


Left: North Meade Street overpass over Route 50 in Rosslyn. Photo by LMK on Twitter. Right: H Street "Hopscotch Bridge" over railroad tracks in DC. Photo by Emily Larson on Twitter.

Twitter user LMK tweeted a picture of the bridge over Route 50 at the south end of Rosslyn, which connects Ft. Myer Heights, the eponymous military base, and the Marine Corps Memorial to Rosslyn. The already-narrow sidewalk is now a sheet of ice.

Across the Potomac, we have a similar condition on the "Hopscotch Bridge," where H Street crosses behind Union Station. Dave Uejio alerted us to this photo on Twitter by Emily Larson.

"DC government is the worst offender"

Ralph Garboushian writes an email with the apt subject line, "DC government is the worst offender." He calls out DC's Department of General Services, which is responsible for maintenance in and around District property including parks. He says,

DCDGS never clears the sidewalks around the triangle parks between 17th Street, Potomac Avenue and E Street SE and at 15th & Potomac. Both see pretty heavy pedestrian traffic—people walking to the Metro, going to the grocery store, taking their dogs to Congressional Cemetery, etc. A neighbor and I usually tackle the one at 17th.

Photo by Ralph Garboushian.
It infuriates me to see Mayor Bowser patting herself on the back for doing such a great job clearing the snow. On Potomac Avenue SE, the main beneficiaries of her efforts are the suburban motorists who speed up and down the street with no regard for pedestrians or neighborhood residents.

By Sunday morning the street was bare pavement. Meanwhile, the sidewalks along the triangle parks were a disaster, even as most homeowners had already shoveled their sidewalks. It boggles my mind that taxpaying neighborhood residents have to pick up the city's slack to ensure we can travel safely on foot while non-taxpaying suburban motorists get gold-plated treatment.

Many of DC's square and triangle parks (like the triangles along Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House, for instance) are not local, but federal, and it's the National Park Service (NPS) which should (and doesn't) clear their sidewalks. This one, however, is DC land and not federal, though it's next to Congressional Cemetery, which NPS controls.

Garboushian and his neighbors later shoveled this sidewalk themselves, which is a great public service, but they shouldn't have to. The DC government (and Arlington government, and other governments) should take responsibility for clearing sidewalks that don't abut private property. Arguably, they should just handle all sidewalks, but we can at least start with these.

Thanks to everyone who sent in images! We didn't have room for them all, and I preferred ones showing conditions Monday, after everyone had ample time to clear sidewalks on a warm day.

Correction: The original version of this article identified the property on the west side of 35th Street as the Halcyon House. That is actually on the west side of 34th Street. We apologize for the error.

Update: Here's one more, from whiteknuckled, who tweets, "Our neighbor never shovels his side-sidewalk, only the front. But digs out his driveway and piles snow on sidewalk."


Photo by whiteknuckled on Twitter.

Transit


Ask GGW: Is a Georgetown gondola practical?

The Georgetown Business Improvement District and neighborhood leaders have been floating the idea of a gondola linking Georgetown with Rosslyn. But many transit experts seem skeptical. Who's right?


Image from the Georgetown BID.

Georgetown BID head Joe Sternlieb says it could be an inexpensive way to build a high-capacity transit link. On the other hand, the National Park Service and other agencies would have to approve any wires over the Potomac, and jealously guard this territory against encroaching structures.

This week, we asked the contributors, why does Georgetown seem so enthusiastic but most others aren't? Is there a good transportation reason that these aren't the best choice (and why most US cities don't have them)? Or is it just that people don't believe it could ever get federal approval?

"Two words: 'Wire ban,'" retorted Matt Johnson.

"A zip line would be my preferred alternative," Tracy Loh joked.

Gray Kimbrough said, "I heard that there are wireless gondolas in development which will solve this problem," but Matt Johnson said the technology is "in its infancy." "A wireless hoverboard is much less complicated than a wireless gondola," he claimed. Steven Yates reminded us all, "Sadly, you need extra power to make hoverboards work on water."

Dan Malouff weighed the meta-questions:

Transportation people, at least the ones who aren't hopelessly close-minded, roll their eyes because the Georgetown idea specifically puts the cart before the horse, not because gondolas are inherently useless.

It's sort of like a transit fantasy map. There's been no analysis about what problem it's supposed to be solving, or about whether it's the best way to solve whatever problem that is. It could be, but nobody knows.

So my position on the gondola is "skeptical but open-minded." It could totally work, maybe even very well, but so far I just don't feel strongly enough about it (either pro or con) to become particularly vested in its outcome. I'd like to see some actual analysis on it, and maybe after that I'll feel differently.

Payton Chung laid out the reasons why one might use a gondola:
Any technology will have its proponents, and I'm prone to eye-rolling whenever someone claims that the technology is what will make or break a transit project. (They're wrong: it's the corridor.) As Malouff says, it's putting the cart before the horse.

However, having talked about gondolas with the relatively technology-agnostic Jarrett Walker, there are a few situations where a gondola makes sense:

  • Few stops
  • Challenging topography or limited ROW/footprint
  • Relatively level passenger flows through the day
I can think of worse corridors than Georgetown to Rosslyn. In particular, surface transit will require too large a footprint in a corridor that's heavily restricted by NPS, and the shopper/tourist traffic this would draw isn't sharply peaked.

However, there are better ones, like ski resorts or universities on mountaintops (e.g., OHSU [Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, which has one today] and SFU [Simon Frasier University in Vancouver, which has considered one]).

Gray Kimbrough relayed the history of New York City's Roosevelt Island Tramway:
Much of [Roosevelt Island] was redeveloped in the 1970s, and as an interim solution until the promised subway station opened, they built a tramway with one stop on the island and one in Manhattan. It opened in 1976, and ended up being so popular that when the subway station opened in 1989, they kept the tramway running.

For many people, it's a very convenient way to commute into Manhattan. It's also one of my favorite ways to view the city from a different angle, and I encourage tourists to ride it whenever they go.

Finally, Topher Matthews, who served on the steering committee that wrote the Georgetown 2028 report which recommends a gondola study, explained why the community is excited about the possibility:
I understand the eye rolling that transit people are doing in response to this proposal. It's tiresome, but I understand it.

Here's why this could be a good idea:

  • It's much cheaper than streetcar and Metro
  • It can be built incredibly fast (months not years)
  • It can be an attraction in and of itself
The best argument, though, is this: the plan is not simply to go from Rosslyn to M Street, but rather to continue to end at Georgetown University. Currently the GU GUTS bus carries 700,000 people from Rosslyn to campus every year. That's just a starting point to what the gondola would expect in terms of ridership. I have no doubt the ridership from GU alone would increase substantially with a gondola. And that's before even considering a single tourist, resident or worker wanting to use it to get to M Street faster.

Lots of the eye rolling comes from supposedly more level headed pro-transit people thinking that a cheaper more effective solution can be found with less exotic technology. But with the exception of Metro (which the plan admits will make the gondola no longer necessary), all the ways to improve the Rosslyn to Georgetown/GU connection go over Key Bridge and through Canal Road.

Do you really think transit only lanes on these routes is remotely politically feasible? Arguing this way is no different than Matt Yglesias saying that to improve streetcars we just need to completely smash the car lobby.

[Joe Sternlieb] is obviously a big booster of it, but he makes it clear: all he wants to do now is a feasibility study. If it comes back as unfeasible, then that's it. He'll drop it.

It's easy to laugh it off. But, seriously, if you can't even consider it while simultaneously defending streetcar without dedicated lanes, I'm not sure how you're making a distinction between what's a fanciful waste of money and what's worth defending.

Sounds like doing a study of the gondola concept isn't such a bad idea.

Do you have a question? Each week, we'll post a question to the Greater Greater Washington contributors and post appropriate parts of the discussion. You can suggest questions by emailing ask@ggwash.org. Questions about factual topics are most likely to be chosen. Thanks!

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