Posts about UMD
WMATA planners helped STLTransit create an animation of transit across the entire Washington region. That's possible because WMATA has a single data file with all regional agencies' schedules. They hope to make that file public; that would fuel even more tools that aid the entire region.
Click full screen and HD to see the most detail.
One of the obstacles for people who want to build trip planners, analyze what areas are accessible by transit, design visualizations, or create mobile apps is that our region has a great many transit agencies, each with their own separate data files.
Want to build a tool that integrates Metrobus, Fairfax Connector, and Ride On? You have to chase down a number of separate files from different agencies in a number of different places, and not all agencies offer open data at all.
The effect is that many tool builders, especially those outside the region, don't bother to include all of our regional systems. For example, the fun tool Mapnificent, which shows you everywhere you can reach in a set time from one point by transit, only includes WMATA, DC Circulator, and ART services. That means it just won't know about some places you can reach in Fairfax, Alexandria, Montgomery, or Prince George's.
Sites like this can show data for many cities all across the world without the site's author having to do a bunch of custom work in every city, because many transit agencies release their schedules in an open file format called the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). Software developer Matt Caywood has been maintaining a list of which local agencies offer GTFS files as well as open real-time data.
We've made some progress. Fairfax Connector, for example, recently started offering its own GTFS feed. But while DASH has one, you have to email them for it, and there's none for Prince George's The Bus.
The best way to foster more neat tools and apps would be to have a single GTFS file that includes all systems. As it turns out, there is such a beast. WMATA already has all of the schedules for all regional systems for its own trip planner. It even creates a single GTFS file now.
Michael Eichler wrote on PlanItMetro that they give this file to the regional Transportation Planning Board for its modeling, and offered it to STLTransit, who have been making animations showing all transit in a region across a single day.
This is one of many useful ways people could use the file. How about letting others get it? Eichler writes, "We are working to make this file publicly available."
Based on the STLTransit video, WMATA's file apparently includes 5 agencies that Caywood's list says have no public GTFS files: PG's TheBus, PRTC OmniLink and OmniRide, Fairfax CUE, Frederick TransIT, and Loudoun County Transit. It also covers Laurel Connect-a-Ride, Reston LINK, Howard Transit, the UM Shuttle, and Annapolis Transit, which aren't even on that list and which most software developers might not even think to look for even if they did have available files.
Last I heard, the obstacles to the file being public included WMATA getting permission from the regional transit agencies, and some trepidation by folks inside the agency about whether they should take on the extra work to do this or would get criticized if the file has any errors.
Let's hope they can make this file public as soon as possible. Since it already exists, it should be a no-brainer. If any regional agencies or folks at WMATA don't understand why this is good for transit, a look at this video should bring it into clear focus.
The Anacostia River is widely called DC's "forgotten river," a term coined by Anacostia Watershed Society's founding president, Robert Boone, to reflect the river's second-class status in our nation's capital city.
The Anacostia should be a community asset: a river safe for swimming and fishing, per the federal Clean Water Act. In many ways the Anacostia River is not forgotten anymore, but rather a well-kept secret for the recreational opportunities it does offer, including biking, paddling, and surprising beauty and solitude.
My organization, the Anacostia Watershed Society, has been working to improve the Anacostia for 20 years. We and the Anacostia Community Boathouse Association will discuss the river and its recreational future with local leaders and residents at a public forum this Saturday.
At the head of the river in Maryland, over a dozen crew teams from the region call Bladensburg Waterfront Park home, including University of Maryland, Catholic University, Elizabeth Seton High School, DeMatha Catholic High School, and Walter Johnson High School. You can even learn to row with the Washington Rowing School, rent a canoe or paddle boat from Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation, or take a guided river tour with AWS.
This park is also the gateway to the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, a biker's paradise of trails stretching up to Greenbelt and Wheaton that within 2 years will connect southward along the river to the existing Anacostia Riverwalk Trail in the District.
The Anacostia River has a rich history of recreational use. Eastern Power Boat Club, founded in 1905, is the country's first power boat club, and Seafarer's Yacht Club, founded in 1945, is the oldest African-American yacht club on the east coast. Seafarer's has a long commitment to community service and the health of the river, starting the annual Anacostia River clean up that has grown into a major annual Earth Day event, and AWS is a proud partner.
Other members of the Historic Anacostia Boating Association are also along Boathouse Row (Water and M Streets SE), including District Yacht Club and Washington Yacht Club, as well as the Anacostia Community Boathouse, a home for rowers and recreational paddlers.
AWS is a founding member of the Anacostia Community Boathouse Association, and with ACBA's excellent new facilities at 1900 M Street SE, AWS has begun to increase our recreational paddling programs. In 2011, AWS "Paddle Nights" attracted several dozen people down to the river every 2 weeks and opened their eyes to the possibilities of a clean, healthy Anacostia River.
If you don't know about something, it is hard to care about it. In short, recreation equals stewardship, and we believe that more citizens should come to know and love the Anacostia River.
In light of AWS activities to clean up the river, we are often asked if it is safe to recreate on the Anacostia River. The answer is yes, if you are sensible about it. Don't swim, don't drink the water, and be careful about eating the fish. But please walk, bike, row, paddle, or simply look at and enjoy the river.
In order to share this information more widely, AWS and ACBA are hosting a River Health and Public Recreation Forum this Saturday, February 11, 9-11 am, at the First District Police Station, 101 M Street SW.
Councilmember Tommy Wells, Dr. Janet Phoenix of the DC Environmental Health Collaborative, Dr. Sacoby Wilson of the University of Maryland, Collin Burrell of the District Department of Environment, and Donal Barron of DC Water will give a brief panel presentation, followed by an audience Q&A. Topics will range from recreational safety to the risks posed by the river's various pollution sources, including bacteria, stormwater, toxics, and trash.
Although we've still got a ways to go to reach our goal of a swimmable and fishable Anacostia River, it is already a community asset for those who know its charms. Come down to the river and learn for yourself what many locals already know: the Anacostia is an urban oasis, and could yet be a better one if we have the willpower to make it happen. This well-kept secret is really a hidden gem.
DC United might leave Washington entirely due to lack of a suitable and sustainable stadium. Embedded in the UMD campus plan could be the key: A new stadium which serves both DC United and Maryland soccer.
DC United has been playing at 50-year old RFK stadium since 1996 and the facility is literally crumbling. After numerous agreements with local governments that fell apart at the 11th hour, the trail towards self-funding a new stadium in the region has seemingly gone cold.
When I was a senior at the University of Maryland in 2003, I saw a scale model of the Campus Master Plan. It includes provisions for a soccer stadium (PDF) on top of what is currently a surface parking lot in the back corner of campus. The site is on the south side of the new field hockey/lacrosse stadium and also adjacent to the Comcast Center basketball arena. This could be ideal for DC United.
The site in question would require no new roads or infrastructure to be specially built. That part of campus is tucked away from the academic uses and is currently used for parking and varsity/club athletics. It already has the infrastructure in place for large events. DCU could market using the Green Line, much like the Nats Stadium does, although some fans will want to drive if they're coming from far away.
The site is about a 20 minute walk from the Green Line but will be less than 10 minutes from the future Purple Line stations at East Campus and Campus Center. (The University currently runs free shuttles to and from the Metro all day every day.) It is also right next to the Paint Branch Trail bike path.
There also are some new apartments with ground-floor retail on Route 1 behind the stadium site, which are on the way from the Metro. Those new buildings have restaurants and pubs in them that are certain to enjoy greater patronage from future soccer fans on the way to and from the game.
Attendance for UMD soccer is currently over the capacity of Ludwig Field, its current facility. They now draw up to 8,000 spectators. After multiple expansions to temporary seating structures, Ludwig's capacity is about 7,000. During my time as an undergraduate, I heard about how University of Maryland Athletics was dreaming of having a true soccer facility so they could host games and make revenue from prestigious events such as the ACC championship and the NCAA Final Four. However, those prestigious events require that their host facilities have an enclosed press box and locker rooms. Unfortunately, Ludwig Field has neither.
Currently, University of Maryland Athletics is running a deficit. Therefore, they can't fund new facilities in the Master Plan. University of Maryland Athletics also wants new revenues to fund their operations. Meanwhile, DC United has been offering to fund the construction of a new stadium for over 10 years. They have sought a public-private partnership that involves the local or state government issuing low-interest municipal bonds that the team would be in charge of paying.
The lower municipal interest rate versus the higher private interest rate is the difference between tens or hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the bond. The Maryland Stadium Authority was set up to mange such projects; as result, they bring in revenue to the government and are funded through fees from events at the facility rather than through taxpayer money. (It was also founded in response to Baltimore's heartbreak over losing the Colts in the 1980's because of a situation that was very similar to United's.)
Under such a public-private partnership between DC United and UMD, the University would get a new facility that's on its Campus Master Plan at no cost to their budget. They would get new revenue streams by hosting ACC and NCAA events, along with revenue from DC United events, according to the terms of embracing construction on the University of Maryland campus. Finally, they would have a beautiful new stadium to better attract and accommodate more fans for their own soccer teams than their present facility can hold.
The more events a stadium hosts, the more revenue it brings in for all stakeholders. In addition to more revenue from hosting college sporting events, UMD and DCU would make revenue per the terms of their agreement for 60 additional events a year. As I wrote back in January:
Between its Major League Soccer regular season games, U.S. Open Cup, CONCACAF (North American) Championships, and friendlies, DC United holds approximately 30 games during the season. Other events would want to use the facility too, such as the U.S. National Men's and Women's soccer teams, concerts, college sports, other pro sports, etc. 60 events a year is a reasonable estimate. The schedule for the Los Angeles Galaxy's soccer stadium, the Home Depot Center, illustrates the diversity of events held.DC United's competitor, the Los Angeles Galaxy has a similar existing arrangement with Cal State-Dominguez Hills as the Home Depot Center is built on the campus. The Home Depot Center represents how a medium-sized professional sports venue built on a college campus can be beneficial for all stakeholders.
The solution to two separate problems often rests with the two parties working together. DC United has been looking to fund building a 20,000 seat soccer stadium for over a decade. The University of Maryland has wanted a new soccer stadium for almost as long, as expressed in the Campus Master Plan, and they currently lack the funds to build it themselves even though their own soccer team has outgrown its present facility.
DC United is in the eleventh hour of getting out of a bad stadium arrangement that threatens their very existence. The land and infrastructure at UMD is already in place. The Maryland Stadium Authority brings professional stadium project management to the table. Both parties have exactly what the other wants and a 20,000 seat soccer stadium will bring in revenue for all at no taxpayer expense. It's also a smart growth project, located close to existing Metro infrastructure, the future Purple Line (boosting ridership projections and making the project even more competitive for Federal funding), existing parking, and existing road infrastructure that already handle accommodate large sporting events.
Disclosure: I'm a member of the Barra Brava, an iconic independent DC United supporters' group. I am also a University of Maryland alum and a member of the Alumni Association.
The University of Maryland, College Park will launch a new smartphone application next week that places campus safety in students' hands.
With the tap of a button, students using an Android smartphone will be able to connect with University of Maryland Police while on campus.
The new application, known as M-Urgency, uses the phone's camera to stream live video and audio of an incident to police dispatch and the laptop of an officer's squad car.
The student taps the red "help" box and the phone instantly begins streaming video and audio to University Police dispatch. Photo from the MIND Lab.
Officers can respond to the incident using the phone's GPS system, which pinpoints the caller on a Google map within 10-feet of their actual location.
"I tell students and parents that it's smarter to carry a smart phone than it is to carry a gun," said Ashok Agrawala, director of the University of Maryland's MIND Lab.
This is the first smartphone application of its kind to be used at a university for student safety, said Agrawala. And developers say they are working to expand the program to iPhone users and off-campus locations.
The view from police dispatch. The software pinpoints the emergency on a Google map, and the video and audio stream live. Photo from the MIND Lab.
Earlier this month, University Police presented the technology to College Park's City Council in hopes of securing an additional $100,000 in funding for the program, but the council and College Park's mayor informally turned down that plan during an Aug. 9 work session due to program costs.
"We heard an initial cost estimate, and there may be more dialogue between what the university would be providing," said College Park Mayor Andrew Fellows. "If it is $100,000, I think it's safe to say, 'no' we can't do that, but if there's some other discussion it might be possible."
In addition to expanding the program off-campus, Agrawala said there is interest from several other colleges and universities. And, there are plans to make the application available to all thirteen colleges and universities within the University of Maryland system.
The MIND lab partners with private businesses and government agencies to build information technology systems and is currently working with an Annapolis-based company, TeleCommunication Systems, Inc., to develop text message and video emergency messaging as part of a national Next Generation 911 system.
"The University of Maryland in this case will serve as a national model," said Agrawala. "Others will likely take notice."
The lab worked with the University's Department of Public Safety to ensure that police officers are prepared to use the new technology.
A student with special needs can also add information to their phone's application, which will tell officers if it's a person with high risk needs or a specific medical condition.
"I think it's a good idea, but sometimes a cell phone video or photo can exaggerate what actually happened," said Jose Arevalo, an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland.
Arevalo said he thinks many students on-campus will use the application, but also worried about some of the application's privacy issues.
"If it's used the right way, then it can help, but if the videos get saved, people may try to YouTube them," he said.
Privacy concerns have been a primary issue Agrawala said. But, he thinks that students will first-and-foremost see the advantages of safety.
"The effect that this application will have will make criminals think twice before coming to campus," he said. "We are giving so many more eyes and ears to the police department."
In a city as disenfranchised as DC, it seems especially important to make sure that all residents have the opportunity to cast a vote. But one group is systematically denied a voice in local decision-making: college students.
It's true that students at schools like Georgetown, Howard, and Catholic are, in a sense, not permanent residents, and many of them may be unfamiliar with or uninterested in local elections. Most of them will probably move out of the neighborhood after four years or so.
But decades and decades from now there will still be students in that same area with similar interests, and there's no mechanism for taking their needs into account.
For example, in the elections last month, two American University freshmen ran write-in campaigns for ANC seats. ANC 3D chair Tom Smith filed complaints against both of them with the Board of Elections and Ethics, although one, Deon Jones, managed to get elected to the long-vacant 3D07 seat.
The other, Tyler Sadonis, who was running for Smith's own seat in 3D02, lost, although according to Smith himself nearly 60 AU students showed up to vote in that precinct. This was an unusually high turnout, but many students were prevented from voting by poll watchers specifically targeting students.
Smith has since called (huge PDF) for the repeal of voting reforms passed by the DC Council last year, including same-day registration and early voting, citing the fact that some AU students attempted to register without the proper identification.
Even if all 60 AU students who tried to vote in 3D02 had been allowed to, Smith still would have been easily reelected with 228 votes. But those students should have been welcomed and encouraged to participate in their local election, rather than intimidated and targeted for challenges.
Nor is this an isolated incident: AU student Sami Green says she's tried to get on the ballot in 3D07 eight times in the past two years. Sometimes she failed to get enough signatures, but other times her petitions were rejected on various technical grounds.
Meanwhile, down in Burleith, neighbors are vociferously opposing Georgetown University's 10-year development plan, which would expand graduate student enrollment from 6,275 to 8,750 while adding only 120 beds on campus. According to Burleith residents, the student presence in their neighborhood is already intolerable, between late-night parties and "walk-by noise." You have to sympathize with them; apparently they were unaware they were moving in next to a 200-year-old university.
The Burleith and Georgetown residents demand that the university build more on-campus housing to keep students away from them. But what if students want to live off-campus? Unfortunately for them, there's no practical reason Councilmember Jack Evans should even consider what students want, because it's mostly the residents who get to vote. Indeed, Evans told the Burleith Citizens Association that he supports them and opposes the campus plan. Why should he say otherwise when the political incentives are so clear?
Up in College Park, the University of Maryland's neighbors have shown a similar hostility towards the idea of students living outside the confines of campus. Elected officials are currently trying to prevent the construction of a residential project on the Maryland Book Exchange site, across the street from the main entrance to UMD. They may or may not be right that the project would adversely affect locals, but there's little question it would be good for the 830 students who'd be able to live there. Unfortunately they aren't really a party to the debate.
Some may argue that college students are free to register to vote at their college address or even run for local office if they meet residency requirements. (Others incorrectly warn of legal consequences for students who try to register at their college address.) But hostility and obstructionism on the part of local residents can be discouraging, and the transient nature of student life means many students are still getting to know their adopted neighborhood when their four years are up.
Unfortunately there are few easy options for increasing student representation in local decision-making. Foremost among them is gerrymandering, which can create a seat on a local body that's effectively reserved for students. Gerrymandering is what created SMD 3D07, the seat won by Deon Jones. Jones will join Georgetown student Jake Sticka as the only two college students serving on ANCs. That's less than 1% of the 276 commissioners citywide, in a city where college students represent nearly 15% of the population.
An intercollegiate campaign called DC Students Speak was launched last year partly to correct this imbalance. They've identified 11 SMDs with majority student populations that are represented by non-student commissioners. The campaign hopes to register and mobilize enough students to correct this imbalance somewhat.
For their part, college neighbors should be more welcoming of students, especially those interested in getting involved in their communities. It benefits everyone if DC-area college students graduate with an attachment to their adopted home, since they may choose to stick around and contribute to the tax base. And it's the right thing to do. Everyone deserves a voice, and only by making everyone's voice heard can we build a city that works for everyone.
College Park officials want to shut down popular student bar The Thirsty Turtle after three people got stabbed there earlier this month. In the long run, College Park could best address its bar problems if it stopped fighting every student housing proposal.
I went to the University of Maryland and lived in College Park for four years, but never set foot in the Thirsty Turtle until a week before my graduation. As I wrote in my then-weekly column for the Diamondback, I was put off by the atmosphere, the music, and the obviously underage crowd.
But I can't blame the Thirsty Turtle's owners for turning a blind eye to underage drinking. After all, they can't stay in business without getting bodies on the dance floor, and the majority of the people living within walking distance of the bar are under 21. Housing in College Park has been increasingly difficult to find as more and more students choose to live close to school, yet the City of College Park continues to fight new proposed student housing developments tooth and nail. In many ways, they're the reason why downtown College Park is so gross.
The University no longer guarantees on-campus housing to upperclassmen, meaning that many have to live off campus. The most logical place for students to look would be in downtown and Old Town College Park, the only neighborhoods within walking distance of school. Rentals make up more than three-fourths of all housing in Old Town, according to University of Maryland Off-Campus Housing Services and research by Rethink College Park. Landlords say that there are far fewer vacancies in Old Town than in "further out" areas.
As a junior, I was lucky enough to find an new, clean apartment on Knox Road, maybe a thousand feet from Thirsty Turtle and the rest of downtown College Park. But many of my friends ended up in one of the few new student apartment complexes in the city, which are able to charge astronomical rents because of limited supply and the notion that all college students need granite countertops and tanning beds. Those who didn't want or couldn't afford to live there landed in single-family homes situated well away from campus, in neighborhoods like North College Park or outside the city, in University Park, Hyattsville or Berwyn Heights.
Of course, many students move to these areas by choice. Student housing in downtown College Park is often run-down and unsafe. Because of their proximity to the bars and fraternities and sororities, many of these houses host loud parties on the weekends. If you're not into that scene, you have to look elsewhere. The student population is not a monolith, but the available housing in downtown or Old Town College Park only attracts certain kinds of students, and the amenities that locate there reflect that.
Rethink College Park has made a strong case for why more student housing is needed in Old Town and how wrong local leaders are in opposing it. For years, the city of College Park has been trying to draw business to downtown with a proposed boutique hotel and a parking garage that usually sits empty.
If we actually want a nice downtown where bars don't have to accept underage patrons and stores don't close after a few months, we need more students living there. Build for everyone, and everyone will come, not just the kids who'll take a rat-trap apartment because it's within stumbling distance of a bar.
Thirsty Turtle's practices may be wrong, but they're as much the result of lax oversight as they are of a college town that insists that students don't have a place there. College Park's leaders should recognize that and find an approach to redevelopment that includes the kids who gave the town its name.
The 6-story mixed-use development could bring 830 student beds to downtown College Park along with roughly 170 beds geared towards grad students and young professionals. But opponents would prefer less student-oriented development on the site.
The debate has become almost farcical. Handpicked neighborhood committees are staking their positions and misinformation and hysteria abound in a way that we have not seen with any other project.
The developer has not even submitted formal plans yet or presented the concept to the City Council, yet the battle lines have already formed. Most key decisionmakers, including County Councilman and longtime Smart Growth proponent Eric Olson, have aligned themselves squarely against the project.
At the starting gate, the project seems almost destined for a court battle. It completely satisfies existing zoning, yet most of the local political establishment opposes it anyway. The demand for housing and policies in the Route 1 Sector Plan have taken a back seat to an anti-student hysteria brewing among a handful of the most politically active and vocal Old Town residents.
A letter dated October 1 from OTCA sums up adjacent neighbors' opposition:
We shall be completely marginalized and without hope should this project go forward. ...The basic premises behind opposition to the Book Exchange redevelopment are faulty. City Councilwoman (and supporter of the project) Chris Nagle puts the situation best:
OTCA believes the influx of up to 1,000 more undergraduates would symbolize "kiss of death," for College Park's downtown, as the likelihood of more upscale, adult-oriented eateries and shops would forever be lost to sandwich shops and fast food venues, the market of choice targeted to undergraduates. If downtown is completely dominated by undergraduate residents, it will not attract more diverse retail. If this project goes forward, the opportunity to change the nature of downtown will forever be lost. ...
We cannot support the proposed development at the Maryland Book Exchange, as it is likely to have grave and irreversible impacts on our community.
The project will not result in an increased enrollment at the University of Maryland. Student housing at the Maryland Book Exchange location will provide students who want to live within walking distance of UMD and downtown College Park with an alternative to living in Old Town.OCTA voted unanimously (24-0) on September 27th against the project. Unfortunately, people who are supposed to be voices of reason in the community are instead playing to its deepest fears. The neighborhood has convinced itself that its very future is in jeopardy.
I thought that was what the residents of Old Town wanted: for students to move out of existing single family and into multi-unit student housing dwellings. The developer is working with residents and has sought their input into the commercial component of the project.
This gut emotional reaction stems from the development's proximity to the neighborhood, not on any reality of its potential impacts to the community. In fact, the project would create the exact reverse effect than what residents fear: it will contribute to draining students out of single-family homes.
We're not saying that there isn't room for adjustments around the edges. Rethink College Park has already proposed that the developer seek the Maryland Food Co-op as a tenant for the ground floor retail space. The developer should also look at ways to better ensure graduate students can comfortably occupy part of the complex.
If construction of student housing isn't the long term solution to what ails Old Town, what is?
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