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Breakfast links: Deadly fire in Silver Spring


Photo by Triratna_Photos on Flickr.
Silver Spring up in flames: An apartment building in Silver Spring exploded late Wednesday night, leaving two dead and more missing or injured. Residents frequently complained about the smell of natural gas, and police suspect a leak is to blame. (Post)

Bike lanes? ANC says no thanks: The Petworth ANC voted down recommendations from a DDOT study that calls for reducing the number of lanes and adding a bike lane to New Hampshire Ave NW. The commissioners took the vote before they had even read the study itself. (PetworthNews)

How to make office parks work: A new, free shuttle takes workers from the the Grosvenor Metro to an office park with no other transit options in Bethesda. Montgomery County is running the shuttle in part to convince businesses that traditional office parks are still viable. (Bethesda Beat)

Purple still pushing along: Some limited Purple Line construction work is still moving forward, even after last week's federal ruling that the project needs a new environmental study. (Bethesda Beat)

Columbia Heights on crime: Is crime in Columbia Heights getting worse even as housing prices continue to rise? Year-over-year statistics say no, but increases in racial tension and brazen violent crime make residents feel otherwise. (City Paper)

Another MetroAccess assault: Another MetroAccess driver has been charged with sexually assaulting a passenger in her home, this time in Fairfax County. This is the second driver to be charged with sexual assault this week. (WTOP)

No PAC bump: Super PACs that receive national funding poured huge sums into the DC Council primary races this election cycle. Despite the influx of campaign spending, not all the chosen candidates won their races. (WAMU)

Can't contain shipping container homes: Another development constructed from shipping containers is coming to DC. The condos will make their way to Shaw in late 2017. (UrbanTurf)

And...: Activists will sing karaoke, poorly in front of the White House to protest the DEA's decision to keep marijuana a Schedule I drug. (DCist) ... Greer Gillis of DDOT is the new acting head for DC's Department of General Services. (City Paper) ... A DC homeless shelter got a donation of geese meat from the National Park Service's efforts protect the Anacostia wetlands from geese. (WTOP)

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Breakfast links: More Metro closures coming


Photo by Craig on Flickr.
Shut down over single tracking: More weekend closures could come as part of SafeTrack as Metro tries to address the FTA's concerns. The closures, which would be in lieu of planned single-tracking, would allow for more thorough work. (WAMU)

The roots of racism in Baltimore: As part of the scathing report on Baltimore police force violations, the Justice Department identified an an 80 year-old housing map that illustrates the city's deep history of segregation and its ongoing effects. (Post)

Fast v. fast casual: In DC, any restaurant where you pay before you get your food is considered fast food, which has made it tough for fast-casual concepts to open. New zoning rules that change the definition of fast food will soon make it easier. (Post)

MetroAccess assault: A MetroAccess driver was charged with sexually assaulting one of his passengers aboard a MetroAccess vehicle. (Post)

Fatal Metrobus collision: The driver of a car that rear-ended a Metrobus as it serviced a bus stop died at the scene yesterday. Several others were injured. (Post)

Record high housing: The median cost of a home in the District hit a record high of $570,000 in July. The region's median cost was about 20% lower, at $435,000. (UrbanTurf)

The world's best walk: Where are the best places to "urban wander" by foot in the world? The Guardian highlights six amazing city walks, with two, in Detroit and Portland, Oregon, from the US.

And...: The President's chief of staff is a bike commuter. (Bicycling) ... Capitol Crossing, the development on top of the new deck over I-395, may not get a beloved restaurant/market concept or student housing as hoped. (Washingtonian) ... Plans to renovate Baltimore's Penn Station are finally moving forward. (Baltimore Sun)

Transportation job openings: Want to work on important transportation issues? The region's council of governments is hiring a program director to work on transportation data, and Montgomery County is looking for someone to coordinate Purple Line construction.

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Breakfast links: "Arrest all the black hoodies"


Photo by Ted Van Pelt on Flickr.
Discrimination in Charm City: Baltimore police routinely target and retaliate against black residents, leading to mistrust and adversarial relations with the community, says a DOJ report. Over 5 years, about 44% of pedestrian stops happened in just 2 parts of the city, where most residents are African-American. (Baltimore Sun)

Unsafe space: A park and playground near the convention center were recently renovated, but crime, including a recent homicide, is keeping residents away. DC police says they are looking into security cameras and turnstiles to limit access. (NBC)

Poor performance, no penalties: DC doesn't always make sure it's getting what private developers promise, like affordable housing and public spaces, say DC auditors. The District may be leaving millions of dollars on the table. (WBJ)

Michigan Park housing moves forward: EYA, the developer behind a rowhouse project at Michigan Park's St. Joseph's Seminary, recently filed plans for 82 homes, including 12 affordable housing units. That's far fewer than the 150 that it had planned, but it does mean there will be more park space. (GGWash, UrbanTurf)

Not your average box: Four new condos in Shaw will be made from shipping containers, and will have balconies and a roof deck. The same architect previously built four similar condos in Brookland in 2014. (UrbanTurf)

Officials sound off on Metro: Local representatives say they're not surprised to read about Metro's safety and maintenance issues in an FTA report Tuesday. The board will hold a special meeting to investigate. (WTOP)

A year without a mayor?: Facing allegations that he traded meth for sex, Fairfax City's mayor is resigning. But a special election for a new mayor may not happen to 2017 thanks to the timing of the resignation and Virginia's election laws. (WTOP)

Swamp things: Many DC memorials are covered in an unidentified black scum that is spreading. The National Park Service first noticed the scum (a combination of bacteria, algae, and fungi) five years ago and says it has gotten worse. (Post)

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Breakfast links: Metro's mediocre maintenance


Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York on Flickr.
FTA says Metro not on track: The FTA didn't hold back in its criticism of Metro's maintenance practices in a recent report. They say Metro knew about track issues at the site of the East Falls Church derailment months before it happened. (Post)

New SafeTrack shutdown: Metro will shut down service between Shady Grove and Grosvenor this weekend, instead of single tracking as planned. The shutdown will allow crews to repair switches in the area in response to last month's derailment. (Post)

Pedestrian access around Pepco: Pepco's decommissioned power plant could be a boon for the neighboring community in Parkside. A panel of experts says Pepco should make the 19 acres more accessible with streetscape improvements and better pedestrian access to the Minnesota Ave Metro and surrounding parks. (WBJ)

Evicted for nonpayment, or redevelopment?: Tenants who are behind on rent by just $25-50 face eviction proceedings at Brookland Manor. Is it a coincidence that the owners are planning to redevelop the complex? (Post)

Micro-units on a macro-budget: 123 micro-units are coming to Blagden Alley. The developer is designing and pricing the tiny, furnished units to appeal to wealthier tenants staying for shorter time periods. (UrbanTurf)

The case for granny flats: Small, secondary homes on single-family lots could do a lot to relieve the housing crisis, but many cities are dragging their feet. DC made it easier to build "granny flats" earlier this year. (Post)

Tokyo's housing solution: Even as its population has grown, Tokyo has managed to keep housing costs under control. How? It's partially because housing regulations are set at the national level in Japan. (Vox)

Some terrible bus stops: Residents suggest five bus stops that might be even worse than the Silver Spring one that won Streetsblog's contest for "Sorriest Bus Stop in America." (Post)

Washington area takes the gold: Athletes from the greater region (swimmers Katie Ledecky of Bethesda and Michael Phelps of Baltimore, and Fairfax air rifler Ginny Thrasher) won Team USA's first three gold medals in Rio. (Washingtonian)

Transportation takes the gold ... in emissions: For the first time in 40 years, transportation is creating more carbon pollution than any other sector of the US economy. (US PIRGS)

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Breakfast links: Gymnastics, diving, and urban planning?


Photo by Peter Burgess on Flickr.
Planning's Olympic moment: Did you know that town planning was once an Olympic competition? At the infamous 1936 Olympics in Berlin, American Charles Lay took home the silver for a redesign of Brooklyn's Marine Park. (Atlas Obscura)

Not the usual Fairfax news: The mayor of the City of Fairfx, Scott Silverthorne, was arrested Friday for trading methamphetamine for sex online. (Post)

Orange you going to resign: Vincent Orange decided to step down from his DC Council seat amid widespread criticism that running the DC Chamber of Commerce at the same time is "tone deaf" if not outright illegal. The Democratic State Committee can appoint a successor, likely Robert White. (City Paper, Post)

Blind referee's Purple call: The Washington Post editorial board condemns Judge Richard Leon's "sucker punch" ruling on the Purple Line. (Post) ... Leon based his flawed ruling on Metro's declining ridership and failed to account for long-term ridership projections when suggesting another environmental study. (WAMU)

Streetcar's expectations exceeded: The DC streetcar is performing better than expected, which says a lot considering its bumpy start. DDOT now has to figure out if it wants to charge fares, run an additional car and add Sunday service. (WAMU)

Nursing home sale fallout: The sale of a nursing home to the adjacent Sidwell Friends School is putting everyone in a tough spot. Residents can't find new homes, and the Sidwell community thinks the sale conflicts with Quaker values. (City Paper)

The price of walkability: DC homebuyers are willing to pay more to live in walkable neighborhoods than buyers in any other metropolitan area. (Washingtonian)

Art before development: Even through the Brentwood Village Shopping Center is slated for demolition in October, local artists hope public murals and other creative installations can help maintain a community's roots amidst gentrification. (Post)

Help for MoCo parents: The movement for paid parental leave has finally hit Montgomery County, and a new bill would let workers without a paid leave policy apply unused sick days for childbirth and newborn care. (Bethesda Beat)

Pokémon's location bias: Pokémon Go players are more likely to find Pokéstopsplaces to train and resupply Pokémon—in majority-white neighborhoods than black ones due to data that favors business districts and tourist areas. (DCist)

Boon for boomer landlords: Boomers are buying up and renting out homes at record levels thanks to low interest rates and high rental unit demand. But no one is sure of the long-term impact on the housing market and millennial renters. (Bloomberg)

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National links: How do bikes work? We don't really know...

Physicists disagree on what exactly makes bikes work. Kansas City opened a streetcar line earlier this year, and it's doing really well. A number of US companies are moving parts of their businesses into downtowns but keeping other parts in less urban places. Check out what's happening around the country (and beyond) in transportation, land use, and other related areas!


Photo by Étienne F on Flickr.

Bicycles. They're a mystery: Even though bicycles have been around over 100 years, we still aren't sure about the physics of why they work. Two competing theories, the gyroscopic and caster, are still being debated. A new research lab could solve the mystery once and for all. (Fast Company Design)

A successful streetcar: Given the poor ridership numbers for a lot of new streetcar projects around the country, it might surprise you to hear that Kansas City's new streetcar line has exceeded expectations. It's averaging over 6,600 riders a day even though it's a relatively short line, it's free to ride and goes through an up and coming district, and there are extensions on the way. (Slate)

Moving downtown... kind of: Many US corporations have long preferred suburban headquarters, but a number of CEOs are moving their offices downtown in hopes of attracting high-skill workers. At the same time, some are keeping lower wage jobs in suburbs and smaller cities, leading to questions of equity. (New York Times)

Where are all the great urban spaces?: In the last fifty years, the US has slowed down on building small streets with human scale buildings, and there's been an explosion of sprawl. If city administrators want great urban places, they need to focus on non-auto transportation and streets that put stores, schools, homes, and churches within walkable distances. (Governing Magazine)

A home to grow old in: Universal design is a way of designing places for people of all ages and abilities. Having a gradual slope instead of steps so that wheelchairs can access a room is one example of the practice. Designers don't always apply the practice to housing, especially those building in bulk, but with so many people aging, it's becoming more necessary to create dwellings that accommodate people through all stages of life. A Seattle company that makes prefabricated housing is focusing on universal design. (Fast Company Design)

Redevelopment in London: For a long time, the area around King's Cross rail station in London was a mixture of banged up and dangerous. But over the last few decades, redevelopment around the district's old rail lines and canals have formed the centerpiece of a great urban place. (Travel and Leisure)

Quote of the Week

"Hoover's zoning program, however, was created specifically to facilitate master-planned suburbs on virgin land. It was never designed to work in existing, built-out areas. So it should come as no surprise that today's city planners struggle to shoehorn urban diversity into suburban zoning schemes that assume car-dominated mobility and a neat separation of uses."

Mott Smith and Mark Vallianatos in the Los Angeles Times, discussing why we need to stop zoning and planning in cities as if they were suburbs.

Links


Breakfast links: Better inspections, fewer derailments


Photo by Barry Adams on Flickr.
Derailed by missing inspections: Federal investigators say the East Falls Church derailment occurred because Metro had not sufficiently inspected or repaired the interlocking, even though Metro had documented the deterioration of the rail ties as far back as 2009. (WAMU)

Next steps for the Purple Line: Maryland will appeal Wednesday's Purple Line ruling, and will push to make it happen quickly. (Bethesda Magazine, GGWash) ... Meanwhile, the state was forced to cancel the Monday signing of its funding agreement with the FTA. (Post)

Tunnel to NoMa: A pedestrian tunnel connecting the NoMa Metro station to areas east of the tracks could actually happen. A team of area developers are working together to get the needed financing. (WBJ)

Orange's ethics: Many DC councilmembers criticized Vincent Orange's move to stay in office while heading the Chamber of Commerce until January. Even if legal, they say, the council needs to be above reproach. Orange says there's a double standard as Jack Evans and Mary Cheh also have side jobs, Evans' with a lobbying link. (Post)

Metro cuts from data feed: Metro is now hiding no-passenger trains from its data feed. Developers say the change throws off the accuracy of their apps, but Metro says it needs to hide trains like the Money Train for security purposes. (Post)

Pedestrian killed in Old Town: An elderly driver struck and killed a restaurant employee in an alley in Alexandria after hitting another pedestrian earlier this week. It is not known whether the driver will face criminal charges. (NBC4)

England <3 traffic circles: People bemoan DC's traffic circles, but England sees them as safer and more efficient than intersections. One particularly impressive traffic circle in Swindon, England includes seven separate roundabouts ... and it works. (Wired)

Sea rise, homes under tide: Sea level rise due to climate change could put 2 million US homes underwater by 2100, according to a new study. The study predicts that nearly one in eight Florida homes will end up underwater. (Zillow)

Like data? Work for Metro!: Metro's planning office is hiring an analyst to help turn data into info and graphics the organization can use to make decisions on operations, policy, and planning. (PlanItMetro)

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Breakfast links: Purple Line in doubt, again


Photo by Jenea Medina on Flickr.
Purple Line needs another new study: A judge ruled that the Purple Line must go through another environmental study before it can move forward, claiming that Metro's falling ridership and maintenance problems could have a profound effect on the viability of the light rail line. (Post)

Riders' advocates go by the wayside: The 10-year-old Metro Riders' Advisory Council is losing steam. There is no longer a Metro employee who attends monthly meetings, and two members resigned prematurely because they felt no one was listening. (Post)

Orange will stay: DC Councilmember Vincent Orange will step down as the chair of the council's business committee but won't resign as he takes on his new role as the head of the Chamber of Commerce. (WBJ)

Metro officer arrested for trying to support ISIS: A Metro police officer sent gift cards to ISIS, hoping to help the terrorist organization buy mobile apps. The FBI arrested the officer yesterday after a lengthy investigation. (WAMU)

Section 8 hate: The Baltimore County Council shot down a bill that would have prevented landlords from discriminating against renters who get rent support from the government. (Post)

Football coaches forgo traffic for bikes: Most of the Washington football team's coaches have decided to forgo Richmond traffic and are biking to training camp every morning instead. (Post)

Doubling down in Loudoun: A developer wants to double the size of its southeastern Loudoun development and add over 800 residential units to the originally planned retail and entertainment center. (WBJ)

That button doesn't do anything: Most of New York City's crosswalk "beg buttons" aren't actually connected to the traffic lights, but they might give pedestrians the illusion of control. (99% invisible)

The key to better bus stops: How do you fix bad bus stops? Groups around the country are transforming them into exercise hubs, gardens, and inviting community spaces. (CityLab)

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Breakfast links: The worst bus stop in America?


Photo by Simona on Flickr.
This bus stop is awful: One Silver Spring bus stop is a contender as the Sorriest Bus Stop in America, an award voted on by Streetsblog readers. The stop has no sidewalk or crosswalk and is on the side of Route 29 against a steep hill. (Post)

A new home for Metro?: Metro's headquarters would be worth $56-132 million if sold, and it would cost about as much to repair the building's aging systems. The agency is considering moving to a different, as-yet-unchosen location. (NBC Washington)

Now you can connect: Metro will install Wi-Fi at Metro Center, Gallery Place, L'Enfant Plaza, Union Station, Judiciary Square and Archives this month, and plans to expand wireless service to 91 stations by the end of the year. (WTOP)

Passengers prevail over cargo: Freight railroads are supposed to prioritize passenger trains on their tracks, but were lobbying to end that rule, meaning even longer delays and slower rides for Amtrak. Fortunately for riders, the proposal failed. (Post)

Mega-wide Pike: Rockville is forging ahead with its ridiculously wide 252-foot Rockville Pike plan, but added a way for a few developers to opt out if they build large sites with green space. A proposed 7-story height limit was deleted. (Bethesda Magazine)

Road revisions: Virginia's plans for toll and HOV lanes on I-66 between Gainesville and the Beltway include new park and ride lots and flex prices based on traffic. Virginia may also rebuild pedestrian bridges at Vienna and Dunn Loring Metro stations.

More TOD for Reston: Reston's center is slated for more large-scale mixed-use development near the future Reston Town Center Metro, while the town center will get a new tallest building. (WBJ, VA Business)

And...: Kansas City's new streetcar is a runaway success even though it's in mixed traffic. (Slate) ... Now's your chance to smell a flower like a rotten cabbage. (DCist) ... Should universities pay more in taxes? (Post)

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Breakfast links: The (rail) ties that bind


Photo by Sharon Mollerus on Flickr.
Rail ties take the blame: Deteriorating rail ties that allowed the tracks to spread were the cause of last week's derailment outside the East Falls Church station. Metro and FTA investigations continue as some question if Metro is adequately inspecting its tracks. (WAMU)

Orange will lobby himself: The WBJ calls on Vincent Orange to resign from the DC Council. He was named the new head of the Chamber of Commerce, but will stay on the council until 2017. Many councilmembers, and former Chamber head Barbara Lang, say that's crazy, but chairman Phil Mendelson thinks it's legal. (WBJ, City Paper, Post)

Surge 6, day 1: Red Line ridership was down as much as 40% yesterday. MARC ridership was up and shuttle buses were full, but traffic did not noticeably increase. (Bethesda Magazine)

Big box stores get smaller: The new, tinier Target stores in Rosslyn, College Park, and Bethesda are all part of a trend in urban retail, one that takes big box stores back to their smaller storefront roots. (Washingtonian)

New space for Air and Space?: It will cost over $1 billion to fix fundamental problems with the Air and Space Museum's building. Would it be cheaper to just tear the building down and build something new in its place? (City Paper)

Fleeting track fire: A debris fire on the tracks briefly shut down the Blue Line between the Franconia-Springfield and King St stations yesterday. (DCist)

Homeownership at a 50 year low: The US homeownership rate is at its lowest in 50 years. The share of Americans who owned a home peaked at 69.2% in 2004 but is now down to 62.9% as home prices rose 5% this year. (Bloomberg)

Gentrification doesn't lead to diversification: A new study shows that gentrification doesn't reduce segregation, it just shifts it. As communities gentrify, one dense majority is essentially replaced by another. (CityLab)

And...: A confused driver says her GPS directed her onto the Capital Crescent Trail. (Bethesda Magazine) ... A new ride hailing company will pick up passengers along the Red Line for a reduced price during SafeTrack. (Post) ... Some McDonald's are opening late-night walk-up windows. (Business Insider)

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