Greater Greater Washington

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History


How Ward 8's thoroughfares have changed since 1870

In 1870, the areas between the old city and the District Line were still fairly rural. But many of the thoroughfares that shape the city today were already around then. Let's look at the roads that connected communities in what is now Ward 8.


1870 map of DC roads. From the DC Public Library.

Until 1871, the District was made up of the cities of Washington and Georgetown while the rest was in unincorporated Washington County. Present-day District neighborhoods like Brightwood, Columbia Heights, Tenleytown, and all land east of the Anacostia river laid outside the city in Washington County, DC. An 1870 map held in the Washingtoniana Room at the DC Public Library shows the roads that ran through the city's early suburbs, including those that crisscrossed Ward 8.

Nichols Avenue
What's now Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE, the thoroughfare that runs from the junction with Good Hope Road all the way to just short of the Maryland line is an old Native American path. Long ago it was colloquially known as Piscataway Road, after the dominant regional tribe in the 1700s.

When the US Insane Asylum (today Saint Elizabeths Hospital) opened in the 1850s, Piscataway Road changed to Asylum Road or Asylum Avenue.

By the late 1860s, people were calling the road Nichols Avenue, after Dr. Charles H. Nichols, the long-time superintendent of Saint Elizabeths.

The road carried this name for over a century before taking its present designation.

Good Hope Road
Another major thoroughfare still traveled today is Good Hope Road. The origins of the name Good Hope Road have been debated for years. Some have speculated the road's name is derivative of the Good Hope Tavern that once stood at the modern-day intersection with Naylor Road, while others have told of Native American origins.

In 1924, John Harry Shannon wrote of Good Hope Road in the Evening Star:

"It was one of those gray, level, shadeless roads, bordered by signs, gas stations and ice cream, and sausage refectories which nearly all of us have come to call a good road. It was without the virtues and the charm of a bad road."
Hamilton Road
Further east, the 1870s map shows "Hamilton Road" running north-south. Churches, schools, and cemeteries that once lined Hamilton Road now line Alabama Avenue.

An early generation of Allen AME Church is depicted in the 1870 map near the junction of Good Hope Road and Naylor Road as an "African Church." Today the church stands at 2498 Alabama Avenue, and is notable for a 2010 visit by President Obama.

In June 1908 the District Commissioners formally changed Hamilton Road to Alabama Avenue.

Naylor Road
One road name in use in 1870 that remains on the map today is Naylor Road, named after Colonel Henry Naylor. His early forefather came to America as an indentured servant before the Revolutionary War. As reported by the Evening Star in his January 1871 obituary, Naylor, was an "old and highly respected citizen of Washington county, died at his residence, Mount Henry, near Good Hope, yesterday afternoon in the 73d year of his age."

Naylor was "born, raised and lived continuously on his farm, but was well and favorably known throughout the District." For years Naylor was responsible for the care of the land records of Washington County, duties later performed by the Recorder of Deeds. Naylor was an officer of the militia, holding a commission as colonel, and several times he was a member of the Levy Court. He is buried in Congressional Cemetery.

The communities that were outside the city in 1870 have changed dramatically in the nearly 150 years since. But the basic framework of thoroughfares has remained fairly constant, especially in Ward 8.

While many things have changed, it's sometimes amazing to find things that have stayed the same.

Transit


If the new Metro map used thin lines and a more contemporary design, this is what it might look like

Designer Cameron Booth won our 2011 contest to redesign the Metro map. Now, he's revised that design to show the Silver Line opened and reflect station name changes since then.


Map reposted with permission from Cameron Booth.

Metro didn't adopt Booth's design, but jury members (which included WMATA's Barbara Richardson as well as people from outside the agency) did like the way he replaced the old "boxy Volvo" parking symbols with a P (though Metro's new map uses a different P icon). And Booth put 90-degree turns on the southern Green Line, which the real map now sports as well.

You can view a large version on Flickr here.

Public Spaces


Map: A half-mile walk to Metro

PlanItMetro made this cool map showing what's within a 1/2-mile walk from each Metro station. It's easy to see how the street network affects where you can walk.


Map by PlanItMetro.

As contributor Dan Reed points out, the walkshed is bigger in areas with a street grid and short blocks. On the other hand, barriers like highways, rail lines, and superblocks reduce the area you can walk to.

What patterns do you see?

Be sure to check out the full region map for stations outside the core.

History


The Metro plan has changed a lot since 1968

Saturday, the Metro system will grow in length by 10% with the Silver Line, first envisioned in the mid-1960s. A lot has changed from the original plans for Metro. Today, DDOT circulated a 1968 map of the planned system.

In the wake of the 1968 riots, DC pushed WMATA to reroute what's now the Green Line through some of the harder-hit neighborhoods. In 1970, the WMATA Board voted to change the "E route" from Massachusetts Avenue and 13th Street and instead run it along 7th Street to Shaw and then 14th Street to Columbia Heights.

The 1970 decision also deleted the "Petworth" station, which would have been at Kansas Avenue and Sherman Circle. The "Georgia Avenue" station would have been under Kansas Avenue at Georgia and Upshur, in the heart of Petworth, but the alignment later shifted south to New Hampshire Avenue.


The blue circle (not on the original map) shows where the Georgia Avenue-Petworth station is today.

In addition to the many station name changes (you won't see Ardmore, Voice of America, or Marine Barracks stations on the map today), there have been a few pretty significant changes to alignments and station locations.

At the time of this map, the line we know today as the Blue Line had a split terminus, with some trains running to Franconia and some trains running to Backlick Road (and a potential future extension to Burke).

In the northwestern part of the region, the Red Line was to stop at Rockville, instead of running all the way to Shady Grove. The northern Green Line was also shorter, including a station between Berwyn Road and Greenbelt Road, instead of further north at I-495, where the current Greenbelt station is.

Along the Orange and Blue lines, there were to be two more common stations, one at Oklahoma Avenue and one at Kenilworth Avenue (River Terrace) before the lines split. The Minnesota Avenue station was not in the plan at the time.

The southern Green Line was the subject of lots of controversy between 1968 and its completion in 2001. There were two competing routes planned, one to Branch Avenue and an alternate route to Rosecroft Raceway. The 1968 map here shows the line going to Branch Avenue via Alabama Avenue.

But later, WMATA settled on using the Rosecroft alignment in DC, via Congress Heights, and the Branch Avenue alignment in Prince George's County. This created in the "jog" along the District line where the Southern Avenue station is located.


Left: 1968 planned alignment. Right: Actual alignment; image by Matt Johnson using Google Maps.

The map also shows potential future extensions in blue. Today's Silver Line is included, though it stays in the median of the Dulles Access Road instead of detouring through Tysons Corner (which was much smaller then; the mall first opened in 1968). Also shown are lines along Columbia Pike in Virginia and extensions to Bowie, Brandywine, Gaithersburg, and Laurel. The extension to Largo was actually built and opened in 2004.

You can view a pannable, zoomable version of the map here.

Bicycling


See 32 years of DC bike lane growth in one animation

DC has had a smattering of bike lanes since at least 1980, but the network only started to grow seriously starting in about 2002. This animation shows the growth of DC's bike lane network, from 1980 through to 2012.


Animation from Betsy Emmons on MapStory.

From 1980 to 2001, literally nothing changed. Then in 2001, two short new bike lanes popped up. The next year there were 5 new ones. From then on, District workers added several new bike lanes each year, making a boom that's still going on.

This animation ends in 2012, so it doesn't include recent additions like the M Street cycletrack. But it's still a fascinating look at how quickly things can change once officials decide to embrace an idea.

In a few years, a map showing the rise of protected bike lanes might start to look similar. That map would start in 2009 with DDOT's installation of the original 15th Street cycletrack. It would expand slowly through this decade, then maybe (hopefully), it would boom as moveDC's 70 mile cycletrack network becomes a reality.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

History


Check out this 1942 DC bus and streetcar map

DDOT posted this 1942 map by Capital Transit to help people navigate around the city by bus or streetcar:

Fares were 10¢ or 50¢ for six. You could buy a monthly pass for $1.25. And unlike today, you could transfer for free between bus and rail.

One block of text urges "housewives" to "help Washington's War Effort" by only "travel in business shopping areas only between" 10 am and 3 pm. That's because 300,000 people were getting to and from work outside those times.

The streetcar numbering also shows where we get today's bus line numbers (for routes that don't have a letter). Many of the lines followed routes very similar to major bus corridors today.

The 30 followed Wisconsin Avenue NW and Pennsylvania Avenue SE, and today, that's the 30 series buses. The 40 and 42 lines followed Connecticut and Columbia to Mount Pleasant, as the 42 (and 43) buses do today. The 50s lines used 14th Street, the 70s Georgia Avenue, 80s Rhode Island Avenue, and the 90s a rough circle around the central city, like their modern equivalents.

The 60 took 11th Street and ended at the north end of Columbia Heights. This matches the commercial district there today, but the modern 62 and 63 mostly use Sherman Avenue through this area and continue farther north.

The 20 route no longer exists; it followed the Potomac River to Glen Echo.

And finally, the 10 streetcar line went to Rosslyn and (with the 12) H Street and Benning Road. The eastern part of this became the X lines (X is the Roman numeral for 10).

If you're wondering whether historical streetcar precedent suggests whether the streetcar should go up Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring or to Takoma, the map is no help; the 72 cut east to Takoma while the 70 stayed on Georgia (though it ended just before the District line).

Finally, the Mall (or, at least, West and East Potomac Park) had a sort of Circulator: the Hains Point line, but only on Sundays in the summer.

Development


12 maps show how American cities sprawl differently

Some big US cities are dense, while others are spread out. This affects the economy, quality of life, and the environment. Here's a way to visualize the residential density of the country's 12 largest regions and their varying levels of sprawl.


Images by the author.

Earlier this year, Smart Growth America released a report titled Measuring Sprawl 2014, finding that New York is the country's "most compact, connected large metro area," with an index score of 203.4, while Atlanta is the "most sprawling," with a score of 41.0.

But what does that gap really look like? The world's most iconic skyline on one extreme, contrasted with a highway full of motorists stranded overnight due to a snowstorm on the other? What about viewed through a wider angle lens, at a regional level? Next City recently published a series of GIFs illustrating regional sprawl over time, and this post tells a similar story from a different perspective.

The visualizations below show residential density (as one unit of height for every person per square mile), by census tract, for the nation's 12 statistical areas of at least 5 million inhabitants. The images show Combined Statistical Areas (CSAs) with the exception of Miami, which until recently was not part of a CSA. The regions are viewed from the same height and distance, but from different directions, most often from the south.

NYC

LA

CHI

DC

SF

BOS

PHI

DAL

MIA

HOU

ATL

DET

Note: One census tract, 307.2 in Chicago, was omitted from this visualization as its population density is off the charts. The tract essentially encompasses only the land on which these three high rises are located.

Cross-posted at R.U. Seriousing Me?

Transit


What's fastest: walking, biking, transit, or driving? It depends

What's the fastest mode of travel to get somewhere? A group at the MIT Media Lab made some maps which try to answer that question.


All images from You Are Here Washington DC.

Click on a zone on the map (which match Census block groups) and it color-codes whether it's fastest to walk (green), bike (orange), take transit (blue), or drive (red) to the center (centroid) of each other block group in the city, based on the Google Maps API.

The map generally shows places somewhat close by as yellow (bicycling is best). Often Google Maps does indeed say that bicycling is faster than driving for many locations. The authors also added some extra time to the driving trip to account for the time it takes to park and walk to the destination.

The maps show how much transit's usefulness varies

We can observe some trends from these maps. One is that transit is much more valuable to residents in some parts of the city than others. For example, in Anacostia, transit is a pretty fast way to get to a lot of the city, at least on the Green Line:

Head a little farther from Metro, and it's not so much.

We can understand why downtown businesses are pretty solidly supportive of transit: it's the best way for a lot of their customers to reach them.

Rock Creek Park is a big obstacle, particularly for bicycles. That can give the bus an edge over bicycling if you're crossing Rock Creek:

The map can help show why in parts of upper Northwest, like Tenleytown, there's strong support for transit and a lot of demand for car-free living ...

... while people in other neighborhoods not so far away might have a hard time understanding what all the fuss about car-free living and bicycling is all about.

The map is a blunt tool

Before anyone goes planning where to live with this map, there's a lot that's imperfect about it. By using the centroids of each block group, there's a lot of arbitrary variation. If one block group's centroid happens to be right near a Metro station or bus line while a nearby one isn't, then you'll see more blue blocks for one than the other.

Parking does add to the time cost of driving, so it's appropriate for the authors to add extra minutes to car trips for it. However, that also varies greatly. If you're driving to a part of the city with ample parking, or to stores with parking lots, you probably don't need to factor in much time. If you're going downtown or to a dense neighborhood, parking might take a long time. The map doesn't seem to account for this.

The instructions already note that it doesn't factor in financial costs, such as the cost of parking (which also varies enormously based on where you are going) or transit fares. People also bike at different speeds, though it's hard for a map to easily capture that.

It's also too bad the map doesn't include Arlington or other nearby areas. It would be very interesting to see the maps for areas near Metro stations outside DC.

Even so, the maps do illustrate important truths. Each of us sees the city and region in a different way based on where we live. In some sense we're all living in slightly different cities and regions. This perspective shapes how we think about transportation. And even imperfect maps like these help point some of these differences out.

What do you notice from these maps?

Demographics


Three graphs show where the educated, affluent, and young are moving in the DC region

UVA demographic researchers made some fascinating graphs of demographic divides in the Washington area which show what we know is happening: more affluent and educated people are moving farther east in the region, and young people are living near the center more than ever.


Images from UVA StatCh@t.

The researchers, from the University of Virginia Cooper Center's Demographics Research Group, looked at the populations within 5, 10, 15, and 20 miles of the White House and how they compare on the eastern half and western half of our region.

The percentage of people with graduate and professional degrees used to drop very sharply between west and east (the white line). It has increased all across the region, but most of all in the center (mostly DC and Arlington). And the drop-off has become far less steep, reflecting how many highly-educated people have been moving into neighborhoods on the east side of DC and places like Silver Spring.

The same applies for income. Notice how the lowest point for both advanced degrees and income are not at the places farthest from the core in the east, but places about 5-15 milesmostly Prince George's County on either side of the Beltway, where the older communities are. More educated and affluent people have leapfrogged that area to more exurban places.

There's a little bit of that effect on the west side, but far less; there, the people with the most education and means generally want to live closer to the center, and that trend is growing stronger.

Young people don't seem to care that much about the east-west divideor many simply can't afford to live in the more expensive west. People in their 20s always were most concentrated in the core, but that trend has also strengthened a lot, with places more than about 4 miles from the center having a smaller share of 20-somethings in 2012 than in 1990.

Meanwhile, the east-west imbalance has disappeared, or even slightly reversed itself, as younger people moved into more affordable neighborhoods east of 16th Street in DC.

Preservation


How old are DC's buildings? This map will tell you

An interactive map from the National Trust for Historic Preservation shows the average age of buildings throughout the city.


Map from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The map doesn't show individual buildings. Rather, it shows the median age of all the buildings within a roughly block-sized area. The map is a handy way to get a quick sense of neighborhoods' overall development history.

Where are DC's historic buildings clustered? Capitol Hill and Georgetown, sure, but pre-war neighborhoods also stretch out in other directions all the way to the Maryland border. Meanwhile, the buildings downtown and along commercial and industrial corridors tend to be much newer.

The interactive map also includes Seattle and San Francisco.

What other patterns do you see?

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