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Friday funny: This town ain’t big enough


Image from Imgur user crunchtooth.

Can anyone definitively say the gunfight at the OK corral wasn’t to settle a zoning dispute over pop-up condos?

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

April 24th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: fun, law



The Takoma Langley transit center is rising from the ground

Construction is progressing rapidly at Maryland’s Takoma Langley transit center. Take a look:


Construction progress as of Saturday, April 18, 2015.

The transit center will feature bus bays and rider amenities, covered under a great curving roof that’s sure to become a local landmark.


Fow now, the bright white frame looks more like something out of a sci-fi movie than a bus station.


Here’s what it will all look like once construction is done:


Rendering of the final station. Image from the State of Maryland.

Langley Park needs this

Langley Park, at the corner of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue, is the busiest bus transfer location in the Washington region that isn’t connected to a Metro station.

Eleven bus routes stop on the side of the street at the busy crossroads, serving 12,000 daily bus riders. That’s nearly as many bus riders per day as there are Metrorail riders at Silver Spring Metro, and it’s about double the number of Metrorail riders at Takoma station.

Corralling all those bus stops into a single transit center will make transfers vastly easier, faster, and safer for bus riders.

Heavy construction began at the transit center last year, and is scheduled to be complete around December 2015.

If the Purple Line light rail is built, Takoma Langley will become one of its stations, boosting ridership even more. The light rail transitway and station would have to be added later, and would fit snuggly in the median of University Boulevard.


How a Purple Line station would fit. Rendering from the State of Maryland.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

April 22nd, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bus, development, lightrail, transportation



The Washington region is the world’s 77th largest urban area

Using a consistent apples-to-apples counting method, Demographia ranked the world’s major urban areas by population. With nearly 38 million residents, Tokyo is by far the world’s largest, and is nearly twice the size of New York’s 21 million. DC clocks in with about 5 million, good for 77th in the world.


Tokyo is the world’s largest city. Photo from reddit user panic_switch.

Cities are hard to measure

It’s actually quite difficult to compare urban populations on any kind of consistent basis. City populations that follow municipal boundaries are arbitrary and inconsistent—some cities include their suburbs, while others do not.

Metropolitan areas are likewise difficult to nail down. In the US, the Census defines metro areas based on county boundaries, resulting in huge geographic disparities, especially in the west where some counties are the size of eastern states. Other countries use totally different methods.

Generally, the only way to build an apples-to-apples comparison is to map out the continuous built-up area of a region, and then measure the population within that area. With good enough data and consistent cut-off points, meaningful comparisons are possible. That’s called an urban area, and enough countries publish data on them that it’s possible to build a reasonably consistent world list.

Demographia did the leg work of stapling together government population data from countries around the world to build this list. Demographia is owned by famous sprawl proponent Wendell Cox, and pushes a generally pro-car/anti-transit ideology. But numbers are numbers, and these are interesting numbers.

The ranking

Demographia’s complete list covers every urban area in the world with a population above 500,000. It’s about 1,000 cities long.

Tokyo tops the list with almost 38 million people. Jakarta is second with about 30 million. Delhi, Manila, and Seoul round out the top five.

New York has 21 million and is the largest urban area outside of Asia, good for 9th worldwide. Los Angeles has 15 million and is 18th. Paris is 29th. London is 32nd.

In Maryland and Virginia, Baltimore is 206th with 2.3 million, Norfolk/Virginia Beach is 336th with 1.5 million, and Richmond is 485th with about 1 million.

What surprises you? What stands out? Click over to the GGW comments, and let us know.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

April 20th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: demographics



Gas stations were much better looking in 1924

Most gas stations these days are pretty garish, but gas stations weren’t always so. Check out this vintage 1924 station, from Connecticut Avenue in Woodley Park.


Lord Baltimore Filling Station. Photo by the National Photo Company, via the Library of Congress.

This is the Lord Baltimore Filling Station, at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Ordway Street NW. It may not be truly typical of the era, but it’s hard to imagine seeing as sharp-looking a gas station today.

It’s not only the nice architecture that make this notable. It’s also the urban design. This isn’t as great for sidewalk life as a row of main street-style shops, but it’s a building that fronts on the sidewalk. It could be a lot worse.

Do you know of any unusually good-looking gas stations? What makes them interesting?

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

April 6th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: architecture, history, roads/cars, urbandesign



A bikeable suburban highway? One Ohio town pulled it off

Wide suburban highways lined with big boxes and strip malls aren’t usually places one finds protected bikeways. But Stringtown Road in Grove City, Ohio is such a place. Check it out:


Stringtown Road.

Since a curb protects the bikeway from the road, it’s technically a sidepath, a sidewalk that’s for bikes instead of pedestrians.

And as you can see in photos from Google Street View, it’s nicer than riding in the street with fast-moving cars, but it’s still not exactly pleasant.

Huge curb cuts interrupt the bikeway, so cars don’t need to slow down much before pulling into the giant parking lots lining the road. There’s certainly a risk that careless drivers will turn without watching, and hit people on bikes.

But that’s a risk that will exist for any car-oriented highway. At least this one puts the bike lane front and center, just about as visible as it can be.

There are some sidepaths along large roads in the DC area, like Route 50 in Arlington or along Benning Road near RFK, but those aren’t commercial highways lined with shops, and their sidepaths aren’t right against the curb like Stringtown’s. This particular layout is pretty unusual.

As more and more suburban communities evolve to become more multimodal, experiments like this will help everyone around the country understand what works and what doesn’t. Grove City is near Columbus, where it’s not the only suburb experimenting with urban retrofits.

What do you think? Will this design work? Comment at Greater Greater Washington to talk about it.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

March 27th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation, urbandesign



Breaking: Review says H Street Streetcar will be able to open

An outside review of the H Street Streetcar found no fatal flaws in the project that would prevent it from opening.

The American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) peer review of the streetcar on “whether there’s a pathway to passenger service” is in, and the answer is yes, the streetcar can open.

In its letter to DDOT, APTA recommends a list of additional training and new procedures for the streetcar, but none appear to be major problems. The list includes more training for maintenance staff, reviewing operations and maintenance procedures, and augmenting DDOT staff with more experienced personnel.

DDOT is now analyzing the results and establishing a schedule to complete the recommendations.

There is still no opening date for streetcar passenger service, but it appears likely that question is now one of “when” rather than “if.”

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

March 20th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: streetcar, transportation



Live in DC, see aurora borealis

The northern lights, aurora borealis, are usually only visible near the Arctic Circle. But every once in a while, when conditions are perfect, they make an appearance as far south as DC. I caught a glimpse early Wednesday morning.


Aurora over Chesapeake Bay on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday news spread that a heavy solar storm was hitting Earth, and producing some of the strongest aurora in years. Maybe strong enough to see from DC.

Since the sky was clear, the moon below the horizon, and conditions perfect, my wife and I booked a Zipcar to the clearest northerly view I could think of: The northern tip of Kent Island, across the Bay Bridge, in the middle of the Chesapeake.

And there was the aurora. Barely visible, but there. Dim green flashes floated low against the horizon, flowing in great fast waves from east to west. It was nothing like the huge curtains of light you see in the famous pictures (we’re too far south for that), but it was unmistakable nonetheless.

How you can see them next time

Aurora are sometimes visible from DC’s latitude. But they may never be visible from inside the District of Columbia, because this far south they appear very dim, and only close to the northern horizon. To see them, find an extremely dark north-facing vantage point, with a clear sight of the horizon.

If there are street lights turned on or trees blocking the horizon, you probably won’t see them even if conditions are otherwise right.

Since we live in Northeast, we decided Kent Island would be ideal. It’s about an hour drive east of DC, assuming no traffic—usually a safe assumption after midnight.


Route to Kent Island. Map from Google.

You will need a car to get there. And since news of likely aurora this far south typically only comes the day of the event, you won’t have much time to plan ahead. But in the age of car-sharing, even a car-free urbanite can get it done.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

March 19th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: fun, galleries, in general



Check out DC’s charming but incomprehensible 1975 bus map

Washingtonians hoping to catch a bus in 1975 consulted this friendly-looking hand-drawn map. Charming as it may be, the map has no lines. Rather, designers wrote the name of each bus route over and over along its path through the city.


Image from DDOT.

Transit riders and cartography experts can’t fault the map designers too much. It was more challenging to illustrate detailed networks before the days of computers, and even in recent years some WMATA maps have been just as hard to follow.

Legibility aside, the map actually includes some very progressive elements considering its vintage. According to the legend, it only shows “all-day routes with frequent service,” an incredibly useful idea that’s picked up a lot of steam in the past five years.

Other progressive elements shown on the map include bike paths, although the Mount Vernon and Rock Creek trails appear to be the only ones, and much of its text is translated into Spanish.

The map also includes a fun vignette of the Metrorail system, which had yet to open but was less than a year away.


Image from DDOT.

On the other hand, some things never change. The legend for the Metrorail vignette notes Metro’s first phase was scheduled to open later in 1975. In actuality it didn’t open until 1976.

Finally, there are several other vignettes on the reverse side:


Image from DDOT.

Architecture firm John Wiebenson & Associates produced the map for the Bicentennial Commission of the District of Columbia.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

March 13th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bus, fun, history, maps, transportation



The Dutch government is trolling DC over marijuana, bike lanes, and streetcars

As marijuana legalization took effect in the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel Bowser said DC would “not become like Amsterdam.” We talked about the differences yesterday, including on bicycling and transit, but the Embassy of the Netherlands has playfully responded with this infographic comparing our two capital cities.


Image from the Dutch government. Really.

The embassy also created a Q&A comparing marijuana laws in the two cities. But bicycling and transit supporters might focus more on the bike lane and streetcar disparities.

That “(almost)” hurts. Low blow, Netherlands.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 27th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, fun, streetcar, transportation



DC like Amsterdam? We can only hope

According to yesterday’s Express, DC is starting to look a lot like Amsterdam, and not just because of marijuana. That’s fantastic if true.


The top of yesterday’s Express story.

Among the reasons the Express cites for DC’s Amsterdamization are increasing bicycle use, the appearance of streetcars, and Georgetown’s improving C&O Canal.

Amsterdam is one of the world’s great bicycling and streetcar cities. It’s a joy to travel along its extensive bikeways, and even lanes where cars are allowed are amazingly bike friendly. And Amsterdam’s huge streetcar network (with streetcars in both dedicated lanes and mixed traffic) is a case study in successful urban transit.

DC’s nascent bikeway and streetcar networks pale in comparison, but Amsterdam is a superb model for us to aspire towards.

And if it’s true that we can never hope to have as many canals (short of a disastrous global warming-induced flood), we can at least ponder what might have been had the history of Constitution Avenue turned out differently.

Even more similarities

Transportation and canals aside, Amsterdam’s overall urban design is actually incredibly similar to DC’s. We’re both predominantly rowhouse cities, with plenty of brick. Even our street grids are similar: Amsterdam has a relatively small core with twisty medieval streets, but for the most part it’s a city of straight streets and radial avenues just like DC.

These scenes from Amsterdam wouldn’t look all that out of place in Dupont Circle, U Street, or Adams Morgan, apart from how little street space goes to cars..

 
Amsterdam, but could be DC.

Admittedly, Amsterdam beats DC in a lot of ways. But it’s not Paris or Hong Kong, not so thoroughly alien. And DC is not Las Vegas. Amsterdam and DC aren’t identical, but we’re the same species of city, which means Amsterdam is better in ways that DC can practically emulate.

Plus, we’ve got Amsterdam Falafelshop.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 26th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: architecture, bike, streetcar, transportation, urbandesign



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