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Twenty-five gorgeous but non-famous US train stations

America has abundant famous train stations, from New York’s iconic Grand Central, to Cincinnati’s glistening art deco Union Station, to Denver’s fabulously remodeled Union Station. DC is blessed with a particularly lovely one. But if you only know the famous stations, you’re missing out.

Here are 25 gorgeous train stations from around the US that you may not have seen before.

1. Worcester Union Station

Worcester Union Station. Photo by C Hanchey on Flickr.

Some of the buildings on this list are still active train stations, and some aren’t. But all were originally built as gateways to their city.

2. Albuquerque Alvarado Station

Albuquerque Alvarado Station. Photo by Karen Blaha on Flickr.

3. Omaha Union Station

Omaha Union Station. Photo by Chris Murphy on Flickr.

4. Buffalo Central Terminal

Buffalo Central Terminal. Photo by Bruce Fingerhood on Flickr.

5. Richmond Main Street Station

Richmond Main Street Station. Photo by rvaphotodude on Flickr.

6. Barstow, CA Harvey House Station

Barstow, CA Harvey House Station. Photo from Ron Reiring on Flickr.

7. San Bernardino Santa Fe Station

San Bernardino Santa Fe Station. Photo from Oakshade on Wikipedia.

8. Kansas City Union Station

Kansas City Union Station. Photo by Ron Reiring on Flickr.

9. Boise Union Pacific Station

Boise Union Pacific Station. Photo from Doug Kerr on Flickr.

10. Scranton Lackawanna Station

Scranton Lackawanna Station. Photo from Andrew Baskett on Flickr.

11. Utica Union Station

Utica Union Station. Photo from Carol on Flickr.

12. Nashville Union Station

Nashville Union Station. Photo from Megan Morris on Flickr.

13. Indianapolis Union Station

Indianapolis Union Station. Photo from the.urbanophile on Flickr.

14. San Diego Santa Fe Station

San Diego Santa Fe Station. Photo by Penn Station University Library on Flickr.

15. Salt Lake City Union Pacific Station

Salt Lake City Union Pacific Station. Photo from SounderBruce on Flickr.

16. Ogden Union Station

Ogden Union Station. Photo from railsr4me on Flickr.

17. Springfield, IL Union Station

Springfield Union Station. Photo from Ron Reiring on Flickr.

18. Tacoma Union Station

Tacoma Union Station. Photo from SounderBruce on Flickr.

19. Louisville Union Station

Louisville Union Station. Photo from Pam Culver on Flickr.

20. Saint Louis Union Station

Saint Louis Union Station. Photo by Dustin Batt on Flickr.

21. Oklahoma City Union Station

Oklahoma City Union Station. Photo from Raymond Woods on Flickr.

22. Topeka Overland Station

Topeka Overland Station. Photo from Ron Reiring on Flickr.

23. Cheyenne Union Station

Cheyenne Union Station. Photo from railsr4me on Flickr.

24. Chattanooga Terminal Station

Chattanooga Terminal Station. Photo from Andrew Jameson on Wikipedia.

25. San Antonio Sunset Station

San Antonio Sunset Station. Photo from Tony in WA on Flickr.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

November 20th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: Uncategorized

Budapest’s extra-long streetcars equal 3 articulated buses end-to-end

Budapest’s gigantic streetcar network is getting some equally gigantic new trams. At about 184 feet long, they’re 4.6 times longer than a standard 40′ bus, and three times the length of a 60′ articulated bus.

The 66 foot long streetcars in DC and Portland are comparatively puny. But extra-long streetcars are common worldwide. Paris, Dublin, and dozens of other cities in Europe use trams around 150 feet long. Toronto runs the longest in North America, a moderate 99 foot long model.

These extra-long streetcars show more clearly how streetcars can be a middle ground between buses and heavy Metro trains. WMATA railcars are 75 feet long each—bigger than a DC streetcar, but less than half a Budapest tram.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

November 16th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: Uncategorized

New buses will run faster on 16th Street, 14th Street, and Georgia Avenue, thanks to good design

The 21 new articulated buses coming to 16th Street, 14th Street, and Georgia Avenue aren’t just prettier than the old buses. They’ll be a little faster, thanks to a more efficient interior layout.

One of the new buses. Photo from WMATA.

Not more buses, but better ones

These new accordion buses replace WMATA’s final remaining old-style articulated buses. When all 21 new ones are running, the last of the old buses with the boxy front will be retired.

Since the 21 new buses replace old ones that are also articulated, don’t expect to see more total articulated buses on 16th, 14th, or Georgia. There will simply be new buses instead of old ones.

But new buses have advantages: They break down less often, so the same number of buses are on the road more often. And their efficient low-floor design speeds up loading and unloading at stops.

Low-floor > high-floor

Riders boarding the old buses have to walk up steps, which creates a bottleneck and slows down service. It takes every able-bodied rider an extra half-second or so to climb bus steps, and less-able ones can take much longer. When a person in a wheelchair comes along, the delay can be significant.

A high-floor bus in Seattle. Photo by Oran Viriyincy.

On lines with very high ridership, all those seconds add up. Delays loading and unloading buses are one of the biggest sources of delay on 16th Street, and there’s no reason to think 14th or Georgia are any different.

Low-floor buses are more like trains—you step in, not up. One fluid and quick movement makes the whole process faster for everyone.

A low-floor bus in Denver. Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

With these new buses, WMATA’s articulated bus fleet will now be 100% low-floor. That’s legitimately good news.

A lot’s happening in DC’s busiest bus corridor

Every day there are over 75,000 bus riders between downtown DC and Silver Spring. 50,000 of them ride the Metrobus on 16th, 14th, and Georgia alone. Combined, they make up by far the busiest bus corridor in the Washington region.

Getting all those riders through town efficiently is a big task. Buses already come every few minutes on all three streets. In recent years WMATA has added express buses to 16th and Georgia, and DC added a Circulator line to 14th.

Georgia Avenue will get its first bus lanes next year, and tons of improvements are on the table for 16th Street, including maybe bus lanes there too.

All those other things are important. Bus lanes are important. Nobody would suggest low-floor buses solve every problem. But they’re part of the solution, and it’s great to have them.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

November 10th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bus, transportation

DC Circulator may add a line to NoMa, but its circuitous routes aren’t ideal

You might someday ride a Circulator bus from NoMa to Starburst. Or maybe from NoMa to U Street, Columbia Heights, or Logan Circle. DDOT is doing a study to decide.

NoMa Circulator options. Image by DDOT.

NoMa as transit hub

NoMa is one of DC’s fastest-growing neighborhoods. With 40,000 workers, 18,000 residents, and huge new developments coming soon, it’s fast becoming an extension of downtown, and a natural hub of activity.

But aside from its crucial Red Line Metrorail station, NoMa is a transit afterthought. While most Metro stations double as bus hubs, no public bus lines have stops directly at NoMa Metro.

WMATA’s important 90s series Metrobuses pass nearby on Florida Avenue, and the X3, 80, P6, and D4 all skirt the edges.

But that’s nothing like the bus service in downtown, or other downtown-adjacent neighborhoods. It’s too paltry to do much to help residents of nearby neighborhoods like Trinidad or Truxton Circle reach NoMa.

If NoMa is to become the great nerve center of Northeast DC, it’s simply going to need better transit connections to the rest of Northeast.

Enter DC Circulator

With bus service every 10 minutes all day, DC Circulator certainly qualifies as a good bus. Making NoMa the focus of a new Circulator line will absolutely be a great addition.

As always, the devil is in the details.

DDOT planners are considering 5 potential routes, going in wildly different directions.

Some options eschew Northeast and connect only to Northwest destinations like Columbia Heights, U Street, or Logan Circle. Other options have a leg extending east on Florida Avenue as far as Starburst and Benning Road.

Further connections to Northeast, like extending the line up Bladensburg Road, aren’t on the table.

Theoretically DDOT need not select only one option. They could pick and choose the best aspects from multiple options, and stitch them together for a final hybrid.

Proposed routes are too complex

One serious concern with all five routes is that they’re too complex.

The most successful bus lines are usually simple, direct, and consistent. Straight lines are easier for riders to understand and remember, and reach destinations faster than squiggly circuitous routes like these NoMa proposals.

This graphic comparing the most and least successful bus lines in Vancouver nicely illustrates the issue:

Image from Vancouver TransLink.

Buses in DC absolutely follow the same pattern. The highest-ridership lines in the city are virtually all straight and direct, like on 16th Street and Georgia Avenue. Meanwhile, complex, circuitous routes like the W2 don’t get many riders, despite connecting multiple destinations with a lot of potential riders.

The problem is M Street

Theoretically M Street NE is the natural spot for an east-west bus through NoMa. It offers a straight shot through the underpass below the railroad tracks. The southern entrance to NoMa Metro spills out onto it, and M’s corner with First Street NE is the center of the neighborhood.

M Street NE. Photo by Ted Eytan on Flickr.

Unfortunately, running a bus on M Street is difficult. Although it’s two-way through the heart of NoMa, it switches to one-way on both the east and west sides. Unless DDOT reconfigures M Street to be two-way (a prospect that might wipe out the nice protected bike lane), there is simply no east-west line through NoMa that’s both straight and provides a direct Metrorail connection.

Complexity is, unfortunately, probably mandatory.

But still, some of DDOT’s alternatives minimize complexity, while others are needlessly circuitous. That New Jersey Avenue option is bonkers. Four blocks is too far to separate one-way pairs.

Tell DDOT what you think

DDOT will be hosting a series of public meetings this month to discuss this proposal. You can weigh in at sessions on November 10, 12, 15, 17, or 19.

You can also comment online, via DDOT’s NoMa Circulator survey.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

November 4th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: Uncategorized

This transit nerd music video is the best thing ever

Yes, yes there is a music video about transit nerdery. And it’s fantastic.

The video comes from the band TSUB Analysis, an “Americana/Bluegrass/Indie” group made up of transit professionals from Denver.

And yes, VelociRFTA is my personal favorite too.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

November 3rd, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: BRT, bus, commuterrail, fun, lightrail, metrorail, transportation

See every Metro train and bus on one live map

This map shows the real-time location for every WMATA bus and train in the Washington region. It’s a cool way to see how much transit is out there, and where it’s running right this second.

Every WMATA bus and train. Image from TRAVIC.

The map is called TRAVIC and was produced by the University of Freiburg. The Washington map was made using using open data from WMATA.

Although the Washington map shows only WMATA transit, the same website includes maps for dozens of cities all over the world. You can compare what transit is like in diverse places, from Albuquerque to Paris.

Left: Albuquerque. Right: Paris. Images from TRAVIC.

I’ll be staring at this a long time.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

October 21st, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bus, maps, metrorail, transportation

America’s biking paradise may actually be in… Michigan?

This is Main Street on Mackinac Island, in Lake Huron, Michigan. It’s a Michigan state highway, M-185, and it’s car-free year round.

Photo from Google.

M-185 encircles Mackinac Island, and forms the main street of the island’s town.

There’s no bridge to Mackinac Island. Visitors access it via airplane or ferry. With a lot of tourists but not many cars, M-185 has been car free since 1898.

I’ve never been there, but it looks pretty impressive in photos.

Have you been to Mackinac? Tell me what you think in comments at GGW.

The density of parked bikes looks like the Netherlands. Photo by Jasperdo on Flickr.

Photo by Jasperdo on Flickr.

Photo by Jasperdo on Flickr.

Bike for rent. Photo by ellenm1 on Flickr.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

October 19th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, galleries, transportation

High-rise mobile homes could revolutionize apartment living

Mass-produced mobile homes are one of rural America’s most important forms of housing. One company wants to try the same concept with urban apartments. It’s a batty idea that may not work, but if it does, it could help to solve America’s urban affordability crisis.

Mobile tiny homes

These ingenious tiny homes move with you from city to city.

Posted by Tech Insider on Friday, October 9, 2015

The idea works like this: Rather than custom-designing every individual building, what if apartment buildings were mere frames, and apartments were mobile boxes that simply slipped into docks, the way cars park in a parking garage?

When people who live in mobile apartments move from one city to another, they could take their entire apartment with them. Slide out of your frame in Denver and slide into one in San Francisco, and keep on living without the disruption of emptying your home to a shell.

Perhaps most importantly, the company pushing this idea says they’d be drastically cheaper than a studio apartment.

The company, Kasita, is building a prototype in Austin next year, where they say they’ll rent units for around $600 a month. That’s half the cost of a downtown Austin studio.

Trade-offs abound

Obviously, there are trade-offs to this idea. At 200 square feet, these would be small apartments. Suitable for a single person, crowded for a couple, and hard to work with for a family.

Kasita’s version comes comes with high-tech bells and whistles like customizable wall panels, including speakers, shelves, a bike rack, even a fish tank and fireplace. But surely, if this concept takes off, competing companies would begin to offer more bare-bones versions.

Bells and whistles. Rendering from Kasita.

Kasita’s claim of $600 per month remains theoretical, and who knows how much it would actually cost to move one.

And aesthetically, a lot of people will think they’re ugly. Like shipping container apartments, mobile apartments will necessarily have an industrial look. A city full of these might quickly begin to feel oppressive.

The Japanese example

This is actually not a new idea. Japan has been home to some experiments in capsule architecture, most notably the 1972 Nakagin Capsule Tower. But Nakagin proved impractical and unpopular, and has slipped into disrepair. Fair from proving the concept works, it actually shows how failure is more likely than success.

These are real trade-offs, impossible to ignore. But given America’s growing affordability crisis, maybe they’re trade-offs that are worth experimenting with, sometimes, in some places, for some people.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

October 16th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: Uncategorized

Video proof neon clothes don’t stop careless drivers from driving into people

Have you ever seen a traffic safety campaign that reprimands you for not wearing bright colors every time you cross the street? Of course you have. Here’s video proof that’s a load of bollocks.

In this viral video, a careless SUV driver rolls into a neon-clad police officer. There’s no ambiguity as to who’s at fault. The officer was stopped still, in broad daylight, and wearing the holy grail of bright clothes: a reflective vest. The SUV driver simply didn’t stop when he or she should have. Thankfully it all happens at slow speed, so it doesn’t appear the officer was hurt.

But this is a clear illustration of why it’s wrong to lecture pedestrians about wearing bright colors. It’s not reasonable to demand that everyone wear bright yellow every time they’re outside a car. But it is absolutely reasonable to demand that drivers not carelessly drive into people, no matter what anyone is wearing.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

October 15th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, pedestrians, roads/cars, transportation

Fairfax City will install its first bike lane

There will soon be a bona fide bike lane between downtown Fairfax and George Mason University, the first in Fairfax City.

Fairfax City’s first bike lane, location map and proposed design. Images from the City of Fairfax.

On September 29, the Fairfax City Council approved a one year pilot program to test a three block bike lane on University Drive, the street that connects downtown Fairfax to the largest university in Virginia.

The bike lane will begin just south of downtown Fairfax, and will run south as far as Armstrong Street. There, it will meet George Mason Boulevard, where Fairfax installed its first sharrows a few years ago.

Crews will restripe University Drive this autumn, to change its configuration from having two car lanes in each direction, to having one car lane each way, a central turn lane, and bike lanes next to each curb.

A baby step

This bike lane, and its associated road diet, is a nice baby step for a community that’s never given bikes much thought.

But a baby step it is. Not only did officials promise to reevaluate and possibly remove the bike lane after one year, but they significantly shortened it from the original proposal.

At one point, planners had hoped to stripe the bike lane north through downtown Fairfax, as far as Layton Hall Drive. Unfortunately, that was a no-go.

Map of the approved bike lane, canceled portion, and existing sharrows. Map by the author, using base map from Google.

A natural location

Fairfax City isn’t a big community. It’s located roughly between I-66 and George Mason University, and its historic downtown is one of the more walkable places in Northern Virginia outside the Beltway.

With a walkable downtown and a big university, it’s a natural for better bike infrastructure.

Unfortunately, decades of suburban road design have left most of Fairfax City just as car-dependent as surrounding Fairfax County. Now, that’s beginning to change. But ever so slowly.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

October 13th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation



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