Mini Metro is a fun browser game that simulates a transit network.
Stations representing different types of destinations pop up, and you have to connect them with metro lines that take passengers where they want to go.
Screencap of the game, with components labeled.
The game starts off easy. You get one square station icon, one triangle, and one circle. Connect them with a single transit line and you’re all set.
But after a few moments more stations start to pop up. You have a limited number of metro lines to work with, and each line only gets one train. So the more stations appear, the longer it takes for a train to traverse the line, and the more passengers build up.
Ideally you want each transit line to cross at least one of every station type, to minimize transfers, but that soon becomes impossible when different types of stations begin to appear, like crosses and gemstones.
The game ends when too many waiting passengers build up at a station. The highest score I’ve gotten is about 500, but most of my games end in the 300s or 400s.
I’ve noticed certain types of stations seem to represent certain types of land uses.
Squares are employment centers, like downtowns. You start off with only one square, and you have to get quite deep into the game before a 2nd appears.
Circles are the most common station type, so they probably represent residential areas.
Triangles are the 2nd most common. I think of them as shopping areas, but they could be schools or parks.
Other symbols are rare, usually only appear once, and represent specialty land uses. I think of them as hospitals, airports, or universities.
A hub and spoke layout works great in the early game, but once your score reaches about 350 you need to start moving to more of a grid.
6 stations is about the maximum any one line can accommodate before it gets overcrowded.
You can pause the game by clicking on the clock.
At key points in the game, pause the game to delete-and-redraw entire lines, along more efficient routes. Key points are typically when you add your 5th line, 3rd tunnel, and when the 2nd square appears.
The order in which I usually use bonuses:
Light blue line
3rd tunnel (sometimes sooner if the river is unfavorable)
Light rail (I’ve not seen this, but rumor says it appears next)
Greater Greater Washington wasn’t the first blog about urbanism or local policy-making in Washington, DC, but it’s the one that changed the discussion. It’s the one that brought arcane subjects like zoning and transit planning into the city’s mainstream.
By the time I first discovered Greater Greater Washington, I’d already been writing BeyondDC for many years. I was one of a cadre of bloggers writing about development and transportation, along with people like Richard Layman, and DCist’s Ryan Avent,.
But we were few and far between, and most of us either had other jobs or split our writing with other subject matters. DC’s online urbanist community, such as it was, had no home base and no leader. We were a niche network of geeky wonks, great at expressing opinions but not so good at building broad support.
Greater Greater Washington changed all that.
When David Alpert showed up, with his mountain of energy and dedication, that was a game-changer. David had the skills and time to do what the rest of us couldn’t. He went to public meetings, he drew maps, and he wrote, and wrote, and wrote. All of it was accessible to anybody. All of it was interesting, and exciting. All of it elevated the public discussion about what Washington could be.
And the readers poured in. Then some of the early readers started writing too, and the whole thing grew exponentially.
At first, I admit, I was a little jealous.
But it took me about 3 seconds to realize what was happening. A mere blog was becoming a community, and that was too wonderful a thing to pass up. I had to be part of that.
And become a community Greater Greater Washington did. With more writers and more readers, we started to have an impact. Not only on other policy wonks, not only on the editorial pages of other media, but on the tone of the discussion itself, and later on elected officials.
Yeah right. And if you believe that, they can probably sell Hampton Roads a couple of bridges, too.
Unfinished maglev at Old Dominion University. Photo by withvengeance86 on flickr.
Elevated rail is more expensive than surface rail. New technologies are more expensive than proven ones, and maglev in particular (on which trains levitate above a magnetic field rather than glide on tracks) has been super expensive wherever built. And since Norfolk already has light rail, you’d be forcing a transfer unnecessarily.
Oh, and this same company tried to build a maglev at Old Dominion University in Norfolk years ago, and never finished.
This is all reminiscent of the California hyperloop proposal. They’re both completely unrealistic, almost certainly built on either faulty assumptions or outright lies, and serve no purpose but to strip support away from actually practical transit options.
I hate to be a closed minded curmudgeon. Maglev trains are cool and can work. Absent the claim that this could be done for 1/3 the cost of light rail, it might be worth exploring. But we have enough experience with other maglev proposals to know this one smells fishy.
Why grids are better for walking, in 1 simple graphic
This graphic shows how much ground a pedestrian can cover walking along street sidewalks in a gridded Seattle neighborhood, versus a nearby suburb. Although both maps show a one-mile radius, there are far more destinations within that radius in the gridded neighborhood.
In Bellevue trips are indirect and circuitous. Not only are far more residential streets accessible in Seattle, but also more commercial streets (in purple on the map). Both neighborhoods have plenty of parks (shown in green).
Granted, the two maps appear to be at slightly different visual scales, population density is probably higher in Seattle, and pedestrians in Bellevue can probably cut through yards to get places a little faster. But the overall point remains true that far more destinations are within easy walking in Seattle, which – surprise – is why more people walk there.
For the record, the key isn’t a strict rectilinear grid; it’s interconnectivity. Boston’s medieval web of streets is just as good, and maybe even better. The real key variable is the density of intersections, not the straightness of streets.
Should Washington’s football team relocate back to Washington? The DC Council is considering replacing RFK with a new stadium, hoping to lure the team back to DC, from Maryland.
It’s a terrible idea.
FedEx Field and its acres of parking. Photo by the US Navy.
Some people will no doubt oppose this idea simply because it’s expensive. But that’s not the problem. Stadiums are cultural amenities that people want, so it’s appropriate for cities to subsidize them sometimes.
This is a terrible idea because football stadiums specifically don’t fit well in cities. NFL stadiums are only used for 8 home games per year, and need large surface parking lots to accommodate the tailgating culture ingrained into football fandom.
The RFK site may not be in the middle of a walkable neighborhood, but surely there are better uses for it than a rarely-used stadium and vast parking lots.
I’m glad we have an NFL team in the region, but let’s leave their stadium in the suburbs.
Ellington Boulevard in Downtown Crown, seen from the north.
Both neighborhoods are planned around future stations of the Corridor Cities Transitway, which will someday connect a whole string of walkable neighborhoods in upper Montgomery County to Shady Grove Metro station. But with rapid transit service still years away, construction is working from the outside in, focusing first on sections farther from planned transit stations.
At the Crown development, construction progress is focused on Phase 1, the western half. A mixed-use town center surrounds the corner of Ellington Boulevard and Crown Park Avenue, with blocks of rowhouse neighborhoods to the side.
Ellington Boulevard, seen from the south.
Crown Park Avenue, perpendicular to Ellington Boulevard.
It’s clear that serious work and expense went into the architectural details.
To the east, the rowhouse neighborhoods are taking shape as well.
Rowhouses on Hendrix Avenue.
Decoverly Drive marks the boundary of Phase 1, as well as the future route of the transitway. Crown’s original plans show an even larger town center surrounding the BRT station along Decoverly. But following actual construction, it appears density has been reduced around the station, and rowhouses line the Phase 1 edge instead.
One wonders if Phase 2 will make Crown a truly transit-oriented place, or if transit will merely run through it.
Watkins Mill Town Center
A few miles to the northwest, adjacent to the Metropolitan Grove MARC station, Watkins Mill Town Center is taking shape.
Watkins Mill Town Center.
At Watkins Mill, the rowhouses and lower density portions are nearing completion, but the downtown section has yet to begin construction. As a result, a huge field separates the MARC station (and future BRT stop) from the constructed portions of the development.
Urban Avenue, not quite urban yet.
Someday, the Corridor Cities Transitway could make Gaithersburg a second Arlington, a string of walkable communities knit together by transit. Whether that actually happens or not will depend the State of Maryland getting the transitway built, and the City of Gaithersburg insisting on truly transit-oriented places.
Other Dan is completely right. Just to throw my support behind his sensible arguments:
It’s not a pleasant place to be. Good urban parks need active streetscapes around them, with plenty of retail. The old Silver Spring turf worked well because it was at a location people wanted to hang out in. The transit center location on other other hand is surrounded by a parking garage, huge landscaped setbacks, blank walls, and loud, high-traffic highways next to which nobody wants to spend time. The edge conditions are awful. If you just built a park there the result would not be Dupont Circle. It would be this – dreary and dangerous.
There are already parks directly across the street in two directions. One north at 2nd and Colesville, and the other east on the Wayne Avenue side of the Discovery Building. Granted the Discovery park is privately owned and is often fenced off, but getting Discovery to open it up more would be a vastly better and cheaper outcome than taking land next to the transit center. In any event, the other one is open all the time.
Developing the site would actually produce a better park. Since parks should be in pleasant and active locations, good ones should be lined with pleasant buildings. The only way to line this site with pleasant buildings is to construct some pleasant buildings, and put a square in the middle. That’s a fine idea. Incidentally, that’s already the plan.
A park would increase car traffic. Yes, it’s true. The best way to decrease car traffic is to put as much development as close to major transit stations as possible. Displacing the planned development adjacent to the transit center with a park would mean that development happens somewhere else, almost certainly somewhere less transit accessible and by extension more car-dependent.
Buying this valuable land and turning it into a park has absolutely no upside. It would be expensive and it would be a bad park and it would screw over the transportation network. Please, Montgomery County, waste no more time on this terrible, terrible idea.
PS: At Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space, Richard Layman has an extensive discussion of Silver Spring park issues.
The recent snow made for the best sneckdown spotting weather in DC since the term first entered our lexicon. Last week we put out a call for photos of sneckdowns in the wild, and plenty of you responded. Here are some of the best.
17th and Potomac Ave, SE. Photo by Justin Antos.
In the wonky world of urbanism advocacy, sneckdowns have gone viral. The term, referring to places where snow formations show street spaces cars don’t use, first popped up in New York. Since then it’s made headlines in Philadelphia, Chicago, Vancouver, and more.
It’s true that actual engineers shouldn’t design streets solely around piled snow, but certainly sneckdowns are a handy illustration of how we give too much pavement to cars.
Here are more local examples, sent in by readers.
14th St and Independence Ave, SW. Photo by @gregbilling.
M St and Jefferson St, NW. Photo by @gregbilling.
Rhode Island Ave and R St, NW. Photo by @MaryLauran.
Rhode Island Ave and Q St, NW. Photo by @MaryLauran.
4th St, NE. Photo by @TonyTGoodman.
Fairfax Dr and 10th St N, in Arlington. Photo by @guusbosman.
Greenbelt. Photo by msickle.
Thanks to everyone who sent in photos! Keep watching #dcsneckdown on Twitter for more.