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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

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

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

Hogan shifted transit money to roads. Here’s what he’ll build

When Maryland governor Larry Hogan canceled Baltimore’s Red Line and cut state funding from the Purple Line, he shifted over a billion dollars from transit to road construction. Here are the road projects he plans to build with that money.

Image from Maryland.

On the map, blue lines and dots illustrate major highway projects. Red lines are smaller road projects, and green dots are bridge projects.

There are three major highway projects in the Washington region, on I-270, the Beltway, and Route 1. Most of the money is going to projects in other parts of the state.

I-270 in Montgomery

Montgomery County will get one big project: $100 million for “innovative congestion reduction” on I-270, between the Beltway and I-370.

Image from Maryland.

That won’t be a widening. It will be operational tweaks to squeeze more efficiency out of the pavement that’s already there. MDOT will introduce things like ramp meters, bus-on-shoulder, and signals that let motorists drive on the shoulder at peak times.

Officials haven’t determined the exact location or mix of projects yet, but all three of those strategies have helped Virginia squeeze more capacity out of I-66.

Two in Prince George’s

Prince George’s will get two big projects: $185 million to expand the Beltway interchange at Greenbelt Metro station, and $30 million to rebuild US-1 through downtown College Park.

Greenbelt interchange (left) and US-1 in College Park (right).
Images from Maryland.

The Greenbelt project will add new highway ramps, so drivers coming from northbound I-495 will be able to get to the Metro station, and so drivers leaving Metro will be able to reach southbound I-495. Those movements aren’t possible today.

The College Park project will make US-1 a four-lane highway with a raised median, and add better bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. This is the same project GGW has advocated for over the past year, although it’s not clear from Hogan’s announcement what the final design will look like.

Most of the money goes elsewhere

Those three projects will most directly affect Washington-area drivers. Here are the biggest new projects elsewhere in the state:

See the view from atop The Cairo

The Cairo is DC’s oldest and tallest residential skyscraper. When it opened in 1894, policymakers were so troubled over its height that they soon enacted the District’s famous height limit. 121 years later, The Cairo still towers over Dupont so much that it offers one of the city’s best views.

Scroll right to view panorama. Click for larger version. All photos by Dan Malouff.

The first panorama begins looking north. The patch of trees at the extreme left edge of the image are in Meridian Hill Park. Scrolling right the view shifts to look east, then turns to straight south and downtown DC. The panorama’s right edge looks southwest, with the peaks of Rosslyn in the background.

This second panorama continues to pan west. Beginning with downtown on the left edge, scrolling right yields views of Rosslyn, Q Street rowhouses, and eventually the National Cathedral.

Scroll right to view panorama. Click for larger version.

Here’s the view directly north:

Zoomed in on Meridian Hill:

Straight south, with the White House peeking around a corner, and the Potomac River in the distance:

16th Street downtown:


Q Street looking west:

Q Street looking east:

Scroll right to view panorama.

The Cathedral of Saint Matthew:

Scroll right to view panorama.

For more photos, see the complete album on Flickr.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

May 13th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: Uncategorized

Map shows every DC & Arlington cycletrack

With DC’s M Street and 1st Street cycletracks on the ground, the central city network of protected bike lanes is starting to actually look like a network.

Base map from Google.

This map shows every cycletrack in town. In addition to M Street and 1st Street, there’s L Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, good old reliable 15th Street, and the diminutive R Street lane near the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

For the sake of completion the map also shows Rosslyn’s super tiny cycletrack, which exists mainly to access a popular Capital Bikeshare station.

Between DC’s proposed 70 mile cycltrack network and plans coming together in South Arlington, hopefully future iterations of this map will look even better.

Notice anything missing or wrong?

May 21st, 2014 | Permalink
Tags: bike, maps, transportation, Uncategorized

Philadelphia’s streetcar infrastructure: Old but interesting

Philadelphia’s streetcar network is the largest and busiest in the mid-Atlantic. It has several interesting features, some of which can help inform the planning for DC’s growing system.

Philadelphia’s Girard Avenue trolley, with island platform.

Philadelphia calls its system trolleys instead of streetcars, because it’s vintage from the original trolley era. While Philadelphia did discontinue many of its original trolley routes, unlike DC they also kept many.

The Girard Avenue trolley line even uses vintage trolley vehicles, originally built in 1947. It also runs in a unique on-street arrangement, with tracks down the center of wide Girard Avenue, and stations in narrow floating medians.

The Girard Avenue trolley’s floating platforms.

The Girard Avenue arrangement is totally different than DC’s H Street layout, which uses a mixture of curbside and full median tracks.

Philadelphia’s center-running tracks result in fewer conflicts with parked or turning cars, which speeds the trolleys down their route. It’s almost-but-not-quite like a dedicated transitway.

Unfortunately, the platforms are too narrow to meet modern disability-accessible design guidelines. If DC were to use a similar arrangement, we’d need wider platforms and thus more street width.

Narrow platform on the Girard Avenue trolley line.

On narrower streets in West Philadelphia, trolleys still run in the center, with bike lanes between the tracks and a row of parked cars.

West Philadelphia trolley line.

The trolley subway

Five trolley routes that run on-street in West Philadelphia combine and then move into a dedicated trolley subway to speed through Center City. It’s a great way to maximize the efficiency of the system through its most dense and congested section, while still taking advantage of the flexibility of on-street operations further out.

13th Street trolley subway station.

DC once had a short trolley subway too, under Dupont Circle. Today, DC’s reborn streetcar plan doesn’t call for any. They’re hugely expensive, after all. But with the specter of Metrorail capacity constraints looming, and new DC subway lines under consideration, perhaps someday a streetcar subway could again be appropriate in DC.

What else is there?

I’ve never personally lived in Philadelphia, so my experience with its trolley network is fairly limited. I’m sure there are other interesting features. What did I miss?

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

December 17th, 2013 | Permalink
Tags: galleries, streetcar, transportation, Uncategorized

Urban big boxes are becoming common

A few years ago the idea of a pedestrian friendly big box store was almost unthinkable, but the idea is catching on, with several examples locally and around the country.

Locally the Columbia Heights Target is an obvious example, but not the only one. We also have the Tenleytown Best Buy, and of course, the proposed downtown Wal-Mart. In the suburbs, Gaithersburg’s new urbanist “Washingtonian Center” was an urban big box trail-blazer. Designed and built in the late 1990s, it features what may have been the country’s first pedestrian oriented Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Kohl’s.

Below there are pictures of several other examples from around the country, including a Home Depot in Chicago that puts DC’s to shame.

Home Depot, Halsted Street, Chicago. Photo by dmitrybarsky.

Home Depot, Halsted Street, Chicago. Photo by Payton Chung.

Target, Nicollet Street, Minneapolis. Photo by DesertDevil.

Target, Broadway, Chicago. Photo by Chicago Tribune.

Best Buy, Lockwood Place, Baltimore. Photo by Joe Architect.

Best Buy, Clark Street, Chicago. Photo by VivaLFuego.

Proposed Target, East Liberty, Pittsburgh. Photo by City of Pittsburgh.

Proposed Target, 4th and Mission Streets, San Francisco. Photo by SF Redevelopment Agency.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

June 9th, 2011 | Permalink
Tags: Uncategorized

Two transit tidbits

click to enlarge
The Tysons Corner subway under construction.
Photo by Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. Click to enlarge.

Two tantalizing transit tidbits. Hooray for alliteration. Anyway:

  1. Last week ANC 3B of Glover Park discussed the prospect of a streetcar on Wisconsin Avenue. The ANC is considering (or considered?) a resolution asking DDOT to include a Wisconsin Avenue route in its extensive planned streetcar network. A Facebook group called Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar Coalition has since sprung into existence.

  2. The latest email version of the Dulles Metrorail project construction update newsletter included the photo at right showing the actual (!) subway tunnel under construction below Route 123 where it meets International Drive. Although most of the line through Tysons Corner will be elevated, there will be a short subway segment between the Tysons Central 123 station and the Tysons Central 7 station. Strangely, as of this writing the online version of said newsletter doesn’t include the photo.

January 22nd, 2010 | Permalink
Tags: Uncategorized



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