One of the great advantages of living in a city is that you frequently stumble upon fun and interesting things. On Sunday evening my wife and I were taking a walk, which brought us randomly to Freedom Plaza. Someone there had set up music and speakers, and couples were dancing. It was just lovely. I snapped this picture with my cellphone:
Today BeyondDC steps outside its usual urbanist role to help raise awareness of a big problem: Congress is considering breaking the internet with a set of radical new laws that would give private corporations nearly unlimited power to accuse anyone of copyright infringement, and to then effectively shut down that person’s website. The effect of such far-reaching and broad regulations would be catastrophic to the free exchange of ideas on the internet as it exists today.
Several of the internet’s largest sites are participating in a “blackout” today, shutting down their main content in protest of a law that could shut them down for real if passed. BeyondDC may not be Wikipedia or Reddit, but everyone needs to know about these proposed bills. We cannot let them pass without a fight.
Here is more information if you are interested. Below are some screencaps of major webpages taking part in today’s blackout.
Yesterday, Osama bin Laden was killed. Last night, crowds gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House. If ever there were an example of the virtues of civic space in cities, this was it. Pictures below.
This is a map of the Washington region by population ethnicity as of the 2000 census. Each dot represents 25 people. Red dots are Caucasians, blue dots are Blacks, yellow/orange dots are Hispanics, and green dots are Asians. The map is part of a series created by flickr user Eric Fischer showing the 40 largest cities.
White it’s important to note that this data is 10 years out of date and undoubtedly seriously obsolete, it is nonetheless interesting. The familiar east-west white-black divide is obvious (although not nearly as stark as the divide in Detroit), but isn’t it interesting to spot the pockets of overall diversity, and to see how clearly Metro stations in Northwest and Montgomery County stand out.
What patterns do you see? What do you think will be different about this map when census 2010 data comes out?
It’s Friday, I don’t particularly have anything to say that hasn’t been said before (oil spill bad, fare hikes better than death spiral, yay streetcars), and having just been out of town, other cities are fresh in my mind. So what they heck, here is my completely subjective list of best American cities. Everybody loves meaningless lists right? Right.
My top five, in order:
New York. On the scale of urbanism it just blows everything else in the country away. Really, there’s no other option for #1.
San Francisco. The second densest city and the most beautiful landscape. It’s just too bad they don’t have a better subway.
Washington. Yes yes, we are a self-loathing city and it’s not supposed to be acceptable to think Washington is so great, but have you seen the rest of the country? We have the best transit outside New York, awesome neighborhoods, great architecture… I’m not afraid to admit that I love DC.
Boston. So similar to DC, and better in some ways (we don’t have anything like the North End), but also so much uglier. Boston is a paradise for brutalism.
Chicago. The first time I visited Chicago I was expecting another Manhattan, and the Loop didn’t measure up. Cool skyscrapers, but that New York activity level just wasn’t there. I was disappointed. Regardless, Chicago is still one big hunk of awesome, and if I didn’t have a particular love for the more European layouts of Boston and DC, I might be tempted to rank Chicago 3rd.
Honorable mentions: Philadelphia (a clear #6 IMO), Seattle and Portland (I haven’t yet visited but hear good things), Pittsburgh (too bad it isn’t larger). Plus the litany of good smaller cities like Madison and Savannah, but they really belong in a different topic.
Washingtonian Magazine is looking for stories related to the housing boom and bust, and asked BeyondDC to put out a call for help. Here is their ad:
Did you buy a home during the frantic years of bidding wars and packed open houses? Or did you sell your house for more than you’d ever imagined possible? Did you see your neighborhood transformed? If so, we’d love to hear from you. If you have a story to share, please email Washingtonian features editor Denise Kersten Wills at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite what the producers of Minority Report predicted, there will probably not be vertical highways in Rosslyn. Also, Georgetown will not be located in Petworth.
Someone recently asked me what I think the DC region will be like in 2040. This was my answer:
Population: DC’s regional Council Of Governments, which has historically been very accurate, predicts that the COG area will grow from 5.4 million in 2010 to 6.6 million in 2030. If trends continue, that would extrapolate to 7.2 million in 2040.
For the geographically larger Washington/Baltimore Combined Statistical Area that is estimated at 8.2 million in 2007, a 2040 population of between 10-11 million seems reasonable based on current trends (almost all of the growth happening in/around DC). If there is a substantial nation-wide migration away from the sunbelt and back to the older cities, which if not exactly likely is at least not entirely out of the question, Baltimore will grow much faster for an expected CSA population of perhaps 12-13 million.
Transportation: Transit: The Metrorail Silver line to Dulles Airport will be complete, and there will probably be one additional subway tunnel in the central city, most likely a separated new Blue line running through Georgetown and the northern part of downtown Washington. There will be a regional network of streetcars and BRT on most of the large arterial corridors. MARC and VRE will have merged and will operate more like Chicago’s Metra or NY’s LIRR, rather than as simple commuter operations. The Purple Line won’t yet be a complete ring, but it will cross the Potomac and reach Tysons Corner. Baltimore will not have any additional third rail lines, but will have a number of new light rail and BRT lines, some of which will be in subways. Streetcars will once again roll in smaller satellite cities such as Frederick, Hagerstown and Annapolis.
Roads: All current HOV facilities and many other highways will be tolled. Most of the central city highways in DC will be either removed or decked over with air rights development. The ICC will be finished and the Fairfax County Parkway and US Route 301 will be upgraded to almost Interstate standards, resulting in a partial outer beltway that does not connect between the ICC and Virginia.
Ferries: Water taxies will operate on the Potomac, mostly for short trips across the river inside the Beltway. There may be a few longer distance ferries for commuters from the south, but not very many.
Intercity Travel: Union Station will be past capacity and we will need a second depot, possibly in Arlington. There will be multiple trains per day running several short-distance intercity rail trips to all other population centers in the mid-Atlantic region. Camden Station will become more important in Baltimore. Dulles and BWI airports will continue to expand. National Airport may be sold and the land redeveloped, or it may continue to operate, depending on how much intercity travel continues to be done by plane.
Land Use: Sprawl: There will be more sprawl up the I-270 corridor, in eastern Montgomery County, and in eastern Loudoun County, but the total amount of new land given over to sprawl will not be very much. Baltimore and DC will not feel particularly more connected by sprawl than they do already.
Infill: Most of the Potomac and Anacostia River waterfront areas will be redeveloped, resulting in a much more river-oriented city than has ever existed in the past. The downtown height limit will remain, but it may be lifted outside the L’Enfant City. All major suburban arterial commercial corridors will experience significant urban redevelopment, resulting in a large number of narrow high-density urban corridors surrounded by low density single family homes from the 20th century. Tysons Corner will be a string-of-pearls TOD in the same way that Ornjington is today, as will be large parts of Gaithersburg, Rockville, and Fairfax.