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Crystal City’s Metroway BRT is open and carrying passengers

The Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway officially opened on Sunday, upgrading Metroway bus service to bona fide bus rapid transit in Arlington.


27th & Crystal station.

Metroway runs between Pentagon City and Braddock Road Metro stations. For much of its route, between Crystal City and Potomac Yard, it runs in dedicated bus lanes, making it the Washington region’s first real foray into BRT.

The Alexandria portion of the transitway opened in 2014. Arlington’s portion through Crystal City opened yesterday, Sunday, April 17.

Through Potomac Yard, the transitway runs in a totally exclusive busway—a completely separate road from the regular lanes.


27th & Crystal station.

Stations in the busway have substantial arched roofs and attractive wall panels.


South Glebe station.

Through Crystal City, bus lanes and bus stations hug the curb.


18th & Crystal station.

Since northbound buses run a block away from southbound buses, bus stations are smaller through this section. More like large bus stops.


23rd & Clark station.

Crystal City is pretty quiet on Sundays, so there weren’t many opening day riders and buses only came every 20 minutes. During the week there’ll be a lot more riders, and buses will run every 6-12 minutes depending on the time of day.

Head over to Crystal City and check it out! Or see more pictures of both the Arlington and Alexandria transitway sections via Flickr.

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

April 18th, 2016 | Permalink
Tags: BRT, events, transportation



DC Streetcar’s exuberant opening day, in photos and video

DC Streetcar is open and carrying passengers, following a festive opening day on Saturday. Enjoy this photo tour reliving the fun.

Continue reading at Greater Greater Washington

February 29th, 2016 | Permalink
Tags: events, galleries, streetcar, transportation



H Street streetcar will carry passengers on February 27, says Bowser

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser just announced the H Street streetcar will officially open to passengers on Saturday, February 27. Of this year. Hallelujah!

Mayor Bowser’s announcement should mean the DC fire department has certified the streetcar as safe to run and submitted its paperwork to the federal government, thus accomplishing the last step before the streetcar can open. With that done, it’s ready to carry passengers.

The opening party and first passenger-carrying run will take place at 10:00 am on Saturday, February 27, at the corner of H Street and 13th Street NE.

After that, streetcars will run between Union Station and Oklahoma Avenue every 15 minutes the rest of the day. Rides will be free for everyone for the first few months.

The streetcar will close again Sunday the 28th; for now it’s only scheduled to run six days per week. But passengers will be able to pick it up again on Monday the 29th, and every day thereafter except Sundays.

Many of us will be there to enjoy the festivities, and we’ll try to all meet up to make a GGWash contingent. Join us if you can! Or ride the streetcar to our 8th birthday party on March 8. Or both!

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

February 18th, 2016 | Permalink
Tags: events, streetcar, transportation



DC can save the Olympics, if Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles all help

Boston has backed out of its bid to host the 2024 Olympics, and officials are begging DC and other cities to try and host the games. But fewer and fewer cities want to. What if, instead of picking one host city, the entire country pitched in, with venues spread out in several cities coast to coast.


Don’t pick one. Pick them all. And add 10 more. Image by the USOC.

The Olympics have a big problem. Virtually no democratic cities anywhere in the world want to host them anymore. The combination of sky-high costs for new facilities, and the inconveniences put upon the populace by way of construction and tourist traffic, have made the Olympics too much for one city to bear.

But why should one city have to?

To save the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup offers a compelling alternate in which countries host instead of cities.


Brazilian host cities for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Image from Wikipedia.

Different events would take place in different locations, hundreds or even thousands of miles apart. No single city would have to shoulder the burdens of more than one or two events.

With a whole country to choose from, organizers could find existing facilities for virtually every event. Much less new construction would be necessary. Many fewer one-time-use buildings would become abandoned after the games end.

And with fewer athletes and visitors in any one location, existing infrastructure and hotels could accommodate more of the influx of guests, with less disruption to residents. Hosting a single Olympic event would be more like hosting a college football bowl game, or the baseball All Star game.

In short, everything would become easier.

And although it’s true that some World Cups suffer from overspending too, certainly the problem is less acute when it’s spread over an entire nation.

The downside

This would admittedly be a drastic change to the culture of the games. It would be difficult for anyone to attend more than one event in person. Athletes would no longer live and socialize in a single Olympic Village. Something about the in-person experience of being in a city dedicated completely to the Olympics would be lost.

Without that complete dedication, it’s unlikely urban politicians would find the will to use the Olympics to upgrade infrastructure.

But that overwhelming experience is part of why so many cities don’t want to host the Olympics anymore. For residents whose lives are put on hold, it’s a bug, not a feature.

Meanwhile, the opening and closing ceremonies would still provide glimpses of that invigorating everyone’s-here feeling. It would be a trade-off, but perhaps a worthwhile one.

What role would DC play?

If Olympic officials spread the wealth/burden, what events might DC be fit to host?

A look at the possible venues for DC’s 2014 bid shows what facilities already exist, and therefore might be a good fit.

We probably wouldn’t get the opening ceremony. That needs an NFL-sized stadium, and our only options are either too old or too isolated. They’d work in a pinch, but some other US city can probably offer something more appealing.

Weightlifting could occur at Constitution Hall. The convention center could host table tennis, handball, or badminton.

The marathon could follow the path of the Marine Corps marathon. Rowers could set off from Georgetown.

And of course, the Verizon Center would be a killer spot for basketball. Or really any gym sport. How about gymnastics?

How would this change your opinion of the games? Would readers who oppose a DC Olympiad support a US games, with only one or two venues in DC?

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

August 10th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: events, in general, proposal



Hogan will build the Purple Line, not the Red Line

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced today the state will build the Purple Line.

Hogan announced his decision to build the light rail line at a press conference at 2:30 this afternoon.

To reduce costs, trains on the Purple Line will come every seven and half minutes rather than every six. The state will not change the alignment, nor the number or location of stations.

The Purple Line has been on the books for decades, and enjoys wide support in Maryland’s urban and suburban communities surrounding DC. It was primed to begin construction this year, but Governor Hogan has been threatening to cut it since entering office.

Our neighbors in Baltimore are not so lucky. At the same presser, Hogan announced the Baltimore Red Line will not move forward as currently conceived.

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

June 25th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: events, government, lightrail, transportation



Where to go wireless: The next big streetcar question

Now that DC’s oft-delayed H Street streetcar is hopefully near opening, DDOT officials are planning the next wave of lines. One of the biggest emerging questions (besides the role of dedicated lanes) is where the streetcars should run without wires.


Current law prohibits wires under the Whitehurst Freeway. Should that change? Image from Google.

DC has important monumental views that wires could impact. Therefore, DDOT has been promising hybrid streetcars that can run off-wire for part of their route since 2009. It could mean wires along some roads but not at major intersections, crossing state avenues, or across the National Mall, for example.

DC Councilmember Mary Cheh is convening a public hearing today to discuss the question with District Department of Transportation (DDOT) officials including new director Leif Dormsjo.

Where wires are legal

Current DC law prohibits overhead wires in the central L’Enfant city (basically everything between Florida Avenue and the Anacostia River) and Georgetown, except on H Street. In 2010, the council exempted H Street from the law, specifically to permit streetcars there.

But only exempting H Street was never a permanent solution. It was a stopgap to let H Street move forward while giving DDOT time to study wire-free planning in more detail. Now it’s time for a broader plan.


Wires on H Street.

Is wireless technology ready?

The 2010 law also required DDOT to study wireless streetcar technology before building any other lines, so leaders could make an informed decision about other exemptions.

DDOT completed that study in mid-2014, and in it concluded that off-wire technology is still only practical for short distances. Batteries, ground-based power supplies, and various other wire-free systems do exist, but they’re vastly more expensive and vastly less reliable than traditional overhead wires. Hybrid streetcars that operate on-wire part of the time, and off-wire at other times, remain by far the best option.

Moving forward, the DC Council could opt to change the wire law in one of four ways: 1) Keep the existing law allowing wires only outside the core; 2) Prohibit wires everywhere; 3) Allow wires everywhere; or 4) Allow wires in certain additional locations, but not others.

DDOT’s report proposes an approach in line with option 4:

In the near term, proven overhead contact system (OCS)-based technologies will form the basis of the system, with limited application of off-wire technologies in the most sensitive areas to the extent possible. As technologies advance, the amount of off-wire operations will be gradually increased.

This option makes sense. Most people agree that the north-south streetcar line should be wireless when it crosses the National Mall, but it would be absurd to demand the K Street line be wire-free when it runs under the Whitehurst Freeway.

Others worry that DDOT will not actually “gradually increase the amount of off-wire operations” once wires are in the ground. If DC buys streetcars that can handle only limited off-wire operation, it would cost money to upgrade, and that might not happen for a long time.

But wire-free technology still only works for short distances, so a hybrid is still the way to go. Modern streetcar wires can be relatively unobtrusive and won’t mar the streetscape. Allowing overhead wires in some other areas while prohibiting them in the most sensitive spots is the rational solution.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 4th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: events, preservation, streetcar, transportation



Gift ideas for the DC urbanist

Is there an urbanist in your life? Of course there is; you’re reading this blog. Here are a bunch of great gift ideas to satisfy your favorite urban geek, or maybe add to your own wish list.

DC streetcar holiday cards from Analog, and Ben Ross’ book Dead End.

There are tons of great genre gifts available in stores and online. But special mention goes out to two that come from members of our own urbanist blogging community:

Ben Ross’ book Dead End

Ben Ross is a frequent GGW contributor and a prolific author. His book Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism is perhaps the most cogent explanation ever written about the motivations of community activists. Dead End is $26 new from Amazon.

DC streetcar greeting cards

Get your correspondence on with DC streetcar themed Christmas cards, which my wife Melissa makes for her Brookland store Analog. A set of 8 cards is $14, available online, at the shop, or at upcoming pop-up markets in Rosslyn and Silver Spring.

More great options


White house tree ornament, Metro map phone case and bracelet, DC neighborhood wall art.

This year’s White House Christmas tree ornament is an old style train ($24).

Local graphic designer Cherry Blossom Creative makes a series of colorful DC neighborhood wall prints ($20).

WMATA has an official DC Metro Store that sells a wide variety of Metro-themed products, including iPhone cases ($39), bracelets ($32), mugs ($12), model buses ($35), and more. Or if you’re looking for something more functional, how about a SmarTrip card loaded with fare money.

Still need more? Everything from last year’s gift guide would still work, Urbanful has an extensive marketplace, and Etsy is filled with DC-themed gifts.

COPY ONTO BDC
 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

COPY ONTO GGW
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

December 10th, 2014 | Permalink
Tags: events, in general



Nothing to say about the Arlington streetcar

In case anyone is wondering, as an Arlington employee it’s not prudent for me to blog about the Arlington County board’s decision to cancel the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcars.

Greater Greater Washington has excellent coverage of the issue, though.

November 21st, 2014 | Permalink
Tags: events, government, streetcar, transportation



To rehab part of the Red Line, Metro will close it for 14 weekends


Grosvenor Metro station. Photo by Isaac Wedin on Flickr.

Get ready for major construction along the Metrorail Red Line. Starting in the summer of 2016, WMATA will close portions of the Red Line between Friendship Heights and Grosvenor for 14 weekends, including one stretch of at least 7 consecutive weekends.

The good news is that in exchange for all those closures, Metro will complete a whole cadre of major rehabilitation projects up and down the line, and begin construction on the Purple Line. Instead of the piecemeal reconstruction that’s characterized Metro rebuilding elsewhere, this will be a comprehensive program that will solve several problems at once.

Metro will fix water leaks in the subway tunnel, repair the piers that hold up the elevated tracks near Grosvenor, rebuild the platform at Grosvenor, and begin construction on a new mezzanine at Bethesda station, for transfers to the Purple Line.

The most significant construction will happen just outside Medical Center station, where Metro workers will install a large arch between the tracks and ceiling, to help waterproof the tunnel.


Medical Center arch. Image from WMATA.

The work is necessary because water leaks in the subway tunnels have been causing electrical failures. In addition to waterproofing the area around Medical Center station, workers will power wash the tunnel, fix leaks in the tunnel, install better drain pipes, and replace tunnel lights and electrical cables.

Since the water leaks are an immediate problem that will take several weekends to fix, WMATA will take advantage of the station closures to do other work as well.

Workers will rehabilitate the elevated tracks near Grosvenor, where the metal bolts holding up the aerial structure have begun to degrade. Although the structure is not in any immediate danger of falling down, it could become a threat if Metro doesn’t fix the situation now.

At Grosvenor station itself, workers will replace the crumbling original platform tiles with the newer Takoma-style tiles the agency has been using in recent years.

Finally, Metro will begin construction on its portion of the Purple Line, at the Metro stations that will double as Purple Line transfer points. At Bethesda, workers will begin to install a second entrance and mezzanine. At Silver Spring, workers will begin to plan a similar connection, although construction won’t begin yet during this period.


Bethesda second mezzanine. Image from WMATA.

There’s no doubt all this construction will be painful for riders, but it’s better than the alternate. At one point, Metro management was considering completely closing this part of the Red Line 24×7 for at least five weeks. By closing only the weekends, at least the line will remain useful for commuters.

Correction: The initial version of this post implied that a new arch would go inside Medical Center station. It is actually in the tunnel just outside the station.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

October 6th, 2014 | Permalink
Tags: events, metrorail, transportation



Silver Line opening day, in 41 photos

Metro’s new Silver Line is officially open and carrying passengers. Enjoy this photo tour of the new line and opening day festivities.

> Continue reading at Greater Greater Washington

July 28th, 2014 | Permalink
Tags: architecture, development, events, galleries, metrorail, transportation



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