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DC area 15-minute bus map

Back in 2010, WMATA produced a 15-minute bus map that showed bus routes with frequent service throughout the day. That map was just for planning purposes, but it’s such a useful idea that I took the next step, and turned it into a more user-friendly diagram.

In addition to Metrobus routes, this map also shows other frequent bus services in the region, including DC Circulator, Bethesda Circulator, and the King Street Trolley.

Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

August 10th, 2012 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: bus, featured post, maps, transportation

Updated closed malls map

I got a lot of useful comments on the closed mall map posted last week, both here and in the GGW thread. I’ve incorporated them into a second, improved draft.

The new & improved map.

The comments generally fell into two categories: questions about the definitions, and malls that should be added to the map.


For the purposes of this map, an “enclosed mall” is defined as a shopping center in which there is a row of small retail shops that are primarily accessed by pedestrians via an interior walkway. The two key components are small shops and an interior walkway. Buildings with interior spaces that consist primarily of large format retailers (such as the Pentagon Centre or DCUSA) are not malls for my purposes. Neither are spaces that are primarily food courts. Basically, to qualify as a mall for this map, a shopping center should have a space that looks generally like this.

Additions and subtractions:

This second draft includes the following malls that were left out of the first: La Promenade (DC), Waterside (DC), Free State (Bowie), Livingston (Ft Washington), Chevy Chase Pavilion (DC), National Place (DC), Beacon Mall (Mount Vernon), 2000 Pennsylvania Ave (DC), New Carrollton Mall (New Carrollton), Centre at Forestville (Forestville), Rolling Valley Mall (Burke).

The only mall subtracted from the original map was Virginia Square, which had a department store but apparently never an enclosed row of smaller shops.

I removed references to “thriving” and “surviving” from the table in the legend, since that was subjective and unclear.

Notable omissions:

Shopping centers that could be considered malls but that don’t meet the definition I used for this map include DCUSA, Old Post Office Pavilion, Gallery Place, Pentagon Centre, and the terminals at National and Dulles airports. The airports might technically meet the definition, but they’re obviously a different animal.

April 2nd, 2012 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: featured post, The New America

Enclosed malls fade from Washington region

Once the economic juggernaut of suburbia, enclosed malls are slowly dying all across America. The Washington region is no exception.

This map shows 31 enclosed malls in the DC area, color-coded by status: green for malls that are still open, and red for malls that are closed or in the process of closing.

The 31 malls on the map range from small local ones like Fair City in Fairfax, to gargantuan super-regional ones like Tysons Corner. The only requirement to be on the map is that malls contain a common interior hallway lined with several shops.

Some, like Pentagon City, are chugging along as healthily as ever. Others, like Seven Corners Center, have been gone for years. Overall, more than 40% of the dots are red.

The reasons malls have closed vary as much as the malls themselves. Some closed because they were housed in cheap buildings that simply reached the end of their intended lifespans, while others couldn’t compete with the mixed-use town center developments that have become common in recent years.

Geography seems to be unimportant in whether a mall lives or dies. Red dots permeate all corners of the map, regardless of the wealth of the jurisdiction.

One thing that does seem to make a difference is size. Larger malls that draw from a wider area generally seem more likely to thrive than smaller ones. As the years go by and even more green dots turn to red, it’s likely the last hold outs will be the biggest and most famous.

Is this map comprehensive? Did I miss any malls? Let me know in the comments.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

March 27th, 2012 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: featured post, The New America

List of all existing & planned Capital Bikeshare expansions

All these Capital Bikeshare expansions are getting confusing. BeyondDC discussed expansion earlier this week, but that post is already obsolete since DDOT’s Wednesday announcement that it is funding 50 new stations in addition to the 30-some already under way.

Let’s take this opportunity to record the history and near future of expansion, in a nice clear table.

I’ll try to update this list whenever new information becomes available, and will add a link to it in the “Features” menu on the BeyondDC home page (left side of the screen) so it always easy to find.

Location Stations Date Official Link
Original System
Arlington – Crystal City 14 Sept 2010
DC 100 Sept 2010 – Feb 2011
Completed Expansions
Arlington – Rosslyn 4 April 2011
Funded Future Expansions
DC – first expansion 34* Fall 2011 Link
Arlington – Rosslyn-Ballston corridor 33* Late 2011 Link
DC – second expansion 50 Early 2012 Link
Rockville 20 Sometime 2012 Link
Alexandria 6** Sometime 2012 N/a
Total Funded System
Regional 261 2012

* The DC and Arlington 2011 expansions have generally been reported as being “around 25 and 30 stations” respectively. I came up with 34 and 33 stations by counting the proposed locations shown on the linked maps.

** Apparently Alexandria’s participation is still somewhat up in the air. They have tentatively funded 6 stations, but may still move the funding elsewhere.

September 23rd, 2011 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: bike, featured post, transportation

Guide to bikeway typology

As urban cycling becomes more common, new terms are entering the lexicon that people may not be completely familiar with. This post will provide a guide to the most common types of urban bikeways.

There are seven basic types of bicycle travelways. In increasing order of separation quality, they are:

Mixed traffic
Mixed traffic bikeways are simply regular streets on which bikes are permitted to mix with cars. Almost every street in existence qualifies, except those with dedicated bike facilities, or the few where bikes are specifically outlawed. Many jurisdictions designate some streets as “suggested bike routes,” which are mixed traffic streets that are deemed to be inherently bike-friendly, but where no (or limited) special treatments have been applied. Arlington’s bike map provides a good example: white-colored streets are normal roads, while blue-colored streets are suggested bike routes. Both white and blue qualify as mixed-traffic bikeways. Some cyclists prefer to ride in mixed traffic rather than on dedicated facilities. Photo by Google.

Sharrow street
Sharrow streets are mixed traffic roads on which graphics have been applied to the roadway indicating that cars and bikes should share the full lane as equals. Sharrows notify cars that they should expect bicycles on a street, and indicate to bicyclists that is safe to ride in the center of the street rather than on the sidewalk or in the door zone. They are the minimum bike-specific infrastructure for streets. Photo by Eric Gilliland.

Bike lane
Bike lanes are the most common type of bike-specific infrastructure in most cities. They are lanes painted onto a street that are designated for use by bicycles, but which are not physically protected from lanes used by cars. Most bike lanes are located on the extreme right of the through part of the street, but to the left of the parking lane or right-turn lane (if they are present). The most common type of bike lane is designated with white paint as shown in the picture, however some jurisdictions take the extra step of painting them green or blue at key locations in order to increase visibility. Another modification to the standard bike line is to add a painted buffer that increases the separation between bikes and cars. Painted or buffered bike lanes may be considered “enhanced.” On high-speed roadways shoulders are often used as minimal bike lanes. Photo by Google.

Bike boulevard
Bike boulevards are streets specifically optimized for bikes through a variety of techniques, but on which cars are also permitted (though sometimes discouraged) to operate in mixed traffic. Optimization techniques are not standardized, but may include lane markings, chicanes (and other traffic calming measures), car access restrictions, bike-optimized intersection treatments, and any number of other potential enhancements. Although bike boulevards are technically mixed traffic streets, the degree of extra bike-specific infrastructure is considerably greater than on sharrow streets. As far as BeyondDC is aware, there are not currently any bike boulevards in the DC area, although Arlington is considering two parallel to Columbia Pike. Photo by “Fahrradstrasse – Radfaher sind hier tonangebend”.

Sidepaths are off-street bikeways that are built as extensions of the sidewalk. They provide complete physical separation from cars except at intersections with cross streets. Some sidepaths are shared with pedestrians, while others designate separation from pedestrians using paint or unique paving materials. Those that do are sometimes referred to as a subset of cycle tracks since they are intended to be exclusive to bikes, but they have a lesser degree of separation from pedestrians than true cycle tracks. Photo by BeyondDC.

Cycle track
In North American usage, cycle tracks are bikeways that are completely exclusive to bikes, physically separated from all other modes. The most common form is as an on-street bike lane placed between the curb and row of parked cars, but separation can also be obtained through other means such as bollards or additional curbs. Cycle tracks can come in many shapes and sizes, and are generally considered to be the pinnacle of street-adjacent bikeways. In Europe the term is more general and can be synonymous with bike lane. Photo by BeyondDC.

Trail / shared-use path
Trails are dedicated car-free travelways that follow their own unique route. They are intended to be not only off-street, but to be completely free of any interaction with cars at all. Even street crossings are intended to be extremely rare, and ideally are grade separated. Most trails are technically shared-use paths, which means pedestrians are permitted to use them as well. Nevertheless the degree of separation from cars is so desirable that trails are generally considered to be superior to cycle tracks and all other forms of bike infrastructure. Photo by TouringCyclist.

Of course the full gamut of bicycle infrastructure includes many other types of enhancements, such as bike boxes and bike stations, but these are the seven basic types of bicycle travelways available.

Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

August 17th, 2011 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: bike, featured post, transportation

Update on DC/MD/VA major transit projects

click to enlarge
Proposed Baltimore Red Line subway station.

With yesterday’s news that the Baltimore Red Line is being advanced to Preliminary Engineering, it seems a good time to check up on the various rail and BRT projects in the region and report on their status. I’ve ranked them below by planning category and anticipated completion, and have included Nofolk’s light rail line even though it’s outside the region.

For the purposes of this post, projects will be categorized into the following phases:

  1. Concept: The project is in early planning, including alternatives analysis and environmental clearance.
  2. Design: The project is in the engineering phase, including Preliminary Engineering (PE). Conceptual details have been finalized and detailed construction plans are being prepared.
  3. Construction: The project is under construction.

Project Status Description Anticipated Opening
Norfolk ‘The Tide’ Light Rail Construction Construction is largely complete. Trains and tracks are in testing now. August 19, 2011
H Street Streetcar Construction Streetcar running from Union Station to the Anacostia River via H Street. Under construction now. 2012
Silver Line Phase I Construction Metrorail extension from East Falls Church to Reston via Tysons Corner. Under construction now. 2013
Crystal City Potomac Yard Busway Design Exclusive busway from Crystal City Metro to Braddock Road Metro. Final design underway now. Some segments have already been constructed by private developers. 2013
Baltimore Red Line Design Light rail line running east-west through Baltimore. Recently advanced to PE from Concept. 2016
Silver Line Phase II Design Metrorail extension from Reston to Loudoun County via Dulles Airport. PE currently underway. 2017
K Street Transitway Design Exclusive transit lanes running east-west on K Street from Washington Circle to Mount Vernon Square. Environmental work completed in 2009, now awaiting funding before moving forward. Not published
Anacostia Streetcar Construction/Concept Streetcar from South Capitol Street to 11th Street bridge via Ancostia Metro. Construction of a short segment near South Capitol Street is mostly complete. The majority of the line is undergoing an alternatives analysis / environmental review that will be completed late in 2011. Not published
Benning Road Streetcar Concept Extension of the H Street Streetcar east across Anacostia River to Benning Road Metro. Alternatives analysis & environmental review to begin summer 2011. 2015
Columbia Pike Streetcar Concept Streetcar from Pentagon City to Bailey’s Crossroads via Columbia Pike. Environmental planning underway now. 2016
Potomac Yard Metro Station Concept Infill Metro station in Alexandria. Environmental planning underway now. 2016
K Street Streetcar Concept Extension of the H Street Streetcar west to Washington Circle through downtown Washington, potentially via the K Street Transitway. Alternatives analysis & environmental review to begin summer 2011. 2018
Crystal City Potomac Yard Streetcar Concept Potential conversion of CCPY busway to streetcar. Environmental planning underway. Not published
Maryland Purple Line Concept Light rail line running east-west through Maryland suburbs of DC. Concept stage largely complete. Expected to move to PE in summer or autumn 2011. 2020
Corridor Cities Transitway Concept Light rail or BRT line running north from Shady Grove Metro. Concept stage nearing completion. Mode will be determined this year. Expected to move to PE in late 2011 or 2012. 2020
DC Streetcar Other Segments Pre-Concept The rest of DC’s proposed 37 mile streetcar system. Planning has not yet begun. Not published

June 28th, 2011 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: BRT, featured post, lightrail, metrorail, streetcar, transportation

Washington’s unbuilt highways

This is a map of the Washington that almost was. If mid-century planners, dedicated as they were to driving and the clearance of historic neighborhoods, had their way. It is a map of the highway network proposed for Washington during initial planning of the Eisenhower Interstate System, in 1958.

Each of these canceled highways, shown in red on the map, has its own story. Some were canceled due to civic activism, others because later proposals in the 70s preempted them, and others due to good ol’ fashioned sanity. Because they were never built, entire neighborhoods that might have been wiped out were saved, downtown was never physically cut off from its surroundings (except to the south), and millions of dollars were reallocated to construction of the Metro. Because these highways were canceled, Washington is the beautiful, walkable, vital city that we know and love today.

Most other American cities weren’t so lucky. Their highways were built, their neighborhoods demolished, and their downtowns converted to parking lots.

click to enlarge
Map based on 1958 Basic Freeway Plan.
Click to enlarge.

June 30th, 2010 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: featured post, history, roads/cars, transportation

We’ll all just move to Denver*

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says he will vote against the climate bill he helped to write, which dramatically reduces the likelihood that Congress will be able to pass a bill to, y’know, avert global catastrophe. Ain’t partisanship super?

In honor of Mr. Graham’s decision to give the finger to future generations, here are some images from geology.com’s sea level rise mapper. At least we’ll know who gets screwed over the most.

Climate scientists have so far pegged likely sea rise over the next century at somewhere between one and two meters. Here’s what a two meter rise would do to DC:

2 meter sea rise map, Washington, DC

That’s not so bad. East Potomac Park is gone, some Pentagon parking lots go under, and the White House gets a reflecting pool. Hardly worth paying more for gas.

Here’s New York (left) and Ocean City (right):

2 meter sea rise map, New York 2 meter sea rise map, Ocean City, MD

Except for some flooding around the Battery, Manhattan survives. Jersey’s Meadowlands become Meadow Bay, however, and all that’s left of Ocean City is Coastal Highway. Totally the best part.

Now New Orleans and The Netherlands:

2 meter sea rise map, New Orleans 2 meter sea rise map, Netherlands

Well, nobody likes them anyway.

But hey, that 2-meters-in-a-century assumption is based on the slow gradual model of climate change. If something big happens, like say the Greenland ice sheet melts, we’re looking at more like a 7 meter rise. Here’s what that does to DC:

7 meter sea rise map, Washington, DC

Goodbye, Southwest. Maybe we’ll get a water polo team to play in the Nationals stadium.

New York and Florida:

7 meter sea rise map, New York 7 meter sea rise map, Florida

Manhattan loses a few blocks on either side, but the outer boroughs really suffer. Fort Myers and Naples are gone, but it’s kind of cool that Lake Okeechobee is a bay.

Hopefully you don’t know any of the 40 million people who call the Nile Delta home:

7 meter sea rise map, Egypt

But you know, that’s awfully unrealistic. 7 meters from Greenland? Come on. Everybody knows that if Greenland goes, there’s a good chance West Antarctica could go too. That’s more like 12 meters. Here’s 12 meters of new Potomac:

12 meter sea rise map, Washington, DC

:shrug: Sorry, Alexandria.

New York and Northern California:

12 meter sea rise map, New York 12 meter sea rise map, Northern California

Manhattan’s rapidly losing ground now, and Brooklyn is about as big as Manhattan used to be. Most of the City of San Francisco survives, but all its suburbs are gone and Sacramento is at the bottom of a new sea.

Hope nobody is too attached to central London:

12 meter sea rise map, London

And you know what, if you’re one of the 160 million people in Bangladesh then you have only yourself to blame:

12 meter sea rise map, Bangladesh

You can recreate all these maps at geology.com. It’s fun! Sort of like disaster mode on SimCity, except it’s the real world!

* Note that if this happens, Denver will be a desert. You wouldn’t want to live there either.

June 8th, 2010 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: environment, featured post

Why streetcars are often better than buses

click to enlarge
DC Circulator and Streetcar, to scale.
Not the same.

Streetcars are big in planning circles right now. DC and Arlington have grand plans for them, as do many cities around the US. Every time the subject comes up, however, someone poses the question what makes streetcars better than buses?

It’s a valid question, and it has a series of valid answers. Here are the most important:

  1. Streetcars have greater capacity than buses. Streetcars are bigger, longer, and can be combined into multi-car trains. They can carry many more passengers than any bus, even accordion buses. For corridors with transit ridership too high for buses but not high enough for Metro, streetcars can be a good solution.
  2. Streetcars are often more affordable than buses. While it’s true that streetcars require a much larger initial capital investment than buses, that capital cost can be offset by significant operational savings year-to year, depending on the circumstances. In the long term, streetcars are more affordable on very high ridership routes. Streetcars’ higher capacity means that if there are lots of riders on your route, you can move them with fewer vehicles. Fewer vehicles means more efficient use of fuel and fewer (unionized, pensioned) drivers to pay. Also, streetcar vehicles themselves are much more sturdy than buses, and last many decades longer. While buses must generally be retired and replacements purchased about every 10 years, streetcars typically last 40 years or more. For example, Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit system is still using streetcar vehicles built in 1947 (although they have been overhauled once since then).
  3. Streetcars are much more comfortable to ride than buses. One of the big reasons why many Americans don’t like buses is that they are so rumbly. They jerk you up, down, side to side. They’re simply not comfortable. Streetcars glide along a rail much more smoothly, offering a vastly more comfortable ride. Less motion sickness, easier to hang on. This issue isn’t often discussed in newspaper articles, and rail opponents like to pretend it’s not a big deal, but it is a really big deal. Comfort matters to customers, and no industry succeeds if it isn’t appealing to customers.
  4. Streetcar routes are easier to understand. In any big city, buses are confusing. There are so many criss-crossing and competing routes, even on the same trunk corridor, that it can be intimidating and difficult to understand (for example, DC’S 16th Street has no fewer than 5 different routes, and two different ones are labelled the S2). New users are turned off because they don’t want to accidentally get on the wrong bus and end up far from their real destination. Streetcars, on the other hand, are easier to understand because their cost inherently limits the size of the system, and their need to run on tracks reassures riders of the route. Instead of an incomprehensible jumble, you get a simple system map that people can easily memorize. To be fair, the inherent route flexibility of buses can be an advantage for them over streetcars, but the specific needs of the corridor matter. In some places the simplicity & predictability of rail are more important, while in others the flexibility of bus rules.
  5. Streetcars attract more riders than buses. Partially because of the above points, streetcars are always used by more people than buses when all other things are equal. They attract more passengers, which after all is the whole point of public transit.
  6. Streetcars are economic development magnets. The presence of rail transit nearby is one of the best incentives for economic development in the world. Metro stations radically remade large swaths of the DC area, and streetcars can do the same (have done the same, in places like Portland and Toronto). Developers rarely base decisions around bus lines, but routinely follow rail investments with real estate ones. In fact, the additional taxes generated by rail-oriented development is often used to repay the initial capital investment of rail lines.
  7. Streetcars use electricity rather than gas. This potentially makes streetcars much more environmentally friendly than buses, although it depends how the electricity is generated. And while it’s true that electric trolleybuses exist, they are almost never used in the US because of BRT creep, and no new US city has introduced them in generations.
  8. Streetcars are much quieter than buses. Because they run on electricity, streetcars are very quiet vehicles. They are much less disruptive to neighborhood life than buses.
  9. Streetcars are iconic. Trains are graphic symbols for the city in a way that buses simply are not. Every tourist knows about the DC Metro, the New York subway, and the San Francisco cable cars. Their trains are an indispensable part of those city’s brands, and streetcars will be too as soon as they’re running. With the exception of London and its double deckers, nobody ever sent a postcard featuring a picture of a bus.

Of course, buses are useful tools, and are the right choice in many (even most) situations. Nothing here should suggest that buses shouldn’t be a major part of every city’s transit network. But buses are demonstrably different than streetcars. They don’t have the same characteristics, and don’t accomplish the same goals. Those who claim buses do everything streetcars do are demonstrably wrong.

A note on dedicated lanes: Obviously transit functions better in dedicated lanes than in mixed-traffic. This is true for both streetcars and buses, and is not inherent to either mode. The point of this list is to compare the modes when all other things are equal. A bus line in a dedicated transitway may indeed be better than a streetcar in mixed-traffic, but a streetcar in the same dedicated transitway would be even better.

May 25th, 2010 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: BRT, bus, featured post, streetcar, transportation

DC aerial with neighborhood labels

Twitter user @Astro_Soichi is a Japanese astronaut who takes amazing pictures of cities from 200 miles above the Earth’s surface while he orbits on board the International Space Station. He has photographed Washington at least two times.

That latter picture is such a good angle and so clear, I thought it would be fun to label it and make it a map of city neighborhoods.

Locals will probably already know this stuff, but maybe out-of-towners will find it interesting.

click to enlarge
Aerial map of DC neighborhoods. Click to enlarge.
Original photo by Soichi Noguchi, from the ISS.

I’m going to add this to the list of features at upper right, because why not.

May 3rd, 2010 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: featured post, site



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