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See Metro Center when it was still under construction

In the mid 1970s, Metro’s first stations were under construction and on track for their 1976 opening day. This historic photo shows Metro Center station while it was under construction, circa 1975.


Metro Center circa 1975. Photo source unknown.

In the photo, the basic form of the station is in place. The vault is done, the track bed looks good, and the station’s lights are on. But there’s clearly a lot of work left to do, including most of the finishing touches.

It’s an interesting 40-year-old look at one of our region’s most important transit hubs.

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

December 17th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: galleries, history, metrorail, transportation



64 years ago, the world’s first driverless parking garage opened in DC

On December 5, 1951, the world’s first “park-o-mat” driverless parking garage opened on K Street NW, between 14th and 15th Streets. The building doesn’t exist anymore, but this newsreel is a neat look into one of history’s previous attempts at driverless transportation.

The original park-o-mat buildling was just 25 feet by 40 feet, but at 16 floors and with two elevators, it had room for 72 cars.

As downtown DC developed and the city’s height limit began to limit land availability, property values eventually made it impractical to keep using this building as parking. Today, a a normal building full of people replaces it.

But automated parking does still exist. At least one apartment building in DC, the Camden Grand Parc, has an automated garage. And New York’s first “robotic” parking garage opened in 2007.

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

December 8th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: history, roads/cars, transportation



In 1968, this brochure is how people learned about Metro

WMATA adopted its initial plan for the Metrorail system in 1968. Between then and the beginning of construction in 1969, the agency published this brochure, to teach people about the coming system.


WMATA 1968 brochure. All photos from Reddit user Globalwrath.

Reddit user Globalwrath discovered the brochure, and it’s a fascinating trove of historic thinking.

The last benefit on this page sounds suspiciously like sprawl.

Note future options for suburban extensions in virtually every direction, and a subway under Columbia Pike in Arlington.

“The Metro will be among the best in the world.” And it was, when it was new.

What stands out to you?

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

May 4th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: history, metrorail, transportation



Gas stations were much better looking in 1924

Most gas stations these days are pretty garish, but gas stations weren’t always so. Check out this vintage 1924 station, from Connecticut Avenue in Woodley Park.


Lord Baltimore Filling Station. Photo by the National Photo Company, via the Library of Congress.

This is the Lord Baltimore Filling Station, at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Ordway Street NW. It may not be truly typical of the era, but it’s hard to imagine seeing as sharp-looking a gas station today.

It’s not only the nice architecture that make this notable. It’s also the urban design. This isn’t as great for sidewalk life as a row of main street-style shops, but it’s a building that fronts on the sidewalk. It could be a lot worse.

Do you know of any unusually good-looking gas stations? What makes them interesting?

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

April 6th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: architecture, history, roads/cars, urbandesign



Check out DC’s charming but incomprehensible 1975 bus map

Washingtonians hoping to catch a bus in 1975 consulted this friendly-looking hand-drawn map. Charming as it may be, the map has no lines. Rather, designers wrote the name of each bus route over and over along its path through the city.


Image from DDOT.

Transit riders and cartography experts can’t fault the map designers too much. It was more challenging to illustrate detailed networks before the days of computers, and even in recent years some WMATA maps have been just as hard to follow.

Legibility aside, the map actually includes some very progressive elements considering its vintage. According to the legend, it only shows “all-day routes with frequent service,” an incredibly useful idea that’s picked up a lot of steam in the past five years.

Other progressive elements shown on the map include bike paths, although the Mount Vernon and Rock Creek trails appear to be the only ones, and much of its text is translated into Spanish.

The map also includes a fun vignette of the Metrorail system, which had yet to open but was less than a year away.


Image from DDOT.

On the other hand, some things never change. The legend for the Metrorail vignette notes Metro’s first phase was scheduled to open later in 1975. In actuality it didn’t open until 1976.

Finally, there are several other vignettes on the reverse side:


Image from DDOT.

Architecture firm John Wiebenson & Associates produced the map for the Bicentennial Commission of the District of Columbia.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

March 13th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bus, fun, history, maps, transportation



Notes from Europe: 19th Century urban renewal

I’m on vacation in Europe until the 24th. Each weekday until my return there will be a brief post about some feature of the city I’m visiting that day.

Without a doubt, Paris is home to the world’s most successful urban renewal scheme. The Haussmann Plan was carried out primarily between 1853 and 1870, and significantly contributed to the creation of Paris’ most famous boulevards and its iconic architectural style.

Under the guidance of city planner Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, large sections of Paris were demolished and rebuilt along wider, grander, straighter boulevards. And new building regulations were adopted that delineated the height and form of buildings.


Boulevard Haussmann, with its strictly regulated buildings.
Photo by Thierry Bézecourt via Wikepedia.

March 19th, 2014 | Permalink
Tags: architecture, history, History of cities, urbandesign



Notes from Europe: Bikeshare goes big

I’m on vacation in Europe until the 24th. Each weekday until my return there will be a brief post about some feature of the city I’m visiting that day.

Paris’ Vélib’ bikesharing network wasn’t the first in the world, nor even the first with modern characteristics like RFID membership fobs. But it’s the system that made bikesharing famous worldwide. It’s the system that exported the idea around the globe, following its 2007 launch.

Today, Vélib’ has about 20,000 bikes. That makes it the largest bikeshare system in the world outside of China (where the city of Wuhan’s network has a staggering 90,000 bikes). For comparison, New York has somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000.


Vélib’. Photo by Aurel via flickr.

March 18th, 2014 | Permalink
Tags: bike, history, transportation



Notes from Europe: Versailles was DC’s prototype

I’m on vacation in Europe until the 24th. Each weekday until my return there will be a brief post about some feature of the city I’m visiting that day.

Versailles was the seat of the French monarchy for over 100 years, through the bulk of the 18th Century. Its baroque design had a major influence on Pierre L’Enfant’s design for Washington, DC.

This photo shows the palace and the Place d’Armes, but doesn’t it look an awful lot like the westward view from the US Capitol?


Versailles. Photo by Lionel Allorge via Wikipedia.

March 17th, 2014 | Permalink
Tags: history, urbandesign



Articulated bus from 1948

Today in transit nerdery, take a look at this Capital Transit articulated bus from 1948.

According to the original description, this is a demonstration run of a bus model Capital Transit never actually used for passengers. The photo shows the Calvert Street turnaround, which is still used today.


Original photo by Robert S. Crockett. Copied by flickr user rockcreek.

November 26th, 2013 | Permalink
Tags: bus, history, transportation



WMATA shows off vintage Metrorail construction pictures

WMATA’s Metro Forward Facebook page has a fun set of Metrorail construction pictures, dating from the mid-1970s. They’re a fascinating look back at a wholly different Washington.


Archives in 1975. Photo from WMATA.

The most interesting may be a 1974 picture of Gallery Place under construction. What’s now the Verizon Center is a dirt patch and a collection of holes.

But my favorite is probably the one of Archives station in June, 1975, pictured above. In the picture, workers have yet to add the tracks, platforms, or mezzanines, so the vaulted ceiling runs uninterrupted for the entire length of the station. It looks so much more voluminous!

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

September 24th, 2013 | Permalink
Tags: history, metrorail, transportation



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