To see urban wildlife in the snow, find flowing water
Despite cities’ reputation as concrete jungles, most have a healthy collection of wildlife. Birds, rodents, deer, anything that can live on the margins of human activity. But what happens to that wildlife when the city is hit with winter weather?
With temperatures consistently below freezing, and even the mighty Potomac River frozen all the way across at points, wildlife is going to be looking for drinkable water. On Saturday, I dropped by fast-flowing Rock Creek to try and spot some. I wasn’t disappointed.
A Northern Flicker (top), Starlings (bottom left), a Downy Woodpecker (bottom center), and my viewing spot near P Street Beach (bottom right).
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?
Green-painted bike lanes have become common in DC and around the US. They make bike lanes more visible, helping to remind car drivers to watch for cyclists. But at least 3 other colors are used for the same purpose elsewhere around the world. Here are some examples. Do you know of any others?
Classic green. Used in DC, New York, and all over the US.
London’s Copenhagen’s blue. Photo by Steven Vance.
Amsterdam’s dull red, also seen in Vancouver and many other cities. Photo by Scott Lowe.
People watching in Dupont Circle on a cool summer evening
Sitting on the ledge of the Dupont Circle fountain and watching humanity roll by is one of DC’s great pleasures. When the weather is nice and the community is out, there’s no other place I’d rather be.
Yesterday evening my wife and I did exactly that. We saw a girl on a tightropeslackline, a huge toga party bike ride, salsa dancing, chess, a harp player, and more. I snapped this handful of cellphone pictures of the activity.