CNU blogs

Should City Planners Worry About Water Supply?

Planetizen blogs - 3 hours 49 min ago
It’s a big question being tackled by land use planners and water providers in Colorado, where the traditional disconnect between water realities and land use decisions precludes a sustainable balance between water supply and urban growth.
Categories: CNU blogs

Survey Will Gather Input on Health Effects of Flooding in Hoboken

New Jersey Future - 5 hours 43 min ago

Pumping out a flooded basement in Hoboken. Photo credit: flickr user Alec Perkins

Rutgers University and New Jersey Future are working to assess the health impacts on Hoboken residents of repeated flooding in the city. As part of the assessment, the Rutgers led-project is asking Hoboken residents to complete a Hoboken Resident Community Health and Resilience Survey. The survey is an effort to gather input about the effects of chronic flooding on health. Respondents will also have the chance to share their opinions on potential solutions to limit future flooding.

As part of post-Sandy recovery, the City of Hoboken is working on strategies to manage stormwater — a major cause of water pollution and flooding — more effectively throughout the city. When the rain falls on roofs, streets and parking lots, the water cannot soak into the ground. This causes flooding throughout the city, as well as pollution of nearby waterbodies.

The City of Hoboken is served by a combined sewer system, which collects rainwater runoff, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipes. Sometimes, heavy rainfall exceeds the system’s capacity, resulting in overflows that carry diluted human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and debris into streets, basements and waterways. The city’s flooding and combined sewer overflows (CSOs) can seriously affect residents’ health.

To manage stormwater runoff better, the city officials are proposing to include “green infrastructure” as part of its updated Stormwater Management Plan. Green infrastructure uses plants, soil and natural systems to manage water, reduce flooding, and create a healthier urban environment.

Using data from the survey, a team of Rutgers researchers will produce a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of the proposed changes to the Hoboken Stormwater Management Plan and make recommendations to the Hoboken Planning Board and City Council concerning the potential positive and negative health impacts of the green infrastructure strategies under consideration. Results of the survey will be presented at a public forum in the fall.

This project is supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The project is being conducted by Rutgers University and New Jersey Future, under the umbrella of the New Jersey Health Impact Collaborative (NJHIC), a network of organizations that are working to promote the consideration of health outcomes as part of planning and decision-making in New Jersey.

The survey will remain open until July 15. Any questions about the survey may be directed to Teri Jover  (tjovernjfutureorg)  emobascript('%74%6A%6F%76%65%72%40%6E%6A%66%75%74%75%72%65%2E%6F%72%67','Teri Jover','emoba-4896','','','0'); of New Jersey Future.

Categories: CNU blogs

We're heading to Alexandria for our next happy hour

Greater Greater Washington - 6 hours 9 min ago
by Dan Reed

It's time for the next Greater Greater happy hour! Next week, we're heading to Alexandria's newest park and its newest bar with our friends at YIPPS, GreaterPlaces.com, and Do Tank DC.
Photo by Ned Russell.

Next Thursday, July 9 from 6 to 8 pm, come see and enjoy the new Braddock Neighborhood Interim Park, located at 600 North Henry Street, to see what the City of Alexandria is doing to activate the Braddock Metro/Parker-Gray neighborhood. Play bocce, ping pong, horseshoes, corn hole, and more in the new half-acre park. Hear from local activists and planners who helped develop the active interim space.

After checking out the park, join us for a few drinks at Mason Social, two blocks away at 728 North Henry St.

The park and the bar are both a few blocks from the Braddock Road Metro station (Blue and Yellow lines). If you're coming by bus, the Metrobus 10A/B/R and DASH AT3 routes stop next to the park at Henry and Pendleton streets. There's a Capital Bikeshare station at Henry and Pendleton as well.

Over the past year, we've held happy hours in Gallery Place, Shaw, U Street, Eastern Market, and Silver Spring. We're always looking for new, Metro-accessible locations for future happy hours (especially in Prince George's County!). Where would you like us to go next?

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Categories: CNU blogs

Forty States and Communities Advance in $1 Billion National Disaster Resilience Competition

HUD blog - 6 hours 58 min ago

On June 22, HUD Secretary Julián Castro invited 40 communities  to compete in the second and final phase of the National Disaster Resilience Competition. These finalists—representing areas that have been declared natural disasters by the President in recent years—will compete for $1 billion in funding for disaster recovery and long-term community resilience.  See here for a full list of finalists.

Over the next few months, finalists will further develop their disaster resilience strategies and propose specific projects. From a total pool of nearly $1 billion, each of these 40 states and communities will be able to request up to $500 million for cutting-edge projects that address unmet needs from past disasters while addressing the vulnerabilities that could put Americans in harm’s way during future disasters. Final submissions are due October 27, 2015, with final selections and awards expected to be announced in January 2016.

I want to recognize the hard work of all of the applicants during the first phase.  This process was designed to be challenging, educational, and collaborative, and proved perhaps to be a little grueling.  This is a competition that is pushing us all – the applicants, HUD and more than a dozen other federal agencies, our philanthropic partners, particularly The Rockefeller Foundation – to take truly different approaches to address the challenges of more frequent and severe weather events and other impacts of a changing climate.  Heat waves, drought, tropical storms, high winds, storm surges and heavy downpours are putting our communities at risk.   The changing climate is creating drastically different conditions across the United States: in the Northeast, rainfall during heavy storms has increased by 70% since the 1950’s, while in the Southwest, major rivers and basins are suffering from a 37% reduction in average streamflows over the last decade.[i]

With this competition, HUD asked communities to do something they haven’t done before:  to use data and science-based approaches to look forward to the risks that they face.  We asked them to articulate the disaster recovery needs that remain in their community, and to engage citizens to help develop a recovery response that also addresses those future risks as well as benefits their lives every day – not only when the next disaster strikes.  We have also asked applicants to think broadly about resilience – to consider economic and environmental resilience alongside infrastructure needs – and to consider how the HUD award could leverage an impact that goes beyond the geography and scope of the activities that HUD will ultimately fund.  And that was just for Phase 1!

Through this competition, states and communities are already beginning to transform the way they think about disaster recovery and resilience. As we saw in our Rebuild by Design competition, investing time in planning and thinking beyond the basics – bringing together community members with technical experts like engineers, architects, ecologists, and landscape architects – can lead to disaster resilience projects that deliver multiple benefits. Why build a floodwall or berm if a waterfront park can provide the same level of flood protection, and create much-needed open space and recreation at the same time?

Resilience isn’t just something that HUD cares about: President Obama’s Climate Action Plan identifies steps to help state and local governments prepare for the impacts of climate change and lead national and international efforts towards reducing emissions and promoting clean energy use.  More resilient states and communities are in the interest of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and virtually every other federal agency which is why we invited our partners to be a part of this competition too.  To review the Phase 1 applications, HUD tapped the expertise of more than a dozen federal agencies, many of whom have reported that not only were they inspired by what they saw in the proposals, but also motivated to support innovative new approaches to resilience in their home agencies as a result.

In another remarkable collaboration, HUD’s partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation has made tools and technical assistance on disaster resilience, climate change, and recovery available to every eligible applicant.  Rockefeller has an institutional commitment to promoting resilience through this and other efforts, and is a big part of the impact that the NDRC is having on the broader field of resilience.  A recent blog post by Rockefeller highlights some of the early successes that they have witnessed in this competition — months before a single dollar has been awarded – including new commitments among states and localities to achieve a more resilient future.

While the $1 billion Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery fund in this competition may provide a “carrot,” existing state and local budgets just for infrastructure dwarf the dollars that HUD is providing.   Everyone wins when participating jurisdictions figure out their own blueprint for resilience and how to forge a path forward.  This competition is helping them to do just that – not just for Phase 1 “winners” but also for those not invited to Phase 2.  Those unsuccessful applicants leave the experience with the benefit of having undergone a citizen-driven, multi-agency process to consider and plan for their future risks. We hope that all of these states and localities continue to build their capacity to consider changing threats and hazards as they make their everyday decisions and spending choices –protecting the safety and security of millions of people and influencing billions of dollars in state and local investment.

In the upcoming months, HUD will nearly two dozen webinars, plus new online resources, to help both applicants and others better understand the challenges and opportunities presented in building a more resilient future.  Please explore our HUD Exchange website for more information on these resources, and updated information on this competition that we hope will be helpful to you.

[i] National Climate Assessment (2014): http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights#section-5681

Categories: CNU blogs

"Convincing" and "enjoyable" "even with the wonkiness"

Greater Greater Washington - 7 hours 49 min ago
by Abigail Zenner

We're very proud to have been named "best local blog" in Washingtonian magazine. We're most excited, however, because the writers at Washingtonian did an amazing job capturing, in just a few sentences, what it is that motivates us to bring Greater Greater Washington to you every day:
Image from Washingtonian.Head to this site ... on any given day and you might learn about a debate over bike lanes in College Park, the lack of playgrounds in downtown DC, or the history of streetcars in Northern Virginia. Ten minutes in, you'll have what you need to carry on an intelligent cocktail-party chat about development and planning around Washington.

What really distinguishes [founder David] Alpert's operation is that it doesn't just regurgitate or aggregate other coverage; it takes a deep dive into urban-planning policy, makes convincing arguments about the best ways for our area to progress, and—even with the wonkiness—makes for an enjoyable read.Thanks so much, Washingtonian! Thanks also to you, our many readers and commenters. You built the community that is at the heart of Greater Greater Washington, and you keep us striving every day.

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Categories: CNU blogs

The Case Against Jaywalking Laws, Part 2

Planetizen blogs - 8 hours 49 min ago
Laws designed to keep pedestrians off streets are not merely useless, but create a variety of social harms.
Categories: CNU blogs

Crowdsource safety problems on DC streets with this interactive Vision Zero map

Greater Greater Washington - 9 hours 9 min ago
by Dan Malouff

Do you know of a safety problem on a DC street? If so, tell DDOT about it using the interactive Vision Zero map. It allows residents to click a location and type in notes to describe problems.


Image from DDOT.

This new map is part of DC's Vision Zero Initiative, which aims to eliminate all fatalities and serious injuries in the transportation system.

The map lets you add notations for a wide variety of safety problems. There are separate categories for driver, pedestrian, and cyclist problems, with several options available for each. You can also scroll around DC to see what your neighbors have submitted.

It's a neat tool. I've already submitted a handful of problems.

8 comments

Categories: CNU blogs

The Baltimore Red Line does need a tunnel, despite its cost

Greater Greater Washington - 10 hours 39 min ago
by Matt Johnson

Last week, Maryland governor Larry Hogan announced the state will not move forward with the Baltimore Red Line. He argued building it would be too expensive, particularly the tunnel that would have run through downtown. Was the tunnel necessary?


A part of what Baltimore's transit map could look like with the Red Line. Image by Peter Dovak.

The proposed Red Line would have been a light rail line from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services west of Baltimore through West Baltimore, the Inner Harbor, the growing Fell's Point and Canton areas, to Johns Hopkins' Bayview campus.

It would have connected MARC commuter rail stations on both sides of the city, the existing light rail, and the city's Metro line. There would have been two segments in tunnels: a short one under Cooks Lane near the county line and a longer, four-mile one under downtown.

Following the cancellation, a common question is whether the line still happen without the tunnels. Building a tunnel preserves a lot of roadway for cars, but what if Maryland didn't worry about impacts to drivers and dedicated road lanes for the Red Line's exclusive use?

Unfortunately, running the Red Line on the surface, even if nobody minded inconveniencing drivers, wouldn't work as well as one might imagine.


Portion of the Red Line route map. The dashed line denotes the tunnel.

Where the blocks are small, dedicated lanes have limits

Pratt and Lombard Streets in downtown Baltimore are each four-lane, one-way streets. The Purple Line will take two of University Boulevard's six lanes in Langley Park. What's the difference?

The difference is intersection spacing. Without a tunnel, a light rail line still will have to stop at many intersections for cross traffic.

In Downtown Baltimore, intersections are extremely closely spaced, and virtually all of them are signal controlled as part of the grid of street lights. On University Boulevard in Langley Park, the superblock rules, and many streets that intersect do not cross the median. That allows much more flexibility in the design of the Purple Line, and means the train isn't stopping every 600 feet, even if it is stopping at every light (which, hopefully it won't be).

Additionally, it's much easier to synchronize signals for transit in a suburban environment, where most of the volume is on one street (like University). In a central city, the demand is spread out much more evenly and there's no peak demand direction. Everyone is going every which way.

It's very difficult to pre-empt signals for transit without causing gridlock nearby. This is essentially the reason the current Baltimore Light Rail line doesn't have that feature. And without it, the line is painfully slow in the central city.

In announcing why he was canceling the Red Line, Hogan criticized Baltimore's current light rail system as being among the least popular in the country. In part, that's because it bypassed major jobs an population centers in an effort to make the line cheaper to build. It's also because downtown, the line is slower than molasses on a cold day because it runs in a transit mall and does not have transit signal priority.

Some streets are narrow

Other streets along the Red Line corridor aren't wide enough to dedicate lanes to transit, like Fleet Street in Fell's Point, which is just one lane each way plus parking.

Ben Ross explained why there couldn't be a shorter tunnel segment:The tunnel goes through downtown at a track elevation of approximately 80 feet below sea level in order to bore through competent bedrock and avoid the cost and disruption of cut-and-cover construction and the need to relocate utilities under a street whose width wouldn't leave much room for them (Lombard Street). This requires a substantial length of tunnel to slope down to the final depth.

Then there is a substantial portal zone where the tracks slope down but the top of the train is still above street level. This needs to be located where the blockage of cross traffic by vehicles and pedestrians will not be a major problem. Both of these factors push you to move the tunnel entrance away from downtown.It's important for the line to go through these older neighborhoods with narrow streets because a lot of potential riders live or work there.

It's easier for the Purple Line

Between Bethesda and Silver Spring, the line is essentially grade separated now. There's only one crossing in the stretch (at least in the most recent proposal; we have no idea what the governor has cut), so trains won't have to fight their way through traffic.

In Baltimore, where there's no easy right-of-way to use for the Red Line, the subway was the only way to give trains a quick way through downtown. That wasn't a "fatal flaw," as Governor Hogan put it, it was one of the best features of the line.

The Red Line's Alternative Analysis showed that a surface alignment for the Red Line would require 13 minutes for trains to cross downtown. With the tunnel, trains would be able to cover the distance in just five minutes.

Other transit systems do the same

The most successful light rail systems in the country all have grade-separated sections in their downtowns. They include systems in Charlotte, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis.

The Red Line needs to have a tunnel through downtown, and honestly, so does the north-south light rail line. It could be possible, if a new tunnel for CSX is constructed, to convert the Howard Street Tunnel into a light rail subway (as Saint Louis did). Or perhaps a new subway alignment for the north-south line could be built in a parallel corridor.

It's worth looking at costs on a project like the Red Line, but the teams that considered alternatives and chose this one did in fact study the costs and benefits of a tunnel. They had good reasons to choose what they did.

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Categories: CNU blogs

Breakfast links: New legislation

Greater Greater Washington - 11 hours 59 min ago
by Angela Martinez


Photo by Mr.TinDC on Flickr.A slew of new laws: Starting today, the "rain tax" is gone and toll rates are lower in Maryland, DC's minimum wage is a dollar higher, and new regulations for ride-hailing companies in Maryland and Virginia are in effect, among many other legislative changes. (Post)

Montgomery goes private: The Montgomery County Council voted to convert its Department of Economic Development into a private nonprofit. The organization will receive public funding, but have a more agile approach to development. (Post)

Council calls: The DC Council signed off on land-sale agreements, a developer agreement, and a ground lease for the DC United stadium. (WBJ) ... The Council won't move forward with a study on a city-owned power company, a move Mary Cheh claims is the result of Pepco lobbying. (City Paper)

Place matters: Lack of visibility can hamper the success of public amenities like parks, plazas, and public art. Bethesda's growth plan will work to make new public spaces larger and more accessible than older spots. (Post)

Bike's share of a commute: Sometimes biking all the way to a destination can seem intimidating. WABA shares tips on how to incorporate biking into a multimodal commute that includes Metrorail, buses, or Capital Bikeshare.

What shall we call you, Uber: Earlier this year, the Associated Press said journalists should call services offered by companies like Uber and Lyft ride-hailing rather than ride-sharing. But is "ride-sourcing" a more appropriate term? (Washingtonian)

Test drive your digs: Realtor.com will now display AirBnB rentals from neighborhoods where buyers are searching for homes, marketing the ads as an opportunity for people to test drive their potential new neighborhoods. (Urban Turf)

And...: According to a Harvard study, 46% of DC area renters are burdened by housing costs. (UrbanTurf) ... Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal says the county can't start looking for additional money for the Purple Line until it has more details about the cuts. (WAMU) ... Monday was a hard day for Metro's Red Line. One reporter documented her harrowing commute. (Post)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.

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Hang out by the pool overlooking Cheesman Park while you grill + enjoy the view - youre going to love this Denver condo for sale

Denver Real Estate - Tue, 2015-06-30 18:01
Fantastic remodeled condo on Cheesman Park. You wont have to do anything except move in Close proximity to EVERYTHING - Denver Botanic Gardens, Daz Bog, Whole Foods and King Soopers, too many restaurants to mention. Hard to find a better walk score in such a beautiful setting. Hang out by the pool and lounging deck overlooking Cheesman Park while you grill and enjoy the view. The building has a work out room, meeting room, huge laundry room, and more. Listed by Traci Tooman for Live Urban Real Estate. Please contact Traci for current pricing and availability. 1200 Humboldt Street 101, Denver CO 80218. $285,000. nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;
Categories: CNU blogs

How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 57

Greater Greater Washington - Tue, 2015-06-30 14:20
by Matt Johnson

It's time for the fifty-sixth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of five stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

The answers will appear on Thursday. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

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Categories: CNU blogs

The Met Branch Trail could get brighter, safer, and easier to get to

Greater Greater Washington - Tue, 2015-06-30 12:50
by Jonathan Neeley

More people would use the Metropolitan Branch Trail if... more people used the Metropolitan Branch Trail. That's the "aha" coming out of a study that started this spring, and it's a thought that's likely to guide efforts to make the trail more inviting and practical to use.


The Metropolitan Branch Trail, just south of Rhode Island Avenue. Photo by Malcolm K. on Flickr.

The MBT is already quite popular, and with good reason: it provides a straight-shot connection between Union Station and Brookland, with a number of entry points along the way that include an entrance to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro stop and a connector to the R Street bike lane.

But some people worry that the trail is unsafe, and others say they'd like it to be more aesthetically pleasing.

In an effort to better understand exact concerns, the NoMa Business Improvement District, along with Edens, the JBG Companies, and Level 2 Development, has partnered with the District Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Police Department to run the MBT Safety and Access Study.

A key part of the study is an ongoing online survey that asks participants why they use (or don't use) the MBT, which segments of the trail make them feel insecure and why, what nearby destinations they wish the trail would connect to, and what types of improvements they would like to see along the trail.


The crowd at a community meeting to discuss possibilities for the MBT. All images from NoMa BID unless otherwise noted.

People feel safer on the trail when they're not alone

While they're still not finished collecting responses, the groups behind the survey held a public meeting in mid-June to share what they had found so far, along with preliminary possibilities for changes along the trail.

Most people travel the trail by bike, and the most common reason to use it is for getting places "other than home or work." After that comes exercise, then commuting to work, then leisure.

Around half of the trail users surveyed indicated that they feel most comfortable on the trail during morning or afternoon rush hour, or when they are with two or more people at mid-day.

Not surprisingly, using the trail alone at night is when a majority of users feel least comfortable on the MBT. A large majority of the total respondents suggested that simply having more activities and increasing the number of people on the trail would significantly improve their sense of security. Better lighting and increased visibility on the trail were the next most favored improvements, while things like security cameras and emergency call boxes were identified as seemingly less effective measures.

To make the trail better, make it more connected

At the June meeting, the groups running the study outlined three key steps for addressing people's concerns: making the trail itself better, connecting it to more parts of the city, and adding neighborhood activity close by.


The Metropolitan Branch Trail framework presented at the public meeting.

Making the trail better could mean adding things like new lights, call boxes, and mile markers. A number of trail users have also suggested realigning it at R and S Streets so that it doesn't turn so sharply.


A portion of the framework showing opportunities for new lighting, mile markers, and green space.

Connecting it could mean adding entrance points at streets that people on bike and foot already frequent. Personally, I'm hoping these efforts will also make the trail more obvious to drivers at existing access points. At some of them, like where service vehicles sometimes cross the trail at W Street, there are no stop signs and vines make it hard for drivers to see people walking and biking on the trail.


A portion of the framework showing connections between the trail and nearby streets.

Adding neighborhood activity could mean a nearby bike station in Brookland or a garden in Edgewood.

NoMa BID and the rest of the organizations running the survey hope to release a report later this summer that includes final recommendations. If you haven't filled out the survey yet, you can do so here.

20 comments

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Legal challenge spotlights shaky traffic forecasting key to highway projects

1,000 Friends of Wisconsin - Tue, 2015-06-30 11:40

By Rob Schultz - Wisconsin State Journal. As legislators debate how to trim the massive transportation portion of the next state budget, a federal judge has delayed a $166 million highway expansion project in eastern Wisconsin amid questions about the traffic forecasting methods that helped justify it.

The post Legal challenge spotlights shaky traffic forecasting key to highway projects appeared first on 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.

Categories: CNU blogs

Forest Glen residents and a state delegate want a MARC station in Forest Glen

Greater Greater Washington - Tue, 2015-06-30 11:20
by Partap Verma

Residents of Forest Glen (just north of Silver Spring) are teaming up with Maryland state delegate Al Carr to petition for a new MARC train station in their developing neighborhood.


Base image from Google Maps.

Carr, whose District 18 includes the area, thinks the neighborhood needs this kind of transportation investment in order to grow. "I have long believed that commuter rail has great potential to improve mobility in our region," said Carr. "Between the existing neighborhoods and the recent development that has taken place nearby, restoring the Linden MARC stop makes a lot of sense."

Supporters of the plan hope to convince the Montgomery County Planning Board to add the Linden station to the Lyttonsville Sector Plan. Lyttonsville abuts Forest Glen and borders Rock Creek Park just outside of downtown Silver Spring. The petition emphasizes that a station in Lyttonsville on MARC's Brunswick Line, would serve workers at the Walter Reed research institute and the Naval Medical Research Center as well as residents of the Linden, National Park Seminary and Forest Glen Park neighborhoods.

A MARC station at Lyttonsville would make Forest Glen the only neighborhood in the entire region that had immediate access to a Metro station, I-495, and a MARC train stop. With Governor Hogan's latest announcement on the Purple Line, Forest Glen could become a hub of new development focusing on its proximity to various transportation options.

What makes the timing of this petition interesting is that it comes at a time when the MTA (Maryland Transit Administration) is seeking to add another Montgomery County Station on the Brunswick Line sometime between 2020-2029.


Image from the Maryland Transportation Authority.

The MARC's Growth and Investment Plan projects new growth in suburban Maryland, and it wants to plan for new transportation options accordingly. A stop between Kensington and Silver Spring on the Brunswick Line could serve any additional development prompted by the Purple Line and existing neighborhoods that have expanded in recent times—like the National Park Seminary.

History

Long before there was a Metro station at Forest Glen and before any talk of a Purple Line stop in the neighborhood, Forest Glen had a train station at Lyttonsville.

Built in 1887, the Forest Glen Train Station was primarily built to service the National Seminary Park campus. All that's left are foundations of the platforms and remnants of the station's walls. By the 1950's, the B&O Railroad demolished the station due to a lack of use and the Capital Beltway (I-495) was eventually constructed over the site.


Image from Save our Seminary at Forest Glen.


Image from Save our Seminary at Forest Glen.

With the Forest Glen Metro Station's parking lot ripe for development and further plans to consolidate master plans with nearby Montgomery Hills, adding a MARC station in Forest Glen could spawn even more development and redefine this otherwise not well-known neighborhood.

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Morning links: Money, money, money

Greater Greater Washington - Tue, 2015-06-30 10:00
by David Koch


Photo by DoctorJ.Bass on Flickr.Pay to play ball: Nationals Park and the proposed DC United Stadium were billion dollar investments of taxpayer money. But it's still not clear if they are worth it, or if it would be better to lure the football team to the District. (City Paper)

Surface parking now below: Montgomery County's surface parking lots are becoming a thing of the past as the county urbanizes. In places like Bethesda, development is replacing them with larger underground parking garages. (WAMU)

Cramped corners: A redevelopment plan for Seven Corners has too much density, according to a group of area residents. Leaders of local homeowners associations say the number of homes in the plan should shrink by 20%. (Post)

No profit in running Metro: Some riders have called for Metro to be privatized in the wake of last week's NTSB hearings. But a private company would have a hard time making a profit, and lots of service would be cut. (Post)

RIP Ron Linton: Former DC Taxicab Commissioner Ron Linton has died. Linton pushed through several reforms, such as requiring taxis to install credit card readers, and had a long career as a public servant in the area. (Washingtonian)

Hi-Yo, Silver Spring: Metrobus and Ride On drivers are taking part in a bus "roadeo" at the Silver Spring Transit Center to practice entering and exiting the facility. Montgomery Count expects to finish its inspections of the transit center by mid-July. (Post)

Spare a dime?: The Potomac and Rapphannock Transportation Commission is facing a $9 million shortfall. Prince William County is considering everything from adding county funds to cutting service, but riders are happy with existing service. (Potomac Local)

And...: Adams Morgan Day is canceled because of troubles with the sponsor and no money to fund it. (WAMU) ... New York's Central Park is now car-free north of 72nd Street. (Streetsblog) ... Check out where America's worst roads are. (Post)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.

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Metro floats cutting service for the Green, Yellow, Orange, and Silver Lines

Greater Greater Washington - Tue, 2015-06-30 09:01
by Matt Johnson

Since the debut of "Rush Plus" in 2012, Metro's Blue Line riders have faced longer waits for trains. Now WMATA wants to fix that, but to do it, would cut service to all the other lines (except the Red Line).


View peak service levels: Today   Proposed change


Current service. Graphics by the author.
Proposed service.

Staff from the agency are proposing the service reduction to the Riders Advisory Council this week. WAMU's Martin di Caro broke the news of the proposal this morning.

Under the plan, the time between trains would increase from six to eight minutes on the Orange, Silver, Green, and Yellow Lines. On the Blue Line, trains would come more frequently, up from every 12 minutes to every eight. The plan would also eliminate Rush Plus Yellow Line service between Franconia and Greenbelt.

Metro spokesperson Sherry Ly told di Caro the proposed changes are an effort to rebalance trains to better meet demand. The issue is that the service cuts to the Blue Line, which Metro did to make room for the Silver Line, drastically lowered capacity on the line, and crowding has been very bad.

But the Blue/Orange/Silver subway between Rosslyn and Stadium/Armory is at capacity. The only way to add more Blue Line trains is to cut service on the Orange or Silver Lines.

WMATA is proposing to do just that. But their proposed cuts are actually deeper than necessary. Each physical track segment can carry 26 trains per hour (TPH). Currently, the east-west subway is divided at rush hour between 11 Orange TPH, 10 Silver, and 5 Blue. Metro's proposal to change all of those lines to 8 minute headways (7.5 TPH each) only adds up to 22.5 TPH.

The cuts to the Green and Yellow Lines make little sense at all. The shared section of the Blue and Yellow Lines in Virginia currently carries 20 TPH, so an increase in Blue Line service is possible without reducing service on Yellow. And, of course, with no change required to the Yellow Line, there's no need to reduce service on the Green Line.

One of the steepest cuts is the elimination of Rush Plus Yellow Line trains. Right now, the section of the Green/Yellow Line between Mount Vernon Square and Greenbelt hosts 15 TPH (roughly every 4 minutes). Under the proposal, that would decline to 7.5 TPH (every 8 minutes). In the growing Mid-City area, especially south of Columbia Heights, that could create crowding. Between Mount Vernon Square and L'Enfant Plaza, service levels would fall from 26 TPH to 15 TPH.

So, the service cuts are not entirely necessary to support increased Blue Line service. But Metro's proposal will also shift railcars around. Some will go toward lengthening trains on the Blue, Silver, and Green lines until 75% of the trains are eight cars.

Overall, the change would reduce the number of cars Metro needs to run rush hour service by approximately 100. Metro's fleet is stretched thin at the moment. The opening of the Silver Line last July increased the number of cars needed by 64. But because of delays in the production of the 7000 series, Metro had to reduce the time cars could spend getting preventative maintenance in order to operate the line.

That was never meant to be permanent, and it's taken a toll. Cars are breaking down more frequently, and Metro recently had to drastically cut the number of eight-car trains.

If WMATA officials move forward, they would then reach out to the public, survey riders, and hold legally required public hearings. The proposal could go to the agency's board by the fall.

164 comments

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How Can We Move More People Between SF and the East Bay?

By Dylan Pilaar, Erin McAuliff and Ratna AminJune 29, 2015

Image credit Sergio Ruiz


The bay crossing between San Francisco and the East Bay is our region’s most heavily used travel corridor. Each day, nearly 600,000 commuters make the leap across the bay — 10 percent of all the commute trips in the region. The majority of those trips are going to downtown San Francisco: In 2010 it was estimated that on an average workday, 1.5 million trips originated or ended in the core of San Francisco. Of those, nearly 30 percent were made using public transportation.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic is a twice-daily occurrence to get onto the Bay Bridge, infuriating drivers and transbay bus riders alike. BART ridership is booming, with daily ridership now over 420,000 trips per day; downtown San Francisco platforms are heavily crowded and service is increasingly unreliable. Ferries are thus far free from congestion, but their reach remains limited.

Unfortunately, despite the growth in demand, no new transportation capacity has been added across the bay since BART’s transbay tube opened in 1972. The new Bay Bridge is seismically sound but does not carry any more cars than the old bridge [1]. The sour reality of today’s transbay commute has captivated our local media, which recently gathered stories of transbay “commute hell” and nicknames for types of BART transbay commuters.

Looking ahead, the Bay Area population is expected to grow further, especially in the transit-accessible core of the region: East Bay to San Francisco trips are expected to grow by 70% between 2015 and 2035 [2]. Consensus is brewing that a new transbay rail line is needed to solve the problem. A big-picture vision for a second transbay BART tube (which SPUR called for in a 2009 Report), has gained traction in recent months. A second transbay rail tube — be it for BART, standard rail like Caltrain or Amtrak, high-speed rail or a combination of the three — is essential to solving the Bay Area’s transit capacity crunch. However, a project of that magnitude could take years — or even decades — to complete and won’t relieve the commute quandary in the immediate future.

What can we do to break the peak-hour transbay logjam in the meantime? Are there changes we can make today that are quick and not costly but will move more people? The new San Francisco Bay Area Core Capacity Transit Study, which kicks off this year, will identify short-, medium- and long-term improvements in the transbay travel corridor. The study – which involves the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Francisco County Transportation Agency, BART, AC Transit, the Water Emergency Transportation Agency and Caltrain — will paint a clear picture of commuter travel patterns and determine how best to address the needs of Bay Area commuters.

While the study progresses, here are some actions SPUR recommends in the meantime:

Maximize capacity and efficiency within the current BART system. BART system demands are concentrated heavily in six major stations: 19th Street and 12th Street in Oakland, and Civic Center, Powell, Montgomery and Embarcadero in San Francisco. Capacity constraints on platforms at these stations, particularly Embarcadero and Montgomery, cause major delays, as passengers struggle to get on and off full train cars onto crowded platforms, and vice versa.  Trains cannot bypass stalled cars, so delays caused by boarding at either end of the tunnel ripple throughout the system, affecting everyone. BART can increase service and reliability with the following investments:

  • Add additional railcars, allowing l0-car trains whenever needed. BART's stated goal is to ultimately obtain enough funding to increase the fleet to 1,081 train cars.
  • Introduce railcars with extra doors to reduce loading and offloading time. BART’s new train cars, the first of which will begin service in Fall 2016, will have three sets of doors, as opposed to two. So far, 775 of these “Fleet of the Future” cars have been ordered.
  • The current train control system is over 40 years old. Installing a new train control system would allow for more closely spaced trains, meaning more frequency on transbay BART lines.
  • Adopt the BART Metro concept, which increases the amount of service within the core of the BART system, by creating new train storage and turnbacks facilities in San Francisco and the East Bay.

Add bus lanes on the Bay Bridge and on highway approaches. Much closer on the horizon than a second tube is San Francisco’s new Transbay Transit Center, which will open in 2017. The new transit center will accommodate 20,000 bus passengers per hour during peak commute times — a capacity similar to that of the Montgomery BART station.

To take full advantage of newly available bus capacity at the Transbay Transit Center and make bus service as efficient as rail, a peak-hour bus lane could be designated on the Bay Bridge. Currently, buses traveling from the East Bay are often forced to sit in heavy traffic during peak hours. A morning westbound bus lane — which could go the opposite direction of traffic on the eastbound deck of the Bay Bridge — could accommodate 10,000 commuters and dramatically improve bus speed and reliability.

SPUR explored this idea in a 2011 video:



A lot of the worst bus (and carpool) delay happens in the approaches on and off the Bay Bridge, not on the bridge itself. Bus-only facilities could also go beyond the bridge itself, including off- and on-ramps in San Francisco, on I-880, and especially in the “Maze” and other East Bay highway approaches. Bus-only lanes would allow buses to bypass the toll plaza back up [3]. The Transbay Transit Center could have a bus-only ramp off I-80. Another westbound highway flow improvement could be switching to all electronic tolling, as is done on Golden Gate Bridge.

The San Francisco County Transportation Agency’s Freeway Corridor Management Study proposes a host of improvements to keep traffic flowing on Highway 101 and I-280 in San Francisco. Options being studied include new high-occupancy vehicle lanes, toll lanes and real-time traffic management technology.

Use price changes or incentives to shift riders to other transportation modes or other times. Today’s commuters usually take the same transportation mode every day, rather than switching between carpools, buses, BART and ferries. This is either because of habit, convenience or because their transit pass works on just one of the systems. This creates crowding on few modes, as well as other inefficiencies; for example, it might be more expensive for the system to provide a seat on BART during peak commute hours than a seat on the bus.

What if it cost a buck more to exit BART at Embarcadero Station — but a buck less to take a bus to the Transbay Transit Center? This kind of incentive could move a number of commuters out of the crowded transbay tube and onto alternate services during peak hours. Pricing changes could also encourage riders to commute during off-peak periods. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority and BART are about to do just that, starting a pilot modeled after a Singapore pilot that shifted 7.5 percent of participants to travel outside of peak hours.  Closely coordinated BART and transbay bus services could make this system work even better.

Expand casual carpool. Most of the cars crossing the Bay Bridge during peak hours have only one occupant. Casual carpool and ride-sharing services create new capacity without new investment. Today’s casual carpool pick-up sites in the East Bay simply require a small amount of curb space and some signage in order to function. Improved eastbound pick-up locations and schemes could help fill more empty car seats in the afternoons.

Create a transbay or regional transit pass.A new Transbay Transit Pass or Bay Area Transit Pass would make it easy for people to switch between the bus, the ferry and BART. All these modes currently accept the Clipper card, but the fares are different. Making it cost-neutral to switch between transit modes using the Clipper card would allow people to  choose a different one each day based on information about congestion or disruption in one system. Integrating fares could be done simultaneous to Clipper 2.0, an upgrade process now underway. SPUR laid out details about this in a 2012 report and in our recent Seamless Transit  report.

Grow transbay bus service, especially when the Transbay Transit Center opens. The new Transbay Transit Center will allow for a significant increase in transbay bus service. Currently, AC Transit buses currently make more than 500 trips each weekday into and out of downtown San Francisco, a number which could easily be increased once new docking capacity is introduced. More bus service outside of peak hours could help people leave their cars at home.

Increase ferry frequencies. Ferry service from San Francisco to Alameda and Oakland can be ramped up in the short term to meet demand while we plan for a new transbay rail tube. New ferry services to Berkeley, Richmond, Antioch and Hercules are currently being considered for implementation in the coming years.

Build the Bay Bridge Bike and Pedestrian Path.  The new eastern span of the Bay Bridge includes a bike and pedestrian path, now two-thirds complete. But even when it’s finished, it will end at Yerba Buena Island. A multiuse path on the western span would link both sides of the bay for cyclists and pedestrians. In November of 2014, the Bay Area Toll Authority's oversight committee set aside $10 million to study the project.

We know that when forced to — as during BART’s 2013 strike — Bay Area commuters find alternate ways to cross the bay. In order to bridge the bay more effectively, improvements must be made across all potentially viable modes. Long-term planning for a new rail tube should not distract us from the near-term benefits we can achieve. A combination of proper long-term planning and immediate action may not make for commute heaven, but could go a long way to making tomorrow’s transbay commute significantly less hellish.

Endnotes

[1] Each lane of highway on the bridge can accommodate 2,400 vehicles per hour, while BART has capacity to move up to 25,000 people per hour.

[2] The Bay Area is forecast to grow by over 1 million new jobs and 2 million additional residents by 2040.  To accommodate these new residents and jobs, Plan Bay Area seeks to concentrate new development around major transit hubs, projecting a 40% increase in jobs located adjacent to a BART stations. East Bay to San Francisco daily person trips are expected to keep growing -- by 70% between 2015 and 2035.

[3] The San Francisco Bay Crossings Study Update in June 2013 analyzed and identified the top ranked highway approach alternatives. The alternatives with the highest cost-benefit ratio are HOV improvements to the Powell Street/I-80 Ramps intersection, a bus ramp that provides direct bus access from MacArthur Boulevard to Westbound I-80, and HOV lane additions from Cesar Chavez Street to US 101 and vice versa.

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New Jersey Moves to Final Round in National Disaster Resiliency Competition

New Jersey Future - Mon, 2015-06-29 16:48

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced New Jersey as one of 40 finalists of Phase I of the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) and invited the state to move forward to the second and final phase of the competition.

In its initial application, submitted in March, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection focused on creating replicable pilot projects that address the flooding risks in estuarine communities. The layered flood risk reduction measures proposed ranged from home elevation to preservation and restoration of wetlands to buyouts of homes in flood-prone areas. In Phase 2 of the competition, the state will propose specific pilot projects and articulate their design and means of implementation. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the Phase 2 draft application, which needs to be submitted by Oct. 27, 2015.

“Given New Jersey’s position of vulnerability, with 60 percent of its residents living on or near the coast, we are pleased HUD recognizes our urgent need to mitigate flood risks,” said New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach. “DEP’s National Disaster Resilience Competition application offers tremendous opportunity to obtain additional federal funds to make New Jersey more resilient to future storms and flooding events.”

Among the outcomes for which New Jersey Future is advocating are resilient solutions that can withstand the impacts of future storms, based on projected sea-level rise and associated flooding. New Jersey Future is also urging the NJDEP to ensure that its application have a strong equity component. Because vulnerable residents, including seniors, minorities, those with lower incomes, and the disabled, often have fewer resources to recover from and adapt to a changing climate, it is imperative that any proposed project addresses their special needs.

“Creating stronger social systems is a key component of any successful resiliency project,” said New Jersey Future Policy Manager Megan Callus. “We would like to see an emphasis on engaging the community in the development and implementation of the project.

“Identifying who is benefiting and ensuring the project doesn’t reinforce the systems that created the initial risks and inequalities should be a primary goal of any project moving forward,” she concluded.

The NDRC began on Sept. 17, 2014, when HUD announced the competition for $1 billion in funding. Modeled on the Rebuild By Design effort, the goal of the competition is to help communities recover from natural disasters and improve their ability to prepare and withstand future disasters. The completion is structured in two phases: (1) risk assessment and planning; and (2) design and implementation.

New Jersey has 120 days to submit the Phase 2 application. HUD anticipates announcing the winners in early 2016. The Phase 1 application and information regarding the competition can be found here.

Other applicants invited to the final round of the competition include New York State, New York City, Alaska, Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

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Events roundup: Rivers and bikes

Greater Greater Washington - Mon, 2015-06-29 14:40
by Claire Jaffe

Summer is descending on the region. Wouldn't you like to take a dip? Learn how you can help make our rivers swimmable. Then grab a bike and take a ride through Arlington by day, or down to the mall by night.
Photo by MK Campbell on Flickr.

Reclaiming rivers: What if the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers were clean enough to swim in? The District Department of the Environment has several projects and programs that are working towards this goal. Learn about how to get involved at apublic meeting this Tuesday, June 30, at 2427 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

After the jump: Bike ride in Arlington, BicycleSPACE, and the Purple Line.

Fixing to go: Learn to fix your bike and enjoy a quick ride with Washington Area Bike Association's "Fixing to go" ride through Arlington. The trip begins at 6:30pm at Crystal City Metro and ends around 8:30 pm at the Rosslyn Metro. Make sure to bring your own bike and helmet. Don't miss it!

New bike in town: BicycleSPACE, a community-centered bike shop that offers free rides, classes, and events, officially opened a store in Adams Morgan. Attend a Full Moon Ride with them to the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival on Thursday, July 2, leaving at 6 pm, and later, help them celebrate their opening with a three day extravaganza during business hours on Friday, July 10, through Sunday, July 12 at 2424 18th St NW.

Next up for Purple Line: In light of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's decision on the Purple Line, this month's Action Committee for Transit meeting will celebrate the project's success and look at next steps. The meeting is on Tuesday, July 14. It starts at 7:30 pm at the Silver Spring Civic Center, One Veterans Place.

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers that should go on our events calendar? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

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Residents push for stop signs, not a wider road, at one Petworth intersection

Greater Greater Washington - Mon, 2015-06-29 13:30
by Owen Chaput

In April, two cars collided at Kansas Avenue and Quincy Street NW. Crashes at the intersection aren't uncommon, and residents and ANC commissioners are asking for a four-way stop.


Kansas and Quincy NE. There are stop signs for people driving east and west on Quincy, but there are none on Kansas. Base image from Google Maps.

The two-block section of Kansas that meets Quincy is a wide, tree-lined street. Aside from at Quincy, there's an all-way stop at each street Kansas meets between Georgia Avenue and 13th Street. Quincy, by contrast, is a narrow street that connects the 14th Street corridor to the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metro station.

There are stop signs for drivers traveling east and west along Quincy, but Kansas is only marked by two crosswalks and a couple of battered "Yield to Pedestrian" signs.

Poor visibility and speeds make crossing difficult

Kansas Avenue intersects Quincy at an angle, and people park cars along both streets, and traffic on Kansas moves quickly in both directions. Southbound drivers take advantage of the wide straightaway to drive downhill quickly and pass through a convoluted series of nine intersections. Northbound traffic cruises through the long green light on 13th Avenue and keep going fast as they make a wide right turn onto Quincy.

To cross, drivers must inch their way into the intersection so they can see enough to account for all these factors. It is no surprise local drivers avoid using this intersection.

People looking to walk along Quincy to get to the Metro, however, have no choice but to cross Kansas. Despite pedestrian crossing signs, drivers often don't yield to people waiting to cross, and even when the road looks empty, that can change quickly when drivers turn off 13th and fly up the hill.

The sister intersection, Quincy and 13th, couldn't feel more different. People driving cars obey the all-way stop signs and cross Quincy quickly and easily, and people on foot step out towards the Metro or 14th Street shops feeling safe.

Neighbors want a four-way stop sign

Following the most recent crash, the neighborhood renewed its push for a stop sign. Residents started requesting all-way stop signs more than ten years ago, according to ANC 4C06 Commissioner Vann-Di Galloway.

In an email exchange on April 1, 2015, a neighbor who observed the immediate aftermath of the collision wrote,I just don't believe that this intersection is somehow the only one in 4C06 that manages to elude that designation, but that's what they keep telling us. For years now we've been pushing them to make it a 4-way stop, like EVERY other intersection is, but they keep trying other traffic tools, and frankly none of them do enough. That intersection won't be safe for drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians until it is a 4-way stop.

In a May 21st meeting with city officials, neighbors reiterated their longstanding concerns regarding pedestrian and vehicle right-of-way conflicts. Residents at that meeting also expressed serious doubts that DDOT's proposed solutions, which stop short of an all-way stop, would address the central safety concerns.

All-way stops have not ruined traffic patterns along Kansas Avenue or 13th Street. Why would this intersection be any different? Either the street is busy, so drivers and pedestrians attempting to cross need traffic controls, or the street is not that busy, so stop signs wouldn't cause a problem.

DDOT doesn't want to add a stop sign, but that could be for lack of information

In recent years, DDOT conducted studies where Quincy Street intersects both 13th Street and Kansas Ave NW. The agency helped create a four-way stop at Quincy and 13th, which is just 50 feet away from Quincy and Kansas and used to have similar troubles.

Gregg Steverson, from DDOT's Transportation Operations Administration, stated in a March, 2014 email to local residents that "based on standard volume and roadway classification" neither of the Quincy Street NW intersections met the warrants for all-way stop.

Additionally, Mr. Steverson expressed DDOT's concern that if an all-way stop went in, drivers may miss or ignore the stop sign in their rush toward visible green lights at the intersections at at Kansas, 13th, Spring, and Quebec.

DDOT never followed through on a commitment to examine the effect of the new 13th and Quincy stop signs. In meetings, residents expressed confusion as to why DDOT considers hypothetical non-compliance by some drivers as a criteria that weighs against traffic control devices.

Residents also noted that DDOT's studies of Kansas and Quincy have looked at the intersection between 10 am and 2 pm, a time window that might not accurately represent just how many people cross Kansas on foot. Finally, vehicle and pedestrian traffic volumes may be lower—particularly on Quincy—precisely because this intersection is so difficult to cross.

Residents don't want wider roads

One solution Mr. Steverson proposed was to remove parking spaces from along Kansas Avenue to improve lines of sight. Commissioner Galloway has responded to DDOT that this proposal would further tighten parking in a growing neighborhood and also widen the roads, which could increase the untenable speed of traffic.

Neighbors have pledged to continue their push for an all-way stop as long as necessary. They are hopeful that Brandon Todd's office will help make progress on this neighborhood priority before more people get hurt or property ends up damaged.

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