London is adding protected bike lanes to one of its traffic circles. Could the same design work in DC? Would we want it to?
London city workers recently began rebuilding the Queen's Circus traffic circle to include protected bike lanes. Since central DC has so many traffic circles, it's worth considering whether the Queen's Circus design could work here too.
DC's big traffic circles are notoriously difficult places to bike. They have multiple lanes of intimidating and zig-zagging car traffic, and sidewalks too packed with pedestrians to be good bike paths. Most of the circles lack bike lanes, and those that have them (Columbus Circle and Thomas Circle) are still far from comfortable places to bike.
But the traffic circles are key destinations. People want to use them. Making the circles more bike friendly would be great for DC.
Would we want to do this?
This is sort of a good design. It's better than nothing. But with so many crossings, it's still pretty confusing what's the bike lane and what's for cars. It seems likely there will still be a lot of intimidating cross traffic.
In fact, the actual design doesn't even have the green paint; I added that to make the rendering clearer.
The other big problem with the London example is that pedestrians are mostly absent. Unlike DC's circles that typically have popular parks in the middle, this London circle is just a road. The central grassy section isn't a useful park, and there are no pedestrian crossings into it. That obviously changes how the entire thing functions.
Look to the Dutch
Perhaps a better example might come from this traffic circle in Rotterdam, where in typically Dutch fashion the bike lanes are much more well protected.
Rather than fight with cars, the Dutch put the bike lanes up on the sidewalk. That's more ideal from a cyclist perspective, but it's also much harder to accomplish.
The sidewalks around DC's downtown circles are too narrow in many places to accommodate bike lanes. DDOT could theoretically rebuild the circles to have wider sidewalks and narrower roadways, but that would be controversial to say the least, not to mention a lot more expensive than striping a bike lane on the street.
The Dutch example is better, but the British example is more achievable.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Do education reformers rely on "impersonal" solutions, as a recent New York Times op-ed argues? Not from what I've seen in DC. Teachers care about students, but the effects of their caring are hard to measure. And caring may not be enough.
Photo of teacher and student from Shutterstock.
Today's education reformers ignore the "inherently complicated and messy human relationships" that are at the core of education, says Berkeley professor David Kirp in Sunday's New York Times. Instead, he claims, they turn to ostensibly simpler and neater strategies that rely on competition between schools or the transformative power of technology.
Predictably, Kirp's piece has unleashed a storm of commentary and an avalanche of tweets. Those who place themselves in the ed reform camp have assailed the flaws and oversimplifications in Kirp's argument.
They note that few if any education reformers treat test scores as "the single metric of success," as Kirp asserts. They point out that Kirp overlooks the fact that many charter schools actually do get better results for low-income African-American students.
And they express bafflement at his claim that reformers focus on "markets and competition" to the exclusion of factors like talented teachers, engaged students, and a challenging curriculum. In fact, much of education reform (a term so broad and loaded it should perhaps be retired) is directed towards creating those very things.
I agree that, like many articles that get a lot of attention, Kirp's suffers from exaggeration and a lack of nuance. At the same time, though, he's hit on something, albeit with a blunt instrument.
The importance of caring
Kirp's basic point is that for education to be effective, schools need to foster personal "bonds of caring" between teachers and students. I imagine most if not all teachers and administrators, including those who consider themselves education reformers, would agree.
I've met teachers in DC's charter and traditional public school sectors who have not only formed personal bonds with students, but who probably would have done so even if some misguided "reformer" had explicitly tried to prohibit them. And I've seen those teachers chafe against a system that doesn't always acknowledge the importance of those bonds or reward their formation.
At a high-poverty DC public high school, one teacher told me about a student who had come to him with a request. Holding out the program from a funeral, the boy asked if the teacher could "fix" it. Eventually the teacher came to understand what the problem was: The boy's mother had told him that the deceased was his father. But the program failed to include the boy's name in the list of survivors.
The teacher recruited a more tech-savvy colleague to try to figure out a way to insert the boy's name so it would look like part of the program. In the end, the only way to do that was to retype the whole document, carefully matching its font and formatting. The teachers stayed far past the end of the school day in order to have the new program ready for the student by the next morning.
The teacher who told me this story was making a point: the DC Public Schools teacher evaluation system has no way of taking into account teachers' willingness to extend themselves on behalf of their students. And no doubt stories like this could be found many times over, in DC and elsewhere.
I'm sure students benefit in many ways from knowing their teachers care about them personally. And a teacher who doesn't care about her students as individuals probably isn't going to be very good at her job.
Caring may not be enough
But it's hard to know, and especially to measure, what effect those personal bonds have on students' ability to learn. Even the most caring teacher may not be equipped to teach effectively, possibly because of a lack of training or support.
And, surprisingly, in some instances personal bonds can actually get in the way of teaching. One study found that a computer program that gave students feedback on their writing actually produced more positive feelings, and more improvement, than feedback from a human instructor. Apparently students didn't take the criticism so personally when it came from a machine.
In a broader sense, of course, Kirp is right that personal connections between teachers and students are crucial. But, as with any one element of education, they're not sufficient. We also need to figure out ways to assess whether teachers are actually teaching and students are actually learning.
The tension, as always, is between the bright clean lines of standardization—whether in testing, curriculum, or teaching methods—and the messy individualization that's necessary when you're dealing with real people who vary greatly in their needs and capabilities.
We haven't yet figured out the right balance between the two, but people—including some who identify as education reformers—are definitely working on it.
Photo by rockcreek on Flickr.Is Mt. Pleasant Ferguson?: Former Mayor Sharon Pratt compared the 1991 Mt. Pleasant riots to the current situation in Ferguson, Missouri. In that case, a police offer shot a man who had been drinking in public, and days of unrest followed. (WAMU)
The circle of opposition: Some residents of Westover Place, a development near American University, are opposed to a new "east campus" dorm. Westover Place itself, ironically, was originally opposed by Wesley Heights residents. (City Paper)
No cars on new Portland bridge: A new bridge in Portland, due to open in 2015, will carry no private automobiles. The bridge will carry MAX light rail trains, Portland's streetcars, city buses, and have pedestrian and bike travel lanes. (CityLab)
FHWA delays CSX tunnel decision: The Federal Highway Administration is further delaying a decision on the Virginia Avenue CSX tunnel. At the earliest, a decision will be made September 15th. (Post)
Revitalization starts with Whole Foods: There's a new Whole Foods in downtown Columbia. The new grocery store is a first step into redeveloping Columbia's Town Center, an ongoing project. (Baltimore Sun)
Eden Center tenants sue landlord: Tenants at the famed Eden Center in Falls Church have sued their landlord over conditions at the shopping center. Shop owners complain of leaking walls, sewage backups, trash problems, potholes, and high rents. (Post)
Minimum service standards needed: Yonah Freemark argues that transit agencies nationwide are opening rail lines with service that isn't frequent enough. Many lines offer only two or three trains per hour at off peak times. (Transport Politic)
And...: Some Silver Line riders are giving mixed reviews for their new commutes. (WAMU) ... WMATA will have to pay the Federal Government $4.2 million because it awarded a contract non-competitively. (WBJ) ... Same-sex marriage was going to be legal in Virginia as of this morning, but the Supreme Court delayed the decision. (WTOP)
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
The charts document domestic migration since the turn of the last century, based on census data. For every state, we’ve broken down the population in two ways. You can now see two views for each state: where people who live in a state were born, or where people who were born in a state have moved to. The ribbons are color-coded by region, and foreign-born residents are included at the bottom, in gray, to complete the picture for each state.
On Monday, I posted 5 images of stations in other transit systems in a twist on the weekly whichWMATA challenge. Here are the answers.
We got 55 guesses this week. 27 of you correctly guessed each of the 5 transit systems shown here. 8 of you got all of the systems and all 5 of the stations. Great work, Austin, Roger F, David, Joe M, Mike B, Peter K, Matt D, and Paul Kirk-Davidoff.
The first image is a picture of BART's 12th Street/Oakland City Center station. BART is the regional rail system in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is very much a sister system to WMATA. This station in downtown Oakland is distinctive with its red tile. Another clue is the "platform 3" label on the digital sign. 12th Street has 3 tubes because it's where several lines converge. 49 of you got BART right. 12 of you, appropriately, guessed 12th Street.
Several of you guessed 19th Street - Oakland, which has an almost identical layout. But the tile there is a dark blue color, which differentiates it from 12th Street (with red tile).
The second image shows art above the tracks at Montreal's Berri-UQAM station. Montreal's Metro has distinctive blue carriages with a white stripe, and that helped most of you narrow this one down. 36 correctly guessed Montreal. 19 got Berri-UQAM right.
The third image shows a DART train at Victory station near downtown Dallas. Victory is the station near the basketball arena here and also serves as a transfer point to the TRE commuter train to Fort Worth. The landmark Reunion Tower is visible at center right. 45 knew this was DART. 15 got Victory station right.
The fourth image shows a San Diego Trolley LRV leaving San Diego State University station. San Diego is home to the first modern light rail system in the United States, and the bright red cars are an icon of the city. The station at San Diego State is the only underground station in the system. 36 of you got San Diego. 15 correctly guessed San Diego State University station.
The final image shows the Third Street/Convention Center station in Uptown Charlotte. This stop has beautiful red and green art that doubles as the station's canopy. 31 guessed Charlotte. 17 knew it was Third Street.
Next Monday, we'll have 5 more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing!
Last week former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced that she is stepping down from her post as head of StudentsFirst, the non-profit advocacy group she founded. Is this the swan song for an education reform leader who rose to prominence through her time at DCPS?
Photo by Commonwealth Club on Flickr.
Rhee says she will remain involved in StudentsFirst and is proud of what she's accomplished there, but the group has struggled recently. The organization has pulled out of 5 states where it was active, and even some supporters acknowledge that StudentsFirst has not met the ambitious goals Rhee outlined at its launch.
It's not clear whether Rhee plans to take on another high-profile assignment in the education world, but her recent announcements suggest a move out of the spotlight.
Rhee says she's stepping down from the StudentsFirst job to focus on her family and support the career of her husband, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. She also recently took on the role of interim board chair for a small network of Sacramento charter schools, likely a welcome change from the size and prominence of DCPS. A gig on the board of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. also won't hurt her recuperation from years in the trenches.
Love Rhee or hate her, she had a significant impact on education in DC. Her successor as Chancellor, Kaya Henderson, has continued many of Rhee's key initiatives with a tone that is more community-minded, as GGW anticipated at the time of her appointment.
While much of Rhee's legacy lives on in the District, many of her signature reforms are taking a step back in that large city to the north. Several years ago, former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein was implementing many of the same initiatives as Rhee. (I once attended a conference where Klein recalled fielding requests from Rhee antagonists asking for help in modulating her; Klein responded, "I'm not her Daddy!")
The trajectory has changed, though, with current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio winning election on a platform that opposed Klein/Rhee-style school closures and ratings of schools. And some politicians, including Rhee's own husband, are shying away from even using the phrase "education reform."
At the same time, others are taking up Rhee's mantle. Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown has formed an organization that is fighting teacher tenure laws, among other goals.
If Rhee does step back from the spotlight, who will be the new face of education reform? And what impact will that new leader have on changes throughout the country and here in DC?
Communities and neighborhoods that are more compact and walkable have stronger social networks, better personal and community health, and are easier on the environment. But are “walkable” streets equally walkable for everyone?
Photo by farrelley on Flickr.Cheap housing hard to find: New apartment buildings are springing up all over DC, but it can still be difficult to find a cheap apartment. There are a number of reasons why, including policies that make it complicated to use subsidies for low-income renters. (Post)
DC kids not cheap: It costs over $340,000 to raise a child in DC from birth to age 18. That makes it the eighth-most expensive place to raise kids in the US. (WAMU)
Brookland Metro developer chosen: Metro has chosen a developer for the Brookland-CUA station. The winning proposal included the highest number of residential units out of all the bids. (WBJ)
Loudoun locks development: In fast-growing Loudoun County, one couple ran into a roadblock on their plans to sell their property to a developer. The county says that it needs more commercial rather than residential development. (WBJ)
Delivery for the few: Uber is offering a new curbside delivery service in DC, but only to predominately white neighborhoods. Is this a new form of redlining? (Think Progress, Thad)
Metro ready for FBI: Whether the new FBI facility locates in Springfield, Landover, or Greenbelt, Metro says it's ready to handle the new passenger demand. Locating in Greenbelt would generate the highest number of new riders. (PlanItMetro)
Corcoran independent no more: A DC judge has cleared the way for the Corcoran Gallery to merge with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. A group of Corcoran students, staff, and others had fought to stop the merger. (Post)
Restaurant gardens bear fruit: DC area chefs are saving money by cultivating rooftop gardens. The initial investment cost can be high, but restaurants see the benefits of freshness and access to rare ingredients. (WBJ)
And...: France's BlaBlaCar is making carpooling easy while not annoying taxi companies. (Bloomberg) ... To solve problems in Ferguson, should St. Louis City and St. Louis County consolidate? (CityLab) ... Famous works of art are appearing around the DC area. (Post)
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
Arlington's first significant protected bike lane quietly popped up last week in Pentagon City. It runs on South Hayes Street from 15th Street to Fern Street, next to Virginia Highlands Park.
There are actually two cycletracks. There's a grassy median in the middle of Hayes Street, so in order to serve bicyclists going both directions, each side of the street has its own one-way cycletrack next to the curb.
The cycletrack connects to the new green-painted bike lanes on Hayes Street further north, forming a spine for cycling through Pentagon City.
Technically speaking this is Arlington's second cycletrack. The first one, in Rosslyn, is so short that it hardly counts. Hayes Street is the first significant one.
It's great to see such high quality bike infrastructure appearing in more jurisdictions. Who will be next? Maybe Montgomery County?
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Over the past 11 years, beach volleyball has become an unlikely success in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, drawing young adults for clean, athletic fun. But as the city moves ahead with plans to replace the volleyball courts with a parking garage and rooftop lawn, typically unengaged millennials are fighting back.
Under Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore hasn't poured a lot of public resources into sexy projects, focusing instead on keeping the city afloat and the books balanced. That's why it was surprising when the visionary Inner Harbor 2 Plan emerged.
The plan's headliner is an iconic bike/pedestrian bridge across the harbor. Other smaller complimentary projects, like adding stationary exercise bikes, food kiosks with outdoor seating, kayak ports, bike share, playgrounds, more beach, or a pool barge, would collectively make a big difference.
But there's been pushback to a proposal to build a $40 million, 500-space parking garage, which would replace the volleyball courts where the Baltimore Beach Volleyball league has operated since 2003, as well as a memorial to the Pride of Baltimore, a sunken clipper ship.
The garage, which would have a rooftop lawn, appears to be the very first project out of the gate, causing the Inner Harbor 2 plan to get off to an unpopular start for many. Millennials, often criticized as a demographic for being politically absent, are expressing their unhappiness about losing a popular recreational area for a parking garage.
Volleyball supporters have written at least five letters to the Baltimore Sun over the past month advocating for the beach at Rash Field and noting its ability to draw young people. An unscientific poll from an earlier post I wrote in February received over 850 votes of 900 total for keeping beach volleyball.
Rash Field could use some improvements, but the many smaller projects in the Inner Harbor 2 plan could give the space the punch the city is looking for. Todd Webster, owner of Baltimore Beach Volleyball has been willing to help pitch in, if he could secure a multi-year lease for the league.
A parking garage isn't what will make Rash Field and the Inner Harbor a better place. There are many cheaper ways to make Rash Field better without displacing Baltimore Beach Volleyball or the Pride of Baltimore memorial. Doing so would not only be in keeping with the city's bent for fiscal responsibility, but it could also free up money for projects that are truly a game-changer for the Inner Harbor.
Photo by Matt' Johnson on Flickr.Tysons growing up: Since Silver Line construction began in 2008, over 1.5 million square feet of commercial space has been built within half a mile of the new Metro line. Another 6 million is planned by 2018, a more than 35% increase in 10 years. (Post)
Advocating for grade separation: Without public notice, Montgomery County eliminated a plan to provide a grade separated crossing as part of the Capital Crescent Trail. Cycling advocates objected and now the plan will receive additional engineering evaluation and public input before moving forward. (WAMU)
A case for rails-with-trails: Railroads are hesitant to approve walking and biking routes next to rail because of liability concerns. But such trails reduce trespassing, improve transit access, and are simple to build. (Streetsblog)
Bus status anxiety: How much is rail transit fueled by status anxiety about riding the bus? There's evidence that people associate buses with the poverty and crime of the ghetto. But millennials don't seem to care about status, as long as a route is reliable. (NextCity)
Streamlining trade: Prince George's applied to make the entire county a Foreign Trade Zone, a designation that would defer or eliminate duties and other customs procedures on products manufactured or assembled in the county. (WBJ)
Distracted driving: A new app projects images from your phone onto your windshield to prevent distracted driving. But does the app really limit distraction, or just make it easier to be distracted? (Streetsblog)
1980s gentrification: "Has your neighborhood become 'upscale'?" A quiz that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1985 shows that the public perception of gentrification has changed very little in the past three decades. (CityLab)
And...: A local cyclist injured in a hit-and-run accident writes an open-letter to the driver. (WTOP) ... Buskers can solicit tips near Metro, for now. (DCist) ... The Custis Trail bikeometer has counted 200,000 trips since April 1. (ArlNow)
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
This week, whichWMATA is on vacation, which means it's time for a real challenge. Can you guess the transit systems these photos are from? Earn a bonus point by also correctly guessing the station where the photo was taken.
We'll hide the comments so that the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.
The answers will appear on Wednesday. Good luck!
Though it remains unfinished, the Silver Spring Transit Center has been in planning since 1997. But 20 years before that, architecture students created this proposal for a giant box stretching across downtown Silver Spring.
Silver Spring is one of the region's largest transportation hubs, bringing together Metro, commuter rail, local buses, intercity buses, and eventually the Purple Line and the Capital Crescent Trail. Fitting all of those pieces presents a pretty interesting design challenge, and naturally attracts architecture students. When I was in architecture school at the University of Maryland, I saw more than a few thesis projects reimagining the transit center.
Recently, Action Committee for Transit's Neil Greene found this proposal for the Silver Spring Transit Center produced by a group of architecture students at Catholic University in the 1970s, right before the Metro station opened in 1978. Like the most recent plans for the transit center, which have since fallen through, they surrounded the transit center with buildings containing apartments, offices, a hotel, and shops. Except in this proposal, they'd all be in one giant superstructure surrounding the station platform.
In their design, Metro trains would pull into a giant, skylit atrium, surrounded by shops and restaurants, with apartments, offices, and hotel rooms above. That was a really popular idea at the time, pioneered by architect John Portman, though I don't know of any atria that included a train station.
Directly below the platform was the B&O Railroad, the precursor to today's MARC commuter rail. Below that were buses, taxis, and a kiss-and-ride, as well as an underground parking garage for commuters.
The entire structure would have stretched over multiple blocks from Colesville Road and East-West Highway, where the NOAA buildings are today, up to Wayne Avenue, where the current transit center is. Existing streets would go through the transit center in underpasses, while skybridges would allow visitors to travel through the rest of downtown Silver Spring without touching the street.
Of course, this was just a student proposal, and was never carried out. But Montgomery County did propose skybridges in downtown Silver Spring as early as 1969 and, by the 1970s, had drawn out an entire network of them, most of which were never built.
This was in keeping with the prevailing wisdom of the time, that cars and pedestrians should be kept separate. But as we've seen in places where this actually happened, like Rosslyn or Crystal City, this doesn't work very well, and those communities are getting rid of their skybridges.
Of course, had we actually pursued a design like this, the Silver Spring Transit Center might have actually opened by now. Repair work on the current facility is currently underway and Montgomery County officials say that it could open next year, just seven years after groundbreaking.
Photo by BuzzFarmers on Flickr.Cities for everyone: Joel Kotkin writes that planners cater to the rich and "luxury cities" are not where most Americans can or even want to live. Instead, they find what they need in Sunbelt boomtowns. Should other cities adopt the Sunbelt model? (Post)
For affordable housing, change zoning: Will changing zoning laws to allow denser development bring more expensive condos? Maybe, but it will also allow other types of housing, as argued over decades by advocates for social justice. (Post, Dizzy)
Cities made for walking: People know that living near a highway is unhealthy, but what about cul-de-sacs? Disconnected streets correlate with less walking and could lead to more obesity and diabetes for the poor as they leave cities. (The Atlantic, charlie)
Bike around construction: DDOT has proposed that a protected path must be provided if construction blocks a bike lane. This can be done by closing a parking lane or general-use travel lane or, as a last resort, rerouting cyclists to another street. (WBJ)
Tunnel delays: Some neighbors oppose an expanded Virginia Ave. train tunnel, but delaying the decision is also delaying development. New routes around the bottleneck would be very costly and controversial. (Post)
Takoma Park saves energy: Takoma Park is a semi-finalist in a nation-wide competition to reduce energy waste. The competition, sponsored by Georgetown University, seeks to promote new thinking and $1 billion in energy savings. (Gazette)
Save South Capitol for pedestrians: With plans underway to design a new bridge across the Anacostia, the current one could be retained and repurposed for walking and bicycling, encouraging active transportation east of the river. (RPUS)
Transit and food deserts: One cure for food deserts is more and better-stocked grocery stores; another is frequent transit. It will not only keep food from spoiling, but can also connect the poor to other opportunities. (Human Transit)
If you build it . . . ?: Santa Clara county in California has seen over $13 billion of new investment within 1/2 mile of its light rail system, but ridership remains abysmal. The problem is lack of walkability and buildings that continue to favor driving. (NextCity)
And...: Greater Washington business leaders are supporting funding for eight-car trains. (8CarCoalition) ... There is still no opening date for the Silver Spring Transit Center. (Post) ... You can expect some changes to bus service, including on the 30s lines. (Post)
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.