Running a blog is a labor of love, and Greater Greater Washington's mostly volunteer team sure loves to labor. But our wonderful volunteers can't do everything, so to keep the blog growing we're looking to hire a paid Development Associate to help raise funds.
Money gift box image from Shutterstock.
You may recall that in February we held our first-ever reader drive to great success. As we've grown this year, we've learned that we have many fantastic writers, editors, and volunteers, but that we could really benefit from someone with specific fundraising skills.
As we begin fundraising through a fiscal sponsor, we are looking for someone to work closely with our team to build relationships with new funders.
Duties include, but are not limited to:
- Requesting and setting meetings with program officers or potential donors on behalf of GGW
- Assisting with grant writing
- Managing a grants calendar, and tracking proposals and report deadlines
- Managing acknowledgements for major gifts.
Experience working in a startup environment and a working knowledge of Washington area philanthropy are definitely a plus. Hours are flexible, but require some daytime availability. If you or someone you know are interested or would be a great fit, please do check out the full details in our listing on Idealist.
In the year since a speeding car struck a friend on Arkansas Avenue NW, more drivers keep getting into crashes. New crosswalks and a traffic camera haven't helped much, so now DDOT says it will re-stripe the street to eliminate its dangerous rush hour driving lane.
Photo by an Arkansas Avenue neighbor.
Last Tuesday night, yet another crash left a car totaled on Arkansas Avenue. Neighbors report that an SUV crashed into a parked car, pushing it onto the sidewalk and into a tree.
Tuesday's crash was at least the third like it in a month. Residents count at least six in the past year where drivers have crashed into parked cars. The culprit appears to be a dangerous combination of aggressive driving and unclear lane markings.
After residents organized to demand a fix, DDOT studied the corridor to consider changes. Earlier this year, DDOT added new high visibility crosswalks and installed a traffic camera, but that didn't address the root problem.
The primary culprit of the crashes seems to be the northbound curbside lane. Normally it's a parking lane, but at rush hour it becomes a second travel lane. But there's no paint indicating where one lane ends and the other begins. Drivers see a very wide street that might be one or two lanes, with no indication of lanes or parking.
That situation encourages drivers to speed, and sometimes to pass on the right. When that happens and they encounter the occasional illegally parked car, crashes occur.
Eliminating the rush hour driving lane, allowing cars to park all day in both directions, and painting parking boxes to visually narrow the street should inhibit the most dangerous driving.
Eliminating the rush hour lane wouldn't be a radical idea. DDOT eliminated other rush hour lanes, such as the one on nearby 13th Street, years ago. Meanwhile, the recent parking study included a map of rush hour restrictions that doesn't include Arkansas Avenue.
Another major issue is there are no stop signs or signals for almost 1/3 of a mile between Allison Street and the intersection with 13th Street. That enables drivers to build up speed. In the neighborhood's traffic calming petition to DDOT, residents requested a new stop or signal along that stretch to slow motorists down.
Length of Arkansas Avenue with no stops or signals. Image from Google.
In May, DDOT recommended removing the rush hour lane, and said the agency would continue to study the unsignalized intersections, as well as the potential to add bike lanes.
Six months and about the same number of crashes later, DDOT's director Matt Brown confirms the study is now complete. DDOT will re-stripe the street and change the parking restrictions in the next 30 days.
While it's not yet clear whether any new stop signs or bike lanes are also in the plans, eliminating the rush hour lane is a great victory for safety on Arkansas Avenue.
Kelly Blynn was a co-founder of 350.org and is currently the Next Generation of Transit Campaign Manager for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. However, the views expressed here are her own.
An entirely new neighborhood is rising just a minute's walk from the Anacostia Metro station. Nearly two dozen townhomes and apartments have sprouted at Sheridan Station, where public housing will become a mixed-income community. But will it be an economic catalyst for the community, or a new face for the area's existing struggles?
When it first broke ground more than 4 years ago, Sheridan Station was supposed to have 344 units, equally split between market-rate homes for sale and rentals for low-income households. But in the fall of 2012, developer William C. Smith asked to reduce the ratio of for-sale homes to 25%, arguing that potential buyers would have trouble securing mortgages.
Today, 327 homes are planned for Sheridan Station, just 80 of which will be for sale with the rest for rent. Of the remaining 247 units, 200 will be affordable, and 100 are set aside for households on the public housing waiting list. Priority will go to residents of Sheridan Terrace, which used to occupy the site, and Barry Farm next door, which will be redeveloped in 2016.
New residents are hopeful, but anxious
James grew up in the neighborhood and lived in Sheridan Terrace, the public housing complex that predates Sheridan Station, in the 1980s. The units were falling apart. "I came home one day from work and the ceiling was on the floor," he said. Hazardous building conditions and street crime precipitated the departure of hundreds of families.
I ran into James, who is wheelchair-bound, while recently surveying Sheridan Road. When housing became available in the first phase of Sheridan Station, he was able to secure a unit due to his sister's network.
"I've been coming out here everyday just to watch," James said. "It's about time they started. They never said why it took so long to begin. They blamed the weather. People began putting pressure on them and asking questions. There's more demand for housing than there is supply. This looks like it is decent housing." He pointed out a building and said once completed he would be moving to the first floor.
Market-rate homeowners are excited about the development too. Darin Tuggle, an attorney for the Department of Housing and Urban Development Chris Miller, a 29-year-old business consultant, saw the signage for Sheridan Station on Suitland Parkway while commuting from Upper Marlboro. "When I decided to purchase a home, I looked at various neighborhoods but the rapid rise in prices in more 'trendy' neighborhoods priced me out," he says. Sheridan Station won him over with the proximity to Metro and the views of downtown DC.
"After moving in, I switched from driving to work to taking the Metro," he says. "The commute has been a big quality of life upgrade for me."
Chris Miller, a 29-year-old business consultant Darin Tuggle, an attorney for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, says he loves the "great urban neighborhood vibe and look" of the street where his new home is. "We are a microcosm of the city, young, less young, professional, artistic, black, white, Hispanic, foreign-born, single, couples, inter-racial," he says. Miller looks forward to the area becoming more walkable and getting a grocery store.
But there's been some tension between new residents and those who already lived in the area. Miller says kids have smashed his house windows three times, while neighbors have had their cars vandalized. "These incidents of vandalism can be attributed to some of the tension that existing members of the community feel towards the new development," says Tuggle.
Is this a sign of change, or more of the same?
Sheridan Station serves as a preview of future development east of the river, from the reconstruction of Barry Farm to Skyland Town Center, the 11th Street Bridge Park, and Saint Elizabeths East Campus. But in contrast to the splashy opening of Sheridan's first phase, the groundbreaking and construction of Sheridan's second and third phases have gone on quietly. At a press conference earlier this month, Mayor Gray highlighted his outgoing administration's commitment to developing affordable housing, but did not mention Sheridan Station.
William C. Smith's uneven promotion of for-sale units led homeowners to speculate that the development's initial goals would never happen. "I had to look for Sheridan Station; it didn't look for me," says Tuggle, noting that he'd received ads for other new developments in the area, like Arts District Hyattsville and Dakota Crossing.
He and other homeowners only found out recently there were only 20 homes for sale in the development's last phase, with the rest being rentals. "[My neighbors] had advised friends and associates that there would be a lot more opportunities to buy in the last phase," he says.
Furthermore, many public housing tenants I've spoken with express a fear that when the new buildings are filled with disparate families from various public housing developments, long-standing feuds, similar to the Hatfields and McCoys, may erupt.
Although private investment has hesitated to cross the Anacostia River, long-term residents point to developments like this, as well as the new schools and recreation centers that have been built recently, as infallible evidence of "the Plan," which seeks to make the area attractive to a new demographic who will displace them. But Sheridan Station and its inability to deliver a mixed-income neighborhood as first promised illustrates the tenuousness of the "new Ward 8," as Councilmember Marion Barry calls it.
The need for tenant and workforce housing in Ward 8 is overwhelming. Despite Sheridan Station's success in attracting affluent professionals, the continued concentration and retrenchment of disadvantaged people in this area has the potential to suppress the economy of communities east of the river for yet another generation.
Photo by Kodak Views on Flickr.Vote now: As early voting starts in DC, the Post editorial board endorses Bowser for mayor, while a columnist argues that the main distinction between the front-runners is not policy but style. Meanwhile, the final Maryland gubernatorial debate exposed differences on transportation and the environment. (Post)
Parking makes way for sidewalks: The Georgetown BID widened the sidewalks this past weekend by taking over the parking lane, something they may try again. Were you there? How did it work? (The Georgetown Metropolitan)
Region prepares for mini-Olympics: The DC area will be hosting the World Police and Fire Games this summer, which will show off the region's capabilities. More athletes are scheduled to compete than in the London Olympics. (WTOP)
Doctrine of self-preservation: An insurer refused to pay a cyclist because he did not maintain a "proper lookout" even after a truck driver cut him off and braked suddenly. This outcome is a result of the area's contributory negligence laws. (WashCycle)
How to get everyone biking: Men take more bike rides than women, so how can we close that gap? Convenience, education, better bikes for women, and creating a fun community can all help. (Bacon's Rebellion)
Building from a position of strength: Underperforming light rail lines, like the one in Norfolk, provide ammunition to critics. Even in Portland, rail followed a widely used frequent bus network. (RPUS, KCUR)
UN investigates access to water: As water rates rise, poorer residents may lose access to a basic human need. But what to do when 80,000 people do not pay their bill, as is the case in Detroit? The UN is sending a fact-finding mission. (Guardian)
And...: Although farther from the Metro, the second wave of Tysons development maintains an urban appearance. ... (WBJ) A terrorism-preparedness exercise is scheduled around DC today after another one yesterday. (DCist) ... Check out six intersection improvements to protect pedestrians. (NextCity)
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
The owners of the Prince George's County land where Landover Mall used to sit are lobbying to locate the FBI headquarters there rather than near the Greenbelt or Franconia-Springfield Metro stations. But a site not easily accessible by Metro isn't the best location for the FBI.
Photo by Jonathan on Flickr.
While building the project in Landover might be cheaper to start, the long-term costs to local governments and regional workers, including added traffic and longer commutes, would be far, far higher.
Prince George's Metro stations are the least used in the system (averaging 4,716 daily boardings per station in 2012, compared with 8,478 systemwide). While other counties promoted walkable development around their stations to maximize their investment in Metro, most Prince George's stations remain isolated parking lots with little or nothing to attract activity and train rides.
Continue reading my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.
Here are our favorite new images from the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool, showcasing the best and worst of the Washington region.
Annapolis Rock. Photo by Joe Newman.
Got a picture that depicts the best or worst of the Washington region? Make sure to join our Flickr pool and submit your own photos!
Register Now. Friday, November 7, 2014 8:00 - 4:30. Monona Terrace Convention Center – Madison.
Learn about the earth shaking effects of changing demographics and help design an action plan for the future to address:
Next Generation Transportation.
Housing and Neighborhoods.
Community Design/Active Living Places.
Featured Speaker: Robert Grow.
Primary architect of Envision Utah’s grassroots, bottom up, stakeholder driven, values based approach that provides more choices for how we, and the next generation, would like to live.
Sharrows are great for streets where there isn't room for a traditional bike lane. But sometimes, they're used as a way to avoid putting in a bike lane, which is bad for bicyclists and drivers alike.
Last week, sharrows appeared on Georgia Avenue between Wayne Avenue and East-West Highway in downtown Silver Spring. It's one of eighteen state highways in Maryland where cyclists are allowed to take the full lane, and the sharrows let drivers know to look out for them.
Reader Paul Meyer tweeted this photo of the lane markings and wrote, "Sharrows on Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring?!? A start."
Sharrows are a start for Montgomery County, which has embraced bicycling without always committing to the infrastructure needed to support it, like bike lanes. The county has had Capital Bikeshare for just over a year, including in downtown Silver Spring, but due to a lack of safe places to bike, it's gotten off to a slow start.
Georgia Avenue is a big, wide street, with six lanes of traffic, turn lanes, and parking lanes. Though the signed speed limit is 30 mph, the lanes are wide, which encourages speeding. This is the kind of street that only the hardiest cyclists would ride on, and sharrows won't change that. Cyclists will continue riding on the sidewalks where they feel safer, but they're already barely wide enough to accommodate pedestrians in some areas.
Sharrows are ideal for streets that are too narrow for a bike lane. Because of the amount and speed of traffic on Georgia, cyclists need their own space. This street would be a good candidate for bike lanes with a buffer or even cycletracks, where a physical buffer would give cyclists additional separation from vehicle traffic, which benefits drivers too.
Obviously, that would require taking lanes from cars, and in the case of cycle tracks, redesigning or even removing parking spaces. County and state transportation officials have traditionally been reluctant to do that, most recently with Old Georgetown Road in White Flint. And so sharrows are sometimes used as a substitute for a bike lane where the political will to build one isn't there.
But if there's any community that should have the will to give cyclists a place on its streets, it should be downtown Silver Spring, where a majority of residents walk, bike, or take transit to work. Nearly a third of all households don't even have cars, and 40% of its public parking spaces are usually vacant.
The new sharrows on Georgia Avenue tell drivers to pay attention to cyclists. But as long as Georgia remains a big, fast street that prioritizes driving over everything else, drivers won't have many cyclists to watch for.
Schools in the Washington region spend wildly different amounts on students per pupil, and districts vary a lot in how much extra they spend on low-income students. While more spending doesn't guarantee better quality, the discrepancies raise basic questions of fairness.
An interactive map from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank based in DC, allows you to find the per-pupil spending amount for any school inside the Beltway. This is the first time spending data for the area has been presented on a school-by-school basis, according to Michael Petrilli, president of the institute.
That's because individual schools within districts don't have their own budgets, Petrilli said on the Kojo Nnamdi Show Thursday. Districts allocate staff and resources to schools depending on factors like the number of students at each school and their needs.
The data is based on expenditures during the 2011-12 fiscal year. It includes both public and private funds, but not spending on capital projects like buildings.
A data summary that accompanies the map shows that average per pupil expenditures in the area range from about $10,000 in Prince George's County to close to $16,000 in DC Public Schools and Alexandria. DC public charter schools spend an average of just over $18,000 per student, the highest in the region.
Spending on low-income students
In a blog post analyzing the data, Petrilli and Matt Richmond focused on which District-area school systems spend the most on low-income students. Arlington County leads the pack, and Prince George's brings up the rear, they found.
Arlington spends over 80% extra on its low-income students, or about $21,000 compared to the $12,000 it spends on its more affluent ones. But Prince George's, which has many more low-income students, spends only about 2% more on them, or a little over $10,000.
DCPS falls somewhere in the middle for the region, spending about 21% extra on low-income students, although its spending floor is the highest of any school district in the region. (The "extra spending" figures are for elementary school students only.)
In the blog post, Petrilli and Richmond single out Montgomery County for particular scorn. Despite Superintendent Joshua Starr's claim to be a warrior for social justice, they say, Montgomery ranks third in the region for extra spending on low-income students. At about 32%, it's below both Arlington County and Fairfax County, which spends about 34% extra.
Low spending in Prince George's County
But, as Petrilli and Richmond point out, the big story here is Prince George's County's low level of spending on its low-income population. They point out that at one Prince George's elementary school, the amount spent per student is about half what DCPS spends at a school less than seven miles away.
Given the relatively low property tax base in Prince George's, Petrilli and Richmond argue that the state of Maryland should be doing more to fund schools there.
Of course, it's not clear what any of this means for educational quality. As the Fordham authors acknowledge, it's hard to establish a direct relationship between spending and educational outcomes. More money doesn't make much difference unless schools know what to do with it.
But it's also true that programs designed to close the achievement gap cost money. So while money may not be sufficient to accomplish that goal, it's almost certainly necessary.
And, as a recent report from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute details, low-income students need a host of services outside the classroom in order to succeed inside it. All of those cost money, too.
It would be useful to put school districts' differing rates of expenditure next to a comparison of student achievement. Are low-income students in Prince George's actually learning less than low-income students in DC or Arlington, for example?
That's hard to say right now, because each state gives its own standardized tests, and they're not really comparable. And the nationwide standardized test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, basically gives results at the state-wide level rather than by school district.
Perhaps after this year we'll at least be able to compare DC and Prince George's County, because both Maryland and DC will be giving the same Common Core-aligned test, known as PARCC. (Virginia will continue giving its own test.)
But whatever the test results show, one thing is clear: It's not fair for a low-income student in Arlington to get the benefit of $21,000 a year in school spending, while one across the river in Prince George's gets half that or less.
Photo by Tom Hagerty on Flickr.Done with debates: The DC mayoral debate season concluded last night in raucous fashion at Anacostia High School. Democrat Muriel Bowser easily won the Ward 8 straw poll that accompanied the debate. (Post)
Illegal campaign signs slam Catania: Campaign signs against David Catania have appeared in Ward 8. The illegal signs, which claim Catania is waging a war against poor residents, contain a symbol from a union print shop but have no other identification. (Post)
Purple Line as campaign issue: The Purple Line is becoming a major campaign issue in Maryland. In debates, the Democratic gubernatorial ticket has supported the project, while the Republican ticket wants to build roads with the money. (WAMU, Post)
Where's the mass transit?: The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments approved a long-range transportation plan for the region. The plan includes only 44 miles of transit compared to 1,200 miles of new highway lanes. (WAMU)
Housing boom in Tysons: Apartment buildings near the new Silver Line stations in Tysons Corner are filling up faster than developers anticipated. Projects underway right now will add an additional 10,000 residential units. (ElevationDC)
Highway Trust Fund fix coming?: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx believes Congress can fix the Highway Trust Fund during Congress' lame duck session. He has support from Reps. Boehner and Ryan, but there's no funding agreement. (WAMU)
And...: Arlington County will request state funding for sidewalks and bike lanes. (ArlNow) ... The DC voter's guide accidentally printed the DC flag upside down. (WAMU) ... Which neighborhoods are the best for trick-or-treating? (WBJ)
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SPUR President Gabriel Metcalf moderates the October 9 mayoral debate between Dave Cortese (left) and Sam Liccardo (right). Photo by Noah Christman
San Jose is on the cusp of explosive growth, projecting to add nearly half a million people in the next 30 years. What happens during the next mayoral term will affect the city for decades to come. To help voters get to know the candidates and their positions on our issues, SPUR and six partner organizations held a debate October 9 between the two contenders vying for the seat, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese and San Jose City Councilmember Sam Liccardo.
Hosted at San Jose State University, the debate attracted nearly 400 attendees. Questions came from the public, SPUR members and our partner organizations, the American Institute of Architects Santa Clara Valley, Greenbelt Alliance, the San Jose Downtown Association, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, TransForm and Working Partnerships USA.
Most debates between these two candidates have covered the same territory: pension reform and crime. Instead we asked about their vision for land use, transportation, economic equity and other urbanist issues. Take a look at the questions we asked, read the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s summary of the debate and listen to the audio recording (at the bottom of this post), but above all – vote on November 4!
The General Plan and Balancing Land Use Goals
Question 1: San Jose’s 2040 General Plan is the guiding land use document about how and where our city will accommodate growth over the next 30 years. It proposes to direct growth into walkable, transit-oriented urban village areas and to stop building in low-density patterns that force people to drive. As mayor, what will you do to carry this idea forward and implement it?
Question 2, from Greenbelt Alliance: San Jose's General Plan has been called a “jobs-first plan” because it prioritizes increasing the ratio of jobs to employed residents in the city. As mayor, you will likely need to balance the jobs-first priority of the plan with other important policy goals, for example providing housing for a growing Silicon Valley workforce and providing affordable housing for people who cannot afford market rate prices. As mayor, what is your approach to these competing land use goals?
Question 3: Too many San Joseans are stuck in traffic or dependent on a transit system that doesn't serve their needs. A key part of a successful city is a high-quality public transit system that works well for people. How will you use or direct your vote on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Board of Directors to improve bus light rail service?
Question 4, from TransForm: The proposed 2016 quarter-cent transportation sales tax could go a long way to improving transit service in Santa Clara County. What kinds of goals and priorities do you feel should guide the selection of projects and programs funded by that proposed sales tax?
Question 5, from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition: Under your leadership what will the City of San Jose do to achieve its bicycling goals as laid out in the General Plan (i.e., that 5 percent of trips will be by bicycle by 2020 and 15 percent of all trips by 2040)?
Question 6, from AIA Santa Clara Valley: Do you think good architecture is important to making San Jose a great city, and can you share your thoughts on the role of architecture in improving our urban environment?
Question 7: The impacts of climate change are becoming well understood. Any city as large and influential as San Jose has the responsibility to be part of the solution. What do you think are the most important changes that should be made to reduce the greenhouse gasses generated in San Jose and to prepare for the impacts of climate change?
Question 8, from the San Jose Downtown Association:
San Jose has an increasing homeless population. What is your approach for reducing this population downtown and citywide?
Question 9, from Working Partnerships, USA:
30 percent of the jobs produced in Silicon Valley don’t pay enough to live on. Even highly skilled people with college degrees are being forced to take poverty-level jobs. How have you supported government actions that pressure the private sector to raise wages and benefits, and how have you opposed actions that force people into lower paying jobs, such as outsourcing city work to private firms that offer much lower pay and inadequate benefits?
Land Use Decisions
Question 10: The Evergreen industrial area and the Coyote Valley are two big expanses of open land that came close to being developed in the past decade. Developers would like to build residential subdivisions on both, in opposition to the direction of the city’s General Plan. As mayor over potentially the next eight years, will you consider proposals to change the general plan and allow housing to be built in either Evergreen or Coyote Valley, or both?
Question 11: North San Jose has been planned as the major job center of the city, accessed by light rail and designed to be a walkable place. Imagine that a developer comes to you as mayor and says, “I have a really large employer who is willing to come to North San Jose, but I want to build in the more traditional, suburban pattern.” As mayor, what do you do?
Question 12: It’s four years from now and you're ending your first term. What do you want to say you did to move the nation's 10th largest city forward?
Listen to a recording of the debate (low sound quality):
Greenhouse gas emissions are building in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change that is threatening our world. Our region needs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors, but the regional Transportation Planning Board still won't commit to a specific target.
In 2008, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) published its climate change report establishing a scientifically-based regional goal to reduce carbon emissions to 80% of 2005 levels by 2050. All 21 local government members of COG reaffirmed the commitment in 2010 when they signed the compact called Region Forward.
But so far, the Transportation Planning Board (TPB), COG's most powerful committee which sets transportation funding priorities, has no plans to meet that target and is actually moving in the opposite direction. TPB staff are quick to note that per capita emissions are declining slightly, but if overall emissions continue to rise until 2050, they will worsen the climate change problem.
Many leaders want to tackle climate change, but TPB balks
Last week the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' (COG) air quality and climate change committees met together for the first time. They focused on the wide and broadening gap between our region's accepted climate emissions reduction goals and where we are headed within the transportation sector.
The overall tone and broad participation reflected optimism and ambition about taking on this challenge. Many members spoke strongly in favor of moving urgently to tackle transportation emissions, led by Roger Berliner of Montgomery County, Jay Fisette of Arlington, Phil Mendelson of DC, and Tad Aburn of the Maryland Department of the Environment.
They and others repeatedly asked the important question: will TPB accept and plan for the regional goal of an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions from transportation by 2050?
Amongst all the supportive voices, it was difficult to see exactly what was holding the group back from making a more forceful decision. Perhaps it was the way the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Maryland Department of Transportation muddied the waters by raising scenarios that were not relevant to what was being proposed.
When Jay Fisette asked point blank if there was any legal prohibition on TPB adopting a self-defined climate change goal, TPB head Kanti Srikanth answered, "no." But he also said that he was sure "there are stakeholders on TPB that would have a different view."
Mr. Srikanth, until recently the head of planning for the Virginia Department of Transportation's (VDOT) Northern Virginia District, didn't say so, but those stakeholders most resistant to achieving climate and smart growth goals in COG's transportation plan have long been the departments of transportation of Maryland and Virginia, and some local DOTs.
In the end, a small step
Ultimately the two committees adopted a weak, but still helpful resolution urging that all COG committees adopt the existing 80% reduction target, and created a working group to "explore establishing a target for screening for the regional transportation plan."
Many of the meeting participants had hoped for a more explicit commitment, so the Coalition for Smarter Growth is pressing the TPB to make a specific commitment to reduce CO2 emissions from transportation by 80% using a strategies that link land use changes with greater investment in transit, walking and bicycling.
Our most populous suburban areas hold the key
TPB's recent assessment of the region's transportation projects includes some stunning statistics that show how such an approach can make real progress on reducing emissions from transportation.
For example, the commute mode share for the "regional core" (DC, Arlington, and Alexandria) shows 70% of commute trips today are by walking, cycling, or transit. This is a direct result of mixed-use, walkable, bikeable, and transit-oriented community development.
For what COG terms the "inner suburbs" (Montgomery, Fairfax, and Prince George's), 37% of commute trips today are something other than people driving alone. Not bad, but they also don't show much progress by 2040. For the outer suburbs, it's 21% today and 28% in 2040.
These very populous counties could do much more to shift mode shares and reduce vehicle miles traveled and emissions by accelerating what they are already planning: a combination of transit-oriented development at existing transit stations and transformation of their commercial strip corridors into mixed-use, walkable, transit-oriented communities.
The outer jurisdictions would also benefit from more mixed-use centers. Finally, significant investment in dedicated lane commuter transit service would benefit both the outer and inner areas.
But we'll never move the needle on transportation emissions with our current plans. The regional transportation plan for 2014 includes a whopping 1,200 new lane miles and 25 new grade separated interchanges, compared to just 44 new miles of transit.
Many of those projects would go in the so-called "inner suburbs," and many were conceived years and even decades ago when everyone assumed people would drive more and more every year. Now that it's clear people are driving less, and walking, cycling, and riding transit more, how many of those road projects could be downsized, translated into a dedicated transit lane, or eliminated altogether?
Last week's meeting and resolution were a good start for bringing renewed attention to the actions our region must take to help fight climate change. Now, setting clear CO2 and vehicle miles traveled targets for transportation, and creating a real plan to get us there, are essential. If you think TPB should ensure our regional transportation plans will contribute significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, you can send them an email here.
Since 1987, over 100 DC area cyclists have died in motor vehicle crashes. This map shows where they are. And there's just one intersection in the region which had two separate fatal crashes. Can you guess where?
In the above graph, red pins show crashes in an intersection, yellow in the roadway, black in a crosswalk, blue on the shoulder of the roadway, orange on a sidewalk, green in a bike lane, or white where the location was not available.
These fatalities have occurred in every jurisdiction, on busy highways and quiet neighborhood streets, and on every part of the roadway from sidewalks to traffic lanes.
The real "Intersection of Doom" is at Gaithersburg's edge
The intersection of Lee Highway and North Lynn Street, where drivers make a right turn across cyclists' path coming off the Mount Vernon Trail, gets much coverage as the "Intersection of Doom." But fortunately, I found no actual bicycle fatalities there.
Nor were there any where the Mt. Vernon Trail connections cross the George Washington Parkway, another harrowing experience for cyclists and a big problem spot that needs fixing. But there was one location where two separate fatal bike crashes occurred.
In 1997, a driver hit 15-year-old Alexis Smith on her bicycle in the crosswalk as she crossed the ramp from Great Seneca Highway to Sam Eig Highway, just west of the end of I-370 in Montgomery County. Then in 2009, another driver hit and killed Codi Alexander, 16 at the same spot.
However, Montgomery County wasn't the place with the most fatal bike crashes.
Prince George's has the most deaths by far
Of the seven jurisdictions I looked at, Prince George's had the most fatalities, with 36. Here is the full list:
JurisdictionNumberPrince George's36District of Columbia25Montgomery21Fairfax19Alexandria2Falls Church2Arlington2
Some of the variation might be explained by population and square mileage, but Prince George's County is neither the largest nor the most populous. And comparisons get more complicated because DC's surge of daytime population means that considering its resident population understates the amount of exposure cyclists have there.
Most fatal crashes happen at intersections
If we combine fatalities listed as in the intersection and in the crosswalk, it shows that more than half of all fatal crashes happen at intersections. (Some crashes listed as on sidewalks or in bike lanes also may be at intersections.)
Where this data comes from
I assembled this list and map from two main sources: media reports and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Most media reports are newspaper accounts available on highbeam, which is why they only go back to 1987. These accounts are usually very accurate and reliable. I only flagged one possible error during the review.
However, these are not particularly comprehensive. Only 53% of all fatal bike crashes get reported in newspapers, and usually as only one story about the fatal crash itself. Occasionally a reporter will follow up with a second item once authorities release the victim's name. For a particularly sensational story, there may coverage all the way through a trial and sentencing. Most media accounts, however, just end with a line saying something like, "Police are continuing to investigate the incident."
The NHTSA FARS data, on the other hand, is significantly more comprehensive but riddled with a vast array of errors. It also only goes back to 1994. Some of the errors come from problems with the forms themselves, while people filling them out introduce others.
These errors ranged from trivial cases, such as mislabeling a female fatality as male, to nonsensical cases where a bike fatality was coded as "Safety Belt Used Improperly," to the outright misleading case where a cyclist was mislabeled as a pedestrian. But 98% of the fatalities with media accounts also appeared in FARS.
Still, FARS data under-counts total bike fatalities because it does not include crashes on driveways or parking lots or crashes that don't involve a motor vehicle. I identified 15 such fatalities. In addition, the United States Park Police apparently doesn't submit FARS forms to the NHTSA, as crashes they investigated don't appear. Nor do bike deaths that arise from medical conditions such as heat stroke or from murder (except in the one case where the murder weapon was a car). So while the FARS data is more comprehensive, it is not complete.
The map above includes every bike fatality identified except for one that had an unworkable location description.
* The original version of this post failed to count one Arlington fatality.
Cross-posted with footnotes at TheWashCycle.
The former headquarters of Intelsat, a space-age building on Connecticut Avenue near the Van Ness Metro, will get a new entrance. The change will soften a harsh corner, but it won't fully repair this non-urban building's relationship to the street.
The current entrance on Connecticut Avenue is set back far from the street and up a huge flight of steps. It's not ADA compliant, and it's a pretty bleak, bricked-over expanse. The building's new owner will remove the plaza and replace it with a garden, fountains, and a more visible entrance.
How this building came to be
The building, rebranded "4000 Connecticut Avenue," is a product of DC's unique relationship with the federal government. The State Department owns the land as part of the International Center, a campus meant for embassies and governmental buildings. It leased it to Intelsat when that was still an international treaty organization.
After Intelsat went private, Congress changed the law in 2008 to legalize Intelsat's lease. That opened the door for the 601 Companies to acquire the lease and reposition the building as an office building.
Opened in phases between 1984 and 1988, the building is one of the more notable modernist buildings in DC. Its architect, John Andrews, was an influential Australian architect who made his name designing dramatic brutalist buildings in Canada.
By the time Intelsat ran a competition to design its headquarters in 1979, the two energy crises had put the focus on efficiency. Architects worried that the new expectations would smother exciting design under layers of insulation. And so Andrews' building won heaps of praise for delivering the large, energy efficient buildings corporations wanted without losing any of the expressive geometry he was known for.
One thing that earned Andrews particular praise is the way he repeated the same three or four elements, like the octagonal blocks, round towers, and courtyards, to create different effects. The main entrance on International Drive looks like a Battlestar Galactica set. The south entrance is a quiet corporate park. And the north entrance, at Van Ness and Connecticut, closest to the Metro and points downtown, echoes the monumental entries of neoclassical federal buildings and their brutalist successors.
What didn't work, and what will get better
Unfortunately, like most grand entries of the period, the entry comes across as stark and intimidating. So it makes sense that 601 Companies wants to make it more welcoming and visible as it becomes the main entrance of the building.
The changes, designed by VOA Associates, will also improve pedestrian circulation around the building, especially the green area along Connecticut which is apparently called "Squirrel Park."
More openness of the park areas is great. Like a suburban office park, the grassy areas around Intelsat are unwalkable or underused. These changes will make them more into an asset to the community. To me, new entry area is definitely an improvement, aesthetically, making it much more inviting. There are more places to sit, the high-end granite and marble will be nice additions, and the front door details are more humane than Andrews originally planned.
But it still feels like a more ambitious alteration would be appropriate. The accessible entrance is still separate from the main one, and the renovation does not fix the fundamental error of the building, one that goes back to when the site was the secluded campus of the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST).
Now, the site supports an office building that is part of the city. Andrews's building has a lot of value architecturally, but its value to creating a distinctive place around a Metro station is equally important. The site deserves a bolder adaptive reuse, one that will fill in some of the unusable green space, correcting its outdated disconnection from the neighborhood, even as it preserves the existing building. A good adaptation would make the geometry of original building even more powerful.
But for now, this is okay.
Photo by Matt' Johnson on Flickr.The new way to pay fares: Do you use Ballston, Bethesda, Eisenhower Ave, Farragut West, Gallery Place, Navy Yard, Pentagon, Pentagon City, Shady Grove, or Suitland Metro stations or the 37, 39, J4, K9, X9, or REX buses? You can volunteer to test Metro's new fare payment technology.
Get dense: Some residents along two streets in downtown Bethesda want county planners to allow their neighborhood to grow denser. Some opponents think they just want to "cash in" on land values. (BethesdaNow)
DC General gets a playground: A new playground opened at the DC General shelter yesterday. The roughly 600 children who live at the shelter will now have recreation space, and a playground manager who coordinates activities. (WAMU)
Street Sense human cameras?: A writer for the Guardian has a plan to turn Street Sense vendors into human traffic cameras. The vendors would use smartphones to record traffic violations at intersections. Is this a good idea? (City Paper)
Not a giant rebate: As more shoppers bring their own reusable bags, Giant will stop giving a 5¢ credit for each reusable bag. Giant says it's putting money into other environmental initiatives. (WTOP)
No more Hailo: The taxi-hailing app Hailo will stop operating almost "immediately" in DC and other North American cities. This leaves fewer good app options to take a regular taxi rather than Uber or Lyft. (City Paper)
So close yet so far: Even when areas try to increase density, rules about separation often mean it's a long drive or walk even to a very close-by store. (Urban kchoze)
Bike crashes up and down: Subruban towns around Boston saw a 9% increase in bicycle collisions between 2010 and 2012, as they added bike lanes. This is in contrast to New York, which saw a decrease in collisions between 2008 and 2011. (CityLab)
And...: The mayoral candidates debated for the third time last evening. (Post) ... DC has installed curbs along the L Street cycletrack. (WashCycle) ... Fairfax County has OK'd the Westpark Plaza development in Tysons, which includes a 31-story skyscraper. (WBJ)
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