CNU blogs

Places to go in the Flickr pool

Greater Greater Washington - Fri, 2014-07-25 15:55
by Aimee Custis

Here are our favorite new images from the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool, showcasing the best and worst of the Washington region.


National Airport. Photo by wolfkann.


Mt. Pleasant. Photo by ctj71081.


Photo by J Sonder.


Georgetown. Photo by Michael Cisneros.


Ben's Chili Bowl. Photo by Clif Burns.

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!

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Ancostia's historic homes are on the mend

Greater Greater Washington - Fri, 2014-07-25 13:11
by John Muller

On Monday, more than a hundred people gathered in front of 2010 14th Street SE to cut the ceremonial ribbon on a new day in old Anacostia. This isn't the only one; renovation is coming to a half-dozen historic yet decaying homes in the immediate blocks.


Ribbon cutting at 2010 14th Street SE. Photos by the author.

The L'Enfant Trust, a preservation organization, is rehabilitating 2010 14th Street, SE. The work from it and other property owners herald a larger regeneration reverberating throughout the neighborhood.

"There are 3 types of people," said local activist William Alston-El, who first introduced me to the back story of 2010 14th Street SE years ago. "Those who make things happen; those that watch things happen, and those that wonder what happened. Anyone with their eyes half-open can see things are happening in Anacostia. It's time for us to start working to make things happen. The time for wondering and watching has passed."


1347 Maple View Place SE.

While 2010 14th Street SE is expected to go on the market in August, The L'Enfant Trust is continuing its work on 1347 Maple View Place SE. As a crew worked on the exterior of 1347, across the street private investors had teams hard at work on 1344 and 1348 Maple View Place SE, which sold last month for $400,000, according to property records.


1344 Maple View Place SE.


1348 Maple View Place SE.


2126 15th Street SE

At 2126 15th Street SE, adjacent to the entrance of the parking lot of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, a local development and contracting team was active inside and outside of the house.

Built in 1892 at the junction of Jefferson and Adams Street, the home's foundation rests on compact clay. The young owners of the home, who have formed an architecture firm, expect to move in later this fall.


View from the 2nd floor of 1352 U Street SE.

From the 2nd floor of the recently interior renovated 1352 U Street SE, formerly Jackson Street, one enjoys a panoramic view of the historic corner of 14th and U Streets SE. To the left is the old Masonic Lodge built in the early 1890s; in the middle is an open-air market space that predates the Civil War; and to the right is the old Anacostia Methodist Episcopal Church built in 1892.

A local construction crew has cleared out the over-grown back yard and transformed the home's interior. The home next door is vacant and the backyard is a "jungle," said the lead contractor on site.


1350 U Street SE sits vacant, awaiting renovation.

A presence in the neighborhood since 1967, Alston-EL said after watching the ribbon cutting at 2010 14th Street SE and visiting a number of homes with active construction crews, "It's been a 'new day' in Anacostia for as long as I've been here." After a pause and consideration, "But they might just be right this time."

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Denver rents increase again and vacancy rates drop. Just another reason buying in Denver makes sense.

Denver Real Estate - Fri, 2014-07-25 12:44
  Nearly 1,300 new apartments were added to the metro Denver rental inventory during the second quarter, but rents still edged up and vacancy rates declined according to a recent article from the Denver Post about the incredible rental market in Denver, click here. This says a lot for how strong the rental market in Denver is when you add 1,300 apartments and vacancy rates declined while rental rates rose.  When driving around town, especially Downtown, it is hard to believe there is enough demand to keep up with all the apartments that are being built. This article makes some really interest points though to show that even with everything being built, it wont be enough to keep up with the growing demand for years to come. The state of Colorado believes that we will create seven jobs every hour in 2014, Apartment Realty Advisors principal Jeff Hawks said in a statement. Five Colorado residents turn 20 years old every hour, but we are only delivering one new apartment unit per hour. And that accounts for just Colorado residents, not the thousands who are moving to Denver every year. So unfortunately for all those looking for a place to rent, it isnt going to make things any easier and just another reason why buying a home in Denver makes so much sense right now. It is actually much cheaper to own a home than to rent in Denver. Interest rates are in the 4 range and prices are still competitive compared to other similar sized cities. And as all these people now renting decide they want to own their own home, demand for homes will continue to rise making investing in Real Estate in Denver a great strategy. If you are tired of renting, tired of getting a notice that your rent is rising every six months, or simply cant find a place to rent, give us a call and lets talk about what your options for buying might be. There is a very good chance you will be pleasantly surpried. 
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Did Rush Plus depress Blue Line ridership?

Greater Greater Washington - Fri, 2014-07-25 11:45
by Matt Johnson

To make room for new Silver Line trains at the Rosslyn bottleneck, WMATA has reduced the number of Blue Line (and Orange Line) trains and added Yellow Line trains. A group calling itself Save the Blue Line claims that a similar change in 2012 caused riders to stop using Metro. Is that accurate?


Graph from Save The Blue Line.

In June of 2012, Metro started a new service pattern in Virginia. To make way for more Orange Line trains and more service in north Arlington and Fairfax, the agency started sending some "Blue" Line trains from Franconia over the Yellow Line bridge to Greenbelt, labeled "Rush Plus" Yellow Line trains.

In the two years since, has that lowered ridership?

It's hard to say with any certainty. Ridership at the stations south of Pentagon is lower than it was before Rush Plus. On the other hand, ridership was already dropping before Rush Plus started.

There's actually an error in the Save The Blue Line graph: while the arrow suggests Rush Plus started between the 2011 and 2012 data points, the 2012 data is actually from a count in May, before Rush Plus started. The arrow should actually point one more space to the right, and therefore the drop you can see on the graph began before Rush Plus.

Did Rush Plus contribute to the ridership drop?

We cannot prove causation from correlation, but perhaps we can glean some insight from the numbers.

If we look just at boardings from Van Dorn Street and Franconia/Springfield, we can see a noticeable dip starting in about 2010. It continues into 2013 before leveling off a bit.


This and all subsequent graphics by the author.

From 2011 to 2012 (one year before Rush Plus), ridership at Van Dorn and Franconia declined 3.94%. That drop contrasted with a systemwide increase in ridership of 0.13%. So before Rush Plus the Blue Line (the end at least) was already losing riders compared to the rest of the system.

The May 2013 number is the first data point after Rush Plus started. In the period from May 2012 to May 2013, ridership at Van Dorn and Franconia shrank 7.81%, significantly more than the systemwide decline of 2.57%.

The ridership decrease was somewhat attenuated between 2013 and 2014, where at Franconia and Van Dorn it dropped only 1.17% compared to 0.55% systemwide.

If we look at all the stations most affected by Rush Plus, from Pentagon south, we see similar trends, though they're less strong.

Prior to Rush Plus, average daily boardings at Pentagon and the stations to the south (to Huntington and Franconia/Springfield) declined 3.68% over the 12 months from May 2011 to May 2012. Following 11 months of Rush Plus, ridership on this section had dropped 4.49% (compared to 2.57% systemwide).

So the data do show that ridership on the Blue and Yellow lines south of Pentagon has been lower since Rush Plus was implemented. But the ridership was already shrinking before Rush Plus.

It's certainly possible that Rush Plus exacerbated the ridership loss, but there's no way to tell for sure with the data available.

Even if Rush Plus did cause a significant drop, there's little WMATA can do. The tracks between Rosslyn and Stadium/Armory are operating at their capacity of 26 trains per hour. With Silver Line service starting this weekend, something has to give. With higher ridership in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, WMATA has decided to shift some Blue Line trains onto the 7th Street subway.

The number of trains at Franconia and Van Dorn hasn't decreased. Passengers still have the same number of trains going downtown. But fewer of them go to Rosslyn. For getting to the western end of downtown, some riders will now be better off transferring at L'Enfant Plaza.

WMATA planners are hoping to relieve pressure in the future by upgrading the system to handle more 8-car trains and building new Blue Line platforms at Rosslyn. Future phases could take the line across downtown.

Without more railcars, power stations, and core capacity, WMATA has little alternative but to reduce Blue Line service. That's why riders frustrated at losing Blue Line trains can have the best impact by lobbying their elected officials to fund Metro's plans for 8-car trains, a second Rosslyn station, and eventually a new crossing into DC.

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Watch Metro grow from one short line in 1976 to the Silver Line today

Greater Greater Washington - Fri, 2014-07-25 10:00
by David Alpert

The Silver Line is opening on Saturday! The Metro system opened in 1976 with five stations on the Red Line. Now, it will have 91 stations on six lines. Here is an animated slideshow of Metro's evolution over 38 years.

Sources

Most of this data comes from the nycsubway.org timeline of the Washington Metro and WMATA's history page. The dates of station name changes come from Wikipedia's pages on individual stations and other online sources.

To keep the number of maps manageable, and because many stations' exact renaming dates are not available, station renamings are grouped with the next major service change, even when that takes place years later. For example, WMATA renamed Ballston to Ballston-MU in 1995, but the next map, showing the Green Line Commuter Shortcut, depicts the system in 1997.

Color-changing trains (maps 7, 9, and 10)

From November 20, 1978 to November 30, 1979, and then again from November 22, 1980 to April 29, 1983, some Blue and Orange trains used one color going in one direction, then switched colors heading back. If you lived in Clarendon in 1981, you would board a Blue Line train headed to DC and then catch an Orange Line train to get home.

Metro had to do this in 1978-1979 because trains at the time used physical rollsigns with text printed on a colored background. The New Carrollton sign had an orange background, while the National Airport destination sign used blue. Therefore, the trains had to switch colors for each direction.

Then, in the early 1980s, this started again after the segment to Addison Road opened. At the time, with the Yellow Line not yet built, the demand for service on the Rosslyn to National Airport segment (now Blue) better matched the Stadium-Armory to New Carrollton segment (now Orange), and the demand on Rosslyn to Ballston (now Orange) lined up better with Stadium-Armory to Addison Road (now Blue).


Metro map from 1982.

Therefore, Metro ran trains from National Airport to New Carrollton and Ballston to Addison Road. But since the rollsigns didn't allow using the same color for each end of those services, the trains had to switch colors in each direction.

Green Line Commuter Shortcut (maps 21-23)

From December 11, 1993 to September 18, 1999, the Green Line had 2 unconnected segments, one from Greenbelt to Fort Totten and the other from U Street to Anacostia.

On January 27, 1997, Metro started using a single-track switch at Fort Totten to send rush hour Green Line trains from Greenbelt onto the Red Line. They ran on the Red Line tracks to Farragut North, where there is a pocket track to turn around. This "Green Line Commuter Shortcut" continued until the Green Line opened through Columbia Heights and Petworth in 1999, connecting the two sections permanently.


1998 or 1999 Metro map. Photo by Matt Johnson.

This was not shown on Metro maps except for a green box explaining the service. The maps in this slideshow display it using a dashed line to illustrate the service.

Embed this slideshow

You can embed this slideshow on your own site. It is available under a Creative Commons Attribution license, which allows you to use it anywhere without individual permission, provided you attribute it to Greater Greater Washington and link to this page.

To embed it, copy this code to your site:

<iframe src="http://greatergreaterwashington.org/embed/evolution.html" width=515 height=550 style="border: none"></iframe>

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New Draft COAH Rules Ignore Potential of Redevelopment

New Jersey Future - Fri, 2014-07-25 09:43

The former G.G. Green Opera House in Woodbury, a 2014 Smart Growth Award winner, is being repurposed into affordable housing.

Following a review of the newest draft affordable-housing rules, New Jersey Future has joined the New Jersey chapter of the American Planning Association and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey in submitting an amici curiae brief to the state Supreme Court in support of a lawsuit challenging those rules.

While the lawsuit, brought by the Fair Share Housing Center, objects to the draft rules on several grounds, the brief New Jersey Future has joined focuses specifically on a new methodology used to calculate a municipality’s affordable-housing obligation. This methodology, referred to in the brief as the Buildable Limit methodology, reduces a municipality’s affordable-housing obligation if it has been determined that there isn’t sufficient new land available on which the required new housing units reasonably may be built.

This methodology discounts completely the possibility of creating new housing units through redevelopment of already-built land and buildings. The brief points out that prior affordable-housing rules took full account of the potential that redevelopment offers in satisfying affordable-housing obligations, and notes, citing New Jersey Future analysis and research, that market forces are increasingly making redevelopment the primary avenue via which New Jersey will continue to grow. Not to include this route to housing growth, the brief concludes, ignores reality and undermines sound planning, including going against the stated goals of the state Development and Redevelopment Plan.

We are grateful to Catherine Weiss Esq., chairwoman of the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest, and Ryan J. Cooper Esq., for their work in preparing the brief, and we look forward to seeing revised draft rules that encourage the appropriate development of affordable housing throughout New Jersey.

Read the full brief.

Categories: CNU blogs

Breakfast links: Silver Line eve

Greater Greater Washington - Fri, 2014-07-25 09:03
by Russ Doubleday


Photo by Fairfax County on Flickr.Metro says Silver Line is ready: Metro has been simulating service on the Silver Line since Sunday and says the new line is ready for service. Though without new train cars, how will the Silver Line hold up once passengers start riding? (Post)

Learn about the Silver Line: Each of the five new stops on the Silver Line will have something to offer even if you don't live or work there. Commuters who ride the bus to Metro will find new service patterns once the Silver Line opens. (Post)

Affordable housing squeeze: There is a serious lack of affordable housing for middle and lower class residents in the Washington region, says a new report. As a result, middle class residents are often squeezing out the lower class. (Post)

Why few food co-ops?: There are food co-ops in Takoma Park and Mount Rainier, but DC only has one food co-op open for limited hours on weekends in Mt. Pleasant. Why are there so few inside the District? (OPinions)

ANC sleeps on the job: Despite two violations, a bar on U Street will likely keep its license because ANC 1B couldn't muster a quorum two months in a row and missed the deadline to protest the license. (City Paper)

Meddling congressmen: DC residents poured into the office of Rep. Andy Harris with a message: Stay out of our local affairs. Meanwhile, Rep. John Mica (R-FL) proposed giving DC to Maryland and disbanding the DC Council when asked about statehood. (DCist)

Peddling advice: Looking for advice on bicycling? Brian McEntee is writing a new tongue-in-cheek advice column called "Gear Prudence," including advice on what to do is a newspaper columnist puts a broom through your spokes. (City Paper)

Best coast for pedestrians: What factors will most likely cause drivers to yield to pedestrians? Road width and pedestrian volume are important factors, but a new survey also says that West Coast drivers are more likely to yield. (Streetsblog)

Poor debate over "poor door": A new NYC building with a separate entrance for its affordable units has sparked outrage. But it's not actually new and perhaps even required by zoning. And is it worse than living in a gated community with no lower-income people? (Huffington Post, Gothamist, NY Post, Twitter)

And...: During a fit of road rage, a Florida man was run over by his own truck. (WTOP) ... Investing in housing in the area has not yielded a big payoff. (City Paper) ... Bethesda and Rockville are among the "Top 10 Snobbiest Small Cities in America." (Post)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.

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Story: Local architect receiving award at White House

Mark Hinshaw, Crosscut - Fri, 2014-07-25 04:00
Johnpaul Jones has shaped major projects from the Northwest to the nation's capital.
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The High Potential of Low-Carbon Fuel Policy

By Flavio CoppolaJuly 24, 2014

Image courtesy of Flickr user Kim Seng.

In late June, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case concerning whether California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program discriminated against fuels produced out of state, allowing the program to continue functioning unhindered. The decision received little media attention, but it is of crucial importance for California’s climate action goals. The LCFS is one of the most progressive and thorough fuel regulation policies in the world. While it has the potential to make an enduring impact on the fuel industry and reduce carbon emissions, it is not well understood.

Established in 2007 and administered by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the program was designed to support the 2020 greenhouse gas reduction goals set by the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). LCFS measures the carbon-equivalent emissions per unit of energy for all transportation fuels in the state and sets maximum thresholds for each year until 2020, the target date for California to reduce carbon intensity by 10 percent from 2010 levels. It assesses the complete life cycle of a fuel, “from well to wheels” — or “seed to wheels” in the case of biofuels, which are produced from crops. CARB bases its assessment of a fuel’s life cycle on the carbon-equivalent emissions from the production, transport and use of a fuel. For comparison, gasoline and diesel from crude oil refined in California have a carbon intensity of 95.86 and 94.71 gCO2e/MJ, respectively. Ethanol from Brazilian sugarcane, a gasoline substitute, scores a low 73.40.

All providers of fuel in California are subject to the LCFS and are required to supply a mix of transportation fuels that does not exceed the threshold. An emissions trading system complements the threshold, so that fuel providers that do not meet the requirement can comply by buying credits from other providers. California’s cap-and-trade system, which is meant to bring substantial revenue to the state through the sale of emission permits, will not include the LCFS before 2015. The details of the integration have not yet been settled, but it is likely that LCFS credits will be exportable to other programs under cap and trade, while credits from these programs will not be importable into the LCFS. CARB opposes a full integration because of the differences in the methodologies used by each program to assess emissions.

The program’s most prominent goal is to contribute to approximately 10 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions reduction mandated by AB 32 by 2020. Concurrently, the LCFS is meant to reduce California’s reliance on petroleum, to create a market for clean transportation technology and to stimulate the production and use of alternative, low-carbon fuels in the state. Some of the effects of the LCFS are already visible: It has contributed, in combination with other policies, to make California one of the leading states for biodiesel production.

As part of the life cycle assessment of fuels provided in California, CARB includes a valuation of “indirect land use changes.” These occur when biofuels are produced on agricultural land currently yielding food and feed crops. As the demand for food and feed remains, these crops have to be cultivated somewhere else, leading in some cases to changes in land use. These changes can release a substantial amount of carbon dioxide, which must be taken into consideration to estimate the carbon intensity of a biofuel. For example, the increase in production of biodiesel from soybean culture in Brazil has led to deforestation in the Amazon, and thus considerable carbon emissions.

The methodology used to estimate carbon emissions due to indirect land use changes is particularly complex and calls for significant improvement: This constitutes the LCFS’s main weakness. CARB has assigned a relatively high carbon intensity score to crop-based biofuels due to indirect land use changes, which sparked discontent from biofuel producers of the Midwest and some members of the scientific community. CARB has pledged to revise carbon intensity assessments regularly as new technologies and methodologies emerge and is expected to improve its assessment of indirect land use changes in the coming years.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation policies are a clear priority for SPUR. In the Bay Area, the transportation sector creates the most greenhouse gas emissions. Taking action to reduce them is our responsibility, but it’s also an opportunity to consolidate a competitive advantage.

According to CARB’s compliance schedule, carbon intensity reductions will be greater each year, and the majority of them will occur after 2015. CARB set this schedule in order to allow the transportation and fuel industries time to develop more efficient vehicles and alternative low-carbon fuels. If we are to meet the goal of a 10 percent reduction in fuel carbon intensity by 2020, it is crucial that these technologies mature and are implemented in the coming years, so that greater reductions in carbon intensity can be realized.

The Bay Area’s thriving culture of innovation has all the potential to take up the challenge set by CARB and develop key technologies and alternative fuels that will enable providers to comply. The LCFS’s reach in California is broad, and the attention it receives at the federal and international levels is growing. Its implementation represents a remarkable occasion for the Bay Area to strengthen its innovative edge and support a trailblazing mitigation policy for the benefit of all Californians.

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Bell Labs Redevelopment a Sign of the Future

New Jersey Future - Thu, 2014-07-24 15:54


This article was written by New Jersey Future intern Kevin Burkman.

The Bell Labs facility in Holmdel. Photo: Kevin Burkman

On June 24, 2014, in the atrium of the Bell Labs facility in Holmdel, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) sponsored a conference focused on the redevelopment of this facility, as well as the challenges faced when attempting to repurpose the many outdated office campuses scattered across the suburbia.

In 1961, Bell Labs opened its massive research facility in Holmdel. Designed by architect Eero Saarinen and set on 473 acres, the two-million-square-foot facility once housed over 5,000 employees and in the ensuing four decades would play a large role in the development of transistors, lasers, cell phones and fiber-optic communications.  This facility, and many others like it, would transform the American landscape for decades, as office campuses sprang up along highways, far from urban cores and public transportation, in search of low taxes and inexpensive land.

However, it appears this period in suburban land use history is coming to an end, as drastically changing demographics and technology have turned these outmoded facilities into what were called at the conference “stranded assets.” The Bell Labs facility, acquired by Alcatel-Lucent in 2006, was closed in 2007 and has been vacant since then.

The introductory speaker for the ULI event, James Hughes, dean of Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Policy, discussed emerging technologies and demographic changes over the past 50 years, and how they have contributed to land-use changes. The most profound change occurred with the advent of the Internet, he said, followed quickly by advances in wireless technology, which “untethered” many workers and lessened the need for traditional office space. According to Hughes, we are now in a period of spatial and economic rearrangement, an era of “new normals.” The Millennial generation – workers aged 20 to 30, working in a wireless world – desires modern, open workspaces in urban areas, with ready access to public transportation. Decades-old office space located miles from walkable, round-the-clock urban activity does not appeal to them.

The middle part of the program featured speakers involved with redevelopment of these suburban office spaces, including developers, real estate analysts, attorneys and municipal leaders. The focus of their discussion was the extremely difficult nature of redeveloping or repurposing large office campuses that are 30 to 50 years old. Of particular concern are the municipalities in which these facilities are located, which suffer from the loss of population and tax base, sometimes for decades, when a closure occurs. Speakers pointed out that, despite those losses and changing demand, these municipalities tend to continue to adhere to single-use zoning at these sites. New demographics, technology and economics have rendered these positions on land use archaic, and speakers emphasized that adhering to them is unlikely to lead to new development or reactivation of the sites.

The program concluded with discussions about Somerset Development’s upcoming transformation of the Holmdel facility. Ralph Zucker, president of the firm, related some of the issues faced with repurposing the site, including zoning changes needed for a multi-use development, long-term tax exemptions, and developing trust among developers, the municipal government and residents. He then described the just-begun $100 million redevelopment project, including the creation of office, retail, health/fitness, and hotel spaces, and the simultaneous preservation of many of the historical aspects of the research center, including the massive atrium and glass façade.

The event ended with a tour of the facility, giving participants a look some of the elements that made it famous (cruciform atrium, research labs, theater), while construction all around served as a reminder of its new purpose and future.

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Arlington's Court House parking lot will become a park

Greater Greater Washington - Thu, 2014-07-24 15:09
by David Alpert

Arlington may be a paragon of Smart Growth and sustainable transportation, but if you go to the county offices at Court House, a giant surface parking lot dominates the landscape. That could soon change with recommendations to turn it into a new town green with parking below.


All images from Arlington County.

County planners presented three options last night which incorporated input from a task force and the public. All three options keep most or all of the current parking lot as a new green, with only small amounts of parking at surface level.


Courthouse Square today and the parcels for possible redevelopment.

They mainly differ in minor aspects of the layout. Concept A is oriented more north-south, B diagonal, and C east-west. They all recommend development on the Verizon plaza south of 14th Street, and redeveloping some of the nearby buildings, though with varying options for where to put taller buildings versus shorter ones.

The county would also move office space into one of the new buildings. On Option C, that could include an "iconic wing" at the southern end of the square; in exchange, some of what's now the AMC theater would become open space as part of the plaza, with a small "market shed" near where the theater now stands. The other options would leave all of the current parking lot as open space.


View concept: A   B   C  

County staff emphasized that, as with many of these studies that create a few options, the options simply illustrate various pieces that planners can ultimately mix and match.

They will seek feedback in person and through an online survey to develop a final plan, which they will show to community groups in September and October, the Planning Commission in November, and bring to the County Board in December.

What do you think would be the best design for the square?

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Forget the Washington Monument; DC's tallest tower is actually in Ward 4

Greater Greater Washington - Thu, 2014-07-24 13:00
by Dan Malouff

Most people consider the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument to be DC's tallest tower. It's certainly the city's most iconic. But it's not the tallest. That distinction belongs to the 761-foot Hughes Tower.


Hughes Tower. Photo by thebrightwoodian on Flickr.

Hughes Tower is in Brightwood, near the corner of Georgia Avenue and Peabody Street NW. It's primarily a radio transmission tower, broadcasting signals for the Metropolitan Police Department.

The tower is owned by the District of Columbia, and was built in 1989.

Although the tower vastly overshoots DC's usual height limit, transmission towers are one of several exempted categories of structures. Thus, a 761-foot tower doesn't necessarily violate federal law, though DC's zoning code imposes other limits that prevent anyone from just building such a tower. The National Capital Planning Commission also wasn't happy about this one.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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What Can We Do About Highway 101?

By Alyssa KiesJuly 24, 2014

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Richard Masoner and www.cyclelicio.us/


Despite more than $1 billion in capital investments to Highway 101 over the past 20 years, the link that connects San Francisco and Silicon Valley is as congested as ever. Drivers on Highway 101 experience some of the worst traffic delays in the Bay Area, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. But alleviating traffic on 101 will require more than just better management or expansion of the freeway. Giving travelers viable alternatives to driving — through transportation and land use changes — is imperative to the future of the corridor. Below is a three-pronged approach to managing growth in the corridor.

1. Encourage the efficient use of 101 by incentivizing carpools and earning funds for public transit.

Three county transportation agencies — in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties — are actively working to change the way drivers use 101. SPUR recently convened these agencies to hear their plans. (You can download presentations from the forums we held in San Francisco and San Jose.) The San Francisco County Transportation Authority recently won a Caltrans grant to study ways to manage highways 101 and 280, while the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) plans to widen much of 101 and implement 36 miles of express lanes, offering solo drivers the opportunity to drive in lanes usually reserved for carpools of two or more in exchange for a fee. In San Mateo, the County Transportation Authority, along with the City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG) has proposed to build a new lane on 101 and convert an existing lane into a carpool lane.

But transportation advocates pushed back on the San Mateo County proposal, saying history has proven that widening freeways doesn’t reduce traffic, and in early July, the C/CAG Board of Directors voted to study converting a general purpose lane to an express lane, rather than widening the freeway. Transportation advocacy group TransForm argues that revenues from the express lane should be used to fund public transit and other alternatives to driving. This solution, however, would require county transportation agencies to take a proactive stance against California law AB 798, which specifies that only existing carpool lanes may be converted to express lanes. C/CAG’s decision to study this solution shows a willingness to re-examine a law that makes it more difficult to achieve the state’s carbon emission reduction goals.

2. Concentrate growth in dense, well-designed neighborhoods near transit.

Transportation solutions can only go so far: Slow freeways are as much a land use issue as a transportation issue. Increased traffic on 101 corresponds to the improving economy in a place where too many jobs are located far from other transportation options like regional transit. The long-term solution is to add both jobs and housing near transit hubs, giving travelers a reasonable alternative to driving and allowing 101 to be used more efficiently.

One challenge of the 101 corridor is that most jobs are near Highway 101, not around Caltrain stations. In fact, 75 percent of the Bay Area’s jobs are within a half-mile of a freeway off-ramp, while less than a quarter are within a half-mile of a regional rail station (like Caltrain or BART). Large employers like Apple and Facebook have planned campus expansions far from transit, despite their employees’ traffic woes. Placing jobs in locations that are most easily accessible by car, with free parking, leads to people driving to work. Shuttle buses certainly provide an alternative, but they don’t pick up every employee — and they get stuck in the same traffic as everyone else.

Even if more companies wanted to locate next to Caltrain (as is already happening), there simply isn’t enough space right now. Furthermore, some peninsula towns have limits on the amount of space zoned for jobs near Caltrain. One solution: Change local zoning to permit the amount of development necessary to accommodate all that transit-oriented job growth. A second important step is to adopt and adhere to proven urban design principles. When we grow near transit, we have just one chance to ensure development is designed in a way that actually supports walking, biking, transit and other transportation choices.

Even with the addition of jobs near Caltrain, there’s still the issue of adding housing nearby. In peninsula cities, jobs significantly outnumber housing capacity. This means competition for a place to live in cities like Palo Alto and Menlo Park is fierce, and those that can’t afford to live there suffer long commutes instead. As we know, cities on the peninsula that have a lot of jobs but not a lot of housing have a lot of car traffic coming in and out.

3. Increase capacity on Caltrain.

In the 101 corridor, an obvious alternative to driving is taking Caltrain. But even there, riders have started to complain about cramped quarters in the increasingly popular rail line, which has seen ridership jump 54 percent since 2010. At peak hours, many trains are full and passengers with bikes are occasionally denied entry. While the electrification of Caltrain is one solution to increasing capacity, the project isn’t expected to begin service until 2019.

Short-term solutions for increasing capacity on Caltrain include re-configuring cars to better accommodate standing passengers and those with bicycles; dedicating trains to certain trips; extending trains by adding another car; and upgrading the signal system. These solutions, however, may not be able to address the rapid increases in ridership that Caltrain is currently experiencing. Caltrain is just one part of our regional transit network, and we must improve the way all the parts work together, including VTA and Samtrans buses and bus rapid transit, VTA light rail, BART, Muni, public and private shuttles, Bay Area Bike Share and even taxis.

To get people moving again, the most effective solution will be to retrofit both transportation and land use. As we continue to add jobs in the Bay Area, commute times will also increase. Caltrain will get more crowded. Ensuring a good quality of life for Bay Area residents will require cooperation throughout the corridor to enact a synchronized vision for the region.

For an in-depth look at transportation recommendations in Santa Clara County, read SPUR’s report Freedom to Move >>

Categories: CNU blogs

The Metro plan has changed a lot since 1968

Greater Greater Washington - Thu, 2014-07-24 11:45
by Matt Johnson and David Alpert

Saturday, the Metro system will grow in length by 10% with the Silver Line, first envisioned in the mid-1960s. A lot has changed from the original plans for Metro. Today, DDOT circulated a 1968 map of the planned system.

In the wake of the 1968 riots, DC pushed WMATA to reroute what's now the Green Line through some of the harder-hit neighborhoods. In 1970, the WMATA Board voted to change the "E route" from Massachusetts Avenue and 13th Street and instead run it along 7th Street to Shaw and then 14th Street to Columbia Heights.

The 1970 decision also deleted the "Petworth" station, which would have been at Kansas Avenue and Sherman Circle. The "Georgia Avenue" station would have been under Kansas Avenue at Georgia and Upshur, in the heart of Petworth, but the alignment later shifted south to New Hampshire Avenue.


The blue circle (not on the original map) shows where the Georgia Avenue-Petworth station is today.

In addition to the many station name changes (you won't see Ardmore, Voice of America, or Marine Barracks stations on the map today), there have been a few pretty significant changes to alignments and station locations.

At the time of this map, the line we know today as the Blue Line had a split terminus, with some trains running to Franconia and some trains running to Backlick Road (and a potential future extension to Burke).

In the northwestern part of the region, the Red Line was to stop at Rockville, instead of running all the way to Shady Grove. The northern Green Line was also shorter, including a station between Berwyn Road and Greenbelt Road, instead of further north at I-495, where the current Greenbelt station is.

Along the Orange and Blue lines, there were to be two more common stations, one at Oklahoma Avenue and one at Kenilworth Avenue (River Terrace) before the lines split. The Minnesota Avenue station was not in the plan at the time.

The southern Green Line was the subject of lots of controversy between 1968 and its completion in 2001. There were two competing routes planned, one to Branch Avenue and an alternate route to Rosecroft Raceway. The 1968 map here shows the line going to Branch Avenue via Alabama Avenue.

But later, WMATA settled on using the Rosecroft alignment in DC, via Congress Heights, and the Branch Avenue alignment in Prince George's County. This created in the "jog" along the District line where the Southern Avenue station is located.


Left: 1968 planned alignment. Right: Actual alignment; image by Matt Johnson using Google Maps.

The map also shows potential future extensions in blue. Today's Silver Line is included, though it stays in the median of the Dulles Access Road instead of detouring through Tysons Corner (which was much smaller then; the mall first opened in 1968). Also shown are lines along Columbia Pike in Virginia and extensions to Bowie, Brandywine, Gaithersburg, and Laurel. The extension to Largo was actually built and opened in 2004.

You can view a pannable, zoomable version of the map here.

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Montgomery and DC officials start talking about working together on transit

Greater Greater Washington - Thu, 2014-07-24 10:14
by Kelly Blynn

DC is designing a streetcar that could end just shy of the Maryland line, while Montgomery County is planning Bus Rapid Transit lines that could dead-end at the border with the District. Can the two transportation departments work together? Officials from both jurisdictions met last week to see if they could build some cooperation.
Image from the DC Office of Planning's streetcar report.

Montgomery and DC leaders recognize that their residents don't consider political boundaries as they go about their daily lives, yet have so far been planning new transit lines in their own silos. New transit lines will be more successful if leaders ensure they serve the right destinations and have integrated schedules, payment, and pedestrian connections.

Will the streetcar go to Silver Spring?

DDOT planners have specified either Takoma or Silver Spring as possible endpoints for the Georgia Avenue streetcar. Jobs and housing density, not to mention the "vast majority of comments" that DDOT has received, point to Silver Spring as the best destination.

Montgomery planner Dave Anspacher said that the county's master plan includes dedicated lanes for transit on Georgia Avenue south of the Metro. But DDOT Associate Director Sam Zimbabwe noted that there would be many challenges. Montgomery County would probably not let DC construct the streetcar into Silver Spring on its own, so any connection would require very close coordination.

Will BRT connect to DC?

Several routes in Montgomery County's Bus Rapid Transit plan run up to the DC line, but there are no plans for what to do beyond that. Officials discussed how these lines could reach into the District to either get farther downtown or end at a suitable Metro station.

New Hampshire Avenue: The line for New Hamsphire Avenue could end at Fort Totten Metro, just like the current K6 and K9 WMATA buses that serve that corridor. Zimbabwe said that leaving New Hampshire out of MoveDC "may have been a gap," but also expressed skepticism about dedicated lanes within DC because New Hampshire narrows from six to four lanes at the DC line.


WMATA's K buses on New Hampshire Avenue currently cross into DC to serve Fort Totten Metro. Map from WMATA.

Wisconsin Avenue: Last fall, the Montgomery County Council approved a "dotted line" for the 355/Wisconsin Avenue BRT line to Friendship Heights (and beyond), pending collaboration with the District. The idea, said Anspacher, would be to bring BRT south towards Georgetown to serve the parts of Wisconsin without Red Line service.

Wisconsin Avenue is in fact a "high capacity transit corridor" in the moveDC plan, DDOT officials pointed out, so this connection is a distinct possibility, though potentially far off.


Proposed transit lanes in DC from the moveDC plan.

16th Street: The BRT master plan includes the short part of Colesville Road/16th Street to the DC line south of the Silver Spring Metro for dedicated transit lanes. Anspacher said the county would be willing to explore uses this space to help with DC and WMATA's efforts to improve the overcrowded S bus lines.

There's more work to be done

Arlington and Fairfax counties have worked together on the Columbia Pike streetcar. Arlington and Alexandria are collaborating on the Potomac Yards-Crystal City BRT project. And of course Montgomery and Prince George's have worked together on the Purple Line. These show that cooperation is possible.

At the same time, all of those examples sit entirely within one state, so it may take more work to create a Montgomery-DC transit service. WMATA could also help serve a convening role and has the authority to act as the regional transit planning authority.

Montgomery and DC officials agreed to meet again soon on specific projects, with 16th Street and Wisconsin Avenue as the top priorities. As Montgomery County's transportation committee chair Roger Berliner said, "Every day tens of thousands of commuters clog our roads to get to you, and then clog your roads. We have a mutual interest in solving that problem."

This meeting was a great start, but there will have to be many more at many different levels to truly build the best transit projects and the most effective integrated network for riders and the region.

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Breakfast links: Silver Line to-dos

Greater Greater Washington - Thu, 2014-07-24 08:52
by Nick Finio


Photo by jas_on on Flickr.Pedestrian access still to come: Over the last year, Tysons Corner has gained many new sidewalks. Some intersections, however, still lack pedestrian facilities. County officials will be monitoring pedestrian traffic next week. (WAMU)

Same route, higher cost?: Many Fairfax Connector routes that previously terminated at West Falls Church will now terminate at Wiehle-Reston East. With the switch from bus to rail, some riders will pay more to travel the same route. (WAMU)

No parking here: Tysons Corner Center will be installing electronic gates at its parking lots to prevent commuter access. The gates will allow employees to park before business hours while preventing early commuter parking. (WBJ)

Lanier Heights battles over pop-ups: A particularly bitter debate over pop-up additions to rowhouses is heating up in Lanier Heights. Some residents want to downzone the area to prevent additions, others want to "grow up." (City Paper)

Streetcar steps: DC's four streetcars are moving to H Street where they will stay until the line opens, which officials still hope to do this year. (DCist) ... DDOT is still working on planning future lines, though funding is uncertain. (WBJ)

Arlington board backs taxis: Arlington Board members expressed sympathy for county taxi drivers in their battle for business against Uber and Lyft. Mary Hynes noted that they are hard to access for customers without smartphones. (ArlNow)

Longer terms in PG: Prince George's Council members have placed a measure on the November ballot to extend their term limits to three 4-year terms. The County is the only in the region with term limits. (Post)

And...: Washington officials will meet with the US Olympic Committee in a "low key" meeting about the 2024 Olympics. (WTOP) ... Hyattsville will keep its library's flying saucer, but lose the building itself. (Gazette) ... Donald Trump has broken ground on his redevelopment of the Old Post Office Building into a luxury hotel. (DCist)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.

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Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 15

Greater Greater Washington - Wed, 2014-07-23 14:30
by Matt Johnson

On Monday, we posted our fifteenth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

We got 44 guesses on this post. A whopping 26 of you (over half) got all 5 correct. Great job!


Image 1: Rosslyn.

The first image shows the escalator shaft at Rosslyn station. This shaft is distinctive because the four escalators are split by an elevator, which ascends through them. When Metro opened the new elevator-only entrance, however, it this elevator was deactivated. A development atop the station site will soon demolish the top of the elevator, but it's not clear if WMATA will remove the remainder of the shaft. 37 people knew this one.


Image 2: Huntington.

These "County of Fairfax" seals are at Huntington station, next to the tunnel portals at the southern end of the station. There's one on either side of the tracks. The seals line up with the circular holes in the buttresses, which we featured in week 8. One clue there is the "end ATC" sign, which indicates that this is the end of the line. 36 got this one right.


Image 3: Columbia Heights.

The third image was taken at the eastern entrance to Columbia Heights station. The canopy that's visible here is unique to two stations: Columbia Heights and Petworth. The Kenyon Square building visible through the glass is the clue to narrow it down to Columbia Heights. 35 correctly guessed this one.


Image 4: Union Station.

The fourth image shows the cramped northern mezzanine at Union Station, looking down from the elevator landing on the commuter rail level. This mezzanine is unique because of its size and shape, necessary to fit it in under Union Station. The four flags show that this is a key station. 38 knew this one.


Image 5: White Flint

The final image is a picture of White Flint from 2009. This picture is looking south at the station from above the subway tunnel. The main clue here is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission building just south of the station. 38 correctly guessed White Flint.

Congratulations to the winners!

Next Monday, we'll have 5 more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing!

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New Data Shows Bay Area and State Economies Are Booming

By Egon Terplan, Regional Planning DirectorJuly 23, 2014

Photo by Sergio Ruiz for SPUR


By most accounts, our state and region are booming. This is welcome news after several years of a sluggish economy and a major recession. California is growing faster than the country and other global powers. The state is now the world’s eighth largest economy (after dropping from fifth largest to 10th between 2002 and 2012). The Bay Area has increased its national share of venture capital funding, an important feedstock for the next round of start-ups.

Despite the generally good economic news, challenges remain. Housing costs are out of reach for many, some parts of the Bay Area still haven’t returned to their pre-recession job levels, unemployment remains stubbornly high in a few places and there are too few middle-wage jobs.

Below are some highlights for the region and state according to several new sources of economic data analyzed by Steve Levy at the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

Key findings about the Bay Area:

  • The nine-county Bay Area added nearly 103,000 jobs in the past year, a gain of about 3 percent. This is more than Los Angeles County (96,000) even though LA County has just under 10 million people and the Bay Area about 7.4 million.
  • The Bay Area now has 5 percent more jobs than before the recession began in July of 2007, the best recovery of any region in the state. San Diego is a few percentage points above pre-recession levels, and the San Joaquin Valley just returned to pre-recession levels.
  • Within the Bay Area, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are leading the recovery, with the SF Metro Area (San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties) at about ten percent above pre-recession peak employment and Santa Clara County about seven percent above.
  • Not all parts of the region are booming equally. While growing, the North Bay and East Bay have yet to return to the pre-recession employment levels. Both areas were more heavily impact by the housing crash and are not experiencing as much growth in tech jobs.

The rate of employment is now above the 2007 peak in both the San Francisco and San Jose metro areas, but it remains below pre-recession levels in the East Bay and North Bay. Source: Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

  • In global comparisons, the Bay Area’s $630 billion total economy is just smaller than Switzerland’s, which is $651 billion. That would make the Bay Area – if it were its own nation— the world’s 21st largest economy. On a per capita basis, the Bay Area’s economy is slightly ahead of wealthy Switzerland’s.
  • In contrast, the Los Angeles Basin (a five-county region) has a $995 billion economy that would be the globe’s 16th largest, behind Mexico’s $1.25 trillion economy. Yet Mexico’s population is 122 million and the LA Basin’s just 18.3 million. This means that on a per capita basis, the LA Basin is more than six times as wealthy as Mexico.

Key findings about California:

  • California’s more than $2.2 trillion economy would rank eighth globally were California its own country. Between 2012 and 2013, California’s economy grew by $200 billion to push the state past Russia and Italy and close in on Brazil, in seventh place.
  • Between 2000 and 2002, California had the world’s fifth largest economy. (State economic data is available at the Department of Finance website). In 2003, California’s economic ranking dropped to seventh when it was passed by France and Italy. But in that year, California’s economy remained just larger than China’s (and far larger than Brazil and Russia — then ranked 16th and 17th, respectively). Times have changed: China’s economy now ranks second in the world, and Brazil ranks seventh. Soon, California’s economy is likely to be passed by India (which now ranks just after Italy).

California has the eighth largest economy in the world. Source: Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

  • California has added 1.4 million jobs since December of 2009 and is growing faster than the nation as a whole. California’s job base has grown by 9.6 percent since December 2009 and the nation as a whole by  7 percent.
  • In the past year, key growth industries in California include information services, which includes Internet and motion picture jobs (up 5.1 percent), construction (up 4.7 percent), education and health services (up 4.5 percent) and professional and business services (up 4 percent).
  • Unemployment is down to 7.4 percent from a high of 12.4 percent but remains above the national rate.

Overall, the news is good and economic growth will likely continue for some time. Yet there’s still ground to make up in parts of our region that are not booming as much as San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Our long-term growth prospects remain connected to major issues we have some control over (like the development of housing) and others we have less control over (like immigration policy and federal investment in infrastructure). Stay tuned this fall for SPUR’s upcoming report on economic prosperity, which will explore local and regional strategies to address one piece of the employment puzzle: increasing upward mobility.

Read more about our work on economic prosperity >>

Categories: CNU blogs

See 32 years of DC bike lane growth in one animation

Greater Greater Washington - Wed, 2014-07-23 11:36
by Dan Malouff

DC has had a smattering of bike lanes since at least 1980, but the network only started to grow seriously starting in about 2002. This animation shows the growth of DC's bike lane network, from 1980 through to 2012.


Animation from Betsy Emmons on MapStory.

From 1980 to 2001, literally nothing changed. Then in 2001, two short new bike lanes popped up. The next year there were 5 new ones. From then on, District workers added several new bike lanes each year, making a boom that's still going on.

This animation ends in 2012, so it doesn't include recent additions like the M Street cycletrack. But it's still a fascinating look at how quickly things can change once officials decide to embrace an idea.

In a few years, a map showing the rise of protected bike lanes might start to look similar. That map would start in 2009 with DDOT's installation of the original 15th Street cycletrack. It would expand slowly through this decade, then maybe (hopefully), it would boom as moveDC's 70 mile cycletrack network becomes a reality.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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DCPS and its teachers' union are at an impasse over extending the school day. Could this be a way out?

Greater Greater Washington - Wed, 2014-07-23 11:09
by Natalie Wexler


Photo of clock from Shutterstock.After experimenting with an extended day for students, one New Haven school realized it made more sense to extend the day for teachers, so they would have time to collaborate. Could that work in DC?

Read more at Greater Greater Education »

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