Urban Commute

The Silver Line is Here! No, Really!

I honestly thought this day would never come. Much like the Streetcar, the Silver Line has always been a sort of nebulous promise in the back of my mind – you know, like self-driving cars – one that I never actually expected to come to fruition. So I definitely did a double-take when I saw that a firm date has been set for the opening of the Silver Line, and that it’s actually in the foreseeable future!

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the line is scheduled to open for regular operations starting July 26th. Yup, less than 3 weeks away! There will be test runs in the week leading up to it, but no one will be able to board those trains (so don’t get confused if you see one whizz by at the station).

The Silver line will largely overlap with the Orange and Blue lines in DC proper; out in the burbs, it will have five dedicated stations:  McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro, Spring Hill, and Wiehle-Reston East. For all the details, click here. Or just check out the map below!

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Trouble for The Streetcar (But Good News for Taxpayers?)

The DC Council just passed a new budget that allows for “modest income tax reductions” for most working DC residents. The trade-off? Streetcar funding has been gutted, and new sales taxes will be levied on establishments like yoga studios and gyms. Click through for the full story from the Washingtonian:

Photograph by Flickr user DearEdward.

The Cutest Annual March on Washington

Last week, the Washingtonian featured a human – or rather duckie – interest piece that is just such a quintessentially DC gem of a tradition that I had to share it. Every year, a mama duckie and her new hatchlings make the pilgrimage from the top of the hill in Georgetown down to the canal. And every year, mama and her babies pick up along the way an entourage of wonderful humans who take it upon themselves to safely escort the motley little crew to their destination. Here are the full story and ridiculously adorable pictures from the Washingtonion:

Photographs by Carol Ross Joynt.

The people spotted holding up traffic at 30th and M streets this morning probably didn’t expect to start their Wednesday as crossing guards for the unlikeliest group of pedestrians, a mother duck and her ten tiny ducklings. But here they were on some of Georgetown’s busiest streets—a mother with a toddler and a baby, a building contractor, two men in suits, and a driver who spontaneously parked and hopped out of her car—all acting as traffic cops as the determined female mallard marched her brood down 30th Street to the C&O Canal, a sometimes harrowing journey that involved besting construction vehicles, storm drains, street grates, steps and, last but not least, the intersection of M Street at rush hour.

The humans circled around the pint-sized parade, staying close but not too close, some hustling ahead to stop cars or politely ask workers to shut down a drill or dirt hauler. Everyone obliged. Some followed along in their cars, taking photos. The mother stopped only once, to squat and huddle with her babies in some weeds by a garage door. After a brief pause, the march resumed.

It’s not a first. It seems that each spring this mother duck (or another just like her) relocates her young family from the top of the hill in Georgetown down to the canal. And each year there always seems to be humans ready to fall in line and help her make her way.

When she got to the canal she lifted off the high edge of the tow path and glided down to the water, her wings flapping, her babies hesitated, then plopped off the ledge one by one to the water below. The humans gave them a loud round of applause and patted each other on the back. “See you next year,” said one, heading on to the day’s more imposing, but most likely less rewarding, responsibilities.

Need a Drink?

Thrillist recently put out this hilariously useful “Metro Bar Map,” which lists the closest bar to each Metro Stop*. So the next time your nerves are absolutely frazzled by your awful Metro ride, you’ll be able to make a beeline for the nearest bar stool – literally. Enjoy!

Thrillist Bar Map

*Programming Note (from Thrillist): There are some spots that would be SUPER awkward to drink at — like Arlington Cemetery, The Pentagon, Fort Totten, and a hodgepodge of government buildings at Federal Center — so we’ve left those out.

Biker Blues

The hilarious headline below from DCist leads into a story about a very real problem on the streets of DC today. As DC transforms into a truly bike-friendly city, some drivers are clearly reticent to adapt. The rampant disregard amongst DC drivers for bike lanes and cyclist-friendly rules and street markings can be downright dangerous. Some of it can be chalked up to genuine ignorance of all of the new rules, but for the most part I think it’s an attitude problem – drivers believe that bikers just don’t belong on the road, and aren’t interested in yielding to them. It’s an attitude that seriously needs to shift – the bike-friendly movement in DC is in full swing, and it’s time everyone got on board. Here’s the full story from DCist:

 

Drivers Already Enjoying New Bike Lanes Near Union Station

As the reconstruction of First Street NE continues, cyclists can already enjoy the new bike lanes near Union Station.

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Drivers certainly are, with one reportedly threatening a cyclist who pointed out that cars don’t belong in bike lanes.

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An email to DDOT on this issue and the placement of the existing flex-posts has yet to be returned.

Greg Billing from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association says many protected bike lanes begin as pilot projects to find out if people will use these dedicated lanes. “I think the answer is unequivocally ‘yes,'” Billing said.

“We’re at a point where we should start building more curb-protected bike lanes,” Billing said. Indeed, there’s now a curb-protected lane on First Street NE from K to M streets. When there isn’t room for a curb, Billing said DDOT “needs to find a material that fits that space but also provides that protection, because that’s why people want to bike on those streets.”

But in the meantime, cyclists have to deal with being unexpectedly sent into traffic. (See: Who’s Blocking the L Street Bike Lane Today?)

“There is growing frustration among cyclists who go out of their way to ride on these facilities, and then have drivers parked in bike lanes, to have these negative or even scary interactions with drivers,” Billing said. He urged cyclists to report these situations the police (yes, 911), rather than put themselves in a potentially dangerous situation. “Use some caution and common sense,” he said.

“But do report it.”

The Streetcar: An Economic Booster Shot?

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Image courtesy of DC.gov

The H Street streetcar is a real thing: I hath seen it with mine own eyes. And while it’s not quite ready for public use just yet, I have seen it doing test runs up and down the street – so I don’t think the big day is too far off. Granted, I’m not thrilled that it basically looks like a skinny Circulator Bus (couldn’t they have picked a cool historic design like the famous San Fran trolleys?), but hey – no one asked me. So what will the streetcar mean for our fine city? Check out this great article in the Washington Post about the positive economic impact that streetcars have had on other major cities in the past, and the expectations for DC’s streetcar:

After streetcar line opens, $18B in development expected in D.C.

Downtown Washington hasn’t seen a streetcar in 52 years, yet the city has plans to build 37 miles of streetcar tracks, joining the ranks of Portland, Ore.; New Orleans; Seattle; and Tacoma, Wash.

Tucson, Seattle and Atlanta also expect to have streetcars operational this year, with another 12 cities expected to start construction by 2015. Arlington County may not be far behind with two proposed routes: one running down Columbia Pike and another between Crystal City and Pentagon City.

The initial $1 billion, 22-mile system in the District begins with the 2.4-mile H Street/Benning Road line, running along Second St NE and H Street NE. Streetcar proponents anticipate the introduction of service will attract additional investment to these corridors. They cite Portland as an example, which has operated its streetcar system for more than 12 years, and watched daily ridership grow from 4,000 at inception to 17,000 today.

The Portland Transportation Department reported in 2008 that $3.5 billion of development has occurred within two-blocks of its streetcar routes. Approximately 90 percent of the allowable density has been built within one block of the streetcar routes, which steps down to 43 percent of the allowable density built three or more blocks away.

The District’s Office of Planning expects up to $8 billion in new development within 10 years after completing work on the eight planned streetcar lines. District officials forecast demand for office space would increase by 3 million square feet and retail space by an additional 1.3 million square feet, supporting up to 1,200 net new households in the District each year.

Development along the H Street corridor has already picked up. A 215-unit apartment building completed construction last year at 360 H St NE, along with a new Wal-Mart at 77 H St. NW. In total, since the beginning of 2013, approximately 558,000 square feet of commercial space has been built or is currently under construction in the H Street Corridor compared with 18,000 square feet built during the 20 years prior.

In addition, the proposed streetcar line will connect developing areas of the District with established parts of the city. A planned 3.6-mile streetcar line will pass along K Street NW through the office-heavy downtown and connect to retail-centric Georgetown.

While few may claim that the streetcar is a fast and efficient way to travel, it is hard to deny the economic impact this mode of mass transit has made in Portland. The question is whether the District can replicate Portland’s success to this area.