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Worldwide links: London's less stinky

The engineer behind one of London's greatest architectural achievements deserves serious props, Beijing's residents aren't into the idea of driving down congestion through charging people to drive into the city, and in Italy, a work of art suggests a way to deal with rising sea levels. Check out what's happening around the world in transportation, land use, and other related areas!


Photo by Adrian Snood on Flickr.

An engineering hero: London's Thames Embankment changed the city forever by creating a sewer system to wisk away waste after the 1858's "Great Stink." The engineer responsible, Joseph Bazelgette, should be revered for this—and our noses and health should thank him. (London Lens)

Beijing blowback: Beijing has some of the worst traffic and air quality in the world. Some have proposed congestion pricing—charging people to drive when the most people are on the road—but many drivers have pushed back hard because they see mobility-by-car as a right. (The Economist)

Lake Floating: Christo's Floating Piers installation on Lake Iseo in Italy connects small islands to the mainland. It is a beautiful piece of art, but also an opportunity to test pedestrian infrastructure in a world faced with climate change and sea level rise. (Gizmodo)

Portland streetcar expansion: Portland has completed the Tilikum Crossing, a bridge for bikes and walking but not cars, and it recently finished its streetcar loop. If the streetcar is going to grow, expansion will now need to go outwards along major commercial corridors. (Portland Oregonian)

Unconventional Blockage: Barricades are made from all types of materials. Traffic cones and caution tape can create informal, protective architecture, but they can become a form of art. While we typically see these barriers as symbols of authority, we might think of them differently if we saw them in a gallery. (Places Journal)

Quote of the Day

"Columbus's win allows a city in the Midwest—which is much more car-dependent in general than the coasts—to illustrate how auto-oriented places can develop a new blueprint for moving around a city." Mobility Lab's Paul Mackie on Columbus winning the Smart Cities Challenge, a planning contest whose first place award is $50 million. (Mobility Lab)

Development


A big development in Woodley Park may spark DC's next housing battle

The Wardman Park Hotel in Woodley Park is set to get a major influx of new housing. Washington Post reporter Jonathan O'Connell pegs the project as the next big development battle in the District, and he's not sure the opposition will be justified.


Map of the proposed new building. Courtesy David M. Schwarz Architects/Gensler/Lemon Brooke.

Currently, the site at Woodley Park encompasses the Wardman Park hotel, the Woodley apartments and the hotel-condo Wardman Tower. But the DC Comprehensive Plan designates the entire site as high- or medium-density residential. That makes sense, given how close the site is to a Metro station.

Developer JBG has both short- and long-term plans for the site. In the next few years, it hopes to add an "eight-story, 120-unit multifamily building," according to the Washington Business Journal. The addition will include a large green space, and will sit between 2700 Woodley, an existing 212-unit apartment building, and the Wardman Tower.

The longer-term build out calls for replacing the hotel with almost 1300 new residential units, in four new buildings, with more than of 1200 parking spaces and 400 bicycle spaces.


The possible long-term buildout, including almost 1300 new residences. Map of the proposed new building. Courtesy David M. Schwarz Architects/Gensler/Lemon Brooke.

At build-out, the new buildings will have fewer units in them than the Wardman Park Hotel does today, and the big conventions and meetings will go away.

And yet, tensions over development are so high in DC that, Jonathan O'Connell, the Post's main development reporter, tweeted his expectation that this project will spur Woodley Park to become the next in a line of DC neighborhoods to oppose new housing.

Hostility to new housing has becoming increasingly common in the District. Vocal Lanier Heights residents recently won downzoning of that nearby neighborhood. In Northeast DC, Brookland is another front in the so-called "development wars."

"If everything were to go absolutely perfectly," said JBG's Robert Vaughan to the Washington Business Journal, the PUD would be approved by the second quarter of 2017, with groundbreaking to follow in the first quarter of 2018 and delivery by early 2020.

But with a project of this magnitude, even during an affordability crisis, that hardly seems likely.

Photography


The city, outdoors, in the Flickr pool

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


Photo by Ted Eytan.



9th and F Street NW. Photo by Aimee Custis.


7000-series, but #whichwmata? Photo by nevermindtheend.


Florida Avenue. Photo by Erinn Shirley.


14th Street. Photo by Joe Flood.

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!

Bicycling


Capital Bikeshare members ride here, bike lanes or not

Over half of the miles that Capital Bikeshare members ride are on streets without any sort of bike lanes. This map shows you which of those streets are the most popular:


Heat map of where Cabi members ride when there aren't bike lanes. Image from Mobility Lab.

Jon Wergin, of Arlington's Mobility Lab, put together the map after checking out data from GPS trackers on a number of CaBi Bikes, which showed what specific routes riders actually took between taking and returning a bike.

Wergin then separated data from riders who were regular CaBi members and those who were casual, less frequent users. Wergin's map focuses on the regular users, as the more casual ones overwhelmingly stuck to off-road paths close to the Mall and Monuments.

Only about 10% of DC's roadways have some sort of cycling infrastructure, but those routes still got about 1/3 of the bike traffic from regular CaBi members. Even more frequently, though, regular riders took the most direct route possible, which is why the long state avenues seem to have some of heaviest usage. Thick bands dominate Massachussetts, Florida, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania Avenues. M Street in Georgetown, K street near NOMA, and 14th in Columbia Heights also see heavy usage.

Some of these streets are due for new bike infrastructure in the next few years. Louisiana Avenue is slated for protected lanes that would connect existing protected lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue and First Street NE, and new bike lanes might also go in west of the White House.

But plans for Massachussetts and Florida Avenues are more vague. This map shows that DDOT may want to think about more specific plans for these and other roads since they're proving popular with cyclists, even without bike lanes.

What do you notice about the map? Tell us in the comments.

Links


Breakfast links: New name, same taxi game


Photo by Matthew Peoples on Flickr.
Taxicab commission changes: The DC Taxicab Commission has a new name: District Department of For-Hire Vehicles, but not much else will change. The group is now a regulatory agency, and its appointed commission will instead serve as an advisory council. (WAMU)

Fairfax ups FAR: Taller buildings can now come to areas near Metro and in aging commercial zones in Fairfax, after the Board of Supervisors changed zoning requirements to allow higher density. Many say they're worried about increased traffic congestion under the new rules. (Post)

Plans to hold back the floodwaters: After impressive flooding at the Cleveland Park Metro station this week, DDOT will design a new drainage system with better stormwater retention for the area. (Post)

Georgetown connects the bike trails: Georgetown will get a protected bikeway between the Capital Crescent Trail and the Rock Creek Park Trail, with plans for upgrades when the streetcar is extended to the area. (TheWashCycle)

Still stuck on SunTrust: Plans to redevelop the SunTrust building in Adams Morgan are up in the air again after DC's historic preservation board said the design is still too big, needs to fit better with the surrounding neighborhood, and should make the much-contested plaza more inviting. (Borderstan)

More residential for Woodley Park: Plans are in the works to replace a hotel in Woodley Park with more than 1,600 residential units. (UrbanTurf, Bess)

Bike theft doesn't discriminate: Tommy Wells, director of the DC Department of Energy, had his pricy folding bike stolen off a bike rack on H St yesterday. (Post)

Hit and run: A person riding a bike was struck and killed on Minnesota Ave yesterday. The driver fled the scene before police arrived. (DCist)

Bike commuter benefits: The bike commuter benefit has a convoluted legislative history, but long story short, you still can't use it for bikeshare or get a tax break, unlike the transit and parking benefits. (TheWashCycle)

And...: Several Metrobus service changes take effect this Sunday. ... Severe train delays in London yesterday may have kept some people from voting on the EU Referendum. (Evening Standard) ... Uber driver pay isn't all it's cracked up to be, with drivers in some cities barely making minimum wage. (BuzzFeed)

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Public Spaces


Using tape, paper, and potted plants, Arlington built a temporary bikeway

On June 11, Arlington closed a block of bustling Wilson Boulevard for what organizers called the Active Streets Festival. There were bike-oriented games and activities, plus a collection of temporary bikeways "built" with tape, paper, and potted plants.


Pop-up protected bikeway. Photo by BikeArlington.

The festival took place during the Air Force Association cycling race, when many Arlington streets were closed anyway. The Active Streets Festival gave Arlingtonians who weren't racing something bike-related to take part in.

Planners "built" a series of temporary bike lanes, all on the block of Wilson Boulevard between Washington Boulevard and 10th Street North.

On one section, a row of potted plants formed the barrier for a protected bike lane. On another, a row of parked cars did the same. Elsewhere, washable homemade green "paint" and a thick roll of tape formed a green bike lane, a buffered bike lane, and sharrows.


Pop-up green lane and buffered bike lane. Photo by BikeArlington.

By using easy-to-set-up and easy-to-take-down temporary materials, Arlington planners tangibly showed residents what Wilson Boulevard might look like if its street space were allocated differently. There's no proposal to change Wilson permanently, but the example can be instructive for future projects on other streets.


A BikeArlington worker lays down strips of tape to create the buffered bike lane. Photo by BikeArlington.

Tangible benefits aside, the whole thing was a heck of a lot of fun.


Wilson Boulevard with its pop-up bike lanes in place. Photo by BikeArlington.

History


A streetcar used to run from H Street to Berwyn Heights, near College Park

Like those in a lot of other US cities, DC and surrounding areas' best-known streetcar lines tend to be ones where service survived into the 1950's and 1960's. However, routes like the Washington, Gretta, & Spa Spring, which perished during the 1920's heyday of streetcar service, often had a lasting effect on the urban landscape.


A map of the WSS&G streetcar line. Click for a larger version. Map by the author using OpenStreetMap.

Land speculation helped birth the streetcar

The town of Berwyn Heights, Maryland began in the 1890's as a subdivision on the east side of the B&O Railroad tracks (now the MARC Camden Line) just south of Branchville Road (now Greenbelt Road). However, development was slowed by competition from subdivisions on the west side of the B&O tracks, which were served by the Washington, Berwyn, & Laurel Streetcar starting in 1900.

In 1905 a group of land speculators, including Ohio Congressman Samuel Yoder and Benjamin Stephen, the owner of Gretta, the estate that would later become Riverdale Heights, bought up most of the available land in Berwyn Heights. They then obtained a charter for a streetcar line to be called the Washington, Spa Spring & Gretta, which would serve Bladensburg (then home to a well known spring with supposedly curative waters), the Gretta estate, and Berwyn Heights.

Construction on the WSS&G progressed slowly, in part due to funding difficulties: Congressman Yoder funded nearly the entire project with his personal assets. In August 1910, a single-tracked line along Bladensburg Road from 15th and H Streets NE to the Bladensburg School (now the Prince George's County library system's Bladensburg Branch) finally opened.

An extension to Berwyn Heights

After the opening of the line to Bladensburg, work began to construct an extension along Edmonston Road. To save money, this portion of the line wasn't electrified, and passengers were instead required to transfer to "Edison-Beach" battery-powered cars.

The Berwyn Heights extension was opened in 1912, but the Edison-Beach cars had difficulty climbing the final hill from Good Luck Road into Berwyn Heights—some passengers reported being asked to get out and push—and service was soon truncated to Brownings Road in Riverdale.


58th and Berwyn, the northern terminus of the streetcar in Berwyn Heights. It's now a quite suburban intersection. Photo by the author.

In October 1913, the Washington Railway & Electric Company (then one of Washington's two main streetcar systems, and the operator of the competing Washington, Berwyn, and Laurel line) agreed to operate the line as an extension of its H Street Line. Although the new operators electrified the entire line to Berwyn Heights, they decided that patronage was insufficient to justify through service, and the practice of requiring a transfer at Bladensburg School continued.

The Washington, Gretta, & Spa Spring Streetcar stops running

In 1916, the WSS&G corporation went bankrupt and the line was sold to the Washington Railway. The line continued to be unprofitable, and in 1921, Washington Railway terminated service north of Riverdale Heights.

Two years later, the District of Columbia decided to pave Bladensburg Road and required a payment of $150,000 to maintain the streetcar tracks. Given the unprofitability of the line, the company instead replaced streetcars with buses on the Bladensburg Road section of the line in April 1923. However, the Public Service Commission did not immediately allow buses on the Bladensburg School-East Riverdale section of the line, and it remained in operation as a streetcar shuttle until April 1925.

Finally, in 1949, Capital Transit—by then the operator of DC's unified streetcar network—replaced the 10/12 H Street-Benning Road line, which the WSS&G had served as a branch of, with the X2 bus. The H Street-Benning Road line had been one of the first streetcar lines in the city, and was the first of the city's major trunk lines to be completely replaced by buses.

Public Spaces


The latest design for the new Third Street park in NoMa emphasizes kids and dogs

There's a park going in at 3rd and L Streets NE, in NoMa, and after nearby residents chimed in about what they did and didn't like about the first three designs, the architects put forward new plans. Out is dead space and a moat with a bridge, and in is more space for dogs and kids, and some variable topography.


The latest design for the Third Street park. Photo by NoMa Parks Foundation.

Landscape architect Lee and Associates' design includes a large space for dogs that is pushed up against the existing walls that abut the planned park and shifts space for children and adults, including a jungle gym-like wall-holla structure, to the area facing the streets.


An elevation from the latest design of the Third Street park looking south from L Street, with the wall-holla at the center of the park. Photo by NoMa Parks Foundation.

Stacie West, the director of parks projects at the NoMa Parks Foundation, says the updated design uses a lot of elements from the previous "The Wall—West" design and takes the mounds from the "The Mound" design.

The plan also adds a double gate for the dog park space and a water fountain for humans.

Specific lighting, plant and tree, and material selections will be made as the Third Street park moves through the design phase, says West.

The updated design was presented at a community meeting on June 11, with attendees saying that there was mostly praise for the plan.

Residents of NoMa have expressed desire for dedicated space for both dogs and children, something the neighborhood currently lacks. There have been questions about whether the Third Street park should be split between these two uses, however, the general consensus is that this is the best solution for the small, shady site.

"I'm going to be completely honest, this is a somewhat dark, small site," said Robin-Eve Jasper, president of the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID), in May. "It's a great site for a greatly designed small dog park."

"We need to think of this as a little jewel that's convenient for people in this area," she said.

NoMa hopes to begin construction of the Third Street park in 2017 and open it before the end of that year.

You can weigh in on the proposed design here.

Bicycling


DC is on the verge of ditching a harmful traffic law

Right now, DC has a law that keeps drivers from being held responsible for damages when they harm vulnerable road users. After years of organizing and effort, the DC Council is about to vote on a proposal to change this. You have a chance to speak up.


Photo by mjmonty on Flickr.

Traffic collisions happen every day. Sorting out who is responsible for the damages afterwards is a complex job that often involves the police, insurance adjusters, lawyers, and even judges and/or juries. In our region, however, a strict legal standard called "contributory negligence" has made things harsh, but simple: If you are even 1% at fault in a collision, you cannot collect any damages.

If that sounds weird to you, you're not alone. The District, Maryland, and Virginia are among the last holdouts in the US to use this standard. Forty-seven other states have switched to a more common-sense standard called "comparative fault," where damages are assigned in proportion to blame.

I shared my own personal story in a a recent post about how I came to learn about this obscure legal topic—the hard way, courtesy of a minivan driver, while I was riding my bike. While I am grateful I survived and recovered, I know I'm not alone, and others aren't as lucky as me with the court system. That's why myself and others have been advocating since 2014 for the District to adopt the "comparative fault" standard for pedestrians and cyclists who are hit by drivers.

Road users who don't have insurance adjusters or legal representation to advocate on their behalf are victimized a second time after a collision when their claims for damages are denied because insurers are confident most victims will not have the evidence to prove they are untainted by even 1% of fault.

Various DC Council members have explored legislation to make this change, but have faced stiff opposition from AAA and the insurance industry, who can afford multiple full-time lobbyists. However, patient and persistent advocacy from leaders on the council and community groups like WABA and All Walks DC have brought us to the brink of victory.

On Monday, the DC Council's Committee of the Whole scheduled the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Amendment Act of 2015 for a full Council vote on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.

On top of making it so a person on a bike or on foot who was contributorily negligent in a crash with a motor vehicle would still be able to collect damages if they were less than 50% at fault, the bill makes it clear that it covers people using non-motorized vehicles outside of just bikes (or people on foot), and retains what's called the "last clear chance" doctrine, which says that even if the person who was hit was contributorily negligent, the person who hit them can still be responsible if they had a clear chance to avoid the collision.

If you care about this issue, now is the most important time to let your councilmember know that you support fairness for pedestrian and bicycle crash victims. You can rest assured that they are hearing from the insurance industry, so let them hear from you too.

Links


Breakfast links: Metro's big bite of the Big Apple


Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York on Flickr.
NYC subway safety leader joins Metro: WMATA has hired Joe Leader, formerly of the New York subway, to start as Metro's Chief Operating Officer in August. He replaces Jack Requa, who will become Metro's Executive Managing Officer. (WTOP)

Mort Downey on the "death spiral": WMATA Board member Mort Downey discussed the challenges facing public transportation in the US, and particularly Metro, in the inaugural podcast of London Reconnections, a London-based transportation blog.

Fairfax City does a 180 on homeless support: Five years ago, Fairfax City fought a homeless shelter with zoning ordinances. After losing their case in the Supreme Court, the community now embraces the shelter as part of its future. (Post)

CaBi flourishes in Alexandria: Bikeshare in Alexandria is growing fast. From 2014 to 2015, ridership increased by 50%, and Alexandria recovered 63% of its operating costs via fares, more than double the 30% goal. (TheWashCycle)

Safety after the Fort Totten crash: Seven years after the Metro crash that killed nine outside of Fort Totten, two safety recommendations - to add blackboxes to all railcars and to retire the 1000-series cars - still remain unresolved. (WAMU)

Historic "shotgun house" plans: 120 apartment units could come to Capitol Hill on the site of a historic "shotgun house." Prior plans to redevelop failed after the Historic Preservation Board said no to razing the home. This time developers intend to relocate the home elsewhere on the lot. (Capitol Hill Corner, J.R.)

The skywalk is the limit...ing factor: The skywalks that sprung up across cold-weather cities were all the rage in the 1970s. Now cities with skywalks are finding they may have inadvertently killed their own downtowns as businesses struggle because no one walks the streets anymore. (AP, Adam S.)

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