Okay, this next one needs a little history. In the Constitution, war powers are given to the Senate: only the Senate, on majority vote, can declare war. George W. Bush managed to get war powers transferred to him, I think in the Patriot Act. A Dept. of Defense appropriations bill was approved that included removing war powers from the President, giving them back to the Senate. After it was approved, Paul Ryan took that wording out of the bill, which had been given bipartisan approval.
ETA: A scientist blows the whistle on the Trumpists moving scientists to non-science jobs in the hope they'll quit, while leaving their previous useful positions unfilled.
A Friend from my Meeting is walking, biking and rowing/paddling the US. Here's his blog, about his journeys.
The finding of a 14,000-year-old settlement verifies the land claim of the Heiltsuk First Nation in Canada.
Armed redneck lefties fight fascism.
Marble helped scholars whitewash ancient history.
A few hours ago, Hyperloop creator Elon Musk tweeted that he had received "verbal govt approval" for building his tube train technology from DC to New York, with stops in Baltimore and Philadelphia. That's... not how it works.
Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2017
Musk started talking about building a Hyperloop— a set of vacuum tubes that would supposedly use magnets running in to move trains at nearly 800 mph— between Los Angeles and the Bay Area a few years ago, and more recently started talking about building the technology on the east coast. Let's set aside the very real reasons to think this technology is unrealistic and impractical (it is).
What sticks out about Musk's tweet is the clear ignorance of what actually goes into building infrastructure. Getting "verbal approval" is not an actual step in the planning or construction process. Just ask anyone following the Purple Line saga: you have to do all kinds of studies and analyses, getting sign off all along the way, to ever get anywhere near putting shovels in the ground.
Update: Citing "verbal government approval," the Purple Line will begin construction tomorrow— David Alpert (@alpert) July 20, 2017
(Not really)— David Alpert (@alpert) July 20, 2017
The implication in Musk's tweet is that he got this approval from someone in the Trump administration. On that front, one of the contributors on GGWash's listserv said it best: "So ... someone who clearly understands nothing about government processes or ROW acquisition gave another person who clearly understands nothing about government processes or ROW acquisition 'verbal approval.' So exciting."
Today the Virginia Railway Express' Fredericksburg Line is 25 years old today. Happy birthday!
Summer 1992 was a big year in Virginia transportation. The VRE's Manassas Line opened for service on June 22 (sorry we missed that one!), and the Fredericksburg line starting running on July 20th.
Traveling between Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Washington, the VRE provides commuter rail service between communities in Virginia and DC. Today, the VRE sees around four million riders a year and around 20,000 riders a day. A recent study noted that VRE service today carries more people than an extra highway lane on interstates 66 and 95 would. Beyond rail service, VRE produces its own magazine called RIDE to inform riders and readers about what's going on with the VRE.
The system is expanding as well. An extension out of downtown Fredericksburg to Spotsylvania County was completed in 2015, and another new station near Dumfries called Potomac Shores is now slated to open in 2018. A new pedestrian tunnel at Alexandria's King Street Station will make it easier to transfer between VRE, Amtrak, and Metro.
But VRE service is limited. It only runs during the weekdays at rush hour so a trip only makes sense to people with regular 9-5 jobs near DC. Recent plans to extend the VRE to Haymarket likely won't move forward leading the VRE to scale back some of its expansion plans going forward.
However, with planning underway to replace the Long Bridge across the Potomac river and the Virginia High Speed Rail set to speed up trains between DC and Richmond, the VRE could be poised to take advantage of railroad improvements across the region.
Do you use the VRE? What improvements would you like to see? Or do you just want to say happy birthday? Tell us in the comments.
Top image: The VRE also has a station at Franconia-Springfield next to the Metro station. Image by Nevermindtheend licensed under Creative Commons.
Over 49,000 people who ride the bus on H and I Streets NW past the White House could see their travel sped up by 30-50% with a bus lane. Another 40,000 would see travel time drop by 15%.
These are the conclusions from the District Department of Transportation's "Downtown West" study, which considered a bus lane on H Street and a protected bikeway on Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House. The bus lane would be "contraflow," meaning buses that now drive east on H and west on I (each one-way streets) would be able to go both ways on H.
DDOT planner Megan Kanagy presented an overview of the study recommendations to Foggy Bottom's Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A Wednesday night.
Between those buses and the ones that use adjacent K Street, there are 30 separate routes, and fully one-fifth of all the people who ride Metrobus, around the whole region, travel on these three key streets. But they are congested—particularly I, which has only 4 lanes while H has 5. Buses on I in the evening rush travel at an average of only 3.6 mph between 15th and 17th streets NW.
The study considered a bus lane on H and moving some I Street buses over to H: the 32, 33, 36, 30N, 30S, 37, X2, D6 (and moving the eastbound D6 from K to H), 80, 16Y, and 3Y. Those buses serve 49,000 people a day in that area, and riders there would see their travel times cut 30-50% in this area. And people who don't use the lane benefit too: bus riders on routes staying on I, which number 40,000, would see a 15% boost. So would drivers.
For Pennsylvania Avenue, a great bikeway
Once upon a time, Pennsylvania Avenue between Washington Circle and the White House was a major artery that continued past the White House to New York Avenue and 15th Street. Now, since Pennsylvania Avenue is closed to traffic (and, nowadays, more and more often to people walking and biking too), it's way, way wider than it needs to be for the cars it carries.
The study recommends adding a protected bikeway on each side of the street, one for each direction. Between the bikeways and the motor vehicle lanes would be a planted area with trees, "green infrastructure" (the planted areas that double as stormwater collection pools you've been seeing around the District on many newly-redone streets), possible cafe seating, etc. "Bulb-outs" at the corners would push the sidewalk out to give people a shorter distance to cross.
Where there are bus stops, the road would have a "floating bus bulb" where the bus stop is wholly in between the bikeway and the motor vehicle lanes. That way, instead of people blocking the bikeways when a bus arrives and/or cyclists riding through crowds of bus riders, people could cross the bikeway to the bus shelter and be able to board the bus without conflict.
If all that isn't enough, there's still room to widen the sidewalks a total of 8 feet.
These changes would leave traffic at most intersections relatively unchanged. The corner of Pennsylvania and I would get less congested. The only thorny spot is where Pennsylvania, 19th, and H come together; a new phase in that signal would become necessary to let westbound buses enter Pennsylvania.
Also, the plan suggests a double right turn lane from Pennsylvania eastbound onto 19th; engineering practice is to not also allow people to cross at a crosswalk at the same time as a double turn lane, so there would have to be separate phases for that, the study presentation says. DDOT will be analyzing this intersection more thoroughly in the engineering phase.
This won't get built tomorrow (unfortunately!). This is a planning study. It considers the various possibilities and models the pros and cons. DDOT has concluded that building the bus lane on H and a bikeway on each side of Pennsylvania is the best of the options, and the impact would be good for people overall.
Next, there needs to be a preliminary engineering analysis to work out all the details. How can buildings on the north side of H, including a hotel and various buildings with parking garages, get vehicles across the lane? Which buses will use it? Where would the bus stops go? Are the lanes wide enough? Are there any safety issues to solve? Property owners and the general public will have many more chances to participate and voice any concerns.
After preliminary engineering comes final design, where engineers create the detailed construction documents. Finally, there's building the thing.
Support the lanes!
DDOT needs to hear public support for these changes if they're to become reality. There are always some people who don't want anything to change. Planners need to hear from folks who will bike or ride the bus, or drivers who are excited about the idea of I Street traffic getting lighter thanks to the bus lane.
There's an important public meeting Thursday evening, July 20, 6:30-8 pm. The meeting is at GWU Funger Hall, 2201 G Street NW, Room 222. If you can't make it, send a comment to DDOT planner Megan Kanagy using the button below. If you comment, we'll also keep you apprised as the project proceeds.
Top image: DC's first red bus lane, on Georgia Avenue. Image by Nicole Cacozza.
(She isn't dealing with race here -- yes, of course, Luke Cage is a hero, how could he not be? And Falcon, and T'Challa. And many others whom I see on cable but whose names I don't know. But the field of combat/discussion is sexism here.)
So. Who are the women I see as heroes in movies, not as 'women heroes'? Not as sidekicks, or (forgive me, Rosalind Russell) as equal-to-men-but-in-a-men's-world, such as Hildy in 'My Girl Friday' (which was originally a man's role)? (I am exempting comedies from this, overall, because being a hero can be largely humorless. If someone has a hero who is female and in a comedy, I'd really like to know about it.) And what is a hero? For purposes of this post, I'm defining a hero as someone who goes up against impossible odds to achieve a goal that generally include keeping 'self and/or one or more other people alive, whether or not they are people the hero personally knows. (There are variations -- achieving an impossible goal can be heroic, but isn't always presented as such.) Another requirement is that the hero is someone with agency who chooses to use it to change the status quo for the better. By the end of the movie, something has to be different because of what the hero did. The stakes must be high, the difficulties many and the resources limited.
(Sexism example: Nobody complains about the Sundance Kid shooting people. They complain about Thelma and Louise blowing up the rude sexist trucker's truck. There's only one shooting in that movie, of a rapist, and I don't even want to hear about how he 'hadn't done anything yet' when he'd brutalized Louise in a way that made it clear that she's not his first victim.)
(Yes, Buffy and Faith are heroes -- but I'm thinking movies here, not tv, and the movie of Buffy was not so much about heroism as about overturning high-school and prom-night-movie tropes.)
Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, in Alien, Aliens, etc. My favorite is the second movie, because I went to see it with a really horrible boyfriend I was trying to break up with, and it gave me the courage to dump him. Ripley is a killer because of circumstances -- self defense and protecting the girl -- and her targets are the enormous aliens that are trying to kill them. Does it not count as being a killer if you use a spaceship to do it? Or if the victims are trying to kill you and are aliens?
(Ripley was originally a man's role -- it was written for Paul Newman, as was Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop. The name -- Axel Foley -- is a give-away, half Swedish and half Irish. I can come up with a few reasons why a black character would have that name -- but I seriously doubt that many black kids were named Axel until after the movie came out.)
Sally Field, in both Places in the Heart and Norma Rae. Neither of them has rape involved, present or past. This is steadfast, plugging, get-it-done heroism, not flashy. What changes is that through her hard work and steadfastness, and befriending outcasts (Danny Glover and John Malkovich), she keeps her home. It probably helps that Sally Field looks like a fluffy bunny in Places, and is sweaty and ungroomed in Norma Rae. I've worked in a factory without AC in the summer -- she looked like I felt on the assembly line. And that scene where she is dragged away to the police car, fighting for her life? She broke two ribs on one of the guys carrying her that day; she was dead serious in that fight.
Leia Organa, whether princess, freedom fighter, or general, is a hero. She's also a killer, unless all those dudes in white plastic armor don't count when she shoots at them and they fall down. She's also the Hutt-slayer and a liberator of planets. Over the first three movies (they will always be the first three for me, not the prequels) her character grows and develops. What we have lost when Carrie died was the rest of the story for her -- at least we have Movie 8 coming, with more of General Leia. (I have no idea why The Geek Feminist Revolution didn't include her as a hero, unless she's in an essay I haven't gotten to yet. I mean, she's the one with the two male sidekicks who think it's all about them.)
Karen Silkwood, played by Meryl Streep, is a hero, killed for trying to tell people about workplace safety violations in a plutonium factory. Meryl Streep also plays more of an action hero in The River Wild, and there are no rapes there -- and she does kill Kevin Bacon's character, who richly deserves it. However, Meryl Streep can play anything except a doormat; the closest she came to that was in Sophie's Choice, early on, where she is powerless to save both of her children from murder by the Nazis and never completely recovers afterward. It's a powerful role and amazing acting -- but she is not a hero, she's a survivor, and the two aren't necessarily the same.
Arwen Undomiel, one of two named women characters in Lord of the Rings (seriously: Rosie Cotton is a walk-on so Sam will have someone conventionally female to come home to) is a hero, and a swordfighter, when she rides down to the ford to bring Frodo up to Rivendell. I have fantasized at times about a version of LOTR from her viewpoint -- being the witness, seeing what's happening but not able to change the war, then choosing mortality over immortality because with Aragorn she had found something she could not find with another elf. There are hints in the books of their marriage being considered miscegenation by Elrond and others, but it can't be said overly strongly because he is Elrond Half-Elven, after all. What would her story look like, from her viewpoint? She wasn't Eleanor of Aquitaine, riding bare-breasted toward Jerusalem with the Crusades -- "the troops were dazzled" -- because sexuality barely exists in Tolkien's writing other than bromance. If anything, she is stuck being more like Katherine in Henry V -- outside the "men's discussion" of war and tribute and appeasement, but she escapes being the property that must be exchanged for the treaty to take place. But to get back to Arwen, heroes are people who act, and Arwen does act, in the scenes we see -- that is her choice. The book and movie show us the aftereffect, the willing bride and queen -- they don't show the inner struggle she went through to get there. (FWIW, I have a hard time not reading Merry and Pippin as kid sisters to Frodo, but that's me. Tomboy kid sisters who get into scrapes and out of them.)
Eowyn, also LOTR, is certainly a hero -- gets into armor, rides into battle, kills the Witch King --"No man can kill me." "I am no man." She also shows 'womanly' virtues by caring for the ailing king, her uncle, and mourning her brother. I would dearly love to see a story in which she and Arwen are hanging out and talking, since they are the co-rulers of neighboring countries. Peter Jackson has much to answer for in not having Faramir's courtship of and marriage to Eowyn in the movie. Yes, it was three hours long. It could have been three hours and five minutes.
I don't see Galadriel as a hero. Yes, she turns down the Ring. But that's it. Nothing changes for her after the movie -- she goes into the Weat, where all the elves were going anyway. She's a queen, a wise woman, a visionary -- but not a hero in these terms. And -- JRR Tolkien, why could you not have put Arwen and Galadriel in the same room *once*?
Speaking of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Katharine Hepburn plays her as a hero in her own eyes who is stuck in a proscribed women's role and trying her best to get out of it at times by manipulation and scheming (traditionally considered women's weapons). But she also brings knives to her sons when her husband has imprisoned them, so they can fight their way out --"It's 1183, and we're all barbarians." Much as I love Kate's movies, it's hard for me to call her a hero. A strong woman, yes, but in that narrative (play or movie) not heroic. She does not change anything. At the end of the story she's going back to her own prison, and everyone who was alive when the movie started still is, though their relationships have shifted a bit. Hepburn played the roles that were available, and women-as-equals or women-as-partners were her forte. But not heroes. But Kate Hepburn's movies could be an entire other post or three.
I am not sure whether Celie, in The Color Purple, could be considered a hero. She does not overturn the status quo as much as go along with it for her own survival. Much of the time she doesn't have agency, and when she does it's fairly minor -- designing women's trousers is not quite like going over a waterfall in a raft with your son and two murderers (The River Wild).
Regardless of Hollywood's prejudices, Black Widow is a hero, as well as a survivor. I would like to see a movie in which we see both of those -- the agency she has is to change herself after Hawkeye refuses to kill her. And yes, she's a killer -- it's her job. I'm not sure she's written as well as she deserves. Fanfic does better by her than the movies do, at this point, much of the time.
What women are your movie heroes, and why? (Y'all are forgetting to tell me why...)
ETA: It's a series, not a movie, but all the major women in Black Sails are heroes, in particular Eleanor Guthrie (who singlehandedly tries to keep the village of Nassau profitable), Max (who goes from slavery and prostitution to managing businesses, owning land, and not employing anyone enslaved), and Anne Bonney (who is a pirate, no excuses, no arguments, and who takes down a murderous thug who had already killed several men -- she noticed the shards of broken glass over to the side, and once she had them, it was as if she had her swords again.) They are all complex, complicated characters, who love and hate and make deals and make compacts and agreements and understand how their world works when many of the men around them don't.
While the legal case opposing the Purple Line is still ongoing, the federal appeals court ruled that construction for the Purple Line can begin. Now Maryland faces the challenge of securing funding for the project. (Katherine Shaver / Post)
NIMBY lawsuits, mostly over the planned unit development process, have ensnared 13 developments across DC and prevented construction from proceeding on nearly 4,000 homes (including over 1,400 affordable homes). (Jon Banister / Bisnow. Tip: PC)
DC practically doubled it's 2015 total for speed-camera tickets in 2016, recording 994,163 tickets worth over $99.2 million in revenue. (Peter Jamison / Post)
People in rural counties could buy insurance on DC's health exchange, if a bill by Senator Claire McCaskill passes. The DC exchange serves Congress and their staff, who can live anywhere, so it already has national coverage and the DC government could manage the exchange for millions. (Bryan Lowry / Kansas City Star. Tip: David C)
Adding to its recent agreement with Capital Bikeshare, Hyattsville is looking to make a deal with mBike, a bike-share program based in the University of Maryland. The deal would consist of 4 stations and 40 bikes. (WashCycle)
Paul Meijer, a local advocate who spent years pushing the DC government to build the Metropolitan Branch Trail, died on July 9 at the age of 95. WashCycle recently dedicated a tulip bed in his honor, just before he passed. (WashCycle)
French company Navya, known for its self-driving buses currently operating in Paris, is opening a plant in Michigan with the goal of adding 25 more self-driving buses to its fleet by the end of the year. (Bradley Dale / Observer)
Mobike recently started service in Manchester, England and has been caught off-guard by the sheer amount of vandalism and disrespect for the bikes from locals. Mobikes have been stolen, kept in yards, left in the street, and thrown in the canal. (Helen Pidd / TheGuardian)
Researchers gathered data on DC Uber drivers' habits and perceptions of their work. They found that most drivers don't fully grasp how the system works, or even how much money they're making after taking the costs into consideration. (Mimi Kirk / CityLab)
Starting August 28, it'll cost $80 for a senior citizen lifetime pass to National Parks and other federal lands, up from its previous cost of $10. If you qualify for this pass, order it before August 28 to get the lower price. (Mitchell Davidson / Potomac Local)
ETA: Got the new disposal, but the pipe needs to be snaked *below* the disposal, and this was discovered after it was installed. Plumber won't come till Friday. We're going to eat out a lot.
Anyway, now you suffer through a few links I tripped over:
Let's look at matters educational (or not):
School should be impractical. hmm.
Women's colleges may say they support women, but that doesn't always show in the way they treat adjuncts.
As paperwork goes missing, student loans may be wiped away.
Predatory programs aren't just from for-profit colleges. Look again. One of them is at Harvard, the American Repertory Theatre Institute. And as a result of people learning that ART Institute burdens students with tons of debt, that program isn't accepting admissions for the next 3 years.
In theatre, seeing your own face, your gender, your ethnicity on stage is important. It can, in fact, be magic.
Marriage and Brehon law in ancient Ireland. And all 10 forms of marriage are listed.
Ken Burns is doing a documentary on Vietnam. It's taken 10 years -- he's done a lot of interview, and nobody agrees about anything. He wanted to avoid the old tropes and the old narrative, and here's why it was difficult. And it starts in September.
Disney wants to acquire a new generation of Star Wars fans.
Behind the scenes of The Last Jedi.
The voice of Kermit the Frog has been fired.
Arundhati Roy on writing, life, politics and the air we breathe.
TED: Life lessons from writers.
Black Lives Matter:
If you don't know Ida B. Wells Barnett, you should.
Why I'm leaving the Southern Baptist Convention.
Trumpery and WTFery:
The real plan is to cut legal immigration.
Jeff Sessions was the guest speaker to attorneys from the rabid Alliance Defending Freedom, and he made them some promises: he told them to go ahead and impose their Christianist beliefs on unbelievers, LGBTQ people and more.
In all of this litigation and debate, this Department of Justice will never allow this secular government of ours to demand that sincere religious beliefs be abandoned. We will not require American citizens to give intellectual assent to doctrines that are contrary to their religious beliefs. And they must be allowed to exercise those beliefs as the First Amendment guarantees.
Note that he is promising that the entire Justice Dept. will back up this behavior.
This town melts down.
Something good: The House rejected an Islamophobic proposal that would have required Muslims to receive special scrutiny from the Defense Dept.
Something not good: Trump only plays golf on courses he owns. When he plays at the course along the Potomac, wounded veterans doing on-the-water rehab and Olympic kayak and boating teams are banned from the water for security.
A lawsuit forced Trump to hand over the secret Mar-a-Lago guest list to three watchdog groups.
The closing of the Republican mind.
Yes, Trump Tower is being used for money laundering, according to the eighth man in one of the meetings with the Russians. *looks out the window* I can almost see the grimy soapsuds from here.
None of the above:
400 soldiers from Maryland that disappeared during the Revolution may have been found, in NYC. And no, they have not been on a bender the whole time.
Sacred architecture, not necessarily welcome.
Polyamory, not necessarily unwelcome.
How a hunter-gatherer diet affects the body. Also thoughts on decolonizing your diet.
Climate change is making Native people adapt their rituals. And would a revenue-neutral carbon tax slow it down?
The Kitten Rental Program is saving lives.
The defiant, refugee-loving history of New Mexico.
Is R. Kelly holding women against their will, in a cult?
To be a genius, think like a 94-year-old.
Last month, Ben’s Chili Bowl unveiled a new mural. The display brought a crowd of people outside to reflect on the bright colors, cultural touchstones, and iconic images that represent DC, U Street, and the history of the local black community. It also got me thinking about how public art fits into public space.
Public art is one of the ways that an area can define itself, investing and creating images that represent things that residents find important, beautiful or fun. It is a cornerstone of the concept of “placemaking,” which envisions public space as a destination that strengthens the community and adds affirmative value, rather than being a dead space.
A great example of what that could look like is GGWash editorial director Dan Malouff’s call to add murals to Metro stations in order to brighten up the featureless concrete.
Public art is widely popular because it both emphasizes and adds to an area’s unique character. A good piece of art takes something great about the community— its history, its people, its artists, its vibe— and reflects that, thereby making the community greater. The best public art, therefore, is rooted in the place where it comes from. That specific sense of place is what sets a mural apart from a framed classic in a museum.
I asked GGWash contributors to talk about their favorite murals, pieces of street art, and sculptures, and to discuss what makes art “public” and whether art should be considered part of city infrastructure.
Contributor Justin Lini compared two sculptures in his neighborhood. For one of them, Washington Glass worked with members of the community to create a glass and steel arch.
“It's a great piece because it’s both beautiful, and it has lots of community involvement,” said Justin. “It's become something of a symbol of the community.”
Another nearby piece from a New York area artist is pleasant to look at, but according to Lini “it doesn't say anything about/to the community. It's just kind of there.”
The arch that students created, and pieces like it, also remind us that public art is more than only murals. While beautiful walls are fun to look at and great to post on Instagram, there are more tactile and engaging pieces that can touch residents’ lives deeply.
Abby Lynch described her favorite art in the city, the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza:
“It's not the one I would pluck from its context and install in a museum because of its great beauty, but it's something that I see as a unifying piece of public infrastructure in my community—it's where the farmer's market happens, it's where families bring toddlers to playing the fountain when the weather gets hot (something that I 100% would have wanted to do at age 4). I've seen salsa performances, petting zoos, and community fairs on the plaza. You could do a lot of that on a blank concrete or gravel plaza, but the design - a fountain, mosaic patterns, seating, landscaping, and the radiating circle design that extends out to the street and sidewalks around it, make the space unique.”
More than just aesthetics, design impacts the way that people live. Redesigning a neighborhood to be more beautiful to look at makes it into a place that people want to be. Art can be combined with public transportation to inject interest into a new project. When a new highway or a trail seeks community input on not just the project, but the design and the murals that will decorate it, people are more likely to be engaged and it creates a sense of local ownership. It can even be a functional part of the design.
The Barnes Dance intersection in Chinatown filled the crosswalk with animal images to encourage people to use the unusual diagonal crossing pattern.
Some murals go beyond the present and place a history lesson on their walls. Just down the block from Ben’s Chili Bowl, you can walk up an alley and learn about the life of Paul Robeson, a famous actor, singer and civil rights advocate. Across the street from these two is the site of the True Reformer building which once featured a mural of DC’s native son and jazz legend Duke Ellington.
No mural is guaranteed to be here forever
Murals, even the most significant and the most beloved, are vulnerable to weather, wear, and new construction. Lots of development accelerates this process, and as buildings come up artwork can be torn down, or hidden from view – which is exactly what happened to the True Reformer portrait. Even though some developers will fund new art on their buildings, when public art becomes a part of the community, it’s a major loss to have it fade or vanish.
The loss of community murals runs parallel to neighborhood change and the displacement of longtime residents. Perry Frank, a DC murals historian, chronicles some of this process in her documentary, Painted City.
Murals fade or are built over, and except for historians like Perry Frank who seek to photograph and preserve their image, they are often replaced without significant upkeep. But when a city builds something for its residents, in some ways it becomes a piece of infrastructure. It’s true that crumbling artwork does not present the kind of serious health and safety risks that you would see if the roads or the electrical grid were falling apart, but there are consequences all the same.
Public art has many great benefits— creating and strengthening community identity, making an open and welcoming space, bringing people together, and making urban design easy to understand— and if it degrades or falls into disrepair those benefits are completely lost.
How does public art come to Washington?
In Denver they have public pianos, and in Philadelphia there is a murals program which has created thousands of murals over 31 years. But how do big public art pieces happen in the greater Washington area?
While graffiti is still undoubtedly popular, there are official channels to put up fully sanctioned artwork as well.
Counties in Maryland and Virginia, and the city of DC all have local offices or affiliated nonprofits that locate places, choose artists and designs, and fund art installations.
In the District, Murals DC has sponsored over 50 works of art, including the Ben’s Mural. The program is a collaboration between the Department of Public Works and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities that was originally founded ten years ago as a graffiti prevention initiative.
In Montgomery County the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County administers a Public Arts Trust. The Prince George County Art in Public Places Program works from a “percent for art” principle, where one percent of county building construction costs is put towards art projects. The county’s Department of Public Works also sponsored a Hyattesville project to paint traffic boxes around the city this summer.
In Virginia, Alexandria’s Office of the Arts and a Commission for the Arts work together to distribute city grants. The office also runs the Torpedo Factory Arts Center, where a former munitions factory was converted into studios and galleries for local artists. Arlington, which has a Public Art Committee, is in the process of updating their Public Art Master Plan, which was written in 2004, when Arlington first allocated county funds to art.
Area residents also have access to a publicly funded, world class art collection from the Smithsonian, which has seven museums dedicated to different varieties of art.
Of course, not all public art is paid for with public money. Private individuals and companies can create or sponsor art that is free to see or experience. The beloved watermelon house on Q Street is a shining example of one single family home making itself into a community landmark.
Public art can define a place, and it almost certainly can beautify a place. If there’s great art near you, let us know! Share your favorite local art in the comments.
Top image: The mural at Ben's Chili Bowl Image by the author.
Trails are usually a great way to avoid car traffic. But sometimes, both by accident and not, drivers end up on them. It's a bizarre problem, but it happens often enough that it is important to remember what to do in case you find yourself facing down a car on the W&OD or the Metropolitan Branch trails.
People driving onto trails in their vehicle is a pretty rare event but not so rare that there aren't usually one examples per year. Most recently we've seen drivers on the Metropolitan Branch Trail in DC and on the Four Mile Run trail in Alexandria.
There's no set reason why people might drive onto trails. In the Four Mile Run case, the Washington Post speculated that it was "to get around rush-hour traffic." One man who drove onto the W&OD trail back in 2013 did so because he was visiting from Florida and following his GPS too closely. 2013 was a bad year in particular for the W&OD, with one drunk driver terrorizing trail users (and hitting one cyclist) just a month before the Florida man's incident.
But regardless the reason for a car being on the trail, it's almost always extremely dangerous. People rightly don't expect to see any sort of vehicle on a trail (except the occasional maintenance vehicle) and may be caught off guard with no time to recover. Even if someone does spot a vehicle, there may not be any space to get out of the way. In cases where the police have stopped drivers on the trail, the penalties have been severe, and rightfully so.
Fully blocking cars might not be the best solution
When a car does turn up on a trail, a lot of people's first suggestion is to put up bollards or a gate to make it hard for a car or truck to drive onto the trail. It's a popular solution because it seems pretty simple, but the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) actually recommends bollards only after a "documented history of intrusion" (i.e. drivers that keep messing up). That's because bollards (especially ones that aren't well thought out or poorly designed) can be a big hazard themselves, and they can make it harder for everyone, not just drivers, to access a trail.
Besides, a bollard in the future won't help someone dealing with a driver on the trail today. But when I tried to look up what someone should do in case they spot a car on the trail, I actually didn't see any guidance on what to do if you are on the trail and you happen to see a car heading towards you.
What should you do if you see a car on the trail?
To get some advice I reached out to both the Fairfax County Police Department and the Metropolitan Police Department to ask what they recommend if you find yourself dealing with a driver on the trail (or if somehow, you are that driver). In both cases their advice was nearly the same: make sure you're safe, call 911, and warn others, in that order.
It's simple advice, but it is important to remember and even practice the simple advice before panic sets in. That's why some cyclists like to call out license plate numbers whenever they see bad driving. It may help them in a crash one day.
So if you need to call 911 then remember the license plate number (remember, shouting helps) and the direction the vehicle is traveling. If you can guess at the nearest intersection that may help as well.
Hopefully driving on trails is a problem that will remain rare. But it pays to be prepared. Have you seen a driver on a bicycle or pedestrian trail? What did you do? Tell us your experience and advice in the comments.
Top image: The car somehow ended up on a trail in Pittsburgh. Image by Kordite licensed under Creative Commons.
The proposal for a gondola between Georgetown and Rosslyn has been around for a few years, and in June the DC Council passed a budget that leaves the door open for the idea to grow. Inspiration for the gondola came from the the Aerial Tram in Portland, Oregon, but we could also look to Portland for another way to move people across the Potomac: a bridge for transit, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
When GGWash contributor Jon Steingart wrote about the council’s move in June, commenter CrossingBrooklynFerry asked: “Why not simply build a new bridge across the Potomac?”
That got me thinking about a related project in Portland that might serve as a model for such an ideal: Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, which opened in the fall of 2015.
A car-free bridge
True to Portland’s spirit, Tilikum Crossing is unique in many ways: most notably, it is off-limits to private vehicles. The bridge serves light rail, the Portland Streetcar, transit buses, bicyclists, pedestrians, and (if needed) emergency vehicles. No cars allowed.
The impetus for Tilikum Crossing should sound familiar: motor vehicle traffic congesting nearby bridges over the Willamette River, leaving little to no space for transit or those trying to cross on foot or by bike.
Similarly, the Key Bridge connecting Georgetown to Rosslyn is often snarled in traffic, slowing down cars and buses alike. There seems to be little political will for repurposing any general-purpose lanes for transit – hence the gondola proposal.
A model for Greater Washington?
Along Portland’s redeveloped South Waterfront, visitors can reach the Aerial Tram through a variety of transit options facilitated by Tilikum Crossing: a streetcar stop (directly adjacent), a MAX light rail stop (a short walk away), and local bus routes, not to mention walking and cycling.
Meanwhile, the proposed Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola would only serve a single use.
So, instead of a gondola connecting the Rosslyn Metro to the Exxon site in Georgetown, why not emulate one of Portland’s grander ideas: an entirely new bridge with dedicated transit, bike, and pedestrian access? That would provide the desired rapid connection between the two areas while allowing for a wider range of uses.
Costs and comparisons
Initial analysis of the Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola estimates construction costs at $90 million. Meanwhile, Tilikum Crossing was built for $135 million. A 50% cost difference is nothing to dismiss lightly, but the gap isn’t as great as I initially thought.
To help secure funding, TriMet was able to group their new bridge with the Orange Line project – allowing them to use one federal grant to cover much of the cost of both Tilikum Crossing and the new light rail-specific infrastructure.
Such a funding structure may or not be applicable to the planned K Street extension to Georgetown – even assuming that the DC government decides to dedicate the resources necessary to move forward.
The point is that creative financing options are out there, and, in addition to better bus, bicycle, and pedestrian connections, a bridge would leave open the possibility of someday bringing the streetcar across the river to Rosslyn.
In the long term, a new tunnel for Metrorail between Rosslyn and Georgetown would be an even better connection. In the meantime, the bridge by itself would speed up the Circulator and other bus service.
And a gondola, too?
Building a bridge wouldn’t necessarily replace a gondola system – in fact, they could complement each other, as is Portland’s approach. The situations aren’t exactly the same, but there are some parallels worth considering.
After all, as many observers have noted, connecting Rosslyn to Georgetown is only one part of the problem – what do travelers do once they reach, say the Exxon parcel on M Street? The fairly steep incline from the riverfront to other parts of Georgetown can be difficult and time-consuming to traverse – one method is most (in)famous as a horror movie setting.
A gondola station at the riverfront and/or M Street – with stops at Georgetown University’s main campus (perhaps the Car Barn?) and Medical Center – would provide a much-needed transit connection for students, visitors, and employees coming from Metro and (hopefully, eventually) the streetcar.
There is precedent: in Portland, OHSU championed the aerial tram project as a crucial service for their growing community, and put their own funds behind securing the naming rights as well as paying for operational costs in proportion to the use by OHSU-affiliated travelers.
An intra-Georgetown gondola may seem fanciful, but it may well be an appealing option as the university attempts to make the most of its space-constrained main campus. Between parking infrastructure and the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle (GUTS) – of which the Rosslyn route carries about 2,000 passengers per day – there are existing resources that could be repurposed if the Georgetown area enjoyed stronger transit connections.
Of course, it’s quite a task to build anything in a historic area like Georgetown. However, permitting for a Potomac-crossing gondola would also be arduous, requiring sign-off among multiple agencies and entities like the National Park Service. Either way, it would require dedicated activism and coalition-building to make the project happen.
Thinking bigger and better
Perhaps a new bridge across the Potomac isn’t feasible – logistically or politically. And none of this is to necessarily say that the Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola as proposed wouldn’t be worthwhile – a similar idea, New York City’s Roosevelt Island Tramway across the East River, works quite well.
But as long as we’re thinking creatively about how to address regional transit issues – and a gondola certainly counts as creative – we should consider a myriad of options, even those that may seem too big or too expensive at first.
After all, Tilikum Crossing was once a crazy idea, one that many thought impossible: the modern era’s first major car-free bridge in the car-loving United States. Hopefully – whether in the Washington region or elsewhere – it won’t be the last.
Officials in Richmond have adopted a plan that outlines what a regional bus rapid transit network there could look like. They envision 80 miles of BRT on five lines, fanning out in all directions from downtown Richmond.
Despite having 1.3 million people in its metropolitan area, a strong office downtown, and relatively dense urban neighborhoods, Richmond's transit system is notoriously underdeveloped. Their bus system, GRTC, gets only about 28,000 total riders per day, region-wide.
That's about the same as Northern Virginia's Fairfax County Connector suburban bus system, which covers secondary routes unsuitable for Metrobus, and shuttles people to rail stations. It's not much higher than WMATA's busiest individual bus lines, which each carry around 20,000 riders per day.
But Richmond has the urban bones to support better transit, and is working hard to catch up.
The catch up
Richmond is taking a three-step approach to better transit.
Step one: A recently completed bus network redesign by Jarrett Walker. Richmond officials redrew their local bus lines so major streets will have more frequent buses. That will make the existing bus system more convenient to more people, boosting ridership.
That's great, but local buses only get Richmond so far. To become a bona fide transit city, Richmond needs regional rapid transit. That's where BRT comes in.
Step two: The first BRT line, under construction now. It will run along Broad Street, Richmond's busiest existing bus corridor.
It'll be a nice line, and Broad Street is the sensible place to start with a high quality transit system. But it's only one line, 7.6 miles. Without a better citywide network, it won't be transformative.
Thus, step three: The full 80-mile BRT network. If it becomes reality, five lines will fan out from downtown Richmond, covering all its major urban neighborhoods and several important suburban areas.
After the Broad Street line, there would be a second line west of downtown, through the heart of Richmond's fabulous Fan neighborhood. Another line would go northeast to Mechanicsville. Two more would cross the James River south into Manchester before splitting, one to Midlothian and Westchester, the other to Brandermill.
Take all three steps and Richmond would have a vastly improved transit system, one that would be convenient to ride for a many more people making much more diverse types of trips, compared to today.
For now, that third step is just a vision. Although the local bus redesign and the Broad Street BRT are happening, the full BRT network is just an idea. The plan isn't binding and comes with no money for construction. It merely lays the groundwork for future corridor-specific planning, if the political will and funding materialize.
But it's an important step forward. Good for Richmond.
Thumbnail: Image by the author.
Having downloaded a bunch of public domain books, I then went looking for the proper cover art. Interestingly, although I am convinced I owned mid-1970s editions of both Blackman's Burden and Border, Breed nor Birth, I can find no evidence those editions actually existed.
Another interesting thing. This is the list of science fiction books on PG and this is the list of science fiction works by women on PG.
The Montgomery County Council voted to restrict "height bonuses" in areas of downtown Bethesda near residential communities. Such bonuses would have allowed developers to build beyond height limits if they included more units of affordable housing. (Bethany Rodgers / Bethesda Beat)
New tolls are still coming to I-66 inside the Beltway, but not until December. Virginia needs a few more months to test the toll lanes, which will charge individual drivers a congestion-based fee during rush hour. Vehicles carrying two or more people will still be able to use the road for free. (Max Smith / WTOP)
The second phase of the Silver Line won't be done until 2020, two years after the original timeline. Recent estimates say the delay, originally announced in 2014, will end up costing $95 million. (Lori Aratani / Post)
What is Metro doing about vibrations shaking homes that sit above the Green Line? General Manager Wiedefeld says broken rail ties, a contributing factor, have been fixed, but that Metro hasn't been able to conduct a study with local residents yet. (Petworth News)
After the region's Transportation Planning Board announced it would consider a new bridge over the Potomac, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to reject it. While Virginians support another crossing connecting to Route 28, Maryland is wary of cost and environmental impact. (WAMU)
The DC Bike Party, a regular informal riding group, has been rolling through the city for five years. In that time, DC has seen continued expansion of bike advocacy and bike infrastructure, sometimes with controversy. (Julie Strupp / DCist)
A new law in DC legalizes physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, but a bill in Congress could block DC from implementing its program should it pass the House and Senate. (Fenit Nirappil / Post)
After backlash from the local community and the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, state regulators are reconsidering a planned above-ground power line extension that would weave through a historic African-American neighborhood to service a new data center. (Alex Koma / Inside NOVA)
Alexandria has 16,000 fewer homes that are affordable on the free market than it did 17 years ago, according to a recent report. That’s a loss of over 90% of what was available in 2000, and enough to house the entire population of Falls Church, and then some.
What is “market-rate affordable”?
Simply put, these are unsubsidized, privately-owned apartment units that anyone can rent, but are cheap enough to be rented by people with less. In other words, they are made cheaper by market forces (rather than government mandate), enough that someone making below the median income for the region can afford to live there.
Every year the City of Alexandria Office of Housing reports on the apartments affordable to households earning 60% or less of Area Median Income ($46,380 for one person, $66,180 for a family of four). With a few exceptions, each year since 2000 has seen a decrease in the supply of these market-affordable apartments.
One reason for this drop is older, cheaper units being retooled into newer, more expensive ones. Another is that for even the unimproved homes, rents are going up.
The report goes on to say that out of the 1,749 market-affordable homes currently left, only 7% have three bedrooms, making the crunch for families particularly difficult.
Alexandria has unique and powerful tools to preserve affordable housing, but they don’t address this issue
This dramatic reduction in naturally affordable homes is perhaps more startling when we consider Alexandria’s history of strong policies to preserve affordable housing.
In 1979, Alexandria became one of the few jurisdictions in the country to pass a law requiring that public housing units must be replaced one-for-one when the site is redeveloped. The law is called Resolution 830.
Derek Hyra, author of recently published Race, Class,and Politics in the Cappuccino City, and previous board chair of the the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA), describes the importance of this law, which has been around for 36 years now:
The point [of resolution 830] was to protect Alexandria's public housing stock. Very few cities and counties have a resolution like this. The federal government used to have a national law that maintained a one-for-one replacement for demolished public housing. The 1998 Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act permanently removed the federal one-for-one replacement (of public housing) law, so in that year Resolution 830 became very important for the preservation of the public housing but not the private market affordable housing the Alexandria.
830 only covers certain publicly subsidized units and most of the units that are lost are private market affordable housing that have no protection.
And that has been the problem; there are simply not enough publicly-subsidized units in Alexandria, especially as the naturally affordable housing stock has decreased.
Currently, Alexandria has 3,710 apartments under some form of income or rent restriction, and 1,150 public housing units. That is simply not enough to meet the demand. In 2011, ARHA reopened the waiting lists for its public housing and voucher programs. The lists were only open for one week, and 15,000 households applied.
Rising rents are also causing some to rethink Resolution 830, saying it is financially impractical
Today in Alexandria, the future Resolution 830 is under discussion. Some members of ARHA say that the law makes ARHA’s job impossible-- that it cannot afford to redevelop public housing and replace every home with an equivalently priced and sized unit. They say this is especially true because the federal subsidies available have dramatically and constantly decreased due to regular cuts to the budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, something many expect to continue under the current administration.
Hyra and others are against a fundamental change to the law. From Hyra:
Alexandria has struggled to maintain affordable housing. I've watched the affordable housing units in the private market severely decline. I’m a huge proponent of preserving subsidized, affordable housing there, and want the city to maintain their long-standing commitment to affordable by upholding Resolution 830. This will be critical to helping low-income people stay in this historic, high-cost city.
Michelle Krocker, Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance (NVAHA):
Now we have a situation where ARHA, like everyone else, has declining federal resources. Nobody anticipated this situation when 830 was passed…
There is a difference of opinion about this now, but we need to reaffirm the intent of the resolution. If ARHA can’t keep this commitment, the question we should be asking is: what do we need to do to keep this commitment?
One-for-one replacement is an essential part of keeping the region inclusive, but obviously other strategies are needed too
Alexandria is not the only city in the region grappling with these issues. Last month, Greater Greater Washington and a diverse group of stakeholders crafted and submitted a set of amendments to the Comprehensive Plan. Among them were policy frameworks that address some of the same issues in Alexandria’s struggle.
Fundamentally, the region needs enough homes for everyone of all incomes to live here. That means building many more market-rate homes, but it also means drawing a firm line in the sand when it comes to preserving the few subsidized homes we have.
Our amendment package proposes to do this in DC, but we wanted to make sure that policy would pencil out financially as well:
When redevelopment occurs on properties with housing made affordable through subsidy, covenant, or rent control, the District, Zoning Commission, and neighborhoods should work with landowners to create redevelopment plans that preserve such units or replace any lost ones with similar units either on-site or nearby. These entities should provide the necessary density and/or potential funding to ensure it is financially feasible to reinvest in the property with no net loss of affordable units.
We knew that if we want to take the preservation of these subsidized units seriously, governments and partners need multiple tools at their disposal to fund that reality, things like additional density, tax credits, voucher programs and all sorts of combinations of local and federal funding.
Policies like this are important and necessary, but neither our proposal nor Resolution 830 directly addresses the dramatic loss of market-rate affordable homes in the region. That challenge is going to require an all-of-the-above approach if we truly want to have enough homes for us all.
The Purple Line might put walkable neighborhoods and jobs near transit in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, but without the right housing policies to go along with it the project could also displace many Prince George’s residents. A housing trust fund, lower parking minimums, inclusionary zoning, and more housing density would stave off this risk.
A refresher: what the Purple Line is and where it stands
The proposed Purple Line is a 16-mile light rail that will run between Bethesda and New Carrollton. The light rail will not formally be a part of the Metro system, but will connect users with three Metro lines and hundreds of bus routes.
Additionally, and possibly more importantly, the Purple Line will help to bridge the East-West divide in our region by giving residents throughout Prince George’s access to jobs and opportunities in Bethesda and Silver Spring. Transit access is one of the greatest burdens to lower income residents in both Montgomery and Prince George’s as it puts limits on where individuals may work and pursue opportunities.
Despite the benefits that the Purple Line will produce, the entire project remains on ice. In August of 2016, Federal Judge Richard Leon revoked environmental approval for the project claiming insufficient study on how the decline of Metro could impact ridership. More recently, on May 22, Judge Leon upheld this ruling not permitting the project to continue until further analysis was completed.
Maryland is in the process of appealing this decision, however, the delays have already cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars and put the final construction of the Purple Line in jeopardy.
If the Purple Line does move forward, there’s a risk of displacement
Langley Park, located in the International Corridor in Prince George’s County, is one of the communities with the most to gain from the light rail. Langley Park has a large and predominantly low-income immigrant population with nearly 50% of residents earning below the DC metro area’s household median income. Many residents are dependent upon transit to reach jobs and with all of Langley Park residents living within 1/2 mile of the two proposed stations in the neighborhood, the potential improvements to the area have no bounds.
If the Purple Line does move forward in the coming months, the entire region will benefit from the improved transit options. But there are still concerns about what, exactly, the light rail would mean for Langley Park and other communities across the region.
New developments that follow transit lines often bring rising property values. With up to 75 percent of the residents in Langley Park already rent-burdened – spending over 30 percent of their income on rent – there’s little room for change. Langley Park has an older and deteriorating housing stock that has been helpful in keeping rents low, but rents have still trended upwards in recent years.
At this point, there is no telling whether future developments along the Purple Line corridor would mirror the booming projects in DC in neighborhoods such as NoMa or Navy Yard. But it is clear that there is a high risk for displacement if proactive policies are not enacted, and current residents could lose the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of what the Purple Line will bring.
The Purple Line is not likely to arrive until at least 2022, so there is time to establish guidelines to ensure we support equitable development. Below are several policies the County should consider in the coming years.
Create an affordable housing trust fund
Prince George’s County is the only jurisdiction in the Washington region without an active housing trust fund. Housing trust funds are established by individual jurisdictions and receive dedicated public funding in order to preserve and construct affordable housing. Creating one would be great for Langley Park because it could provide the funds to help rehab much of the area’s deteriorating housing stock. It would also be useful for acquiring undeveloped land and developing it into affordable units.
In Montgomery County the Housing Initiative Fund (HIF), created in 1988, currently has a balance of about $44 million that was largely generated from property tax revenue and loan repayments. The HIF has benefited thousands of residents by creating over $490 million of affordable housing stock in the past 15 years. Creating a similar fund in Prince George’s County would provide the region with a long-term solution that encourages community input in decision making and would enable funding for affordable units for years to come.
Reduce parking minimums
Enacting legislation that eliminates or reduces parking minimums would help ensure that new developments near the Purple Line encourage the usage of public transit, walking, and biking, and reduce driving. Parking minimums are rules set up by jurisdictions that require developers to build a minimum number of parking spaces depending on building size and location. They often drive up the price of condos and apartments as developers pass the cost of the parking space or garage onto the tenant.
Currently, the parking minimum in Prince George’s is 1.33 spaces per unit if located within a mile of a Metro station. Reducing this number to 0.7 spaces per unit or eliminating the requirement completely would reduce development costs and make it possible to build more housing and affordable housing.
In 2015, Minneapolis passed a similar policy to eliminate parking requirements for new housing near transit. Despite initial pushback from the business community, the policy has promoted greater usage of transit and laid the groundwork for opening up more affordable housing in the community.
The conditions are ripe for such a policy in Langley Park because the area already has low car ownership and would greatly benefit from new and redeveloped housing stock.
Establish inclusionary zoning (IZ) requirements
Inclusionary zoning is a policy tool that uses the market to deliver affordable housing to the community. Under inclusionary zoning, when new condos or apartments are built, a set number of units are priced for households making up to a certain percentage of the area median income (AMI). In exchange, the developer is granted a density bonus allowing them to build additional market-rate units to offset the cost.
Right now, both DC and Montgomery County have inclusionary zoning requirements. In DC, new developments must set aside 8-10% of units for those making at or below 60% AMI. In Montgomery County, 12.5-15% of new units must be moderately priced for those making at or below 65% AMI.
This land use policy has created thousands of affordable units in both jurisdictions and would provide new units in Langley Park at no financial cost to the county. It would also leverage the expected building boom associated with the Purple Line and make sure that lower-income residents still have opportunities to live in the neighborhoods. Enacting IZ requirements would ensure that new developments would add affordable units to the area’s limited housing stock and limit displacement in the years to come.
Allow enough housing to meet demand
Displacement happens when there aren't enough housing units available for everyone who wants to live in a place. When ten people want to live somewhere with only six housing units, the six wealthiest usually get to live there, and the four least wealthy have to live somewhere else.
Even when special affordable housing programs help one or two of the less wealthy stay, four people still lose, because the root problem is that there are only six units for ten people.
To solve that root problem, Prince George's will need to rethink its zoning in some places to make it legal for enough housing to be built.
Specifically, planners will need to upzone commercial areas near light rail stations for enough high-density mixed-use development to absorb the increase in demand. That way, there won't be overwhelming pressure to redevelop the existing affordable housing, and the people who live in that existing housing can stay there.
Looking to the future
There will be displacement challenges when the Purple Line does arrive, but by taking steps now to enact proactive policies we will be able to do a better job preserving communities and making sure that the transit is available and used by those it was designed for.
And not only was Jane not shy, or hiding her writing from family and friends, she was a political symbol for early feminists.
And she wrote great books! This article thinks her most widely mocked character is her most subversive.
The resistance is getting somewhere. People going to Town Halls and harassing their congresspeople not to remove health care -- it's working. It looks now as if the Trumpnocare proposal is dead -- it lacks two Republicans. One of those is Jerry Moran, a second-term Congressman from Texas, with 300 constituents -- 100 of them showed up at his Town Hall, telling him about their lives and how they need health care. He came back and opposed Trumpnocare. (I would link this but it's the NYTimes editorial newsletter, which shows up in my mailbox and doesn't have a link.) Quoting:
You may recognize Moran’s name from the news this morning. He was one of two Republican senators, along with Mike Lee of Utah, who appeared to doom the health care bill last night by announcing their opposition.
I’m not suggesting that the Palco meeting was the main reason for Moran’s decision. Yet he clearly felt political pressure to oppose the bill, and his recent meetings with constituents were a big part of that pressure.
One of this newsletter’s themes this year has been the potential effectiveness of grass-roots political organizing. The Tea Party showed as much in 2010, and the so-called Trump resistance has showed the same in recent months.
“The nation owes incredible gratitude to @Indivisible_KC @Indivisible_LFK @KansasACSCAN,” Topher Spiro, of the Center for American Progress, tweeted last night (referring to the Kansas chapters of both the Indivisible organizing group and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network). “It’s unbelievable what they’ve done.”
The fight to allow Americans to keep their health insurance still isn’t over, as Andy Slavitt, the former administrator of Medicare and Medicaid, noted last night. But the collapse of this bill is no small thing.
It would be excellent news if Congress now turned its attention to fixing the real problems with Obamacare and the health care system.
The Times editorial writer has some summer homework for readers who want to wrestle with a topic. (Not a requirement for you all, since you already do it, but may be of interest.)
And former EPA staffers have a how-to for resisting Trump's agenda.
Dress codes, appropriateness, Twitter, and so on. And in Saudi Arabia, a video of a woman in a skirts sparks outrage. Meanwhile, American tech companies -- and Netflix -- run afoul of censorship while trying to please the huge market in India, which is sexually conservative and doesn't want to see images of upset, injured or butchered cows. The part about trying to sell sex toys is interesting, too.
Finding deals in Barcelona.
Snail racing championships.
How to tell where broadband companies stand on net neutrality.
Should buses going east-west through downtown DC get stuck in traffic, or move more quickly? If you said "quickly," your voice is needed this Thursday at a public meeting for DC's "Downtown West Transportation Study."
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is looking at changes to H Street past the White House (between New York and Pennsylvania avenues) and then Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House. It's really two studies in one: On Pennsylvania, planners are thinking about ways to improve the sidewalk (like the attractive green planted areas/stormwater basins you see in a lot of new sidewalks, like in NoMa or near 15th and W NW), and looking to include a protected bikeway. For H, the project is considering a contraflow bus lane.
A contraflow bus lane would let buses drive west on one lane of the road which otherwise is one-way east. Buses which use H and I, such as the 30s, 40s, S, and X buses, would then travel both ways on H through one of the most congested sections of the route. It would help these buses be a reliable, relatively speedy way to travel instead of sitting gridlocked in rush hour traffic.
Also, this could speed up cars on I Street by moving buses from the heavily-congested I over to H. My experience has been that I (westbound) is more congested than H (eastbound), so this could actually balance out the traffic better (though the study will hopefully shed some more light on this).
Earlier studies from WMATA and DDOT considered a lot of bus lane alternatives on H and/or I, and ultimately recommended this for further study. Now DDOT is doing that further study, but if it's to gain approval, riders of buses on H and I, residents, and others need to speak up for the lane. We're hearing that some businesses along the road, whose buildings have things like parking garage entrances, are not enthusiastic. It's important that the whole city's and region's travel needs don't suffer.
A protected bikeway on Pennsylvania Avenue would also be fantastic. DDOT is considering a two-way bikeway on one side of the street, or a pair of protected bikeways on each side. Either way, Pennsylvania Avenue is a great place for a bikeway, because while it used to be a large avenue carrying traffic right past the White House, with it closed past 17th Street it's now wider than it needs to be for the traffic it carries.
The meeting is Thursday, July 20, 6:30-8 pm at GWU Funger Hall, 2201 G St NW, Room 222. Take the Metro to Foggy Bottom or use one of the 30s buses, some of those that will most benefit from the lane!
Can't make it? Contact DDOT using the form below to register support for an H Street NW bus lane and a protected bikeway on Pennsylvania Avenue!
Citing a need for security and the administrative burden of securing the river on an ad-hoc basis, the Coast Guard has proposed implementing a permanent security zone along the part of the Potomac that passes the Trump National Golf Club. (Rachel Sadon / DCist)
Metro refunded nearly $1.1 million in fares to riders who exit from the same station they enter without boarding a train since the program started last July. The refunds were issued for fewer than 1% of total trips. (Martin Di Caro / WAMU)
High priced coffee shops, like the famous Blue Bottle Coffee (now open!), are becoming more prevalent. Petula Dvorak considers how these changes affect other businesses that aren't focused on trendy and exclusive new things. (Petula Dvorak / Post)
Over the past 15 years, the rich have gotten richer while the poor have gotten poorer and the middle class has stagnated. But in DC the middle class has seen some gains, and DC’s minimum wage and tax policies may have helped lower income residents gain income faster, too. (Yi Geng / District, Measured)
Windows and appliances at the Northwest Park Apartments in Silver Spring are being replaced after Montgomery County found numerous building violations that caused mold. Residents were able to organize and complain with the help of local advocacy groups. (Sasha-Ann Simons / WAMU)
Half of the nation's top 10 richest counties are in the DC suburbs. Loudoun comes in first with a nearly $126,000 average household income. Fairfax County, which comes in at number 3, was the first county in the US to reach a six-figure median household income. (Christina Sturdivant / DCist)
Commuters who take public transit to their jobs in big cities tend to be wealthier than their counterparts in similar neighborhoods who drive. Why? Access to public transit helps workers get to highly concentrated jobs in downtown cores. (Daniel Hertz / City Observatory)
A number of studies suggest that Latinos and Latinas enjoy social bike riding more than any other group. Could wider, more accommodating bike lanes be a way of making cycling more accessible to people of color? (Michael Andersen / StreetsBlog)
A bill passed by the California state senate last month could make it more difficult for cities and community groups from interfering in development projects. California's notorious housing shortage is complicated by the sway those groups have. (Adam Nagourney and Conor Dougherty / NYT)
Washington is home to myriad mid-century residential buildings by nationally known architects. The most unique among these is the River Park development, located on 4th Street SW between N and O Streets. Its aluminum details and barrel-roofed townhouses stand out in a sea of concrete and brick boxes.
When you approach the 1962 complex of townhouses and apartments, you're hit with the visual double whammy of curved roofs and shiny aluminum. Three-story townhouses with aluminum barrel roofs congregate around concrete courtyards, and to the east, the nine story apartments’ aluminum ornament glints in the sun. It’s hard to know where to look first.
Barrel roofs are most commonly seen in agricultural and industrial buildings. Perhaps because of this association, they do not evoke the elegance of a domed roof, like that of the Capitol or a medieval church. But unlike domes, barrel roofs can cover rectangular structures. They also feel novel when presented in an urban context and executed in metal.
Aluminum is a more common feature of urban architecture. The Empire State Building is the most notable example, using steel for its frame and ceiling. Today, many architects incorporate aluminum into their designs as a decorative feature or exterior cladding. This draws on Charles Goodman’s use of the material at River Park, where it was also used as ornament on the townhouses and apartments.
Architectural aluminum in Southwest was no accident: Reynolds Metals sponsored the project, hoping it would result in aluminum becoming the era’s preferred roofing material. Aluminum is one of the lightest weight metals employed for roofing, and more resistant to corrosion than steel. However aluminum never overtook steel in popularity, and both remain uncommon choices for residential architecture. Metal, especially aluminum, is expensive, liable to dent, and more difficult to modify than shingles.
Nonetheless, it is these two features of River Park that make the development noteworthy and exciting. Completed the same year that The Jetsons first aired, the buildings project a techno-cool image of modernity. Yet barrel roofs and extensive aluminum details never became mainstream; instead, River Park is a unique design in a sea of more representative mid-century modern housing.
Unlike Goodman’s own Alexandria home and his designs in Virginia Heights, the dwellings are not landmarks listed on the DC Inventory. However, the residences are the sort of place its inhabitants purchased because of, not in spite of, their designs. The DC Inventory is the city official list of historic sites that posses exceptional historic or architectural significance, and are thus protected against demolition. Developers' increased interest in Southwest may make the neighborhood a target for redevelopment — but the pride River Park's owners have in its distinctive character may help preserve the community.
Redevelopment is not new for Southwest. River Park, and most of the residences and government offices that define its landscape, are the result of the nascent urban renewal movement of the 1950s. DC’s wholesale condemnation and demolition of the quadrant’s row houses was one of the first actions in a nationwide epidemic weaponizing the ideals of progress and safety to remove low income residents, especially African-Americans, from their homes.
Once a predominantly white area, by the 1950s, many longtime residents left swampy Southwest. Black residents remained, and more arrived as exclusionary covenants kept even wealthy families from having their pick of neighborhoods. Crowded with sanitary housing — working class housing that incorporated then-modern features like indoor plumbing — and alley dwellings, the city came to view the quadrant as an embarrassment. The Redevelopment Land Agency marked 96% of the houses obsolete or blighted, using few objective measures. Residents were evicted, row houses bulldozed, and a bevy of famed architects including I.M. Pei, Harry Weese, and Charles Goodman designed the sprawling mid-century landscape that remains. Yet River Park may have been one of the first desegregated housing complexes in Washington.
Today these developments have aged into candidates for historic designation. This causes no shortage of controversy. In one sense the buildings represent the oppression of the 1950s and 1960s. Taken together, the meandering residences also demonstrate a style of city development that has fallen out of vogue.
Yet this architecture can also serve as a reminder of what came before. Landmark nominations, like that of the Tiber Island apartments, focus on these very structures as emblematic of the era’s urban contradiction: exclusionary and aesthetically forward looking at the same time. A nomination to preserve some of the quadrant’s last remaining working class brick row houses is also pending.
In understanding these controversial buildings we can understand the neighborhood that preceded them and how it was dismantled. With the surge in popularity of mid-century design, there is more opportunity than ever to involve people in understanding how this part of Washington was built. Studying River Park and its contemporaries is an important way to appreciate interesting architecture in the present, but simultaneously ensure that though earlier Southwest is gone, it is not forgotten.
Top image: The entrance to River Park, a gated community. Image by the author.
It's time for the next Greater Greater happy hour! Join us Tuesday, August 15 from 6 to 8 pm at Kaldi's Social House, located at 918 Silver Spring Avenue in downtown Silver Spring.
This happy hour is also a birthday party for Just Up The Pike, a blog I (Dan Reed) started in 2006 as a way to celebrate eastern Montgomery County and talk about the issues facing this evolving, sort-of suburban, sort-of urban place. Since then, it's grown into a community of a couple thousand readers, contributors, and local leaders, and I'm excited for the chance to spend some time with the people who've made this blog (and, by extension, the past eleven of years of my life) what it is.
As one of Silver Spring's fifteen (and counting) coffeeshops, Kaldi's is not only known for its brewing techniques but its rooftop bar overlooking downtown. Kaldi's Social House is an eight-minute walk from the Silver Spring Metro station (Red Line), as well as dozens of Metrobus and Ride On routes (if you're coming from DC, you can take the 70/79 and S2/S4/S9.) There's a Capital Bikeshare stations two blocks away at Ripley and Bonifant streets. If you’re driving, there’s free parking after 7pm on the street and in the public garage in back.
Want to join us? RSVP here!
And since happy hour isn't until next month, make sure to check out these other great events between now and then:
This year, we've held happy hours in Shaw, Edgewood, and Crystal City. Next month, we'll head to Park View for the first time. We’re always looking for new, Metro-accessible locations for future happy hours. Where would you like us to go next?
Today, Monday, July 17: Prince George's County is updating its zoning ordinance. Make sure you voice your opinion on the future of the county at the council's Zoning Rewrite Town Hall Meeting today, Monday, at 7 pm at 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive in Upper Marlboro.
Thursday, July 20: The District Department of Transportation is studying the western part of downtown, Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 17th Street and Washington Circle, and H and I Streets NW between New York Avenue and Pennsylvania. The goal is to improve east-west travel for biking, walking, and taking the bus. Head over to the final public meeting at George Washington University’s Funger Hall (Room 223) at 2201 G Street NW at 6:30 pm to hear and weigh in on the final recommendations.
Sunday, July 23: As part of the Capital Fringe Festival, check out Caveat, a play written by GGWash contributor Ben Lockshin that satirically explores the underground world of DC group houses. The final performance is this Sunday at 12 pm at Gallaudet University's Eastman Studio Theatre (Florida Avenue and 8th Street NE).
Next Monday, July 24: Since 2012, Alexandria has expanded its Capital Bikeshare system from eight to 31 stations. Now, the city wants to add ten more. Alexandria took comments on where to put the stations through July 16. Head to the public meeting at 7:30 pm in the Council Chambers of City Hall (301 King Street) to hear about the final 10 recommended stations and weigh in.
Next Monday, July 24: Add your voice to Voices of the Community (VoicesDMV), a new project by the Greater Washington Community Foundation, and become part of the regional conversation on health, education, housing, transportation, crime, and overall community well-being. They want to hear from residents like you! There are meetings in Prince George's, Fairfax, Montgomery County, and DC. The next one is next Monday at 6:30 pm at the Silver Spring Civic Center (1 Veterans Place). Dinner is provided.
Next Monday, July 24: Economic investment, especially in public infrastructure like streets, bridges, and transit, is a big, sometimes contentious issue. Hear from two internationally recognized experts in public finance, Dag Detter and Bruce Katz, on how to unlock social, human, and economic wealth that cities already own to bring financial stability to cities. The talk is at Kramer Books (1517 Connecticut Ave NW) in Dupont Circle at 6:30 pm.
Top image: Kaldi's Social House in Silver Spring. Image from Google Street View. Image by Google Street View used with permission.
Do you have ideas for how to improve how residents get around in the Washington region? Maybe you’d like to add a crosswalk or you have ideas for reducing congestion at a specific intersection. Now you can help direct the future of transportation planning in the our area by taking a survey that's part of a transportation plan called Visualize 2045.
The results will help transportation planners at the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), an office that plans and coordinates projects with local jurisdictions across the entire region as part of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, understand how residents travel throughout the region and their perception of their environment. All of the answers will go into the Visualize 2045 plan, a long-range look at the region’s transportation needs and goals in the future.
This plan means dreaming big
The Visualize 2045 plan is an expansion of the Constrained Long Range Plan (CLRP), which currently only covers transportation projects that have funding. Visualize 2045 will be the new version, and will have with a section that includes unfunded projects or policies that, should they get financial backing, could be extremely beneficial to the region.
“With Visualize 2045, we'll be forecasting future travel patterns and conditions (like transit ridership, traffic congestion, and job access) under the ‘constrained’ portion of the plan — that is, if we build the projects we expect to be able to afford over the next 20-30 years,” said Benjamin Hampton from the COG’s Department of Transportation Planning.
Hampton noted that the survey will provide data that will contribute to discussions about what goes into Visualize 2045.
“We'll then be able to compare that to what travel patterns and conditions we might expect if we were to build everything that is currently being planned in the region, regardless of whether we can afford it — what we call that the "unconstrained" portion of the plan.”
The survey will also give local jurisdictions better data about what their residents want and a springboard for future projects that could be funded.
“The main, overarching benefit to the region of Visualize 2045 is planning for more of the transportation improvements and outcomes we'd like to see,” he said.
In the next decades, Visualize 2045 should have hundreds of planned projects related to walking, biking, driving, and rail and bus transit.
Take the survey!
The best part of the survey is that it’s interactive; besides answering questions, you can describe what kind of effect bus delays have on your commute or how safe you feel when you travel. You can even add markers to a map and enter your own solutions for improving the region’s transportation infrastructure.
You can select from six categories, like ideas for roads, rail transit, bus transit, walking, land-use and policies, and anything else that doesn’t fall into those categories. Then you’ll be able to choose a type of improvement from a list, and then add comments and details. Because it’s map-based, you’ll be able to pinpoint specific streets and intersections.
The Visualize 2045 survey is open until July 31. There will be events and workshops with the community later in the year where planners will gather more opinions and ideas. In 2018, all of the feedback will be incorporated and published in the Visualize 2045 plan.
Here are a few of them, for you to take. My favorite is the Juggling Jesus that is on this post. Feel free to add text or other refinements (of a reasonable and non-hostile nature) to the ones without text.
And, as I said elsewhere, it's only sacrilege if you think that the image *is* God. And if so, I can direct you to a long list of theological articles about the error of confusing deity with a human-created object....
Besides, Jesus had a sense of humor -- how else could he have put up with the 12 Wiseguys?
We found one, a charming older man who, with his son, is tackling repairs on said bit of brickwork -- and the first part of it is using a big round disk-saw type of thing to cut away the broken brick. Hence the headache.
He had given us three options for repair: 1. fix the crack (which does not mean it couldn't open again, somewhere else), 2. take off the top layer of brickwork, put on one or two big pieces of slate and mortar them into place, 3. take the whole thing out, brick up the hole, redo that part of the patio. We went with #2 because Beautiful likes to sit on top of the thing when it's raining, far enough under the eaves that it's like she has her own back porch where she can sit and watch what's happening. And maybe the next person in this house -- several decades from now -- will brick up the window and reattach the gas main to the pipe and make it a fireplace. (I do not usually think of the wellbeing of the next person in this house because I probably won't meet them and when they are here it's their problem, not mine.) But at this point it's for the cats' sake, and for mine, so I won't have a cold draft down the back of my neck in the winter.
So it's loud out there, and I'm in here. I should go run errands but I want the headache to subside first.
Ultimately we will have a very nice fake fireplace thing, and then he's going to repair the stonework on the patio (yay!) and take a look at a place where some mortar-ish waterproofing is peeling away from the area between the poured basement and the brickwork above it. Yes, poured as in the entire set of concrete floor and walls was poured in one piece with a drain in the laundry room. It's like an enormous concrete cup, which confuses people, but hey, it's not cracked.
Over the two weeks since the WMATA systemwide fare increases went into effect, I have noticed the subtle effect they are having on my mode choice and travel behavior. The fare hike may have been necessary to keep the transit system in the black, and the new fares are still low compared to other major US cities, but when it comes to daily decisions on how to get around, as the old adage goes, perception is reality.
June 25 started the major service changes that the WMATA Board approved to help close a $290 million budget gap. Along with changes in Metrorail’s operating hours, reduced train frequencies and frequency adjustments to some bus routes, the base fare for most single trips went up 25 cents (10 cents on Metrorail during peak hours), and the prices of most weekly and monthly passes went up, except for the seven-day regional bus pass, which remained $17.50.
An extra 25 cents per ride seems trivial, but the psychological leap from less than two dollars to a full two dollars (or from $1.25 to $1.50 with rail-bus transfer) is significant. It’s the same principle that causes many products to be priced a penny less than a whole dollar amount — $19.99 just seems like a bargain compared to $20.00, though they are essentially the same.
My daily travel decision making
I have found myself opting to walk, use my bike or Capital Bikeshare, or use ride hailing services for some trips for which I would have previously defaulted to the bus or Metro. I am wondering if others are making similar choices. Anecdotally, crowding levels on the buses and trains I use most often seem no different than they were more than two weeks ago. I do load value onto my SmarTrip manually at regular intervals; those who do auto-reload or have SmartBenefits from their employers are less likely to notice the higher fares.
I live in NoMa and choose not to own a car. I can easily walk or bike to my office two blocks west of Union Station. I am not about to go out and buy a car as maintenance, insurance and parking would still cost more on a monthly basis than transit plus the occasional use of ride hailing and car sharing to supplement walking and biking, not to mention the headache of dealing with DC traffic. I also philosophically support expanding and improving transit and increasing its use.
I fit into a narrow demographic that falls somewhere between the two categories traditionally used by transit agencies, which are flawed, but have yet to be replaced with more helpful and adequate categories. I’m neither a “captive rider” who cannot afford a car (and parking) or ride hailing and may not be able to walk or bike, nor a “choice rider” who has a car and will only use transit if the combination of cost, convenience, and travel time falls right into a sweet spot that is more attractive than driving. I’m still more likely to choose transit than a traditionally defined “choice rider,” but the availability of alternatives means that I only use transit for between 40 and 60 percent of trips in an average week.
Ride hailing is a little more price-competitive with transit
Given the fare increase, the ride hailing service Via, in particular, is looking more attractive compared to transit. The all-shared-ride service (meaning you always have the chance of having another rider join you in the car, though in practice I’ve gotten a solo ride all but three out of dozens of rides) charges a flat fare of $2.95 within the core area of the District that it serves. This is now only 65 to 90 cents more than taking the bus or off-peak Metro within the zone, and only 35 cents more than the highest peak Metro fare within the zone.
Outside of the zone and hours within which Via operates (7:00 am to 9:00 pm Monday through Friday only), fares for UberPOOL and Lyft Line for shared rides of three miles or less are generally between $4 and $7, making for a maximum $3 premium over transit. Uber and Lyft are both offering quarter- to half-off sales fairly regularly, making their fares even more attractive.
Commuter rail, DC Circulator and CaBi also come out ahead
With the fare increase, the difference between rush-hour Metrorail fares and MARC and VRE commuter rail fares between Union Station and Silver Spring, Rockville, New Carrollton, Crystal City, Alexandria and Franconia/Springfield is even smaller. For only 40 cents to $1.50 more on MARC (no difference in fare between Union Station and Rockville) or $3.10 to $4.25 more on VRE than Metro, you get a more pleasant ride - usually less crowded, more comfortable seat, fewer stops, almost all above ground. I’m likely to opt for MARC or VRE when going from work near Union Station to an evening event in Crystal City or Silver Spring, and return on Metro.
DC Circulator’s fare is now exactly half that of Metrobus, and CaBi also comes out as more price-competitive with transit, with a single ride costing the same as base bus fare and an annual membership costing about what I (a relatively infrequent rider) will now be adding to my SmarTrip every five or so weeks.
Would a transit pass save me money?
Metro’s pass products only make sense if you use the bus and/or rail for at least two daily trips five or more days per week. Given that I take between eight and 14 Metrobus rides and roughly eight Metrorail rides each week, costing a minimum of $32 and a maximum of around $50, a pass would not save any money versus using stored value on my SmarTrip. If I could know in advance that I’ll be taking at least nine Metrobus rides in a week, then a 7-Day Regional Bus Pass (the only pass whose cost was unaffected by the fare hike) would save me a little, but I almost never have a full week of mode choices mapped out beforehand.
If you or someone you know has been going through similar mental calculations since June 25, or if you’ve noticed a shift in ridership on your routine bus and Metro rides, please share in the comments.
Maryland and Prince George's County officials are reeling from the cancellation of the FBI headquarters relocation, but some residents and business owners in affected areas like Greenbelt and Landover are still optimistic for economic development. (Post)
Rider advocacy groups have been successful affecting improvements in New York and other cities Americans for Transit, a nonprofit funded by Metro's biggest union, wants to replicate this success in DC with a rider advocacy group for Metro, but they face an uphill battle. (Martin Di Caro / WAMU)
A redesign and upgrade of Baltimore's bus system isn't enough to remove the sting of losing the Red Line nearly two years ago, and even as activists push to resurrect the Purple Line, some are unhappy that their city was passed over for the DC suburbs. (Katherine Shaver / Post)
On Friday, Metro fired a track supervisor for egregious overtime pay fraud and says more firings could come. The evidence of corrupt employee culture may hinder Metro's efforts to advocate for additional funding. (Martin Di Caro / WAMU)
Relocating federal agencies out of the DC area has lately been a rallying cry of the right, but some on the left think it would be a good idea because it would redistribute the government's power to the people that need it most. Opponents say the move would make the government less efficient, and the jury's out on the impact such a relocation would have on the region. (Ben Wofford / Washingtonian)
The Beltway's first speed cameras began operating today at a work zone near Suitland. Any motorist exceeding the speed limit by more than 12 mph can expect a $40 ticket. (Wyn Delano / WMAL)