29 November 2012

WMATA changing more than just the "rock throwing" bus routes

Most DC news outlets have covered the story about WMATA cutting bus service to some streets east of the Anacostia River. The rationale for those cuts are incidences of rocks being thrown at buses. This news coverage has failed to point out that many other lines in the city are being adjusted or removed altogether. Two of those changes greatly affect my neighborhood, Trinidad. Very little time remains to let WMATA know what you think about these changes.

The biggest change is the proposed elimination of the D3 line. The D3 currently provides a direct connection from Ivy City, through Trinidad, to downtown, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown. It provides a convenient way to access Metrorail's Green and Yellow lines, by disembarking at 7th and E Streets NW.

Metro's rationale for eliminating the D3 is "duplication with other routes" and "low productivity." I cannot find anything quantifying "productivity" on WMATA's website, so I don't know how it is defined. Perhaps one thing causing "low productivity" would be a low farebox recovery rate on the line. I (and others) often note that the fareboxes on the buses are not working - it means a free ride, but that clearly hurts the system financially in the long run. Additionally, I'd guess those free rides aren't counted in the overall ridership totals for the line.

Other bus routes certainly ply the same streets, but nothing provides a direct connection from our neighborhood to the other side of the central business district in the morning. The D3 buses are usually crowded by the time I board at Montello Avenue and Neal Street. WMATA does not clearly state whether they will increase bus frequency on the other lines that run on Montello Avenue (D4 and D8) to make up for the lost capacity.

Speaking of the D4, it will be changing as well.

The D4 route, which currently runs between Ivy City and Franklin Square, will more than double in length when it's extended north from Ivy City to the Fort Totten Metro Station. It will be taking over the easternmost part of the E2, E3, and E4 lines, which currently run from from Friendship Heights through Fort Totten to Ivy City.

Longer routes can lead to more opportunities for buses to fall off schedule, as well as "bunching," which is when many buses on one route arrive at a stop at once. This can lead to very long waits between buses instead of the expected even spacing.

Metro originally announced a hearing for the changes happening in Northeast DC for October 30, but the impact of Hurricane Sandy meant that it was rescheduled to November 26, the Monday that just passed.

A heading says "Routes seeing improvements in this bus service change proposal" on the page with the public hearing schedule, but the list does not mention the elimination of the D3. Certainly, one could argue that the elimination of a route is not an improvement, so WMATA was under no obligation to list the removal of the route on that list. I would argue the total elimination of a route is something that should be prominently noted, regardless of whether this is an "improvement" or not.

An additional problem is that I have seen no signs at the bus stops along the route alerting people to these changes. Certainly people who ride the D3 would be interested to know their bus is going away, and wouldn't the best place to reach those people be on the bus itself?

There's still time to let WMATA know what you think (though not much time). Written testimony can be emailed or faxed to WMATA, but you must do so by Monday, November 5 December 3. From WMATA's website:
Written statements and exhibits may be sent to the Office of the Secretary, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 600 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001, or e-mailed to writtentestimony@wmata.com. Statements also may be faxed to 202-962-1133. Please reference the hearing number. [Ed. Note: The hearing in NE DC was number 579, and the Docket number for all the proposed changes is B12-03.]
Submissions must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5 [Ed. Note: From what I understand, the date for submissions was changed due to the hurricane as well, though this press release does not indicate that.]. Please note that any personal information such as name, e-mail address, address, or telephone number you provide in the statement may be releasable to the public under the WMATA Public Access to Records Policy, available at http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/public_rr.cfm.
Let WMATA know what you think about the changes to the D3, D4, or any other route that they plan to change in the new year.

26 November 2012

'Urban Pioneers'

Can a relatively innocuous real estate sign be tone deaf? Maybe.

These signs, advertising the Flats at Atlas apartments, have been up for months in tree boxes in the blocks surrounding the building at 1600 Maryland Avenue NE.

A minute looking at the pictures of the faces on their website quickly tells you the people who these apartments are being marketed toward - twentysomething, single, well-to-do folks looking to live where there are a lot of bars and restaurants nearby.

While the building is located in the Carver Langston neighborhood, across the street from Trinidad, the advertising team chooses to claim the building is in the "H Street NE" neighborhood (and the name of the development obviously evokes the Atlas District).

Can you blame them? Their target demographic has certainly heard of H Street as a place where they can drink, eat, and have fun. The other two neighborhood names, if anyone has any clue about them, don't necessarily engender the same feelings. The fact, though, is that the building is on the periphery of the H Street commercial district, not right in the heart of it all, as they might like you to believe.

What bugs me most is the first two words at the top of the sign.

"Urban Pioneers."

The term "pioneer" is defined as a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.

From a simple reading, one could infer that this apartment building has been built in an empty place, and that's true, from a very narrow point of view. The lot was vacant for years before the Flats went up, though imagine if the very solid Sears and Roebuck building (seen here) was still there.

From a broader point-of-view, the area is nowhere near empty. The "pioneers" of this area arrived in the first half of the last century. Most of the buildings on the surrounding blocks were built sometime in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Some of those "pioneers" still live in the area, while many have been replaced by generations of new arrivals, coming in changing waves of class, color, and creed.

The "Urban Pioneers" branding that the Flats at Atlas has chosen essentially says "Hey, nothing was here before you. This place has no history, there was nothing of importance before YOU moved in." That's myopic, shallow, and simplistic.

What's not too late, though, is for those who live in the new apartments and their neighbors on the surrounding blocks to get to know each other, despite the marketing team's willful ignorance of the latter.

21 November 2012

D.C. United's appreciative open letter to fans

We went to my first-ever D.C. United match on Saturday (it was Jaime's second). While the end result was ultimately unsatisfying (a draw that led to the team being bounced from the playoffs), we had a good time, and hope to attend more matches in the future.

The team placed an open letter on their website, thanking politicians, fans, businesses, employees, and local organizations for their support this year. I just wanted to share the print version of it from today's Express to make sure those who didn't pick up the paper saw it. It shows that print still holds the ability to present things in an elegant and beautiful format that the Internet sometimes cannot match.

click to enlarge

Vamos United!

20 November 2012

New homes at the corner of Florida and West Virginia Avenues

This summer, DCRA's Office of the Zoning Administrator issued a preliminary ruling on a plan for new houses to be built on the piece of land at the southwest corner of Florida and West Virginia Avenues in Near Northeast. Today, the plot includes a pine tree and weeds that tend to get very tall before being occasionally trimmed.

That hasn't always been the case. Three rowhouses existed here until late in the last decade. Here's an image from DCRA's website, dated August 22, 2004, after the homes had fallen into disrepair.

You can see where they were located on the block in the aerial image below.

Here's how the 3 lots on the block are currently platted.

The developer plans to combine the 2 easternmost lots. This is how the proposed buildings would be laid out on the resulting lots. I'm not a fan of the fact that these buildings won't directly address Florida Avenue. Hopefully the small, oddly-shaped front yards will not be an afterthought in this design.

It's worth noting that the current zoning for these lots calls for at least one parking space per building. DDOT has already let the developer know that they will not allow any curb cuts on the perimeter of this block, so the developer will have to go before the Board of Zoning Adjustment to get a variance. Only if they receive that variance will DCRA issue building permits.

The variance should be a no-brainer. There is plenty of room for street parking on the surrounding streets, and the lots are a short walk to many bus lines one block south where West Virginia Avenue meets 8th and K Streets.

Here are the (very preliminary) sketches representing the front, rear, and sides of the proposed buildings.

I always thought this would be an interesting candidate for a park, either for people, dogs, or both, but more housing opportunities in a city that sorely needs them is a good thing as well.

Finally, a big thank you to Mark Eckenwiler for pointing me towards these documents!

19 November 2012

Carry-out menu from...the Department of Public Works?

Is your supercan's lid, wheels, or lift bar (the metal bar halfway down the front of the can) broken? Get in touch with DPW via the 311.dc.gov website ASAP, and you'll get it repaired for free!

The note DPW left at our back gate.
Recently, a crack on the lid of our supercan had been growing, and the stress of being rapidly flipped open and closed by DPW workers every week finally caused it to break on the Election Day pickup. The next day, I asked DPW via their twitter feed who I needed to contact to get the lid repaired.

A quick response reminded me that it's an option on the 311 website. I went there on November 8 and put in a request for "Supercan - Repair," unsure how long it would take to get a new lid.

Sometime on November 16, a DPW contractor put a new lid on our supercan and left the card to the right (which says the recycling cart was repaired, but that's not true) stuffed into our rear gate.

I didn't notice the card until the next morning. From the bedroom window, it looked like a carry-out menu. "Carry-outs are leaving their menus at the front AND back doors of houses now, huh?" I thought. I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn't the case!

I left a positive comment for DPW on the grade.dc.gov website.

The service was relatively prompt and totally painless. If your supercan (or recycling cart!) needs repair, don't delay. Take advantage of this simple service your tax dollars provide.

16 November 2012

"Pretty soon you won't recognize the place" - gone

Do you remember the "New Town" project that was pushed by John Ray and Sang Oh Development 6 years ago in the Florida Avenue Market area? It was touted by Vincent Orange during his failed mayoral run that year, but never really got off the ground (thank goodness).

The last reminder of the project was a sign at the northwest corner of 4th Street and Florida Avenue NE. The vacant U.S. Beef building had been located at that corner, but it was demolished in 2006 and a sign quickly went up promising a large residential building. "Pretty soon you won't recognize the place. Promise," it declared.

Pretty soon you won't recognize the place by Inked78
The sign became something of a joke, as its promise stood for 6 years, faded from years of promising something that never came to be.

Until now?

This new sign went up yesterday, and Tony Goodman, the neighborhood commissioner who represents the area across the street, linked to this showing the latest proposed building for this space. From the sign, it appears that EDENS has teamed up with Sang Oh Development for a project related to the new Union Market.

Is it possible that we really might not recognize the place this time? Until shovel hits dirt, I'll remain skeptical. But the area is certainly on local developers' radar in a way it wasn't 6 years ago.

15 November 2012

Friends of the Woodridge Library Book Sale this Saturday

The Friends of the Woodridge Library is having its fall used book sale this Saturday, November 17, from 9:30 am until 4:00 pm, at the library (located at the corner of 18th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NE).

Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit organization, which in turn supports the branch library's programming.

This is possibly the last FWL book sale before the current branch closes and an interim building is set up to make way for the new Woodridge Library. You can keep up with the details of the transition, and provide your feedback, on the project's site. A heads-up, the next community meeting is coming up on December 3 January 7, 2013, 6:00 pm, at the library.

Hope you'll come out, find a deal or three on some books, and support a great cause - see you there!

14 November 2012

A new neighborhood just appeared in DC - Bloomingdale!

Check out this full-page advertisement from the current issue of the Washington City Paper:

It turns out Bloomingdale is a new neighborhood! Not sure exactly when it came into being, but for the sake of argument, let's assume it's happened in the last year or two.

I'm looking forward to checking this new neighborhood out! Wonder what was there before the hot new Bloomingdale neighborhood appeared? It would be neat if someone could dig up that history. Maybe it was a corn field back in the 1980s? It must have been platted some time in the 1990s, with construction beginning at the dawn of the current millennium. Great to hear that DC continues to grow!


Now, in all honesty, this is just another example of people in one part of the city "discovering" a part of town that simply wasn't on their radar. DC's neighborhoods, from North Portal Estates to Bellevue, from the Palisades to Capitol View, have all been there for years, but some just don't have the recognition of a Dupont Circle or a Capitol Hill. Eventually, the "gentrification wave" washes over them, though, and suddenly a neighborhood becomes a "hot, new" place. Get ready for it, Deanwood. You don't really exist right now, but someday, you'll become hip and cool, and someone will declare you "new."

13 November 2012

First step for the Post Metro section - report local election results

This weekend, Patrick B. Pexton, the Washington Post's ombudsman, wrote an article lamenting his paper's coverage of local news [The Post forgets to be local]. In it, he states that the complaint he hears most is that "The paper is so thin" and that the Metro section could use some more heft.
Map of Ward 5 from ancdc.us

I recommend the following as a start: actually report the election results for the representatives most closely tied to the people in the city that the paper calls its home: the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners.

To the best of my knowledge, these results have not been published by a single print medium in DC (to this point). If you want them, you need to go to the Board of Election's results page. This is fantastic if you have internet access, but much of the city's population does not, and gets its news from the daily paper and evening television news, just like we all did two decades ago. Elderly neighbors and people who don't obsessively check local blogs need a place to find this information that's accessible to them.

This wouldn't need to be a flashy story, and it certainly wouldn't need a novel infographic. Just a simple map for each ward, like the one above, along with a list of each candidate and the results.

Simple. Informative. Necessary (information is the lifeblood of a functioning democracy). And the best part: NO ONE ELSE HAS DONE IT. The Post can take the lead here.

To be certain, it would be a week late, so perhaps it doesn't qualify as news anymore, but it would be a service to residents whom the Washington Post and its ombudsman yearn to serve. The new commissioners don't take office until after the first of the year, so this would still give residents time to familiarize themselves with their new representatives.

What do you say, Mr. Pexton? See what you can do about getting this feature in the paper. It might add two pages to a thin Metro section.

07 November 2012

Art Enables Saturday Workshop

We're always happy to spread the word about events at Art Enables, one of our favorite places in Woodridge, DC, on Rhode Island Avenue NE. This weekend, check our their latest art workshop.

From their release:

Please join Art Enables for the first in a series of Second Saturday workshops

Saturday, November 10th from 1 to 3 pm* A wired workshop

Come make artwork from wire and create lines that take on a life of their own as 2D objects expand to the 3rd dimension. We’ll provide basic materials, instruction, and guidance as long as you bring the inspiration.

Second Saturday workshops are designed to increase community engagement and provide everyone a chance to participate in a variety of the creative processes and bring more art into their lives. Come tour the studio and make some art!

*Free - reservations are required so we have enough materials.
Please RSVP to events@art-enables.org