Even the Best Laid Plans…

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Rockville’s King Farm was designed as a transit friendly community, with a gridded street pattern lined by street fronting homes on small lots. So that’s the community part. Now that the transit part is coming along, the pull of suburban standards is proving strong.

In this article, A Community Planned for Transit Now Resists It,  residents are quoted as saying the transit line will create a wall within the community. But this is not the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and King Farm is not Union station.

Why do people never point out that waiting with your neighbor at a station in the morning is a great time to chat and get to know each other–much better than driving home in … Continue reading

Why Don’t People Take the Bus?

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Transportation planners talk about mode share, trip mitigation, and relative arterial mobility all displayed in charts and graphs. But there is a human element to using transit. Why would you shower, dress, and walk down the hill to stand here while your neighbors whip past in their BMWs, warm, dry, singing along to Norah Jones, and a swigging a latte?

Montgomery County has a great local bus system, the Ride Ons, which course through neighborhoods connecting to central business districts, Metro, and regional buses. They are clean, relatively prompt, and reasonably priced. Seniors and students get a price break, increasing access, and some of the fleet is running on compressed natural gas, encouraging good green behavior.

But in a … Continue reading

Food Trucks Redux

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The food truck phenomenon has reached Silver Spring, enlivening a paved corner of the downtown’s 100 percent intersection with the flavors of West Africa.

In previous posts, we talked about how cities are using the food truck movement to contribute street life to parking lots and to create low investment, diverse businesses. Chez Dikel, parked at the gas station at the corner of Colesville and Georgia, is dishing up delicious home cooking from Mali to repeat customers from the Discovery Building and other workers in the CBD (including the planning department).

The peppery Yassa Chicken is a special Malian dish, the spicy ginger water will cure the worst cold, and the homemade hot sauce will take care of any … Continue reading

New Yards Park is dressed to impress

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This past weekend, the Capitol Riverfront area celebrated the grand opening of the Yards Park.

The new park is located along the Anacostia River between 3rd Street SE and the Navy Yard. It was built as a public-private partnership between the developer of the Yards, the government of the District of Columbia, and the General Services Administration. It’s managed by the Capitol Riverfront BID.

A festival marked the opening this weekend. It included bands, artists, vendors, and more. I had the opportunity to stop by, and I snapped some photos. The park is very well designed, and I can only hope it is an example of future waterfront parks in the area.

It has many features which help to … Continue reading

Harvest Time

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Though staff has been enjoying and sharing produce all summer long, this seemed like a good time for an official harvest, so at lunch today, gardeners presented a Lunch, Learn and Taste session to their colleagues.

We talked about how the garden was a way to make our own building more green, the volunteers that helped us (not only the gardeners, but our building crew who helped with watering, our parks crew who started us off by turning the beds, and American Plant Food, who generously donated seed and supplies), and how we plan to winter over the garden (soils amendments and some hardy crops like cabbage).

But the real point of the garden party was to harvest and we had … Continue reading

Summer Streets

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It’s a cool morning, the first in a long time, and the frayed leaves are starting to look less lush, but there’s still time to think about Summer Streets, New York City’s program to create a temporary 6.9 mile car-free route to encourage bicycling in the city.

Free bike rentals and repairs, free skate rental, rest stops, maps, and yes–you can cool off in a dumpster pool!–remove barriers and excuses.

I like the idea of temporarily rethinking the city. Trying out parks and bike routes is not only a physical test of infrastructure, but a test of how we function as individuals in our environment. Certain things are hard–biking, recycling, walking–not because they are inherently difficult, but because the infrastructure isn’t set up … Continue reading

Food Truck Follow-up

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When we think about urban environments we picture tall buildings, noisy traffic, and hard surfaces. But the real point of urban environments is people, lots of them, bouncing off each other—eating lunch in the square, going to the theater, crowding around a street performer, sharing a sidewalk. Cities bring people together.

Food also brings people together and one could think of urban spaces as giant family tables. After all, Napoleon didn’t describe Venice’s Piazza San Marco as “the finest drawing room in Europe” for nothing. A $15.00 lemonade at one of its cafés is worth every penny if you make good use of your plaza-side table.

Community spaces and tables are prevailing in private spaces as well. Metropolis Magazine … Continue reading

Streetscape Challenges for Planners and Users

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This Thursday, the Planning Board will review the County’s DHCA plans to upgrade the 25-year old streetscaping along Georgia Avenue between Selim Street and Silver Spring Avenue. The goals are to meet ADA standards and to install new soil panels that will help street trees reach full maturity.

But it’s more than a matter of setting in a few bricks and new trees. The design of the sidewalk space and its elements has to mediate among the needs of all users. Business owners want trees that don’t obscure their storefronts and signs. Curb edges and varied paving materials can hold up wheelchair users but can help blind pedestrians navigate. Agencies undertaking the work, trying to make the most out of … Continue reading

Parking Space

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In March, one of our planners, Claudia Kousoulas, showed the difference in scale between urban development and the infrastructure underlying suburban development by overlaying the I-270/I-370 interchange on top of Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle area.

The amount of space we devote to moving cars is almost surreal at times. At Montrose Road, Interstate 270 is a whopping 14 lanes wide. At that rate, it seems we’re trying to rival places like Atlanta and Los Angeles.

But what is even more amazing is the amount of space we devote to storing cars. When people think of the automobile, it is invariably involved in going somewhere. But cars spend the vast majority of their time parked.

In Montgomery County, we devote about … Continue reading

More Vegetable News

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guest post: Mary Dolan

The hot and humid weather has brought on a problem for the cucumbers and squash vines in the garden. Powdery Mildew, a common problem in this area, has attacked the plants causing the leaves to whiten and die. Some gardeners simply do not plant squash any more due to the heartbreak this disease can cause.

Since we are trying to solve these problems organically, we searched for an answer to our problem and found milk. Yes, spraying a 1 part skim milk to 9 parts water on all leaf surfaces once a week (after removing all infected leaves) is supposed to retard the spreadof the disease. Also, increasing air circulation by removing leaves and/or staking the plants should help.

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