If You Think There’s Too Much Traffic Now…

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…imagine if hundreds of thousands of people didn’t take Metro everyday. That trip to Tyson’s Corner malls would be a Christmas time nightmare everyday.

A recent WMATA study modeled the region without transit to measure economic benefits–property values increased, jobs in a regional economy, freeway lanes and parking garages not built.

It’s clear that quality of life comes from a complex set public and private investments and variety in housing, transportation, recreation can feed that complexity.

A Scientific Look at Cities

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Scientific American’s special issue on cities covers nearly every urban topic you can think of, from the not so lost aromas of New York’s Fulton Fish Market to the history of the toilet and its influence on the growth of cities. From China to Saudi Arabia, from street markets to solar energy, the issue examines technological and social aspects of urban settlements.

Closer to home, one article asks “Can Suburbs be Designed to Do Away with the Car,” using King Farm in Rockville as an example of the challenges inmaking suburbs and suburbanites transit-friendly. There are plenty of reader comments with the usual claims of elitism and happiness; see where your ideas fall.

 

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

Cool Commuting

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Sure, part of the reason we don’t use Metro is because it’s a long walk from home or you’ve got to pick up the kids after school or you’re just not that interested in the cell phone social life of your seatmate. But wouldn’t mass transit be a little more appealing if it felt like your commute was a scene from a very cool Japanese spy movie?

And Maryland made the New York Times this week as a community that has taken interesting steps toward being green. I can’t believe that DC beat us to taxing shopping bags, this seems like a natural for Montgomery County and isn’t everyone in the habit of traveling with a folded up bag … Continue reading

Place-making art; art-making place

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Seattle’s Downtown Transit Tunnel was designed as a collaborative project between the project consultant (Parson Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas Inc.), the architecture subconsultant (TRA), and 25 artists.  The team created what they have termed a distinct “art-itecture” for each station representative of the neighborhood it serves.

The result is a fantastic model for the stations along the proposed Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway.

Even after just a couple days riding the light-rail or buses through Seattle’s stations, a quick glance out the window provides a distinct impression that tells, or shows, where you are. The collaboration is obvious in the integration of artistic details and the creation of a place. You … Continue reading

Buses: Green and Cool

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With low-cost, long-distance options like Vamoose, bus travel is on the ascendancy, especially when they can offer high-tech services like Wi-Fi. If we could apply some of that high-tech thinking to congestion  management, they could really move.

A new COG survey has found an increase in telecommuting and a decrease in driving alone in the Washington metro region. Transit use is part of that equation–more than eight in ten respondents who live in inner ring communities live less than one half mile from a bus stop. But can they walk there easily and once they get there are they perched on the curb, rather than sitting under cover?

And if you can’t be green at least look green.

The Fun Theory: Musical Stairs

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For all of the beauty of downtown DC’s Metro stations, subway culture in DC has always felt a bit austere. The rare mural or artwork feel forced, intended not to offend rather than uplift or enliven stations. Street buskers aren’t plentiful either, though I’m not sure it would matter. When the Washington Post had world famous violinist Joshua Bell play during rush hour at the L’Enfant Plaza station, seven people stopped to listen. Only one recognized him. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a lineup. All of this seems to suggest that we treat our stations as through-puts rather than informal cultural venues, or momentary sites of entertainment. Yet their potential is immense.

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