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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Imagine Lamond-Riggs

Northern DC has a huge swath of relatively dense urbanized area with little direct access to Metro. This area consists largely of the Petworth, 16th Street Heights, Brightwood, Manor Park, and Lamond Riggs neighborhoods, and the obvious reason is that there is no line running underneath Georgia Avenue. There are commercial corridors along this route on Georgia Avenue, Kennedy Street, Upshur Street, Blair Road.

While it is not economically feasible right now to dig underneath Georgia Avenue, that area is likely to get a streetcar connecting Silver Spring to the next station along Georgia, the Georgia Avenue/Petworth station (which technically is in Park View, just south of Petworth). The eastern reaches of this area would not benefit as much from this new transit line, however the opportunity exists to add a Metro station along the Red Line in the Lamond-Riggs neighborhood at Kansas Avenue and Blair Road:

View Larger Map

This station would lie about halfway between Takoma and Fort Totten, which are just under two miles apart. It would directly serve the Blair Road retail corridor, and if placed on the southeast side of Kansas Avenue, the New Hampshire Avenue corridor would be directly served as well.

What makes this site particularly amenable to a transit station is the plethora of suitable approaches. Peabody Street heads west and in less than a mile hits Georgia Avenue in the Vinegar Hill/Fort Stevens area. New Hampshire and Kansas Avenues head southwest into the heart of Petworth, an important neighborhood in the heart of northwest, densely populated and undergoing a true renaissance. New Hampshire Avenue also heads north through Takoma Park towards Langley Park, and this new station could serve as a hub for bus lines along New Hampshire.

Blair Road already connects this area to the Takoma station area, and linking transit-oriented developments can have a synergistic effect on the areas, like along the Orange Line in Arlington or the downtown areas in DC. To the south, Blair Road becomes North Capitol Street and crosses Riggs Road/Missouri Avenue near Fort Totten, another area which is rapidly growing. As Takoma and Fort Totten grow with more walkable, transit accessible developments, a station placed in between them could induce a string-of-pearls transit-oriented development environment that could become the focus of the northern part of the District, improving transit accessibility and the potential for growth and development. And it could be done without spending a single dime laying more track.

I imagine the first criticism of this station would be that it increases the time it takes to get downtown. For some, yes. However, there is an express train from Silver Spring to Union Station known as the MARC Brunswick Line. For many residents in Lamond Riggs, Manor Park, Takoma, Brightwood, and Petworth, it will most certainly shorten the amount of time it takes for them to get downtown. Considering the benefits of added grown and increased economic viability, adding one or two minutes to get downtown might be worth it. It certainly was at the New York Avenue station, which opened just six years ago and has induced billions in economic investment, even during troubled economic times.

What would this station be called? Track Twenty-Nine suggested "Kansas Avenue" some time ago, however I am partial to naming it after the neighborhood, Lamond-Riggs, or perhaps Fort Slocum after the nearby park and Civil War fortification. Though perhaps not well known right now, Lamond-Riggs has the potential to become a keystone for development along the northern edge of the District.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sneak Peek at Imagine, DC Transit Vision

Further explanation forthcoming, but at the GGW meet-up in Silver Spring tonight, a couple folks asked me about it, so here it is

What is on it?

-Potential extension of existing and under construction Metro Lines (including Silver), separated from each other to maximize capacity
-Two Metro Light Rail lines, the Purple Line (proposed) and the Black or "Columbia" Line (which hits Columbia Pike in MoCo, Columbia Heights, and Columbia Pike in VA)
-A vision for DC streetcars (red), Ride-On streetcars (light blue), streetcars for municipalities in Prince George's (various blues and purples), ART/DART (light green) and Fairfax Connector (white)
-Southern Maryland Area Rail Transport (SMART light rail, in yellow)

What's not on here yet:
-Corridor Cities Transitway
-Baltimore Transit
-A "Pink Line" heavy rail inner loop
-A "Brown Line" crosstown light rail

I probably won't add these, it doesn't mean I don't think we should have them:
-Tram/Streetcar stations
-Rapid/express bus (vision supplants most of this with rail anyway)
-Redevelopment and suburban ruralization that would ideally accompany this sort of plan
-Bicycle facilities (not my wheelhouse... yet)
-New/changed/removed freeways, parkways, and interchanges, as well as newly tolled roads

Here's a disclaimer: I am not under the delusion that this vision is feasible, politically expedient, affordable, cost effective, or in any other way possible. But I imagine it would be able to quickly and safely transport most of the area's growing population after gas prices breach the threshold of affordability.

Sorry I am currently incapable of putting together a beautiful graphic like many of my fellow transit nerds at BeyondDC, Track Twenty-Nine, or Greater Greater Washington, but hopefully the arrangement I have thrown together on GoogleMaps will  give people an idea of what I'm going for here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Keeping Money In the Community

My New Years resolution was to eat at more independently owned food joints. Originally, I opted to do this to get a better taste for DC cuisine, but there is a reason that benefits everyone to seek local fare from locally owned restaurants. That money comes flowing back to you by keeping the money in the place where you live. And this goes for everything, not just food.

I purchase some pork tenderloin at the Wal-Mart in Maryland City, the money goes a lot of places. New York investors, Chinese suppliers, various distributors, and of course the fat cats in Benton, AR where Wal-Mart started. But where doesn't it go? Laurel. Prince George's County. And for the most part, the State of Maryland. My hard earned cash is going to support gated communities like Hot Springs Village, AR, the largest gated community in the United States and not surprisingly convenient to Benton.

If I purchase the same pork tenderloin at the Laurel meat market on Main Street, my money is not going through all the corporate filters of a Wal-Mart. The product is more likely to come from the state of Maryland and will probably be fresher. A larger percentage of the taxed monies will go to the city of Laurel, Prince George's County, and Maryland. And a retailer that depends on the community. Those taxes will go towards investment in my city, not a segregated community halfway across the country with a disproportionate lack of minority population.

River East Idealist had a great article last week on how River East residents can keep their money in River East and break the debt cycle in which many less fortunate River East residents are mired. Her first point was to stop attending colleges you can't afford. I like to think I'm living proof that this works. I have an Associates of Applied Science from Montgomery College. I educated myself where I lived, and I now have what could be considered a decent paying job and a rather prestigious position in Federal Government. Of course, if you can find a way afford a degree from a better more expensive school, go for it. But educating yourself outside your means is not necessary. I believe I am doing much better than most of my friends with bachelors degrees from more prestigious institutions because I do not have six figure student loan debt. My six figure debt is a mortgage on the house I own.

Another observation she made: stop financing cars. If the money Americans spent on the interest alone of financed cars were instead spent on public transportation infrastructure, I wonder how much better our systems would be. If that were the case, I speculate many Americans would not even bother to own a car. At the very least, I bet Metro would not be facing such a tremendous budget gap.

There are a plethora of ways we can keep our money in the community continuing to benefit us. But it is important that those methods be accessible to everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status. Policy ought to be enacted promoting locally owned businesses over chains, mass transit over car ownership, and better investment in local schools to create sharp minds and keep them nearby. The status quo will continue to send money to out of touch corporations and Wall Street investors while siphoning investment away from our own communities.