Hi, WeLoveDC readers. I’m back. Baby in the City is an occasional series exploring what it’s like to live a specifically urban-dwelling lifestyle with a baby. (Nothing but love for you suburban-dwelling minivan drivers, it’s just not for me.)
I am a city mouse. When we moved 7 blocks from a Metro station and across the street from a bus stop, we promptly became a one-car family. I take transit or bike as much as I can and have become allergic to looking for parking downtown. My smartphone is full of apps for navigating transit (in multiple cities!), hailing cabs, finding bike routes, and reserving carshare vehicles. I’m a city-loving, multi-modal lady.
And then we found out I was pregnant. And for a moment, I wavered- did we need a second car? Something with lots of cargo space for toting around strollers and whatnot? Was I going to have to get good at… parallel parking?! (You guys, I am so not good at parallel parking.)
But of course I won’t- plenty of people transport their pre-walking children around the city without a car all day because they have to. It’s not that hard to make it work when you want to. But like anything else involving a baby, it requires a little bit of planning. Here’s what I’m learning as a new parent getting around town with a very small baby:
Metro announced this morning that they are working to redesign the underground stations of its system. They are considering multiple new concepts, and have made a video to highlight a few options they’re considering for Bethesda station. The options include an anti-slip zone at the bottom of the escalators, and replacement of the traditional “Metro Brown” with sleek metal panels. Concrete barriers will be replaced with glass ones in the mezzanine section, and the standalone pylon lights will be replaced with taller winged standards that will include PID displays.
The concepts they’re playing with are still virtual, but it will not stay that way. Look for Bethesda station to get a few of these new concepts over the next few years, with the renovations being completed in 2015. The station will also be getting new escalators during the process, so if this is a regular spot for you, it’s probably going to get delightfully inconvenient (which is not WMATA’s new slogan, even if maybe it should be.) over the next few years.
If you use the South Entrance of the Dupont Circle Metro Station, well, I hope you like walking. You’ll be doing more of it, soon. Starting Wednesday, the South Entrance will be closed for 9 months while WMATA replaces the 185-foot spans that rise 85 feet to street level. The company that makes the particular escalators used in that entrance have been out of business for some time, which has made finding parts of the escalators difficult. Given that the spans are some of WMATA’s least reliable, that’s a combo that means replacement and not repair.
WMATA will be putting standard escalators in place and widening the current entrance space to handle these new, wider escalator bays, and the entrance will be closed until November of this year. Farragut North’s northern entrance is just 0.5mi to the south, and the North Entrance of Dupont Circle will remain open during the work. In the case of emergency, Metro will leave one exit escalator span in place during the work for emergency egress, along with a new spiral staircase. The North Entrance of the station will have additional on-call escalator techs in case of failure.
Cracked rails on the Red and Blue line this morning in commute-heavy portions of the above-ground part of the rail system have snarled morning commutes. The breaks, near the Pentagon and near Takoma, were caused by the rapid cooling of the DC area to a low of near 10 degrees Fahrenheit last night, according to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. The breaks cannot be fixed during rush hour, and repairs will take place once morning rush is cleared.
If your company participates in Metro’s SmartBenefits program, Congress has likely given you an unexpected pay cut. Those who participate in the program get pre-tax dollars put on their SmarTrip card each month, up to a maximum allowable limit that has been up to this point $230/month. Because Congress did not extend the ceiling, the new pre-tax ceiling is a little more than half that, at $125/mo.
So, when the changes come in a week, remember that it’s not WMATA’s fault, for once, and that the Congress that DC has no vote in snipped your transit benefit in half.
The same love felt in Billy Strayhorn’s ode to the of the rails of New York City in the jazz standard “Take the ‘A’ Train” is still alive and well today a few hundred miles south here in Washington. While the Duke Ellington orchestra is no longer around to send their musical echoes into the night, recent Tampa transplant and current Alexandria resident Jason Mendelson aims to commemorate DC’s own transportation network with his very own collection of songs for each (and eventually) every Metro station.
Embarking last November on his epic Metro musical mission, Mendelson has already released the first volume of Metro songs with the second already in the works, which you can listen to here. While the flashing red lights along the edge of the Metro platform will likely never double for footlights, WeLoveDC had a chance to recently talk to the man behind the music himself.
I’ve been participating in the Zipcar Low Car Diet challenge this month, and something that I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten more transit-dependent is that a lot of intelligent, resourceful people are completely confounded by any bus that’s not the Circulator. If their destination is not close to a Metrorail stop, they drive to it. I humbly submit that this is completely ridiculous; the bus is just not that hard.
However, it IS true that Metrobus lacks the navigational simplicity that Metrorail has. The Metro map gives you a nice sense of the finite nature of Metrorail: there are only 5 lines, and they’re, well, lines; they go to all the stops in order one way, and they go back along the same stops the other way. That’s it. Have you seen the full Metrobus system map? It’s a freaking mess. It’s not even one map; they had to split it into three.
So with the goal of making it all a little less daunting for the novice Metrobus-rider, here are a few things you need to know: Continue reading →
2013 doesn’t feel all that far off, and for those of us who were born in the 1970s, it certainly sounds an awful lot like we’re living in the future. The new 7000-series cars that Metro released concept drawings for today will debut in 2013. WMATA ordered 364 of the cars to replace their aging 1000-series cars, and to run on the airport extension line. The Post got a tour of the plywood mockup, and have posted a video of the mockup, including the fancy new displays which indicate the car’s location on the various lines.
Visiting Seattle this past weekend, I found myself jealous of the Emerald City, and not just for their fine food and coffee options, or for the warm weather and gentle rain. No, what I found most amazing about Seattle was the wealth of transit options I had in the palm of my hand through Google Maps on my iPhone.
If you’ve ever tried to use the transit mode in DC, you know that it holds nothing but certain disappointment, and you find yourself trying to find directions another way. You muddle through the wmata.com website, you try to remember which bus route runs where, and which ones are named after streetcar routes, and if you’re like me, you can’t keep it all straight.
WMATA has committed to bringing Metrobus and Metrorail routes to Google Transit, but have missed deadline after deadline, first saying January of 2011, and then saying “any day now“. The project has foundered for reasons that WMATA isn’t discussing publicly. I do recognize that processing five rail lines, and 300 bus lines is a chunk of work, but after my weekend of wandering Seattle, and spending a chunk of money on fares, it’s awful hard to go back.
Today, Metro announced plans to “realign” service on the Blue and Yellow lines (actually on the Orange line too, but we’ll get to that) as a way to relieve some of the pressure of people transferring between the Blue and Orange lines at Rosslyn, prepare for the Dulles Metro extension, and “realign service to match changing ridership market.” The changes are planned to take effect in June 2012, meaning you have plenty of time to think through the implications for your commute.
The full report and presentation are worth a read for you Metro geeks, but for those of you who just want to know how it’s going to affect you, here’s the summary: Metro is trying to get suburban riders out of your way. Continue reading →
The Orange Line will not operate between Stadium-Armory and New Carrollton, closing the stations at Minnesota Ave, Deanwood, Cheverly, Landover and New Carrolton. In addition, no Blue Line trains will traverse the gap between Stadium-Armory and Benning Road. The closures begin at 10am on Friday March 4th, and will conclude when the system reopens on March 7th.
Metro will be working to repair aerial structures at Cheverly, as well as make upgrades to Stadium-Armory and “install 6,000 feet of cellular communication cables to ultimately improve cell phone coverage, replace 2,000 feet of track, 380 insulators, 1,400 rail ties and 400 track fasteners.”
Another Federal Holiday weekend, another set of closed stations on a day that not everyone gets off. Metro announced this afternoon that they will be closing Federal Triangle and Smithsonian for the weekend to comply with NTSB recommendations and make safety and reliability repairs.
As much as this sucks, and this sucks an awful lot, it’s better than single-tracking for weeks on end while they do work in fits and starts. The orange and blue lines will run in two pieces, with no service at all between L’Enfant Plaza and Metro Center at all. Metro will run shuttle buses between the two stations.
For those who just went scrambling to a calendar, the closure is from 10pm Friday, February 18th, through closing on Monday, February 21st. Metro has said you should plan on adding 40 minutes to your commute if you have to traverse that area, and to please dress warmly so you can wait for the infernal shuttle buses without dying of frostbite or exposure.
In addition, the Red line will be single tracking during that time between Shady Grove and Twinbrook, so if you come in from the outer reaches, expect some quality standing on the platform time to add to your suffering.
Metro announced meetings this afternoon surrounding the placement and construction of a new Blue/Yellow line station at Potomac Yards. The meetings are scheduled for February 10th from 4:30pm to 6:00pm and 6:30pm to 8:00pm at the Cora Kelly Rec Center in Alexandria. Those wishing to learn more about the environmental impact study that is being performed, or about the stations and the options surrounding the station should plan on attending the meeting. Cora Kelly Rec Center is on the 10A, 10B and 10E Metrobus lines, and the AT10 Dash bus.
It should be a fairly interesting process, as there are a couple different sites for the station near the Potomac Yards shopping center, and the final placement of the station is as of yet up for grabs. Look for this one to be an adventure. Take popcorn and a lawn chair.
Richard Sarles, who has been the Interim General Manager of Metro since the departure of John Catoe, was officially named the permanent General Manager today by Metro’s board this afternoon. He was also given the title Chief Executive Officer, signaling the board’s desire for a shift in role for Metro’s chief.
In speaking to the board after his confirmation, Sarles set a number of expectations for his tenure. Samer will have more details tomorrow in his Talkin’ Transit column, but a few highlights:
A “secret shopper” program to evaluate Metro services. (Anyone who has ever tried getting help from a station manager is pleased about this.)
A “virtual tunnel” to make transferring easier between Farragut West and Farragut North. I don’t have details on this, but I take this to mean that if you leave one Farragut Square station to transfer lines at the other, you’ll be charged as if it were a continuous trip, rather than being charged the base fare twice.
A commitment to implement external recommendations regarding escalators and elevators to keep them functional.
*Without warning, the @metroopensdoors account shifted from being a bot that broadcast service disruptions to live-tweeting the Metro board proceedings. After months of complaining that Metro’s only Twitter presences weren’t actually staffed by humans, this is almost news in itself. No telling yet whether there’s more to come from @metroopensdoors.
Metro has released a statement regarding the incident first reported on Unsuck DC Metro that has horrified many: six armed men reportedly boarded an Orange Line train on December 23rd, and allegedly robbed and beat passengers aboard that train, and according to some accounts, the Metro operator did not respond to emergency calls made from within the car.
The incident is pretty horrifying, and suggests that perhaps MTPD should spend a bit more time on trains rather than ineffectively searching our bags. The Statement is below and in full, and says that MTPD apprehended suspects within 30 minutes and recovered the stolen property.
Get ready for an ugly weekend of transportation. Starting at 10pm on Friday night, Metro will stop all Blue and Orange trains at Rosslyn and Farragut West and turn them around, meaning the only line across the Potomac this weekend is the Yellow line. Hanging at Metro Center and going to Court House or vice versa?That’ll be Metro Center to L’Enfant, to Pentagon, to Rosslyn, to Court House. Sure, there’s a shuttle between Farragut West and Rosslyn, too, but will it save you any time? Not so sure about that.
Yeah, that’s going to be awesome.
On top of that, add in red-line single tracking between Friendship Heights and Van Ness, and New York Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue, and your Red Line trip is going to be a lot longer this weekend, too.
If you can avoid Capitol Hill for the next few hours, you probably should.
A woman was found dead inside a burning car on the 800 block of A Street SE in the 5:00 hour this morning. The car was fully engulfed when DC Fire & EMS arrived, and it was only after the fire was put out that the woman’s body was found. It seems like the car may have crashed into the garage at a low speed to start the fire. The investigation is ongoing.
A suspicious package was found outside the Capitol South metro station this morning. Metro trains are passing through the station without stopping.
So if you can adjust your business this morning to not include Capitol Hill, I recommend that you do it. Stay out of the way while police do their jobs and save yourself the frustration of navigating around them while they do it.
There I was, waiting at the bus stop after work, staring at my phone while waiting for Nextbus to load. Nextbus said the H1 bus would arrive in 2 minutes, though the H1 tends to run on Inceptiontime, so I figured that “2″ really meant “15.”
After about 5 minutes of shivering, we saw the H1 turn the corner from Constitution… and then blow right past the stop. There was a great disturbance in the Force, as though 10 angry government employees cried out… and the bus screeched to a halt on the other side of the intersection.
The harried driver waved us all aboard, not even wanting us to delay long enough to pay the fare. As I reached my customary seat right behind the rear exit, I heard the driver say, “Anyone going to Brookland?”
“I am!” I called out.
“Good, maybe you can help me, then. I don’t have the directions for this route. I mean, I’ve done it once before, but, you know, it’s been a minute.”
In response to recent threats to the system, WMATA has decided that the negative press that the TSA is getting is the sort of thing that they would like to have also, and today announced enhanced searching of individuals, including bag searches at random stations. One small problem with Metro’s plan is that they will not be searching at every station, and I can’t quite figure out what would stop someone from seeing police presence at, say, Farragut West, and instead walking just two blocks to Farragut North. Terrorists aren’t going to be deterred by searches, and a bomb going off at any station would do the sort of damage that would be irreparable to ridership and public confidence in the embattled transit agency.
So, if you were looking for yet another reason to decide that Metro is an agency adrift, without leadership or positive policy, then you just got it. Searches start in the next few days. The searches are supposed to take “minutes,” but when you consider it took them 90 minutes to figure out that a christmas ornament with LEDs was harmless, I’ve got to think that the average search of my bag will last approximately six days.
UPDATE: Metro has released a YouTube video to sell this to you, showing that the process should take no more than 60 seconds. You know, as long as no one else is in the process of being scanned, and never mind that 60 seconds is more than enough time to miss your train.
I understand being cautious in a world where new plots to assault Metro riders are announced daily (and that’s just by WMATA! *badum ching*) that you have to be cautious in a situation where you figure out that you might well have something a bit hazardous on your hands. This morning’s incident at Pentagon Metro, that closed the hub station for 90 minutes during the midst of rush hour, is one case where the caution lead to massive amounts of commuting frustration over a battery-operated Christmas ornament.
My question: why the hell did it take so long to figure out that it was a Christmas Ornament? I mean, I get not wanting to put your hand down in there to pull it out and have something go off, but why not just put that bomb-proof trashcan on a dolly and wheel it right out of the station so that life can go on while you figure it out?