On-street Crescent Trail will be worse for bikes and peds

(This is an unedited cross post from Greater Greater Washington)

This post is in response to a Greater Greater Washington post from Dan Reed: On-street Crescent Trail may be better for bikes and peds

I disagree with almost everything Mr. Reed suggests in his post.

For a year or so I commuted through that tunnel almost every day. It is an excellent amenity.

Mr. Reed suggests that the on-street alternative may be safer because of the likelihood of crime, and he points out crime problems at other bike/ped facilities.  This is a red herring argument.  The tunnel has been open since 1998 and crime has not been an issue.  Undoubtedly it will be even less so with greater usage.  The safety benefit of not having to cross Wisconsin Avenue at grade is much greater than any potential danger associated with crime.

New bridge design serves pedestrians and cyclists better

Arlington County has chosen a design (pdf) for its upcoming rehabilitation of the Carlin Springs bridge over George Mason Drive.

The current bridge has five-foot sidewalks and no accommodation for cyclists.  The new bridge will have 8-foot sidewalks and 5-foot bike lanes on both sides.  The rest of Carlin Springs Drive does not currently have bike lanes, but it is important to plan for the future by including them now. Had the County not included better bike/ped accommodations, then those decisions would have been difficult to change for 30 or more years.

Skeptics are not statisticians: 1% of a data set does not disprove the whole data set.

A friend of mine likes to provoke me by sending links to posts and articles that contradict the established science on climate change. Recently he pointed me to this post that appeared in Watt's Up With That: NCDC data shows that the contiguous USA has not warmed in the past decade, summers are cooler, winters are getting colder.  My friend accompanied this link with this comment:
Well, the figures are in from the NOAA National Climate Data Center and the rest is just high school math. While US CO2 emission has gone up precipitously in the last 100 years the average temperature in the US has gone down. Of course you could look at just the last 15 years and ignore the rest. In this case CO2 has still gone up a lot and temperature was flat. Does this fit with saying the controversy is over and global warming is an established fact.

I countered with some points, but only later realized the biggest flaw with this reasoning, which I'll get to shortly.

Note to Carol Browner: Even if the idea is right, you gotta make sure it's backed by the truth

Carol Browner was quoted in the Washington Post on Sunday.  The quote was from an energy conference held in Washington a week earlier.  Here's the quote in its entirety:
People like to pooh-pooh regulations and suggest that, somehow or another, regulations are not good for business. But, in fact, regulations can create business certainty and business opportunity. When the government puts in place a requirement and standard, that means there’s the certainty of a return on capital investments.
And we have a long history in this country of doing just that. If you go back to 1990 when the Congress decided to ban chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, a market opportunity was created. And we found a solution or a replacement for CFCs, which were dangerous to the upper ozone, and we did it more cheaply and more quickly than anyone anticipated.
Some in this industry and the natural gas exploration extraction industry have not been as forthcoming as others. . . . I would just encourage the industry to be as transparent as possible in an effort to ensure that this is a thoughtful discussion about how we move forward.

"Natural" equals Magic

photo from Purple Phoenix on flickr
Follow the comment thread after virtually any on-line article on climate change, and you will find deniers/skeptics who will claim that the warming we are experiencing is just "natural forces," not caused by humans.  They will often make a statement like, "since it is UNPROVEN that CO2 is a contributor to climate change." or " I believed global warming was occurring not because of mankind's actions but because of the natural rhythms of the planet and our sun."

A friend of mine, in fact, has invoked this same idea to me: that climate change is some sort of natural artifact.  This is the equivalent of saying that what is happening is caused by magic.

Farragut "Virtual" Tunnel (Farragut Crossing) Now Operational

I don't know if I should claim any credit for this finally happening, but I have been fairly vocal about it for a long time on several forums.  Finally on Saturday, October 29, 2011, the "Farragut Crossing" virtual/invisible tunnel transfer option began between Farragut North and Farragut West stations.

Here's the first line from my original post below:
"I can't take credit for this idea--I read it somewhere else--but it's so good that it needs to be promoted and publicized until Metro takes notice and implements it."
That was August 30, 2008, 38 months ago.  I'm glad to see it finally happened, but it's a bit discouraging to see that a no-brainer idea like this one can take so long.  Imagine how long something expensive or contentious would take.

For history buffs, here's a comprehensive listing of all my posts and some other relevant links.

Kids keep getting smarter. More and more bicycling to school.

Twice in the past (here and here) I reported on the bikes that were parked in the racks at Swanson Middle School in Arlington.  Two years ago there were thirteen.  Last year there were eighteen, and they had expanded the racks.  This year on bike-to-school day there were twenty-one, and as you can see in the photos below, they are just about out of room in the bike racks again.  One rider's bike is parked on a nearby tree.
It's great to see more and more school kids riding bikes to school (and some staff, too).  There are about 800 students and staff at Swanson, so these bikes represent 2-3% of the total population.
Swanson bikes 2011 btsd
Bike racks are full on bike to school day 2011

Swanson bikes 2011 btsd 2
One cyclist's bike is parked on the tree due to full racks

State of Folly 5 - How Crichton is wrong about glaciers

This is the fifth in a series of posts related to Michael Crichton's State of Fear, which I just read this summer. [previous posts here and here and here and here]

From page 530, a conversation between Kenner and Ted Bradley:

"How many glaciers are there in the world, Ted?"
"I don't know."               "Guess."
"Maybe, uh, two hundred."

Who owns the signs? And why won't they take them down?

I've noted a couple of signs in Northern Virginia that indicate the way to Dulles Airport.  One is on Route 50 in Arlington just past the Courthouse exit at the 10th St. exit.  The other is on Little River Turnpike between Braddock Road and Old Columbia Pike.

View Dulles Airport signs in a larger map

Here's what they look like:  
Dulles airport sign route 50 close up
This is the sign on Route 50 in Arlington.

Dulles airport sign on Route 50
Here's its location.  You can see the 10th St. exit sign that is in the median.

Dulles airport sign on Little River
Here's the one on Little River Turnpike.

The existence of these signs raises a number of questions:
  • Who owns them?
  • How long have they been there?
  • Why are they still there?
  • What purpose do they serve?
    I suspect these signs date from before I-66 was built, since no one would take Route 50 to get to Dulles with I-66 available.  Also, neither of these--as far as I have noticed--has any follow on signs, so a traveler who noted the sign would never see another one to guide them on their way.  A single directional sign far from its destination without any more to assist the traveler is probably worse than no sign at all.

    There may be more of these Dulles airport signs.  Have you seen any?  Where?

    Taking a macro view, who is responsible for signage in general?  Once a sign is placed is it ever taken down?  I've seen signs in my neighborhood that have rusted so badly they can barely be read and that are completely outdated.  Signs like these are everywhere, and they just accumulate.

    Perhaps every sign should have information on the back of it that tells who owns the sign and who is responsible for it, as well as contact information.  At least that way someone could try to follow up and notify the owner if it gets damaged or becomes obsolete.
    Steve Offutt, Arlington

    State of Folly 4 - How Michael Crichton was wrong: 1970s Global Cooling

    This is the fourth in a series of posts related to Michael Crichton's State of Fear, which I just read this summer. [previous posts here and here and here]

    On page 394, the "arch-villain" Henley (in the plot, he is the key character behind the efforts to manufacture big climate events) says:

    Solving the Lynn Street/Lee Highway Bike/Car Conflict

    The intersection of Lee Highway and Lynn Street in Rosslyn, where the Custis Trail crosses Lynn St., has been the subject of great scrutiny lately. (GGW reported on a recent meeting at this very intersection.)  This is one of the most dangerous intersections for cyclists in the Greater Washington area. By reconfiguring the exit ramp for the Key Bridge, this conflict can be entirely removed, dramatically improving safety while also potentially improving traffic flow.  (This post has been cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington, including a number of reader comments.)

    The problem at this intersection is traffic turning right from the I-66 off-ramp onto Lynn Street traveling towards the Key Bridge.  This traffic has a green light at the same time as the pedestrians and cyclists have the cross signal. There are two lanes of right turning cars (and sometimes cars in the third lane turn right illegally). By shifting the Key Bridge traffic to the north of the Custis Trail crossing, this conflict will be eliminated.

    Upcoming Event: Transforming energy performance in Houses of Worship

    The Environment Group of the National Capital Presbytery is sponsoring/presenting a key session open to all churches and other houses of worship interested in saving $ from their annual operating expenses.

    Presentation and Q&A session on: Updating your energy system to the 21st century & reducing your carbon footprint: how to do it for free (or almost).

    Date: Saturday, October 22
    Time: 10 am to noon
    Location: Warner Memorial Presbyterian Church
        10123 Connecticut Avenue, Kensington, MD (map)
    This is a free presentation.
    Click here to RSVP

    It's already here. Not far in the future. Climate affecting politics and disaster relief, that is.

    The most recent political skirmish in DC was over $1.6 billion in disaster relief funding. The GOP was working to turn this into a political negotiating tool to extract other concessions. It didn't end up making much difference, and the political blogosphere saw it as more examples of dysfunctional government.

    I, however, see it as not only that, but also a canary-in-the-coal-mine moment. As the future of climate change bears down on us faster than anyone was expecting, disasters like this year's (9 $1-billion+ disasters already this year) are going to require more and more emergency funding. Eventually these disasters are going to require much bigger political decisions than what we see now. Remember, Nicolas Stern predicted that climate change could take up to 20% off global GDP. That's not only a huge hit on available resources, but there will also be enormous costs to actually deal with the floods, droughts, storm surges and other direct effects of warming-enhanced events.

    Science textbook gets science right!!!

    Last summer my son was required to read "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton in preparation for his Geosciences class that all high school seniors are required to take at his school (it's a school that specializes in science and technology).  That made me nervous, knowing that "State of Fear" has been widely debunked as a source of useful information on climate science (see my series on State of Fear here).  I was hoping that his teachers were not going to use it as some sort of instructional material on climate change.

    I was immensely relieved, though, when I read the very first sentence in his textbook:

    State of Folly 3 - How Michael Crichton was wrong: Humans insignificant?

    This is the third in a series of posts related to Michael Crichton's State of Fear, which I just read this summer. [previous posts here and here]

    On p. 709, one of Crichton's key characters, John Kenner, who he presents as the level-headed, intelligent understander of all things climate, says, after describing the ordinary violence of the earth's weather:
    The nasty little apes that call themselves human beings can do nothing except run and hide.  For these same apes to imagine they can stabilize this atmosphere is arrogant beyond belief.  They can't control the climate.
    Yet we know that to be undeniably false.  We are, in fact, already controlling the climate.  We've raised it a degree or so Celsius in the last 100 years.  "Unequivocally" according to the best climate science on the planet.  We may not be "controlling" it very well--more like sending it out of control.  The point he was trying to make is that humans are just too small to make any difference to the enormity of the earth's systems.  Wrong.

    Bike commuting in DC highest in US Northeast - among highest in nation

    According to a recent article in the The Atlantic Cities, bike commuting has seen significant increases across the US between 2000 and 2009.  In the Northeast region, DC led the pack, tied with Philadelphia, at 2.2%.  That is up from 1.2% in 2000.Bike commuting table
    Although DC's increase in cycling was not as remarkable as some of the other Northeastern cities, DC started the decade with more bike commuters.

    State of Folly 2 - More Why Michael Crichton is Wrong

    This is the second in a series of posts about Michael Crichton's State of Fear. (Previous post here)

    Mr. Crichton's book was widely hailed by the climate deniers/skeptics, despite the fact that Mr. Crichton has no credentials whatsoever in regards to climate science.  Nonetheless, the book covered a lot of ground related to global warming.

    On pages 490-492 (in my paperback version), in the chapter titled "Culver City: Tuesday, October 12, 1:20 PM" Mr. Crichton presents 14 different temperature graphs from around the world showing temperature trends from 1875 to 2003.  Some go up, some go down, some go sideways.  In the story, one of the main protagonists comes across a stack of these graphs and is disturbed that so many do not seem to agree with his preconceived notion of global warming.

    State of Folly - How Michael Crichton was Wrong

    I finally got around to reading State of Fear by Michael Crichton. Interestingly, my son was assigned this book as a summer reading assignment (I'll follow up on that shortly). So I read it, too.

    There have been many people who have reviewed and criticized the book. This is the first of a series of posts that look at particular claims and issues raised in the book as I see them. Enjoy.

    Crichton adds an "Author's Message" at the end, in which he clarifies his personal views on the climate science. One of his bullet points reads:

    Capital Bikeshare featured on Streetfilms

    The amazing success of Capital Bikeshare is being noted not just here in the DC area (such as in the Wash Post), but nationwide and around the world.  The acclaimed Streetfilms featured Capital Bikeshare last month.

    Seven Corners Safeway fixes sidewalk

    Back in March I reported that the newly renovated Safeway at Seven Corners had designed their shopping cart corral in such a way as to block sidewalk access, forcing pedestrians to walk into traffic.

    Two weeks ago, the Safeway removed this barrier, and now the sidewalk is completely open, allowing for safe and convenient pedestrian passage as shown in this photo.

    How Capital Bikeshare is making D.C. a better place

    Photo by M. V. Jantzen
     The Washington Post ran a Local Opinions piece last Saturday (How those red public bikes are changing D.C.) by D.C.-area blogger and founder of the Greater Greater Washington blog, David Alpert.  The article laid out all the great reasons Capital Bikeshare is doing well and should be supported and expanded.
    Here's an excerpt:
    Building roads or trains is expensive, while growing CaBi (usually pronounced “cabbie”) is one of the cheapest ways we have to quickly improve mobility. Consider this: Simply rebuilding the Gainesville Interstate 66 interchange will cost about 18 times as much as setting up the whole CaBi system.

    Caribou beats up on Starbucks (400% greater savings!)

    I've beaten up on Starbucks before (here and here) for their lackluster effort to get people to use reusable cups. On a recent visit to Caribou Coffee, I encountered this sign in their bathroom.

    The sign says: "Think Happy Everyday.  50 cents off any drink with reusable drinkware."

    Starbucks offers only a dime for a reusable cup, and they hardly market it. It's posted in the smallest font possible on their wall menus if it appears at all.

    Go Caribou!

    Falls Church Folly

    The BJ's Wholesale Club that opened in Falls Church near Seven Corners last October was a short-sighted decision by Falls Church and works against taking steps towards an improved urban/suburban environment. Rather than taking maximum advantage of an opportunity to improve an area that is in dire need of better design, Falls Church resorted to the same-old, same-old, big box store, with an enormous parking lot out front and little regard for the future urban design or long-term planning.

    The BJs opened last October 9 to much fanfare and pretty big crowds. Most of the press leading up to and at the time of the opening was very positive: people were excited about the new store.

    The heat wave and human influence on climate

    Most of the United States just endured a remarkable heat wave in which hundreds of daily temperature records were broken and a number of all-time high records were also broken.  Additionally, because of the flooding of the Mississippi River, humidity levels were also very high, leading to extremely high heat indexes, as high as 131 degrees in Knoxville, Iowa on Monday, July 18.

    Farragut "Virtual Tunnel" close to reality (after only 3 years!)

    The Washington Post reported today that Richard Sarles has included in his first 6-month report as full-time Director of Metro, that the "Virtual Tunnel" between the Farragut stations will be functional this fall.

    I first promulgated this idea almost three years ago on the CommuterPage blog and have followed up numerous times since (More of the Invisible Tunnel, Testing the Invisible Tunnel, Now Even More Invisible?, Metro's response). Here's what the Post said today:  "In his first six-month report since being hired as Metro’s permanent chief, Sarles also said the agency will create a 'virtual tunnel' between Farragut North on the Red Line and Farragut West on the Orange and Blue lines, allowing riders to go from one station to the other without paying a new fare."

    Why it took this long is a bit of a mystery.  Metro has been tying this service to changes in the SmarTrip card, which are finally just now being completed.  However, I learned way back in 2008 that the capability has always existed--even with paper farecards--to implement this service.

    It will be interesting to see how popular the tunnel is once the ridership is educated about it.

    Another missed opportunity to provide better service on Metro during track work

    Metro has another opportunity to provide enhanced shuttle service to Orange Line riders the next two weekends while they perform work on the tracks. Thousands of hours could be saved by travelers with an intelligently designed and managed shuttle service.

    Metro has announced that shuttles will run between East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations. Between West Falls Church and Vienna trains will single track while workers perform track work in this area. Metro's announced plan is to operate single-tracked trains on 24-minute headways between WFC and Vienna.

    As I suggested previously (and received a reply from Metro), a better strategy for customers would be to not run trains at all for the three stations west of East Falls Church. Instead, they should run express shuttles from Vienna to East Falls Church and a secondary shuttle serving the other two stations.
    There are approximately 20,000 boardings and deboardings at the three westernmost stations on a Saturday, divvied up as follows:

    New bike/ped bridge on W&OD over the Beltway is now open

    The bridge that carries the W&OD trail over the Capital Beltway is now open.  According to the W&OD Trail Report, it opened on June 15.  I've been out of town for most of the time since then, so this was my first time using it.  The new bridge replaces the old one just to its south.  The replacement was necessary, because the highway is being widened, and the old bridge was not long enough to span the wider road.

    See photos below.  The new bridge is wider than the old one.  There is still a little work to complete on the approaches and landscaping as well as the removal of the old bridge.

    Approaching the new W&OD bridge from the east
    Approaching the new W&OD trail from the west

    The new bridge (looking west) being used.  Note the 12-foot width.

    The partially deconstructed old bridge
    As an aside, I was told that VDOT offered the old bridge to Arlington County.  Although staff at the county identified a possibly beneficial location for the bridge, it was determined that by the time it was taken down, all that would be left would be a couple of long, steel supports that would be very difficult to move anyway.  So they declined.

    Turn out the lights!!!

    Why is it that lights are on so much when they make no difference whatsoever?  And sometimes they seem deliberately wasteful.  I notice this all the time. Here's one example.

    For the last couple of years I have attended a UConn football game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in East Hartford CT at Rentschler Field.  The game is played in the early afternoon.  In both cases it was a bright, sunny day.  Also in both cases, all the field lights were on from the time we arrived.  I have no idea how early in the day they were lighted, but they were on for at least a couple of hours prior to the start of the game.

    Note the bright sunshine.  This was late in the game; earlier there were no shadows on the field at all

    According to the Rentschler Field website, there are 316 fixtures affixed on four light towers and above the press box.  My best guess is that each fixture is 600-1200 watts. The lights were on for at least 6 hours.  I'll concede that it may have been worthwhile to turn on some of the lights towards the end of the game as the sun got low, but they could have played the entire game without the lights, and no one would have noticed until at least 3:30 PM and probably not at all if they had never come on.

    CentralSpace in Rosslyn demonstrates cooperation between developer and local organizations to create a positive community amenity

    There's a nice little urban space in Rosslyn that is a good example of how several organizations working together can make a small but positive impact on the urban form.  It's called CentralSpace, and it's pictured here.  What would typically be a weedy, fenced-in lot awaiting groundbreaking has been transformed into a usable, aesthetically interesting urban space.

    Photo by M.V. Jantzen

    Electricity industry executives are either delusional or math illiterate. You choose.

    The consulting firm, Black & Veatch conducts a survey (pdf) of the electricity industry each year, which provides insight into what the industry itself believes is happening and will happen in the future.  (Thanks to Grist for bringing this to my attention).

    One of the questions and answers in particular caught my attention, because it struck me as being totally absurd.  Upon further digging, it turns out I was right; it is absurd.
    Nissan Leaf

    The question asked of the executives was:

    What proportion of your annual energy load do you expect electric vehicles to represent by the end of each of the following years?

    Here is the graph showing how they answered.

    When the Mississippi River Finally Wins. Let's Start Planning.

    The Mississippi River flooding of 2011 is one of the greatest flood events in the river's history.  High water mark records were set in many places along the river, and the US Corps of Engineers has used every trick in its book to reduce the impact on cities.  Millions of acres of land have been inundated and economic losses are enormous throughout the basin.

    One story that was not as widely disseminated, but needs to be understood is the story about how the Mississippi River reroutes itself every 1000 years or so and is trying to do so again.  This article by Thomas Lewis discusses the scenario in great detail.

    View New Mississippi River Route in a larger map

    How is Renewable Energy like Swine Flu?

    Recently I visited an old friend of mine, and at one point our discussion turned to climate change and renewable energy.  He made the comment that renewables certainly make a lot of sense, but it's "up to the market" to determine their viability.  My initial response was that the fossil fuels we have depended on for so long have been getting, and continue to get, subsidies already.  So it makes sense to subsidize the renewables.  He conceded this point, but I don't think I totally convinced him.

    What I didn't tell him, because I thought of it later, is that renewables are more like swine flu vaccine than like a regular marketplace technology.

    Innovations Towards Zero. Upcoming event at House of Sweden re: electrification and safety in vehicles

    9th of June, 2011 ∙ House of Sweden ∙ 2900 K Street, NW ∙ Washington, DC

    Join us for a seminar that will focus on the latest findings on safety and electrification of 
    vehicles and discuss how manufacturers, government and the public can work together to 
    reduce emissions as well as reduce fatalities and injuries on our roads.


    8:30 - 9:00 a.m. Breakfast around exhibition in Anna Lindh Hall
     Exhibition will include:

    Clive Hamilton Says:

    "In sum, the most important assumptions on which international negotiations and national policies are founded—that we can stabilise the climate at some level, that overshooting and returning to a lower target is feasible, and that we can accommodate 2 or more degrees of warming by adapting to it—have no foundation in the way the Earth’s climate system actually behaves. When one understands these facts, the state of political debate around the world takes on an air of unreality. Rich country policies—including cutting emissions by a few per cent and outsourcing most of the cuts to developing countries; waiting for carbon capture and storage technology to save the coal industry and continuing to pollute at high levels until that happens; planning the construction of new coal-fired power plants; and even, in Australia, entertaining the idea of exporting brown coal—are so at odds with the scale and urgency of the emission cuts demanded by the science as to be almost laughable. They reflect a child-like belief that climate change can be averted by ignoring the truth and hoping for the best, a form of wishful thinking whose costs will prove incalculable."

    - Clive Hamilton
    Clive Hamilton is Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics in Australia.

    Arlington County installs new bike signal on Custis trail

    Arlington County has installed a bike-only signal in the Rosslyn area of the Custis Trail at the corner of N. Oak Street and Lee Highway, which went into service on Tuesday, May 17.  This is one of the intersections on the "Rosslyn Hill" section of the Custis that includes several crossings.  There have been collisions at some of these crossings in the past.  This area is definitely the most dangerous section of the Custis Trail.

    View Custis Trail bike signal location in a larger map

    Even the IEA can't do math. No one understands growth!!

    I was looking at the IAE statistics about coal, and I came across a couple of different statements that stand in sharp contrast.  First there was this:
    Total recoverable reserves of coal around the world are estimated at 909 billion tons—reflecting a current reserves-to-production ratio of 129 years.  Historically, estimates of world recoverable coal reserves, although relatively stable, have declined gradually from 1,145 billion tons in 1991 to 1,083 billion tons in 2000 and 909 billion tons in 2008.  Although the decline in estimated reserves is sizable, the large reserves-to-production ratio for world coal indicates that sufficient coal will be available to meet demand well into the future. (emphasis mine)
    Above this statement on the same page was this graph

    accompanied by this statement:
    The growth rate for coal consumption is uneven, averaging 1.1 percent per year from 2007 to 2020 and 2.0 percent per year from 2020 to 2035.

    Corporate Responsibility & Energy as Design - May 17 event at House of Sweden

    House of Sweden on the Potomac River
    I want to bring to your attention an upcoming event that may be of interest here in DC.  This was forwarded to me from Maja Persson, a friend and colleague who works at the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce.

    Please note the information about RSVPing

    The perfect bike trail bollard installation

    For those of you have read my previous post on this topic, you will know that I am not a fan of bollards on bike trails.  Hence this photo of what I consider to be the perfect bollard installation.

    Yes, replacing street car parking with bike parking is a good idea.

    Over the last week there has been a small controversy regarding the expansion of Capital Bikeshare into Arlington County, VA.  In particular the Arlington County GOP has complained that as many as eight metered parking spaces have been replaced with CaBi stations.

    This is virtually a non-issue.  Prior to this, 100% of street parking in Arlington was for cars; now it's maybe 98-99%.  That still seems remarkably unbalanced toward automobiles.  Watch this video (yours truly appears near the beginning).

    The contention that replacing these parking spots with bikeshare parking costs the county money and is a bad idea is wrong in so many ways.

    Monday What's on the Web: DC Green Scene

    The DC Green Scene web site (and email service) provides a list of upcoming environmental events in the Washington DC area.  I highly recommend subscribing to their weekly email notifications if you live in the DC area.  Even if you are unlikely to attend many (or any), it is very useful to know what is going on.

    There are typically several listings for every single day, and many of the events are free.  Here are some examples, taken from tomorrow's list:

    Hypermiling in our Camry Hybrid

    We purchased our 2007 Toyota Hybrid Camry in March of 2007 and I have previously written about it six times (first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth postings).

    Last week I set a personal best for mpg on a trip we made to and from Philadelphia.  Our car records the mileage continuously from the time the tank is filled until it is filled again.  On the trip back, we stopped at the Chesapeake House rest area on I-95 at Mile Marker 98 in North East MD.  From there to our house in Arlington we traveled about 94 miles.  The mileage reading shown when we parked in front of our house is shown to the left.

    Metro's "Service Nearby" tool

    Last summer a friend of mine moved to a new apartment in Alexandria, an area of town he was not particularly familiar with.  He got in touch with me about trying to find a good way to commute by transit to his job in DC.  He knew that I was pretty savvy at figuring out the transportation system.

    I pointed him to Metro's "Service Nearby" tool as a first step in figuring out his various options.  The tool identifies all the transit stops within 1 mile.  One can then use that information to look at schedules or use the Trip Planner to determine various ways to go where you want to go.  The trip planner does not always provide the complete list of options (and often not even the best options), so using "Service Nearby" can be really helpful.

    Rationalizing services between Shirlington and the Pentagon

    Travelers between Shirlington and the Pentagon have more than 160 buses in each direction per day that they can ride. However, the design of the bus bays and the lack of combined schedules creates inconvenience for passengers, requiring them to choose between bus bays that are far apart and knowing multiple schedules, among other issues that could be rationalized.

    There are several routes between Shirlington and the Pentagon: Metrobus routes 7A, C, E, F, Y; 22A; 25A, D; and ART87. The 7 and 25 buses are express, traveling directly between these two stations in 6-9 minutes depending on traffic. The 22A makes a few stops before getting on I-395, resulting in a travel time of about 12-14 minutes. The ART bus takes a local route that takes about 23-27 minutes. (In almost all cases, those traveling between these two endpoints will get there sooner by waiting for the next, quicker Metrobus than taking the ART.)  There is also an ART 87X, which is express to the Pentagon during rush hours.

    My Commuter Mug Reprise

    photo by Scott Feldstien on flickr
    Long ago I posted that by carrying my commuter mug around with me I would save money on my coffee purchases.  Starbucks always offers a dime and sometimes they just charge me $0.50 for a refill even though it isn't a "refill."

    This morning I was in Shirlington and dropped into the Caribou Coffee shop.  They offer a $0.50 discount for bringing your own mug.  Wow!  And, it was prominently displayed on their big chalkboard.

    I recently blogged on how Starbucks has failed in their efforts to improve use of reusable mugs.  Well, Caribou is kicking their butt!!

    Google adds skateboard directions to Google Maps

    Google announced today that it will be adding skateboarding directions to its currently available driving, walking, transit and biking directions. Simply click on the new icon that appears on the Google Directions page as shown below.

    (Just in case - this was an April Fools post)

    Pocket Bus Schedules Being Tested

    A while back I suggested the idea of creating simple point-to-point bus schedules as a way to both simplify information for riders as well as make it easier for new riders to take the bus.  The example I used was between Westover Village in Arlington and the Ballston Metro (see original blog post here).

    I finally got around to creating these little pocket schedules and they are now available at Toby's Ice Cream Shop in Westover.  Toby tells me that several customers have commented on the usefulness of these schedules. although so far not a lot of them have been taken.

    Monday What's on the Web: The Geological Society Climate Statement

    Last November, the Geological Society of London issued a "Statement on Climate Change."  It's a relatively clear and straightforward statement that summarizes the current state of our climate and relates it to significant climatological changes in the past.

    The Geological Society of London was founded in 1807. It is the UK national society for geoscience, and the oldest geological society in the world.  As a highly regarded professional, scientific organization, one should take statements like these very seriously.  When individual scientists make statements, it is possible they are tainted by personal bias.  When the Geological Society of London makes a statement, it represents thousands of scientists, and carries much greater weight than any one particular scientific paper or one individual scientist's perspective. There are 10,000 members of the Geological Society.

     The Geological Society's statement is mirrored by statements made by virtually every other reputable scientific organization on the planet.  There are no reputable scientific organizations that dispute the scientific consensus that: 1) the planet is warming; 2) humans are partially to mostly responsible; and 3) the outcomes are likely to be significant and negative for human civilization.

    Green Business Roundtable now on Facebook

    I chair a monthly gathering of professionals called the Green Business Roundtable.  In partnership with the Wharton Club of DC, the GBR usually meets at the National Press Club for a buffet lunch and a guest discussion leader.  Click on the Facebook link to the right for updates and notifications of upcoming meetings.

    Hope to see you there!

    Monday What's on the Web: Reconnecting America

    Recommecting America is a web site dedicated to promoting, advocating for and improving Transit-Oriented Development.

    This is how they describe their mission on their site:
    Reconnecting America is a national non-profit organization that is working to integrate transportation systems and the communities they serve, with the goal of generating lasting public and private returns, improving economic and environmental efficiency, and giving consumers more housing and mobility choices.
    Their sister site, the Center for Transit Oriented Development is focused more on that specific topic, but the two are interrelated.

    I recommend joining to receive their daily updates, which link through to a tremendous number of articles related to this topic.  I learn something new almost every day.

    Newly renovated Safeway at Willston Center in Fairfax County totally disses pedestrians

    The Safeway in the Willston Center near Seven Corners in Fairfax County recently underwent a major renovation.  This renovation provides no access for pedestrians along the sidewalk in front of the store, forcing pedestrians to walk in the parking lot.

    The new renovation is a vast improvement over the old Safeway store that was here.  It's bigger, newer, cleaner and includes a Starbucks Coffee.  Unfortunately, no one paid any attention to how the front of the store interacts with the parking lot and the sidewalk.  This Safeway is not a stand-alone store.  It is in a strip that contains a dozen other establishments.  It is also adjacent to and very near a large number of apartment buildings, and a significant number of users (myself included) can and do walk to this strip.  So it is not a suburban, car-only type of place, even though it has a large parking lot in front.  Although many users come to the Safeway, many also come to the other establishments, and if they wish to visit any that require them to pass by the Safeway (which is in the middle), they must walk into the parking lot to pass in front of the store.

    Here are some photos to help explicate the situation.

    The BB&T Bank is to the west (left) of the Safeway.  To walk past the Safeway to stores on the right, one must walk out into the parking lot
    This narrow section of sidewalk is navigable without going into the parking lot, but there's not a lot of room.
    The point where the trash can is located is the place where there is no sidewalk option available.  All pedestrians must walk out into the parking lot in order to pass this section.  Depending on where the cart storage  is, pedestrians may also be forced out at the left of the photo where the leaning sign is located.

    This is just past the trash can.  The sidewalk is about 12 inches wide, but there is also a sign in the way.

    Here's a look from the opposite angle.  The sign and trash can are visible on the left side of the photo.

    This photo is also taken from the east.  The trash can is visible.  The BB&T Bank is beyond the Safeway
    Fairfax County's zoning ordinance is hundreds and hundreds of pages. A search through the sections that deal with commercial retail properties like this shopping center resulted in virtually no mentions whatsoever of sidewalks or other pedestrian amenities.

    The designers of this Safeway were therefore not required to give any consideration to pedestrians, which is obvious from the outcome. Only those who drive cars were considered in their design choices. Even those who drive here and may also want to go to the bank or to the dollar store nearby are forced to step out into the parking lot traffic in order to do so.

    To his credit, when this problem was pointed out to the manager, he was surprised and concerned and expressed his opinion that this design would provide a disservice to his customers. Too bad they didn't ask him before they started.
    (cross posted on Greater Greater Washington)