DC Metro-Google Maps mashup

The Express, the Washington Post's free sibling for straphangers and office worker types has mashed together their info and Google maps to give us lots of helpful destination info near subway stations. Not perfect -- it doesn't put exits in the right places; there's no subway stop in the middle of Dupont Circle -- but this will be useful for locals and tourists.

Hat tip: Google Map Mania

DC Circulator bus service improves

Today is Earth Day. Well, heck, as the price of gasoline continues to rise, every day in metro Washington is Earth Day. Transit ridership is very high and making news, in part because there's no event associated with the upturn. Good.

This post, however, is for the tourists. I know you're coming and you ought to know about a set of bus lines that are now mature enough to promote: the Circulator. Read about it. It only costs a dollar: quarters drop faster than sliding a bill, and don't bother with the parking meter/ticket machines unless you have no cash and need to use a credit card. Oh, unless you did use the ticket machine, ask for that transfer and make good use of it.

The first two services -- making a T though the tourist- and business-richest parts of Washington DC -- have been expanded becoming more useful to in-town residents and a third line now loops clockwise around the Mall and associated monuments.

This is the easiest way to get to Georgetown attractions from downtown and the only direct way to get to the hopping rich-with-local-color fish market on the waterfront. The Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials are still a jaunt, and the FDR memorial is a hike, but these monuments don't have regular bus service either. (I don't recommend the 13-series buses, which are infrequent and really meant to connect the Pentagon with downtown.) The only major Washington attraction not served by the Circulator -- for which you'll need to use a Metrobus -- is the Episcopal cathedral and the Adams-Morgan nightlife district.
For the cathedral -- which I refuse to call the National Cathedral -- take any bus in "the 30s" from the bus stop on 15th Street NW catty-corner from the McPherson Square Metro station or, if you're at Friendship Heights station, the same busses stopping in front of the Neiman-Marcus. (30-series bus map in PDF.) The Greek and one of the Russian cathedrals are in the same neighborhood. Alternately, you can take the N6 bus from Dupont Circle, but that's harder to describe. From the north subway exit, look for the bus stop near the Kossuth House -- see the Hungarian flag -- at 20th and Massachusetts NW. Ask to be let off at the Cathedral because -- believe it or not -- you can't see it from where the final stop is.

Adams-Morgan is harder: the commercial strip is 18th Street NW between U Steet and Columbia Road. You could walk from Dupont Circle, but that isn't likely for out of towners. Take a bus in the 90-series from the Woodley Park/Zoo Metro station going south. The little 98 "Adams Morgan Link" bus, near the McDonalds, is probably the easiest to understand, and is subsidized so it only costs a quarter going either way. You can pick up this bus at its other terminus, too, at the U St-Cardozo station, on the Green line. Actually, I prefer that part of U Street to Adams-Morgan anyway -- more of the "Black Washington" experience; fewer drunk kids from the 'burbs, but still very lively -- and the Ethiopian restaurants are migrating to U Street between 12th and 9th streets, and on 9th south of U.

Free car free

Regular readers know Hubby and I don't have a car any longer, and we're doing quite well. A couple of people at Day Job act as if were in peril of starvation or social isolation, but that's far, far, far from the truth. Of course, we live in a very pedestrian- and transit-oriented part of town.

Question: are any of my readers also car-free? Do comment.

DC Circulator is good

A little local note.

The DC Circulator began operations today, and I think we have a winner here. It is essentially a simplified (no route numbers; two routes, intersecting at the Convention Center; flat $1 fare) and upscale (clean, airy, low-floor buses) bus route that should help tourists, intown workers, and folks like Hubby and me who live pretty close to downtown. We're now tied in better to Union Station (railroad), Georgetown (shopping), and the literally fishy (waterfront restaurants and market) part of Southwest DC. (The vegetarian thing isn't going to plan.)

Plus it is free this week.

Unitarian Universalism by transit

When I was a teenager at the (then called) Unitarian Church of Augusta (Georgia), I would sometimes skulk off to the church office during coffee hour to read the UUA Directory. I was just a sponge for information. (This is how I first learned that there were Christians in the UUA, though I wasn't one then, and there existed self-determined Universalists.) The directories in those days also included service times, presumably so if you were out of town over a Sunday, you would know what time to arrive.

I thought about those old directories when I was thinking about practical responses to the national overconsumption of petroleum. Wouldn't it be a good idea for Unitarian Universalists -- and other church-goers, for my ecumenical visitors -- to have a schedule for those congregations that are transit-accessible? Say, are within a pedestrian-friendly half-mile of a service point (bus stop, subway station) with Sunday service frequent enough that a rider wouldn't have to wait more than a half-hour (perhaps taking in another cup of coffee, or dropping into a class as a pleasant way to wait) for a ride.

It would send a good, practical message to whom we are speaking, and that we take our ethics practically and collectively. (And not just in a "hey, hey, ho, ho" kind of way.) It would be a good entre to reaching to New Urbanists. And then there's parking . . .

Just a thought.

London's bus campaign for Washington

Bus-loving people will have already seen the London 'My other car is a bus -- new advertising campaign -- I only wish I could get one of the bumper stickers!

That said: Washington's buses could use some more practical help, especially with the capacity of the Metrorail system being stretched towards breaking.

We all know that rail is "sexier" than bus, but that's were the room for growth is -- affordable growth anyway -- and buses are more convenient and practical for a large segment of the populus than the rails anyway. (Neither home nor work is less than a twenty-minute walk from a rail station, but there's a bus that goes very close from one to the other. I would have to drive if it wasn't for the bus.) Time to treat them with some respect.

We could be more like London: encourage pride in our strikingly extensive and relatively modern system and provide more information for potential users. WMATA buses are quite difficult to use if you don't already use them. It took far too long to get free system maps printed (and as it is, you have to ask for them at subway stations). The experimental downtown route direction maps were printed too fine, without adequate direction, and are already outdated. Weekly bus passes are sold at too few many shops. Bus stops are inadequately marked. There are several problems, and they are all resolvable.

A good starting palce would be to adopt London-style "spider maps." These combine realistic local neighborhood maps (centering on a rail station) with stylized radiating bus routes. The format is based on the famous London Underground map. Hubby and I found the concept invaluable in our visit last year, and once implemented the bare details can be printed at the individual stops -- far more helpful than the truth-bending minute-by-minute, long-distance-train-style schedules currently posted.

Since a picture is worth more than my feeble description, here's a link to get some spider maps to review.

Spider maps by borough

More on the urban good life

I'm a bit more optimistic than Chutney at MyIrony.com ("America's "blue" urban archipelago") about winning the "heartland" -- if nothing else, the division might be the nation's undoing.

On the other hand, he's got some good ideas. I'll take him at his word and add a few, from the hustle-bustle of Logan Circle.

  1. Avoid big-box retail. Liberate yourself from their neighborhood destabilizing effects, the way they trade American manufacturing jobs for dead-end retail work, and lean on cheap foreign (sweatshop or not) labor. Look for "Made in the USA" in neighborhood stores. Make a list of things you use and make a list of where you can get them within walking distance. Find as many alternatives as possible for those things you can't get locally.
  2. Worship near home. If you do, challenge efforts to hold meetings and events in the car-only hinterland. Encourage transit information in all church publicity. (This can be hard for Unitarian Universalists. I can only think of two readily transit accessible congregations out of the dozen or more in the area.)
  3. Bank with institutions that share your values, And especially in urban community investment. I'm dismayed my bank has a very low score with the HRC and I'll be switching as soon as I find a better alternative. Your money has power.
  4. Invite your non-urban relatives to visit you in the city. Vacationing here is a lot more interesting that vacationing there, right? Accent its conveniences and "I didn't know they still did that" moments (like the locksmith down the block that sells Lionel trains) that they don't in corportate-retail-culture suburbia.
  5. Keep communicating with your "red state" family. You might learn something. You might realize people are proud that you're doing so well out there.