Silver Line opens; new way to Dulles Airport

Photo, courtesy, Jonathan Padget.
Photo, courtesy, Jonathan Padget.

So, my husband and I rode to the eastern terminus of the Washington Metro Silver Line on opening day yesterday. This is the first new subway — really, an elevated line — since 1991, and it goes through and past Tysons Corner, a local byword for big shopping malls, wide highways and mammoth office blocks. And until now, access by car or difficult bus connections. The plans for the future include more residents, and replacing an old-style suburban built environment with one more urban. But that’ll take many years.

As, indeed the rest of the planned, but not yet built, Phase 2 of the Silver Line. At least that’s scheduled for 2018, and not decades away. But the reason I suspect most in-town Washingtonians want to ride the Silver Line is to reach Dulles Airport, but that station is in Phase 2.

But the options to Dulles have improved.

The old “medium cheap” brown Washington Flyer bus — that only came in as far as East Falls Church Metro station — has been replaced by a blue Silver Line Express, to the Wiehle-Reston East station, the current terminus. It’s a shorter run, and also cheaper at $5.

2014-07-26 14.20.24
The Silver Line Express waiting at Wiehle-Reston East

Here are some notes:

When you arrive at Wiehle-Rest East, well, you’re really in a parking and bus transfer center. The station is in the median of the major arterial Dulles Toll Road, and so there’s no direct access.  Go up the adjacent escalator, turn right out the enclosed vestibule. You’re now in an open-air plaza; turn right again. About thirty feet or so ahead is a path; look left. You will see a covered foot bridge over the Dulles Toll Road to the station ticketing area. There you can buy your fare; I’d recommend getting a SmarTrip card from one of the sales machine. You’ll save the cost of the card almost immediately, and spare yourself the trouble of fiddling with a paper fare card (for which there’s a $1 surcharge) and money. And there are discounts for using one.

Footbridge to the Metro station
Footbridge to the Metro station

Proceed though the gates, and down to the platform. and take any train.

Stand behind the bumpy edge on the platform.

When using escalators, stand on the right and walk on the left, unless it’s just packed solid.

On the return trip, just get on the bus. You’ll pay at the airport.


Getting ready for GA: packing

I’ll be leaving for General Assembly on Wednesday, and I like to pack early. Some will be leaving early for professional development events, so I’ll note this resource now.

Shrunken carry-on sizes will make packing a bigger challenge, and this after I invested a bundle on a buy-it-once bag. That and I hurt my back earlier this year and don’t want to risk a repeat.

But if I don’t overstuff it will fit — 9 inches wide! — and the maker’s site has various suggested directions for packing. (And I really, really like my Air Boss Red Oxx bag.)

This may help you.
Packing for Air Travel: One Bag Part 2

Get your rail tickets for Providence General Assembly

Amtrak is an affordable, appealing option for many Unitarian Universalists coming from out of town to Providence for General Assembly.

The tickets become much more expensive if you buy them within 21 days of travel. Other discounts exists, but it’s hard to be the convenience of a single passenger travelling. Companion fares which could be booked later really don’t see you that much by comparison. So get your tickets now.

Use this tool to find the cheapest tickets from your location to Providence.

More on the simplified conference

I mentioned the concept of the Esperanto weekend before. Think low-cost, lightly pre-programmed meetings with a focus on fellowship. Perhaps the container for an unconference. Two more thoughts.

1. The next Esperanto weekend will be in Richmond, Virginia. (details in English and Esperanto). Here is a how-to, if you read Esperanto.

2. Buses. Megabus, the emerging intercity bus carrier, is expanding in the mid-Atlantic region.  When you look at their service map, consider supporting rail service and highways, good value, restaurant and services in “in-between” locations, some go-to cities pop up for further research. A goal is regional convenience, not national scope.

  • Harrisburg, Penn.
  • Richmond, Va.
  • Hampton, Va.
  • Morgantown, W.V.
  • perhaps Storrs, Conn.
  • perhaps Frederick, Md.
But I wonder about other regions.

Visiting Vermont: suggestions?

Greetings: the news about Irene and Vermont makes me want to visit the state for its history and charm. (Not particularly for leaf-peeping.)

Is there a better time this fall to avoid the foliage hounds — or at least the prices — and towns with Universalist churches that a particularly charming. And with this caveat: I’ve got a ton of Amtrak points, so I’ll probably be taking the Vermonter to Burlington, which with Montpelier, I’d like to see on their own. If at all possible, I’d like to use public buses.


WMATA on Google Transit

Today, D.C.’s transit hounds get what once thought impossible: the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA; “Metro”) is on Google Transit, a service that integrates maps and service schedules. It is available for dozens of other services worldwide.

So now it’s possible to plot driving, walking and transit trips in the area. Other, smaller transit agencies had participated in the system, but not WMATA, which is by far the largest in the area, leading to absurd routings through remote counties on commuter buses. Or, more frequently, no option at all.

It’s far from perfect — one search I made suggested I ride one of those commuter buses for two stops; a five minute walk and wholly impractical — to change to a Metrobus.

But it’s service that I’ll use, and hope Washington’s visitors enjoy.

Chinatown bus update

Hubby and I got back from a trip to New York tonight. We took the bus both ways.

Bus travel in the northeast corridor got a new lease on life several years ago when a number of bus companies, based out of Chinatowns and catering originally to kitchen workers, attracted non-Chinese riders. (I was an early adopter, even making one leg from New York to Boston in a van. But for $15 I wasn’t complaining.) This created waves of intra-Chinatown competition, followed by non-ethnic-Chinese imitators in the charter bus business and most recently as low-cost “establishment” players entered the market. The highway back tonight had a constant stream of Megabus, Bolt, Eastern and other smaller carriers. Linking Washington and Baltimore to Philadelphia and New York, and onwards to Boston is no longer news. And if you pay more than $25 one-way to New York from Washington, you’re getting ripped off. And it had better have wifi.

The news is that, from Manhattan’s Chinatown at least, the network is spreading. Granted, two or three years ago, I noticed some small signs on Chrystie Street (map) in Chinese noting locations (in English) in the Midwest. I assumed then this was the kitchen worker shuttle continuing farther than many other riders would suffer, and now I’m sure.

On East Broadway and Allen Streets, there are now buses that will take you to small regional destinations like Smyrna and Dover, Delaware and in the south as far as the Carolinas, Georgia and as far as Biloxi, Mississippi. I was tooling around this neighborhood last night and asked some people outside one of the ticket offices where there were going and how they found the service. Well, only one had a first-hand opinion for the trip to Greenville, South Carolina but each had some experience with a different run, including one who went to Pittsburgh. The verdict. It’s cheap and faster than driving.  And, perhaps like me, they enjoy the flexibility (you can often just walk up and pay with cash) and are willing to sacrifice some comfort to do without the increasingly unpleasant experience of air travel. And I should note, everyone I spoke with was African American. These routes had already jumped away from being a kitchen worker shuttle.

Now, I should note that Megabus, a British company running on a similar model, recently expanded service from Washington, D.C. to Charlotte and other places due south, but not as far as Greenville. But now I’m thinking it’s only a matter of time. And with similar, smaller networks hubbed out of Chicago and Los Angeles, perhaps we’re seeing the beginning of an informal national coach network — to rival Greyhound (though they own Bolt)  and to capture a larger part of the travel market.

Oh, and I’ll probably take the bus to General Assembly next year. (Not my first time, and not the furthest: D.C. to Quebec City.) Any takers?

Inside Universalist Meeting House

Well, I missed All Saints Day and now it’s All Souls Day. Remember the unity of the human race in prayer. Nothing profound to say about it now — time is short — but I wanted to share a few photos from the Universalist Meeting House in Provincetown, which I visited last week.

It’s one of the most conspicuous buildings in town, so there’s not the “what’s that” factor you get everywhere else. I could fall in love with P-town.

Let me also comment the Universalist Meeting House leadership and staff for keeping it open for tourists. I just walked in, and there were signs directing me. Had I been carrying some cash, I could have also bought the self-guided tour booklet.
Interior, Universalist Meeting House, Provincetown

Ceiling, Universalist Meeting House, Provincetown

Surely the trompe l’oeil paintings of the meetinghouse interior are its biggest general selling point, but I was taken by the tablet beside the meetinghouse interior door.

Tablet, Universalist Meeting House, Provincetown

The first part reads:

For Sylvia and Elizabth Freeman
who Found in the tide off Long Point
a Book
The Life of John Murray Father of Universalism
So Began this Parish 1829

This bit of unlikely, providential evangelism has happened before, if memory serves. In the Philippines, and also in South Carolina, for one of the Newberry churches, but perhaps not the extant Clayton Memorial Church. It’s one of the reasons I started developing websites as far back as 1995: with the hope that someone would run across Universalism this way.

In the neighborhood of Boston

So I’m in Boston, having first attended Peter Boullata’s installation as the minister of the First Parish, Lexington. Victoria Weinstein, also known to Beauty Tips for Ministers blog readers as PeaceBang, delivered an extraordinary sermon and Tom Schade, the minister of First Unitarian, Worcester delivered a charge that made me rethink what I should be doing. More about that as it develops.

Between that, where I saw old friends and the compass of this visit where I see others — plus the continuous and obvious signs of Unitarian and Universalist history, I’m left with a pleasant, irenic feeling that I hopes lasts a while.