Archive for December, 2009

Ahhh, Corey

Corey has gotten the brunt of my blog time recently, but seriously, this is why.  I don’t even need to leave the house for entertainment.

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Gingerbread Beach House

Yes, I’m completely behind on my posts after a wonderful Christmas and in anticipation of a fabulous New Year, let’s hit the rewind button.  Earlier last month we had a Gingerbread house competition.  Thought I would start with our own creation and go from there.  Our team was Corinne and myself with Alice and Meghann tagging in with assistance.

Gotta run fix my hair for tonight’s festivities, so I’m logging off now.  Happy New Year!!  Expect New Year blog in mid-February at this rate.

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Transportation Lessons from Snow

Listen to the snow, all ye planners!!  I don’t usually geek out professionally on this site, but this is a fantastic teaching opportunity that should not be wasted.  All the snow that has fallen has given planners and transportation folks a keen look into how people really travel by observing the tracks laid by vehicle tires, bikes and shoes.  And snow isn’t the only element that causes drivers to slow down – natural traffic calming elements have surfaced.  We can use photos of the snow to demonstrate to non-planners what truly is going on out there.  And my apologies – I only took these photos this morning, four days after the last snowfall, but hopefully they will get the points across.

 

Observations:

 

“Dead space” exists at an intersection – The snow clearers (DDOT snow clearing trucks and household shovelers) only clear what is necessary to move effectively, giving us an opportunity to “reshape” the roads.  Therefore, the trucks usually clear one or two lanes, and typically follow a straight path leaving the “dead space” at the corners.  Traffic calming elements such as bulb-outs are effectively the same thing and generally more pleasant than wasted asphalt.

 

Snowplows carved out only the important paths for cars.

Snowplows carved out only the important paths for cars.

Tighter turning radii really does slow traffic down.  Tightening the turning radii on curbs forces cars to slow down to navigate the turn.  This can typically be achieved with bulbouts or better engineering.  Regardless, it’s been great to watch people slow down to take curves.

Snow-made bulb-outs

Snow-made bulb-outs

Narrower lane widths slow traffic, too.  The highway isn’t necessarily moving slower because of snow (unless you are riding with a scaredy cat snow driver like me) – the snow plow can only reach so wide, maybe 10 feet max.  Highway lanes are around 12 feet wide.  The lane is cleared enough for your car to go through, not for you to reach maximum speeds.  With as much snowfall as we’ve received, it may be better to stick to inside lanes on the beltway so the snow barrier doesn’t slow you down.

Narrow lane widths make cars drive slower.

Narrow lane widths make cars drive slower.

Fewer cars on the road compensate for slower speeds.  Our offices were open on Monday and most people had no trouble getting in once they got to a main road.  Lesson here is that fewer cars on the road – even by just a little percentage – makes a huge difference.  I’m talking to you, Federal employees with free parking.

Cars in a holding cell.

Cars in a holding cell next door.

Speed humps need to be seen to be effective.  Our neighborhood street has speed humps in a few places.  Before the asphalt surfaced from under the snow, people were unaware of the speed hump.  It was fun to watch cars hit it pretty quickly in the snow.

Snow acts as a natural barrier for pedestrians.  Streetscape designers talk a lot about barriers between the street and sidewalks.  This is usually accomplished by parallel or angled parking, but plowed snow works just as effectively.  There is a sense of protection that is not only comforting, but beautiful.

Snowmounds provide "protection" from the cars.

Snowmounds provide "protection" from the cars.

Natural pedestrian paths emerge.  While snow barriers are nice, they aren’t so great when crossing the street.  While you expect them at corners, other pathways start to emerge.  As planners we should pay attention to this.  A great example that we use for college campuses is do not put doors and grand entrances at midblock if you do not want folks jaywalking.  The bottom photo is a great example.

Ped holes across L and Connecticut Ave.

Ped holes across L and Connecticut Ave.

Doors influence ped paths more than we think.

Doors influence ped paths more than we think.

Pedestrian bottle necks emerge.  During my morning commute, I pass the Farragut North metro stop on the RedLine –the busiest line in the city getting off at one of the busiest commuter stops in the city.  All those people usually take up large sidewalk widths to cross (just like you see in generic NYC street photos).  However, when the snowplow cuts pedestrians off from crossing the street, and only one narrow path has emerged, there are pedestrian bottle necks.  Nothing too major as everyone has been able to make it across with a little patience, but this just goes to show that even on foot snow can slow you down.  And the reason for wider sidewalks near metro stations.

Lining up to cross the street

Lining up to cross the street

The Metro is not invincible.  On Saturday, Sunday and for a bit on Monday morning Metro closed its above ground stations because the snow was just too deep.  Metrobus shut down completely for a bit, then gradually started reactivating routes over a few days.  The city suddenly became much smaller for folks depending on WMATA (Metro) and other area public transit agencies.  This was a great reminder how much this city really depends on WMATA and the folks who operate it and how much transportation really is a network of modes.

Cars, metro, cabs, buses are all part of a network.

Cars, metro, cabs, buses are all part of a network.

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Snow Walk

On Sunday afternoon, fresh off our Snowwoman success, we decided to take a walk through our beautiful neighborhood.  Capitol Hill was meant for snow like no other DC neighborhood.  Since Corey had to pick up something from work, we walked by Lincoln Park, the Capitol building and Union Station.  A few thoughts…

Lincoln Park was freakin’ awesome.  I love that neighbors had a reason to lollygag in the park, watching other folks, building snow forts or one of the many snowmen we saw.  The dogs loved it, too.  I was wishing random strangers “Happy Good Neighbor Day.” Maybe I’m the “special” neighbor now, but winter clothes have a way of helping me to remain anonymous, so I should be good.

Taking back the streets!!  I love when people are able to safely walk in the middle of the street – I think that was one reason I had so much fun on Election Night 2008 when people were all over.  Same for our snow situation.  These streets are for people, People!!  For the day, the streets belonged to clean, crunch-under-your-feet boots.  Neighbors passed and said hello.  I overheard a man who was shoveling the dog groomers on the corner say that there was a man in a wheelchair that also needed his help, so he was headed there to shovel next.  How cool is that?

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Frostina

Snowdays are awesome.  I have so much to say on this subject that I will do my best to compartmentalize the topics.  First up, building a snowman (or woman as our case may be).  Sunday morning, Corey and I spent a good two hours building the best snowwoman ever.  She was by far the best snowwoman on the block as she is still the only snowwoman on the block. 

And Corey finally explained WHO was actually getting married in “Frosty, the Snowman” song…apparently I thought Frostie was marrying someone this whole time.  Shattered.  Guess it doesn’t matter anyway since they were only pretending that he was Parson Brown.  This revelation was spurred on by our singing quite merrily all sorts of holiday songs while we worked.

Frostina will stay with us for quite some time, I am hoping.  We strategically placed her by the door not just for greetings, but for maximum sunblock, aka the house (SPF 1 billion).  And she had lots to say, like “Boooze” “Hollllla” and “I heart snow.”  

Before Frostina started speaking words like Boooze, the little adorable 1.5 (?)year old neighbor girl came to visit our snowwoman with her parents.  There is nothing more adorable than a little girl head-to-toe in pink winter gear she’ll only wear once before outgrowing it.  She (in so many words) told us she really liked Frostina.

In summary: Frostina = best snowwoman ever.  Speaking her mind.  Bringing neighbors together.  Entertaining children.

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Christmas Tree

It’s almost that time of year.  Here are some shots of getting our Christmas Tree exactly two weeks ago.  It was snowing and Corey and I were improperly dressed.  We were wet and disguisting and therefore we were not overflowing with patience to pick a grand tree and set it up perfectly.  It’s special.  But we love it for its kitsch regardless.

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Stats Flash

You guys are a fantastic crowd.  Each of you sitting at work, in your classroom, at home or on the go with your fancy pants mobile devices make up a collective group of folks that are near and dear to me.  No clue why you keep coming back, but you do.  Even when I announce that I will not be posting for a week, your clicks keep a comin’.  (Which makes me wonder.  Hmmm??)  And I thank you!

I check this graphic every day (sample below) and when I hit a new max, I’m pumped! (The daily record currently stands at 67, thanks to your clicks on heavy photo days.)  Consistent, yet not.  No one reads on Sunday.  It does not seem to be correlated to my quantity of posts.  You are an enigma, much like I wish my blog to be.  There is much comfort in that.

Thank you, readers!!  I love you!

 

Day by day chart of your readership activity

Day by day chart of your readership activity

 

 

Week by week increase.  How you like that trend line?

Week by week increase. How you like that trend line?

 

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