Tag Archives: streetcars

Local

New Group Opposes In-Ground Rails

This was run as an April Fools joke on Greater Greater Washington, just, like, FYI dude…

No tracks on Ellicott's map.

The debate over DC streetcars has heated up again with a new alliance against DDOT’s plans to install in-ground rails.

In a press release today, the Organization for Moderate Growth With Trackless Functioning and Better-than-Bus Quality announced that they would oppose any technology reliant on a guideway built into the streets of DC. The organization emphasizes the damage rails would do to the historic character of the roads within the Federal City. “Pierre Charles L’Enfant,” the statement reads, “never imagined streets crisscrossed by hideous steel rails. Maps from his period show clean, smooth streets with no indication of any disruptions of the classical beauty of the surfaces.”

Proponents of ground-supported streetcars have emphasized that rail-based vehicles did once crisscross the city. However, the press release seeks to preempt this criticism by arguing that that was an unfortunate aberration. “Washington, DC has a strong tradition of rail-free streets dating back to 1964, when city fathers fought hard to eliminate the unsightly and segregated street-rail system in favor of more democratic buses. Even in the transit-friendly times of the 1950s, the general public recognized that surface rails were an affront to America’s cultural heritage.”

Margarita Masguerra, a representative of OMGWTFBBQ insists her group fully supports the construction of streetcars. “The petition we are circulating emphasizes that we want to see diverse transit options for residents. Buses are not enough, sure. But streetcar tracks would be so devastating to the city’s image of large automobile boulevards that we want DDOT to stop and consider other options. “In Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, and Ponca City, OK, systems have been explored that employ no rails at all,” she continued, “Although we do not understand how these systems work.”

One alternative
One proposed alternative.

“Certain models from Boston and Philadelphia apparently hang from wires suspended above the line, creating the strongly defined structure that our organization recognizes as attracting growth.” Ms. Masguerra pointed out the results she had seen, but commented, “Speaking only for myself, I have been to Amsterdam and Dallas, and had there not been any rails, I think the streets with cafes and buildings could have been really nice places.”

Support for the group’s petition has come from a wide range of interest groups. Lon Anderson of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the American Automobile Association questions the need for surface transit. “OMGWTFBBQ are too polite about the nonsense logic of these railroad people. If they want streetcars, can’t they just put more rails in the subway?”

Other opponents have raised the danger that in-ground tracks might pose to pedestrians. The increased incidence of tripping and stubbed toes is a genuine concern for small-footed locals. Amanda Hess, writing in the City Paper‘s Sexist blog, commented that “rails may disproportionately harm women, who are much more likely to be wearing heels,” saying that the supporters might have darker motives.

“The image of a woman fallen onto the tracks merely recapitulates a sexist image of a woman in need of saving before a big scary train. Sorry, the train died with vaudeville. No doubt, there are many “Nice Guy” transit fans just waiting for this possibility. Just because you help a woman up, doesn’t mean she wants you to take her back to your apartment for a little dissertation on railway signaling. Trust me, she probably doesn’t want to see your lunar signal, vintage or not.”

But even OMGWTFBBQ is willing to compromise and look at a variety of systems. The petition highlights the Wuppertal Schwebebahn, which suspends its rails in the air. “It’s a great system.” Masguerra says, “They’re hardly visible from the ground.” Another system mentioned is the Demontierbares Klappenschienenschutzsystem under consideration in Tübingen, Germany and Alexandria, Egypt. That technology employs panels that cover the rails when a train is not nearby. The tops of the panels can be inlaid with various road materials. When a train approaches the section of track, the panels lift up to reveal the rails and close when the train leaves. Also featured was Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik‘s guided semi-rigid airship system, which has been installed between 25 malls and 14 skyscrapers in Dubai.

Masguerra insists that her organization’s sole interest is in improving transit in the DC area. “Again, I just want to reiterate that we want to see streetcars in Washington,” she says, “And we’re committed to exploring all options to make that happen without rails.”

… and apparently Amanda Hess was pretty amused. No word from the Committee of 100.

Architecture Other

Five Things, Arranged by Size and Scope

A few found ideas.

One: First, let’s start with what’s in the room. My friend Anna at NOMOFOMO informed me of the publishing of a rather serious book about John Cage’s rather infamous piece 4’33”. The plainly titled book, it turns out, is by Kyle Gann, probably one of the most famous people ever driven off of Wikipedia. Hopefully the book will cool some of the really obnoxious commentary that trots its tired ass out whenever you mention the piece. On a related note, I was at the Smithsonian American Art Museum when some man wearing a North Face vest walked into the room with his brood and began ridiculing the works as “The Painter who Couldn’t draw curves, The Painter who Couldn’t Draw Faces, the Painter Who Didn’t Care,” repeated smugly for several minutes. Unfortunately for his smugness, we were in a gallery entitled, GRAPHIC MASTERS III. There were no paintings so … no painters either, boss.

Two: Anyway, over in my neighborhood, Richard Layman wrote a simple piece in regard to the recent efforts to build a streetcar on Wisconsin Avenue – and the consequent vicious opposition. The arguments are not that new, but he does break down the current bogeyman that guided transit will be hopelessly snarled up by obstructions. His point: it happens more often on highways, and can be minimized with design. On that note, and getting much bigger (153 comments at writing), is the thread on DCMud about the Safegate Pause.

Three: Moving out to the general idea of the neighborhood,  Kaid Benfield penned a remarkably concise and thoughtful definition of Transit-Oriented Development. He emphasizes the oriented part, making the point that it’s the way the neighborhood and buildings facilitate transit use and walkability that is most important. It’s worth a read.

Via Elemental/Mammoth
Quinta Monroy, via Elemental/Mammoth

Four: Getting a lot bigger, Mammoth covers mammothly (as they promised) the best architecture of the decade. Unlike so many lists of flashy blingitechture and navelgazing critiques of said blingitechture and excess, the list contains projects emblematic of new directions in architecture. Included is the Large Hadron Collider, cheap manifest-traditional housing, Chinese High Speed Rail, geoengineering, and using good design to recover from years of terror. After reading it, I feel like calling this next decade for Latin America.

Five: Finally, getting into centuries and abstract ideas, Kirk Savage will be doing a live chat tomorrow on Greater Washington.  Savage is the author of Monument Wars and Standing Soldiers Kneeling Slaves. The latter book is about the depiction of slavery in public art. The former traces the role of the monument in America over two hundred years as the changes played out in Washington, DC. I’m only about halfway through the book, but it is really good. He puts an impressive amount of information about monuments, memory, and architecture into a genuinely enjoyable read. I don’t have enough thoughts at the moment, but there will be more coming from it.

Until 1 PM Tuesday, you can always submit questions at this page, and I’ll let you go with some bonus Eames: