Transit Tuesdays: D.C. goes into snow patrol frenzy

The first big flakes began falling in Washington, D.C. yesterday afternoon. Had you heard? The news was everywhere.


The horror. The horror. (Photo: WJLA)

All around me is a broadcast news room, so I immediately began to hear the buzz. "Someone's getting to work on a flurries slideshow, I take it?" one web producer for a partner news site asked another. "People are interested in all weather." (and oh yes, it happened ... and was listed as "breaking news" in an e-mail blast). As I left for lunch, a gruff man turned to me and said, "It's snowing ... you know how nuts this place will go now." Even as I walk by to the bathroom, I hear exchanges about the cold ("Temperatures will drop, yeah." "It could get pretty slick." And sure enough, this morning there's a story on our "slick morning commute" today). Rosslyn travelers came into our news building with snowflakes in their hair, and I began seeing different photos of the flakes come in from reporters throughout the region. The tendency to cover this weather event is not limited to any one news outlet, however — all local news goes wild over snow.

Look to the wisdom of media personality Luke Russert:

Snow flurries in #DC ...time to call out the National Guard so people can drive home.
Jan 09 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

Russert is spot on with how our city reacts to weather.

Snow is one of the most potent forces out there, and its presence has immense implications for transportation. I reported on a D.C. Council hearing last month in which the Department of Public Works and Department of Transportation laid out their snow plans. 750 people wait to deal with any snow problems that may or may not emerge. The city as well as Metro have released detailed winter options, as I discussed here. But who knows how much snow will actually fall? Weather is one of the most haphazard and complicated elements of any transportation system, one with capacity to surprise as well as disappoint.

But despite yesterday's hysteria, have you checked temperatures for today? They'll hover from the mid-30s to the low 50s, comfortably above freezing. Tomorrow and Thursday we'll see temperatures stay much the same, perhaps rising to as high as 56 degrees according to the Weather Channel. I'm not surprised and have no complaints about the way our winter months have gone. Sunday was so nice I considered reading out on the porch ... and in January! Fingers crossed our mild winter stays so pleasant.

DC is getting a light dusting of snow. Thank God I just bought $7,000 worth of dried food and ammunition.
Jan 09 via TweetDeckFavoriteRetweetReply

Elsewhere in the realms of transportation, urbanism, and real estate...

How to think about traffic studies: Lydia DePillis breaks down the mysterious, the frustrating, and the omnipresent force that is the modern traffic study. "These days, the traffic study is the piece of any zoning discussion that is both most difficult to understand—all those digits!—and easiest to fret over, making it the most politicized document in the application."

Remaking Union Station: DCMud gives a sense of how the transportation hub's main hall will be changing in the months to come: "The sinking of what will become two 750-square foot escalators openings are just the start of a grand 'less-is-more' redesign of the hundred year-old-plus Main Hall, which among other things, will eliminate the Center Cafe and the two circular marble planters, while adding more seating and retail and improving sight lines, signage and pedestrian flow."

The first Metro suicide of 2012: This unfortunate death occurred at the Van Dorn Street Station last Friday morning and has inspired a lot of talk about how WMATA should get moving on its suicide prevention program. A rider from the train who killed the suicidal individual shares details of what the Van Dorn platform was like moments after the death.

The second span to the 11th Street Bridge finally opens: Last month, DDOT unveiled the first, and now we have the second. WTOP offers a good primer about what drivers should know.

Non-existent Purple Line already connecting Metro commuters through song: DCist unearthed this incredibly listenable jingle about the transit power of the forthcoming Purple Line.

Did the city embark on some ridiculous ticketing and towing? Prince of Petworth shares the account from an unhappy District resident.

Metro Board shuffle: "Mary Hynes, the voting member to the Metro board from Arlington County, is stepping down to a non-voting seat," the Post reports. "Jeff McKay, the alternate representative from Fairfax County, is stepping down to make room for James Dyke, a Northern Virginia lawyer who was appointed by Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which appoints representatives to the Metro board."

A closer look at the earthquake's toll on the National Cathedral: D.C. Curbed has photos.

The perils of "devolution:" A growing concern in Northern Virginia, reports Transportation Nation: "Devolution is the term for having counties and cities take over maintenance of secondary roads, and the idea has been discussed for years. Right now Virginia’s Department of Transportation (VDOT) has much of that responsibility, but with the agency severely underfunded and a steady stream of complaints about road deterioration in the Commonwealth, the prospect of saddling cities and counties with the task is becoming more attractive to some."

Watch out, drivers: D.C. police are ticketing people who block bike lanes more than ever these days.

Have you seen these fancy real-time transit screens? The Arlington Mobility Lab hasn't been idle in recent months. Here's Eric Fidler explaining these snazzy new screens that show the availability of Capital Bikeshare stations and transit arrivals. He suspects this type of tech will influence how people ride transit: "If every stop featured a digital screen displaying the number of minutes until each bus arrived, more people would be willing to take the bus." Fidler may be on to something.

Read more daily transportation news at TBD On Foot.

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