Wednesday, December 07, 2005

TRANSIT: Odds 'N' Ends

A FRIEND OF MINE IN NEW YORK used to have a giant subway sign collection. Not the signs permanently fixed to station columns, nor signs that would cause transit navigators to lose their sense of direction. But the odd construction advisories (taken only when they were getting about to expire) and the random public service advertisements for special events and how you can get there.

I love New York's construction advisory signage, since there is always construction or track work on the tangled underground maze of tunnels across the four boroughs. It can take some skill to decipher the advisories and how one might affect your travel. It is one giant game to me.

That is why I love the prank subway advisory signs as reported by Gothamist today. (As long, of course, the signs are done in good fun, and not used for further the forces of transit evil in the subway.)

SOME NIGHTS WHEN I LEAVE THE OFFICE, the Orange Line will run four-car trains. At the Court House station and at others in the system, the train will stop at the far end of the platform, causing some people who failed to anticipate this to run down the platform to catch the last train car before the door chimes sound.

In Brooklyn, there is something similar: the so-called "G-train Dash." Sewall Chan of The New York Times has a nice article on the much-maligned subway line, the only one that doesn't enter Manhattan. Anyone who has waited in Greenpoint, Bed Stuy, Carroll Street and elsewhere no the pains and joy of the G train. You might see some similarities to Metrorail's Green Line: infrequent service, increasing ridership.

Image from Gothamist

BLOG WAR: Butterstick v. Bandit

I LOVE A GOOD BLOG WAR, even if certain bloggers don't even know that they’re fighting over the same turf. The field of battle? ... Being rightful blogger of the inner voice of Tai Shan, the National Zoo's baby panda cub that has been going through a series of carefully choreographed coronation events to be crowned monarch of the Kingdom of Zoological Marketing.

In the left corner, we have Butterstick, a newcomer blogging over at Life in Black and White, who says "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful."

In the right corner, we have a really pissed-off Bandit, blogging over at the Inner Monologue of Bandit the Panda.

While it is an unofficial name, Butterstick has been pushed by bloggers and others for months and has gained some popular staying power, even if the Chinese don't eat butter. But don't tell that to Bandit, who is blogging under a name that hasn't gained popular support among a wide range of bloggers. Bandit might be the better, more established inner-voice panda blogger, but Butterstick has more popular unofficial support. That's the reality. Sorry Bandit.

But Bandit is pissed off by the existence of another inner-voice Tai Shan blogger.
I wanna go tear into some geckos or something. I gotta take my rage somewhere. ... Ok, I'm back. Don't ask what I just did to the pile of straw over by my favorite climbing rock.
Let the fight continue.

TRANSIT: No Room to Read or Breathe

FOR THE SECOND MORNING IN A ROW, I haven't been able to find a Financial Times at any its distribution boxes in the Woodley Park area. First the FT raised the price of its pink paper to $1.50. And now this. (Yes, it's a great human tragedy. A day without the Lex column, music reviews by Ludovic Hunter-Tilney and Busines Life columns from Simon London is like a day without sunshine ... And my days have been dark.) I think that subtly, the FT is trying to shift everyone who wants to read the paper to a subscription, which is something that I might do.

Now, even if I were to have found a copy near my neighborhood Metrorail station, I would have had extreme trouble trying to read the thing on the Red Line. You see, I normally don't begin my morning commute until well after 10 a.m.; but I've been getting into the office much earlier than normal since Thanksgiving. And that puts me on one of the most congested sections of the Red Line toward the tail end of the morning rush: the Connecticut Avenue corridor. From Van Ness-UDC down to Farragut North, you really get to know your transit neighbors. When I lived in Glover Park and would take the D2 to Dupont Circle during the troubled transit times of 2003, delays, coupled with the intense crowding would highlight the Red Line problems of the Dupont Circle.

DUPONT CIRCLE IS THE LAST STATION on this section of the Red Line where a large number of neighborhood residents try to board the train. These are either local Dupont residents or bus riders from Glover Park, Georgetown and along the Massachusetts Avenue corridor up toward Ward Circle. This is where also a number of people from Montgomery County and Upper Northwest D.C. are disembarking at Dupont Circle and heading on up to the surface to their jobs in the office buildings in the immediate vicinity. Then you also have a large number of people continuing on toward downtown and especially Farragut North.

It is this section, between Dupont Circle and Farragut North where Red Liners must take an especially deep breath, and try to make room for the 1-2 minute crunch between the two stations. Then as the doom chimes at Farragut North, people exhale and a a healthy number of commuters leave the train, creating necessary room for everyone else who is continuing on toward Metro Center and other points downtown and beyond.

THIS CRUNCH IS MADE WORSE in colder weather when bulky coats, scarves and other accessories add an inch or two of extra padding -- padding that eventually adds up and takes room away from commuters. As I've written (regarding cold weather and bus riding), winter commutes can often be more painful than summer ones. Stir in a delay and the process of getting to work in the morning can be quite an ordeal. That's the reality on this section of the Red Line. I'd imagine there are other spots in the Metrorail system where this winter reality can be witnessed. (I'm looking at you Orange Line commuters in Virginia.)

Monday, December 05, 2005

TRAFFIC: Tales from Being Stuck

A blogger friend e-mailed me an account from last week of one of the worst traffic situations she had ever encountered in the nation's capital. While bad traffic in the heart of the city isn't necessarily shocking news, some of the side details, involving Christmas music, a tardy French ambassador and frazzled Mayor Anthony Williams, are certainly entertaining.
I was trapped in all that tree lighting crap [Thursday] night, took 40 minutes to get from 14th and U to 18th and M in a cab (that was playing xmas music mind you). I had to get out at 19th and walk to the Ritz at 22nd for a wine event ... A writer I know was in her car behind me and saw me get out of the cab. She didn't get to the event (from 19th!) for another 30 minutes! The French ambassador was also way late because of it, but here's the best part. After I leave at 7:15ish, I'm walking from the Ritz to Foggy Bottom metro and the mayor jumps out of his big black suv looking a tad frazzled, and I'm guessing was going to have to walk (he was heading up the street toward the Ritz) to whatever appointment he was probably late for. Good thing he had a driver to get the car out of that mess while he got on his way. ... People were losing their minds out there. I've NEVER seen anything like it. God help us if we ever have to evacuate ...
Ahh, and there wasn't even snow!

MY FAVORITE TRAFFIC MESS happened a few days after the Presidents Day blizzard of 2003. City streets were still clogged with snow, creating slushy obstacles across the city. If I remember correctly, there was a terrorist warning, so instead of taking the Red Line to Dupont Circle to the D2 to Glover Park, I decided to outflank the terrorist evildoers by taking the D6 all the way from Union Station. (Because what terrorist would ever take a Sibley Hosptial-bound D6?)

But sometime during the evening rush hour, a manhole had exploded in Georgetown, causing all Key Bridge/Georgetown-bound traffic on M and K streets to backup into the central business district. The numbered streets crossing them got stuck as did other lettered streets. Gridlock crippled the central city. And the D6 bus wasn't going anywhere fast on 20th Street NW. So I got out and decided to walk back to Glover Park, where I was living at the time.

It was easier to walk in the street, as the roadways were slightly more clear than the sidewalks. But as I hoofed it up Q Street through Georgetown, I discovered that the good property owners who have a munipical duty to clear their sidewalks (and it hadn't been snowing that day) largely failed in that wintry obligation. Traffic on Q Street heading in both directions was backed up too, as people trying to find away around the mess closer to M Street tried cross streets farther uptown. Nope.

And stuck in the middle of it all was a school bus from an Episcopal school in Lynchburg, Va. The kids were antsy. And they weren't going anywhere anytime soon. Their windows were down and they called over to me to give them a large chunk of snow. Realizing that they could very well instantly throw the snow back at me, I denied their request. I would have to go back through my notes from the encounter, but I believe that one was so pissed off that he said "C'mon you old f***er." Shocked that such brash language could ever come from an Episcopal high school student, my blood, while not boiling, was slightly above temperature. I went down, picked up a chunk of snow, and motioned that I was going to relent and give him a chunk of snow. Instead, I threw it at the kid and nailed his face big time. Sucker. Two can play at that game.

I casually went on my way. Mother Nature had done her duty. I did mine.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

WEEKEND: Shock and Horror

GREETINGS ALL. Alas, my weekend wasn't all that exciting. I was actually deeply involved in some longer-term projects that kept me chained to my computer for much of Friday and Saturday.

But I did briefly get out Saturday night and I was shocked to see that Stetson's on U Street NW had installed track lighting, subtracted many knick-knacks and added sound dampening paneling on its walls that reminded me of a 1980s elementary school music classroom in a financially stressed school district. Yes, shocking indeed. I hope that some of the trinkets come back.

Then I ran into an old roommate on the sidewalk and we cabbed it up to Cleveland Park to meet up with his friend at what used to be the Park Bench Pub, now rechristened the Uptown Tavern. The basement bar, which has an up arrow-based logo on its Connecticut Avenue entry, is described by's City Guide as:
... a (slightly less) divey neighborhood bar that's great for watching the game, playing some foosball or late-night dancing.
And there was certainly dancing. In fact, my friend described it as "Tequila Grill, except that it's filled with 30-year-olds dancing in the corner." But not just thirtysomethings, but other older folks who were getting their groove on. One woman with long gray hair, glasses and Converse shoes, told us she was 57 and having a great time dancing with herself and walking around the low-ceilinged bar. We also saw a man who must have been approaching 60, maybe even 65, totally making out with a woman who had decidedly not cleared her 30th birthday. But such things happen in Cleveland Park.

Cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon were on special for $3 each.