April 19, 2012 - 8:52 am

7th & Florida in ’68, ’88, and today

What happened to all the historic buildings at 7th Street, Florida Avenue, and Georgia Avenue?  We all recognize the CVS and its adjacent parking lot.  As we reported before, the adjacent grassy field is slated for a residential development by JBG, one of the region’s largest development companies.

But how did the CVS, the parking lot, and the grassy field get there in the first place?  They are the consequence of the 1968 riots and of the construction of the Green Line tunnels.

The riots of April 1968 destroyed many of the buildings along 7th Street.  A few months ago we came across this photo in a Congressional report published in the wake of the riots.  The west side of 7th Street from T Street to Florida Avenue was obliterated:

Decades later, the intersection sat at an elbow in the proposed Green Line tunnel.  The subway line curves from 7th Street to Florida Avenue and then to U Street.  Much of the line was constructed using the cut-and-cover method, which requires razing buildings, digging a trench, building a concrete box in the trench, and covering it back over.

Subway tunnels typically run under existing streets, but sharp changes in direction require cutting corners and thus the creation of tunnels where buildings often stand.

A 1988 photograph shows the construction of the Green Line tunnels, which pass under the CVS and adjacent lots.

What the riots didn’t destroy, the Green Line took care of.

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October 06, 2011 - 8:02 pm

Weekend Metro closure may bring unintended improvement

Temporarily closing a segment of the Green Line might ironically improve service for some this weekend. WMATA announced that it will close the Shaw, U Street, and Columbia Heights stations this weekend for scheduled track maintenance.

The stations will close at 10 pm Friday and won’t reopen until Tuesday morning’s normal opening time (Monday is a holiday). A similar closure will be in place on the Orange Line between East and West Falls Church stations as Metro works to connect the new Silver Line.

In the meantime, Metro will operate free shuttles along the route to ferry passengers through this service gap. Ironically, these shuttles may sometimes operate more frequently than the rail service would on a typical weekend.

Metro instituted a similar closure along a section of the Red Line on Labor Day weekend. On that weekend, we went to have brunch at a friend’s house in the Brookland neighborhood. During that time, Metro shuttles were running down his street every 2 minutes. Many of the buses were nearly empty, but for a moment we were jealous at the thought of transit service every 2 minutes.

Likewise, if WMATA keeps similarly short headways for the shuttles this weekend, the agency might actually enhance mobility between the Convention Center, Shaw, U Street, Columbia Heights, and Petworth.

One of Metro’s main shortcomings is that riding during non-rush periods, especially on weekends or at night, can entail waiting on platforms for as much as 24 minutes. This is an unacceptably low level of service, but our region lacks the political leadership to set a minimum level of transit service the way we do for utilities.

In DC, where 37% of households lack a car, the mayor and council chairman drive luxury cars at taxpayer expense, and other councilmembers receive free parking in front of the Wilson Building.

In the abstract, our leaders may appreciate the importance of frequent service, but nothing drives home the point like waiting on a Metro platform with 100 other people only to watch a packed train arrive half an hour later.

Though buses can’t match the speed and comfort of rail service, the frequency of bus shuttles this weekend might prove to be a significant, though temporary, transit improvement.

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December 20, 2009 - 3:00 am

Winter Wonderland

LeDroit Park Gate in Snow

The record snowfall ended around 1 am on Sunday morning, leaving one to two feet of accumulated snow across the region. We spent much of the day out around town. With many stores closed and little to do, we found fellow Washingtonians friendly and relaxed.

At Meridian Hill Park, about 40 people showed up to sled down snow-packed steps.


Most were just spectators, though.

Sledding Spectators


Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer,
to young and old,
meek and the bold,

Just a few blocks away at Fourteenth and U Streets, futureMAGINING, the folks responsible for the pillow fight a few months back, hosted a whimsical snowball fight, which wasn’t without its own tempest.

Snowball Mayhem

Snowball Mayhem

And the Postal Service held to its motto.

Postal Ad

Metro halted all bus service and at 1 pm train service was limited to underground stations. The District government claims to have plowed every street at least once, but we encountered many streets (especially the narrow ones) that don’t appear to have been touched. Main roads, such as Fourteenth Street, received their needed treatment.

DDOT Plows Fourteenth Street

We took the Green Line downtown and found the streets, including Pennsylvania Avenue, deserted.

Pennsylvania Avenue

Some took the opportunity to play football on the Mall.

Snow Football on the Mall

The Senate was still in session, though it’s a surprise that any Senators could find their way to the Capitol.


We spotted birds huddling for heat on top of a warm Metro vent next to Seventh Street on the Mall:

Bird Huddle

We helped build a snow Java the Hut.

Snowman Creation

The Smithsonians were closed, as were the National Gallery of Art and the Sculpture Garden.

Sculpture Garden

Farragut Square was deserted.

Farragut Square Under Cover

‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the White House
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse

White House

God rest ye merry gentlemen.