Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Today DC shut down (including Metrobus service) in response to four inches of snow

Meanwhile in the past couple months, Boston has received more than 6 feet of snow and Michigan is "frozen" over according to this National Weather Service photo.

I do understand the value of anticipatory planning.

Given that MBTA estimates that it will take them a month without snow to dig out and clear all of the snow blockages--they are paying people $30/hour to dig out railroad tracks--it's easier to open back up if you do a measured shutdown.

But the reality is for the most part, the DC area doesn't get hit all that hard by snow.  The two back-to-back snowstorms in February 2010 were an exception.

And one of the competitive advantages of a city--excepting snow on the level of a Montreal normally ("Montreal does great job ridding itself of snow - but it takes time and costs a fortune," Attleboro Sun Chronicle) or Boston this year (Minneapolis gets hit badly as well)--is being able to get around despite snow and other adverse weather conditions because of the mobility efficiencies produced by proximity and density.

Also see "A "maintenance of way" agenda for the walking and transit city."

Photo of a graffiti-ed MBTA system map ("Boston Mess Transit") from Facebook.

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16 Comments:

At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Christopher said...

DC gets so much more snow than NYC does but completely grinds to a halt for each snow storm. I remember when I first moved to the Virginia in the early 1990s and thought "oh how cute, they don't get snow and can't handle it'." five winters later, I was like this is just nuts, the REFUSE to handle it. snow days are built into the system. it's very strange.

 
At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thing is- DC probably has more people from different parts of the globe that are not used to driving in snow- and so it becomes more dangerous when these people are out driving in it- and the feds rightly recognize it saves lives to shut down and keep people off of th eroad. Som epeople love to hassle us here for being cautious and others complain about us NOT shutting down when we should be doing so. Back off alittle people- every place is different with differing conditions. Boston is doing no better in 2015 than DC/balt was in 2010- if you want the truth of it.

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger Mari said...

Haven't some municipalities run out of money to deal with snow?

I was happy with a snow day. It allowed for clearing off sidewalks, which a bunch of people are too f'ing lazy to do.
It was a light snow but bike lanes are a mess. Sidewalks are a gamble and bus stops are piles of dirty disgusting looking mountains of ice. But hey most of the roads are clear looking so it's all good?
Closing was a good call. Followed by unscheduled leave, also a good call. If one kid got injured by a bus that swerved into a pole in Nowheres, VA the whole region would get blamed.

 
At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

DC does not get more snow than New York City.

The only way to compare this is via the long-term averages. Any given storm can wallop one place and leave another bone dry.

However, over the long term, DC gets an annual average of 8.1 days with recorded snow, totaling 14.5 inches. NYC gets an average of 11.1 days of snow, totaling 25.1 inches.

The point is that neither of these cities get enough snow, nor do they deal with snow regularly enough to get used to it. Dealing with snow is an acquired skill. Like any other acquired skill, if you don't practice, you will lose that skill.

Minneapolis, by comparison, gets 37.3 days of snow. The average total is only 54 inches per winter, but that snow sticks around. People get used to driving on it. When you have 37 days of snowfall, people get habituated to shoveling their sidewalks.

Data here: http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/US/annual-snowfall-by-city.php

 
At 10:16 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

@AlexB; contra your otherwise good observation, the golden Triangle BID seems on top of the snow removal.


 
At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

today (Wednesday), walking on one particular side of the street(s) we were able to walk from our house to the Takoma Metro, with everything shoveled. Of course, one of the households, Suzanne and I shoveled yesterday (an old person on our block) and someone else shoveled the house nearby that only shovels their personal walkway to their car.

But the city has stepped up (partly because I write about it here). Takoma Rec. Center was completely shoveled, just a couple of errant crossing points, and for the first time, the city did at least one pass at the triangle park at 4th and Blair. They should have done another pass, but I am still amazed.

 
At 4:00 PM, Anonymous Christopher said...

Okay. Statistics. Sure. But DC gets huge snowfalls that cripple the city. NYC just doesn't. We expect to get to work the next day and come to work by suburban rail as well. Snow days are only a good thing for the middle class 9-5 federal crowd that the city caters to, the rest of the region that still has to get to jobs are SOL. There are many reasons I wouldn't live in DC again but being crippled by every snowstorm is a huge sign of major dysfunction.

 
At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

Yes, DC does get bad snow storms. In fact, the first Veterans Day I was here in 1987, it snowed more than a foot. But I was shocked that everything shut down (stores, etc.), as that wasn't how it was back home (in Michigan).

I don't have any problem with shutting down for big snow storms.

It's when we have four inch snows or the no snows that I think the shut downs are a bit ridiculous. Although I understand how tough it is to predict weather here, plus it is hard for the officials to make the right decision, since they have to decide by about 4am in order for the word to get out, and they don't fully know what will happen.

Plus there have been the previous bad decisions, like a couple years ago the federal govt. letting everyone leave early so then immediately the roads were fully congested in bad conditions so it became a major snafu.

I am just glad that I don't rely on a car to get around -- which is why I am concerned when Metrorail or Metrobus close, although I don't have a problem with it when things are really bad, but I think Metrobus is too quick to shut down and I think that the jurisdictions should agree to prioritize snow clearance from Metrobus routes.

but yes, the repeated shutdowns seem to indicate deeper problems.

That being said, I'm glad I don't have to be making the yes/no decision myself.

 
At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

It's lose/lose.

Cancel school for 5-6 inches of snow? Get blamed for that. Don't cancel? Traffic will be terrible and you'll get blamed for that.

There's nothing 'crippling' about a snow storm like this. We had a snow day. Day after - everything was fine.

 
At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

DK if you remember a few years ago, school wasn't cancelled in Fairfax, and a kid called up the superintendent's house, the Supe's wife answered, and he cussed her out...

lose/lose for sure.

 
At 9:19 PM, Anonymous h st ll said...

Slightly OT but Richard I know you are obsessed with double decker buses and when I saw this I thought of you.

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2015/02/19/ac-transit-double-decker-bus-pilot-program-passengers-ride-free-alameda-contra-costa-transbay/

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

thanks for sending this. It seems as if they are really looking at the opportunity for changing image.

Not that WMATA is really good at figuring out image issues, but again, I'd say that using double deck buses--easy in DC, hard in the other jurisdictions because traffic signals usually hang over intersections--would rebrand and reposition the service in positive ways.

 
At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bus graphic is hilarious! Thanks for the chuckle.

In Adams Morgan, all the mom and pops stayed open while the big chains including Starbucks closed. Yea big business development: there when we need them most.

Not.

Green Space

 
At 8:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the first commenter meant DC gets much less snow than NYC.

Green Space

 
At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stand corrected about the first commenter! And reading his second comment, I agree with a different point he raised:

"Snow days are only a good thing for the middle class 9-5 federal crowd that the city caters to, the rest of the region that still has to get to jobs are SOL. "

This is so true.

The rest of his commentary I don't really agree with.

Green Space

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Good points. the first time I was in DC when it snowed was Veterans Day 1987. To be fair, it was a big snow, more than one foot. I didn't know that the org. I worked for took holidays off. My gf at the time was technically a consultant, so if she didn't work she didn't get paid, so we went to work.

We tried to go see a movie in Georgetown afterwards, but we were shocked to find everything was closed.

That wasn't how things had worked in Michigan.

 

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