Photo by Andrew Gastwirth on Flickr.
When it comes to getting around, it can be easy to focus on what we wish we had or what’s going wrong. But what about the good stuff that’s already there? We asked our contributors about the best parts of their daily commutes and the planning choices that made them happen.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of votes went to bicycle infrastructure, particularly off-street trails. Kelly Blynn sang the praises of DC’s newest bike trail, the Metropolitan Branch Trail:
I have to bike on some high speed streets (4th NE and Franklin NE) to get there, but once I’m on it, it’s a dream: smooth, mostly down hill, no stop lights. There are even fresh berries to pick for breakfast in the summer months. What?! I really must be dreaming.
So did Jeff Lemieux:
The MBT was the missing link between upper NE DC and downtown. Since it opened, bike commuters no longer have to either ride in heavy traffic or cross major highway-like streets like New York Avenue. Even though it’s only a short stretch between Brookland and NoMa, the MBT made my bike commute from northern Prince George’s possible.
Abigail Zenner singled out other recently-added bike infrastructure in the District:
I love the L Street, M Street, and 15th Street protected bikeways! I work at the corner of 15th and L NW, and I love having the option to bike to work. I also love the new bikeshare station at that corner for the days I don’t want to bike back up the hill. My bike commute takes about the same time as the bus but I can leave whenever I want to and it’s a lot more fun.
David Cranor has discovered how better sidewalks also help cyclists on busy routes:
As part of the Great Streets Program, DDOT rebuilt Pennsylvania Avenue SE east of the Anacostia. That rebuild included a 10-foot-wide sidepath on the uphill side. The addition of what is basically a climbing lane on this steep busy road means that I have a relatively pleasant bike ride that’s separated from the road, instead of a white-knuckled slog up a hill punctuated by honking drivers and close, aggressive passing.
Canaan Merchant who uses either his folding bike or Metrobus to get to and from Virginia Railway Express at L’Enfant Plaza, said he’s grateful to have more than one mode option:
The 15th street bike lanes are a huge help for me because I know that I don’t have to hustle like I would feel pressured to do elsewhere. For bad weather days, did you know you can ride Metrobus free on a VRE ticket to or from a VRE station? It’s great not to pay twice on my commute.
Chris Slatt touted Arlington’s interconnected bikeways:
For me it’s the Shirlington Connector, the trail that runs under I-395 and connects the W&OD Trail to the Four Mile Run Trail. 395 is a major barrier for walking and bicycling, but the Shirlington Connector, the recent improvements to Joyce Street, and the planned Hoffman-Boston Connector are all part of Arlington’s plan to give people options to overcome that barrier.
Jonathan Krall also talked about his easier bike commute:
The Wilson Bridge Trail reduced my bicycle commute from 12 miles to 9 miles, short enough to do almost every day and a big step towards my current state of car-freedom. A sidewalk on a bridge may seem like a no-brainer, but sidewalks continue to be excluded or dangerously underbuilt on many bridges today. The decision to build a trail on the Wilson Bridge and the decision to plow it in the winter were life-changers. A trail extension along I-295 and a “fix” for the expansion joints would make it the same for hundreds of others.
Adam Froehling, a frequent commenter, offered a note on biking in Alexandria as well as driving-related praise for the Wilson Bridge:
When I was riding my bike a lot, Alexandria’s early completion of Potomac Ave through the Potomac Yard area made for a shorter, lower-traffic trip that avoided the lack of connections between the Mount Vernon Trail and the Pentagon area.
I was also thankful for the completion of the local/express lanes on the Wilson Bridge. This made for a mostly-predictable 25 minute commute between Huntington and Suitland, especially in the afternoons.
Michael Perkins mentioned road improvements:
For me, the decision to make I-66 HOV keeps a major highway from being congested during the morning rush hour. Even more significant to my situation is the Federal decision to keep motorcyclists out of dangerous stop-and-go traffic by allowing them to use HOV lanes. I’ve been bumped from behind on I-395 by a driver who apologized and told me he “fell asleep”. That’s really comforting considering what’s at stake if someone runs into my back…
David Versel mentioned something that isn’t a physical construction:
In my case it’s not a piece of infrastructure, it’s a policy: the Commonwealth Commuter Choice program. As a state employee, I get up to $130 per month towards my Metro fare, which is a terrific incentive that influences many people to use transit.
And Tracey Loh said she really appreciates a piece of technology:
My commuting life became a nightmare after I had a baby and needed to factor in daycare transportation. My saving grace is the navigation app Waze. My worst commute across the city once lasted over two hours one way. Thanks to Waze, my commute is now a very predictable 75 minutes each way.
Dan Reed noted a mundane, oft-overlooked part of a safe, inviting roadway for pedestrians:
Streetlights! On my old street, there were highway-style streetlights that barely covered the roadway, let alone the sidewalks. It was bad enough coming home from work in the winter when I could at least make things out from the headlights of passing cars. But coming home from the bar when nobody was around, it was scary even for a 6’1” guy like me, if only for the potential of running into low-hanging tree branches. Where I live now, there are urban-style streetlights that light the sidewalk, making it safe and comfortable to walk.
Finally, Dan Malouff showed love to an old stand by:
We can’t have this discussion without mentioning Metrorail. Yeah, it’s frustrating at times, but can you imagine our region without it? Metrorail is so ubiquitous, such a backbone for the region, that we take it for granted all the time. But it’s the best post-war subway system in the US, it absolutely makes life better for millions of people every day, and its presence here was by no means a forgone conclusion.
Do you have a question? Each week, we’ll post a question to the Greater Greater Washington contributors and post appropriate parts of the discussion. You can suggest questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions about factual topics are most likely to be chosen. Thanks!