Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in southern California.

Archive for the ‘transportation’ tag

Bicycle Commuting in Goleta and Santa Barbara

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The past few weeks, I’ve been getting to know my way around Goleta and downtown Santa Barbara by bicycle. There is a lot of cycling infrastructure in place, including prominently marked bicycle routes – such as the Cross Town Route, Foothill Route, or Coast Route – as well as bike lanes on many of the local streets.

Santa Barbara County bike map

As a newcomer to the area, I’ve found the Santa Barbara County Bike Map to be a great resource. It helps me decide to take one route over another based on availability of a bike lane or continuity with a signed route. It also shows a bit of topography, which is useful when you’re trying to avoid strenuous climbs, of which there aren’t really any between Goleta and Santa Barbara unless you detour into the foothills. (Or if you’re seeking out climbs, as some are apt to do.)

My commute has been cut from a 15-mile bike ride to a sub-2-mile ride, making it a bit too short, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to fit longer rides into my schedule. We’ve been asking around and local cyclists have recommended a few fun rides for us to try out sometime: the climb up the old San Marcos Road, the climb up Gibraltar Road, the ride up to Lake Casitas and Ojai. Can you see a theme here? We’ll definitely be getting our climbing legs living in California.

Written by Crystal Bae

August 31st, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Hains Point 100 for Women and Bikes

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What a successful event! The Hains Point 100, a century ridden entirely as loops around Hains Point, was an idea by Megan Jones sprouted a few weeks ago. She decided to make it a fundraising ride for WABA’s Women & Bicycles advocacy program, which will work to support women’s cycling in the DC area.

The Census Bureau reports that women make up only 2,985 of the 9,300 DC residents who commute by bicycle. To put it another way, there are more than twice as many male cyclists than female cyclists. WABA’s new program intends to address this gender gap in cycling and get more women on bikes. Megan noted this morning that the ratio of women to men at the Hains Point 100 ride was very similar, but that it was important for everyone to help in this effort.

Cyclists gathering for Hains Point 100

Lots of great local sponsors – and one not-so-local sponsor, New Belgium Brewing – pitched in to provide snacks, prizes for riders, and donations. Plenty of people brought food   (especially baked goods) to keep the picnic table full as well. Hains Point worked as a great location for this kind of ride since it’s a short 3-mile loop and riders could take a break or grab snacks when they came back to the meeting point.

I rode a few laps and got to see lots of DC area cycling folks out today on a beautiful winter day. Megan (and others) successfully rode over 100 miles each, and raised a lot of money to support the cause by putting on this event.

You can donate here: WABA’s Women & Bikes Program.

Written by Crystal Bae

December 23rd, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Highlights from a long weekend in Georgia

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Spent the last weekend and some change in Georgia visiting a couple friends who have moved out there recently. I’d never before been to Atlanta, so it was a good chance to explore what lay beyond the reaches of the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) – the world’s busiest airport.

High Museum of Art in Midtown

High Museum of Art, Atlanta

The High Museum is the largest art museum in the Southeast, housing a huge and varied collection. It is part of the Woodruff Arts complex, which includes a theatre, symphony hall, and restaurant. In their own words, the High’s collection includes “an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American and decorative art; significant holdings of European paintings; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography and African art.”

The museum also has a focus on folk art, with many pieces pushing the bounds of art brut (outsider art). It was fascinating to see the work of self-taught artists working in a variety of mediums, including found materials. One of these artists was the Reverend Howard Finster, whose outdoor museum Paradise Garden is a strange and exaggerated celebration of god. Finster was a Baptist minister who heard a voice one day telling him to devote his life to making religious art. The High Museum owns part of the original Paradise Garden installation, and dedicates a room to his work.

Howard Finster - folk art

We saw furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as the famous Red Blue Chair by Gerrit Rietveld. I tend towards the more modern and contemporary works, and my favorite exhibits at the High included Anish Kapoor’s concave dish of mirrors (you can play with light and sound) and the special exhibit “Fast Forward: Modern Moments 1913-2013”. One strange rule was that for the special exhibit we couldn’t take photos with dedicated cameras, but cell phone camera photos were allowed – anyone know why that would be the case?

As with many other institutions in the city, Coca-Cola is the largest benefactor of the museum. The Coca-Cola Company headquarters is in Atlanta, as well as the World of Coca Cola – which we didn’t visit.

The High is located on Peachtree Street, but so is supposedly everything else in Atlanta. The name “Peachtree” is a popular street name here, which makes things just a bit confusing for outsiders. There are even places where streets of the same name cross each other. I’ll meet you at the intersection of Peachtree and Peachtree.

High Museum of Art, Atlanta

It’s easy to while away half a day exploring the High Museum, and that we did.

Georgia Aquarium

We went downtown to visit the impressive Georgia Aquarium on Monday, since it would be less crowded than on the weekend. This aquarium is notable for its size – the largest in the world – and the number of species it holds. Especially interesting is that is the only place you can find whale sharks outside of Asia; the Georgia Aquarium houses four of these strange and beautiful creatures. There are several enormous tanks in the Ocean Voyager gallery, the most impressive of which you can walk through in a glass tunnel.

Georgia Aquarium - Ocean Voyager

Getting Around

Atlanta is a city built for driving, with highways cutting straight into the city and a major spaghetti junction that’s often referenced on the traffic report. Luckily, we managed to avoid driving during rush hour, which I’ve heard is horrendous (though probably not much worse than Tysons Corner traffic, I assume). Though walking within certain areas in the city is manageable, it can be tough to walk from one neighborhood to another, due in part to the sprawl of the city and in part to the highways that divide Atlanta’s urban areas. I did see a few bike lanes, but only a handful of cyclists.

However, there is a limited public transportation system in Atlanta, named MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority). MARTA consists of four subway lines, but they only run in two lines within the city: east-west or north-south – with stations spread relatively far apart. And the buses run about every 40 minutes, making it tough to rely on for quick trips.

Despite these major walkability issues, Atlanta has a lot of culture and history, strong economic drive, and is well worth exploring. It started as an important southern city at the crossroads of major rail lines and has a proven record of rebirth through times of hardship. I’m hoping to return one day to learn more, catch up with friends, and explore the many parks of Atlanta.

Midtown Atlanta

Written by Crystal Bae

October 21st, 2012 at 9:25 pm

The Dawn of Transit-Oriented Development in Tysons Corner

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Past and Current Tysons

Tysons Corner today is centered on its two malls and its fleet of office buildings, along with hotels and additional retail. It is considered part of the technology business corridor that stretches west to Reston, as Tysons is home to many large tech companies – some of whom where around since they witnessed the rise of the Internet Age. The economic core of Fairfax County, Tysons Corner is a huge business district drawing in over 100,000 workers on a typical weekday.

Tysons Corner Center mallThe immense Tysons Corner Center mall opened in 1968, and the more upscale Tysons Galleria mall (commonly called Tysons 2) opened nearby twenty years later. Tysons 2 is not attached to Tysons Corner Center mall; though it is possible to walk between the two malls, it’s not recommended because there are few sidewalks or crosswalks. The crosswalks that exist are by no means consistent – right now you can’t make the walk without having to scamper across at least a couple of lanes while watching for car traffic. There are many curved turn lanes leading to mall entrances that prevent cars from needing to slow down much, while exposing people on foot to more risk when crossing. In the original iteration of Tysons Corner, pedestrian access has typically been an oversight.

Being a very popular shopping destination, the Tysons Corner Center mall experiences a mind-numbing amount of traffic during the holiday season. I currently work in the area, and many of my coworkers’ commutes take them twice as long in December – and 30 minutes to an hour of that is just sitting in traffic leaving the mall. Metrobuses trying to get into and out of the mall area also take significantly longer, stretching the usual 15 minute ride to the West Falls Church Metro to an hour or longer.

And despite the immense draw of Tysons Corner for business and shopping, it lacks residents. There are very few people living here, very few amenities to attract more to stay past closing time, and very few ways to get around without a car in the evenings.

Metro Connections

Tysons Corner in the 1950s was originally planned with accessibility by private automobile in mind, and is only now shifting to more transit-oriented development. Right now, the best way to reach Tysons Corner by public transit is using bus lines that run through the area from the West Falls Church Metro station. The 28A, 28X, and 28T all make a stop at the mall and run on a frequent schedule during rush hour. However, the future Metro Silver Line will bridge this connection, making parts of Tysons Corner reachable without the need to transfer to a bus.

Bus stop at Tysons Corner Center mall

The current plan for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project (dubbed the “Silver Line”) will construct Metrorail stations in two phases along the Dulles Corridor in Loudoun, Fairfax, and Arlington counties. Phase 1, currently under construction, is set to connect the currently existing West Falls Church Metro station to the future stations in Tysons Corner and at Wiehle Avenue in Reston – total of five new stations. These should open in 2013 if construction stays on schedule. Phase 2 will later add six additional stations, connecting Reston to Herndon, the Dulles Airport (IAD), and Ashburn.

For Tysons Corner, Metrorail access will be a huge boon. Mass transit will allow more people to come without a car and will spur the growth of new types of businesses around these stations. Adding Metrorail connections also helps accommodate the heavy seasonal traffic to Tysons without further congesting the nearby area.

Planned Metrorail Stations for Tysons Corner

The Comprehensive Plan

So, there’s a need to build stronger transit links, design the area to be more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, add residential and retail development to attract people to live in Tysons, and make it a place of activity around the clock. The Comprehensive Plan approved in 2010 aims to just that. It envisions 100,000 residents living in Tysons Corner and 200,000 jobs by the year 2050. Malcolm Kenton of Greater Greater Washington summarizes the Tysons master plan:

The new Tysons, in addition to very dense evenly mixed-use development near the three Metro stations, will feature an urban circulator, which could take the form of a streetcar or a rapid bus line. An expanded network of on-road bike lanes and off-road bicycle & pedestrian paths, as well as bike parking minimums, will help increase non-auto modes’ share of daily commuters from just three percent today to 36 percent in 2030.

Not including the construction of Silver Line and HOT lanes, this will cost $1.698 billion over 20 years. This will eventually decrease total automobile traffic to the area as other modes of transportation become more convenient. A liveable and walkable place would be a vast improvement on what is currently Tysons Corner. I’m eager to see these plans play out over the coming years, aligning the ‘new’ Tysons Corner with the ideals of transit-oriented development.

For further reading, see…

Transforming Tysons Corner: A High-Stakes Suburban Retrofit on DC Streetsblog

Tysons highlighted as global example for smart growth on Greater Greater Washington

Refocus the Transportation Network on Fairfax County’s website

Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005 by Paul Ceruzzi

Written by Crystal Bae

August 22nd, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Transportation and Urbanism News

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A few links to interesting transportation and urbanism news from the past couple of days:

  • Greater Greater Washington, “Plan your next bike trip with”
    Big news for those in Washington, DC who get around by bicycle –, just launched, is a great new tool from OpenPlans and BikeArlington that will help you plan your journey, whether you’re using your own bike or a Capital Bikeshare bike. You can choose whether flatness, speed, or safety (bike-friendliness) are your primary concerns when routing your trip by moving the crosshairs within the triangle at the bottom-left.
  • Digital Urban, “Using Oyster Card journeys to understand how, why and where we travel in London.”
    The versatile Oyster Card is a public transportation card with an RFID that allows users to travel using the London Underground, public buses, river buses, trams, and other rail services. As detailed in the linked video, the Oyster Card dataset has allowed researchers to analyze travel patterns within London.
  • TheWashCycle, “Making the Anacostia Metro more bike friendly.”
    It’s always great to hear more plans for the bicycle network in Anacostia. Anacostia, though quite hilly in places, has a growing cyclist community. These proposed ideas will help grow the number of multi-modal trips people make in the area. (On that note, having a Bikeshare membership has greatly increased the number of Metro to bike journeys I make.)