Today is Car Free DC day

Almost every day is Car Free DC Day for Hubby and I — we don’t own a car and we both routinely walk to work, but today is officially recognized as such, and I hope it become an annual event.

But if the concept is new to you, consider taking public transportation, a carpool, biking or walking to work today. Well, not today, because you’re probably at work by now if you travel to work. Some time, then. Perhaps a Saturday outing: September 22 is World Carfree Day.

I’ll be blogging more about this later this week.

Blog Day 5!

Happy Blog Day! (Why today, if you squint, 3108 — today’s date — looks like blog) . Here’s the rules:

  1. Find 5 new Blogs that you find interesting
  2. Notify the 5 bloggers that you are recommending them as part of BlogDay 2007
  3. Write a short description of the Blogs and place a link to the recommended Blogs
  4. Post the BlogDay Post (on August 31st) and
  5. Add the BlogDay tag using this link: http://technorati.com/tag/BlogDay2007 and a link to the BlogDay web site at http://www.blogday.org

I decided to avoid anything church-related and stick to five blog I read earnestly, but only started reading recently. They all have to do with living a better, more productive life.

OpenOffice.org Help TNT is about the free and open source office productivity suite of course, while Linux by Examples is short format documentation (usually with images) about my favorite operating system.

Two include public transportation concerns. The TDM Professional is for transportation demand management professionals, but is great for lay transit foamers and sustainability wonks, especially in this area since Chris Hamilton, the Commuter Services Chief for suburban Arlington County, Virginia is a regular writer. Carfree USA Blog is a bit more dogmatic, but directs its zeal towards human and urban well-being. A good place for talking points (or is that too Washington a recommendation?)

Jan Chipchase’s engaging thoughts about user interfaces — recommended by a Day Job colleague — rounds out the list at future perfect.

Megabus goes west

Over the last year I’ve written about the young and growing Megabus service; my UK readers will be better acquainted with this company. See 1, 2, and 3. Now they’ve begun service on the West Coast.

Yoohoo! How about the Atlantic states, or the South? Please?  (I’m in no way related to this company.)

Grade your once and future home, church with Walk Score

Richard Layman  (Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space) points out a handy resourceWalk Score — which mashes up Google Maps data to give a profile of how walkable an area in the United States is.  This can be very important since reducing or eliminating car use and meat is probably the easiest way to make a substantially good environmental impact.

Walk Score has its limitations but I think it is useful for sorting between the walkability of locales — if you have  a choice — and then you can use the hybrid view within Google Maps, plus local transit sites, to pick out the most walkable neighborhoods. This might be very useful if you’re attending meetings, like General Assembly or district assemblies and don’t want to bring or rent a car. (I’ve been known to call police precincts to get the skinny on where one should or should not walk after dark.)

According to their own scale, anything over 70 is potentially walkable and anything over 90 is prime for car-free living. Where Hubby and I live is a 94 and that seems right.  My old apartment in Georgia — where I sometimes managed without a car (but sore shanks) because it was fragile and unreliable — today rates a 66. Again, seems right.

So US-based readers, how does your address rate?

For what it’s worth, the next General Assembly venue is a 57.

At the farmer's market

Later. Sightings I forgot to note earlier.

  • An interesting sign, in the adjacent flea market, from a vendor wishing the mothers there a Happy Fathers’ Day since they were “mothers and fathers both.”
  • There were computers for sale, all towers from six to ten years old. Pentium 3s (at best) with Windows 98 installed. The phrase “digital divide” ran through my head, and I wondered what kind of Linux might make the most of these machines yet accommodate new and perhaps skiddish users.

I went to the D.C.’s Capital City Market this morning. Some things are more important than blogging.

The market, near the corner of Florida Avenue and New York Avenues NE and next to Gallaudet University, isn’t your chi-chi, sustainable, local organic market. It is mostly wholesale, loud, smelly with garbage all over the place and I love it. The newish New York Avenue Metro station puts the Union Market within easier reach because — believe you me — you don’t want to drive (not that I have a car) and the bus service could be a lot better.

A few observations:

  • The market is important for small merchants who only sell a few onions or potatoes and other vegetables: the only vegetables available in some neighborhoods.
  • That said, a lot of people go their for their groceries: vegetables, fruit and meat mainly.
  • On the subway, the only newspaper left behind was in Spanish. I can get the gist of a Spanish-language newspaper, but it gave me pause to realize I was able to read Brazilian butt lift in a plastic surgeon’s ad.
  • The market is at risk by — what else? — redevelopment for condos.
  • I got beets, parsley, cabbage, mint, watercress, cucumbers and celery worth about $20 for less than $8.
  • I found a stall that sells hoop cheese (got a pound, $5), chow chow (got a half pint, $2) and poke salat (none today, thanks).
  • Two 450 gram boxes of loose black tea at the halal market, $3 each plus some mixed vegetable curry spice for 89 cents.
  • Two pounds of wonton skins for $3. (Perhaps for making little pierogi?)

Read this blog, which follows the development story and alternatives.

DC car-free to the beach

A gay, car-driving co-worker at Former Day Job knew that Hubby and I don’t own a car. When I mentioned last year that we wanted to go to the beach, he wondered if the Rehoboth Beach bus was still operating. No, it turns out, it wasn’t.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is a popular gay destination, but as we discovered when we finally did visit (by rented car) that like Dupont Circle and other allegedly gay ghettos, the population and services were far more mixed than is commonly described. So Rehoboth offers seaside kitch and full-on camp, fine dining and hot dogs. We really liked it (and Lewes, and Ocean City, Maryland, too, but all for different reasons.)

And this year, the bus is back and is brand new. Yes, it’s marketed to gay men. No, I don’t think we (they) will be the only ones on it. One trip weekly — or week-end-ly, really — and a decent value if you’re heading out alone or as a couple.

Rehobus [2009. www.rehobus.com is gone. A shame.]

London's bus campaign for Washington

Bus-loving people will have already seen the London ‘My other car is a bus — new advertising campaign — I only wish I could get one of the bumper stickers!

That said: Washington’s buses could use some more practical help, especially with the capacity of the Metrorail system being stretched towards breaking.

We all know that rail is “sexier” than bus, but that’s were the room for growth is — affordable growth anyway — and buses are more convenient and practical for a large segment of the populus than the rails anyway. (Neither home nor work is less than a twenty-minute walk from a rail station, but there’s a bus that goes very close from one to the other. I would have to drive if it wasn’t for the bus.) Time to treat them with some respect.

We could be more like London: encourage pride in our strikingly extensive and relatively modern system and provide more information for potential users. WMATA buses are quite difficult to use if you don’t already use them. It took far too long to get free system maps printed (and as it is, you have to ask for them at subway stations). The experimental downtown route direction maps were printed too fine, without adequate direction, and are already outdated. Weekly bus passes are sold at too few many shops. Bus stops are inadequately marked. There are several problems, and they are all resolvable.

A good starting palce would be to adopt London-style “spider maps.” These combine realistic local neighborhood maps (centering on a rail station) with stylized radiating bus routes. The format is based on the famous London Underground map. Hubby and I found the concept invaluable in our visit last year, and once implemented the bare details can be printed at the individual stops — far more helpful than the truth-bending minute-by-minute, long-distance-train-style schedules currently posted.

Since a picture is worth more than my feeble description, here’s a link to get some spider maps to review.

Spider maps by borough