East Side News – August 2017

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The MBT Is Finding Its Way
Are you a frequent user of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT)? Never heard of it? The folks at the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) want to hear from you about your experiences or lack thereof.

As a follow-up to the 2015 MBT Safety and Access Study, the BID has commissioned Alta Planning and Design to conduct a wayfinding study that will help analyze how people are using the trail, how access can be increased, and how more people can learn that the trail exists. The study includes a survey of NoMa neighbors about their experiences with the trail and the safety issues present for the users and surrounding community.

“We understand that the MBT is not an isolated resource,” explains NoMa BID Economic Development and Planning Director Galin Brooks. “All of the surrounding neighborhoods can benefit greatly from having access to the trail. The overall goal of our work on the MBT is to improve the usership of the trail, making it a safer and more pleasant experience for everyone.”

This study is an extension of the conclusions of the 2015 report on the safety and accessibility of the MBT. Citing increasing criminal activity and low usership, the NoMa BID, District Department of Transportation (DDOT), Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and a handful of local developers commissioned the study to understand how to combat crime and increase awareness of and access to the trail. The study produced 30 action items, some of which have already been implemented, such as new call boxes and cameras.

The efforts have made an impact. Average usership has increased and crime has greatly diminished over the last year.

Alta Planning and Design is now working to create a blueprint for the next step in the process, wayfinding. Alta is deeply entrenched in the biking community, being a leader on bikeshare integration into large cities. Alta has significant experience with wayfinding, specifically the needs of pedestrians and cyclists. “Because active transportation is our core specialty,” its mission states, “we understand the importance of creating wayfinding systems that address the needs of all users, whether traveling by foot, bicycle, car, or transit.”

The survey will be open through Aug. 11 and can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MBTWAYFINDING. 

Friends of Man’s Best Friends
The dogs of NoMa thought they had found their little slice of heaven when a building did not arise from the empty field at Second and L streets NE. The large expanse was about the size of two football fields and surrounded by fencing (save a few holes). The makeshift dog park was a place where dogs could play, smell, and expel their often-excited energy, and where the owners could meet and connect over the love of their companions. But they knew NoMa, and knew the empty field would not be empty for long.

“It was a social gathering place, and not just for the dogs,” laments Cari Shane, board member of Friends of NoMa Dogs (FOND). “It didn’t matter your background or your job, everyone just talked about their dogs. But we knew it wouldn’t last.”

When the lot was slated for development, owners knew they had to take collective action to try to find a new space the dogs of NoMa could call their own, and thus FOND was formed. With the encouragement and support of NoMa BID President Robin-Eve Jasper, the members of FOND began to advocate for a dog park in conjunction with the efforts of NoMa Parks.

When the space at Third and L streets was secured for a park, FOND argued that a portion of the space be reserved for the dogs. FOND’s actions were successful and it was decided that the park was to be sectioned off into three areas: a playground for children, seats for adults, and a run and agility course for the pups.

Now FOND will be responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the dog park and is raising funds to support the efforts. “The park will need regular cleaning and upkeep of items such as doggie” bags, explains Shane. “Dogs are much better in urban environments when they are socialized with other dogs. They are calmer and better at interacting with humans as well as other dogs. Dog parks make dogs better neighbors.”

FOND is raising money to support the park through its “Founding Pups” initiative. For a $100 donation you can have your four-legged companion’s name placed on a plaque that will line the park wall. Local businesses are also hosting events in support of FOND, including a Yappy Hour at TD Burger that was held earlier this month.

For more information on how to support Friends of NoMa Dogs visit www.nomadogparks.com.

WMATA’s new look for the Union Station entrance. Photo: WMATA

Union Station’s New Look
If you are a regular user of Union Station, you have likely been stuck in a line. For years, frustrated commuters trying to reach their destinations have been waylaid by illogical traffic patterns and crowded exits. Planners are hoping that a new, much larger entrance on First Street NE will help alleviate the chaos.

This month, WMATA released its vision for the new entrance, which will move the location of the door and include an ADA-accessible ramp. Inside the doors will be new fare stations and a stairway to access the Amtrak lines and station concourse. The plan also includes connecting the Metro station to the commuter trains by adding a staircase. The District and Maryland will be paying for the $5 million renovation project.

These improvements are part of Union Station’s Second Century Plan, a comprehensive series of projects designed to allow the station to accommodate a tripling in ridership by increasing accessibility, traffic flow, and comfort. This work will coincide with the “Passenger Concourse Modernization Project” plan to expand the internal space within the structure and add restrooms and amenities throughout. That project is slated to begin this year.

The sleek new look of the “back” entrance will add a much-needed facade-lift to the majestic stone structure that serves 37 million people per year. As the front of the station models the impressiveness of DC’s architecture and world stature, the back should exemplify our modern understanding and future growth of the capital city.

 

Taylor Barden Golden is a real estate agent with The Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates. A former Hill staffer, Taylor lives in Brentwood with her husband, two dogs, and a cat. She’s always on the lookout for new places to explore and ways to spend time outside. Get in touch: taylor@midcitydcnews.com; @rtaylorb.