Pass the Olives

Jumbled Opinions on Living, Democracy, and Making Things

Walter Reed (Army Hospital) Development

The word on at least one street is that the development will suffer from not being on a Metro line. The neighbors protest that it is on the Red line. The problem is that the entrance to the Takoma Metro Station is on the east, not even visible from anything anyone readily identifies as DC.
I used to teach at a college that had many satellite teaching locations. It was a repeated problem that we located an office on the wrong side of a bridge or river or whatever it was that was a psychological barrier to the local residents. Underpasses are one of those barriers.
Invisible Metro entrances are big barriers. I often am out walking in Takoma and find someone wandering around south of Cedar (you can’t go north) looking for the Metro. I tell them to follow the tracks and they say, “I did that, nothing happened.” From the DC side, you have to know the station is there before you can find it.
Metro entrances pointing the wrong way are a barrier. That the Takoma Metro points toward Takoma Park MD means it is perceived to be at least a mile further east than it really is. It is as good as in MD—the end of the world if you are walking from DC.
Takoma Educational Center, the elementary school, blocks Cedar Street, the direct shot from Walter Reed to the Takoma Station, another a barrier. People walking to and from the station in the winter will be walking in the dark at least one way to or from Walter Reed. A straight, open street feels safer. If one group takes one walk around and another group the other, there are also fewer companions.
A few years ago when WMATA announced a new station entrance to Cedar, I thought they were talking about an entrance on the west side of the station and was positive that ridership would be increased. The new entrance, however, amounted only to a set of steps, still on the east side of the station. The advantage being that they are under the underpass and thus less icy but they only duplicate a set of stair a few feet east.
I think it has probably helped that the stairs are sort of visible from the west side of the underpass, but people do not like to walk down under underpasses. They are dark and almost invariably lit with bare bulbs in wire cages like the ones in prisons. People won’t do it as long as there is any alternative. It certainly isn’t conducive to encouraging people to break old habits and use the Metro.
The need is for an entrance on the west side of the Takoma Metro, one that looks like an entrance — open, light, with a sign. Not just for Walter Reed but for everyone else on the west side. Since this is not likely to happen now that Cedar Crossing, the Gables, and the soon to be built Metro-Village are all big buildings blocking the possible development of a visible entrance, perhaps some other solution could be found.
A trolley is planned to go from Georgia Avenue across Butternut Street up Fourth Street to the Takoma station. Maybe before they get the trolley, they could put a big sign on the overpass. Something attractive and trolley-friendly, like the one that would have been there before the Metro was built and a trolley served the area.

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