Saturday, December 31, 2011
PEDICAB TO OPERATE
AT CO2 LOUNGE
Remember when I reported that Bethesda's new CO2 Lounge was bringing pedicabs to Bethesda? Tonight it becomes reality as the new nightspot by Bethesda Metro Center celebrates New Year's Eve starting at 9 PM.
The pedicab service will ferry patrons around the downtown, and presumably to the Metro station so they can take transit home.
I've heard the pedicabs may have heated blankets, as well.
All questions will be answered tonight!
This is a first for Bethesda, so it is interesting from both a practical standpoint, as well as for bringing a service found in other cities to our downtown.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!
Stefan Lalos has announced he is opening the first gastropub in the history of Bethesda in the former Gaffney's space at 7141 Wisconsin Ave.
Not related to the beloved Majestic in Alexandria, it is named in tribute to the Pittsburgh bar owned by his grandfather, Lalos said in a statement.
The Majestic will be "like no place you've ever been," with upscale gastropub cuisine and an emphasis on golf.
I'm sorry Gaffney's is no longer around, as I thought they were on to something promising with the recent Latin events held there over the last year. As well as being known for their food.
But this is great news. We've never had a gastropub in town before, so this is an exciting 2012 opening to look forward to.
NEW YEAR'S EVE
COLOSSAL GUIDE TO
THE BEST NYE PARTIES
Not a Laundry List; The List!
Tired of going into DC for overhyped hipster New Year's Eve bashes? Entertainment that just wasn't worth the Metro or taxi fare? Cheap-quality food and drinks, but outrageous ticket prices that go up every hour as December 31 approaches?
Or just panicked because you waited too long and have no idea where to go Saturday night?
Then this guide is for you!
BlackFinn's party sold-out last year, and just might again this year. This time the theme is the Roaring Twenties, and they are turning the saloon into a speakeasy. But Prohibition won't be a problem here, especially during the hours the open bar is available! Can you beat the rush? You just might if you hurry and use this handy link to order tickets you can claim at the door:
UNION JACK'S BETHESDA
Union Jack's is hosting a Little Black Dress Ball. Your ticket will get you 3 drink tickets, heavy Hors D'oeuvres (8-10 PM), Champagne Toast at Midnight, Continental Breakfast after Midnight, Party Favors, and "DJ Powered Dance Excitement," until 2 AM! Breakfast included? They've thought of everything!
It's not too late! Order tickets online right here:
AMERICAN TAP ROOM
Bobby Vickers is a chef deserving of more attention in the DC area. For New Year's Eve, he's pulling out all the stops with a grand menu for only $50 a person. Are you going to pick Filet Mignon in Cabarnet Wine Butter with Crab-Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp, confetti vegetables, and Pancetta-White Cheddar Potato Croquettes... ...or the Grilled Cape Swordfish? I'd have to pick the Warmed Guinness Gingerbread with Bailey's Chantilly Cream and Chocolate Caramel Sauce for dessert.
Check out the full menu selections here:
And call American Tap Room at Bethesda Row to make reservations: 301-656-1366.
New to Bethesda Row in 2011, Newton's Table (just named of the Top 100 restaurants in Washington!) is offering a five-and seven-course tasting menu, priced at $75 and $95. Wine pairings will also be available, plus an a la carte menu.
They had only 12 seats left at last check! Are there any left? Hurry and call 301-718-0550 to find out.
Redwood - located right on Bethesda Lane at Bethesda Row - may have the most creative party in town: a James Bond 007 Casino Royale night! Complete with (legal-and-just-for-fun) gaming tables. Order your tickets while they last:
Just around the corner from Redwood, Lebanese Taverna bids to match 007 with "endless mezza," belly dancers, party favors and a champagne toast.
$65 per person. Seating starts at 9 PM. Call 703-841-1511.
If you compare the New Year's Eve TV fare on the Spanish-language networks with the American networks, you might reach the conclusion that Latin America celebrates the new year better than anyone.
So why not head to the premiere Latin fusion restaurant in Bethesda? The Parva! You won't just be partying, but also enjoying fine cuisine prepared by Chef Andy. He hasn't gotten much attention from the DC area food critics yet, so he's still one of the best-kept secrets in town. And he'll be working in the kitchen until 3 AM New Year's Morning! Limited table service also available!
Get all the details here:
They know how to celebrate occasions in Spain, and Chef José Andrés knows how to provide you with the freshest and most innovative Spanish cuisine in all of the world, right here at Bethesda Row! Make reservations and check out the stellar menu here:
MON AMI GABI
Magnifique! Who wouldn't like to celebrate New Year's in the City of Lights, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower? Can't quite stretch the budget this year? Give Mon Ami Gabi a ring today at 301-654-1234 and reserve your table for Saturday night! You will be transported to the Continent with "savory French fare, fabulous wine and the best of company." Not to mention a FREE glass of champagne to toast with at Midnight.
FREDDY'S LOBSTER AND CLAMS
For only $45, you get all-you-can-eat lobster, and they have a kids menu (and half-price for kids, too!). Click here for all of the details:
5 Courses for $85, Optional Wine Pairings $30 or $50.
Call (301) 986-9592 today to inquire if reservations are still available.
FREE ENTRY/NO COVER CHARGE
Think it's ridiculous to pay any ticket price just because it's New Year's Eve? So does Chef Robert Wiedmaier's Mussel Bar. No entry fee! Order what you like from the NYE menu, a la carte at normal prices. But affordable is high-end in this case, because you're dining at the restaurant Zagat recommends you take friends from out of town to in Bethesda!
Mussel Bar will be open from 10 AM - 1 AM Saturday. At 10 PM, Sean Chyun and the Deceivers will perform live, and Chef Wiedmaier's outstanding Happy Hour menu will be available. Great deal!
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Yesterday's colossal crash on Rockville Pike just outside of downtown Bethesda was another painful reminder that Bethesda traffic didn't have to be this way.
In more responsible times, and in preparation for expected growth, I-70S (which we know as I-270 today) was planned to enter Washington, D.C. through Bethesda along the 355 corridor.
This 6 lane, grade-separated highway was to be called the Northwest Freeway.
Why was the Northwest Freeway cancelled?
Political and financial influence of its opponents. Nothing more.
In fact, Montgomery County's political establishment and the special interests that get them elected were so desirous of self-benefitting traffic gridlock, they never even entered a true planning phase for the road.
Now we pay the price every day in wasted time and fuel on Wisconsin Avenue.
If one day we had politicians with the sense and courage to build the Northwest Freeway, where would it go?
Tough question, but I'll try to answer it.
Herman, set the wayback machine to the days of Eisenhower and JFK.
In the good old days, I-66 was planned to run through part of Washington. But it also had an I-266 spur that would cross the Potomac on an also-planned Three Sisters Bridge directly below Georgetown University. A beautifully-designed interchange would allow access to M Street, the George Washington Parkway, the (also-cancelled Palisades Freeway, and - one of my favorite roads - the iconic, Hollywood-famous Whitehurst Freeway.
But there was one more connection: the Northwest Freeway north through Glover Archbold Park. Yes, the park is a highway facility that you have been told is a park.
Heading north, you would have the option to exit to an eastward leg taking you past the National Zoo and on to a connection with I-66 within DC. But staying on the Freeway, you'd have passed under Tenley Circle in a tunnel. Underground, you would be on the right side of Wisconsin Avenue heading northwest.
Stop right there. This entire leg can be built this way today. But when we exit the tunnel, we have a problem. The right-of-way has been redeveloped.
Today, the costly tunnel would have to extend to past Western Avenue. Then current parking areas at the Collection at Chevy Chase and Saks Fifth Avenue could be rebuilt as garages over the freeway trench. Then there are houses. The freeway would have to go over, under, or the properties would have to be acquired.
The area where the Chevy Chase Club meets 355 is clear for the road.
Then you hit the commercial area in downtown Bethesda. Like Friendship Heights, redevelopment was irresponsibly allowed where the highway was to go. The one crude map I've found of the downtown Bethesda segment is woefully out of scale.
Today, you'd have to tunnel under Bradley Lane, the church and the initial shopping centers on the east side of 355 (Trader Joe's, etc.). But you could bring the road above ground through the parking lots and Elm Street Park (it would likely be in a trench). Then tunnel under the East West Highway area.
Resurface again and acquire properties? Unlikely. The tunnel would have to extend underneath Jones Bridge Road.
Then the freeway would be above ground the rest of the way to its connection with the Beltway. This would also allow the highway ramp directly into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. For that reason alone, this segment of the Northwest Freeway would be heavily or entirely-subsidized by the federal government and the Pentagon.
Okay, wiseguy, you may be asking, how does the freeway get from Cedar Lane to I-495?
Glad you asked!
Because no map exists of this segment, I've wondered about this myself.
After studying Google Maps, I think I've figured it out.
Cross Cedar Lane to...
Elmhirst Parkway! It has all of the characteristics of a classic right-of-way placeholder. Plenty of room for six lanes, and the green space at the dead end hits - you guessed it! - the Beltway.
I've finally solved the mystery of the Northwest Freeway.
Now let me take off my Indiana Jones fedora. As you have just read, a viable but expensive Northwest Freeway is still viable today. And as Bethesda drivers know, it is desperately needed. As is political will and courage to finally get the DC area's missing freeways built.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
BETHESDA HAS 5
Bethesda is well-represented on the Washingtonian Top 100 restaurant list.
Here is the list:
4933 Fairmont Ave.
Food Wine & Co.
7272 Wisconsin Ave.
4865-C Cordell Ave.
Woodmont Avenue and Elm St.
4917 Elm St.
Make a reservation at one of these great restaurants tonight.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
MON AMI GABI
Enjoy a live jazz performance by the Greg Harrison Trio tonight from 6-9 PM at Mon Ami Gabi at Bethesda Row.
Between 6-7 PM, you can also take advantage of the Happy Hour specials. Order from a list of wines by the glass that are 50% off. And choose from Country Style Pate, Onion Soup Au Gratin, and Steak Sandwich with Frites - only $5 each!
Take a detour to Paris on Woodmont Ave. tonight at Mon Ami Gabi for the sounds and cuisine of France without leaving Bethesda Row or with a lighter wallet!
Monday, December 26, 2011
Vice-President Joe Biden and wife, Dr. Jill Biden, visited wounded servicemembers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Christmas. The Bidens had been here in Bethesda recently, where they had dinner at Vapiano Pizza and Pasta Bar on Woodmont Avenue.
With most restaurants closed for Christmas, they were unable to dine out this time. We're still hoping the Vice-President can convince President Obama to join him for burgers at Bethesda Row's upscale burger palace, Kraze Burgers. And for a DC Dog at Bold Bite. The rest of the Obama family has visited Bethesda Row multiple times, leaving POTUS as the last holdout. Can we believe he will stop by for a Hawaii Burger at Kraze? "Yes, we can!"
The White House released an official photo of the Bidens' visit:
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Saturday, December 24, 2011
FEAST OF THE
12 Days of Christmas at Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row
An old tradition becomes a new tradition tonight at Assaggi on Bethesda Avenue. They are hosting a Seven Fish Dinner tonight for $60 a person. This could sell out, if it hasn't already, so give them a ring today at 301-951-1988 and find out if you can score seats.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian Catholic tradition which many date back to the Roman Empire. Now that's what I call tradition! You might find oysters, calamari, cod, eel, anchovies, scallops, mussels, shrimp and clams among the seafood prepared alone with side dishes, or with pasta.
Start a new Christmas Eve tradition at Assaggi at Bethesda Row tonight.
Whatever your plans, have a great Christmas Eve, and stay tuned to @BethesdaRow on Twitter for the latest on what's happening around Bethesda!
Friday, December 23, 2011
PLAZA DEL SOL
Bethesda's upstart Mexican restaurant, Plaza del Sol, is pairing fine cuisine with Spanish music and dance tonight at 7 and 8 PM.
Guitarist Miguelito backs dancer Sarah Louisa. This is the second week in a row, so maybe this will become a weekly event at Plaza del Sol. Which would be great. I'm a Spanish guitar fanatic, but strangely, the only flamenco piece I've recorded is one of those B sides I've never officially released.
One interesting thing about Plaza del Sol is that they use mesquite wood from Mexico for cooking. It doesn't get more authentic than that! When I heard that, the first thing I thought of was the Copper Canyon train from Arizona to Mexico. The chefs bring logs aboard for their wood-burning stove. Mexican railroading is probably the most exciting in the world, because it is less regulated and they have so many classic locomotives in service.
While I'm on a Latin streak here, let me tell you about two great nights - tonight and Saturday night - at The Parva, on Woodmont Avenue. Tonight is a holiday (Navidad) theme, with DJ Blackstar and DJ Mike Miasma working the turntables. "Dress to impress," they say. Saturday night is a Colombian night with great music, cuisine by Chef Andy and the famous Colombian Mojito!
THE FUTURE OF
Auto and Rail Travel Up;
Flights Hit 7-Year Low
12 Days of Christmas on Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row
According to yesterday's USA Today, the projected number of Americans flying to holiday destinations this weekend will be the lowest in 7 years. But auto travel is expected to rise 2.1%. Amtrak experienced a surge in ridership over the Thanksgiving weekend, and has already set a new yearly record of 30.2 million riders.
Don't expect airlines to shut down next year. But the trends discussed in the article continue to follow my personal predictions of the future of travel.
In my opinion, within the next few decades, we will have dramatic change in travel modes. Air travel will decline substantially, and be primarily used by wealthier and/or business travelers for long-range trips.
This will be the result of two developments: the demise of the discount airline, and advances in rail and car travel.
While discounts are still available from travel websites, and there are many deals to be had on air travel, the bargain airlines increasingly are charging fares out of line with their bare bones in-flight amenities.
Eventually, this will shift the advantage to premium airlines using aircraft like the new Dreamliner.
Where will travelers turn?
For trips 400 miles or less, high-speed rail will be very competitive with airlines. Even today, there is no comparison between the experience aboard Amtrak's Acela vs. coach aboard XYZ budget airline. Imagine if the Amtrak fare were comparable with the airfare, and high-speed rail provided a Washington - New York City travel time of 2 hours. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which one most would choose. Expect limited corridors in the Northeast, California, California-Las Vegas, and Florida to be popular - and one day profitable.
Finally, in the post-9/11 era, the car is poised to become the ultimate public transportation of last resort. No security pat-downs, x-rays, biological/chemical/nuclear attack threats, etc. are of daily concern to the automobile driver.
Furthermore, the self-driving car will become a reality within the next 2-3 decades. Google has already proven that the raw technology exists today. Some of it is already in expensive cars. As the technology is refined, Big Brother's desire to keep tabs on you and your car will only increase the urgency for manufacturers to offer passive, automated driving features.
Automated highways many more decades away. The better approach is voluntary, optional use of these systems by drivers. There is no need for "car traffic controllers" because the technology allows the computer driver to detect everything in immediate range, just as a human would. Also, automation on a car-by-car basis allows these systems to go into use sooner, because it would not require everyone to buy such vehicles. The computer driver will simply "avoid" active human drivers on the road. If one could no longer enjoy driving high-performance vehicles on the open road at all, what would car designs and horsepower numbers become? Awfully boring!
But enough about the World of Tomorrow...
What is it about the great American highway and the American love for automobiles that no gas price or government overreach has yet been able to end?
I thought the article summed it up quite well:
[T]ravelers...say they prefer the freedom of driving - picking their departure times and packing what they'd like.
I remember reading an old 1970s speech by Ronald Reagan where he talked about the freedom of setting your own timetable.
My presents are all wrapped and packed in my trunk and I don't need to worry about carry-on or checked baggage requirements...I wish the drive were a bit faster...all the more time to listen to Christmas music.
-Kristin Beat in USA Today
What could change the transportation future I've predicted here?
Airlines could cut fares. They could provide more comfortable seats for the unwashed masses. How about actually offering a hot meal like the old days? I'm not picky. I thought the old meals were pretty good.
Also, high-speed rail could be cancelled. Or the trains could be priced too high.
There's a lot to speculate about. Neither I nor anyone else can claim to have the answers. What do you think the future of transportation is? The only sure thing is that it's a fascinating topic.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Public Transport Toy Shrinks Down
Light Rail Vehicle and Stations Coming to
Bethesda in Next Decade
12 Days of Christmas at Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row
I haven't paid much attention to what toymaker Lego has produced since I was a child. But as a rail, tram and bus fanatic, they've got my attention now.
They have a line of products with a City theme. Based on the various pieces and box art, I conclude that Lego City is somewhere in Europe. Of course, Lego is based in Denmark. But just about everything in the product line would be found in Germany, as well. Not only is this reflected in the architecture, and the one set that comes with a giant wind turbine (!!), but in some of the transportation-themed products.
The one that jumped out is called Public Transport. It includes a tram [light rail train], a bus, three platforms, street sweeper vehicle, a bicycle, a "sports car," bus driver, tram driver, bicyclist, shop assistant, garbage truck driver and passenger. The tram can carry 6 passengers, and can run (it won't move by itself, as far as I can tell) on Lego train tracks.
I've always been interested in real trains more than model or toy trains. But I do get a number of train catalogs that have model trains, and I can't recall seeing anything like this tram before. I can think of a Japanese company that makes light rail and high-speed rail train sets.
Two things make this Lego train groundbreaking: it is the most realistic toy tram I've ever seen, but - most notably - it is the only tram that has actual pantographs on the roof. That is a really important detail for the realist. Of course Bombardier and others are offering catenary-free rail systems. But this Lego tram is almost certainly the type that will run from Bethesda to New Carrollton on the Purple Line, and on the Baltimore Red Line.
The style of platform is also similar to what will be used on the Purple Line and any BRT lines built in Montgomery County. True to life, you'll notice the platforms are in the center of the road.
So if you know someone who is crazy about trams - and whose copy of Transit Maps of the World is starting to fall apart - this might be the perfect gift. If you are rich, that is! This set retails for $99-$105. That's pretty outrageous.
If an adult has the patience, this would be an interesting item to display in your office, for example.
If you have kids, and want to pass on a love of trains and transit to the next generation, this gift would certainly be a winner. I sure would have been nuts about this set if they'd had it when I was a child.
I know that my own Amtrak trips as a child, and the Chessie System rail line in Bethesda (it actually ran on the right-of-way the Purple Line will use), certainly contributed to a life-long obsession with trains. I also remember my first ride on Metrorail. And while streetcars were long gone, I got interested in them from a book I was given that had photos of 1970s trams running in West Germany.
So parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. can get young people interested in trains and transit as more than just an urban utility, with travel and gifts.
You don't have to spend $100 bucks, though.
Visit the National Capital Trolley Museum in Silver Spring, instead.
They have a gift shop, and the money you spend keeps the classic streetcars around for future generations to enjoy. Of course, they'll run again soon in DC, but those are quite different in design.
With toy trains being such a big part of Christmas, I thought this transit-and-Bethesda oriented gift idea was a great way to start off my annual 12 Days of Christmas here on the blog.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
After last month's Urban Country Anniversary Party was a success in raising funds for Canines for Veterans, Redwood and UC are teaming up to do more tonight. Order a house-made Spiked Apple Cider at Redwood, and ALL of the proceeds will go to CFV! This applies between 4 and 7 PM this evening.
Just around the corner from Redwood, by the giant menorah, Urban Country will be selling high-end dog leashes and collars, as well as treats and toys for man's (and woman's) best friend. Again, all proceeds will go to CFV, making a difference in the lives of shelter dogs and wounded veterans each day.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
Despite Intriguing Design
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial proposed by the famed Frank Gehry is quantifiably a failure. But don't expect a talk radio-style rant against it on this blog. I'm not going to trash the whole design.
In fact, let me start with the strengths of the proposal: First, it's very different from other Presidential memorials and from other memorials in general. It is going to get attention and stand out when tourists visit Washington and make the rounds.
Second, it makes you think. A lot. Put aside a conversation-starting object like the Washington Monument, and consider the other memorials: While none-the-less impressive, they often have a very clear and literate message. And the standard large statue. Usually that is a good thing. I was glad that Dr. Martin Luther King received the full statuary treatment in his memorial this year. There is controversy about the design and quotations, but by making Dr. King as large or larger than many other historical figures around town, his large impact on our society is emphasized for future generations.
At the same time, Dr. King's memorial tells you what it's all about via text - literally - as you enter the memorial. While the regarding of the statue itself is a moving experience for most visitors, the art's message is not as open to interpretation.
Ike's memorial is the total opposite, and you can spend quite a bit of time considering "what it all means." In business or marketing, that would be considered a failure. In art that is a success.
An outdoor "indoor" space is created by hanging metal tapestries. It is vast, but visitors can also see what is outside of the memorial from within. You could say it represents grand scale, such as the massive scale of the American and Allied war effort Eisenhower led to victory in Europe. Grand scale, such as the truly incredible Interstate Highway System Ike transformed from blueprints into a national mobility revolution.
The tapestries are unique but make a lot of sense. Metal, of course, could reflect the guns, the tanks - the war machine. But the spaces in the exterior suggest Eisenhower's concern for the greater country beyond his military world, reflected in his famous and now-recited-as-cliche warning about the "military-industrial complex." (Before you jump to any conclusions, I am a strong supporter of our military and "military-industrial complex," and would very much like to have more firms like Lockheed Martin move their corporate headquarters here to Montgomery County. Of course, a majority on our county council have expressed just the opposite opinion, and have made that clear through their anti-business policies and public comments.) Ultimately, metal suggests the permanence of a leader who helped the country through two wars.
I think Ike deserves a notable monument for his accomplishments, and his skill as a manager of perhaps the most impressive period of economic growth in our nation's history. He certainly falls into the category of the calm, rational, firm-in-principle yet pragmatic and nuanced leader that one would place Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush into. It's no coincidence that those two men are - like Ike - among the most underappreciated presidents in American history.
That's where the monument fails, however. It will inspire much fascinating thought and discussion. But will the visitor who didn't appreciate Ike when he arrived understand why he was important when he left? Is all the educational heavy lifting strictly the responsibility of the visitor and not the memorial?
What did Eisenhower stand for? In the abstract, strength and mobility. In concrete terms, those were reflected by great military and economic achievements, and the interstate system.
I don't get a sense of either of these from the memorial.
We don't need another Colossus-style statue of a grim-faced Eisenhower towering over Washington. And I don't think the idea of a statue of Eisenhower as a boy is a terrible idea in itself. But we need something that says here was a man who harnessed military might and battlefield strategy to preserve our nation.
And something that at least suggests motion or movement. One of the overlooked founding principles of our nation was freedom of movement. It's changing for the worse today, but our country was meant to be a place where one could move about freely for business or pleasure. No border guards demanding paperwork. No pronouncements or dictates regarding where one could live or work (in theory!). No unwarranted recording of citizen movement. And the ability to move goods for commercial enterprise.
Nothing revolutionized or better fulfilled that goal than our interstate system. It continues to provide mobility and economic opportunity for all Americans some 50+ years later. Where is the intoxicating power of freedom in this memorial?
I won't say the Gehry design should be scrapped. But as it stands now, it is like the Lincoln Memorial without Lincoln's statue inside. Literally.
Check out some of the design yourself, and tell me what you think:
I can sum it up in one sentence: Where's Ike?
IS GIVING HOAGIES
AWAY TODAY AT
Taylor Gourmet! Hoagies!
What more do you need to know?
From 11 AM-8 PM, the Bethesda Row location of Taylor Gourmet will be giving away FREE 6" hoagies to anyone who comes in.
There will be a raffle and prizes given away, including Washington Capitals tickets. Speaking of tickets, one lucky winner will get their Bethesda parking ticket paid by Taylor Gourmet.
Monday, December 19, 2011
THE [GREAT] [FANTASTIC]
David Alpert of the blog, Greater Greater Washington http://greatergreaterwashington.org had an editorial in yesterday's Washington Post entitled, "The Outer Beltway: The bad transportation idea that won't go away."
I fundamentally disagree.
The 60-year old Outer Beltway was not only a great idea, but it was a responsible one, as well. So were the many other highways that were planned, only to be canceled or delayed by politicians. Planners 5 or 6 decades ago recognized the tremendous growth that was coming, and laid out a functioning blueprint to handle the resulting transportation demands. It included a complete highway network for the Washington, D.C. region, and - importantly - a rapid transit network to go with it.
Now, before I argue in favor of the Outer Beltway, let me first mention - for those who might not be regular readers of this blog - that I am a huge supporter of mass transit, Amtrak, high-speed rail, streetcars, etc. I am hardly an apologist for developers, as I have been one of the foremost critics of out-of-control development in Montgomery County. And while I am glad to debate anyone on why Responsible Growth is a better choice than "Smart Growth," I do think it is a logical idea to build skyscrapers adjacent to Metro in established urban districts like Bethesda. But you have to have the infrastructure in place, or build it concurrently.
Some of Alpert's arguments against the Outer Beltway, which today would begin with an extension of I-370 into Northern Virginia, are old perennials such as the questionable theory of "induced demand."
In the DC area, "induced demand" can fairly be described as an urban legend.
Without getting into the whole back story of the sabotage of our planned freeway system, let me give you some specific facts as to why "induced demand" has little to do with the jams on I-270 Alpert referenced.
First of all, you have to be skeptical of "induced demand" theory in general. It requires you to believe that great numbers of automobiles and drivers materialize from the morning rush hour mists. They weren't there yesterday, or last year. But, ID supporters argue, because you built that road, they came to drive on it.
I've never seen a credible data stream on "induced demand." What are the reference points and measurements being taken? The bottom line is that we all can agree that phantom cars don't just appear out of thin air.
So let's take apart the 270 story, shall we?
Okay, it was known some 50 years ago that rural Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Clarksburg, Damascus and Frederick would experience explosive growth. To facilitate this, Route 240 was replaced in segments by I-70S, later known as I-270.
But - and this is huge - 270 wasn't alone on the map. It was one piece to be complemented by several other roadways. The most relevant of these were the Rockville Freeway (itself once planned as the Outer Beltway) or Rockville Facility, which was to connect Falls Road on one end to the Outer Beltway at the other near Indian Spring Country Club; M-83 (Midcounty Highway Extended) which was to feed 270 traffic headed for Germantown, Clarksburg and Damascus via Watkins Mill Road Extended west and then north; and the North Central Freeway and Northern Parkway. Finally, the Capital Beltway (which could never be built today) was never designed to carry I-95. I-95 was to pass through the District via Fort Totten and the B&O Railroad corridor by Catholic University and connect to today's piece of I-395 into Virginia.
You had planned growth, and a road network to handle that. The growth went ahead, as it always does in Montgomery County. But a funny thing happened along the way.
A strange partnership of activists, environmentalists, developers and politicians proceeded to tear up the master plan.
This affected the capacity of 270 severely.
In fact, 270 is called 270 because the original I-70S was chopped in half. The lower section of I-70S - the Northwest Expressway - was completely scrapped. So 270 lost its direct route into and out of the District, where it would have connected to a similarly-cancelled freeway system.
The North-Central Freeway and Northern Parkway were cancelled.
M-83 has been postponed through today, but the county is currently doing another study on it, to be published in 2012.
I-95 through DC was cancelled, and all of that Eastern seaboard tourist and truck traffic was dumped onto our Beltway. This led to the aforementioned urban myth that "the Beltway was jammed as soon as they built it!" A.k.a., "induced demand."
And, of course, the Outer Beltway was scrapped.
This created the following scenarios:
Workers who live in Frederick or Clarksburg have to take jammed local roads out of the District to access I-270.
Those who live above Bethesda but travel into Northern Virginia for work are forced to use the American Legion bridge.
Cars that would have exited at the Rockville Freeway (currently Montrose Road), I-370 (Outer Beltway), and M-83/Watkins Mill Extended [this interchange is actually going to be built, only the M-83 part is in question] to points east and north of the Beltway are forced to remain on 270.
I-95 traffic, and the use of Georgia Avenue instead of the North Central Freeway/Northern Parkway to points north of Silver Spring, cause huge delays between Northern Virginia and Georgia Avenue.
All of this together created the classic spots around the 270 spur and northward during the evening rush hour.
Meanwhile, all the development went forward - and then some!
This was utterly irresponsible policy by county politicians, but hardly rare in our region.
So, yes, they widened 270 - and think of how bad it would be if they hadn't - but Clarksburg grew 800% in the time since. Not a misprint - 800%.
And the lovely Loudoun County, which provides the "crops for our tables," according to Alpert, grew 80% in the last 10 years. Those weren't barns that were built, either.
Clearly, a new Potomac River crossing is desperately needed. As are the Rockville Freeway and M-83. The county claims it can find $2.5 billion (again, not a misprint) in the sofa cushions for a massive BRT system (that, in my opinion, should be scaled back to corridors underserved by rapid transit). Meanwhile, the Rockville Freeway could be built between the Montrose Parkway and the ICC for under $1 billion, and serve many more commuters daily than a countywide BRT system.
(Don't say I'm against all BRT without reading my article about that first)
Think about how someone who lives in Damascus but works on Capitol Hill might have used the North Central Freeway, and then the Northern Parkway to get to that rural area. Now they have to take 270, 355 or New Hampshire Avenue. With 270 being the lesser of all evils... who can wonder why 270 is such a mess?
Alpert also keeps throwing out the term, "sprawl," yet Montgomery County is currently creating sprawl development in Science City - a city literally being created in the country - and White Flint, and calling it "Smart Growth."
I concur with Alpert on the need for more transit and less restriction of auto traffic between subdivisions. And I think Bethesda Row is the lone example of transit-oriented living that has demonstrably worked in the county. (Yet, without the Northwest Expressway, our downtown streets are jammed every rush hour.)
But he says "desires have changed dramatically since the Outer Beltway was proposed." And that people want to live in urban areas with transit. Many people do. But not a majority. Most can't afford it, and the new luxury condos being built "near work and transit" are out of their price range.
In fact, many are leaving urbanizing Montgomery County for the traditional suburbs popping up in Loudoun - to the tune of 80% growth.
And if you didn't notice, that happened already - without the Outer Beltway.
Shouldn't we let the plain facts inform us?
The Outer Beltway is a critical piece of infrastructure missing from our transportation system. Much like the Rockville Freeway and M-83, we need to build it now.
And that's just to handle our existing growth.
If you think it's bad now, wait until Damascus triples in size over the next 10-15 years, and Science City builds out.
The Outer Beltway is a great idea.
Friday, December 16, 2011
JANUARY 9-15, 2012
Everyone who appreciates fine cuisine is always excited about DC Restaurant Week. Of course, it's easy to drive or take the Red Line into DC to... ...okay, it's possible to drive or take the Red Line to dine downtown.
But did you know that DC Restaurant Week is happening right here in Bethesda this coming January 9-15, 2012?
It's true! Lunches will be $20.12 and dinners will be $35.12 per person.
Here is a guide to DC Restaurant Week 2012 - in Bethesda!
Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and Dinner
Menu not available yet
RESTAURANT AND BAR
Lunch and Dinner
Menu not available yet
This week I passed a double milestone: The 1000th post on this blog, and I now have over 1000 followers on Twitter at @BethesdaRow!
If you're not following me on Twitter yet, you are missing out on all of what's going on in Bethesda. So make sure to follow @BethesdaRow on Twitter, and tell your friends about this useful resource.
Among the stories followers heard about first - before any other source - at @BethesdaRow on Twitter: the reopening of Lululemon, the new Westin Bethesda Hotel, the electronic signs on the Bethesda Row garage, and the grand openings of Kraze Burgers, Jimmy Johns and The Parva.
Thank you for being a reader of this blog!
Thursday, December 15, 2011
RAPID BUS TO
County's Already-Flawed BRT Plan is
Pushing Reality Envelope after Planning Board
Staff Proposes Changes
You've heard of the Bridge to Nowhere. Are you now ready to board the Rapid Bus to Nowhere?
Montgomery County Planning Board staff have proposed a number of significant changes to the county's Bus Rapid Transit proposal.
One that really jumps out: the staff is calling for an additional route that would run between Montgomery Mall and the American Legion bridge. And what, may we ask, are riders supposed to do after they are dropped off at the bridge?
In a time of tight budgets, these sorts of ideas - not to mention the existing plan - are simply not affordable. We're now told that the county's devastating energy tax will probably not "sunset" as scheduled in 2012. We're told that the government would have no way to make up the amount generated by that tax.
So how can we afford a $2.5 billion BRT network, and $170,000,000 a year to operate it in perpetuity?
The BRT proposal is packed with unproven theories, low-lowball cost estimates, grossly over-estimated ridership, and an outsize and unworkable plan to realize it. This BRT initiative needs something not yet applied to it: a critique.
BRT could be very effective in areas of the county currently underserved by transit. The designs proposed could work along corridors like Rt. 185 and Rt. 29, as long as the placement of the lines do not allow for massive town center construction (a.k.a. sprawl).
They also would have to retain the same number of traffic lanes for automobiles.
And because the ideas are unproven, and ridership questionable, a slow rollout of one or two pilot lines is in order. Gauge the results. If the county's wildly-optimistic numbers prove correct, add more.
Surprisingly, no one is calling for a cautious approach to a promising transit concept.
In fact, in the few articles and TV reports about BRT since the beginning, I have not seen a single quote from a critic or even a skeptic of the proposal. The result is the suggestion that "the debate is over," and the only question left is, "how to we pay for it?"
May I submit a few more questions?
1. Why would we build BRT lines parallel to the Metro Red Line? This is a duplicative service. And if automobile commuters are currently refusing to use Metro, why in the world would they board a mode of transit even slower than Metro?
We cannot afford the luxury or absurdity of duplicative rapid transit on 355 or Georgia Avenue. Metro is short on funds. If we have mystery funds to build BRT, or a magical new means to generate them through taxes (as proposed by Council President Roger Berliner and the Transit Task Force), wouldn't that revenue be more effectively spent on increasing capacity on the Red Line between Walter Reed and Shady Grove?
If such money is out there, Richard Sarles would be very interested in speaking with the county!
Metro is a great resource we already have, and a potentially-great system when running at its best. Why would we steal riders and financial resources from it for BRT?
Again, this is why we should concentrate on areas without Metro service; these residents pay for Metro, but don't get the benefit of it. It is certainly rare elsewhere in the country for BRT to run parallel to rail transit. In fact, BRT is implemented for the very reason that it is an affordable alternative to rail for cash-strapped jurisdictions.
2. How would the automatic green light given to BRT at intersections not slow auto traffic, and completely upset the synchronization of stoplights during rush hour? I'm not saying it can't be done, only that they've yet to explain how they'll do it.
3. Where does BRT fit on Georgia Avenue in Wheaton, for example? Widening the road would put vehicles literally at doorsteps of houses along the road.
4. How could we potentially have only 4 travel lanes for cars on 355 and 97, should widening not occur, without grinding traffic to a halt?
5. How do we ensure that the Olney Town Center (old-style definition) and Aspen Hill Shopping Center do not become massive, mixed-use sprawl developments? Will a BRT station automatically qualify properties nearby for high-density growth? (My prediction: Yes, and that is why developers are strongly backing the BRT project).
6. How can we afford BRT and that potential explosive development when we not only have low revenues, but also have other higher-priority projects?
The Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway and Baltimore Red Line are very important projects competing for limited funds.
We also have several road projects that - while few wish to admit it - must be built to handle development the county has already approved in White Flint, Science City, Clarksburg and Damascus:
An I-370 Potomac River bridge, the Rockville Freeway (which connects White Flint with the ICC near Indian Spring Country Club, providing a link between growing employment and housing centers in White Flint, Burtonsville, White Oak, and Columbia), and the M-83 Midcounty Highway Extended on the Master Plan alignment to Clarksburg.
To name a few. Montgomery Mall itself should one day be on a Metro line. And it should come into the mall, just like Prince Georges Plaza. And we could save money collaborating with the District on streetcar service, as I have proposed in the past, and which Councilmember Hans Riemer has also supported.
Again, I personally think there is a lot of potential to have successful BRT routes in certain areas of the county. And some of these projects work together: For example, the Planning Board staff is calling for a BRT route between White Flint and Aspen Hill. Well, they've just described the only such direct road - the Rockville Freeway. This is yet another reason why the Rockville Freeway - delayed for over 50 years - needs to be built.
If we're serious about having a modern, world-class transit and highway system in Montgomery County, we need to start asking these and other questions. And soon.
If not, this runaway bus may end up as a massive drain - much as the ICC has been - on funding for Metro, the Purple Line, the Rockville Freeway, and other critical projects we need, if all of this planned growth is to occur with the quality of life county residents expect and deserve.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I know what you're thinking... "Where do I sign up?" At American Tap Room at Bethesda Row, at the corner of Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street!
Between 4 and 7 PM this evening, order a Flying Dog (a local brewer in Frederick, MD, by the way), Fordham or Magic Hat beer, and American Tap Room will donate 20% of the proceeds to Canines for Veterans.
What is Canines for Veterans? You may remember the event held by Urban Country a few weeks ago, when I posted a photo of two of their dogs on my photos page at www.RobertDyer.net
Canines for Veterans addresses three difficult issues with beneficial results for all involved. First, they rescue dogs from shelters who would otherwise be euthanized. Second, they have a program in which military prisoners train the dogs to be service dogs for wounded veterans. And last, but not least, the trained dogs - who can answer to 70 commands - are paired with wounded U.S. servicemembers.
This is a great cause, and you can make a difference in so many lives today - animal and human - simply by enjoying a happy hour beer at American Tap Room.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
What's better than a sandwich from Taylor Gourmet at Bethesda Row? How about a FREE sandwich from Taylor Gourmet?
One can be yours on December 20 from 11 AM - 8 PM at the shop on the corner of Elm St. and Woodmont Avenue! Or a FREE pasta salad, if you prefer.
But wait, there's more!
Enter the raffle that day to win a prize, such as free hoagies for a year, free catering for your next office party, 4 tickets to a Washington Capitals game or having Taylor Gourmet pay off one of your Bethesda parking tickets!
So stop by on Tuesday and help celebrate Taylor Gourmet's first year in Bethesda.
Monday, December 12, 2011
CHURCH TO BRING
Save the date! St. Dunstan's Church on Massachusetts Avenue in Bethesda will be singing Christmas carols at Bethesda Row on December 20. The public is invited to participate. All you need to bring, they say, is "your Christmas cheer."
Caroling will start at 6:30 PM that evening in front of Barnes & Noble at the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues. Next, participants will walk down to Redwood on Bethesda Lane. Singing will continue, and Redwood will serve hot chocolate.
So if you like Christmas music, or just hot chocolate, make plans to join in on December 20!
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Friday, December 09, 2011
Meet world-famous Chef José Andrés at Jaleo at Bethesda Row tonight from 5:00-7:30 PM!
He'll be signing his best-selling cookbooks, and Jaleo will be serving tapas and refreshments. A cookbook signed by José Andrés himself would be the perfect gift for the aspiring chef on your holiday shopping list. So make sure to stop by.
SUPER SAVINGS AT
Porcelanosa's new showroom on Rockville Pike at Nicholson Lane is celebrating its grand opening with a sale through Dec. 30. Save up to 25% on the finest in Spanish craftsmanship in their tile, bath, and kitchen departments. They have everything you need for a complete kitchen or bathroom renovation. Stop by and find out why celebrities like Prince Charles, George Clooney, Pierce Brosnan, Nicole Kidman, Valeria Mazza and Chef José Andrés use Porcelanosa in their own homes and business ventures!
Watch the Porcelanosa grand opening celebration in this exclusive video:
Here is an exclusive photo album from the grand opening:
And right here at Bethesda Row, City Sports is offering Triple Rewards through this Saturday. That means you'll get 15% off of your total purchase in the form of a gift certificate.
15 YEARS IN
W/ FREE BEER/CAKE
Bethesda restaurant, bar and brewery Rock Bottom is celebrating 15 years in downtown Bethesda, and you're invited!
Tonight from 7-8 PM, stop by Rock Bottom at the corner of St. Elmo and Norfolk Aves. for a FREE glass of their house-brewed "15th Anniversary Ale." And a FREE piece of carrot cake, while supplies last!
Thursday, December 08, 2011
LAND CO. LAUNCHES
FREE "PURPLE LINE"
CHEVY CHASE LAKE
Weekday Service Offers Preview of
Future Transit Connection Today
Another www.RobertDyer.net Exclusive!!!
The Chevy Chase Land Company has launched a free, daily shuttle service between the Bethesda Metro Center and Chevy Chase Lake. Riders can board the shuttle at the Capital One ATM in the Bethesda Metro Center bus bay for departures between 7:00 AM and 6:20 PM, Monday-Friday. The destination point - and departure point for those making the trip in reverse - is the office building at 8401 Connecticut Avenue. This building is right next to the Capital Crescent Trail, a former B&O Railroad right-of-way currently slated to be the route of the Purple Line Metro expansion.
The company's service is remarkable for a number of reasons, and has real utility for residents of downtown Bethesda.
First, having developers sponsor shuttles to Metro stations is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce the impact of future growth on roads and taxpayer wallets. Kudos to CCLC for initiating this shuttle route voluntarily, and before they have even redeveloped their site.
Second, this is likely a goodwill measure as the company prepares to "reset" relations with the surrounding community, after its larger redevelopment proposal fell flat with the neighbors.
But these good intentions may actually get some cars off the road, if employees at Chevy Chase Lake businesses can now take advantage of a free, door-to-door connection with Metrorail. The schedule is not super-extensive, but certainly a good start.
Finally, Bethesda residents (especially those who aren't confined to a 9-5 desk job) can enjoy some new benefits they might not have considered. For example, the independent, family-owned Chevy Chase Supermarket is now just a free shuttle ride away. Explore what they have to offer.
Try out Tavira, one of the few restaurants offering Portuguese cuisine in the D.C. area. It's right in the basement of the building where the shuttle stops.
Take the shuttle over, and then walk back to Bethesda on the CCT for an easy workout. If Chevy Chase Lake gets a bikeshare station in the future, you'll be able to take a bike back, too.
What's the bottom line? Here's a chance to get familiar with a trip that many more people will be making in the not-so-distant future: Bethesda to Chevy Chase Lake to work, shop or dine. I thought the basic idea of adding buildings to Chevy Chase Lake was fairly sound if the Purple Line was part of the plan. However, I did not initially realize the scope and square footage of the project, until plans were revealed. The eventual compromise should take into account the number of cars we can realistically expect the Purple Line to take off of southbound 185 during morning commutes. (The story below explains why that number could be higher than expected, however). It would certainly help if the company continued this free shuttle service after redevelopment. A free ride to Metro is hard to pass up, especially for those who qualify for the perhaps-not-longed-for-this-world generous Metro subsidy.
BODES WELL FOR
A report in the January issue of TRAINS Magazine suggests lowball predictions on Purple Line ridership may be unfounded. Norfolk, VA's Tide light rail service has doubled the ridership numbers planners originally projected. A 7-mile long line, Tide's Lynx-powered service has created such demand that officials are now scrambling to find funds for new ticket machines and a future extension to the naval base.
Many other lines around the country have beaten expectations, too. Here's one idea that might explain Tide's even-greater results: Is there any chance that widely-traveled servicemembers who have been based in transit-advanced European countries are more open to rail service from experience? Given that Bethesda is arguably a military town, too, this could be a factor in the Purple Line's numbers.
Hard to say. That's probably quite a stretch. But the main story here is the doubled ridership in Norfolk. Whatever the reason, citizens nationwide have approved funding for - and are using - these lines as soon as they start operation.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Famous Sandwich Shop Opens Doors on
Bethesda Avenue Yesterday
Another www.RobertDyer.net Exclusive!!!
Yet another long-awaited grand opening has happened in downtown Bethesda. And much like the recent Kraze Burger opening, it was a quietly surprising one.
"Shh!" is the operative word in openings these days in Bethesda. But with the legendary name of Jimmy John's over the door, don't expect this new shop on Bethesda Avenue to stay quiet long!
Whether it's college students home from campus, or graduates with nostalgia for their home on campus, "when will Jimmy John's open?" is the only question that comes up more often than "when will Jetties open?" did over the summer.
Well, get ready to be BMOC or BWOC on Bethesda Avenue, because Jimmy John's is here at last.
Right next to Bethesda favorite Zen Tara Tea, a variety of neon signs beckon you with promises of "Free Smells," "Extremely Fast Delivery" and "Tasty Sub Shop." Once inside, you'll find a clean and retro design, with a dining area of booths about as cozy as you'll find in a sub shop. There are communal areas for larger groups, as well. Light colored walls are interrupted halfway to the floor by a checkerboard pattern that brings the 1950s to mind in a positive sense. Other "they didn't have to" touches that impress include individual covered light fixtures over each table, and nice wood finishes on those table surfaces.
If you're new to Jimmy Johns, there are two large menus to peruse. You have two main menu sections: Subs ($4.50) and Giant Club ($5.50) sandwiches. You've also got lighter options in the Plain Slims ($3.50) and lettuce-wrapped "JJ Unwich" categories. There are Jimmy John's own brand of potato chips, and desserts like homemade cookies are available.
But if you're an old hand at this, you'll step up to the counter and ask for your favorite. Don't worry, it's still on the menu.
I ordered the Turkey Tom, which is perhaps the most popular item on the menu around the country. But there's also The Pepe with ham and provolone, a vegetable sub, the Big John with (medium rare) roast beef, among many others. And for the biggest appetites, only the $7.50 J.J. Gargantuan will suffice.
The Turkey Tom has lots of lean, sliced meat, shredded lettuce that's as fresh as it gets, fresh tomatoes, mayonnaise and sprouts. [I said "hold the sprouts," however. I'm not a sprout person]. All this is loaded onto Jimmy John's' own original French bread, freshly baked each day, and you can really tell that when you bite into it. Everyone has individual preferences about bread; some like a chewier roll while others find those hard to chew. This bread is pretty easy to chew while still holding up to the fillings until the last bite. So that counts as a success in my book, and the great bread flavor is what's most important in the end. Jimmy John's has that.
So give it a try. The weather is bad today, so if you're not right near Bethesda Row, you can give them a call and they'll bring lunch or dinner right to your office or home "so fast you'll freak," as they say.
I have an exclusive video review of Jimmy John's, and you can see the restaurant and the Turkey Tom for yourself.
Jimmy John's joins Taylor Gourmet and Jetties, as well as Jiffy Shoppes and South Street Steaks. And then there are the gyros at Yamas Grill. The Parva has sandwiches on bread baked daily by Chef Andy. And... Well, you get the idea.
Bethesda is now a sandwich capital of the world. Which one is your favorite? Who will prevail, and/or is there a big enough audience of hungry people to support them all?
"Begun, the Sandwich Wars have."
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
The soon-to-open Co2 Lounge in the former McCormick and Schmick's space on Woodmont Avenue will offer pedicab service to patrons. To my knowledge, this is a first in the DC area, and certainly within Montgomery County. Of course, one could argue that pedicabs are more associated with wild nights in certain beach resorts in our area.
Contrast that with the lofty concept proposed by this indoor-outdoor lounge with torches and ultramodern appointments, and a whole new experience may be unfolding steps away from Bethesda Metro Center.
Positioned as Bethesda's first high-end lounge and nightspot, Co2 will also offer limousine service into the District, and discounted rates on rooms at the close by Hyatt Bethesda hotel. Clearly, Co2 is catering to an upscale party crowd, but also a sophisticated one. Art displays, music performances and fashion shows - complete with models' runway! - are planned.
So check out Co2, and don't forget to tip your pedicab driver!
Monday, December 05, 2011
McDonald's Chicken McBites are brand-new, and only available in very limited areas. Fortunately, Bethesda is one of them! Find out all about this new popcorn chicken snack in my exclusive video review:
Friday, December 02, 2011
Bethesda's Winter Wonderland
Saturday at Veterans Park
The annual Winter Wonderland celebration in Bethesda will be this Saturday, at Veterans Park. There will be choral performances and ice carving.
But what do you really want to know? "When does Santa arrive?"
Santa Claus will visit between 2 and 4 PM!