Category Archives: Uncategorized

Metro FAQ: Why doesn’t Metro have four-track routes?

Ten years ago, when Metro was still working well enough for people to wish for more, the more frequent question I got was about the lack of a Metro station in Georgetown. Now that the challenge is to keep the current system functioning, the question is why Metro has only two sets of tracks on each route, so that shutting one down for repairs causes slow service.

In my research, I found two documents that explained the decision particularly well.
Continue reading

How Congress Undercut Its Own City’s Subway System

Published: “How Congress Undercut Its Own City’s Subway System,” POLITICO Magazine, 16 March 2016.

The most recent maintenance issues are just the latest consequences of a longer pattern of uncertain, interrupted federal financing that began while Metro was still just a paper proposal. Metro was born and built in financial jeopardy. Now, like so much of the nation’s infrastructure, it needs reinvestment, and that challenge may prove greater than the effort to build it in the first place.

Journal of Urban History Reviews The Great Society Subway

Carlton Basmajian includes The Great Society Subway in a review essay for the Journal of Urban History, finding it “an insightful exploration of the intellectual ferment at the heart of urban planning in the 1960s.” I am honored to be mentioned in the company of Mark Rose, Bruce Seely, Paul Barrett, and John Stilgoe, all of whom were inspirations as I wrote the book.

Basmajian, Carlton. “Transportation and Power.” Journal of Urban History 38, no. 6 (November 2012): 1114–1120. doi:10.1177/0096144212449147.

Can Professors Use Private E-Mail for Most Communications?

In an interview marking his ascendancy to the AHA presidency, William Cronon tells the Chronicle of Higher Education, “I now use my university e-mail address only for communicating with students and for doing administrative work for the university.”

Sarah Palin was criticized for allegedly conducing public business on a private, Yahoo! account. Could Cronon face similar challenges? And how often are Bill Cronon and Sarah Palin mentioned in the same paragraph?

Wary eyes on Dulles rail project’s bottom line

Dana Hedgpeth, “Wary eyes on Dulles rail project’s bottom line,” Washington Post, 1 October 2011.

The original Metro system was estimated to cost $2.5 billion in 1969, but it came in at $3.8 billion — not counting inflation, according to Zachary M. Schrag, associate professor of history at George Mason University and author of “The Great Society Subway,” a history of Metro.

“It would be somewhat surprising for a major rail transit project to be completed on budget,” Schrag said. “Most major projects of any kind go over budget, that includes road projects, weapons systems, space programs, stadiums.”

Typically, overruns hit because it is hard to predict the cost of such expenses as materials and the relocation of utilities in a construction area, Schrag said. “It is kind of a vicious spiral where people low-ball the estimates to get their project approved,” he said.

Reboot

Welcome to the latest version of my professional website. Since 1996, this site has appeared under various addresses. First, I wrote the HTML by hand. Then I tried Dreamweaver. Then I went to a WordPress installation on a shared hosting service. In March 2011, part of that site was hacked, and in trying to fix the damage, I broke WordPress. So I have now moved the site to WordPress.com, in the hopes that it will be more resistant to both hacking and to my own bumbling. Wish me luck!