Just walked a mile in steady drizzle to come write this for you. I like to write in cafes. I stood outside a sandwich shop for 15 minutes like a jerk waiting for it to open after its posted hours, until I pushed on and finished the walk to my office complex. I’m writing this from the obligatory cafeteria of every office building. They make a pretty good ham, egg and cheese.
The reason I am writing so late is that we had an absorbing weekend in New York City. We took the DC2NY bus for the first time. Great, as it leaves from 2 miles from our house, and drives straight to the Penn Station area at 32nd & 8th. Without a hotel, I carried our overnight luggage on our walk from Penn Station, to Chelsea, to the High Line, the Meat Packing District, the subway, and back to Greenwich Village.
Finding things to do in New York was easy. Within two blocks of where the bus dropped us off, there was a block of florists and garden stores. We couldn’t get anything like an 8-foot ficus, but were tempted all the same. The only cargo we got was some artisan marshmallows from a store that had been in the artisan marshmallow and hot chocolate (natch) business since 2008. We had a bagel from one place, and then saw a much better bagel place in two more blocks. We marveled at the meatpacking district, and snuck a picture of five Kardashianoids. The horror. The High Line was loaded with people, including clumsy me with out shoulder bag. There is one picture my wife took of me as a mushroom, luggage on the left, laptop bag on the right.
Walking in New York is nothing like walking in Fairfax. The primary difference is who the place is built for, and how people can get around. Businesses need enough workers and shoppers to get to them to stay in business, and residents need to be able to get to jobs and shopping to live where they do.
In Manhattan, this can be done on foot, because the average height of buildings is well above 5 stories, with many buildings over 20 stories. In Fairfax, whenre the average height of building is around two stories, this is a lot easier in a car, because there are free parking spaces everywhere, and all of the roads are sized to flush the peak traffic load through within 15 minutes.
There is no overwhelming need to leave Manhattan for most of the people we saw, because everything they need is already there. Many of the users of Fairfax are just driving through. Every morning the highway that connects our subdivision to the world is crammed with cars on their way to business 20 miles to the East, and every afternoon they come back on the other side of the road.
There were about as many kids in Manhattan as in Fairfax, but you’d see more kids on the playgrounds in Fairfax than in Manhattan. The kids in Manhattan were out and about with their parents in the streets. I suppose that is the New York equivalent of the minivan.
There aren’t a lot of Subway stops in Chelsea, Meatpacking, and Greenwich Village relative to midtown, just 3 or 4 stops each on the 1 and C/E lines. Fairfax is blessed with one station at the end of the orange line. Commuters are guaranteed a seat, especially compared with the wretches who get on the same line in Arlington County. Commuters may not be guaranteed a parking space, however, as the 800 units of parking in two six story structures fill up by 8:00.
For walking to work in Manhattan, you basically need all of Manhattan to make it work. Fairfax is a great town for traffic, with auto repair, auto dealers, restaurants, groceries, cafes, banks, and all the usual suspects in strip malls, with lots of free parking.
Is it worth it to make Fairfax more walkable, and how?
Part two in a couple of days, I promise.
Why the High Line was a good idea, c. 1910