Friday, September 21, 2018

A Walk Down Q Street

I have done all the touristic sites of Washington, DC manny times over, and trod the river trails. For something new, I checked out DC’s Mid City. An encompassing term for row-house and apartment neighborhoods with shared history: Built up from the Civil War to the 1920’s. Condemned as obsolete housing in the 1950’s. Sent into a downward spiral by 1968 riots and crack-related drug violence of the 1980’s. Rediscovered by creative class yuppies who fixed up homes, before full-scale gentrification by developers.

They were “Urban pioneers” discovering new neighborhoods. Wait: proud, longtime residents have always walked among us. No neighborhood was discovered.
Institutions like the Chinese takeout, has station, and laundromat linger on, surrounded by kitschy cafes and Whole Foods. Real estate appreciation greatly outpaces crime. Urban crime, the depraved violence and grand larceny that Wholesome Americans watch on 10pm news, still occurs. Eventually the crime rate will drop, and pickpockets replace gang members with assaulting fists.
New residents’ children do attend the local public school today, although Old Washington still dominates here.

The further east I walk, the more moderate the houses are. Opulence gives way to working people’s homes. Or what was housing for working people: a duplex in need of repairs inside and out, a tree growing in the brick grout, had an asking price of $700,000.

That was one block from North Capitol Street. You see the US Capitol in full view. Here, very recently, was an open-air drug market. That I am walking through for leisure says how times have changed. There is the Wendy’s. It’s always been there, attracts the working-class crowd. A new elevated bike trail takes me several blocks to Union Station. Now a bustling hub for rail passengers to  New York and the Northeast, it was gutted and repurposed in the disco era, before being restored.

The Soviets made public planning decisions based on science instead of the human element. One example was staggered work schedules in Moscow to eliminate the capitalist plague of rush hour. In America, public policy can be described as carrots and sticks- rewards and punishments that appeal to individual choice. Having people in the city and working in the transit-accessible suburbs (large employers, public and private) makes more efficient use of subway lines, currently packed in the peak direction.

I fly over Washington, about 7 minutes from farmland to the Reagan airport outside of downtown DC. Flying is a rare treat to avoid metropolitan traffic jams. What would it be like to have a 12-minute commute everyday? From DC’s Union Station to New Carrollton, the first suburban commuter rail station on the line? It makes living on Q street appealing to square people.