Saturday, September 24, 2016

New Wheaton Rescue Squad truck placed in service

Today, the Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad (WVRS) placed its new heavy rescue squad truck, Rescue Squad 742, into service.  While the WVRS is not located in Four Corners, units from Wheaton frequently respond to our community for a variety of EMS calls, traffic collisions, and structure fires.  In particular, heavy rescue vehicles from Wheaton cover most of the downcounty area east of Rock Creek, including: Kensington, Forest Glen, downtown Silver Spring, Aspen Hill, Four Corners, and Glenmont.

The new heavy rescue squad vehicle, Rescue Squad 742.  Photo from WVRS.

The rig that was placed in service today is a heavy rescue vehicle, the flagship of the WVRS fleet.  This rescue vehicle is technically a "firetruck", but it doesn't carry water or ladders like most fire apparatus.  Instead, this truck is basically a giant toolbox on wheels.  It carries a plethora of tools and equipment for dealing with a variety of rescue situations.  Most notably, heavy rescue vehicles such as this one carry the "jaws of life", the hydraulic extraction tools used to free people from mangled cars.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Silver Spring & Four Corners

Is Four Corners in Silver Spring?  Most local residents would say yes, but the US Census Bureau says no.  Prior to the 2010 US Census, the Census Bureau had Four Corners as part of the Silver Spring census-designated place (CDP).  For some reason, they made Four Corners its own place in 2010, roughly comprising of Woodmoor, North Four Corners, and South Four Corners.  Indian Spring and the neighborhoods inside the Beltway remained part of the Silver Spring CDP.  

The Silver Spring CDP (dark orange) in 2010, with most of Four Corners left out.  Image from Wikimedia Commons.

I decided to revisit the topic after reading Dan Reed's blog post about what areas people view as Silver Spring.  He and Christy Batta polled 66 people and asked them where they though Silver Spring was.  Of the respondents, 23 of 66 said Silver Spring is "entirely inside the Beltway", which is the correct answer according to the Census, but it's not that simple.  Most Four Corners residents would consider Four Corners to be in Silver Spring, although the Census Bureau views much of Four Corners as independent of Silver Spring in its latest census.  So what's going on here?    

The topic of "where is Silver Spring?" is fascinating to me.  First of all, it shows that few people know or care about census-designated places (CDPs), which give borders to all unincorporated places in America, but the question is an interesting social phenomenon as well.  I wrote on this topic over two years ago, but let's delve a little deeper into the relationship between Four Corners and Silver Spring.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Could Woodmoor have a dog park?

Adjacent to Pine Crest Elementary School in the middle of Woodmoor, there are about 2.1 acres of unused wooded land, between the school and the backyards of homes Hillmoor Drive.  The land seems to have been empty since the neighborhood was built, and before Pine Crest was reconstructed in the 1990's.  It is not part of nearby Pinecrest Park, and it appears to be owned by MCPS.  Could part of this land be made into a dog park?

Looking towards Woodmoor Drive from the wooded area next to Pine Crest.  All photos by the author.

Occasionally, there is some kind of event on the property, such as an Easter egg hunt, but the partially wooded nature of the land makes it unusable for most types of recreation.  The sporadic trees and rolling hills make it difficult play any kind of sport, but there aren't enough trees for it to be fully wooded either (like Northwest Branch).  For these reasons, most people just use this area as a shortcut to Pinecrest Park from the front of the neighborhood, but no one spends much time on the property because there's nothing to do there.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Silver Spring / Takoma Park Restaurant Week 2016

The second annual Silver Spring / Takoma Park Restaurant Week kicked off last night at Not Your Average Joe's restaurant in downtown Silver Spring.  Restaurant week began yesterday, September 6, and runs through Sunday, September 11.  Restaurant week was organized by Councilmember Tom Hucker's office to showcase the diverse array of restaurants in Silver Spring and Takoma Park.

During Silver Spring / Takoma Park Restaurant Week, participating restaurants will offer two-course lunches for $12 and three-course lunches for $17. Two-course dinners will be available for $17 and three-course dinners will be offered for $27.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Flagrant red light running

Along University Boulevard near The Oaks retirement home, there is a pedestrian-activated signal that stops traffic when a button is pushed by a person waiting to cross.  These signals are fairly common on roads in suburban Maryland, and they are visually similar to the type of signals used at fire stations across the state.  They have three stacked lights on each signal head: a big red light, a big yellow light below that, and a small yellow light on the bottom.  When not activated by a pedestrian, they small yellow lights flash in tandem at a steady rate as an advisory to motorists.

The type of signal in question.  The small yellow lights on the bottom flash constantly.  All photos by the author.

While this light is supposed to stop traffic, it doesn't do its' job very well.  After seeing a few motorists run the red light in the past, I decided to go up there and film the light, to see how many I could get on video.  I filmed the below video on Saturday evening, August 20th, and caught at least 15 people running the red light.  I was only there for about 35 minutes.  Some drivers ran it just after it turned red, and others blatantly ran it (without even touching their brakes) several seconds after it turned red.  It's a pretty shocking video:        

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Is it the distance, or the road?

Yesterday, a story aired on WJLA about children who have to walk up to 1.5 miles to Eastern Middle School in often dangerous conditions.  The story focused largely on the distance children have to walk, since any student within 1.5 miles of the school is not eligible for busing per county policy (parents have requested busing to give their kids a safer trip to school).  However, I think this situation is also an opportunity to examine how the design of one road, University Boulevard, makes this walk both uncomfortable and dangerous.

Narrow sidewalks at the curb are standard on most of the county's six lane roads.  They're also known to be the most dangerous pedestrian facility imaginable.  Photo by the author.

Eastern Middle School draws a large portion of its students from the neighborhoods south of the school along the University Boulevard East corridor, from Franklin Knolls down to New Hampshire Estates.  From any one of these neighborhoods, walking along University Blvd is the most direct route to reach the school, since adjacent neighborhood streets are disconnected or very indirect.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Four Corners could use more public art

We don't have much in the way of public art here in Four Corners, but wouldn't it be nice if we had more?  One of the more visible forms of public art are murals, of which there are many in Silver Spring and Takoma/Langley.  Most of these seem to be on the sides of commercial buildings, where formerly blank walls are now filled with colorful scenes.   

Refugee inspired mural on the side of Kefa Cafe in Silver Spring.  Photo from Mural Locator.

Mural on the side of Whole Foods in Silver Spring.  Photo from Mural Locator.