On a usual workday (that it, when there isn’t two feet of snow on the ground) I have a ten-minute walk from my Orange Line station to my client’s facility on Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. It’s a wedge-shaped merger of two buildings bounded by Mount Vernon Square and K Street. If the weather is bad, I can transfer to the Red Line to get to Gallery Place, and save myself some exposure to the wet, but most days are pleasant enough that the transfer isn’t worth the wait.
Google Maps draws the usual path I take, but since I need to make a diagonal across the grid, I actually have a variety of paths to choose from. And my usual strategy is to start walking north, past the sinister looking buildings that house the Voice of America, and past the doorman at the Marriott who is out in all weathers. When I get to an intersection, if the light is in my favor, I cross the street, and if it’s not, I turn (or cross in the other direction). This means that I don’t spend much time at all waiting for lights, and that I end up taking a few different paths over the course of the week. So sometimes I follow H Street all the way down to 7th; sometimes I cut across the frozen steppes of the parking lot on the old convention center site (don’t be fooled by the building outline on the Google Map). Returning in the evening, I follow the same strategy, so some days I’m just retracing my steps, and others I’m all the way down on G Street past the collection of colorful characters hanging out in front of the public library. Evenings I often see the wait staff at Bibiana seated in the dining room for a brief confab before the dinner rush—this is often the only spot where I have to wait for a light change.
There are just a couple of path segments I avoid. I find that morning crossings of 9th Street on the south side of the intersection (the downstream side, if you will) are extra dangerous: I’ve nearly been hit a couple of times by drivers zipping through a left turn into 9th. (Frankly, walking anywhere near Mount Vernon Square can be risky: I see drivers snapping off illegal rush hour left turns at 7th and Massachusetts nearly every day.) And there’s too much evening foot traffic on the blocks of 7th north of the Metro station, so I almost always slide around that.
If I feel like stopping at Starbucks on the way in, I have options: there are at least four within the 12th/New York/K/7th/G pentangle, including one in the brutish superblock of Techworld Plaza.
But the best part of my commute is the countdown walk signals at every corner. A signal that’s showing 20 seconds of green in the crossing direction, for instance, tells me I shouldn’t wait for the change, but should continue down the block. But if it’s only 3 or 4 seconds, I’ll wait. Something I’ve become more scrupulous about is not starting to cross once the red hand comes up. I have found that the D.C. signals are well-calibrated to intersection sizes, and if the hand is up, I need to move fast to get across before the change. The thing is, the street is full of drivers trying to squeeze their crossings in before the light changes, too. And if I’m running across and not watching out for them, I’m going to get pancaked one day.