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Buying a home for the next phase of my life

Being the end of Gen-X, I consider myself a blend of Gen-X and Millennial. Like many people in my age cohort, I moved to DC for a good paying job, urban scenery, and transportation options. When I purchased my condo in 2005, I was single with no immediate plans to have children. I lived in my condo for ten years, then I moved into an apartment to get a change of scenery. I still own my condo and I do not have immediate plans to sell it. After two years of renting an overpriced apartment, I’m ready to get back into living in my own home. However, this time I’m in a committed relationship with near-term plans for children.

We started the home buying process by exploring different neighborhoods in the District. Many variables that are important to me now when buying a home, weren’t important to me when I was younger. I’ve quickly learned that as the people enter different phases of life, their housing priorities change. An important question for major metropolitan areas like DC is, can my changing needs be accommodated within my budget? Here are some of the variables I’m currently considering:

Affordability: Affordable housing is a loaded term. You can ask ten people and get ten different definitions. For my purposes affordability means we can pay the mortgage and household bills on one person’s salary or we are able to rent out part of the home to substantially subsidize our mortgage. I like to travel, so I don’t want to be house poor where we only have enough money to pay the bills. I realize capping that number limits being able to live in some of the hotter real estate areas of DC.

Location is Still Important: Living in the District of Columbia near a Metrorail station and/or high-frequency bus lines is still a non-negotiable for me. While living with my dad in Potomac, a Washington DC suburb, getting to work required driving to Metro then taking the red line to the orange/blue to L’Enfant. On a perfect day, the trip took 90 minutes door-to-door. When I was looking for a home in 2005, getting to work in 30 minutes or less was a requirement, so I ended up with a condo that was a 25-minute bus ride from my job. Now my apartment is a 25-minute commute to my current office by metro, bus, or biking.

Having a shorter commute allows me to have the lifestyle I desire. When I had a long commute, my life during the week consisted of working, commuting, and sleeping. Since I’ve been living in the District, my shorter commute means I have more time to hang out with friends, participate in activities, or enjoy a quiet evening at home. For my next home, I want to maintain my current lifestyle.

Low Maintenance Green Space: I have never cut grass in my life. When I was young, we had a landscaper who maintained our yard. One of the reasons I bought a condo was to avoid cutting the grass or shoveling the sidewalk. I love the fact that the community where my condo is located has grass, trees, and flowers, but the apartment community where I live now does not have any green space. As I think about my next home, I’ve decided that I would like some low maintenance green space.

Schools are a Thing Now: Twelve years ago, I didn’t research neighborhood schools. I didn’t have kids, so living near a good school wasn’t a deal breaker for me. Now, as I think about having a family, schools are so much more important. I find myself researching the public-school boundaries and quality of those schools, as well as public charter schools. Ideally, I would like to live in a community where my future kids can walk and/or bike to school.

Walkability is Crucial: Walkability wasn’t a factor in my last home purchase, but it sure is now. When I lived in my condo, I could walk to open space, recreation centers, the library, and several other amenities, but not a quality grocery store or places to eat healthy food. My current apartment is located in an area that is rich in all of these amenities. Living in this neighborhood has made me realize how important walkability and neighborhood amenities are to me. While I understand many areas aren’t as amenity rich as where I live now, neighborhood amenities are high on my list.

Space is a Trade-Off: When I bought my condo, I was adamant that I lived in a two bedroom home even though I was living alone. In my twenty-something mind, I felt like I needed the extra space. I even considered living in four bedroom homes.  For almost four years, my second bedroom in my condo went unused and eventually became my dogs’ room. Now that I’m older and wiser, I don’t have the same need for extra space. Ideally, my next home would have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, though I’d be willing to buy a home with two bedrooms and two bathrooms if it has more of the requirements and ideals I’ve listed above.

Will I find everything I want?

As I embark on this house hunting journey, the biggest challenge for me is finding a home for the next phase of life that is within our budget and has all of amenities that we desire. For example, homes around the Deanwood Metrorail Station meet our space and affordability needs, but lack neighborhood amenities. On the other hand homes in Columbia Heights offer amenities, but don’t fit our budget. Will we find the perfect home? I’ll keep you up to date as we move through the process.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

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The Need for Speed

GIF from the movie Top gun where two pilots are walking along an air field with planes in the background, one says "I feel the need, the need for speed" and they high five each other enthusiastically

Speed is everywhere for human beings. It’s in our music (Speed Playlist), our movies (Cars, Fast and Furious franchise), our TV shows, our sports, it influences what we buy (Fast Action!), how we eat (Fast Food, Fast Casual). Speed is often seen as a good thing, a selling point, a marketing tool. And I get it, speed is exciting, it’s an adrenaline rush. The need for speed is directly related to the one thing that humans can’t get more of- time. We don’t have time to waste these days. The faster we can get through the monotonous, the mundane, or even tasks or situations we want to be involved in, the more time we have for ourselves, with our families, friends, and doing things we enjoy.

The need to take risks and go fast in our cars is somewhat biological. That pesky dopamine is responsible for our motivation to take risks and accomplish something. Even if that something is as simple as getting to brunch on time even when you know your friends are always late.

But here’s the thing, when it comes to traffic safety, speed kills. The faster a person is driving a car when it strikes a person walking is directly proportional to whether the person who was walking goes home to their friends, family, cat, dog, goldfish or whatever.

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According to the principles of Vision Zero, speed is the most critical factor of safety. Slower vehicle speeds result in less severe crashes and increase the likelihood that a person be able to walk away from that crash. It may be frustrating when you are sitting in traffic when you’d rather be frolicking in a field of daisies or on a beach or at home, binging on Netflix in your comfy pants. As the saying goes, no loss of life is acceptable.

Vision Zero focuses on putting human life and health above all else with the belief that no one should be seriously injured or killed while wheeling, walking, biking, driving, or using transit to and from their destinations. Whatever the reason and whatever situation you are coming from or are in, we are all sharing the road and no one wants to be killed, injured, or kill someone else while just trying to get to where they need to go.

You can avoid speeding by:

  1. Give yourself more time. This is the DC metro region, home of some of THE WORST traffic congestion in the US. When planning your travel in the region, account for congestions and give yourself an extra half hour. If you get to your destination early, take a walk around or smell the flowers. This includes waking up earlier, mapping your route, checking the news and traffic or metro alerts before you go.
  2. Avoid feeling pressure to speed by other drivers. If you are moving slower, keep right. Just like riding a metro escalator- walk left, stand right. If you see a driver getting frustrated behind you, take a deep breath and smile, wave, or blow a kiss. As my husband likes to say “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”. And it’s not a challenge to your man-/woman-hood if someone tries to pass you. In the words of New Edition, cool it down. 
  3. If you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a breath, try to relax. Deep breath in and out. Put on some classical music or light hearted music. The bus in front of you is carrying more people than you are, and its existence means less cars on the road. The person crossing the road is someone’s family, friend, and/or co-worker.
  4. Slow your mustang down. Be mindful of your speed as you are traveling. Residential areas and areas near schools, recreation centers, churches, senior centers, and other areas with lots of people walking around them are places to be especially alert.

Stay safe out there everyone!

 

Christine E. Mayeur is an urban planner with a unique set of skills and hobbies, interested in all things creative and challenging. Christine uses her history of working with communities through grassroots organizations along with her planning skills to help plan transportation systems and environmental solutions that meet the needs of all users.

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Tama (Cat) – The Friendly Stationmaster

When you saw the title, you probably thought I was a little bit crazy!  How could a cat be a Railway Stationmaster? However, in Japan, a cat named Tama was hired to be a stationmaster. It’s quite hilarious!

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Source: http://www.iridetheharlemline.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/1_.jpg

Tama was the stationmaster at Kishi Station, on the Kishigawa line, in the City of Kinokawa, Japan.  In 2004, the station was nearly shut down due to financial problems. But citizens insisted to keep it open until 2006. In cutting the budget, a stationmaster needed to be selected from employees of local businesses nearby. It was then, Station Manager Koyama adopted a cat named Tama, and Koyama promoted his cat as the Stationmaster of Kishi Station in January 2007.

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Although her job was to greet people, she took lots of naps. Tama became the first cat Stationmaster in the world and the only female working at the Station. People traveled all over come to see Tama, and due to her fame, approximately 1.1 billion Yen was added to the Kinokawa economy by the end of 2007.  With more people traveling to Kishi, business was booming. This led to a boom in goods and souvenirs sold. Tama saved this station, and made it one of the most popular station in Japan.

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Source: https://www.hisgo.com/us/destination-japan/wakayama/tama_cat.html

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Source: https://www.hisgo.com/us/destination-japan/wakayama/tama_cat.html

Some train and taxis have pictures of Tama painted on them. The city really embraced the unique character of Tama.

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Source: http://www.greenshinto.com/wp/2015/08/12/cat-shrine/

In 2010, Tama was promoted as “Operation Officer” in recognition of her contributions, and her sister and mother became Assistant Stationmasters.  Sadly, Tama died in June 2015 of heart failure. Not long after, her apprentice Nitama (another cat) became the new stationmaster.

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Source: http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/24/travel/new-cat-stationmaster/index.html

Using an animal as an official mascot isn’t new but it is different in the field of transportation. Having Tama as a symbol of the station was an interesting way to draw customers and visitors. I love interesting communities and I’m sure there are many people who are fond of cats and dogs. In the District, people who love cats can go to the Crumbs & Whiskers Coffee Shop. They are popular because people who love cats can spend their whole afternoon surrounded by cats while having their coffee?

Do you know any other similar stories about places that became famous because of animals?

Check out this Animal Planet video of Tama, the stationmaster

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Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion in urban and landscape design, she also enjoy looking for the variety culture inside of the city.

 





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