Thursday, March 06, 2008

Nitpicking NPR's New HQ (not really, it turns out)

UPDATE 03/01/08: Current has additional details about the move, including a link to the Washington Post that reveals the new HQ will be property-tax-free for 20 years (that's a HUGE cost savings) and also a link to a FAQ provided by NPR CEO Ken Burns, who - in other news - also left/was-forced-out-of NPR today. The timing kinda stinks on this one, but the reasons percolating out about Ken's departure seem focused more on NPR's strained relationship with affiliates than anything to do with management of the HQ move.

Heh. I don't know what I'd do without my daily fix. :-)

Today it was announced that NPR has chosen the NoMA (North of Massachusetts Ave) neighborhood for their new Washington DC headquarters. I barely even knew that NPR was looking to move, but hey - always exciting to have new digs.

But in reading the Current article, I noticed something immediately when I checked the handy Google Map showing the new and existing locations: the new location isn't near any subway stops.

Granted, the existing place on Massahchusetts Ave just east of Mt. Vernon Square is still a three block walk to either of the two nearest subway stations. But the new place is a six block walk to Union Station.

And supposedly a big decision in this move is to help the "revitalization" of the NoMA neighborhood...which tells me that the neighborhood currently is pretty sketchy. Not the kind of place you'd want to walk six blocks in the dark, ya know? Eh, I'm reading a lot into that statement, though...maybe NoMA isn't so bad, I honestly don't know one way or the other.

Okay, maybe there's buses that go through there...but I'll bet that making the change from subway to bus or vice versa is not a pleasant one. I've never done it in DC, but I've done it in enough cities to know that usually it's not a good way to commute. And I have ridden the DC subways during rush hour and while it's not an unpleasant experience by any means, it is a very looooooong one. Those subways have a lot of ground to cover and man does it take forever. I have to think waiting for a bus adds a ton more travel time to a total commute experience.

However, I will concede that a closer location to Union Station might be beneficial to workers who take commuter trains into the city from the suburbs. I don't know that neighborhood's transit options well enough to judge, nor do I know if most NPR employees use the subway or not. For all I know they all drive and this new place is better with more parking. I doubt that, but it's possible.

Ultimately...on the face of it, I have to wonder if the subway-bound employees of NPR just got screwed. I hope not, and I hope someone who knows DC better will tell me otherwise.

UPDATE: 03/18/08 I had a brief chance to talk to someone who works for NPR about this today...turns out the satellite maps of the area don't really tell the story that well; because of the entrances/exits of both the old and new NPR building, as well as for the metro stops, the new NPR headquarters is actually more convenient to the Union Station metro stop than the old place is to either of the metro stops near it. Also, there's many of the NPR crew that live along the commuter rail lines (esp. towards Baltimore) that all converge on Union this new HQ will be a considerably quicker commute for them.

So...yay for NPR and public transit! :-)

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