Post #422: Following on Post #421.

Posted on October 18, 2019

Regarding Post #421, yes, those are transformers.  They sit 9′ from the Maple Avenue curb, and the shorter one is a bit over 5′ tall.

They look like this:

They were marked on the plans (T is for transformer pad), and in fact, they were just about the first thing installed on the site, per Google Street View.

So this isn’t anything new, in the sense that anybody could have known about it if they had been sufficiently interested.

And this doesn’t bother me any.  I don’t eat at Chick-fil-A, I don’t wash my car, my kids won’t walk past that going to and from school, and in general I have no reason to walk that sidewalk.

And we have plenty of ugly utility boxes near the existing sidewalks.  Most are far smaller than these.  I believe all the traffic lights have such boxes.  Here are two in front of Tequila Grande.

I’m just surprised, for several reasons.

The first is the whole beautiful-broad-sidewalks schtick that Town staff use to promote MAC zoning.  I don’t recall seeing even one hulking 5′ tall transformer featured in any of the Town’s pictures of beautiful urban scenes with broad pedestrian zones.  So this doesn’t seem to fit in with the game plan.

Two, obviously, the Town isn’t planning to continue that broad sidewalk, at this location, if the other properties on the block redevelop.  The Town’s whole “walkability” thing has always struck me as kind of illogical and irrational.  So I guess it makes sense that nobody could be bothered to see that the new broad “pedestrian” zone could be extended at some future date.  As I said in the last post, our grandchildren will walk around these transformers.

Three, while we do have some ugly old electrical utility boxes on Maple, I’m frankly surprised that a Town that seems so prissy about how MAC looks would put in some ugly brand-new utility boxes.  And great big ones, to boot.

Fourth, I’d have thought something like this would have been nixed purely from the pedestrian/bicyclist safety aspect due to the lack of sight lines.  It’s a solid metal wall, 5′ tall, 9′ from the Maple curb, located maybe 2′ from the edge of the driveway where cars will exit the Chick-fil-A drive-through.  Drivers in full-size SUVs will plausibly be able to see over it, but drivers in sedans definitely will not.  Sedans will be well across the sidewalk before a driver would be able to see (e.g.) an oncoming bicyclist on the sidewalk.

So to me, it looks like drivers will have almost no time to react to (e.g.) a bicyclist heading down the sidewalk toward McDonalds.  I guess we will just have to rely on the cautious and courteous driving style for which Northern Virginia is so deservedly famous.

After using Google Street View, I don’t see another situation quite like this in Vienna.  The worst, I think, is the driveway next to the Vienna Mattress Firm (end of the row of shops attached to Panera).  But that sits 11′ from the road, and cars typically have four or five feet between the car and the wall of the building.

In summary, for a range of reasons, I did not expect to see the MAC streetscape in front of the Chick-fil-a-car-wash terminated by a couple of hulking transformers.  That wasn’t on the picture the Town (still) uses on its own website.  It’s not how the Town presents the beautiful MAC streetscape.  It bars any smooth continuation of that broad streetscape if the adjacent property redevelops.  And it looks like it creates a pedestrian/bicyclist hazard in our “pedestrian friendly” MAC zone.

But whatever.  It’s now a fixture in the Town of Vienna.  Those big green boxes are electrical equipment, and they are there to stay.