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Washington, D.C. Metro

Washington Metro

The Washington Metro, commonly called Metro and branded Metrorail, is the rapid transit system serving the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area in the United States. It is administered by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which also operates Metrobus service under the Metro name. Besides the District, Metro serves several jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia. In Maryland, Metro provides service to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties; in Virginia, to Arlington and Fairfax counties and the independent city of Alexandria. The system is currently being expanded into Loudoun County, Virginia. The Metro service area is largely coextensive with the inner ring of the Washington metropolitan area. It operates mostly as a subway in the District itself, while most of the suburban tracks are at surface level or elevated.

Opened in 1976, the network now includes six lines, 91 stations, and 117 miles (188 km) of route.

Metro is the second-busiest rapid transit system in the United States in number of passenger trips, after the New York City Subway. There were 215.3 million trips, or 712,843 trips per weekday, on Metro in fiscal year 2015. In June 2008, Metro set a monthly ridership record with 19,729,641 trips, or 798,456 per weekday. Fares vary based on the distance traveled, the time of day, and the type of card used by the passenger.

A view of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Monticello was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, who began designing and building Monticello at age 26 after inheriting land from his father. Located just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, in the Piedmont region, the plantation was originally 5,000 acres (20 km2), with Jefferson using slaves for extensive cultivation of tobacco and mixed crops, later shifting from tobacco cultivation to wheat in response to changing markets.

Jefferson designed the main house using neoclassical design principles described by Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, subsequently reworking the design through much of his presidency to include design elements popular in late 18th-century Europe and integrating numerous of his own design solutions. Situated on the summit of an 850-foot (260 m)-high peak in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap, the name Monticello derives from the Italian for “little mount”. Along a prominent lane adjacent to the house, Mulberry Row, the plantation came to include numerous outbuildings for specialized functions, e.g., a nailery; quarters for domestic slaves; gardens for flowers, produce, and Jefferson’s experiments in plant breeding — along with tobacco fields and mixed crops. Cabins for field slaves were located farther from the mansion.

At Jefferson’s direction, he was buried on the grounds, in an area now designated as the Monticello Cemetery. The cemetery is owned by the Monticello Association, a society of his descendants through Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. After Jefferson’s death, his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph sold the property. In 1834 it was bought by Uriah P. Levy, a commodore in the U.S. Navy, who admired Jefferson and spent his own money to preserve the property. His nephew Jefferson Monroe Levy took over the property in 1879; he also invested considerable money to restore and preserve it. In 1923, Monroe Levy sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF), which operates it as a house museum and educational institution. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1987 Monticello and the nearby University of Virginia, also designed by Jefferson, were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Flying over the Colorado River

Flying over the Colorado River

Flying over the Colorado River

The Colorado River is one of the principal rivers of the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico (the other being the Rio Grande). The 1,450-mile (2,330 km) Colorado River drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven U.S. and two Mexican states. Starting in the central Rocky Mountains in the U.S., the river flows generally southwest across the Colorado Plateau and through the Grand Canyon before reaching Lake Mead on the Arizona–Nevada border, where it turns south toward the international border. After entering Mexico, the Colorado approaches the large Colorado River Delta at the tip of the Gulf of California between Baja California and Sonora.
Known for its dramatic canyons and whitewater rapids, the Colorado is a vital source of water for agricultural and urban areas in much of the southwestern desert lands of North America. The river and its tributaries are controlled by an extensive system of dams, reservoirs, and aqueducts, which in most years divert its entire flow to furnish irrigation and municipal water supply for almost 40 million people both inside and outside the watershed. The Colorado’s large flow and steep gradient are used for generating hydroelectric power, and its major dams regulate peaking power demands in much of the Intermountain West. This intensive consumption has dried up the lower 100 miles (160 km) of the river, such that it has reached the sea only a few times since the 1960s.

Beginning with small bands of nomadic hunter-gatherers, Native Americans have inhabited the Colorado River basin for at least 8,000 years. Between 2,000 and 1,000 years ago, the river and its tributaries fostered large agricultural civilizations, which may have been some of the most sophisticated indigenous cultures in North America. These societies are believed to have collapsed because of a combination of severe drought and poor land use practices. Most native peoples that inhabit the basin today are descended from other groups that settled in the region beginning about 1,000 years ago. Europeans first entered the Colorado Basin in the 16th century, when explorers from Spain began mapping and claiming the area, which later became part of Mexico upon its independence in 1821. Early contact between foreigners and natives was generally limited to the fur trade in the headwaters and sporadic trade interactions along the lower river.

After the greater Colorado River basin became part of the U.S. in 1846, the bulk of the river’s course was still largely the subject of myths and speculation. Several expeditions charted the Colorado in the mid-19th century, one of which, led by John Wesley Powell in 1869, was the first to run the rapids of the Grand Canyon. American explorers collected valuable information that would later be used to develop the river for navigation and water supply. Large-scale settlement of the lower basin began in the mid- to late-19th century, with steamboats providing transportation from the Gulf of California to landings along the Colorado River that linked to wagon roads into the interior of New Mexico Territory. Lesser numbers settled in the upper basin, which was the scene of major gold strikes in the 1860s and 1870s.

Major engineering of the river basin began around the start of the 20th century, with many guidelines established in a series of domestic and international treaties known as the “Law of the River”. The U.S. federal government was the main driving force behind the construction of hydraulic engineering projects in the river system, although many state and local water agencies were also involved. Most of the major dams in the river basin were built between 1910 and 1970, and the system keystone, Hoover Dam, was completed in 1935. The Colorado is now considered among the most controlled and litigated rivers in the world, with every drop of its water fully allocated.
The damming and diversion of the Colorado River system have been opposed by the environmental movement in the American Southwest because of the detrimental effect on the ecology and natural beauty of the river and its tributaries. During the construction of Glen Canyon Dam, environmental organizations vowed to block any further development of the river, and a number of later dam and aqueduct proposals were defeated by citizen opposition. As demands for Colorado River water continue to rise, the level of human development and control of the river continues to generate controversy.

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip, long exposure night shot.

Rockin’ the Las Vegas Strip…

2010, William Carty

A desert metropolis built on gambling, vice and other forms of entertainment, in just a century of existence Las Vegas has drawn millions of visitors and trillions of dollars in wealth to southern Nevada. The city was founded by ranchers and railroad workers but quickly found that its greatest asset was not its springs but its casinos. Las Vegas’s embrace of Old West-style freedoms—gambling and prostitution—provided a perfect home for East Coast organized crime. Beginning in the 1940s, money from drugs and racketeering built casinos and was laundered within them. Visitors came to partake in what the casinos offered: low-cost luxury and the thrill of fantasies fulfilled.

In 1905 the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake railroad arrived in Las Vegas, connecting the city with the Pacific and the country’s main rail networks. The future downtown was platted and auctioned by railroad company backers, and Las Vegas was incorporated in 1911.

Nevada outlawed gambling in 1910 but the practice continued in speakeasies and illicit casinos. By the time gambling was legalized again in 1931, organized crime already had roots in the city.

In 1931 construction began on the massive Boulder Dam (later renamed the Hoover Dam), drawing thousands of workers to a site just east of the city. Casinos and showgirl venues opened up on Fremont Street, the town’s sole paved road, to attract the project’s workers. When the dam was completed in 1936, cheap hydroelectricity powered the flashing signs of Fremont’s “Glitter Gulch.”

In 1966 Howard Hughes checked into the penthouse of the Desert Inn and never left, preferring to buy the hotel rather than face eviction. He bought other hotels too—$300 million worth—ushering in an era in which mob interests were displaced by corporate conglomerates.

In 1989 longtime casino developer Steve Wynn opened the Mirage, the city’s first mega-resort. Over the next two decades the strip was transformed yet again: Old casinos were dynamited to make room for massive complexes taking their aesthetic cues from ancient Rome and Egypt, Paris, Venice, New York and other glamorous escapes.

Casinos and entertainment remained Las Vegas’ major employer, and the city grew with the size of the resorts and the numbers of annual visitors. In 2008, even as residents faced recession,rising unemployment and a housing price collapse, the city still received nearly 40 million visitors.