Washington, D.C. facts
|District of Columbia|
|Motto: Justitia Omnibus (Justice for All)|
Location of Washington, D.C., in the United States and in relation to the states of Maryland and Virginia.
|Federal district||District of Columbia|
|Approved||July 16, 1790|
|Granted limited self-government||1973|
|Named for||George Washington|
|• Mayor||Muriel Bowser (D)|
|• D.C. Council||Kwame R. Brown (D), Chair|
|• Federal district||68.3 sq mi (177.0 km2)|
|• Land||61.4 sq mi (159.0 km2)|
|• Water||6.9 sq mi (18.0 km2)|
|Elevation||0–409 ft (0–125 m)|
|Population (2011 estimate)|
|• Federal district||617,996 (24th in U.S.)|
|• Density||10,065/sq mi (3,886/km2)|
|• Metro||5.58 million (7th in U.S.)|
|Time zone||EST (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|ZIP code(s)||20001-20098, 20201-20599|
Washington, D.C. is the capital city of the United States. It is not a state or in a state. The President of the United States and many major national government offices are in the city. Thus, it is the political center of the United States.
Washington was named after the first U.S. President, George Washington. The "D.C." stands for "District of Columbia", a special area created that is not a state. At first, it was made up of a piece from Virginia south of the Potomac River and a piece from Maryland north of the Potomac River. In 1847, Virginia's piece was returned to it, and is now Arlington County and part of the city of Alexandria. Since 1847, all of Washington D.C. is on the north side of the Potomac River. Washington, D.C. used to have other small towns that used "D.C.". These include Georgetown, D.C. and Alexandria, D.C.
Since 1800, Washington D.C. is the home of all three branches of the U.S. government: Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. All of the major political parties are based here. It is also the home of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Organization of American States (OAS). Because it is the home of the President and is important to American politics, many groups hold large demonstrations and protests. These are often on the National Mall, a large open park that has many monuments and museums. Washington D.C.'s many museums and monuments make it a popular place for tourists to visit.
Washington D.C. is called many things by many different people. It can be called D.C., The District of Columbia, The District, or sometimes just Washington. This can be confusing because there is also a U.S. state called Washington. To help with the confusion, sometimes the state of Washington is called "Washington State". In 2005, the United States Census Bureau said that about 582,049 people live in the District of Columbia.
When English people first came to the area, there was a Native American village on the spot called Nakochtank. This name survives in the name of the Anacostia River. This river was known for the healing properties of its pure water, and it is recorded that the Emperor Powhatan, who lived in what is now Richmond, Virginia, made the trip all the way to Nakochtank once for this reason. Today this river is one of the most polluted in the world.
The 1789 United States Constitution said that a capital city would be created in a district, but did not say where it should be. James Madison and others thought it should be far away from other states and cities. This way, it would be independent and not controlled by any state. In 1790, a was reached and capital was placed between Virginia and Maryland. It was a square, ten miles (16 km) long on each side, and split by the Potomac River, which separated the two states. Half of the district was in Maryland and the other half was in Virginia, and the two states gave this land to the government. In 1791, it was named Washington, the District of Columbia to honor George Washington. Columbia was another name for North America.
Washington, D.C. was planned before it was built. Pierre L'Enfant drew a plan for the city that said where all the streets, parks, and important buildings would be. Unlike most U.S. cities, D.C. has many roundabouts or traffic circles. The city was supposed to have long and wide avenues, and many open spaces for monuments and parks. The National M
Washington, D.C. is not a state, and its citizens have less control over their city than most Americans. While D.C. has an elected mayor and a city council since 1973, the U.S. Congress controls the local government and can overturn or get rid of any local laws. Congress and the people of D.C. often do not agree on what is best.
The license plates on the cars in Washington D.C. say "Taxation Without Representation." This is a protest from people who live in Washington, D.C. about having to pay taxes to the United States without having a vote in the United States House of Representatives. It resembles the protest made by colonists before the American Revolution about having to pay taxes to England. Some people are against letting Washington, D.C. have a Congressman or Congresswoman because the Constitution only allows states to have Congressman or Congresswomen. Other people are against it because Washington, D.C. government is almost completely Democratic Party controlled.
Performing arts and music
Washington, D.C. is the center of the nation for its arts. The National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera, and the Washington Ballet are all inside the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Kennedy Center Honors are given every year to the people who have greatly helped the cultural life of the United States. The President and First Lady usually go to the Honors ceremony.
According to a 2010 study, Washington-area commuters spent 70 hours a year in traffic delays, which tied with Chicago for having the nation's worst road congestion. However, 37% of Washington-area commuters take public transportation to work, the second-highest rate in the country. An additional 12% of D.C. commuters walked to work, 6% carpooled, and 3% traveled by bicycle in 2010.
Washington has very few freeways. The funds that had been dedicated for freeway construction were instead redirected to the region's public transportation infrastructure. The interstate highways that do continue into Washington, including Interstate 66 and Interstate 395, both terminate shortly upon entering the city.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates the Washington Metro, the city's rapid transit system, as well as Metrobus. Both systems serve the District and its suburbs. Metro opened on March 27, 1976 and presently consists of 86 stations and 106.3 miles (171.1 km) of track. With an average of about one million trips each weekday, Metro is the second-busiest rapid transit system in the country, after the New York City Subway. Metrobus serves over 400,000 riders each weekday, making it the nation's sixth-largest bus system. The city also operates its own DC Circulator bus system, which connects commercial areas within central Washington.
Union Station is the main train station in Washington, D.C., and handles about 70,000 people each day. It is Amtrak's second-busiest station with 4.6 million passengers annually and serves as the southern terminus for the Northeast Corridor and Acela Express routes. Maryland's MARC and Virginia's VRE commuter trains and the Metrorail Red Line also provide service into Union Station. Expansion plans announced in 2011 will make Union Station the city's primary intercity bus transit center. A new streetcar system will open in 2016.
Three major airports serve The District. The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is across from downtown Washington in Arlington, Virginia and has its own Metrorail station. Major international flights arrive and depart from Washington Dulles International Airport, 26.3 miles (42.3 km) west of the District in Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia. Dulles will have a Metrorail station in 2016. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is 31.7 miles (51.0 km) northeast of the District in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
National Public Radio headquarters, located at Mount Vernon Square
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