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How much could you save with a Metro SelectPass? Use our updated calculator to find out!

WMATA has expanded its new monthly pass program, SelectPass. Now, you can buy a pass for nine different levels of fares based on your travel patterns. What's right for you? We've created a calculator.

Photo by Ken Teegardin on Flickr.

SelectPass gives you a monthly pass for the cost of 18 round trips (36 one-ways) at a price you select. You pick your regular one-way rush-hour fare, from $2.25 to $5.90, rounded to the nearest quarter. Any extra trips of the same or lesser value are free, and more expensive ones just cost the difference between that fare and the single-trip fare.

The cost of the monthly SelectPass, therefore, is 36 times the cost of the fare threshold you choose, ranging from $81 for a $2.25 SelectPass to $212.40 for a $5.90 SelectPass. Is it a good deal for you?

To find out what your savings could be, use the calculator below, which Greater Greater Washington contributor Chris Slatt developed and I adapted and expanded.

We've filled it in with an example representing someone who commutes 20 days a month at rush hour between East Falls Church and Farragut West (40 trips at $3.30 each), and does a round trip in the afternoon between Farragut West and Capitol South once a week (eight trips at $1.75 each). If you don't know how much your trips cost, go to the Metrorail stations page and click on the station where you're starting your trip.

WMATA SelectPass Savings Calculator

In a typical month, how many one-way trips do you take and how much do they cost?

Trips per Month Fare per Trip

Monthly Fares Paid and Savings

Normal Fare: $
Pass level Pass cost Extra fare Total Savings
$2.25 $81.00 $ $
$2.50 $90.00 $ $
$2.75 $99.00 $ $
$3.00 $108.00 $ $
$3.25 $117.00 $ $
$3.50 $126.00 $ $
$3.75 $135.00 $ $
$4.00 $144.00 $ $
$5.90 $212.40 $ $

In the graph above, the green bar shows the pass that is the best deal for you. Blue bars show passes that will also save you money, while those with gray bars will not.


Mark your calendars for our next happy hour Sept. 20 and a few others!

We hope you made it to last week's happy hour, but if you didn't (or if you did!), we're hosting another in September. Some great organizations are putting on others even sooner, and there are plenty of other ways for you to get involved in the world of urbanism as well.

Photo by beyrouth

For our next Greater Greater happy hour, we're heading back to Arlington. Join us Tuesday, September 20 from 6-8pm at Fire Works, located at 2350 Clarendon Boulevard at North Adams Street in Arlington. Fire Works is known for its pizza, but there's also a solid beer list with some local breweries on it.

Fire Works is just two blocks from the Court House Metro station (Orange and Silver lines), though you can also take Metrobus 38B or ART routes 41, 45, or 77. The nearest Capital Bikeshare stations are at the Court House Metro station and at Wilson Boulevard and North Barton Street, two blocks away.

This happy hour is sponsored by the Association for Commuter Transportation Chesapeake Chapter. ACT is an international trade association that advocates for commuter transportation options. Like GGWash, they support commuting by bus, train, bike, and rideshare. Come meet some of their board and members to chat about how the Chesapeake Chapter of ACT is helping improve commuter transportation in our region.

If you can make it, please RSVP here!

This isn't your only upcoming chance to grab a drink and talk transportation, development, and policy in our region. Check out two other happy hours (both of which are being hosted by our friends at the Coalition for Smarter Growth), along with a few other events:

Tuesday, August 30: Get the scoop on the Purple Line and BRT on Route 1 at CSG's Montgomery Happy Hour on Tuesday at 6:30 pm at Fire Station 1 (8131 Georgia Avenue).

Wednesday, August 31: Raise a glass with CSG's staff and Shaw Main Streets on Wednesday at Right Proper Brewing (624 T St NW) at 6:00pm to hear the latest on the organization's DC policy work and what we have on tap for the fall.

Next Wednesday, September 7 or Friday, September 9: The FBI Building on Pennsylvania Ave is going to be redeveloped, and the National Capital Planning Commission is gathering public input to make sure it's done right. Share your thoughts on the land use and design at one of two repeat meetings, both at 401 9th Street NW, Suite 500. On Wednesday, the meeting is at 6 pm and on Friday, the meeting is at 9 am.

Next Wednesday, September 7: Biking, while normally a tech-free activity, is getting hacked. Hear from people from around the region who are finding ways to improve or enhance biking through apps, gadgets, and data visualization like panoramic images of bike trails.

Next Thursday, September 8: How could Ward 4, which includes Petworth, Crestwood, Brightwood, and 16th Street Heights, be a better place to live? The District's Department of Transportation wants to know, and is holding its third public workshop on the matter on Thursday, September 8, at 6 pm at the Petworth Library (4200 Kansas Avenue NW). Share your opinions on transportation, green infrastructure, and sustainability in the area.

Coming soon, PARKing Day: Heads up, on Friday September 16, parking spots around DC will become temporary, pop-up parks as part of DDOT's PARKing Day. Don't forget to check a few out!

Calendar: Beyond what we've highlighted here, there are many other worthwhile events across the region. Check out more great events in our events calendar:

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers that should go on our events calendar? Send it to us at


DC has almost no white residents without college degrees. (It's a different story for black residents.)

One of FiveThirtyEight's great interactive features looks at voters in different groups (college educated whites, Hispanics, etc.) and their effect on the Electoral College. One part graphs each group and its prevalence in various states. This graph really stuck out for how unusual DC is:

Image from FiveThirtyEight.

The X axis here is how much people vote Democratic versus Republican. It's no shocker that people in DC, regardless of race or education level, overwhelmingly vote for Democrats. That's not especially relevant to this discussion. But the Y axis is how prevalent each group is in the electorate; this graph is saying that non-college-educated whites make up only 2% of DC's electorate.

Now, when you graph DC against the 50 states, it often looks like an outlier since it's far more urban than any state. Even so, that percentage of non-college-educated white voters is remarkably small. 2%???

Is that typical of other center cities? In a word, not at all. Here's the percentage of non-Hispanic white residents over 251 who lack a college degree for select center cities (since New York City is big, I included both all of New York and just Manhattan2):

Graphs by the author with data from the Census' 2012 5-year American Community Survey.

For DC, that's 11%. That's super low. Low is good—but it's not low for all groups.

There's a huge chasm between white and black when it comes to education

DC's high level of education among its white residents does not translate to African-Americans. Here is the proportions of whites and blacks without a college education in the same center cities:

These numbers are heart-breakingly high in all the cities. African-Americans, especially in center cities, lack educational opportunities at a tragic rate, perpetuating cycles of generational poverty that America has trapped them in for the nation's entire history (cf. slavery, Jim Crow, racial covenants, redlining, etc.)

To be sure, as in other center cities, DC has a significant black middle and professional class who have access to good jobs. But while most cities have some blacks with opportunity and (more) blacks without, and whites with and (fewer) without, in DC, that fourth category is basically absent.

No major center city does much better on black education levels. San Jose is a little lower, but not much, and its population is only 3.07% black. Does the racial makeup of a city seem to correlate with education levels? Not really:

What about in our region?

This effect isn't the same outside center cities. Here are the same graphs for major jurisdictions in our region2:

Again, DC has the widest gap between black and white, but Arlington isn't far behind (while being far whiter). Howard and Loudoun have the lowest percentage of black residents without bachelor's degrees; Loudoun is only 7% black, but Howard is a somewhat more respectable 17%.

Still, as the scatter plot here shows (and which won't be much surprise to many of you), there are really only three counties in the region with large black populations, and they're geographically adjacent.

The two besides DC—Prince George's and Charles—have little difference in the educational attainment level between blacks and whites (and same for the least diverse county in this list, Frederick). In DC, there's a great gulf.

If you want to play with the data, you can download the Census tables for white, black, and total population for the selected cities; and white, black, and total population for regional jurisdictions.

What do you notice?

1 The Census uses the population over 25 for this, presumably because many people under 25 don't yet have college degrees only due to their age.
2 Aka New York County, NY.
3 Sorry, small independent cities of Northern Virginia; in this analysis, you're not different enough from your adjacent counties to warrant inclusion.


Breakfast links: Yes, you have to build housing

Photo by NCinDC on Flickr.
You promised affordable housing: In 2014, DC controversially approved a development in Mount Vernon Triangle with its required affordable housing in Anacostia. After historic preservation limited the Anacostia building's size, Developer Don Peebles asked if he could build fewer affordable units, but Mayor Bowser said no. (Post)

Losing your joint: A 1999 nuisance law is being used to evict residents over as little as a marijuana joint. The law gives city officials power to sue property owners who fail to stop illegal activity at their properties. (Post)

Low housing alert: Yet another indicator of DC's low housing supply is that more homes have come under contract than have been listed in 2016. The ratio in LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale is higher than the city overall. (Urban Turf)

Hassles of housing: Nationwide Craigslist data confirms a lot of what we suspected about housing prices. (Next City) ... It's not even easy to demolish abandoned buildings, as Baltimore is discovering. (NPR podcast)

Bike lanes for Irving Street?: Bicycling between Brookland and Columbia Heights could get easier. DDOT has narrowed its transportation study to 2 concepts which include protected bikeways through the difficult area. (TheWashCycle)

The price of Purple delays: Delays to the Purple Line after a federal judge blocked the project will cost $13 million per month, according to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. The FTA is asking the judge to reconsider his ruling. (Bethesda Mag)

A better Amtrak: Amtrak got a big loan to purchase 28 new trains and increase the number of trips between DC, New York, and Boston. The new trains also could travel faster if and when tracks are upgraded in the future. (Post)

Sexual harassment, too: A former WMATA employee is suing the agency for sexual harassment by her boss. When she reported it to a supervisor, she says she was told, "maybe this isn't the job for you." (Post)

The loopiest bus: What's the nation's most squiggly bus route? The W2 and W3 around Anacostia and Congress Heights could take the prize. (Next City, LEW)

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VRE's map keeps getting more diagrammatic

Last year, when Virginia's VRE commuter rail system opened a new extension to Spotyslvania, the agency completely redesigned its map. The new version follows a trend for VRE: Every iteration gets more and more like a subway diagram, and less like a true geographic map.

VRE's system map over time. Original images by VRE, compilation by the author.

The new map is at least the third completely different version VRE has tried since its launch in the 1990s. The original map was purely geographic, and oh-so '90s. The second map was a hybrid with simplified geography. The newest is a pure diagram, with equally-spaced station symbols and only the barest nods to geographic context.

It generally makes a lot of sense for transit agencies, and particularly rail providers, to use diagrams instead of geographic maps. Features like the Potomac River's many inlets, or minor curves on the rail lines, aren't information that riders need to know, but they clutter the original map, making it hard to discern the information that does matter. On the other hand, it's useful to know that the Fredericksburg line roughly parallels I-95 and that the Manassas line roughly parallels I-66.

Image from VRE.

Cameron Booth, the internet's foremost expert on transit maps and author of, reviewed VRE's new map in December, calling it a "solid" but "unremarkable" effort.

Across the river in Maryland, the MARC commuter rail map remains completely geographic.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


Sizzling in the Flickr pool

Here are our favorite new images from the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool, showcasing the best and worst of the Washington region.

Adams Morgan. Photo by ctj71081.

Photo by Joe Flood.

MLK Library. Photo by washingtonydc.

Arlington County fair. Photo by Dennis Dimick.

H Street. Photo by Ted Eytan.

Got a picture that depicts the best or worst of the Washington region? Make sure to join our Flickr pool and submit your own photos!


Reports of Metro track defects sat in a database without action for years. One reason: Poor training.

A Silver Line train derailed last month because rail ties had deteriorated and the tracks had moved apart. Metro track inspectors had noticed years earlier, but it was "misclassified" in WMATA's database and never got fixed. Meanwhile, inspectors weren't checking all the places they were supposed to. One big reason for all these failures: bad training.

Degraded rail ties replaced during SafeTrack Surge 6. Image from WMATA.

As we've found out since the derailment, track inspectors weren't properly inspecting interlockings in the rail system, the spots where trains cross over from one track to another. Just like the main tracks, these are supposed to be inspected twice per week.

However, WMATA's top managers don't believe that was occurring, General Manager/CEO Paul Wiedefeld and Chief Safety Officer Pat Lavin explained at a special WMATA Board meeting on Thursday.

These track inspections, along with those automated and performed by the Track Geometry Vehicle, then go into Metro's issue tracking database, MAXIMO.

It would be bad enough if the inspections are potentially missing issues. However, the agency can't even trust the defect reports logged in MAXIMO. In a track integrity report the Federal Transit Administration released two weeks ago, Metro staff say they have only "approximately 75 percent" confidence that the data in MAXIMO is accurate, and thus useful.

To lose track of defects or to not be able to validate data in the system may have contributed to the East Falls Church derailment. The rotten rail tie defect reports were "incorrectly classified" and sat in the system for years without being properly escalated to the more serious priority that they warranted.

Metro has now awarded yet another contract to essentially rebuild its MAXIMO database with new track inspections, re-finding all the track defects that exist so that the agency has a known "good" list of issues in the system. This could be cheaper than trying to weed out the good vs the bad in the existing database.

Training is a big source of problems

Whether train operators are instructed not to set parking brakes overnight or track inspectors don't have the experience to properly identify and log defects, employee knowledge gaps are contributing to Metro's safety problems.

The FTA report said that track walkers go through an 18-week training program before being allowed to inspect the tracks, but that this training is insufficient:

The current training program is based on hiring employees from the street, without prior track knowledge and experience. The training does not provide a formal mentoring program for Track Walkers nor does it provide on-going training, specialized modules or workshops. Recertification and re-qualification appears to be limited to a one hour activity that centers largely on validating an employee's measurement skills. Additionally, there does not appear to be a training or on-going training program for supervisors who oversee the Track Walkers.
The agency is bringing in six Federal Railroad Administration-certified track inspectors for a short-term four-month contract to help give the system a fresh look by outsiders. One of Lavin's goals for this group is that they help give on-the-job training to Metro's nearly 60 track inspectors, some of whom have only been with Metro for maybe a year or two.

Not only is classroom training important, but also the practical hands-on side of it: touching the rails, inspecting fasteners and clips, and so on.

After reviewing the East Falls Church incident, Metro's staff came to the conclusion that "standards are appropriate, [but we] must focus on front line training and enforcing compliance to standards." One of the ways to start rectifying this? Have track walkers work with the experienced inspectors to pick up their habits and learn how to do the job better.

In addition, WMATA commissioned a peer review. from the the American Public Transportation Association. Based on its conclusions, a group from the University of Tennessee will be heading to Metro for two weeks in September. Metro's track inspectors will use these two weeks for additional track inspection training to help fill in knowledge gaps.

Even train operators need more training, according to reports including a recent one from the FTA. Operators aren't familiar enough with where the signals are on the tracks, the proper maintenance and troubleshooting of their trains (especially the newer 7000-series ones), and standard operating procedures of how to store trains in rail yards.

While some issues around both track inspections and train operations are a part of the culture deficiencies that Metro managers are trying to fix, others boil down to simply training employees so they can do their jobs successfully and safely. This is just one of the steps needed to boost morale and rebuild employees' confidence so they can make Metro's rail system once again safe and reliable.


Breakfast links: Sunday service for the streetcar

Photo by mariordo59 on Flickr.
More streetcars, and Sundays too!: The DC streetcar will soon run on Sundays and come every 12 minutes instead of 15, now that all six of DC's streetcar vehicles are operational. (WAMU)

Construction contract triggers resignations: DC Department of General Services chief Christopher Weaver abruptly resigned after the city administrator asked him to fire two staffers who award contracts. The move came right after a Bowser campaign donor lost two big construction bids. (WAMU)

Families fight to stay in Brookland: Residents of Brookland Manor sued the owner to block a sale and redevelopment. The proposal would add units but do away with 4- and 5-bedroom ones, forcing larger families to relocate. (City Paper)

Metro promises better track inspection: Metro officials didn't share any new details about last month's derailment at an emergency WMATA Board meeting, but they did promise changes to the way tracks are inspected. (Post)

The forgotten national parks: The National Park Service doesn't have the money to maintain the dozens of urban national parks in DC, mostly old civil war sites and tiny triangle parks. (WAMU)

High-priced homes: 44% of area residents say the cost of housing makes it harder to reach their financial savings goals. (WTOP) ... To afford a median-priced home in the District, one study said, residents must earn $80,000 per year. (Curbed)

MoCo wrestles with Airbnb rentals: Montgomery County will consider legalizing Airbnb rentals and similar services. Currently, zoning prohibits short-term rentals without a B&B license, but that could change this fall. (Bethesda Beat)

And...: Japan will contribute $2 million to a study on a maglev line between DC and Baltimore. (WBJ) ... Emergency crews evacuated a Silver Spring apartment building just one block away from the recent gas explosion for high carbon monoxide levels. (WTOP) ... The Washington Monument is closing for nine months for elevator repairs. (Post)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.


Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 90

On Tuesday, we featured the ninetieth challenge to see how well you knew the Metro system. Here are the answers. How'd you do?

This week, we got 27 guesses. Nine of you got all five. Great work, Peter K, J-Train-21, Stephen C, Solomon, AlexC, JamesDCane, dpod, Travis Maiers, and We Will Crush Peter K!

Image 1: L'Enfant Plaza

The first image features a Metro pylon directing passengers to the western entrance to L'Enfant Plaza. This entrance is inside the L'Enfant Plaza shopping concourse, and isn't the easiest to find from the street. This pylon bridges the gap between the traditional M-capped pylon on D Street and the mall entrance.

The main clues for this image are the brutalist buildings in the backgound. They're very iconic and should have been easiily recognizable as parts of the L'Enfant Plaza complex. 20 got it right.

Image 2: Grosvenor

The second image shows the pedestrian bridge over Tuckerman Lane connecting Grosvenor station to the Strathmore Arts Center. The curve of this bridge was a clue, since few pedestrian bridges in the system are curved. The two obvious choices are New Carrollton and Grosvenor, which have bridges like this.

However, the bridge at New Carrollton has a sharper curve. The colored lights here are also very distinctive, but if you haven't used the bridge at night, that might not have been helpful. 11 figured it out nonetheless.

Image 3: Braddock Road

The third image shows some new-ish signage at Braddock Road. We discussed these new platform decals in a post several months ago. This is the only station in the system with these markings.

Additional clues include the Alexandria Peak roof style (only King Street has the same canopy) and a blue marker on the train's destination sign. 14 figured it out.

Image 4: Deanwood

This picture shows the north end of the platform at Deanwood. The surroundings here should help you eliminate all the other possibilities. The catenary masts in the background mean this must be one of the Orange Line stations on the eastern end of the line. But the lack of wires eliminates Landover and New Carrollton.

The island platform eliminates Cheverly. The houses mean that this can't be Minnesota Avenue, since DC 295 is just west of the station. That leaves Deanwood. 21 worked out the logic correctly.

Image 5: Naylor Road

The final image shows a view from the platform at Naylor Road. The perspective here means this is an elevated station. The buildings in the distance, Lynhill Condominiums, were another clue.

Aerial images might have helped you narrow this down, by locating the bus loop and park-and-ride. 18 came to the correct conclusion.

Great work, everyone. Thanks for playing!

We're taking a break until the end of September. So take some time to study up and we'll see you on September 27 with week 91.

Information about contest rules, submission guidelines, and a leaderboard is available at


Metro badly needs culture change, everyone agrees. Can it pull it off?

Cross-overs. Guarded 8s. Gauge rods. It's hard for most Metro riders to follow all the talk about track inspection practices, the blistering number of Federal Transit Administration recommendations, and regular single-tracking over one problem or another.

While Metro has many problems with its track inspections, the real problem is deeper. Metro lacks a culture of not just safety, but of getting jobs done properly. The organization hides information from one level to another instead of working together to root out and fix problems.

Photo by Ben Schumin on Flickr.

Frederick Kunkle effectively summarizes the problems with Metro's organizational culture through one recent employment action.

Seyoum Haile, a senior mechanic, had falsified preventive maintenance inspection reports on [a] fan, court documents say. When confronted with discrepancies in those inspection reports during the post-accident investigation, Haile also lied, Metro's management says. ...

[But] Haile, who had been employed with the agency for 13 years, had only been following routine procedure in a workplace where management fostered incompetence and allowed people to make stuff up as they went along. ... Haile's supervisor, Nicholas Perry, acknowledged in arbitration testimony that he gave out pre-signed inspection reports to his crew. The forms said "reviewed by a supervisor," even if that were not the case, a practice Perry testified that he has since discontinued. ...

When mechanics wanted to run a test remotely, they had to contact Metro's Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC). The ROCC staff sometimes put the mechanics on hold, failed to call back, or had trouble locating the correct switch for the fans in question. On one of the last inspections Haile and a co-worker conducted on the fan before the fatal Yellow Line incident, he was heard in the background on an audio recording respectfully trying to help the ROCC official locate the right switch. But the ROCC operator couldn't find it and hung up. He and his coworker went to work on another fan but did not return to the original one.

The ROCC hung up? Are you kidding me? And Perry handed out pre-signed reports and never checked them? Come on.

I worked at an organization (Google) known for its culture, around innovation, around encouraging engineers to pursue crazy ideas with 20% of their time, around launching products in "beta" (at least at that time) to see what happens. Culture didn't come automatically to it or any other Silicon Valley company. They worked hard to communicate and reinforce themes and consider it strongly in hiring.

Metro's culture, clearly, is lacking. Many employees, whether front-line or managers, don't take responsibilities seriously. If employees falsify reports, and their managers encourage them to, and other departments hang up on them without solving a problem, something is very wrong not just with a few people or a department, but a culture.

Paul Wiedefeld is trying to change this

Thursday, the WMATA Board grilled agency managers on this. David Strickland, one of the new federal board members and a former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said, "There has to be a crosscurrent of responsibility among every employee at WMATA, and quite frankly, it's not there. It's not just individual accountability and punishing wrongdoing. We need to have a self-policing culture."

WMATA General Manager/CEO Paul Wiedefeld agreed. He said, "We have years of disconnect between management and employees. I want to reinforce we're all together in this. We respect each other; we're not going to have retaliation." (Many front-line employees have said they didn't speak up for fear of retaliation from their immediate supervisors, just one of many culture problems that have come to light.)

"I think it's a major reset of how we approach our employees, to hold everyone accountable," Wiedefeld went on. "The thousands of employees I've talked to, they want that, they want to get there."

We need Metro to succeed

It's very hard to turn around large organizational culture. It's possible, and people have done it, but companies in this situation are more apt to decline and go out of business than turn around.

That's not an option for Metro. It isn't something we can abandon (earlier, silly Kunkle columns notwithstanding). With all its problems, it's still the nation's second-best subway system.

It's made the Washington region appealing to the many people who want to live in walkable areas with transit to jobs. It's fed residential and job growth in central DC and many mini-downtowns in Maryland and Virginia. And it's made it possible for downtown DC to thrive without needing to cover all of this land in five-story parking garages:

Image from WMATA.

For those of us who think Metro is one of the best things ever to come to this region, it's heartbreaking to see these problems run so deep. They have to get fixed. They just have to. And all of us need to do whatever we can to help that happen.

There may not be much we can do. The board has hired someone, Paul Wiedefeld, to turn around the organization's culture. So far, people in the know believe he can. It's a tough job.

It will be harder if Metro also has no money

One thing we can do is ensure Metro isn't under-resourced. The more time Wiedefeld is spending out convincing local, state, and federal officials to give him the funds he needs to actually make repairs, the less time he can be fixing the management structure.

It's hard to argue that Metro needs money when so many people seem to be drawing salaries and not doing a good job, but an organization that's spending all its effort cutting expenses to the bone isn't an organization that can devote real management attention to reform. It's not a purely zero-sum game and he can and should do both, but some things really require the top manager, and there are only so many hours in a day.

Until they can, Metro is going to keep having layers upon layers of problems, just waiting to pop to the surface when the right conditions arise. Only a culture of working together to fix problems, not cover them up, will get Metro back to the pride of the region. "Culture changes can be generational, and we don't really have generational time to see that our culture changes," said Arlington's Christian Dorsey at the meeting.

I hope the union and management can truly work together to solve this. It's clear that some front-line employees should be fired, but also clear that many middle managers need to be. This won't get fixed by scapegoating anyone or union busting, but it also requires a shared commitment to change the culture, including removing the most toxic members.

Metro's still got a tough path ahead. Let's all root for it to succeed.

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