Greater Greater Washington

Posts in category Roads

Maryland's rural economy depends on its urban and suburban areas

Maryland's incoming Republican governor, Larry Hogan, says he wants to boost the state's economy by building roads instead of transit and focusing on the state's rural areas over urban ones. But starving urban areas of their needs will only bring the entire state down.


Rural Maryland depends on this, too. Photo by the author.

Ever since his election last month, Hogan has been noncommittal about the state's two biggest transit projects, the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and the Red Line in Baltimore. Maryland's transportation priorities are "out of whack," he told Post columnist Robert McCartney, adding, "Less than 10 percent of the people use mass transit. Most people in the state want the roads to be fixed."

That's an appeal to rural voters who elected Hogan based on a claim from him and his supporters that there's a "war on rural Maryland." But with the majority of Maryland's population and jobs, urban areas drive the state's economy, and public money spent there goes a lot farther than it does elsewhere.

The "war on rural Maryland"

Hogan's comments reflect the conflicting views rural Marylanders have of the state's urban and suburban areas, especially Montgomery, Prince George's, and Baltimore City, the three jurisdictions that voted for his opponent, Democrat Anthony Brown. On the one hand, rural counties depend on them. They go shopping at malls in Montgomery, send their kids to big state schools like College Park, or attend athletic events in Baltimore.

And it shows. Montgomery County alone had one out of every five jobs in Maryland in 2011, according to the Census Bureau. Add Prince George's and Baltimore City and you have 45% of the state's jobs. Add Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Howard counties, which voted for Hogan but are also urbanizing, and together they hold three-fourths of the state's jobs.

These areas are also leading the state's job growth. Of the 213,000 jobs added in Maryland between 2002 and 2011, 60% went to one of those six jurisdictions, and 28% went to Montgomery County. Montgomery County sends more in tax revenue to the state than it gets back because it's distributed to rural counties.

Yet rural lawmakers claim they're under attack from urban and suburban counties, with their liberal politics and diverse populations. Five counties in Western Maryland even tried to secede last year. Meanwhile, Carroll County won't allow its transit service to leave the county to keep out "criminals" from Montgomery.

Urban areas drive Maryland's economy

Larry Hogan is right about Maryland's transit use: statewide, just 8.8% of commuters use public transit, according to the 2012 American Community Survey. But that's because the state has built so many roads and so little rail transit. Just as you can't judge the demand for a bridge based on how many people are swimming across the river, you can't say we don't need transit because few people are using it.

Besides, 80% of Maryland's transit riders, or over 200,000 people, live in just three jurisdictions: Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George's counties. That's where most of the state's transit is, but they're also three of the state's biggest job centers.

There's a strong link between investing in transit and economic development. A study of over 300 metropolitan areas in the US found that expanding transit resulted in more employment and higher wages. It saves businesses and households money due to lower transportation costs, time savings, and increased access to jobs and employees. Overall, transit generates about $4 in economic returns for every $1 invested.


Low-density development costs more in taxes than it makes in revenue. Image from the Hogan Companies.

Meanwhile, low-density development, like the strip malls and subdivisions Larry Hogan's development firm builds, requires lots of new roads and utility lines that serve a relatively small number of people. The taxes it generates can't even cover the cost of building the infrastructure, let alone maintaining it. A Florida study found that even small buildings in urban neighborhoods can generate 10 times as much tax revenue per acre as a typical Walmart.

More importantly, there's a demonstrated demand for transit and urban places. That's why most office space in the DC area is going in next to Metro stations and rents are at a premium. It's why areas around Montgomery County's Metro stations are growing faster than the rest of the county. And it's why Virginia Republicans fought to build the Silver Line through Tysons Corner, which is attracting a ton of private investment.

It's not about urban vs. rural, but what's best for our economy

Improving Maryland's economic competitiveness is something everyone can agree on, regardless of political party or location. But if Larry Hogan says we need to spend public money more wisely, shouldn't our limited resources go to the places where we can get the most in return?

Over breakfast last week, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett reminded Hogan that the county was the state's economic engine and that he should respect their priorities, including transit. That's a message rural Maryland should hear. As long as it depends on urban and suburban counties for its economy, the only "war on rural Maryland" is when Republican lawmakers shoot the entire statewide economy in the foot by starving metropolitan areas.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Out: "cycletrack." In: "protected bikeway."

What should we call bike infrastructure that has a physical barrier between it and general traffic? 391 people voted in our poll about whether to call this a "cycletrack," "protected bike lane," or "separated bike lane." "Protected bike lane" won a majority, but we were persuaded by a slight variant several people suggested: "Protected bikeway."


DC's newest protecetd bikeway, 6th Street NE. Photo by DearEdward on Flickr.

93 people voted in the original poll, which I had to delete since it was messing up the cache on Chrome browsers. 298 voted in the replacement Google Forms poll.

Of the 391 total votes, 198 (51%) chose "protected bike lane." 134 (34%) liked "cycletrack," 29 (7%) picked "separated bike lane," and 30 (8%) voted for "other."

While "protected bike lane" garnered a majority, there were two significant substantive concerns. First, not all bike infrastructure in DC is a "lane"; the two-way First Street one, for instance, is at least a pair of lanes.

Second, while the Green Lane Project notes that calling it a "bike lane" emphasizes that it's in the roadway, some people felt the name should better distinguish these from traditional lines painted on the road.

We like "protected bikeway"

Fortunately, a number of commenters suggested a slight variant: "Protected bikeway." The word "bikeway" is not that far from "bike lane" except it doesn't say anything about the number of lanes and is more distinct. It's also shorter, fewer words, and a bit faster to speak.

Saying "protected bikeway" still allows the key word "protected," which emphasizes the safety effect of this infrastructure. It still avoids the technical and "speed demon" connotations of "cycletrack."

Therefore, Greater Greater Washington is going to start calling these things "protected bikeways." This term can apply to any bicycle path which dedicates space specifically to bicycles (so not a shared sidepath or trail for walkers and cyclists) and has a physical barrier of some kind (poles, curbs, etc.) between the space and the spaces that serve other types of road users.

People are also free to use other terms on Greater Greater Washington articles, particularly "protected bike lane" if they feel comfortable with the "bike lane" aspect. For example, if a road has a single lane for bikes that is in the road but poles divide it from the rest of the road (like on L and M Streets NW), then "protected bike lane" is also equally valid and acceptable.

Thanks so much to all 391 voters and those who left the 48 commentsparticularly Eric, David R, Dan, and Michael Andersen, all of whom mentioned the "bikeway" term in their comments, and the five people who suggested a form of "bikeway" as their vote for Other in the poll.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

You can now bring your bike to Baltimore on weekend MARC trains

Starting this weekend, you can take your bike on select MARC trains running between Baltimore and DC on the Penn Line. MARC outfitted two rehabilitated passenger cars to carry passengers and their full-size bicycles. The bike cars will run on weekends between DC and Baltimore, for now.


Inside the bike train car. Photo by MARC.

Bike cars will be easy to spot: they'll have bike themed graphics on the outside of the train, including "THE BIKE CAR" in big letters. The train car provides roll-on / roll-off service: there is no need to box up or fold your bike.

At some train stations the platforms are level, which makes rolling your bike on fairly easy. At non-level stations, you will need to be able to carry your bike and personal belongings up the stairs to load your bike. No reservations are availableit's first come, first served. If the bike car is full, folding bikes are still allowed per MARC's current policy. Bike trailers are not allowed.


The exterior of the bike train car. Photo by MARC.

With additional state resources, MARC is purchasing new double-decker train cars to increase passenger capacity to meet the demand. With new cars going into service, MARC is rehabilitating their old rolling stock to provide the new bike service.

The bike cars can currently carry 16 full-size bicycle, but can be modified to accommodate up to 26 bikes. The first two bike train cars are pilot designs. Launching weekend service allows MARC officials to evaluate the design and operation of the service with lighter passenger traffic.

With a refined train car design and operation kinks worked out, MARC will look to expand bike service to weekdays and other lines. Depending on customer demand, MARC might add a second bike car to service in 2015 (read: go use the service!). There is no definite timeline for expansion to weekday service at this point.


Transporation officials and other stakeholder discussing the prototype racks. Photo by WABA.

You can view the schedule here.


An early prototype design. Photo by WABA.

A great big thank you to MARC for expanding service to passengers with their bikes. We would especially like to recognize Chief Engineer Eric Ekolig and his team for thoughtfully engaging with bicycling community. We look forward to a successful roll out of weekend bike service and future expansion.

A version of this article orginally appeared on the WABA blog.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

The Lincoln Memorial just became Capital Bikeshare's busiest station

For most its history, Capital Bikeshare's busiest individual station has been at Dupont Circle. Not anymore. As of this summer, the Lincoln Memorial station is the new king.

This animation shows trips coming and going to the Lincoln station.


Video from Mobility Lab.

Capital Bikeshare's most recent usage data is from its third quarter report, and covers the period from July 2014 through September.

During that period, the station at Massachusetts Avenue and Dupont Circle NW (historically the busiest) served 42,237 total trips. That's an average of 459 per day.

But the Lincoln Memorial station served 44,177 total trips over the same period, averaging 480 per day.

Follow the tourists

Dupont Circle is usually the busiest station because it combines a nearly perfect storm of bikeshare ridership ingredients: Lots of nearby bike lanes, a Metro station feeding transfers, high job and population density, and a busy nightlife. It's hopping at nearly all hours.

The Lincoln Memorial has virtually none of those things, but does have its own advantages. It's one of the most popular parts of the National Mall, and is a far walk from convenient transit. For tourists who don't want to drive and aren't part of a group with a tour bus, bikeshare is an obvious way to access the Lincoln.

The animation shows how tourists drive most of the station's usage. Blue lines show trips from regular members, while red lines are trips from short term users more likely to be tourists. Aside from a spike of blue around rush hour, the animation is a flood of red lines.

It probably won't last

Will the new champion hold its spot, or will the Lincoln's dynasty prove fleeting?

Tourists flock to Washington in the summer, but there are far fewer of them in the winter. When data for autumn comes out, it's extremely unlikely the Lincoln will still be the busiest station. Odds are that honor will return to Dupont.

And next summer, bikeshare will face added competition from the new DC Circulator route scheduled to run along the National Mall beginning in 2015.

So this may well be the Lincoln's only moment in the sun. It will be interesting to follow.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

How fast can you go? Map of maximum speed limits around the world

In most of the United States, the maximum speed limit is somewhere between 65 and 75 miles per hour. What about the rest of the world? This map tells you.


Maximum speed limits around the world. Map from Reddit user worldbeyondyourown.

In the eastern US, most states top out with maximum speed limits of 70 miles per hour. Out west, most states allow 75, and a handful go even higher than that.

Texas has the highest speed limit in the western hemisphere, at 85 miles per hour. On the other end of the spectrum, no road in Canada's province Nunavut has a limit above 45 miles per hour.

Germany's Autobahn famously has no maximum speed limit, but it's not the only place in the world to hold that distinction. Australia's Northern Territory is also speed limit free. But don't try racing down roads in Bhutan, where the maximum limit is no higher than 45.

What else jumps out?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Events roundup: Building safe communities

This week, join the discourse in Alexandria about Eisenhower West and learn about safe commutes to school. Looking ahead, don't miss a presentation of new ideas for Buzzard Point and don't forget to register for Transportation Camp 2015.


Photo by Elizabeth

Safe routes to school: A safe commute to school is an integral part of any community. With missing pedestrian infrastructure, safe school commutes in suburban areas can be especially difficult. This Tuesday, December 9, the Action Committee for Transit's monthly meeting will welcome Bill Sadler, Regional Policy Manager of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, to discuss "Safe Walks to School in the Suburbs." The event is 7:30-9:30 pm at the Silver Spring Civic Center, One Veterans Place.

Eisenhower West meeting: In Alexandria, a major redevelopment of Eisenhower West is planned for the coming year. The Eisenhower West Plan is currently open for public comment. Come make your opinion heard at the fourth community meeting tonight (Monday), December 7, 7-9 pm at Beatley Central Library, 5005 Duke Street.

Urban communities inspired by nature: connecting people and the planet: On Thursday, December 11 at 4:30pm on the second floor of 1250 24th St NW, the World Wildlife fund is hosting Tim Beatley for an event on his Biophilic Cities Network and his newest book, Blue Urbanism, which looks at the connections between cities and oceans.

CityVision final presentation: Sometimes young minds come up with the most innovative solutions. This fall, students of the CityVision program at the National Building Museum have been working hard to research and propose ideas for active gathering spaces at Buzzard Point. Join these students for the final presentation next week on Thursday, December 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at 401 F Street NW.

Transportation Camp: Reminder to all transportation nerds: Make sure to register for the 4th Annual Transportation Camp Washington DC coming up on Saturday, January 10, 2015. Transportation Camp is a daylong event that is meant to explore the intersection of urban transportation and technology and will precede the Transportation Research Board 94th Annual Meeting. George Mason University School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs, at Founders Hall will host.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Support Us