Greater Greater Washington

Posts in category roads

Hogan stalls on the Purple Line, calls it too expensive

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has still made no decision on the Purple Line (or, if he has, is refusing to announce one) while calling the project's current costs "not acceptable."

Photo by Maryland GovPics on Flickr.

Hogan had been expected to decide around "mid-May," but told the Washington Post Friday that a decision would come "in the next month sometime." This further pushes off the possible schedule for private bids and then construction, which is now totally uncertain.

Hogan did say the cost would have to be "dramatically lower" to convince him to move forward. He said that "two miles of [the line] would fund our entire school construction for the entire state."

This argument about fiscal poverty rings very hollow when Hogan just lowered tolls across the state, costing about $54 million a year.

Since the Purple Line is $153 million per mile (for one-time construction), the school construction Hogan says costs the same as two miles of the line also costs only six years' worth of the foregone tolls. Hogan could have said he'd keep the tolls high for six years to fund school construction.

The line would actually cost the state of Maryland relatively little; the federal government will provide $900 million, Montgomery and Prince George's $220 million, and hundreds of millions from the private bidders. Two miles of the Purple Line cost would only pay for school construction if schools suddenly became eligible for federal transit funding and private bidders offered to foot some of the bill.

But what we're hearing is a sadly common refrain among anti-transit, so-called "fiscally conservative" politicians. They talk big about how important it is to save money, but really mean saving money by cutting things they don't like, usually in particular things that are associated with denser, walkable, perhaps more liberal areas.

Hogan's priorities are apparently, drivers first, then students, then transit riders.

Likewise, Hogan is choosing not to give credence to studies that show significant economic growth benefits for the Purple Line.

Pete Rahn, Hogan's transportation secretary and someone who at least appears to be making some effort to find a path to approval, said after talking with bidders, he believed the project could happen for about ten percent less money. Hogan hasn't said if that is "dramatic" enough for him.

In the Post interview, Hogan also talked about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whom Hogan considers a mentor. Christie also came into office and almost immediately canceled a major transit project that had been in the planning stages for many years. New Jersey lost a lot of federal funding, and worse yet, there's now no redundancy for commuter trains coming into Manhattan; shutting down one tunnel at a time for needed repairs will cripple commuting across the Hudson.

Hogan seems poised to make a similarly short-sighted blunder for Maryland. He himself summed it up best to the Post while talking about another matter: "It's challenging to change the mind-sets of folks that believe very strongly in what they're talking about."

Fairfax trades a parking lot for a new park

Old Town Square in Fairfax used to be a park that nobody used because it was wedged between two parking lots in the middle of the city's small, historic core. Now it's bigger and more inviting, and it's helping Fairfax embrace its urban roots.

Looking towards University Drive and North Street. All photos by the author.

In its former life, the park was called Kitty Pozer Garden, and it sat next to a city-owned gravel parking lot with space for about 25 cars. A lot of that parking lot is now part of the new park.

The extra space allowed the city to install a splash pad where people can cool off in a fountain during the summer. The fountain has a waterfall feature, and there's seating all around as well as a new clock.

The Old Town Square site is sloped toward the intersection of University Drive and North Street, and in the future it will play host to public performances and other community events.

View of the park from across the street. Photo by author.

The new development and historic buildings around it help frame the park. Old Town Hall, which the city now uses for events, is next door, and both the City Fairfax Regional Library and some mixed-use buildings the city built in 2008 (which also replaced some surface parking) are across the street.

Photo by the author.

Like its neighbor Falls Church, the City of Fairfax doesn't have room to grow outwardly since it's an enclave within the much larger Fairfax County. The solution is to become more dense, and parks help ensure efforts to do so include green space.

New bike racks in the park. The remaining parking on the site is in the background. Photo by the author.

In a way, Fairfax is recreating the small, walkable core that it had before shifting its focus to move lots of cars along Chain Bridge Road and Main Street. Old Town Square, a project that was years in the making, will help bring people back into the heart of Fairfax.

We're talking to DDOT head Leif Dormsjo on Monday. What do you want to ask him?

Leif Dormsjo, Director of the District Department of Transportation, will join Greater Greater Washington for a live chat on Monday, May 18, from noon to 1 pm. What do you want to hear about?

Leif Dormsjo. Image from DDOT.

DDOT is responsible for the city's roadways, trails, traffic signals, bus shelters, street trees, and more. It manages the DC Circulator bus system and, if it ever opens, the streetcar. Dormsjo is also one of the District's representatives on the WMATA Board.

As with our chat with Muriel Bowser during the election, I'll interview Dormsjo by posing questions all of you have suggested and some of my own. You can suggest questions in the comments here and on Twitter on Monday using the hashtag #ggwchat.

A crack team of typists will furiously transcribe Dormsjo's responses so you can read them. Follow @ggwash to see a reminder of the chat and key responses as it's going on.


Friday is Bike to Work Day. Here's where to find a pit stop

Friday is the DC region's 15th annual Bike to Work Day. It's a great opportunity to build a few extra minutes into your commute to stop at one of the nearly-80 commuting "pit stops" on your way to work.

BtWD 2015 pit stops. Click for interactive map.

The pit stops offer refreshments, raffles, and free t-shirts to those who register. Each pit stop has something a little different: elected officials and entertainment will be at some, and some will be open in the afternoon for your commute home.

Bike to Work Day also encompasses commuter convoys, biking buddies, and other resources for first-time riders.

Last year's Bike to Work Day in our region attracted over 14,000 participants. Will you be joining this year? If so, don't forget to snap a photo or two and add them to our Flickr pool.

CaBi cures downtown dockblocking with new bike corrals

One of the biggest problems limiting growth of Capital Bikeshare in DC has been that downtown docks fill up early in the morning rush hour. That won't be a problem after Thursday, when two new bikeshare corrals open, offering unlimited bikeshare parking.

Bike corral at the 2013 Obama inauguration. Photo by jantos on Flickr.

The two parking corrals will be at 13th and New York Avenue near Metro Center, and at 21st and I near Foggy Bottom. Once the regular bike docks fill up, a Capital Bikeshare staffer will be on hand to accept bikes and log out riders.

The bike corrals will be open every weekday morning this summer, beginning Thursday, May 14, and ending in September. If the service proves popular, CaBi may extend it into autumn.

Corrals will only be open during the morning rush hour, and only at those two locations.

Bigger redistribution truck

The corrals aren't the only Capital Bikeshare improvement coming this week. The agency has also acquired a larger redistribution van, allowing them to move bikes from full stations to empty ones more quickly.

There's no word yet on just how big the new bigger redistribution van is, but check out what Montreal uses:

Montreal redistribution truck. Photo by the author.

Hooray for more reliable bikeshare!

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

More bikeshare stations is a good thing, but it's important to be realistic

A new study from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) says people use bikeshare more when a given area has more stations. But the study makes a density recommendation that's going to be hard to ever meet, and not everyone agrees it's a good idea in the first place.

Photo by Mr.TinDC on Flickr.

NACTO's report, released April 28th, adds to the growing body of research that says station density is a key factor in a bikeshare system's success. While that claim isn't controversial in itself, NACTO's suggestions regarding station density cause a bit more friction.

NACTO recommends that cities place bikeshare stations no more than 1,000 feet apart—that is, at a density of 28 stations per square mile. This density would put a bikeshare station within a five-minute walk of each resident in a city.

NACTO's advice, in fact, is that cities should build out their bikeshare systems at a density between that of New York's Citi Bike (the densest system in the US) and Paris' Velib (the densest in the world).

The majority of US bikeshare systems are a lot more dispersed than that. Even Chicago, which has received good press for its ambitious Divvy expansion, only plans on a density that's a fraction of NACTO's recommendation.

Rides per day and year, and density figures for the world's biggest bikeshare systems. Image from NACTO.

Looking at ridership statistics from bikeshare systems across the US, NACTO finds, unsurprisingly, that systems are more successful when they have more stations close together. NACTO says that most bikeshare riders are convenience users, and if a system is not convenient, riders will choose another mobility option.

This has been Washington, DC's experience. Before Capital Bikeshare, the city experimented with a precursor known as Smart Bike. Run by outdoor advertiser Clear Channel, the system was largely a failure because it had too few stations and bikes.

Today though, Capital Bikeshare is widely seen as a gold standard. Still, the system only has four stations per square mile, and advocates have called for smaller stations, placed more densely.

Bikeshare systems should fit the populations they serve

But 28-stations-per-square-mile dense? That's a bit radical, and bikeshare expert Paul DeMaio says it should be taken with a grain of salt. "This proposed station density won't work well in all settings, such as suburban areas, college campuses, or less dense areas," says DeMaio.

A big issue with NACTO's recommendation is that it doesn't factor in population density. (For comparison's sake, Paris is twice as densely populated as New York City, and five times more densely populated than DC.)

DeMaio maintains that mega-dense station placement can actually have negative effects on a system. "Stations at too high of a density could actually have the unintended consequence of stations cannibalizing trips from the others," he says. If trips per bike per day is the measure of of a bike share system's success, as NACTO maintains, more bikes and stations regardless of population density can lead to bikes being underused and stations being inactive.

"Station network density should ideally match the neighborhood density," DeMaio says.

NACTO says greater station density will not only make bikesharing ubiquitous, but also that it will help jurisdictions address the social equity problems that have beleaguered bikeshare systems. Low-income areas, according to NACTO, are often built out at a lower density than the system as a whole, making bikesharing a less meaningful option for residents of these neighborhoods.

Bikeshare systems could undoubtedly be denser. More convenient, walkable stations, would increase the usefulness of these systems. 28 stations per square mile, though? It's a worthy goal, but probably unrealistic for most cities.

This post is also up at Mobility Lab

Your college doesn't want your old bike. Give it to someone who does

Get your diploma, abandon your bike. This spring ritual is almost as familiar on college campuses as Pomp and Circumstance. But you can do a lot of good by donating your bike rather than bailing on it.

Photo by Andreas Kambanis on Flickr.

It's not uncommon for students to get to college with a bike only to lock it up and forget about it. But when you graduate, you shouldn't just leave it there when you know you're never coming back.

Abandoned bikes make riding tough on others

Bike parking is a scarce resource. Most outdoor racks are meant for short-term use, not long-term storage. Each spot taken up by an abandoned bike is a spot not available for a bicyclist who needs it.

With abandoned bikes taking up valuable space, bicycle parking becomes less convenient for potential users, which could dissuade people from trying to bicycle at all. Additionally, a rack with abandoned bikes might attract thieves and scavengers, making bike parking less secure overall.

While it's likely the university will eventually remove abandoned bikes, that could be weeks or months away. Save the maintenance workers and public safety staff the time and hassle of cutting your lock, storing, and eventually disposing of your old bicycle by dealing with it yourself.

Serious good can come of your bike even if you don't care about it

Instead of abandoning your bike, consider donating it. Before leaving campus, take one last ride to drop your bike off at a local non-profit like Gearin' Up or Phoenix Bikes, where they'll fix your bike up and get it to someone who could really use it.

For the more globally-minded, consider Bikes for the World, an organization that sends used bicycles to developing countries, by either dropping off your bike at a partner shop or at at one of their collections this month.

Buying a new bike isn't an option for every potential bike commuter. Community-oriented organizations like these help provide bicycles to would-be bicyclists who might not have otherwise have access to one. And even if your old bike isn't functional, parts of it might still be and those parts can be used in repairs to get other bikes back on the road.

Even if your old bike is no longer part of your life, it still has value. As you move on to the next stage in your life, help your bike move on too.

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