The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.

Posts by David Edmondson

David Edmondson is a transportation and urban affairs enthusiast working on his master's in city and regional planning at Cornell University. He blogs about Marin County, California, at The Greater Marin


Breakfast links: Cheaper, faster

Photo by justgrimes on Flickr.
SmarTrip gets cheaper: There are only 350,000 of the current model SmarTrip cards left, and the manu­fac­turer stopped making them. This is a good thing, because this fall WMATA will switch to a cheaper card and charge riders less. (Examiner)

Teaching goes online: Kramer Middle School will shift about half of its coursework online this coming year, allowing for student-guided teaching and giving teachers a chance to work with students where they're struggling individually. (Examiner)

Less gravelly?: NPS may adjust the Mount Vernon Trail near Gravelly Point to make its route less circuitous and add a pedestrian path to Roaches Run. (WashCycle)

House lien sold without notice?: A few homeowners say they never got notices when DC's Office of Tax and Revenue put liens on their homes or foreclosed or sold those liens. But officials insist everyone gets 2 final notices in the mail. (Post)

C'mon, exercise! Everyone's doing it!: Peer pressure does not have to be bad; it can actually encourage children to exercise more. A study found that kids' friends had the strongest effect on how much they exercised. (TIME)

Density resembles transit: There is a strong correlation between residential density and transit mode share, stronger even than job density in a city's central business district, but that may not be the whole story. (Old Urbanist)

What was zoning for?: Urbanists, especially the libertarian ones, tend to criticize zoning for the way it artificially restricts urban development, but the original arguments in favor of zoning codes were concerned with many of the issues urbanists would raise today: development externalities, squatting on a vacant parcel, and safety. (SCC)

How cars took over: At first, people thought pedestrians had the right to use the road. That changed thanks to public campaigns by car companies, AAA, and corporate-sponsored media. (Scientific American)

Walkable is expensive: Renting in a walkable community near Metro can cost as much as $1500 more a month compared to car-dependent neighbor­hoods. (Atlantic Cities)

A few stories we've linked to in the past have come around in the press again and we've seen again in the tips, so we've included a few of these important stories for those readers who missed them or want to discuss them some more.

Speaking of tips, since we are starting to get some new links editors up to speed, it would be especially helpful to hear from all of you about what you'd like to see in the links. Please submit your suggestions on the tip form!


Weekend links: As we mature

Photo by ★ on Flickr.
Growing pains: DC has grown by attracting 20-somethings, an explicit strategy under Mayor Williams, but when they age and start families they may find that the amenities they want—playgrounds and kid-friendly restaurants—just aren't there. (Post) ... At least not yet; the downtown playground that frames the story got funding in this year's budget.

Such great heights: An office building to replace the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, will not be allowed a 9th floor. The HPRB said that even a floor nearly invisible from the street would violate of the historic district. (DCMud)

Better buses: WMATA will invest $5 million in minor bus improvements, including new MetroExtra service, timetable tweaks, and headway-based service on the 70 line. The changes are expected to add 250,000 trips per year. (NBC4)

The city as solar heater: The urban heat island effect isn't all bad. By using water to transmit heat, cities could harness the effect to provide hot water or lend itself to electrical generation. (Atlantic Cities)

WMATA communimucates: The various channels WMATA uses to communicate with riders are inconsistent and often duplicative. Between dead blogs, a reasonable Twitter feed, YouTube and Facebook, WMATA does as much right as it does wrong. (TBD)

A height limit broken: The unspoken height limit in San Francisco, determined by the shadows buildings cast over city parks, has at last been broken. The city's planning commission approved the tallest building west of the Mississippi, allowing it to preside over the new multi-modal high-speed rail hub. (SF Chronicle)

LA bans bags: Los Angeles has banned plastic bags, a plan that continues California's approach to the problem. Paper bags can still be free. (LA Times)

Monkey business: In a uniquely Indian urban problem, rhesus monkeys have become a serious nuisance to the city of Delhi. They mug people for food and trash yards despite trapping efforts. As long as people feed them—a religious duty—it's unlikely officials will be able to stop the tide. (NYT)

And...: The hidden world of New York's rooftops is surprisingly suburban. (WebUrbanist) ... Metro's makes its new Rush+ maps by hand. (Fox5) ... McMansions are making a comeback. (SmartMoney)

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Breakfast links: According to a poll

Photo by downing.amanda on Flickr.
Cameras for money? People think so: Most people believe traffic cameras are to make money, not to improve safety, a new poll shows. The result means political problems ahead as DC adds to its camera network. (WTOP)

Marylanders now strongly for equality: 57% of Maryland voters now support marriage equality according to a new poll; African-American support in particular has risen 12 points since President Obama endorsed it. (Maryland Juice)

Transit for the people: Marylanders would be able to vote for transit under a constitutional plan by two state legislators. In the wake of a timid legislature, should Marylanders have such a direct say in transportation issues? (WBJ)

Yuppified Union Market: Grungy Florida Market could soon be a thing of the past. A new list of vendors for the new Union Market include uptown staples like gelato and artisanal soda. (Washingtonian)

Green features vs. bigger sewers: DC Water wants to encourage more green roofs and such, and they hope that will decrease the size of new sewer tunnels they have to dig under a federal court settlement. Some environmental groups say the green features are great, but won't be enough to shrink the tunnels. (Post)

Parks: #5 but should be better: Could ranking DC's parks 5th in the nation reduce pressure to improve parks? We have a lot of federal parks, but construction booms like in NoMa and H Street haven't included parks. (RPUS)

Google Maps for the ancients: Ever wondered how much it cost to travel from Ephesus to Rome? Lugdunum to Alexandria? A Stanford team has developed a travel simulator for the ancient Roman world to better understand travel patterns. (Planetizen)

And...: Baltimore has a new rail map, integrating all MTA's services in one place. (BeyondDC) ... MetroAccess gets a new, snazzier vehicle. (TBD) ... A post about DC's 1877 neighborhoods inspires a new beer, Hell's Bottom. (The Location)

Your name at the top: Do you enjoy the links each morning? Want to see them continue? David Edmondson sadly has to step down from link editing, so we're looking for someone to curate the links 2-3 mornings a week. Can this be you?

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Breakfast links: Guilty

Photo by id-iom on Flickr.
Charges in Gray investigation: The US Attorney has charged Thomas Gore, the assistant treasurer on Mayor Gray's 2010 campaign, alleging he paid Sulaimon Brown using false names, then destroyed evidence. Gore will plead guilty later today. Outstanding question: Did Gray himself know about the misconduct? (City Paper, WJLA, Post)

Barry's improbable Monday: After Marion Barry had a scare over a blood clot—he's fine now—the indefatigable council­member said he was wrong for his comments about Filipino nurses. He still wants more District-grown nurses, but "truly didn't mean 2 hurt or offend." and "is truly sorry." (DCist)

Where the murders were: A map All of DC's murders for the past 7 years have been mapped to their locations. Rock Creek creates a very stark line. (DCist)

Keep your balance, CaBi: A visualization shows where the most rebalancing happens between CaBi stations. The station at 16th and Harvard on top of Meridian Hill needs 31 bikes a day delivered to it while other stations become overstocked. (Mystery Inc.)

4th best bike city: DC ranks #4 among best cities for bicycling. It was #13 last year. Capital Bikeshare, new cycle tracks, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and Black Women Bike contribute to the rise. (Bicycling Magazine)

Not loving the car: America's "love affair with the automobile" has turned into a somewhat unhappy marriage, and more and more residents are deciding to stay single and keep their transportation options open. (Post)

Fort Walkable: The Defense Department is trying to make its bases more walkable by placing housing closer to shops, providing transit around the base, and including more trees. Bases now are generally very sprawling. (USA Today)

The cul-de-sac tower: Miami has the densest neighborhoods south of New York, but everyone drives between towers and neighbors hardly know each other. Are these just vertical cul-de-sacs? Density doesn't always make good communities. (Transit Miami)

Quality beats quantity in transit: Broward County, Florida has rather low density but rather high transit usage thanks to a system that tries to give the county high-quality service where it can, rather than low-quality service everywhere. (Atlantic Cities)

And...: The local span of the 11th Street Bridge partially opens Thursday. (Post) ... Street Sense is likely DC's fastest-growing newspaper. (HuffPo) ... Metro will start rehabbing the Bethesda elevators. (TBD) ... How might you redo the Redskins' identity? (Uni-Watch)

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Weekend links: Bike on

Photo by katypearce on Flickr.
Many biked to work: Bike to Work Day by the numbers was a smashing success with 12,700 registered commuters. The FCC is also the most bike-friendly federal agency, followed by State, NOAA, Interior, and the Navy engineers. (TBD, WABA)

Mixing cars created problem?: Metro suspects coupling 1000 and 5000 series cars, originally done for safety after the Red Line crash, contributed to doors recently opening on a moving train. They will now inspect all 5000 series cars. (Examiner)

Divorce case increases marriage: Maryland now recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages, the state's high court ruled after a California-married couple sought divorce in Maryland. This means the coming referendum may be more about whether most wedding money will go to DC than whether Maryland gay couples can wed. (Baltimore Sun, Maryland Juice)

Tech jobs growing: The DC area had the most job growth in high tech, math and science of any region. We now have the 2nd highest percentage of such jobs. (WBJ)

What billions buys: Arlington's manager wants $2.45 billion for the next decade's worth of capital projects, including road repair, the Columbia Pike streetcar, an aquatic center, and a host of other community upgrades and repairs. (Post)

Pay camera tickets: If a car owner gets a DC traffic camera ticket today, they can tell the DMV who was driving, and DC has to collect from that person. A bill would end this practice, and also reduce penalties for not paying camera tickets. (Examiner)

Pop under in Dupont: The Dupont Underground has languished so long without a major financial backer that the steering board is considering short-term leases of the space. Such pop-ups would raise visibility, but the board fears it would poorly brand the project and make it less attractive to institutional investment. (City Paper)

Studies say: The Arizona DOT found that denser, mixed-use areas have lower traffic, fewer cars per person, and shorter trips for errands. (Streetsblog) ... Walk Score correlates with higher housing prices. (Market Urbanism)

Parking's blight: Downtown Philadelphia is a bustling, walkable urban center thanks in part to transit-oriented development in years past. Alas, with more parking coming to the city center, the neighborhood's charms are threatened. (

And...: An artist makes portraits of subway riders using only paper and scissors. (NYT) ... Montgomery gets an interim planning head, Rose Krasnow. (Gazette) ... One resident is unhappy with the choice of BRT for the the Corridor Cities Transitway. (Patch)

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Breakfast links: The future

Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.
They're (self) driven: Mary Cheh And Tommy Wells took a ride in Google's self-driving car. The trip went off without a hitch, adding to the 250,000 miles of crash-free driving for they system. But it can't handle, for instance, directions from a traffic control officer. (DCist)

Did you bike?: Today is Bike to Work Day. ... Express summarized the bike boom spurred by CaBi and separated lanes; CaBi has had its 2 millionth ride.

Told you so: Metro riders warned technicians that doors were opening while a train was moving, but Metro thought it was isolated to a single car and kept the train in service until doors opened in a second car. Still no word on the cause. (Examiner)

Bike messengers are the boss: "Freedom" is the watchword of DC's small bike messenger community, which occupies a shrinking niche of the District's document delivery system. A short documentary profiles their gritty culture. (TBD)

Higher vs. better: Amidst the debate about DC's height limit, it's easy to forget that some of the classiest, most cherished neighborhoods have relatively moderate density. The argument is that walkability, not skyscrapers, makes a place great. (Atlantic Cities)

Hatch's unintended acts: DC wants out from under the Hatch Act, and it's not just a matter of sovereignty. Under current provisions, District employees, including the Attorney General, cannot run for office without first resigning. (Washington Times)

The warriors may serve: Sikhs may now wear turbans and beards on the job as police officers in MPD. It is the first police department in the US to allow adherents of the faith to do so. (AP via WSJ)

And...: A Prince William mixed-use proposal failed to draw a single bid, so it's back to the drawing board. (WBJ) ... Frequent biking can lead to problems "down there" for men and women, depending on handlebar configuration. (Medical Daily, Xavier) ... The GOP may be willing to part with the Keystone Pipeline in the transportation bill. (The Hill)

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Breakfast links: Shape DC's future

Photo by In Shaw on Flickr.
Live in 5? Vote! (McDuffie!): Ward 5 goes to the polls today to choose a replacement for Harry Thomas, Jr. We have endorsed Kenyan McDuffie. Turnout will likely be light, so votes are critical to shape the future of the ward.

Budget boosts housing, delays NoMa park: Kwame Brown's proposed budget changes restore affordable housing funding, taking money from NoMa parks. It also allows later bar and restaurant hours but only around certain holidays, and avoids higher alcohol taxes. (Post, Washington Times)

Taxis get better: The taxi stand at Union Station now has a police officer keeping order, ensuring that the past chaos of involuntary group rides, refusals by drivers to take people to certain destinations, and the like are a thing of the past. (Post)

Bike & Ride opens today: WMATA's first new secure biking facility, called a Bike & Ride, opens today at College Park station. Metro wants to triple its bicycle access by 2020, and Bike & Rides are planned to be a big part of that increase. (TBD)

What to do with Franklin: Franklin Square could transform from a haven for the homeless to a centerpiece of a new living downtown. But it'll take a long time... and what about the homeless? (Harry Jaffe)

Pepco trims trees: Pepco is cutting back trees in Maryland that have caused so much damage to its infrastructure during storms. Residents disagree: is this long overdue, or is it an unnecessary loss of nature? (Post)

Fly to PDX, SJU, AUS, SFO: DOT has awarded 4 new nonstops from DCA to destinations beyond the 1,250 mile perimeter: Portland, San Juan, Austin, and San Francisco. The recent FAA reauthorization created the 4 new exemptions. (The Hill)

Nothing new under the sun: Opposition to the Golden Gate Bridge was just as fierce as opposition to major projects today. The arguments are uncannily familiar: no unbiased numbers, proponents are moving too fast, and more. (SFGate)

Santa Monica fights meter feeding: Santa Monica is installing sensors that will prevent drivers from feeding meters beyond the time limit. But perhaps they would be better served by changing to performance parking? (Huffington Post, Neil)

Los Angeles grows up: Atlantic Boulevard is emblematic of both old car-centric LA and the emerging transit city championed by the local council of governments and Mayor Villaraigosa. New development engages the street next to old strip malls, and highways mix oddly with the new light rail. This city is changing. (LA Times)

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Breakfast links: Pass on the gas

Photo by phil_websurfer on Flickr.
Wheaton Costco may not get gas: Marc Elrich wants to prohibit gas stations close to parks and schools. His bill largely targets the Wheaton Costco, where residents say an environmental analysis is overlooks many impacts. (Gazette)

H Street gets gas: H Street residents haven't been able to stop a gas station at 14th and Maryland NE. They say it doesn't fit with the neighborhood's direction and the Public Space Committee rejected plans in the past, but now the station's owners have a design that passes regulatory muster. (City Paper)

Bus grows at rail's expense: With Metrorail becoming less attractive and more expensive, bus ridership seems to be growing. Real-time arrival boards, expected for 2013, would only accelerate the trend. (TBD)

Silver Line not a priority outside NoVa: Only 32% of Virginians believe the Silver Line is important to the state but 67% of Northern Virginians do, according to a survey. Also, most of Virginia does not favor tax hikes for infrastructure. (Post)

CaBi is infrastructure: Mayor Gray vociferously defended Capital Bikeshare in an exchange with a radio producer who thought DC's system should have private sponsorship and consequently higher costs. (TBD)

Bad bike citations are common: WABA reviewed all citations for bicyclists "riding abreast" and found not a single example where the cited cyclists were actually violating the law as written. They conclude officers need more training on bike laws.

Community survey cut: The House of Representatives voted to eliminate the American Community Survey, an important supplement to the census that helps communities across the country understand the needs of their residents. (Huffington Post, Matt T.)

And...: Moving young people to the suburbs isn't a solution to the affordable housing problem. (City Paper) ... The DC region has some mighty burdensome regulations on businesses and small contractors. (Examiner) ... Metro is up $20 million this year thanks to energy savings from manual train driving. (Examiner)

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Breakfast links: Not open and shut

Photo by Munish on Flickr.
Metro gets doored: The biggest source of Metro delays is problems with train doors. Though mechanical wear-and-tear thanks to stuck backpacks and caught arms are a problem, problems with internal door circuitry are just as bad. (TBD)

Spurned pot applicants sue: Three rejected applicants to grow medical marijuana in DC have sued, saying their applications were improperly scored and should be reconsidered. (Washington Times)

Memorial to Red Line victims: A memorial to victims of the 2009 Red Line crash is coming. WMATA is soliciting proposals for the memorial's design, which will be built near the site of the crash. (DCist)

Germantown steps a little forward: A new central park for Germantown Town Center has a good internal design, but the surrounding cityscape is so bland that it likely won't live up to its full potential. (BeyondDC)

Renting success: The shift from owning big-ticket items to simply renting them, from apartments to carsharing, opens Americans to the kind of mobility needed to best match skills with jobs. (WSJ)

Downtown needs to perform: Parking demand in downtown DC exceeds supply, meaning spaces are scarce. Performance parking will alleviate the crunch. (TBD)

Economics reaches Gaithersburg: Gaithersburg will probably start charging for parking near its MARC station. It's also considering building a new lot; perhaps they should charge first and then determine how much demand remains. (Gazette)

School gap grows: There is a larger gap than ever between DC's best and worst schools. At top schools, students gain more ground on standardized tests than those at bottom schools. (Examiner)

And...: DCPS will reopen its only planetarium, which has been used as storage for years. (Examiner) ... Legislative scenarios that would lead to budget autonomy do not look good for abortion rights in the District. (Roll Call) ... Please don't nail signs to trees. (District Curmudgeon)

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Weekend links: Burn

Image from DC Fire and EMS via NBC.
Imhoff/Brizill house burns down: A fire destroyed the 1870 Columbia Heights house of longtime DC activists Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill. DC had taken enforcement action in 2002 and 2007 because the house was in run-down condition, though the fire does not appear related. (Post, DCist, City Paper)

Cabbies behaving badly: Passengers getting late-night cabs at Union Station complain that drivers choose destinations and share passengers despite laws and injunctions against the practice. In response, DC may improve enforcement, eventually. (Post)

Whose gax tax is it?: Gas taxes in Northern Virginia are not going to the jurisdictions they ought because the companies paying the tax don't know where the gas was sold. Governments have until January to find the lost money. (Examiner)

Preserve ze space: Z Burger wants to enclose a portion of Columbia Heights' plaza for seating, and the neighbors don't like it one bit. The plaza, they argue, is public space and should remain open to everyone. (City Paper)

Flip the switch, save a bird: Many office buildings leave their lights on all night. That not only wastes energy, it kills birds. A new campaign is trying to get offices to change their practices. (Huffington Post)

Why biking to school got rare: Far fewer kids bike to school now than they did 30 years ago, thanks to planning that relegates biking to recreation and a legal environment that holds schools accountable if kids get injured traveling to and from school. (NPR)

And...: Many Washingtonians know very little about bicycle laws. (TBD) ... Will $700,000 be enough to attract a restaurant to a Ward 7 shopping center? (City Paper) ... Dallas residents don't want a new freeway through downtown. (Streetsblog)

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