Greater Greater Washington

Posts by Eric Fidler

Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 

Experimental real-time transit screens come to Arlington, DC

If you go into the Java Shack coffee shop near Court House in Arlington, or walk past the Red Palace bar on H Street in DC, you will see a new experimental project from the Mobility Lab: Digital screens showing real-time transit arrivals and Capital Bikeshare availability.

Real-time transit screen at Java Shack.

At Java Shack, customers waiting for coffee or sitting at a table can see the next Metrobus, ART, or Orange Line arrivals, and bike availability at the Capital Bikeshare station across the street. The Red Palace screen faces outward onto the sidewalk on H Street, letting passersby see their bus and CaBi options.

Stop by one of these businesses and let us know what you think! This project is still in an early stage, so the screen displays will evolve over time. Moreover, we're hoping to add screens in more businesses soon.

One of the main challenges in convincing people to switch to transit is the unpredictability of bus arrivals. If every stop featured a digital screen displaying the number of minutes until each bus arrived, more people would be willing to take the bus.

Outdoor screens, however, are expensive to install, which is why we created this indoor alternative at a fraction of the cost. For the past few months I have been working with Andy Chosak and David Alpert at the Mobility Lab in Arlington to bring this low-cost alternative to fruition.

Screenshot of the Java Shack screen.

Screenshot of the Red Palace screen.

Every 20 seconds, our web server queries each transit agency for the arrival predictions for the stops near both test sites, then relays the data to the screens. The actual unit inside the shops is just a low-cost, barebones Linux system connected to a standard computer monitor and the business's own Wi-Fi and power. We've configured the box to automatically load up the screen when it starts, so there's no need to log in or launch an app after the unit is plugged in.

We are continuing to build the system so it can be deployed quickly and cheaply throughout the region at participating shops, bars, cafes, and restaurants. Ultimately, a business will be able to sign up, type in their address, and get a screen automatically customized with the nearest bus stops, Metro station, and Capital Bikeshare station. And someone with their own computer connected to a standard computer monitor will be able to set up their own screen for free.

This project is only possible thanks to open data from our transit agencies. We can only pull bus and train predictions as well as the status of each CaBi station because the agencies behind these systems have wisely chosen to provide stop locations, route information, and real-time arrival predictions to outside software developers.

If you run a businesses are interested in finding out more about purchasing one of these screens for your location, let us know at

Breakfast links: Welcome and unwelcome guests

Photo by Garyisajoke on Flickr.
Developer wants bus stop gone: A developer who installed a "mosquito" device at 7th & H in Chinatown recently asked the city to eliminate the adjacent X2 stop "to reduce sidewalk congestion and repeated criminal activity." (City Paper)

Wells wants DC United to stay: Tommy Wells wants city officials to find a way to keep DC United in DC. (Examiner) ... Like Mayor Gray's statement on luring back the Redskins, Wells didn't specify whether DC should commit public money.

What to do with Union Station? Tour buses?: A lot is happening around Union Station, but a plethora of agencies and scarce funding stand in the way of making it truly great. It also kicked out tour buses to accommodate intercity buses, but where will the tour buses park while kids are touring? (City Paper)

DC United not considering Prince George's: County officials are looking into building a lacrosse stadium that could double as a soccer stadium for DC United. DC United, however, says they're only looking for new locations in DC and Baltimore. (Examiner)

Inflation applies to Dulles tolls: To fund the Silver Line, tolls on the Dulles Toll Road, like everything else in the economy, will rise annually for decades hence. (Examiner)

Protest updates: Some Occupiers are staging a hunger strike to protest DC's lack of voting rights and budget autonomy. (HuffPo, Ryan M.) ... Police arrested more than 70 protestors yesterday for blocking traffic on K St. (Post)

Cyclists' Ed. comes to elementary school: WABA gave safety and riding tutorials to Stoddert Elementary students last week. Program is funded through DDOT under the Safe Routes to School Program. (Georgetown Patch)

Test scores and the achieve gap rise: Test scores at DCPS are up, but among the nation's urban school systems, DC suffers the widest achievement gap between white and black students. (Washington Times)

And...: One London entrepreneur has assembled shipping containers to create a pop-up mall. (CNN) ... DC will add 4,000 housing units this year, but is that enough? (Forbes) ... Government officials can avoid FOIA by using their personal email accounts. (City Paper)

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Breakfast links: Sports talk

Photo by dukiekirsten3 on Flickr.
Skins envy explained: Mayor Gray explained his rationale for trying to woo the Redskins back to DC: "I'm telling you, almost everywhere I go, people say, 'Bring them back, bring them back.' And I say, 'Well, we are working on it.'" (Redskins Nation via Post)

DC to get a velodrome: No need to treck to Trexlertown, PA, anymore. A cycling league is looking to build a velodrome near the ballpark in DC. The bicycle race track, which will include seats for 60 spectators, will be funded with private money. (DCist)

Streecar stop stops moving: The streetcar will stop on the H Street bridge at Union Station. Mayor Gray made the call after Capitol Hill residents opposed an possible alternative to stop on the east side of Union Station. (City Paper)

Memorials are stubborn things: Organizers for the memorial to Presidents John and John Quincy Adams have settled on 4 potential sites. They may have to compete, however, with the memorials to fair housing and the Ukrainian genocide. (City Paper)

ICC pays homage to history: Metro revived the historic neighborhood names for Tenleytown, Brookland, and Ballston. Now the just-opened ICC has revived the name for long-forgotten Norwood. (JUTP)

Company helps riders dodge fares : In Stockholm a monthly subway pass costs $115 and a fare evasion fine is $175. However, a non-profit is selling insurance for fare evaders for just $15/month. The organization thinks transit should be free. (Atlantic)

Ethics bill passes: The DC Council passed an ethics bill, even with the support of embattled Harry Thomas, Jr. Most councilmembers say Thomas should take a leave of absence until his federal investigation concludes. (Washington Times)

Housing costs change poverty stats: Now that the Census factors housing costs into the poverty rate, Mississippi's poverty rate is lower than California's and New York's. But shouldn't this new measure also include transportation costs? (MetroTrends)

And...: Fairfax County approved funding for phase 2 of the Silver Line. (Examiner) ... DC building codes don't apply to federal land, which includes the "occupied" parks. (City Paper) ... Cameras don't deter crime in Metro parking lots. (Examiner)

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Breakfast links: Federal raid roundup

Photo by In Shaw on Flickr.
Feds raid councilmember's house: FBI and IRS agents raided the home of Councilmember Harry Thomas and confiscated his SUV and motorcycle. The investigation is related to allegations that Thomas spent $300,000 of public money on himself. (Post)

Structure sparks conflict in McPherson Sq: Park Police arrested 31 Occupiers yesterday. The standoff started shortly after protestors started constructing a "temporary" wooden structure in McPherson Square. (Post, City Paper)

Group questions NPS contracts: An advocacy group for the Mall has asked the Interior Department's IG to investigate the Park Service. The group alleges NPS unlawfully renewed concession contracts for now-defunct Tourmobile. (City Paper)

Antis get their just desserts: A few residents strongly opposed a mixed-use project at the Friendship Heights Metro. Now the developer has sold the site to Pepco and neighbors will get a power substation instead of restaurants and shops. (Examiner)

Johnson sought quid pro quo: A federal court will sentence disgraced former County Executive Jack Johnson on Tuesday. Prosecutors just revealed that Johnson spent much of his last year in office arranging lucrative contracts and sinecures for himself. (Post)

Parking at all costs: One Manhattan condo tower includes parking spots connected to residences 11 stories in the sky. Residents ride a car elevator to access their sky garages, which are estimated to be worth $800,000 each. (NYT)

Public spaces require good design: Walkable neighborhoods can't happen without successful public spaces that encourage a variety of uses. Even shops and kiosks can enliven a place. Just throwing down a plaza with a few benches isn't enough. (NYT)

And...: A Maryland court ruled that WMATA has sovereign immunity. (Examiner) ... Is our transportation network continually underfunded because of bad PR? (Streetsblog) ... Tolls start today on the $2.5-billion ICC. (Examiner)

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Breakfast links: Recent ideas reconsidered

Photo by The Great Photographicon on Flickr.
How will the streetcar connect to Union Station?: DDOT has proposed 3 options to connect the H Street line to Union Station. One option extends the route to the top of the Hopscotch Bridge and 2 options loop down to 2nd & F Streets NE. (City Paper)

WMATA may simplify and raise fares: The agency may hike fares to balance the budget, but may also eliminate the "peak of the peak" fare. WMATA also proposes charging paper farecard users $6 for one-way trips to stations outside of the core. (Examiner)

BRAC traffic study was far off: DoD's IG accused the Army of vastly underestimating the traffic induced by moving thousands of employees to Mark Center. The Army blames Alexandria for approving the zoning change to permit the project. (Examiner)

Few complain about Metro formally: Relatively few Metro riders file formal complaints with the agency. Of those who do, elevators and escalators are the biggest sources of complaints followed by rude staff. The Red Line received the most complaints. (Post)

Montgomery rejects curfew and anti-loitering bills: The county council rejected both bills, the latter of which was considered a compromise. (Examiner)

Cuccinelli runs for governor: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) announced his run for governor. He'll likely face Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) in the 2013 primary. (Post)

And...: JetBlue is paying $40 million to fly out of National Airport. (HuffPo) ... The grocery store covenant may not apply to the proposed Skyland Walmart after all. (Post) ... Want to be a docent for the National Mall? (Examiner)

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Breakfast links: Emergency responses

Photo by The Great Photographicon on Flickr.
Major changes for firefighters: In addition to staff cuts, the fire chief wants firefighters to switch from 24-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts. The 40% of firefighters who live more than 30 miles from the city are unhappy with the proposal. (Examiner)

Metro braves the snow: For a few years, WMATA has closed aboveground Metro stations after 8 inches of snowfall. Now the agency will increase that threshold to 10 inches and will keep the Yellow Line bridge open no matter what. (Examiner)

Traffic cameras to find terrorists: Traffic cameras aren't just for red-light runners. DHS has given area police $1 million to install cameras that record the license plates passing along local highways. The surveillance is resulting in one arrest per day. (Examiner)

Is Georgetown really in trouble?: One Georgetown resident and real estate developer thinks Georgetown, despite its high rents, is down and out. Conveniently, he thinks the city should spend $11 million to subsidize development in Georgetown. (City Paper)

Downtown residents face unique problems: Downtown DC's residential population has doubled over the past decade. The increasingly assertive population has pushed back against plans to add glitz to downtown areas such as Chinatown. (City Paper)

Line forms for apartments: Forget Black Friday. Hundreds of people waited in line Monday night for a chance to rent affordable apartments in Columbia Heights. (Post)

Wells of 2 minds on bundling: Councilmember Tommy Wells, who opposes the bundling of campaign contributions, has received a few himself. He's not sure if he'll take them during the next campaign. (City Paper)

Put all the states on your wall: Looking for an interesting DC map for a gift? H Street spider map designer Peter Dunn has created an attractive poster of DC's state-named avenues. (Stonebrown Design) ... Read how these avenues came to be.

And...: More people leave California than move in. (LA Times) ... Pension costs for Montgomery County teachers have jumped sharply. (Examiner) ... The US Attorney for DC won't reveal his budget. (Post)

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Breakfast links: That will cost you more

Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.
Taxi rate increase uncertain: The proposed fare increases for DC cabs faced stiff opposition at a hearing yesterday. Many skeptics oppose fare increases until service quality improves. (DCist)

Is a Metro fare hike on the way?: Metro faces a $124 million budget shortfall next year mostly due to increases in costs. If regional jurisdictions can't pony up the different, the agency may have to hike fares or cut service. (Post)

Child poverty rates climb regionally: Child poverty increased all across the region over the past few years. DC has by far the highest number, with 20,872 (31%) of 5-to-17-year-olds living in poverty. (Examiner)

WMATA tries to lure federal tenants: WMATA may partner with GSA to bring development to 4 metro stations. The agency would lease land to GSA near the Anacostia, Naylor Road, Branch Avenue, and Huntington stations. (Post)

Metro suicides failing lately: Several recent suicide attempts on Metro have failed. Either the trains were far away or stopped quickly enough. In one case, a man jumped from a parking garage and survived. (Examiner)

Thanksgiving enforcement jumps: Over the Thanksgiving weekend, 6 people died on Maryland roadways while 9 died on Virginia's. Police arrested or cited more than 22,000 people in both states over the weekend. (Examiner)

Montgomery challenges ballot question: The county eliminated collective bargaining for police over management decisions. The union wants to take the ban to the ballot, hoping voters will overturn it. The council is suing to stop the measure. (Examiner)

And...: The Post remembers that it's a local paper, not just a national paper. (Post) ... DC upholds sex-segregated dorms at Catholic University. (Washington Times) ... Mt. Vernon Triangle, once a land of parking lots, is finally filling with a critical mass of development. (DCMud)

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Black Friday links: Think of the small businesses

Photo by xrrr on Flickr.
Shop small businesses, avoid dangerous parking lots: Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, an effort to get holiday shoppers to try small businesses. Meanwhile, in big store parking lots, a man ran over 7 people, killing 1, and a Wheaton man was kidnapped and forced to take cash out of an ATM. (Post, WTOP)

How to keep Latino character amid growth?: Wheaton will soon get a new Sector Plan accommodating mixed-use TOD around its Metro station, but some fear losing the traditional Latino businesses. (Post) ... That is already happening in Langley Park around the Purple Line. (WAMU)

Few constituents receive money: DC councilmembers only spent 12% of their Constituent Services Funds on constituents. Tommy Wells spent the most (32%), Mary Cheh the least (1%). (DCist, DC4D)

Walmart CBA: All for show?: A Post editorial cheers the Walmart CBA, even though it's unremarkable upon closer inspection. The proffers are already required by law, previously negotiated, or not commitments at all. (City Paper)

Gray talks streetcars, stadiums: Mayor Gray thinks extending streetcars into Maryland is a good idea. He's also still into the idea of building a Redskins training facility but skeptical about a DC United stadium because of the potential public expense. (WTOP)

Bag taxes may expand in Maryland: The Prince George's council is considering a bag tax. Unlike Montgomery, the county needs approval from the state first. They'd likely spend the revenue generally instead of dedicating it for the environment. (Examiner)

Criminal record may join race, sex, religion: Councilmember Marion Barry proposes adding ex-cons to the list of protected groups enumerated in the city's Human Rights Act. Many people who have served their time face difficulty getting hired. (Post)

Protests run up bills: Occupy protests are costing cities nationwide $13 million for police and other services, but that's nothing compared to Wall Street's toxic assets, the war, or just securing other protests like the 2004 RNC. (HuffPo, ThinkProgress)

And...: The still somewhat secret plans for the Dupont tunnels might include decking the Connecticut underpass. (Atlantic Cities) ... Should Manhattan add landfill to connect to Governors Island? (NYT) ... Governor McDonnell appointed his 2 new members of the MWAA board with jet speed. (Washington Times)

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Breakfast links: CaBi to the Mall and the store

Photo by The Great Photographicon on Flickr.
The Mall may get 5 CaBi stations: NPS proposes CaBi stations for the Smithsonian Metro and near the Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and FDR/MLK memorials. (WABA) ... DC's Bicycle Advisory Committee mapped the spots, but worries about the lack of stations east of 12th Street.

Walmart may add stations too: Walmart has signed a community benefits agreement with DC. It includes a Transportation Demand Management provision possibly to include Capital Bikeshare stations, bus shelters, or electric car charging. (WBJ)

But is it enforceable?: The Walmart CBA, however, is also entirely unenforceable, being "subject and contingent upon business conditions." It includes provisions for job training and minority hiring but no wage or benefit requirements above the current legal minimums. Also, Walmart will not sell guns or ammunition. (Post)

Montgomery curfew dead for now: The proposed youth curfew doesn't have the votes to pass the county council. (Examiner) ... Council members are still debating the issue in light of Saturday's shoplifting mob. (HuffPo)

Franklin Shelter? Not so fast: Occupy protestors' demands that the District revert the Franklin School to a homeless shelter may be an unsafe idea. The building's extreme levels of lead and asbestos make it unsafe for human use. (City Paper)

Food stamps up, not down: An Examiner article last week said the number of DC households on food stamps dropped last year, but DCFPI says they're using less accurate data, and USDA shows the number up 17%.

Arlington eyes office building: The county wants to buy an office building in Courthouse for county offices and a homeless shelter. The move would permit Arlington to redevelop the Court Square West building into a more vibrant project. (Post)

Ehrlich blames everyone else: Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich blames his 2010 election loss on high turnout among the state's black voters. He says he was unfairly associated with Tea Partiers and racists. (Post)

And...: A Virginia delegate wants to block Silver Line funding over issues that other state leaders already resolved. (Examiner) ... DC offers drivers few specialty tags; Virginia offers 180. (DCist) ... The DMV is doing its part to combat HIV infection rates. (Post) ... Metro map designer Lance Wyman will now tackle Union Station. (City Paper)

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Breakfast links: Urban features come to Montgomery

Photo by afagen on Flickr.
Streetcar to Silver Spring?: Montgomery Councilmembers Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer are asking DC to consider running the streetcar to Silver Spring. It's entirely logical, if only the various DOTs can work together. (South Silver Spring)

Berliner against anti-urban Walmarts: Councilmember Roger Berliner wants to stop the Walmart at Rockville Pike and Randolph Road because it will undermine the more urban form the county wants to foster in that area. (Patch)

Mall owner prefers a town instead: The owners of White Flint Mall want to replace the mall with a town. The project would include 5 million square feet of offices, apartments, and shops and will take 25 years to complete. (Gazette, Mike)

Jobs outstrip housing: The region is failing to match job growth with housing growth. Eventually, employers and workers may relocate to cities where housing is cheaper. (Post) ... Building up, rather than out, is the best solution we've got. (City Block)

Parking meter aesthetics matter: DC just installed traditional parking meters on MLK Ave in Anacostia's business district. The fact the meters are coin-operated and scuffed up has one resident accusing the city of marginalizing the neighborhood. (CHotR)

HPRB nominees: 6 months later, no changes: Mayor Gray held off for 6 months on planned nominees to the Historic Preservation Review Board following pushback from businesses... but has gone ahead and nominated that same slate. (City Paper)

Food stamps down in DC, up in MD, VA: The number of food stamp recipients fell 10.5% in DC while jumping 10.2% and 21.2% in Virginia and Maryland respectively. The shift may signal the displacement of poverty from DC to the suburbs. (Examiner)

WMATA questions 14-hour workdays: WMATA wants to reduce worker fatigue by limiting shifts to a maximum of 14 hours. Several board members think even that is too long for a single shift. (Examiner)

And...: Prince George's County will create "prostitution-free zones" along the DC border. (Patch) ... This weekend the National Building Museum opens an exhibit on grand architectural proposals for Washington that never got built. (WBJ) ... Do supermarkets still need tax breaks to locate in DC? (City Paper)

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