Greater Greater Washington

Posts by Geoff Hatchard

Geoff Hatchard lived in DC's Trinidad neighborhood. The opinions and views expressed in Geoff's writing on this blog are his, and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer. 

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Why Greater Greater Washington is important to me

Greater Greater Washington is holding a reader drive to fund our Associate Editor, who makes sure we get high-quality posts up every day. Some members of the Greater Greater Washington family have written accounts of why this community is important to them and to the region. Please support us today!

I don't recall the first Greater Greater Washington article that I read, but I do recall the first one that I contributed to: a post about reworking the traffic flow around Mount Vernon Square and on 7th and 9th streets south of the convention center.


The author with wife and fellow contributor Jaime Fearer. Photo by Madame Meow on Flickr.

I had been reading and writing about public planning meetings in the city for years, and it finally became clear that I should be adding my voice to what, at that time, was quickly becoming the source for intelligent analysis of urban planning in the DC area.

Over the last 4+ years, I've watched the blog grow in scope and influence. The launch of Greater Greater Education may be the most consequential new addition to the local blogosphere, even if many don't realize it yet.

For years, conversations about growth in DC have frequently hinged on this point: "If the DC school system was great, it would be impossible to keep people from flooding into the city." In many ways, education is the only thing where DC doesn't hold distinct advantages over surrounding communities.

The blog's coverage of local politics is also a great strength. Local television news all but ignores the issues in local politics, and the Washington Post frequently goes for the horse-race story instead of the policy analysis. Greater Greater Washington fills an important gap, creating a place where smart discussion of local politics is a necessity, not a luxury.

I hope to see the blog continue to grow in its geographic and topical coverage. Even though I'm watching DC from the other side of the country now, I will continue to rely on Greater Greater Washington to keep me intelligently informed on important issues in a city I care deeply about.

In order to help the blog grow, we need to be able to ensure that an editorial team exists to keep the quality at a high level. If you value the quality of the content on the blog, please consider giving what you can so Greater Greater Washington can continue to provide smart pieces on planning, education, and all the related issues that make a growing region work.

Transit


What about an infill Metro station at the Cafritz property?

Prince George's County recently approved a new town center in Riverdale Park that will have the county's first Whole Foods. This might be a good location for a new Metro station as well.


Map by the author.

The Cafritz Property covers 37 acres along Route 1 between East-West Highway and the University of Maryland. Developer Calvert Tract, LLC plans to build nearly 1,000 townhomes and apartments, a 120-room hotel, 22,000 square feet of office space and about 168,000 square feet of retail space, including the Whole Foods. But the project has been controversial due to concerns about traffic.

Concentrating different uses and activities at the Cafritz Property can make the development more walkable and likely to draw customers willing to patronize the location without adding single-occupant vehicles to local roads. But a new Metro station on the property could make it even easier for people to travel there without a car.

I took a visit to the property last year, not to scout out the area where the store would be built, but to take a look at the area where the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail will extend through the site. One of the things you notice while traveling south from College Park's Calvert Hills neighborhood is that WMATA's Green Line emerges from a tunnel just to the east of the property.

Earlier plans from the developer show that WMATA owns the piece of land that separates the Cafritz property from the city of College Park to the north. What if, as part of the negotiations for future phases of the development, Prince George's County worked with the developers to fund an infill station here?


Current site plan for the Cafritz Property with WMATA property highlighted. Image from the developer and edited by Dan Reed.

The station would be close to the midpoint between the College Park and Prince George's Plaza stations, approximately 4/5 of a mile from the College Park station and 1.1 miles from Prince George's Plaza. Direct rail access to the Cafritz Property would be a win for the property developers as well as the neighbors in University Park, the southern neighborhoods of College Park, and Riverdale Park, all of which can be a long walk from existing Metro stations.

It's probably too late in the process for a Metro station to be built as part of the first phase of the Cafritz Property, but there's no reason this couldn't be seriously considered for the future.

Pedestrians


New sidewalk uses porous, flexible pavement

At first glance, the tree at the northeast corner of 8th and K Streets, NE appears to be buried in asphalt. The truth is much more interesting.

To comply with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, DDOT rebuilt the intersection of West Virginia Avenue NE, 8th Street and K Street in the H Street neighborood. This intersection is a busy transfer point between the 90 and D Metrobus lines and has a lot of foot traffic.


Image from DDOT provided by Veronica Davis.

DDOT has installed modern curb ramps at all pedestrian crossings, and they've repaired the concrete in order to smooth out some potentially dangerous bumps. The elderly and disabled now have a smoother path to get from bus to bus as they travel across town.

(It would be nice if DDOT would restripe the crosswalks with higher-visibility zebra/piano striping, but perhaps that's a subject for another blog post.)

Within the project limits, there were two trees whose roots were lifting the sidewalk. This created dangerous tripping hazards and the narrowed sidewalks made it difficult for those in wheelchairs to use the sidewalk.


The sidewalk before. Image from Google Street View.

Instead of concrete, construction workers have used porous pavement in these areas that extend all the way around each tree. This makes the sidewalks a bit wider, eliminates the need to trim weeds around the base of the trees, and allows more water to filter through the ground to the trees' roots.

It will be interesting to see how well this pavement works, and if we'll be seeing it used more widely around town in the near future.

Government


Social media kills bad policy against photographing permits

DC permit officials wouldn't let people take photos of building applications. Instead, people had to wait several days and pay to have copies made. But after several people including staff for Councilmember David Grosso reached out to officials through Twitter, this policy is no more.


Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid.

In May, I learned that the owners of a house across the street in Trinidad were going to add a pop-up. I wanted to see some details of their plans. Matt Ashburn offered (via Twitter) to go on his lunch break to look at the plans.

But Eric Fidler warned us that DCRA doesn't allow people to take photos of plans. Helder Gil, DCRA's Legislative and Public Affairs officer, said that he should be able to. Gil gave Matt the name of the head of the permit division, just in case a problem cropped up.

At DCRA, Matt asked an employee at the file room to see the plans and permit application for the house. The employee asked him to sign in with his name, addresses of concern, and documents he'd like to view, but said he couldn't see the plans that day. "If I [pulled plans immediately for someone in the office], I'd be working all day," she said.

Matt had to fill out another form with his name, phone number, and the permit numbers, and wait for a phone call in 1-3 days telling him when he could come back. In the meantime, he could see the permit application.

But when he tried to take a photo of it with his phone, he was told he wasn't allowed to take photos. Instead, he could pay the employee to make copies. "That's the policy. No photos of the paperwork," she insisted.

When Matt protested, the employee eventually offered to make free copies of the application to get rid of him. But then, the records manager, a Mr. Mason, refused.

Mason confirmed that all these records are public documents and that the public is allowed to view and hold them, but not to photograph them. "What a wonderful country we live in," he told Matt. Matt would still have to buy copies of the application from DCRA and copies of the plans from Blueboy Printing, a private print shop, because DCRA can't copy large pages itself.

Matt said he just wanted to take a quick photo to avoid the hassle. "That's just how it is," Mr. Mason replied.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Aaron Pritchard, Councilmember Grosso's chief of staff, saw our tweets about the issue and sought clarification from DCRA.

Gil jumped in. He made it clear that the director of DCRA was unhappy with the situation, and had asked the permit records department to stop enforcing it. Citizens could now take photos of permits, and that was that.

A few weeks later, I tried it for myself. I went to the permit office one Friday and asked to see the plans for the same house. Since the plans were off-site, I had to ask them to pull the plans, and an employee told me I could call back on Tuesday to see if they were available. When I did, I learned that I could come in the next day to see the plans. (They weren't, as it turned out, and I had to come back twice before they were finally available.)

The same employee strongly encouraged me to take photos if I wanted to have a record. Thankfully, that part of the policy worked the way it should.

As for that pop-up, here's what it will look like:

It appears that the new owners will replace one of the second-floor windows with a door, while the porch roof will become a deck. The plans don't specifically say what materials they will use for the addition, but it appears that it will be something like vinyl siding, as opposed to brick like the rest of the house.

Since my neighborhood isn't designated as a historic district, there's no process that controls the materials or design of building additions in my neighborhood, except that they have to meet zoning. But we were able to change one problematic city policy with help from social media.

Public Safety


Young kids try to assault me while biking

While I was riding Capital Bikeshare home through Capitol Hill last night, a 12-year-old girl and a group of other kids tried to assault me.


Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

I'm totally fine. The police caught the girl, and her mother promised to take action. Will this experience get the girl to shape up before she gets a criminal record that could impair her future?

I was taking the Green Line home from work. We arrived at the Anacostia station, and the train doors were held open for over ten minutes. I decided to leave the station and find another way home.

I hopped on a Capital Bikeshare bike at the station and headed north, across the 11th Street bridge. When I got to the corner of 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE, I had to wait for a red light. Four kids were standing on the corner, next to the fence that has been put up around the charred remains of Frager's Hardware Store. There were three girls and one boy, all around the same age (12 or so).

One of the girls approached me and asked for five dollars. I told her I didn't have any cash on me. She looked at the bike and said, "You need money to pay for that, right?"

I told her, "Yes, I use a credit card."

She said, "Credit cards have money on them, give me some!"

The light turned green at that point, and I said, "Sorry, no, I have to go."

As I started across Pennsylvania Avenue, she lunged at me, pushed on my backpack, and yelled, "Give me money! Give me money!" a couple times, while the other kids laughed. The events of Tuesday on the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) came to mind, and I turned around to make sure the other kids weren't coming after me. I scolded them and asked if they heard about the MBT assault.

The boy in the group started yelling, "Fuck you! Fuck you! Get the fuck out of my neighborhood!" At this point, I realized I could hurry up and bike away, but I wasn't in the mood to let these kids think they could get away with threatening someone on a bicycle, so I yelled out, "These kids are trying to assault me."

I moved my bicycle to the southwest corner of the intersection (in front of the dry cleaners) and called 911.

A gentleman came out of the dry cleaners and told me that the kids had been causing problems in the past, throwing rocks at the store's windows.

Two officers arrived after about 3 or 4 minutes. I told them what happened, and in which direction the kids went after our encounter. A quick check on the radio and the first officer was able to confirm that a third officer had some kids a block down the street. The second officer went to bring them back.

While she was gone, I spoke with the first officer. She told me that kids in the area were apt to do things like this, and that the children doing this get younger every year. The second officer returned a couple minutes later with a woman in her cruiser. This turned out to be the mother of the girl who had shoved me. The first officer insisted that the young girl be brought back as well, so a couple more awkward minutes passed while the first officer, the girl's mother, and I stood around waiting for the other officer to bring back the girl.

When they returned, the first officer asked the girl to state what had happened. She basically gave the full story, but claimed that she had just touched the bike, and not pushed me. The officers wanted her to apologize to me, which she did, but clearly not in a sincere manner.

The police told the girl she could be charged with both aggravated panhandling and simple assault. The girl's mother quietly told her not to be stupid and to apologize.

The officers stepped aside for a moment, leaving me with the girl and her mother. We stood there awkwardly as a light rain began to fall. The officers then called me over to where they were discussing things, and asked if I wanted to press charges. They were willing to lock the girl up, and told me that there would be a few hours of paperwork, but it was up to me how to proceed.

I told the officers I wanted the girl to learn a lesson, but I wanted to do what they thought was best. They called her over, and had her stand right in front of me. The officers told the girl that I had the power to ruin her life then and there, to give her a criminal record. They told me to tell her what I thought about the whole situation.

I told the girl that I thought what she did was stupid, and there was no reason for her to have done anything more than say hello to me on the street.

The officers jumped in and told her to look me in the eye, stand up straight, stop mumbling, and pay attention. The girl's mother, standing nearby, implored her daughter to listen. The police asked her if she had goals, wanted to go to college, and wanted to get away from the bad influences around her. They reminded her that her attitude and actions were going to damn her to a life of dead-ends.

Finally, I told the girl my name, and offered my hand to shake. She did, and apologized again (personally, it still didn't feel 100% sincere, but I remember how much of a sullen brat I could be at 12 years old myself).

Her mother said she'd be going home and would be on a short leash. I obviously don't know what happened once they got home, but I hope we got some sort of message into the girl's head.

As I got back on the Bikeshare bike to head towards home (yeah, I racked up some fees for having the bike out more than 30 minutes!), I thanked the officers and they apologized for my ruined evening. I told them it was absolutely not their place to apologize, and thanked them for doing a great job.

The officers remarked that, while the girl avoided a criminal record, they had her name and would put her on a "juvenile watch list." If she gets caught causing trouble again, there will be no mercy.

Cross-posted at The District Curmudgeon.

Public Spaces


K Street reconstruction misses key ped and bike features

Last Saturday, DC officials cut a ribbon on a project to rebuild on K Street NW between 3rd and 7th Streets. The road is better than it was before, but some elements that would have helped pedestrians and cyclists disappeared between earlier studies and the final project.


Photos by the author.

New pavement covers a full-depth reconstruction of the street and upgraded utilities. New granite curbs, Washington Globe lamp posts, brick sidewalk pavers, and planting beds make the sidewalk a nice place for pedestrians and outdoor cafés.

The four large, round, elevated tree boxes on the corners of 5th and K are especially nice. They'll give trees room for their roots to grow, allowing this corner to become a beautiful shaded plaza in the future.

A 2003 Mount Vernon Triangle study from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Office of Planning recommended ways to improve transportation and the public realm throughout the neighborhood. That study proposed putting bike lanes on K Street and consolidating curb cuts, which means fewer places where pedestrians come in conflict with vehicles.

There are still large curb cuts on the 300 and 500 blocks of K Street, and the project reconstructed the curbs around these curb cuts. Had DC been able to close the curb cuts now, it could have saved time and expense in the future. However, that would require the property owners to agree.

What happened to the bike lanes?

The Mount Vernon Triangle study also recommended bike lanes along K Street, but with the exception of a short segment in the 400 block, the blocks have sharrows instead.

DDOT spokesperson Monica Hernandez said in an email, "We did include bike lanes in the plans for K Street from 4th to 7th. We intentionally dropped the bike lanes at the intersections for traffic capacity reasons, to allow for the inclusion of left turn lanes, thus the actual bike lanes are short, mid-block sections with sharrows at the ends of the blocks."

However, this makes it sound like there are bike lanes for at least part of each block. In fact, most blocks don't have any bike lanes.

While biking down K Street last week, aggressive drivers honked at me incessantly. If there was a lane, drivers would have simply passed by. While sharrows are a helpful reminder to vehicular traffic that cyclists have a right to be in the road, it's likely that other cyclists will have the same experience.

At 3rd Street, the project's eastern end, there's no transition from one very-wide lane with a sharrow to two wide travel lanes with no indication of cyclist right-of way.

Missing crosswalks hurt pedestrian safety

The project also misses out on pedestrian accommodations, especially at the corner of 3rd and K. There's no marked crosswalk on the eastern side of the intersection. I suspect it was left out because westbound drivers accelerate as they crest the bridge over I-395, meaning they wouldn't see the crosswalk until they were almost on top of a vulnerable pedestrian.

Any leg of an intersection is still a legal crosswalk, even if there's no marked crosswalk painted on the street. By not designing this area to be safe for pedestrians, DDOT is just letting an unsafe situation persist.

There's also no traffic signal here. This leaves off a visual cue for drivers to even think about slowing down. Meanwhile, drivers will be merging from two lanes into one here, meaning they'll be looking over their shoulders and in the rear-view mirror to see where traffic is behind them, rather than paying attention to pedestrians in the crosswalk. This corner has the potential to be even more dangerous for those on foot than it was before.

The Mount Vernon Triangle report recommended a mid-block crosswalk on the 400 block, which is very long, but it didn't become part of the project. Hernandez passed on our question about this to the project team, but she wasn't able to get an answer. She wrote in an email, "those decisions were made by former staff during the planning phase." It appears decisions by now-departed employees, decisions to abandon elements from an earlier study, simply disappeared with those employees.

What's with the signs?

Finally, many of the new street sign blades along K Street don't follow the same standard as most others in the city. This happened recently on other projects where contractors have fabricated signs, like on Sherman Avenue NW.

When asked about this, the project team told Hernandez, "The signage that's in place reflects the new federal standard which will be utilized on all new projects." Federal standards appear to define the typeface, not the shape of the signs, and as Mike DeBonis notes, include ordinal notation (3rd instead of 3). Regardless of DDOT's claim, it's clear that signage on their projects are not following one universal standard.

The revitalization of Mount Vernon Square has made K Street an increasingly active and busy urban place, and it deserves a streetscape that supports the people who use it, especially pedestrians and bicyclists. While the new K Street is an improvement, there are many unfortunate omissions that prevent it from being great.

Bicycling


Suitland Parkway Trail is a mess. Will leaders seek change?

I'm biking on the Suitland Parkway Trail to work, swerving around broken glass and under low-hanging tree branches. Highway traffic roars past just inches away. Suddenly, the trail ends.


All photos by the author.

Friday is the official Bike to Work Day, so on Monday, I did a test-run of a new route from my home in Trinidad to work in Suitland. What I found is that DC, Prince George's County, and the National Park Service, which maintains Suitland Parkway, still have a long way to go to make cycling a viable option for many communities east of the Anacostia River.

Suitland Parkway is a near-freeway connecting neighborhoods like Anacostia, Barry Farm, and Shipley Terrace to employment centers at Suitland and Andrews Air Force Base. Next to it is the Suitland Parkway Trail, a bike highway similar to the Mount Vernon Trail in Northern Virginia, but it doesn't make it out of the District. It appears to be DDOT's responsibility to maintain the trail, but judging from the lack of maintenance, it's clearly not a priority for them.


After a pleasant ride southbound against the commute rush on Martin Luther King Avenue, I turn onto Sheridan Road SE. This on-street section is the western extension of the Suitland Parkway Trail. It could certainly use sharrows or even a bike lane/cycle track, as the travel lanes are very wide.

Construction debris from the unfinished Sheridan Station development litters the sidewalk adjacent to the road. I swerve around something that was burned to the curb cut and a pile of mulch that sprawls onto the trail. There's no clear signage for the trailhead, but this is where it starts.


This is the nicest part of the trail in the city, though. There's separation from the parkway, and weeds and garbage haven't colonized the path yet.


It quickly gets worse, though. In some areas, there's so much underbrush, weeds, plant debris, garbage, and broken glass on the far side of the trail that there's just one passable "lane." I'm now limited to a space 3 feet wide, keenly aware that cars traveling over 50 miles per hour are just inches away.


The trail separates from the parkway for a short distance, where it's quickly overtaken by nature.


Grass grows through cracks in the pavement, reaching the point where the trail needs to be completely rebuilt. The surface is completely broken here.


When I get back to the parkway, the lane farthest from the road is still blocked, whether by trash and dead leaves or by low-hanging tree branches. I either have to get off my bike or move into oncoming traffic to pass it.


There's a speed limit sign placed not next to the trail, but in it. There's plenty of room 4 feet to the right.


Here's an uncharacteristically clear section of the trail. It's right in front of the speed limit sign, though, so I get the feeling it was kept that way so drivers could see the sign.


East of Stanton Road, the garbage littering the path makes me think I've found a mobile automobile repair shop.


A stream culvert passes under the trail and road here. Unfortunately, it narrows the trail.


This is the steepest climb on the trail, though thankfully it's much less steep than taking parallel streets like Good Hope Road or Pennsylvania Avenue. Here, you reach two places where the trail is collapsing due to erosion of the ground below.


After crossing two exit ramps, the trail continues under the Alabama Avenue bridge. The trail is very overgrown here, and I can pick out mulberries, Ailanthus (Tree of Heaven), Virginia creeper, and other weedy plants overrunning the pavement.


Under the bridge, the trail is barely 3 feet wide, making it impossible for two cyclists to pass each other here. The lanes of the parkway must be at least 12 feet wide, and they should be narrowed to give enough space for the trail.


If you haven't noticed by now, the parkway itself has a brand-new layer of asphalt, while the adjacent trail has not seen the same level of care or investment.


At Southern Avenue, the boundary between DC and Prince George's County, the trail abruptly ends.


I trudge up the hill through waist-high weeds to get to Southern Avenue. To add insult to injury, there's no gap in the guard rail, so you have to lift your bike over the rail to get to the sidewalk.




Improving the Suitland Parkway Trail is a chicken-and-egg argument: no one uses it because it goes nowhere, so it isn't used, which means it isn't maintained. But if the District and Prince George's County are serious about making cycling a viable option for communities east of the Anacostia River, they have to do a better job of creating trails and other infrastructure, and they have to actually maintain them. If our leaders are serious about all their claims about "One City" and working with our neighbors, they'd sit down together and find a way to make this a priority.

There are rumors that the trail will one day extend to at least the Branch Avenue Metro station, if not farther south to Andrews. In 1994, the National Park Service did a feasibility study of extending the trail, but nearly 20 years later, nothing has happened.

It's also unclear who would be in charge of this construction, the National Park Service or Prince George's County. I'll believe that the local governments actually see some level of priority here when I see shovels in the ground.

In the meantime, DDOT and Mayor Gray should at least send a crew to pick up debris and clear the underbrush so what's there can be used by District cyclists and pedestrians. It's literally the least they could do.

Public Spaces


Police vehicles may damage brand-new Union Station plaza

A project is almost complete to reconstruct the plaza in front of Union station. Unfortunately, Amtrak police continue to pull their cars up on the curb and park in the pedestrian areas.


Photo by the author.

The plaza was once a wasteland of traffic lanes and hadn't been properly maintained for years. The reconstruction project, which included Amtrak and multiple local and federal agencies, can make it an attractive and welcoming gateway to DC. The design treated all forms of traffic wellpedestrians, bicycles, cars, and bus.

Unfortunately, the police parking helped cause damage to the curbs and sidewalks before, and will do so again if this practice continues. It's highly unlikely that the sidewalks and curbs were reinforced strongly enough to withstand the pressure from mutli-ton vehicles.

It's easy to see a parallel with other examples of infrastructure in DC, like this story about Woodson High School, where we spend big bucks on nice new things, then fail to maintain them right after the construction is done.

Police presence and patrols are necessary in highly visible, active areas like a major train station. There has to be a better way and some better locations for police to leave their vehicles, though.

Roads


Shocking rhetoric from John Townsend and AAA

This week's Washington City Paper cover story quoted AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend calling Greater Greater Washington editor David Alpert "retarded" and a "ninny," and comparing Greater Greater Washington to the Ku Klux Klan.

Many other reporters, people on Twitter, and residents generally have clearly stated in response what should of course go without saying, that such personal attacks are beyond the pale.

Some may get the sense that there is personal animosity between Townsend and the team here at Greater Greater Washington. At least on our end, nothing could be further from the truth. We simply disagree with many of his policy positions and his incendiary rhetoric.

Spirited argument is important in public policy, but it should not cross into insults. When it does, that has a chilling effect on open discourse. Fostering an inclusive conversation about the shape of our region is the purpose of this site, but discourse must be civil to be truly open. That's why our comment policy here on Greater Greater Washington prohibits invective like this. In our articles, we try hard to avoid crossing this line, and are disappointed when we or others do, intentionally or inadvertently.

The "war on cars" frame unnecessarily pits drivers against cyclists and pedestrians instead of working together for positive solutions. The City Paper article, by Aaron Wiener, does a good job of debunking that, and is worth reading for much more than the insults it quotes.

When pressed, Townsend told Wiener he wants to back away from the "war on cars."

"I regret the rhetoric sometimes," he says. "Because I think that when you use that type of language, it shuts down communication with people who disagree."
We hope Townsend, his colleagues, and their superiors also regret the things he said about David and Greater Greater Washington. We look forward to the day when AAA ceases using antagonistic language and begins working toward safety, mobility, and harmony among all road users.

In the meantime, residents do have a choice when purchasing towing, insurance, and travel discounts. Better World Club is one company that offers many of the same benefits as AAA, but without the disdain.

Government


Mobile GIS could help track little problems around DC

Downtown DC Business Improvement District employees use a hand-held geographic information system (GIS) to track public space problems like broken fire hydrants. Could this technology also help DC government employees, like trash collectors?


BID GIS app. Photo from ESRI.

ESRI, the company that makes the most commonly-used GIS software in the United States, has a quarterly newsletter called ArcNews. The spring issue has a story about a custom program that BID employees use to report issues with the trash cans, park benches, bus shelters, and other public assets in the BID.

The program sounds like a more sophisticated version of the SeeClickFix application that is re-skinned and rebranded as the DC311 app. The 311 app is buggy and could use work to make it more useful, but it's limited in scope and meant for the public to simply report issues, not address the process from start to finish. The application for the BID employees appears to do just that.

I've often watched DC Department of Public Works (DPW) employees in the morning picking up trash in the alley. There are two guys riding on the back of the truck and one driver. Once in the alley, the two employees who jump off the back of the truck methodically empty the supercans into the truck, while the driver slowly trundles the truck down the alley.

What if the driver had a dash-mounted tablet with a program similar to the one the BID workers have? Perhaps he could quickly note things like illegally dumped furniture, potholes, or broken supercan lids.

With a program like the one the BID has, these DPW employees could be an early-warning system for the department, hitting a button to record the location of any of these issues that DPW would have to deal with. It seems like this could be an efficient way to asses problems that the department would need to deal with anyway. The increased workload could be connected to a bonus system of sorts. Drivers that find the most legitimate problems that need to be addressed could receive a commensurate pay increase.

In addition, perhaps some of the features in this program could filter down to the DC311 app in a future update.

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