Greater Greater Washington

Posts from January 2013

Pedestrians


Where in Ward 3 needs sidewalks most?

Sidewalks are more than a way to get from one place to another on foot. They connect us to our neighbors and neighborhoods. And they become even more crucial as we age.


Children from the Franklin Montessori School enjoy the new sidewalk on Brandywine Street. Photo by George Branyan.

Iona Senior Services has spearheaded a pedestrian advocacy effort to focus on filling priority sidewalk gaps in Ward 3. This effort and has focused on updating the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT)'s 2008 map of sidewalk gaps for Ward 3 and proposing new procedures for closing gaps.

The Priority Sidewalk Assurance Act of 2010, initiated by Councilmember Mary Cheh, establishes routes to schools, recreation and park areas, and transit stops as priority areas for filling in missing sidewalks. And when streets with no sidewalks are due for reconstruction or new curbs and gutters, the law requires building a sidewalk on at least one side.

Sharon Bauer, a former traffic analyst from Austin, Texas, with the assistance of DC Office of Planning, has put in many hours of work to update the DDOT map. She based her changes on the latest Google Street View data. The map includes quarter-mile radius zones (light blue circles) around schools, recreation areas and Metro stops. This is an approximately 5 to 10-minute walk, which we propose as the highest priority areas for filling missing sidewalks.

We have three categories of streets denoted by different colors:

We need your input

If you live, work, or spend time in Ward 3, please download the PDF file of the map and zoom into the areas you are familiar withyour ANC, schools, etc.

Focus particular attention on priority areasthe quarter-mile circles around significant pedestrian features such as schools, Metro stops, rec centers and playgrounds.

Check for inaccuracies on the map, especially the streets marked in RED (no sidewalk on either side) and GREEN (partial sidewalk on one or both sides or difficult to tell).

Then, go to this survey form to provide feedback or recommendations for areas that should receive high priority for sidewalk installation, or in some cases, point out areas where no sidewalk is needed or reasonable. You may also email your feedback to use at info@foresthillsconnection.com.

Cross-posted at Forest Hills Connection.

Politics


Frumin, Silverman were your top choices on education

Residents who voted at Let's Choose DC, a project of Greater Greater Washington, DCist, and PoPville, gave top marks to Matthew Frumin and Elissa Silverman for their views on the future of education in DC.

Matthew Frumin slightly edged out Elissa Silverman in a close finish. John Settles placed third, followed by Patrick Mara, Perry Redd, and Paul Zukerberg much farther behind.

71% of voters gave positive reviews to Frumin's answer, compared to 70% for Silverman's. Silverman had more people rating her answer "very persuasive"38% versus 30%but also fewer people thought her answer "fully" answered the question46% versus Frumin's 65%. 14% of voters said Silverman did not answer the question, while only 1% had that reaction to Frumin's response.

Voters were very divided on Patrick Mara's response, perhaps not a surprise since he essentially said he didn't like the premise of the question and that it wasn't possible to really discuss education in the available space. 48% of people said his response "partially" or "fully" answered the question, while 34% said it did not at all.

Most (75%) felt that Perry Redd answered the question, but actually agreed with it less than anyone else's, with 65% rating it as unpersuasive or very unpersuasive.

Once again, we had no responses from Anita Bonds or Michael Brown. Brown also did not attend a DC for Democracy forum last night.

You can still vote on Question 4, about candidates' views on growth, until Monday night.

History


Barry Farm street names reflect post-Civil War history

For denizens of the Barry Farm community in Southeast Washington, the 19th century still holds strong at the cornerCharlie's Corner store. The neighborhood's street names memorialize Union generals and Radical Republicans who advanced the rights of black Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction.


Zabia Dews, the "Mayor of Barry Farm," outside Charlie's Corner store at the junction of Sumner and Wade Roads SE. Photo by the author.

"Look up at these street names," says Zabia Dews, 63, of the 2700 block of Wade Road SE, pointing to signs above for the junction of Sumner Road SE and Wade Road SE. "There's a history here people don't know about, or they forgot. We can't let it disappear."

The original names remain today: Howard Road SE, which runs past the Anacostia Metro Station, for General Oliver Otis Howard; Sumner Road SE for Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner; Wade Road SE for Ohio Senator Benjamin Wade; Pomeroy Road SE for Kansas Senator Samuel Pomeroy, an early member of Howard University's Board of Trustees; and Stevens Road SE for Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, prominently featured in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln."

The James Barry farm

In 1801 the board of commissioners of the embryonic capital city wrote to the principal landholders "asking to be furnished with lists of lots sold by them." Benjamin Stoddert, the first Secretary of the Navy, Notley Young, a prominent plantation owner, and more than a dozen other men including James Barry, "one of the incorporators of the Washington Canal Company," received the letter.

"Mr. Barry was largely invested in business, both foreign and domestic, and he was very zealous as an advocate of the interests of the eastern section of the city, in opposition to the claims of the western section," according to the Records of the Columbia Historical Society.


Map of East Washington, circa 1870s. Photo from the DC Public Library, Washingtoniana Division.

More than 60 years later, in April 1864, the surveyor of Washington County (all land in the District east of the Potomac, outside of the L'Enfant Plan and Georgetown) was "instructed to stone the new road between the northwest and southwest boundaries of the Barry Farm, known as the Stickfoot Branch road," reported the Daily National Republican.

In September young men were drafted off the farm to fill President Lincoln's call for a half million more Union troops. By now the Barry Farm, across the Eastern Branch from the Washington Navy Yard, was sandwiched between the United States Government Hospital for the Insane (Saint Elizabeths) which saw its first patient in 1855 and Uniontown (Anacostia), the city's first subdivision.

At this time, during the Civil War, the city was brimming with "the floating colored population" of runaway slaves from "Maryland, Virginia, and farther South," according to General Oliver Otis Howard's autobiography. In 1865 Howard became Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, a government agency established to aid freed slaves and their families.

General Oliver Otis Howard. Photo from the Library of Congress.
Riding through congested areas of Washington north of K Street, between 13th and 17th, Howard came upon a large group of freedmen.

"What would make you self-supporting?" asked Howard.

"Land! Give us land!" several replied.

In the spring of 1867, Howard used $52,000 in Freedmen's Bureau funds to purchase all 375 acres of the Barry Farm. He sold 1- and 2-acre lots. Within 2 years, 266 families called Barry Farm home, including the sons of Frederick Douglass.

Old Barry Farm develops

"The land all the time was constantly inquired for by working freedmen," Howard recalled. "It was taken with avidity, and the monthly payments, with very few exceptions, were promptly and regularly made. The prospect to the freedmen of owning a homestead was a great stimulus to exertion." A schoolhouse for 150 pupils was quickly erected. Barry Farm was a self-sufficient, self-contained community.


An 1894 Hopkins map (plate 34) of Barry Farm shows streets names still in currency today. Photo from the DC Public Library, Washingtoniana Division.

Today, Barry Farm is almost exclusively associated with the faded 26-acre Barry Farm Dwellings, a 432-unit (nearly a third vacant) property of the DC Housing Authority. The name association hasn't always been that way, says Dews, known as the "Mayor of Barry Farm" for his familial roots on Wade Road SE for nearly a century and his mentorship of neighborhood youth. "It's been a long time since we've been a tribe. But that's what we were and it's important for the younger generation to know this history."

As the city restarts its redevelopment planning process for Barry Farm Dwellings, at an estimated cost of $400 million over a timeline of two decades, the Barry Farm Resident Council, with assistance from Empower DC and local activists, has communicated to the DC Housing Authority that alongside issues of public safety, displacement and employment, a heritage preservation plan is a key concern. 140 years ago, Barry Farm residents and the city were similarly at odds.

According to the Baltimore Sun's Washington correspondent writing in the summer of 1872, "The board of public works propose to open streets in the village and as the residents there have each a deed of one acre of land for his cottage, they are not disposed to surrender any portion of their homesteads for streets or anything else without compensation." When a contractor "appeared in the village to cut up the lots, he was beset, the horses taken from the street plows, the wagons upset, and the laborers driven away. In the afternoon the work was begun under the protection of the police."

Then as now, self-preservation and kinfolk survival is the indigenous creed of Barry Farm, Dews says. "These street names are what's left of the tribe that represented the hard work and sacrifice necessary to build families and businesses. We need to get back to the old way of living."

Parking


Ask GGW: Do you have to pay to park here?

If signs say that you can park but must pay on one section of a street, while parking is illegal until 6:30 pm on another section, do you have to pay on that second section after 6:30?

The 800 block of 17th Street, NW has these parking signs along its length, in this order (plus another one farther to the left, at the corner, which isn't relevant here).

It's clear you can't ever park to the right of the rightmost sign (that's at the corner). It's also clear that between the left and middle signs (and to the left of the left sign), you can park from 9:30-4 on weekdays, but have to pay the meter.

You can also park after 6:30 pm in that zone, but have to pay. The 2-hour time limit doesn't apply, so you can park for 3½ hours, but have to pay $7 to do it.

But what about between the middle and right signs? You can't park from 7 am to 6:30 pm, and can stand only outside rush hours. Both restrictions expire at 6:30, but the "pay to park" rule seem to only apply left of the middle sign, since the middle sign has a leftward-pointing green arrow.

Drivers probably should have to pay in both zones after 6:30, since it would be a little silly to have half the block be free in the evenings while the other half is not, but at the moment, the signs don't seem to require that.

On a recent evening, a few drivers tried parking in the apparently-free zone, and an enforcement officer ticketed the 2 cars closest to the middle sign, but not the others, which is particularly odd.

Links


Breakfast links: McDonnell's bad ideas


Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr.
VA transportation bill marches on: Governor McDonnell's bad transportation funding plan is proceeding apace. It cleared its committee with few changes and the full House should vote on on the plan next week. (Examiner)

DIY transportation funding: Think you can design a better transportation funding plan than Governor McDonnell? Then check out these interactive spreadsheets that let users design their own 20-year Virginia transportation plan. (The Dixie Pig, Froggie)

No one wants a new toll road: Bob McCartney dubs Governor McDonnell's proposed US 460 toll road bypass near Hampton Roads a "Road for Nobody," while it diverts funds from more-needed projects around the state. (Post)

Costly U-turns: Drivers making U-turns across the Pennsylvania Ave. bike lanes can now be fined $100 since DDOT's 30-day education program has finished. (WAMU)

Green Line fire causes delays: A track fire near the Anacostia Metro stranded 2000 Green Line riders yesterday. Some riders even ventured on to the tracks themselves, even though they were still electrified. (Post)

Group opposes opponents: An anonymous resident has created a new civic group, called "In My Backyard DC," to fight against the constant opposition to new housing and businesses, and to oppose a liquor license moratorium for U Street. (Borderstan)

Another day, another taxi credit card delay: Credit card readers in DC taxis will once again be delayed, this time until May,because the taxi commission chose the standard regulatory process instead of the faster emergency process. (Post)

Country roads: Some rural Virginia lawmakers say the 3-foot passing law would make it impossible for drivers to pass bikes on narrow country roads. (WAMU)

Car-free pays: Being car-free in the DC area can save almost $10,000 a year including gas, insurance, and maintenance. It's not an option for everyone, though, since many areas lack good public transportation. (WTOP)

And...: The BBC will air a documentary on urban planning. (Next City) ... Prince Charles and Camilla take the Tube in celebration of its 150 years. (Independent, Steve S.) ... What people in 1967 thought the future would be like. (US News)

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Development


The American Dream can be an urban dream, too

The classic image of the "American Dream" is, for many, a house with a big yard, 2 cars, and so on. Is that image still relevant, even as many people choose to live in walkable urban neighborhoods? Sarah Lewis argues that it's the ideals, not the trappings, that matter and remain strong.


Photo by Robert Gourley on Flickr.

During Inauguration Day, I found myself (an immigrant, a naturalized citizen) feeling reflective and full of national pride, regardless of what the President's next term may actually focus on, and regardless of partisan politics.

Has the "American Dream" really changed? Are Life, Liberty, and Happiness no longer noble pursuits? I say that the American Dream has simply gone from a set of ideals to an outdated consumer shopping list. I believe the ideals remain the same.

James Truslow Adams, in his book The Epic of America, which was written in 1931, stated that the American dream is

that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.
Notice "everyone" and "opportunity"incredibly important words. According to Merriam-Webster, an opportunity is a favorable juncture of circumstances. So in its most basic form the American dream is a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible for all people to do something that gives them a good chance for advancement or progress. Possibilities, options, and choices for all.

This is where we, the urbanists, exceleconomic possibilities, community options, and environmental choices. We are open-minded, fair, and adaptable. "We recognize that physical solutions by themselves will not solve social and economic problems, but neither can economic vitality, community stability, and environmental health be sustained without a coherent and supportive physical framework."

Economic possibilities

While it is often difficult for urbanists who are inclined to focus on the built environment to think about economics, given what we have all experienced professionally and personally in fiscal arenas over the past few years, this is changing. We have developer clients that cannot obtain loans due to the banking crisis and jurisdictions that have reduced funding due to local, state, and federal deficits. We need to concentrate is on creative thinking and problem solving more than evermaking available resources go further and be used more wisely.

We have had some real economic-based successes such as the Live/Work/Walk: Removing Obstacles to Investment initiative. In September 2012, the Federal Housing Administration revised rules that limited the cap of commercial space in mixed-use condo buildings to an updated 35% commercial use, with possible waivers up to 50%. While this is great for our walkable urban places, it does not yet address a jobs/housing balance that is required for full livability.

It is easy for us to encourage start-up entrepreneurs, telecommuting, and self-employment possibilities presented through digital technology. These occur in places and forms with which we are already familiar. Similarly, the physical manifestation of new forms of commerce (namely shopping) is taking shape in smaller footprint stores and increased online ordering with delivery. However, some of the reports say that this country is seeing a return to manufacturing and that alternative power is going to be a major employment sector in the coming years. What does this mean for our work to give equal employment opportunity across the transect?

Community options

Christopher B. Leinberger, in DC: The WalkUP Wake-Up Call, says "there is such pent-up demand for walkable urban developmentas demonstrated by rental and sales price premiums per-square-foot and capitalization ratesthat it could take a generation of new construction to satisfy." Combine these statistics with the population changes being brought about by the two largest generations in historythe Baby Boomers and the Millennials, more than 150 million people to dictating the housing market.

Both of these generations, for very different reasons, have similar housing needs. Yet "affordable housing" may as well be a four-letter word in many locations. It is often misinterpreted as strictly "projects" or subsidized apartment complexes instead of communities with options for elderly couples on a fixed income or recent college graduates in their first job can live.

Real affordability is a key factorI'm sure even the infamous 1% are concerned with affordability as a concept or they likely wouldn't have reached that financial bracket! Today we hear terms such as "social equity" and "environmental justice," but is the underlying concept really any different than civic responsibility or citizenship?

We focus on transit-oriented development and smart growth in our conversations and work but infill construction only represents one-fifth of new housing construction according to the EPA's Office of Sustainable Communities Smart Growth Program. Greenfield construction is still over 50% of new homes in most of the country. This means that motor car ownership is still a requirement rather than an option making new housing inaccessible to a large segment of our population. How can we encourage more of our fellow citizens to realize that a suburban house does not represent the only dream?

Environmental choices

Transit-oriented developmentit is unfortunate that it still exists as terminology or jargon rather than being standard practice for development throughout the nation. Compact, connected, and complete is the most environmentally sustainable form of development. We know that it is common sense. The closer all aspects of daily living are located to each other, the less energy used, the fewer emissions discharged, and the reduced damage to the climate.

The original allure of cars as part of the American Dream was freedom of movement. Do we truly have a freedom if it is not available to the many? Access to safe mobility should be a constant. We know our development patterns have hindered our choices but we all stood on our own two feet and walked when we were very very small and our parents and grandparents celebrated. Remember how excited we were when we got our first bicycles and were taught to ride? It's not trendy or old-fashioned, it's simply mobility.

At the same time automobiles have changed from Packard to Prius or Lincoln to Leaf so why isn't alternative fuel-powered transit becoming more even commonplace? While compressed natural gas buses are seen in cities fairly frequently, hydrogen fuel cells only emit water and even solar panels can provide power-assist. Invention is part of the American spirit but have we considered how our urban places might change to accommodate these fuel sources and technologies?

In short

Leinberger hits the nail on the head when he says, "...the creation of economically successful WalkUPs [walkable urban places] with high social equity is a huge challenge, possible the largest domestic challenge U.S. society currently faces. This research shows that economic success tends to lead to lower social equity performance. Many citizens would like to see high economic and social equity performance. This is the dual goal that urbanism must embrace."

It's the same dream, the concept endures, but it's not the one-size-fits-all that it had been interpreted to be. It's the option of numerous locally-owned shops versus a Walmart. Now is the time for us to be even more focused on our principles and remember that they, just as the ideals that founded this country, still applyit's only the physical manifestation that has to constantly adapt.

Transit


H Street streetcar is still on target for 2013, says DDOT

Recent reports that the H Street streetcar won't open until 2014 may be inaccurate. DDOT says they're still working to begin service in late 2013.


Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

Yesterday, NBC reported that it could be 2014 before passenger service begins on H Street. That report was based on DDOT's statement that streetcar testing will begin in October, and that no one knows exactly how long the testing will take. If it takes longer than expected then opening day could be pushed to 2014.

Technically that's true, but it doesn't mean there's a delay. The point of testing is to make sure there are no unanticipated problems. If there aren't any then there won't be a delay. Since no one can anticipate an unanticipated problem, no one knows if there will be a delay.

It's a federal requirement that all new rail lines go through such testing. Doing so guarantees that everything will run smoothly, and that there are no inherent safety problems with the vehicles or infrastructure.

Testing began on the Silver Line in Tysons Corner a few weeks ago, and so far there are no big problems. When WMATA's new 7000 series railcars arrive, they'll have to be tested too.

Besides testing, there are other issues that could potentially delay the streetcar. DDOT has 3 streetcars right now, but needs more to operate the route. 3 more streetcars are on order but haven't arrived yet. If the delivery date slips, so will opening day.

Also, the car barn still has to be built. DDOT might be able to run streetcars before the barn is finished, but only temporarily. If the barn becomes a sticking point and doesn't move forward, opening on time will be harder.

Still, DDOT says they're on target. Unless that changes, rumors of potential delay are just that.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Pedestrians


Is ped enforcement campaign "blaming the victim"?

District agencies are running a much-needed, but brief, sting operation today to enforce the laws against making U-turns across the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes. Meanwhile, a number of readers have written in with worries that a pedestrian enforcement campaign is targeting the wrong people for the wrong behavior.

Reader @Akido37 tweeted this photograph, of a bus shelter ad the District Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Police Department have posted near Farragut Square warning pedestrians about a stepped-up enforcement campaign. He wrote, "Talk about blaming the victim."

Certainly, pedestrians can do a lot to make themselves more safe, or take more risks. Walking while texting or reading emails removes one line of defense against a driver hitting a pedestrian.

On the other hand, pedestrians can suffer even when they do nothing wrong, but a driver's attention lapses for moment. Some readers feel MPD is not doing enough about far more unsafe driver actions. Reader David Joseph wrote:

I walk this intersection twice a day and without fail drivers make illegal turns, pull into the crosswalk, or otherwise endanger pedestrians. I recently asked an MPD officer who was giving warnings to pedestrians why they werent talking to drivers who are the real danger. His answer was simply that they were given orders to talk to pedestrians and issue tickets for jay walking, and he was following those orders.
Ben Ross said in an email:
I work at that intersection, and the pedestrian signals there forbid pedestrians to make crossings that are absolutely safe. You are told not to cross the turn lane on westbound 17th between the traffic island and the Red Line entrance even when traffic in the lane you are crossing has a red light. You can only cross when the main part of K Street has a red light, which comes 32 seconds later. Obviously, no one waits to cross the turn lane when the cars are stopped in front of them.
In a similar vein, during a past enforcement campaign police stopped people crossing the one-lane side roadway of Connecticut Avenue at Q Street, where the main road passes under in an underpass. While not lawful, there are plenty of times when there are no cars approaching, or even a bus at the bus stop blocking the road entirely. It doesn't advance safety to ticket people for crossing at these times.

Everyone should follow laws. The ideal solution to these problems would be to redesign the intersection to better accommodate pedestrians' own needs and not forbid doing things that aren't really dangerous. However, we're not realistically going to change most of these intersections anytime soon.

With driver speeding, especially with the latest speed camera bill, we've made a decision to tolerate a certain amount of unlawful speeding (10 mph over the limit), and recently cut down on penalties for those who speed more. Mayor Gray also raised speed limits in a few places where many drivers, perhaps rightly at least in some cases, argued they were too low.

The District needs to focus on the most unsafe behavior. Sometimes, that's pedestrian behavior, but more often it's not. Do you think this campaign is blaming the victim? Or does it attack a real safety problem, and some people just don't want to follow the law?

Architecture


Kennedy Center addition tries to connect with the audience

The Kennedy Center yesterday unveiled an expansion plan to build 3 new pavilions, including one in the Potomac River, along with pedestrian bridges across Rock Creek Parkway and to the east. The project would partly alleviate some of the Kennedy Center's 1960s urban design errors.


Rendering from Roosevelt Island

It connects the 1.5 million-square-foot arts center to the river, as its designers originally imagined, and as many have proposed since. The addition will principally house the center's extensive music education classes, although it includes rehearsal space and some smaller performing spaces.

Designed by the office of New York architect Steven Holl, the $100 million plan consists of 3 pavilions. Two rest on top of a 3-story plinth, and the other one sits on a floating platform in the Potomac. Bridges will span Rock Creek Parkway to connect the landside and riverside sections, finally connecting the massive balcony of the Kennedy Center to the ground.


Overhead view showing the three pavilions on a low plinth. Image from Steven Holl Architects.

The plinth is the key to the project, allowing the architects to connect the addition to the new building without degrading Edward Durell Stone's marble box. Holl used a similar scheme to add a large addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. Blending this plinth into the onramps of the Roosevelt Bridge creates the appearance that it is part of the landscape, with small objects on top of it. The plinth is stepped down on the land side, to let light in to the rehearsal spaces and create privacy amid the highway mess.

Down the ramps, the riverside pavilion will house a stage for small performances. Located right on the Rock Creek multi-use trail, it would break up a loud, boring stretch of the trail. Passers-by might find a show to linger at. Parents could bring kids to music classes by bike, then enjoy time to themselves without getting back into cars. Importantly, it connects the project to the Georgetown waterfront, meaning that a night at the opera might be more pedestrian.

It does not, by any means, eliminate the Kennedy Center's isolation, which comes from the I-66 spur that cuts a deadening trench into Foggy Bottom. However, lightly noted in one of Holl's watercolors is a pedestrian bridge to an unspecified destination. This might be the missing piece that would make the expense worth it.

Such a bridge would make the Kennedy Center accessible by foot from both sides. But it would have to be executed as well as the river-side connectors. If the bridge is not kept busy with activity somehow, like the floating pavilion does, it will not be well-used.


Rafael Viñoly's plan to create a public square was cancelled in 2005. Courtesy Rafael Viñoly Architects.

The plan is considerably more modest than the previous expansion plan by Rafael Viñoly, which would have cost $650 million but patched together the urban fabric on E Street. Although this plan does not preclude that more ambitious project in the future, it fulfills some of aims of that design.

Therefore, this plan also opens the site up to more audacious rethinking of the Center's location in the city. For example, replacing the highway to nowhere with a high-capacity boulevard and filling in blocks recovered from the project would reduce the need for a multi-million dollar deck and expensive structural systems.

This new building looks to positively alter the riverbank, aesthetically and functionally. It is a positive step forward that avoids the pitfalls of a grandiose scheme. However Holl's design evolves, by the intended completion in 2018, could be the first phase of rethinking Foggy Bottom as a more human-scale environment and reconnecting DC's arts center to the rest of the city.

Links


Breakfast links: Goodbye, Ray


Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.
LaHood leaving: US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is stepping down. LaHood defied early fears to be a strong advocate for high-speed rail, curbing distracted driving, and more. (Streetsblog)

Surplus salted away: The DC surplus came to $417 million; $50 million of that was in estate taxes from one single deceased person. Mayor Gray wants to put all of the money into the rainy-day fund. (DCist)

Chevy Chase sidewalk contentious: A proposed Wisconsin Avenue sidewalk in Chevy Chase will affect fewer trees than originally feared, but many residents still can't imagine why anyone would want to use a sidewalk. (Bethesda Now)

No mandatory helmets in Maryland: The Maryland House is considering a bill to make helmets mandatory. It's a good idea to wear one, but mandates just deter people from cycling, and more cyclists make cycling safer. (WABA, TheWashCycle)

Superhuman cyclists aren't most of us: Many profiles of cyclists in the press talk about those that ride super long distances every day, but that's not most cyclists' experience; does attention on extreme commuting deter others? (Atlantic Cities)

MoCo bag fee 1 year old: Montgomery County's bag fee raised double the expected revenue, which goes to water quality programs. Anecdotally, it seems to be reducing waste, officials say, but don't yet have hard numbers. (Gazette)

Lower benefit hurts bus ridership: Ridership on PRTC commuter buses dropped 2% in 2012; the agency blames the federal transit benefit, which declined just as the parking benefit increased. More people also started slugging. (Potomac Local)

And...: Tommy Wells is forming an exploratory committee to run for mayor. (City Paper) ... Valerie Ervin will run for county executive in Montgomery. (Examiner) ... A taxi driver tried to cheat a passenger, then punched him when he refused to pay. (City Paper)

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