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Posts from October 2011


Join us tonight for a Greater Greater Halloween happy hour

Just a quick reminder that we're hosting a Halloween happy hour tonight at Rocket Bar, starting at 8:30 pm. Join us dressed in your urbanist, transit, or otherwise Greater Greater Halloween costume!

Photo by istolethetv on Flickr.

The costumed happy hour follows the sold-out 6:30 pm screening of Gary Hustwit's Urbanized at E Street Cinema. The theater has added another showing at 9:00 pm tonight, and tickets may still be available.

Please note that we're not organizing the screenings, just the happy hour. Additionally, Rocket Bar is 21+, and no pets are allowed, even if they're irresistibly dressed up as the B Train. And, of course you're welcome to join us without a costume.

Rocket Bar, 714 7th Street NW
8:30-11:00 pm


Activate Ward Circle for pedestrians and cyclists

The center of Ward Circle near American University is an unused and wasted space. The road design heavily favors car traffic and features few bicycle or pedestrian facilities. Closing some traffic lanes and adding pedestrian crosswalks and bike lanes could make Ward Circle a more coherent public space.

Photo by clgregor on Flickr.

The center of the circle, at the intersection of Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues NW, is currently inaccessible to pedestrians and features only a statue and some shrubs in the middle. Pedestrians and cyclists are able to travel around the circle but not into or through it.

An improved park would serve many, as both American University and the Department of Homeland Security headquarters are within walking distance. Students could study or take a break from classes, and DHS employees could eat lunch in the circle, in the vein of the denizens of Dupont Circle.

In addition to sharing the two circumnavigating lanes with Massachusetts Avenue, Nebraska Avenue has two express lanes that travel through the middle of the circle. Even if pedestrians did want to travel into the middle of Ward Circle, they would have to cross both the outer travel lanes and the inner express lanes.

DDOT studied the option of closing the Nebraska Avenue through-lanes in the Rock Creek West II Livability Study. Doing so would slow automobile traffic but could help make for a better public place.

One alternative to improve traffic flow, through an expensive and logistically difficult proposition, would be to tunnel Nebraska Avenue under Ward Circle. Several other avenues tunnel under other circles in the District: Connecticut Avenue under Dupont Circle, Massachusetts under Thomas Circle, and 16th Street under Scott Circle.

Even without a tunnel, eliminating the express lanes and routing all traffic around the circle would improve the space. Crosswalks with leading pedestrian intervals would make it easier to cross only two lanes of traffic. Otherwise, DDOT will have to install crosswalks for both the outer and inner lanes.

Benches would also make the circle a more attractive place to spend time. Trees or larger shrubs along the edge could screen some of the traffic noise and provide shade. Lighting would make the circle a safe and attractive place to be at night.

DDOT redesigned Thomas Circle in a similar way in 2006. DDOT removed the middle lanes through the circle and restored the circular shape. Thomas Circle still needs additional amenities in the center to make it a more welcoming space, however, and similar improvements to Ward Circle would create a better community park.

Nebraska Avenue is also an unfriendly bike corridor along an important commuter route. Nebraska connects AU and DHS to Tenleytown, the closest Metro station. AU runs a shuttle to the Metro and DHS runs some shuttles, but biking along Nebraska can be treacherous with the traffic.

DDOT is considering widening the sidewalk on the north side of Nebraska and installing a bike path. According to Jim Sebastian, Nebraska Avenue is too narrow at 40 feet to install bike lanes on the street. The north side of Nebraska has heavier pedestrian traffic than the south side, so DDOT is only looking to expand there.

Increasing bicycle accessibility and mobility between Tenleytown and the circle should also be a goal of the redesign. A bike path along the sidewalk could encourage more bike commuting from Tenleytown to Ward Circle. DDOT should also add a second Capital Bikeshare station at the circle and expand the station at Tenleytown.

Currently, there is only one bike share station on Massachusetts Avenue to the northwest of Ward Circle. A station directly at the circle would not only accommodate more bikers, but it would also make it more of a destination. DDOT is now crowdsourcing suggestions for new stations, so residents, students, and nearby employees can suggest adding one here.

Finally, the bike lane network near AU is incomplete. Massachusetts Avenue has no lanes, and ANC3D opposed adding bike lanes to New Mexico Avenue near Nebraska. It's good that DDOT wants to add a bike path to Nebraska, but the agency should also push for a more connected and complete bike lane network around Ward Circle.

Ward Circle is close to students, residents, and federal workers, all of whom could benefit from a large green space, and the District should include in its planning modifications that activate the space. The proposed changes will create a better community space that is welcoming to pedestrians and cyclists, while still allowing for automobile flow. What else do you think would improve the circle?


Funding Amtrak is more cost-effective than subsidizing roads

Amtrak's federal grant, constituting just 0.05% of federal spending in 2010, is once again under attack. Its critics perennially point to the railroad's 24¢ per passenger mile (ppm) government subsidy, compare it to the 2¢ ppm direct subsidy for driving, and call Amtrak a waste.

Amtrak's Chicago-DC Capitol Ltd. crosses the Potomac at Harpers Ferry. Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

Comparing these direct subsidies, though, tells only part of the story. When indirect subsidies are considered, Amtrak's total subsidy comes out to a little less than 44¢ ppm, but motoring's subsidy rises up to almost 5645¢ ppm.

When considering all of the costs to society the argument for increasing Amtrak's subsidy (and/or the gasoline tax) becomes clear. This table compares the direct and indirect subsidy of Amtrak versus roads, per passenger mile:

Subsidy Amtrak Roads
Direct subsidy $0.240 $0.020
Air pollution $0.081 $0.118
Global warming $0.072 $0.109
Parking $0.000 $0.151 $0.041
Resource consumption $0.008 $0.040
Crash damage $0.007 $0.037
Congestion $0.000 $0.023
Lost tax revenue $0.006 $0.028
Land use $0.018 $0.020
Noise $0.006 $0.008
Transportation diversity $0.000 $0.004
Total $0.439 $0.557 $0.447

All values are adjusted for inflation and reported in 2010 dollars. Most of the road values are from 2007 but since then, driving is down more than 15% and road user fee receipts are down as well.

Here is how each cost contributes to the total, and how I arrived at each estimates:

Direct subsidy: In 2010, Amtrak received $563 million in operating subsidies and $1 billion in capital and debt service grants while carrying passengers a total of 6.52 billion passenger miles, for a direct subsidy of 24¢ ppm. Meanwhile, in 2007 roads received a $94.6 billion (49% of $193 billion) subsidy to carry automobile passengers (including drivers) 4.24 trillion miles for a direct subsidy of 2¢ per passenger mile.

This is where a lot of people like to end the story. And doing so makes Amtrak seem like a bad deal, but if we consider all the external costs of both, it becomes a very different story.

Air pollution: According to McCubbin and Delucchi (1996), the external cost of air pollution caused by driving was $0.112 per vehicle mile traveled (VMT) in 1990 dollars. According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are approximately 1.59 passengers per vehicle. So dividing the VMT by passengers per vehicle and adjusting for inflation gives a value of $0.118 ppm.

While a similar analysis is not available for Amtrak, we do have the energy intensity ppm for passenger cars (3501 Btu ppm) and Amtrak (2398 Btu ppm) which can serve as a reasonable proxy for air pollution emissions. If anything, this ratio is unfair to Amtrak, since the bulk of its energy use (carrying Northeast Corridor riders) is electricity which produces fewer emission per BTU than gasoline does due to the use of nuclear, hydroelectric, natural gas and renewables. Using this ratio, the cost of air pollution caused by Amtrak is $0.081 ppm.

Global warming: In addition to air pollution, the burning of fossil fuels like gasoline or coal creates an assortment of greenhouse gases which have been shown to add to global warming. According to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI), the external cost per vehicle mile of GHG creation is $0.164 in $2007 which is equivalent to $0.109 ppm in $2010. Meanwhile, Carbon Fund calculates rail travel as creating 0.42 lbs CO2 per passenger mile.

The EPA calculates that the annual emissions from a typical passenger vehicle are 5.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Dividing that by the 12,000 miles the average car travels in a year (also from the EPA) results in 1.01 lbs per vmt or 0.64 lbs ppm. Using the lbs ppm to create a ratio (0.42/0.64) and multiplying it by the value for cars gives us the value for rail travel of $0.072.

Parking: While some parking costs are paid by users, others are external because, for example, of tax-exempt "free" employee parking or because of municipal parking minimums. Shoup (2005) sets the external cost of parking at $0.22 $0.05-$0.14 per vehicle mile in $2005. VTPI determines a value of $0.062 pvm. Accounting for inflation and passengers per vehicle this becomes $0.151$0.041 ppm. Amtrak, on the other hand, pays for its rail yards where it parks its trains, which means its parking is covered in its direct costs. Its subsidy is $0 ppm.

Resource consumption: The external costs of resource consumption refers primarily to the cost of producing, importing and distributing petroleum that are not passed directly to users. It includes the military costs associated with protecting oil supplies, macroeconomic costs of oil dependence, uncompensated ecological costs (like loss of a species), subsidies for drilling and costs associated with depleting a non-renewable resource. VTPI prices this at 76¢ per gallon or 4¢ ppm (in 2010) for roads.

Amtrak, meanwhile, used 62 billion gallons of diesel in 2009 to carry passengers 5.914 billion miles. Which puts its resource consumption external cost at $0.008 ppm in $2010. [(62B gallons*$0.80 per gallon)/5.914 billion miles]

Damage from crashes: While some crash costs are internal to the user, like insurance premiums or personal property damage, others are external because they're uncompensated or paid by an external user, such as when a pedestrian is injured in a hit and run crash. Looking at a series of studies and estimates of the external cost of automobile crashes, VTPI determined that the external cost per vehicle mile is $0.055 in $2007 which becomes $0.037 ppm.

Miller, Douglass and Pindus' 1994 paper on railroad injuries determines that per passenger mile, train injury costs comprise only one-fifth those of cars. There's reason to believe that less of the crash cost for rail is external than it is for autos because of Amtrak's greater ability to absorb such costs than an individual motorist. External Cost of Transport: Accident, Environmental and Congestion Costs in Western Europe puts the ratio for external costs of auto vs passenger rail at a much higher 41:1, so we can safely use the 5:1 ratio, making the external cost for rail $0.007 ppm

Congestion: Traffic congestion carries a very real transport cost that consists of incremental delay, vehicle operating costs (fuel and wear), pollution emissions and stress that result from interference among vehicles in the traffic stream. VTPI estimates the cost of congestion for roads at $0.035 pvm in $2007, which becomes $0.023 ppm in $2010. Unlike the highway system, most of our rail network is below capacity (Figure 13) which means Amtrak causes very little rail congestion.

While there has been little attempt to quantify the congestion Amtrak might cause, there is plenty about how it reduces congestion on roads and at airports. A USDOT study, in fact, determined that expanded rail service would have a net positive effect on congestion. And an Amtrak study put the benefit of the reduction of airport congestion along the Northeast Corridor alone at $104 million. Therefore I've conservatively set the Amtrak congestion charge at $0.00.

Lost tax revenue: Most of Amtrak's train routes use railroads owned by freight companies for which Amtrak pays rent and the owners pay property, sales and franchise tax. If roads and highways were similarly owned by private companies, they too would pay billions of dollars in taxes. TeleCommUnity set the value of the land used for roads in America at $7.1 trillion in $2007. Taxed at the average state property tax rate of 1.38% in $2010, roads would have contributed 2.8¢ ppm to states' coffers.

Before being made exempt in 1979, Amtrak paid state and local taxes which totaled $14 million in 1979. Adjusting for inflation and dividing by total passenger miles, lost tax revenue from Amtrak is 0.64¢ ppm.

Land use: ecological impacts: Building roads and railroads has an ecological impact that also carries a cost. These land use changes can, for example, cause a heat island effect, sever and fragment wildlife habitat and result in "roadkill." VTPI puts the cost of these ecological impacts for roads at $0.03 per vehicle mile in $2007 (or $0.0198 ppm in $2010).

Using the rail and road costs ppm defined in a 2005 Swiss ARE paper (from VTPI), we can determine a ratio between road and rail which is 0.7 centimes to 0.775 centimes per passenger kilometer (1.2 per vehicle kilometer/1.59 passengers per vehicle). This means that the ecological impact of passenger rail is 92.75% the value of the one for roads ppm. Multiplying this by $0.0198 gives a value for rail of $0.0184.

Noise: Noise from roads and rail can have real and measurable impacts on nearby land values. VTPI looked at several studies of the external cost of road noise and determined a value of $0.011 pvm ($0.0075 ppm in $2010). A study by INFRAS/IWW placed the ratio of ppm passenger rail noise costs to roadway noise costs at 3.9/5.2 (page 74). Multiplying this ratio times the cost for autos gives $0.0057.

Transportation diversity: Many communities are automobile dependent. This lack of diversity can often result in inefficiency and inequity, such as when people feel the need to drive for very short trips because they can't easily walk or bike on roads that don't accommodate that kind of travel. This eliminates options, leads to less physically active (and therefore less healthy) lifestyles, and can often trap people who can't, for whatever reason, drive. VTPI determines the value of the impact of roads on transportation diversity at $0.007 pvm ($0.0044 ppm). Amtrak doesn't create the same kinds of dependency, so it's cost is zero.

I omitted some costs because adequate values were not available for both. This includes the delays, discomfort and lack of access that vehicle traffic imposes on nonmotorized modes; waste disposal; water pollution and hydrological impacts; and other land impacts such as reduced property values, reduced community cohesion, and the costs associated with sprawl. Together these constitute another 4¢ ppm for roads, with most of that cost related to sprawl.

Amtrak is unlikely to have a larger ppm cost for these factors. Amtrak isn't considered an engine for sprawl. Railroad surfaces are capable of absorbing twice as much rainwater as paved roads—and there is far less land dedicated to Amtrak rail than to roads per passenger mile. So it is reasonable to believe that the addition of these omitted values would not change the relative values between the two subsidies very much or change them to be further in favor of Amtrak.

Based on these numbers, it appears that roads are subsidized at almost 12 1¢ per passenger mile more than Amtrak. To bring the two into balance, the gas tax would either need to be raised from the national average of 48.1¢ per gallon to about $3.30 $0.96 per gallon, or the Amtrak subsidy would need to be increased from $1.565 billion to $2.348$1.630 billion.

Another way to think about this is to combine the subsidized cost with the portion paid by user fees to get a total public cost. (Drivers' user fee revenue in 2008 was $94.512 billion and miles travelled was 4.9 trillion passenger miles for an inflation adjusted contribution of $0.020.)

Total public cost, unpaid + paid
Amtrak: $0.439 + $0.318 = $0.757
Roads: $0.557 $0.447 + $0.020 = $0.577 $0.467

Which means that Amtrak users are paying 44.5% of their public costs, while drivers pay only 3.6% 4.3% of theirs.

To be clear, this does not mean that motoring is cheaper. Drivers are also paying their own internal costs (purchase and maintenance of a car and insurance) which the IRS estimates to be 51¢ per mile total (or 48.5¢ per mile, less tax). That increases the total cost of driving to $1.062 $0.952 per mile. That's without considering the travel time costs. Comparing all the costs, Amtrak becomes much cheaper than motoring.

We should not ignore the environmental, political, human and other non-obvious costs of transportation when discussing how to fund it. By focusing only on the direct costs, as many choose to do, we run the risk of making the wrong decisions. While a more thorough scholarly analysis would surely come up with different values and totals than my amateur one, it's more than possible that Amtrak is the bargain paying most of its own way, and roads are the resource-consuming boondoggle that need to have their subsidy cut.


Ward 5 redistricting plan hurts voters and neighborhoods

On October 6th, the Ward 5 Redistricting Task Force approved an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) redistricting plan (despite having limited information about the details) that splits apart communities and distorts voter power.

Plan approved by the task force.

Since then, and without the approval of the Task Force, Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr.'s office released another plan in an email response to a constituent's questions.

The DC Council should reject both plans. Instead, they should adopt a more neighborhood-centered plan, such as one we will propose in part 3 of this series.

Any redistricting effort should build from two bedrock principles:

1. Equalize voter strength. Ensure that an individual's vote carries as much weight in the political process as every other vote. The District Home Rule Charter states that each SMD should contain "approximately 2,000" people.

"Approximately" recognizes that 2,000 people is an ideal that may be difficult to reach exactly, and that numbers are not the only criteria that a redistricting plan should consider.

2. Bring related neighborhoods together. Create political subdivisions (ANCs and SMDs) that strengthen neighborhoods and bring together neighbors with related issues. Do this by promoting neighborhood cohesiveness, respecting natural boundaries and barriers, grouping neighborhoods that have common concerns and would be able to communicate easily with one another, etc.

The task force empowered its executive committee to "create ANCs that maintain neighborhood cohesiveness, respect natural boundaries and barriers, and combine neighborhoods that have common characteristics and interests." Yet the plan presented on October 6th (and the subsequent revision) violates the basic goals of redistricting and the task force's criteria.

It connects disconnected neighborhoods. The plan from the executive committee ignored the principle that ANCs should span areas which share common characteristics and issues. One proposed ANC is over 3.3 miles long, stretching from New Jersey Avenue, NW to the Maryland border.

The neighborhoods at either end of this proposed commission—Woodridge and Hanover-Bates—are as different a pair of neighborhoods as you could put together in Ward 5. Woodridge consists of detached, single family homes with more in common with their Mt. Rainier, Maryland, neighbors than with the dense, row house, central-city neighborhood of Hanover-Bates.

It disconnects connected neighborhoods. The plan separates communities with clear commonalities and concerns. If passed, Truxton Circle, Edgewood, Stronghold, Bloomingdale, Eckington, and Hanover-Bates, neighborhoods that frequently collaborate, would be forced into separate ANCs.

It undermines neighborhood integrity. The plan does not respect neighborhood cohesiveness. It splits Bloomingdale, Carver-Langston, and Woodridge between two ANCs. Such splitting undermines neighborhood unity and efficient governance.

The revision of the plan maintains some of these splits. Bloomingdale is still divided between two ANCs, and Bloomingdale's McMillan Sand Filtration Site is shifted to an ANC that does not include the rest of Bloomingdale and other neighborhoods that the proposed development will most significantly affect.

It distorts voter power. The executive committee's plan dilutes voting strength by increasing the difference from the smallest to the largest Ward 5 SMD to about 850 people.

One of the more egregious changes was in Bloomingdale. 2 districts with nearly equal populations became 3 with populations of 2,061, 2,039, and 1,399. A change was necessary because the population grew, but while the first two districts are roughly proportional, the third is significantly smaller and about 33% short of the 2,000 resident target.

As indefensible as these numbers are, what is even more stunning is that the latest Thomas plan expands those disparities further. Its SMD populations range from approximately 900 to nearly 2,800. Because this plan can neither be reconciled with the law nor justified by any circumstances on the ground, the Office of Planning will have to reject it as not worthy of serious consideration.

It ignores natural boundaries and barriers. In the long, thin ANC (colored green on the map), a huge no-man's land separates the 4 districts in the western end from the 4 in the east: the CSX/Metro train tracks, the Brentwood rail yard, and the commercial area near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station. Residents on one side of these barriers live very far from those on the other.

A similar problem exists in the proposed ANC is southeast Ward 5 (colored red on the map). There, the eastern half of the Carver-Langston neighborhood would share an ANC with neighborhoods like Fort Lincoln and Arboretum, ½ to 2 miles away and separated from by railroad tracks, a freeway, and the grounds of the National Arboretum.

For all these reasons, the executive committee's plan is fatally flawed. But the plan from Councilmember Thomas is even worse. Tomorrow, we'll look at that.


Breakfast links: The numbers show the change

Photo by Photocapy on Flickr.
Segregation on the rise, in PG: Every jurisdiction in the region is becoming more diverse, except Prince George's County, which has more almost all-black neighborhoods (many quite affluent). Some say living with fellow African-Americans is just what many people want. (Post)

Metro complaints down, bus complaints up: Complaints coming in to WMATA have declined 10%. The only category to increase was bus complaints. Are buses getting worse, or do new bus riders just report problems more? (Examiner)

Maryland drivers get road, pay: The Intercounty Connector will open just before Thanksgiving all the way to I-95. (Post) ... Meanwhile, tolls will increase on all Maryland toll facilities around the state, to pay the cost. (Examiner)

Sulaimon case has less evidence, or more: A Congressional committee can't substantiate allegations in the Sulaimon Brown scandal. (Post) ... But an anonymous Examiner source says prosecutors have found a document that may be incriminating.

DC has 2 of worst 10 public spaces: A list of 10 "failed plazas and squares" includes both the plaza outside HUD and the National Mall. The only US plaza that made the best 10 list is in Portland. (Atlantic Cities)

Vacant property abounds in East Harlem: Some property owners in East Harlem keep whole buildings empty in hopes they can get far more money in the future. But that means less housing and less vibrant blocks in the meantime. (NY Times)

And...: Occupy DC realizes that stealing the DC flag was symbolically stupid, given DC's lack of voting rights. (DCist) ... Clarendon Court House CaBi commences construction. (Twitter) ... And now, no more And Now, Anacostia.

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.


Weekend links: Ohio leads the way

Photo by Phong Nguyen on Flickr.
Ohio bridge design reunites neighborhoods: When widening a Columbus highway, Ohio reconstructed a bridge and lined it with shops. Now you can't even see the Interstate as you cross over it on High Street. (Chicago Tribune)

Trails come at a premium: Bike trails have a return on investment. A study in Ohio found that homebuyers were willing to pay $9,000 more for a house located with 1,000 feet of a bike trail. This premium can boost property tax revenue. (Atlantic Cities)

Night of the walking dead: As one part of a pedestrian safety initiative, Gabe Klein has installed 32 mannequins around Chicago to represent the 32 pedestrians who died on Chicago's streets last year. (Chicago Tribune)

SF candidates offer solutions to transit: San Francisco mayoral candidates describe how they would fix Muni, the city-run bus and streetcar network. (Streetsblog) ... How many of our area leaders promise to champion WMATA improvement?

Participation can improve outcomes: City planning is easier for dictators, but they often end up building mediocre projects. Public participation in the planning process can slow projects down, but can also improve the end product. (Next American City)

We are the 0% (of Congress): Occupy DC protestors apologized for removing the DC flag from city hall. Meanwhile, Councilmember Michael Brown will soon unveil a statehood branding effort. (DCist)

Tourmobile closing: Anyone seeking a $32 bus ride between Smithsonians will have to look for other options: Tourmobile closes for good on Monday. NPS is looking for a replacement operator as well as non-interpretive transit. (Post)

And...: Union Station's ceiling needs repair work thanks to the earthquake. (Washington Times) ... A wayward deer needed rescuing from the Tidal Basin. (NBC Washington) ... Columbia is mapping all of NYC's "privately owned public spaces." (PPS)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.


Enhance the commute with haikus

Yesterday, Marc Tomik (@marctomik) adapted an idea from King County, Washington and the Washington (state) DOT to write haikus about transportation on Twitter.

Because Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct is being torn down, @wsdot started a contest to write some "vaikus" about the viaduct.

  1. Marc decided to call for some road haikus.
  2. @CCTgirl @RideLikeCharlie @ajfroggie Roads really need Haikus. cc @wsdot
  3. And Adam Froehlig and others jumped right in:
  1. @marctomik @cctgirl @ridelikecharlie @wsdot Along the highway | Do I see the sights and sounds | Of America
  2. @ajfroggie @marctomik @CCTgirl @RideLikeCharlie @Tracktwentynine Highways get money | Transit is just as awesome | Can we get some too?
  3. I decided to try and thread the tweets by introducing the #transpohaiku hashtag. And it kind of took off from there.
  4. One hundred seven | years of moving the city | The New York Subway @AimeeCustis @CCTgirl @marctomik @RideLikeCharlie #transpohaiku
  5. Number 9 Perry | Gone with the last transit cuts | Wish I could ride again #transpohaiku
  6. Even in the cold | #Metro trains go everywhere | Except with 6 inches snow #transpohaiku
  7. Do not hold the doors | you'll be sure to cause a jam | and offload us all. #transpohaiku #wmata
  8. You let me travel / when I am drunk or tired / enabling vice #transpohaiku
  9. America's Trucks | Bring Life's Essentials Safely | Efficiently Everyday #transpohaiku (cc @AdamKSnider)
  10. Some of the tweets echoed debates we often have on Greater Greater Washington.
  11. Cars are free market / aren't there externalities? / debate without end #transpohaiku
  12. The right price to park / not too high but not too low / goldilocks pricing #shoup #transpohaiku
  13. New York Avenue | Florida Ave - Galludet | U. Soon: More long names. #transpohaiku #wmata #ShortenTheFreakingStationNames
  14. Bicycles are great | I confess: sometimes I ride | without a helmet. #transpohaiku #needafolduphelmetformybag
  15. Metro was a common subject, of course.
  16. Metro can frustrate | Traffic is worse. Perspective. | Transit for all. #transpohaiku #wmata
  17. Mournfully crying | the Metro escalator | moans, groans as it climbs: | #transpohaiku #wmata
  18. Metrobus riders | Keep moving to the back please | It's crowded up front #transpohaiku #wmata
  19. i ride the green line | still waiting for cell signal | south of chinatown #transpohaiku #wmata
  20. Angry tweets and posts | Metro delay may raise ire | Interaction soothes #transpohaiku #wmata
  21. Did you see something? | Say 'hey there, is that your bag?' | Keeping metro safe #transpohaiku #wmata
  22. The idea spread to other cities, too.
  23. With cuts and fare hikes / in the City by the Bay / Muni is puny. #transpohaiku #munihaiku
  24. Shuttles shall replace | Red Line Kenmore to Broadway | this snowy weekend #mbta #transpohaiku
  25. Mapping Fixed Guideway | Use as a quick 'burgh guide | This is Still a draft #TranspoHaiku @PGHtransit @bus15237
  26. We were even joined by the venerable Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation, Montgomery council member Roger Berliner, and @wmata.
  27. Stopping texts stops wrecks/ @AdCouncil and @NHTSAgov/ say in PSA #transpohaiku #dwd
  28. People have to climb | Hope escalators fixed soon | At #Bethesda stop #transpohaiku #wmata
  29. Our first stab... Today's Noon Event | Leaders, Mascots And Conga | Celebrate Farragut Crossing #transpohaiku #wmata ^BA
  30. Tweets are still coming in, too.
  31. Public transit saves | keeps our environment green | a win-win for all #transpohaiku
  32. Traffic makes me sad | Reading on metro is nice | I like orange vinyl #transpohaiku #wmata
  33. Towards Zero Deaths now : guardrail, signs, lines, cones, rumbles : Safer roads save lives #transpohaiku #TZD
If you're on Twitter, join the conversation. If not, leave your haikus in the comments.

Public Safety

New York Avenue bicycle thief caught, then released

At the beginning of October, I caught a young boy in the act of stealing a bicycle wheel at the New York Avenue Metro station. Last night, I helped police finally catch him. But he wasn't arrested.

Photo by the author.

Jaime and I were taking a quick walking tour of NoMa with ANC 6C04 commissioner Tony Goodman when we saw the boy ride his bike past us. An extra bicycle wheel was hanging from the handlebars. I recognized him immediately, and called 911 to report what we saw. The police arrived a couple minutes later, took a report, and promised to check the area where we saw the boy going to see what they could find.

Ten minutes later, we were at the corner of 1st and M NE, in front of the CVS, when we saw the boy bike past us again. Jaime saw a police cruiser coming south on 1st Street, and I flagged them down. The police asked me to jump in, and we headed the wrong way down M Street toward North Capitol, where the boy was headed.

At the corner of M and North Capitol, we caught up to him. The officer driving the car chirped the siren, and pulled to the curb when the boy started biking faster. Both officers (from the 1st District) got out of the car and started questioning the boy about the wheel we had seen him carrying minutes earlier.

He denied knowing anything about it. The officers talked to him for a few minutes until a gentleman showed up. It turned out this was the boy's father. More questioning eventually led the boy to admit that the wheel was in his room in their house. His father sent him home to bring it back to the police.

It turns out the boy was 13. The police didn't arrest him, and I don't know what his father did or said after we drove away. I hope that he realizes what he's been doing is wrong, and I hope (at least) he really knows he's being watched now.

Remember, keep using a cable lock and a u-lock when you park at the New York Avenue Metro station. Don't leave a wheel unlocked where this boy, or anyone else for that matter, could walk away with it and take it home.

Cross-posted at The District Curmudgeon.


Hope remains for Potomac Yard Metro west of CSX tracks

While most plans for a Potomac Yard Metro station place it along the current tracks, hope remains alive for a better option: placing the station on the west side of the CSX tracks, closer to planned infill development. This would maximize the number of potential riders and best reduce traffic.

Photo by Arlington CPHD on Flickr.

At a meeting last night on station alternatives, staff revealed that they're still evaluating this option, D3. They don't yet have a cost estimate, but expect to know by February. Meanwhile, this option is tentatively listed as "technically and financially feasible."

The Potomac Yard infill metro station began its environmental review process late last year. There are 4 general alternatives, A through D, with various sub-options. Alternatives A and B propose a station in the current Metrorail right-of-way, separated from existing and future development by the CSX tracks.

Station location alternatives.

Alternative C, meanwhile, proposed an underground station to the west of the CSX tracks under the existing shopping center. The station entrances would be between Potomac Avenue and Jefferson Davis Highway.

While this location would maximize projected ridership and effect on development, the underground station would be extremely expensive. Based on the EIS scoping document, they were ruled out as technically and financially unfeasible. The proximity to Four Mile Run and the CSX tracks appears to be to blame.

Finally, Alternative D proposed an aerial station where the tracks would rise over their current location, cross over to the west side of the the CSX tracks, then return to the east side after the station to rejoin the existing tracks. This alternative doesn't have the station as far west as the underground alternatives, instead leaving it just to the east of Potomac Avenue.

Like the underground options, the original two aerial alternatives, D1 and D2, had been deemed prohibitively expensive and/or technically unfeasible. But during the scoping phase of the EIS, a new D3 option arose that would place the station inside the Potomac Yard development footprint.

Though D3 was listed as financially feasible, at the meeting to review the report last night, it was revealed that an estimate for option D3 hasn't been nailed down yet. However, the implementation group must have a ballpark figure in mind to list D3 as financially feasible. An estimate will be revealed by a meeting on February 6.

While the A and all 3 B alternatives that remain also meet these four criteria, D3 has a benefit the others do not.

Alternative D3 is the last remaining alternative which places the station on the west side of the CSX right-of-way. This is important, because options the Route 1 side of the CSX tracks move the Metro closer to more potential riders and will therefore increase potential ridership. Proposed development will surely increase the number of trips to and from the area, so capturing the most possible trips via transit is essential for traffic mitigation.

With option D3 still on the table, the Potomac Yard Metro station could serve almost as many people as the underground and alternate aerial options for a much smaller cost.

The advisory group found that the D (aerial station) and C (underground station) alternatives significantly increase the amount of potential development, and therefore people, that fall within the ¼-mile and ½-mile walkshed. They move the station further into the eventual PY development area, and closer to the existing medium density neighborhoods to the west.

Alternative A would serve significantly fewer people without a lengthy walk. This will drive many away from Metro as a feasible transportation option. The new D3 option is closer to options B1, B2, and B3 than the other rejected aerial options, but will still save a lot of walking as well as stairs, escalators, and elevators required to go up, over the CSX tracks, and back down to a Metro platform.

Unfortunately, options D1 and D2 were rejected as they did not prove technically feasible. Both aerial options were farther north and so would have served the densest part of the planned development most conveniently. You can review the scoping presentation for more information about feasibility.

Other new alternatives that were considered during the scoping session and found incompatible with stated goals were a VRE station, parking garages, and additional stations developed in other parts of Alexandria. When a final alternative is chosen, it will be compared with the no-build scenario.

At that point, the PY Metro Station Implementation Work Group will send the EIS forward to WMATA. The public has opportunities for input throughout. Here is the high level project schedule, with the station projected to open in 2016.

The final decision on the station alternative is far from made. One of the reasons the 'D' series of alternatives was rejected earlier was the developer didn't want to deal with building out the PY development while working around Metro construction. This is still a possible concern, though the new alignment may have been devised to mitigate this impact.

It is also possible that option D3 is still more expensive than option 'A' and the various 'B' options. However the D3 option remains the last possibility to make the Potomac Yard metro station truly the center of a future transit oriented development node.

Cross-posted at The Arlandrian.


Breakfast links: Time to start planning for growth

Photo by dissolved on Flickr.
Washington will grow no matter what: The region will gain 1 million jobs by 2030. If we don't locate new housing closer to where people work, traffic will get even worse. We need to start planning seriously right now. (Examiner)

Money talks: When the economy turned bad, young people started flocking to the Washington area. Is that because we're "hip" or because we have jobs available? (Post)

Tysons Corner does its part: Over the coming decades, Tysons Corner will grow significantly to double it job base and increase its population six-fold. The growth would be impossible without the Silver Line. (Streetsblog)

Repubs demand more spending: Many of the state's rural Republicans don't like Gov. O'Malley's PlanMaryland, which prioritizes development around existing infrastructure. PlanMaryland will save taxpayers $11 billion in new roads. (Washington Times)

Cross the virtual tunnel: At noon today, WMATA will activate the Farragut Crossing virtual tunnel. SmarTrip customers will have 30 minutes to transfer along the street. The crossing will relieve pressure on Metro Center as a transfer station. (Examiner)

Trail costs jump: Cost estimates for rebuilding the Capital Crescent Trail alongside the Purple Line jumped from $65 million to $103 million. Fitting the trains and the trail into the existing tunnel in Bethesda consumes nearly half of the cost. (Post)

Shout it from the treetops: Residents in one Fairfax neighborhood don't like the county's plan to let a private company build a "treetop adventure" in Riverbend Park. Critics say the county has become too desperate to raise money in parks. (Examiner)

Movie popcorn gets even more expensive: Mayor Gray has proposed a 5% tax on theater concessions. The money would be used to lure a theater east of the Anacostia and to lure big movie studios to film in DC. (WBJ)

And...: Gaitherburg's election board may be defying the Supreme Court. (Gaithersburg Patch) ... Get a rare tour of the abandoned, underground McMillan Sand Filtration Site tomorrow. (PoP) ... Do you have what it takes to play Robert Moses on HBO? (Atlantic)

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