Posts from August 2008
New Columbia Heights talked to DDOT's bicycle program manager, Jim Sebastian, who confirmed that there will be a SmartBike station in Columbia Heights once SmartBike's next round of expansion gets going (time indeterminate).
DC USA will also get more bike racks, but not in any part of the completely unused level of the parking garage. A member of Jim Graham's staff told NCH that he, DDOT, and the DC USA developer have identified places to add bike racks, but "the Deputy Mayor's office has refused to consider racks in the garage." Update: DMPED argues that allowing bikes in the garage would pose a safety problem.
As the staffer points out, garage parking would be especially useful for employees of DC USA, who might be reluctant to park bikes out on the street all day. Casual shoppers may use racks in the garage, though they're more likely to use outdoor ones which are visible and easy to access.
... is from behind the windshield of a Cadillac. At least, that's what Cadillac thinks.
In DC's most walkable neighborhood, Cadillac was offering to donate $25 to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association's Student Project for every attendee who took a test drive around the neighborhood in a Cadillac.
They could get a quick glimpse of some of Dupont's historic rowhouses while keeping their eyes on the road to avoid hitting pedestrians or bicyclists, or see a a few neighborhood business establishments while weaving in and out of traffic-choked lanes of Dupont Circle. And they could do it all while saving the planet in the 18- to 20-mpg Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, which does a whopping 1 MPG worse in city driving than a regular, non-hybrid Toyota RAV4 SUV.
points out, advocating for a Purple Line bus alignment that would send rapid buses right past another school outside their limits.
Too HOT for MAMMA: A group calling itself MAMMA (Metro Area Mass Movement Association) is urging Virginians to contact their officials and ask to stop the HOT lanes. They argue that the environmental analysis was insufficient, it's a bad deal (with the privacy companies only paying 17.5% of the costs) and just a bad idea. Unfortunately, it's probably too late; just as with the ICC, state officials are too deeply invested politically in something for even high gas prices and the clear folly of new highway construction to stop.
One ICC supporter switches, but too late: Steve Eldridge, whose "Sprawl and Crawl" column leans slightly pro-sprawl in its quest to be anti-crawl, has decided (based on their duplicity around the ICC bike trail) that he doesn't trust Maryland politicians anymore in their promises that the ICC would be good for the environment.
Parking magnate joins his demolished townhouses: L.B. Doggett, owner of DC's first private parking company, former President of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and a major city political player in the 1970s, has died. The Post writes, "he was a force in preventing the District from building municipally owned parking garages and challenging private firms," but also "bought old rowhouses, which he rented as rooming houses before razing them for parking lots." Via Richard Layman.
Avent on California: Ryan Avent cheers the California anti-sprawl bill I posted Saturday, but wishes cities would build walkability for its own sake, not just because it's green. Still, we'll take what we've got.
NYC's StreetFilms came to DC last week and tried out the SmartBike bike sharing program. This film does a great job of showing the usefulness and simplicity of the system.
decidedly mixed, with good projects surrounded by bad transportation practices. There may be hope if the ideas in this Globe article come to Boston. Via Streetsblog.
New London corrects 1970s mistake: Everyone regretted the concrete redesign of New London, Connecticut's public plaza, "The Parade." Now, they're restoring it, reports the Courant. I hate to harp, but I can't help but think if it were here, we'd have landmarked the thing. Now, will Boston fix their 1970s plaza mistake? Via Planetizen.
Lemonade stands violate zoning: The mayor of Clayton, CA has shut down a produce stand run by an 11-year-old girl and her 3-year-old sister, selling extra vegetables out of their garden. Mayor Gregg Manning told ABC, ""They may start out with a little card-table and selling a couple of things, but then who is to say what else they have. Is all the produce made there, do they make it themselves? Are they going to have eggs and chickens for sale next?" Via BoingBoing.
California passes anti-sprawl bill: The California legislature passed a bill to allocate transportation dollars based on greenhouse gas emissions, according to the LA Times. Does this mean more transit, fewer roads, or just roads in denser areas? Will it work? California has a parking cash-out bill with loopholes the size of Los Angeles. But at the very least, the symbolic impact is important. Via T4America.
It's a little farther in the future, but just as with tunnels, there's no law of physics that makes it impossible to have small construction drones throw up a house or even renovate an existing one. I predict that one day you'll be able to sit down at a computer with a contractor, create a 3-d model of your newly renovated home, and have it done automatically in a matter of days.
What will this mean? It'll be a lot easier to change your interior, like updating your kitchen, or adding or removing walls. That'll make houses much easier to adapt to each family's needs. You'll probably also see more contemporary interiors (whatever contemporary is at the time) as
Automated construction will also make it easier to change the exterior, for better or worse. Historic preservation will be both more and less necessary. On the one hand, if anyone can change their house on a whim, we'll need strong preservation to keep every street from looking like a complete hodgepodge. On the other hand, the irrevocable effects of losing a landmark are lower And if we don't over-preserve bad buildings, we can fairly easily fix mistakes of poor urbanism, like adding ground-floor storefronts to a building without them, or repurposing the garage that we no longer need with autonomous vehicles. With enough automation, cities could start to look a lot more like, say, Web sites, where if you don't like something, it's easy to change. That could be the best, or the worst, thing to happen to our cities.
And if we don't over-preserve bad buildings, we can fairly easily fix mistakes of poor urbanism, like adding ground-floor storefronts to a building without them, or repurposing the garage that we no longer need with autonomous vehicles. With enough automation, cities could start to look a lot more like, say, Web sites, where if you don't like something, it's easy to change. That could be the best, or the worst, thing to happen to our cities.
talks about the role of politics in historic preservation, including the loss of historic neighborhoods in Southwest in the 1960s, the Park and Shop at the Cleveland Park Metro, the MLK Library, and the closing of G Street to build the Verizon Center.
Congestion pricing is the equitable alternative: Opponents of congestion pricing have used "regressive tax" demagoguery to scare politicians away from supporting the policy. Not only is this misleading (since the same politicians' constituents would benefit from the improved transit), but it's not even regressive compared to the alternatives.
Handicap parking abuse rampant in Florida: So many seniors have handicapped parking permits in Florida that those truly in need can't park. One major problem is that anyone with a permit can park for four hours for free at meters, and the limit is rarely enforced. Parking Today recommends disabled advocacy groups stop fighting for free parking and embrace their slogan of "access, not charity".
HOT lane builders padding VA campaign coffers: Companies building Virginia's beltway-expanding HOT lanes (which won't pay for themselves) have donated large sums of money to elected officials supporting the project.
Ward Court resolved (for now): After last week's spectacle at the Dupont ANC with five officials from four government departments disagreeing about Ward Court, DDOT went back and measured, and decided it was right the first time to allow parking on one side. But this time, DPW says they will stop writing tickets. (Current)
In part 1, I speculated about the effect of automated systems to build complete tunnels that could drastically cut the cost of building heavy rail subways and trains. I also suggested DARPA fund research into this.
One area of research DARPA is funding in the realm of transportation is autonomous vehicles. They're not just having teams design cars to navigate tricky off-road obstacles anymore: the most recent challenges require autonomous vehicles to navigate in traffic, obey stop signs, park, and more. Completely automated cars that can drive anywhere aren't so far away.
What will that mean for our settlement patterns? On the one hand, longer commutes won't be so painful. A long-distance commuter can settle in and watch some TV, read, or do work while his car navigates to the office. (Gas prices will still make this a more expensive proposition, of course.)
On the other hand, autonomous vehicles would improve the urban quality of life dramatically as well. Road accidents should plummet with the computer's higher reaction times and inability to get drunk. (Occasionally systems might break down, but I predict that would happen much less often than humans breaking down.) We could operate transit vehicles much more cheaply without needed bus or train drivers.
Perhaps most significantly, we'd also need a lot less parking. Why have your own car when you can just press a button on your iPhone 6G and have a Zipcar come to you. Or, if it's autonomous, maybe the better analogy is a fleet of ubiquitous driverless and cheap taxis (and, as Ryan has been discussing, primarily electric).
Until researchers perfect autonomous vehicles, we can improve auto utilization in other ways with technology. Via Arlington's CommuterPageBlog, discusses the iHitch, a concept for an electronic device that lets drivers and potential ride-hitchers find each other and exchange a small fee for a ride somewhere the driver is already going. It's still just an idea, but with so many seats going empty in individual vehicles driving everywhere, all the time, it's an area ripe for innovation.
Today, heavy rail is extremely expensive to build. But by not having to compete with traffic, it is faster and more reliable than other modes of transit. Light rail is pricier than buses but carry more people and generate more investment.
Will it always be that way? I believe that one day we'll see automated construction machines that can much more cheaply build a tunnel. We already bore tunnels by machine, instead of blasting by hand as the builders of subways did in the early 1900s. Unlike, say, flying cars or better batteries, there's no law of physics that says we can't automate the rest.
Computerized systems could block off a work site, relocate utilities, build the tunnel walls, and package up the debris for removal. It's just a matter of time and engineering. Plus, underground construction has obvious defense benefits. DARPA should start funding studies into automated tunnel boring.
What will happen if, in the future, we can build tunnels for a fraction the cost today? We could put subways anywhere the ridership would justify the ongoing operating costs (maybe something like this). Heavy rail out to more distant town centers wouldn't be such a boondoggle.
Of course, if it's cheaper to build subways, it's also cheaper to build underground freeways as well. With gas prices what they are, I'd hope we wouldn't be so foolish, though we'd probably end up with some of each.
Gas prices could radically change with technology as well. Say, a giant solar station in orbit? To me, creating completely new sources of energy is less immediately plausible than construction robots. We already build things with robots (like cars), and the history of computation is a steady march toward automating more tasks that we already do. An orbital solar station or some other major source of cheap power is a whole different undertaking, but who knows?
popped them with a pop quiz and got many failing grades.
WP covers ICC bike trail fiasco: Washcycle and I have written about the absurdity of cutting a bike trail from the ICC for environmental reasons. But the environmental and recreational knife in the back is continuing, reports the Post. Tip: Jenny.
Candidate debate update: Carol Schwartz debates her Republican challenger, Patrick Mara, today on Kojo, and Roger Lewis will be talking about politics and zoning right after. Both should be interesting. The Ward 8 candidates were on the show Monday, though with such a crowded field there wasn't enough time to really get a sense of the candidates.
Urbanism in the Philly suburbs: $4 gas is bringing change to western Chester County, Pennsylvania, mostly a land of sprawling bedroom suburbs and office parks. NPR profiles Uptown Worthington, with mixed-use residences above restaurants right near major corporate headquarters. And unlike, say, Konterra, it's near one of Philly's excellent commuter rail lines. Tip: Bianchi.
- Latest Metro map drafts add Anacostia parks and other tweaks
- Bikeshare is a gateway to private biking, not competition
- Short-term Washingtonians deserve a voice, too
- DC Council makes major policy changes overnight
- Public land deals have both benefits and pitfalls
- Parklets give every block a little park
- Judge denies injunction against closing schools