Greater Greater Washington

These two Prince George's neighborhoods show how bike trails help neighborhoods

Riverdale Park and East Riverdale are two neighboring communities just east of Hyattsville in Prince George's County. One is thriving while the other has struggled. One reason could be that the Riverdale Park is near bike trails, while East Riverdale is blocked from them.

Riverdale Park and East Riverdale. Image by Dan Reed. Base map from ESRI, with boundaries from the Census Bureau.

As part of an effort to extend the WB&A Trail south toward DC, Bike Maryland and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association studied property values and housing patterns in several Prince George's county neighborhoods. The large differences in property values between neighborhoods with close proximity to bike trails and other nearby communities with few non-car transport options was striking.

As part of the study, the organization divided whole communities into those that have good access to trails (Hyattsville, Riverdale Park, Edmonston) and those that have poor bike access or are otherwise "carlocked" by major uncrossable roads (Woodlawn, East Riverdale, Landover Hills). They also looked at properties within 200 meters of a bike facility and those beyond 200m of a bike facility, both within communities and overall.

A heat map of bike infrastructure in Prince George's County. The area where Bike Maryland and WABA want to expand the WB&A Trail is circled in yellow. Image from Bike Maryland.

Two neighboring communities highlight the contrasts

For example, let's compare East Riverdale, where there is no safe place to bike or walk, either for recreation or for commuting and utility, with Riverdale Park, where there are far more options.

Riverdale is a burgeoning community with a lively farmer's market, a nascent craft beer scene, a weekly blues jam, and easy walking and bike access to the new Hyattsville Arts district and a revitalized Route 1, which has several new restaurants. A trendy new development anchored by a Whole Foods market is under construction just north of town.

But East Riverdale, which is just across Route 201, has been designated as a Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative community, meaning it faces "significant economic, health, public safety and educational challenges."

Riverdale Park. Base image from Google Maps.

East Riverdale. Base image from Google Maps.

Median housing values are more than $30,000 higher in Riverdale Park ($246,200) than in East Riverdale ($215,500), and assessments are about $50,000 higher ($215,800 in Riverdale Park vs. $163,700 in East Riverdale). Riverdale Park's value per acre ($995,000) is nearly 10 percent higher than East Riverdale's ($908,000).

Houses in East Riverdale are actually newer and larger than those in Riverdale Park. East Riverdale also has more single-family housing and fewer buildings with large numbers of units, there's more owner-occupied housing, and its houses have more rooms; all of these things are often associated with higher home values.

The demographic characteristics of the residents in Riverdale Park and East Riverdale are similar, with approximately half of the residents of Hispanic of Latino heritage (48% in Riverdale Park vs. 53% in East Riverdale). Downtown Riverdale Park has a MARC commuter rail station with some charming pre-WWII homes and cottages nearby, although the commercial area around it seemed relatively lifeless and contained several abandoned buildings until recently. On balance, looking at individual street views of East Riverdale's and Riverdale Park's housing stocks, it is certainly not obvious that East Riverdale would have dramatically lower housing values.

It's quite possible that the reason Riverdale Park is being revitalized while East Riverdale has struggled economically goes back to basic community design: East Riverdale's layout forces residents to drive everywhere, and residents can't easily walk to the market or ride their bikes to work.

Meanwhile, as younger residents who are not particularly attached to driving look for affordable place to live, Riverdale Park is a more attractive choice. The new energy attracted to the neighborhood creates an upward cycle of renovation.

To note: The comparison data on the housing characteristics and demographics of households in East Riverdale and Riverdale come from the US Census American Community Survey (ACS) for 2009-2013. Tax valuation data are from PG Atlas, gathered in June and July of 2015.

Can transit turn East Riverdale around?

Caption: East Riverdale is Blocked from the Anacostia Tributary Trails by a Major Highway, MD Route 201; map by Google maps.

It's possible that the Purple Line, which will affect East Riverdale more than Riverdale Park, may switch economic momentum back to the east over the next 10 or 20 years. The Purple Line and its feeder walks and bike routes (if any) should make it easier to get around without a car.

Granted, a more desirable neighborhood layout, with more transportation options, will attract higher income residents, who, in turn, attract more businesses and amenities, making the neighborhood even more desirable in an self-reinforcing cycle. It is very difficult, and can be a fool's errand, to try to accurately say that any one item makes a neighborhood more or less desirable when every contributing factor is related to every other!

But we certainly want to make county leaders aware of the fact that the carlocked neighborhoods in Prince George's County contribute much less per acre to county's tax rolls than trail-accessible neighborhoods. We hope our county will agree to build more great bike trails in the county and thereby test our hypothesis that unlocking carlocked neighborhoods could lift whole communities!

Are long waitlists for DC's public preschools hurting the entire school system?

At some DC Public Schools, the programs that prepare kids for kindergarten by teaching pre-literacy and math skills, like learning the alphabet and counting, are in such demand that many neighborhood residents are unable to enroll their children. If DCPS doesn't expand the number of preschool slots where demand is highest, it risks losing those families to charter and other non-DCPS schools.

A preschool classroom. Photo by Herald Post on Flickr.

Officially called the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, it offers Preschool-3 (PS3) and Pre-Kindergarten-4 (PK4) classes at elementary schools around the city through a lottery called My School DC. When it opens on December 14th, thousands of families from around the city will enter in hopes of securing a seat at the school of their choice.

To apply, families fill out a single online application for participating public charter schools (PS3 through 12) DCPS out-of-boundary schools (K-12), most DCPS ECE (PS3 and PK4) programs including programs at in-boundary schools, and DCPS citywide selective high schools (9-12).

Each student may apply to as many as 12 schools per application. The My School DC lottery is designed to match students with the schools they want most, and maximize the number of students who are matched.

As 3 and 4 year olds are not required by law to attend school, DCPS is not required to offer a seat for every in-bound child. Therefore a child must enter the lottery to secure an ECE seat in all but six Title I (low income) elementary schools across the city (Amidon-Bowen Elementary, Bunker Hill Elementary, Burroughs Elementary, Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary, Stanton Elementary, and Van Ness Elementary).

Preferences are given to students that are in-bounds and have a sibling that attends the school, in-bounds students without a sibling at the school, and students that are out-of-bound and have a sibling that attends the school, in that order. A majority of elementary schools are able to offer seats to all of their in-bounds ECE students. If there is a waitlist, students are ordered by the lottery based on the algorithm, which accounts for any preferences a student may have.

The in-bound waitlists can be very long

The list of schools that is able to accept all of their in-bounds students into their ECE programs is shrinking. Last year 25 schools had to waitlist one or more of their in-bounds ECE students. The schools on this list put an average of 25% of their in-bounds students on the waitlist, although in some cases it was much higher.

Of the four schools that waitlisted 50% or more of their in-bounds students, two were located in Ward 3 (Stoddert and Oyster-Adams) and offered only PK4 students, while the others were located in Ward 6 (Brent and Maury) and offered positions for both PS3 and PK4 students.

Brent and Maury provide examples of how quickly things can change:

Table by the author.

These numbers offer a poor introduction to many families that DCPS is trying to attract and retain. The situation is worse for new families, as children with older siblings in the school receive priority over other in-bound students. This past year, in-bounds students without siblings had a 24% chance of getting into Maury's PS3 class and no chance of getting into Brent as they had 39 students receiving the in-bound with sibling preference for only 30 PS3 spots. While there is a chance that students could receive a PK4 seat the following year, the fact remains that a large percentage of in-bounds families will not experience the best recruiting tool DCPS has to offer.

Families are deciding about middle school when their kids are three years old

At a time when DCPS is taking steps to encourage families to stay beyond elementary school, potential new families can see these large waitlists as a deterrent. DCPS also risks losing these students to private schools, DC public charters, or other districts with more established middle school options.

Even if the student returns for kindergarten, DCPS has missed an opportunity to build loyalty with these students and their families, which matters in neighborhoods with unsettled middle school situations like Capitol Hill. Due to the increasing number of middle school options, some families are choosing to leave DCPS elementary schools as early as second grade.

Also, the charter middle schools that are popular with Capitol Hill families such as BASIS and Washington Latin start in fifth grade, which also pushes up the Middle School Decision timeline. As a result, DCPS may only have a few years with a student that starts in kindergarten to demonstrate they are a viable option beyond fourth grade.

Here's what DCPS can do about this problem

One option is for DCPS to eliminate PS3 classes in the schools with long in-bound waitlists and convert those seats into PK4 seats. This still may not provide room for all in-bounds students, but by bringing in a larger percentage of the in-bounds population for one year it would offer a better experience for more families and would reduce the "Golden Ticket" feeling that divides communities into haves and have-nots at three years old.

It is notable that in Northwest DC, only two of the twelve elementary schools that flow to Wilson High School offers PS3 classes. While many of those twelve schools still have to waitlist in-bound students applying for PK4 seats, in several cases they are able to accommodate a much larger percentage of their in-bound students. As DCPS tries to create a "Deal and Wilson for all," Eastern High School and the schools that flow to it offer DCPS a chance to re-create that model, which starts for most families at PK4.

As more families choose to stay in the city, it is likely that DCPS will have additional schools that experience large increases in the number of in-bound applicants from one year to the next. However better information demographic information in the school districts would allow DCPS to predict and then plan for these large increases in order to minimize the waitlists.

As DC changes, its preschool programs will need to as well

The DCPS ECE program is a great resource for District families, and is often the envy of our friends in Maryland and Virginia. While it is often derided as "free day care," ask parents with children in one of the classes around the city and instead they will talk about the excitement of their students describing metamorphosis and reading and writing their first words. They will also talk about the relationships their children have developed with the other students and the sense of community a neighborhood school can provide.

As DC continues to change, DCPS must be able to anticipate these changes and adapt as well. Investing in information gathering will benefit DCPS by allowing neighborhood schools better predict how large rising classes of in-bound three year olds may be.

DCPS has made significant strides convincing DC families that the DCPS elementary schools will provide an excellent education for their children. In fact, they have been so successful that families are clamoring for seats in their ECE programs. However, the next phase, persuading DC families to believe in DCPS middle schools begins with families' first interactions with DCPS.

DCPS has the ability to make that interaction better.

H Street's sprawling Hechinger Mall is a sleeping giant, waiting to boom

The redevelopment boom on H Street NE hasn't yet transformed Hechinger Mall, the big suburban-style strip mall where H Street meets Bladensburg Road and Benning Road. But someday, when it inevitably does, there's enough land for an entire neighborhood.

By superimposing a map of the Hechinger Mall area on top of other parts of DC, one can see just how great a change is on the horizon.

Hechninger Mall and surrounds by the author using Mapfrappe and Google.

In the above image, the blue line outlines Hechinger Mall plus several surrounding properties with similar car-oriented retail. The mall and its surrounds beat as the commercial heart of multiple Northeast neighborhoods, including Trinidad, Carver-Langston, and Kingman Park.

It's not unused land; there are plenty of stores, and they do robust business. But it's definitely underused. Vast acres of parking sit mostly empty. Single suburban-style stores take up entire blocks. Internal streets look like highways, despite low traffic.

Someday it is going to redevelop. When that happens, it's going to be as much a big deal as redevelopment in Columbia Heights or Union Market.

Compare the land

Let's compare the amount of land we're talking about.

Using a neat tool from Mapfrappe, it's possible to superimpose that blue Hechinger Mall outline on top of other parts of DC, at the same scale.

Here's Columbia Heights:

Columbia Heights comparison by Dan Malouff using Mapfrappe and Google.

As you can see, the blue Hechinger Mall outline is almost exactly the same size and shape of the center of Columbia Heights. You could almost pick up 14th Street and plop it down at Hechinger, and it would fit.

Now Union Market:

Union Market comparison by Dan Malouff using Mapfrappe and Google.

Again, it's almost exactly the same size as the entire Union Market neighborhood.

Let's keep going. NoMa next:

NoMa comparison by Dan Malouff using Mapfrappe and Google.

And now, City Center DC:

City Center comparison by Dan Malouff using Mapfrappe and Google.

NoMa is bigger. But Hechinger Mall is about the same size as the others. That's the scale of redevelopment that could—that probably will—come to H Street.

And that's great. There's nothing wrong with the stores at Hechinger; DC needs shops like Safeway, Ross, and Dollar Tree. But DC also needs places to put more housing, and football field-sized parking lots a mile-and-a-half from the Capitol are exactly the right place.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Breakfast links: The song that doesn't end

Photo by guercio on Flickr.
Not in my side yard: In Columbia Heights, co-op residents are upset about new buildings going up next door. They claim the new development will block light and add traffic, though the future building is shorter than its neighbor. (WBJ)

Baltimore tension rising: As the first Freddie Gray trial begins in Baltimore, some city residents fear that more unrest and riots are coming. Some also believe that police are making fewer arrests, allowing more homicides. (WAMU)

Equality for all eight wards: If DC were more equitable, residents in Wards 7 and 8 would have thousands more jobs, diplomas, and homes. That's according to a new report that looked at the city-wide rate for employment, education, and housing. (Post)

Loans not cash: More new homebuyers in the DC area are using federally-backed loans to buy houses, even more than cash sales. Most of the Federal Housing Administration loans are in Prince George's County but there are many across the region. (Post)

Feds on Metro: Most Metro riders are federal employees using commuter benefits for their fares. This means that Metro loses revenue when the federal government closes, but gets new riders when an agency locates near a Metro station. (PlanItMetro)

Don't reward bailing: The WMATA Board is considering not charging riders who enter and leave a station within 15 minutes. Some say this will give riders options but it may just reward impatience and few other systems allow it. (Washingtonian)

When the express lane ends: I-95 HOT Lanes will soon extend 2 miles farther south in Stafford County. The "reversible" lanes will run north or south depending on the time of the day. (Post)

Which subway map: You've played WhichWMATA, but can you identify world cities based on a basic subway map? These "naked" maps are geographically accurate and all drawn to the same scale. (The Guardian)

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Events roundup: Expanding Union Station and telling DC's story

Jump back into the post-vacation work week! Learn about the proposal for expanding Union Station and a new development just north of Brookland, hear stories from oft-neglected DC neighborhoods, help celebrate the community in Ward 6, and get a global view on the interaction between bikes and cars.

Photo by Richard Masoner

Union Station expansion: A new proposal could lead to a bigger, more modern Union Station, which is one of DC's most important transportation hubs. Learn about the proposal and share you opinions at a public meeting next Monday, December 7, in Union Station's Presidential Room (2 Massachusetts Avenue NE). Two identical presentations will be shared—one at 4:30 pm and one at 7 pm.

After the jump: stories from east of the Anacostia, a new development, a movie about bikes and cars, and Ward 6.

East of the Anacostia: When talking about DC's history, people too often overlook neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. Join several panelists and local historians this Wednesday, December 2, at 6:30 pm at 2200 Martin Luther King Jr Avenue SE to hear stories and discuss this important part of the District.

New development: Developer EYA wants to build new units at the St. Joseph's Seminary at 12th and Varnum St NE. Head over to the ANC 5A meeting this Thursday, December 3, at 6:30 pm to hear EYA's presentation on the project.

Bikes and/or cars: With the growing popularity on biking in DC, looking at the relationship between bikes and cars around the world can give perspective. Take a global look at the one-day only showing of "Bikes vs. Cars" this Sunday, December 6, at 1 pm at the Old Greenbelt Theater (129 Centerway, Greenbelt).

Awards for Ward 6: Next Monday, December 7, DC Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen is hosting the 8th Annual "Brickie Awards," an awards show to highlight the people, places, and businesses that make Ward 6 great. Help celebrate the neighborhood and enjoy local restaurants at Eastern Market North Hall starting at 6 pm.

Calendar: Beyond what we've highlighted here, there are many other worthwhile events across the region. Check out more great events in our events calendar:

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers that should go on our events calendar? Send it to us at

Tour the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers with Google Street View

Want to tour the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, but don't own a boat? Google's Street View tool now includes the view from a small boat traveling along the DC shore line.

To take the tour, just click the picture below. You can also go to the area in Google Maps and drag the orange stick figure onto the blue line that appears.

Memorial Bridge from the Captain John Smith Chesapeak National Historic Trail. Phot from Google Street View.

The tour starts north of Kingman Island near Kenilworth Park on the Anacostia River, stretches south and west around Hains Point, then heads north past Chain Bridge.

The project is part of the Conservation Fund's Google Trekker project, which has created virtual tours of beautiful and historic American places.

In this particular instance, the project has documented the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. The first entirely water-based trail in the National Trail System, Captain John Smith followed this route over 400 years ago. In addition to helping found Jamestown, Smith became the first English explorer to map the Chesapeake Bay.


Bad Metro reliability is driving riders away. WMATA has a few ideas to get them back.

The long season of debate about WMATA budgets, fares, and service has begun, and like too many years in the last decade, the agency faces a budget crunch. Today, the agency released its first budget proposal which includes some proposals that will interest riders.

Photo by Joe Flood on Flickr.

The agency is now agreeing with something riders have been saying for some time: Poor maintenance and other bad customer experiences are hurting ridership and, thus, revenue. WMATA is not planning to raise fares or cut service. It will do a few things riders have been asking for, like letting people exit without paying if they don't get on a train, and expanding all-you-can-ride passes.

Here are a few of the key highlights:

Bad experiences are driving customers away

Riders have consistently been about 80% happy with both rail and bus service for years, but that recently changed, according to a presentation about customer satisfaction. This year, "bus satisfaction trended better while a precipitous drop in satisfaction began among rail customers, in the first three quarters of 2015—from 82% to 67%."

According to the survey results, about 30% of the time a customer is dissatisfied, it's because of reliability problems. And those problems are increasing.

"Two years ago, the average customer reported less than one problematic experience during their trip (i.e. broken fare machine, non-operating gate, escalator out of service, unavailable employee). These experiences have increased nearly 300%—and now are reported by customers as two problems during an average trip."

The presentation lists some initiatives the agency is taking to improve satisfaction. Top among them is an effort (though with few details in this document) to improve the actual reliability. In addition, WMATA is revamping the website, adding some "customer meet-and-greet events," and modified the screens on the platforms to show trains more than 20 minutes away. (Though, honestly, if trains are more than 20 minutes away, telling riders is helpful, but it's still too long a wait.)

While there's no hard data yet, WMATA's budgeters believe it's likely this dissatisfaction is contributing to lower ridership and fare revenues. Other past trends, like the federal government cutting transit benefits or a rise in telecommuting, are likely still playing a part as well, officials say.

No fare increase or service cuts

WMATA is not planning to increase fares or cut service in the coming year, according to the budget presentation. Nor will the payments from jurisdictions rise.

It's a smart move to not raise fares or cut service. With riders already fleeing the Metrorail system and the costs of transit for many riders exceeding what they can get from their employers as a transit benefit, higher costs aren't a good idea. Nor is cutting service, which would just compel more people to look for other ways to travel.

If there won't be more money coming in or less going out, what will change? This budget proposes using more federal money, which WMATA gets according to a formula, for necessary preventive maintenance. The catch is that means other capital improvements won't have money unless local governments pay more.

There will still be enough capital money to pay for fixing track signals, bringing trains into good shape, repairing elevators and escalators, and some signal priority for buses on major corridors. However, it means WMATA won't be able to afford to set up a more modern payment system, repair or replace deteriorating bus garages, build a new railcar maintenance facility (which might be helpful given that railcars aren't being maintained as well as they need to be), or plan for ways to reduce crowding in the core.

These are all projects which can wait, but they can't wait forever. Local governments ought to look for ways to help pay for these. If WMATA has to only do the minimum level of safety maintenance for long, the danger is that other, less decrepit parts of the system start falling behind, and in a few years, we're dealing with other problems. Or, if riders come back to Metro, overcrowded trains with no relief in sight.

You'll be able to bail out from delays

Today, if you go into a station and your train never comes or it sits on the tracks without moving while a disabled train is jamming up the works, you might decide to leave the station and take Bikeshare or a taxi. Unfortunately, Metro will also charge you for a ride. That's immensely frustrating to riders.

The budget proposes letting riders leave for free within a certain amount of time. That's a smart move. The budget presentation estimates WMATA could lose up to $2 million a year in fare revenue because of the change, though arguably it's all somewhat unfairly taken today. I wonder if better goodwill could erase much of that loss.

More passes

In many cities, such as New York, most regular riders buy monthly or weekly passes for their transit. They get unlimited rides, and the main effect is to encourage people to ride more off-peak, when the transit agency has extra unused capacity anyway.

Besides the general value of encouraging people to use more transit when there's room and providing value to residents, if people are on a sort of subscription plan for transit, it can smooth out the effects of changes. WMATA wouldn't lose so much money if there's a disruption and people "bail out" if they're on a pass. Nor if there's a big snowstorm or federal shutdown. Right now, those can blow a hole in the WMATA budget.

Passes are a little more complicated for WMATA because rail fares vary with distance. That's not insurmountable—the Seattle area has the ORCA pass, where people can buy different levels of fares. Each person picks a fare level, buys a pass, and gets all transit of that level and below for free (and can take longer trips for an added fee). Michael Perkins has long advocated for WMATA to do something similar.

This budget doesn't do that. But it does propose adding a pass for shorter rail trips and bus trips, so people can more interchangeably switch between the two.

More significantly, WMATA is working on a "university pass" plan where universities would pay a flat rate for every student (maybe coming out of a student activity fee of some kind) and get unlimited passes for the whole student body. The rate should be much lower than a regular pass, since all students would get them but not all students will use them often and most won't commute daily during rush hour. The presentation said WMATA is currently working on this with American University, and hopes to expand it to more universities.

And more

WMATA also plans to add more police officers to catch fare evaders at twelve stations: Anacostia, Brookland, Congress Heights, Deanwood, Gallery Place, Judiciary Square, Minnesota Avenue, Navy Yard, Naylor Road, Pentagon, Takoma, and Tenleytown.

The agency will cut 20 positions (which, the presentation emphasizes, are definitely not safety-related), though there are no more details yet.

Finally, this is far from a minor item, but a topic for another post: The agency is pursuing signal priority, where traffic lights modify their cycles to let buses through more quickly, along Leesburg Pike (the 28 series of bus lines), Georgia Avenue (70s), 14th Street (50s), 16th Street (S lines), and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin avenues (30s).

The WMATA Board will discuss the proposals on Thursday.

New York's subway has a great idea for Metro

Metro has made a lot of its problems worse by keeping the public in the dark. New general manager Paul Wiedefeld seems ready to open up, which could lead to political good will, fresh ideas, or even more funding. New York's subway made this video explaining what's wrong with its own infrastructure, and Metro might want to steal the idea.

The video is from back in June, but I just came across it in this article about how antiquated parts of New York City's subway system is: There's essentially no central control system, and MTA literally doesn't have the information it needs to tell customers where some trains are in the system and when they'll next arrive at a station.

MTA is working on technology upgrades, but for the foreseeable future the majority of trains in New York will keep doing things the old fashioned way.

Are the issues this video is explaining this troubling? Puzzling? Do they lead to delays that are frustrating, and leave people unhappy with MTA? Probably; Definitely; I can't see how they don't.

But it's also clear how transparency is a step in the right direction. When you tell people what's going on, they can see whether you're truly doing the best you can with what you have. In MTA's case, the hope is that coming out and saying what's structurally wrong with the system will mean more support for getting it fixed.

Their point is not to flagellate themselves. It's to drum up capital support for a systemwide upgrade and in particular for a program called CBTC. The MTA, too, thinks it's ridiculous that all a tower operator knows when they look at their board is that some hunk of steel—which one, they can't be sure—is sitting on some section of track. You want fewer delays? You want realtime countdown clocks?

CBTC is the answer.

If WMATA were to make a video like this, what do you think they should make it about?

Breakfast links: GM's first day

Photo by Daniel Calonge on Flickr.
Day one: Paul Wiedefeld officially begins his first day as WMATA General Manager today. He plans to relocate from the Baltimore area to the District and get certified to personally inspect track work. (WTOP)

More VRE service: Starting today, the VRE will run a new train and offer additional morning and afternoon service on its Fredericksburg Line. (Post)

DCHA renovations: The D.C. Housing Authority has been moving low-income tenants out of "scattered site" homes. DCHA plans to renovate and sell the homes then use the profit to finance new affordable units. None of these profits have been put to use yet, and high costs leave many properties vacant. (AP)

CaBi for Prince George's?: Prince George's County will conduct a feasibility study to see if Capital Bikeshare is right for the county. To date, the county is the only major D.C. area jurisdiction that does not offer a bikeshare program. (Post)

The roommate capital?: Arlington, VA and Washington, D.C. are numbers two and four respectively among major U.S. cities with the highest percentage of adults living with roommates. (Priceonomics)

Tax relief tensions: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wants to lower personal income taxes to help small businesses. Some say this is necessary to keep them from relocating to another state, while others think the tax concerns are a bit overblown. (Post)

Respect the space: Montgomery County officials want holiday shoppers to respect parking spaces reserved for persons with disabilities, and will issue $250 fines to violators. (WTOP)

And...: Baltimore city wants to launch a car-sharing program (Sun) ... D.C. At-Large Councilmember David Grosso has a new challenger. (City Paper) ... Is referring to Prince George's County as "P.G." offensive? (Post)

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9 things people always say at zoning hearings, illustrated by cats

If you watch enough zoning hearings, the testimony begins to sound pretty repetitive. That novel argument you're making? The Council members have heard it a million times before. Here are nine of the things we hear most often at zoning hearings, illustrated by cats.

1. "I'm not opposed to all development. Just this development."

Those 1,000 times you sat on your couch to support developments far away from you surely counterbalance that one time you came out to oppose your neighbor's development.

If you're opposed, just tell us why; don't go on about how you're not a person that opposes things.

2. "Nobody talked to me!"

The city notifies neighbors and registered civic organizations about upcoming permits. Developers seek out people they think might be affected. But it's hard to know who is going to care and notifications are often thrown out. Don't feel left out! If you're at the hearing, you're being heard. Just say what's on your mind.

3. "Reality is, everybody drives a car."

Usually said while proposing somebody build more parking. If you want that reality to ever change, you have to accept building less car infrastructure.

4. "These greedy developers only think about profits."

Land development is a business. Like all businesses, sometimes you make money and sometimes you lose money. You just try to make sure that you make enough money on the winners to cancel out the losers. Focusing in on the fact that the developer is hoping to make money makes your testimony sound more like you oppose out of spite than a particular reason.

5. "Let me tell you my theory of economics."

If council members haven't learned economics by now, they're not going to learn it from your three minute testimony.

6. "What this neighborhood really needs is a coffee shop, not more apartments."

For all the mean things people sometimes say about developers, a lot of folks seem to fashion themselves amateur land developers, with a keen eye on exactly what types of businesses will succeed or fail. As it turns out, those things coincide perfectly with the things they personally enjoy.

7. "I'm 5th generation! My great great grandfather moved here before this was even on the map!"

That entitles you to one vote, just like everybody else. Now tell us what you came up here to say.

8. "We need to respect the hundreds of hours spent crafting this neighborhood plan."

Respecting people for volunteering time making plans doesn't mean those plans should never change. Now tell us your reasons for or against this particular change.

9. "This housing is too small for me!"

Different people have different needs and desires! Just because you don't like a particular thing doesn't mean nobody would like it.

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