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Breakfast links: Suburban mobility


Photo by HerrVebah on Flickr.
BRT could work in MoCo: A 150-mile BRT network in Montgomery County would take 85,000 cars off county roads and cost about $2.5 billion. A few lines could be operational as soon as 2014. (Gazette)

MWAA sticking with underground station: The underground Dulles station will mean higher tolls on the Dulles Toll Road, but MWAA board members are still confident it was the right choice. Governor McDonnell asked Mayor Gray to push DC's board members, but Gray likely supports the decision, too. MWAA could also toll the free access road and/or institute higher peak tolls. (Examiner, Adam Tuss, Post)

Bridge construction reduces traffic: Two lanes of New York Avenue recently closed for construction on the bridge over the rail yard. Traffic through that segment has actually decreased and drivers are moving faster than they were before. Does this mean it should be narrowed permanently? (Post, Andrew S.)

No gas for water head: DC Water head George Hawkins started driving an electric car to cut emissions. Since most of his trips are short (but not necessarily to transit nodes), he uses almost no gas. (NBC Washington)

Near SE organizing against "annexation": Residents near the ballpark are opposing Marion Barry's redistricting proposal moving them from Ward 6 to Ward 8. Tommy Wells urged them not to make the fight about personalities or about parking. (JDLand)

Myopic little twit magnet: DC's 20- to 34-year-olds fueled the city's population growth over the past decade. They make up nearly half of the population in Wards 1 and 2. The number of children fell. (Post)

Best enticement to live near work?: DC's Office of Planning will offer matching grants of $6,000 each for businesses to pay employees to move to DC. But will the money just go to people who would have bought near transit anyway? (Housing Complex)

Arrests, graphics for DC rights: Councilmember Mary Cheh was arrested protesting the House's latest vote against women's rights and DC's autonomy. (Examiner) ... The unfairness of our governmental system is starkest in illustration. (Left for LeDroit)

May the fourth be with DCRA: DCRA posted some hilarious tweets for Star Wars Day about a huge new development project by Calrissian | Chiu | Bacca, the "DethStarr," featuring a CaBi speeder bike station. DDOT has traffic concerns, though. There was also a big midichlorian outbreak worrying public health officials. (DCist, Twitter)

And...: Rob Pitingolo maps every DC alley. ... Dutch cycle tracks and transit astound a Post columnist. ... Virginia's attorney general wants to be with bin Laden right now. What? (Post) ... Some San Francisco merchants actually praise street construction. (Streetsblog)

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Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 

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I agree with Lydia that there's a high chance that that 6,000 will simply reward people for making decisions they'd make anyway. But I do think it might mean that more people who live near the metro actually use the metro. Right now, I see a decent amount of people who live right next to a metro, drive to work every day. Maybe they work in Tysons or something and can't take Metro (yet), but the point is, there's probably someone else out there that Wouk be happy to live in that apartment and take metro to work. So maybe you're rewarding people for making a decision they'd make anyway, but maybe you're also influencing who actually gets to make that decision.

A question: how do I switch back to the mobile version of the site on my iPhone?

by TM on May 5, 2011 9:12 am • linkreport

Why would anyone think of narrowing NY Ave? Did you read the attached article. City traffic didn't decrease, it was just moved elsewhere and now Rhode Island Ave is positively crushed. Seems to be a common over look for folks pressing for road closings for pedestrian only streets. The traffic doesn't magically disappear, it just goes elsewhere.

Also, this "pay to move to DC" thing would be ok if it was for home purchase. Then again, we already have a program like that. I just see a bunch of situations where people move to an apt in DC for a year, collect 6K of my money then move on.

by freely on May 5, 2011 9:16 am • linkreport

Freely, the program is only for home purchases. I still think it's unwise.

by Eric Fidler on May 5, 2011 9:22 am • linkreport

Once the Silver Line is running, tolling the access road makes a certain sense. It's a premium service at that point.

by Gavin on May 5, 2011 9:35 am • linkreport

Dutch cycle tracks and transit astound a Post columnist.

Love the 15th Street cycletracks. Love the Penn Ave center bike lane. I'm all in support of more dedicated infrastructure.

But the reason we need more of this stuff is that, in order to drive up the numbers of cyclists, we need to make cycling appear more safe than it currently appears. Of course, cycling on the streets is already incredibly safe (c.f. the predicted massacre of helmetless, newbie CaBi riders which never materialized).

But one thing slowing the greater adoption of cycling among the general public is the perception of risk. That perception is slowly being eaten away by the ever-present sight of CaBi users, but infrastructure is the biggie.

by oboe on May 5, 2011 9:40 am • linkreport

Err, wasn't the condition of the access road being given to MWAA was it would always remain free for airport users?

by charlie on May 5, 2011 9:40 am • linkreport

DC's changing demographics would seem to pose a particular problem for DC rights, since youth are less politically engaged and influential. (Disclaimer: I'm in this demographic.) Although young people in DC are probably more political than almost anywhere else in the country, I imagine there's still an age gap. And for the young people who've only recently moved here, there's another hurdle: getting them to understand and care about freedom for DC.

A small twist: I wonder if the census undercounts people who live here but for political or personal reasons still claim their primary residence somewhere else? Residence for Census purposes is supposed to be where you stay most of the time, but people can still answer whatever they want. A not-insignificant number of people would rather vote where they lived before, especially since currently a vote in DC doesn't mean much.

by Gavin on May 5, 2011 9:43 am • linkreport

@Gavin

Why would people answer the census incorrectly? There's no reason to do so. You won't have your voter registration revoked.

Also, the Census Bureau has lots of checks and balances within the questions to try and weed out fishy answers.

by Alex B. on May 5, 2011 9:45 am • linkreport

@Gavin,

I think the likelihood of DC gaining voting rights rises with the demographic shift. There is a significant portion of the folks doing the deciding who believe that DC residents "deserve" the franchise to the extent that they are white and middle-class. I think Americans tend to dismiss how much the legacy of our racist past still haunts our institutions.

by oboe on May 5, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

Freely-I'm just off RI Ave and really, it's not much worse at all. I take it each day all the way to Scott Circle/Bowtie from MD. In the morning it's backed up a little around RI Metro station and Florida Ave, but otherwise, I can't tell the difference. "Positively crushed"...not so much.
There was however a MASSIVE difference in travel speed/time on NY Ave the last two times I've been on it. There was obviously less traffic. A trip that should have taken me just over an hour into VA took just under 40 min last week. The timing of the lights is good, and a dedicated left-hand turning lane inbound just before the bridge by FL Ave get's rid of backups that used to occur when the lane was used both for turning and continuing through. Along with the new square traffic pattern around FL Ave it smooths everything out.

by thump on May 5, 2011 10:01 am • linkreport

@charlie: MWAA has always owned the Access Road. VDOT operated/maintained it prior to 2006, but MWAA has owned the road since the get-go. It was the Toll Road that switched ownership, not the Access Road.

by Froggie on May 5, 2011 10:04 am • linkreport

oboe is 100% about the need for increased bike infrastructure to make biking even safer and to increase its appearance and appeal to potential bikers.

As far as the airport is concerned, do they have any plans to increase parking costs? This should definitely be on the table.

by Ryan on May 5, 2011 10:05 am • linkreport

Regarding the New York Avenue bridge: one downside is that the sidewalks are closed on both sides, cutting off direct pedestrian access to the service agencies and inexpensive motels on New York Avenue NE east of the tracks from the rest of the city. It also makes the most direct bicycle route between the city center and many Northeast neighborhoods very cyclist-unfriendly.

by Malcolm K. on May 5, 2011 10:10 am • linkreport

Traffic is down on NY Ave and everywhere else because of the price of gas.

by Tom Coumaris on May 5, 2011 10:18 am • linkreport

@Froggie; I was thinking when the feds transferred it to MWAA.

by charlie on May 5, 2011 10:26 am • linkreport

@Gavin -- Residence for census purposes is not where you stay most of the time. The form explicitly asks where you resided on April 1, 2010.

http://www.census.gov/schools/pdf/2010form_info.pdf

by c5karl on May 5, 2011 10:31 am • linkreport

@ Dutch bike lanes: What John Kelly does not know is that 20 years ago, we started with painted lanes. Slowly, over time, and for safety, bike lanes have been separated from the cars lanes, accompanied by the expected anger over disappearing car lanes. Luckily, virtually every one bikes in the Netherlands, including all school kids (there are no school buses), so most people understand the need for safety.

Bringing up the subject of bike helmets (required pretty much everywhere else) is politically more suicidal than being a republican running for president and proposing to raise taxes. People demand that biking is safe enough it can be done without a helmet.

The OV-Chipkaart may seem brilliant from a distance, but it stinks up close. The thing is a POS. You have to check in AND out without gates. If you forget to check out, or something went wrong (like it even does here in DC with gates), you pay a day-fare of near €50. The electronic data on the card is pretty much unprotected, leading to serious privacy concerns in case of loss. The thing has been cracked, and for about 15 bucks you can buy yourself a "free recharging" set online, giving you infinite credit. In stead of fixing the electronic protection, the government is now arresting the hackers and journalists who published the hacking. Finally, we already had one nationwide train ticket and nationwide one bus ticket system. So merging them was not anything special.

Perhaps John Kelly can answer whether he thinks there are any historic views that have been obscured by streetcar power lines.

Parliament perhaps?

View Larger Map

Ministry of Housing and Environment perhaps?


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Oh no, that one has a streetcar going straight through it.

The Kurhaus perhaps?


View Larger Map

[The Kurkaus is famous for a very destructive concert by the Stones in 1964]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TidobN02gpI

Hey look, pretty green streetcar tracks with grass!


View Larger Map

[And a painted bike lane, yes they still exist].

by Jasper on May 5, 2011 10:37 am • linkreport

Malcolm K- Thanks for pointing that out. I don't ever ride or walk on NY Ave so I can't speak to ease of use or access, just traffic.

by thump on May 5, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport

@Gavin
Residence for Census purposes is supposed to be where you stay most of the time, but people can still answer whatever they want.

Did you fill out a Census form? It's not really easy to just answer "whatever you want." You could specifically not put yourself down on the form, but you wouldn't be counted unless someone else put you down on their form.

by MLD on May 5, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport

Gaah. People *bike* on that section of NY Ave? I always treated any portion of NY Ave east of Mount Vernon Square as a "no go" area for cyclists.

by andrew on May 5, 2011 10:46 am • linkreport

@oboe

Cycling would be much safer if cyclists obeyed traffic laws.

by maeve on May 5, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

@Jasper:

@ Dutch bike lanes: What John Kelly does not know is that 20 years ago, we started with painted lanes. Slowly, over time, and for safety, bike lanes have been separated from the cars lanes, accompanied by the expected anger over disappearing car lanes. Luckily, virtually every one bikes in the Netherlands, including all school kids (there are no school buses), so most people understand the need for safety.

I usually go here for my bike infrastucture porn:

http://www.copenhagenize.com/

I think what a lot of people forget, and what you've touched on here, is that the development of cycling infrastructure is a long, slow process of accretion. As the infrastructure gets built, more people will ride. As more people ride, the political will for more infrastructure grows. Repeat, repeat.

by oboe on May 5, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

@maeve,

Cycling would be much safer if cyclists obeyed traffic laws.

Doubtful, as cycling is already incredibly safe. Any further gains are likely to be insignificant. In any case, cyclists do obey traffic laws. To about the same extent that drivers do.

My point was that infrastructure increases the *appearance* of safety, leading to greater mode share. And that's a good in and of itself, setting aside safety concerns.

I will make a public prediction though: sometime in the next few years, there will be a serious (perhaps fatal) accident involving someone on a CaBi bike. At that point, there will be a massive, disinformation campaign attempting to paint CaBi as incredibly dangerous. The statistics won't matter; all that will matter is that someone got hurt on a bikeshare bike, ergo they're a public menace that must be dispensed with.

by oboe on May 5, 2011 11:18 am • linkreport

@ maeve, oboe:
Cycling would be much safer if cyclists obeyed traffic laws.
Doubtful, as cycling is already incredibly safe.

Both statements are true. Biking is pretty safe. But it can be safer. That required that people generally relax in traffic, or get really uptight about traffic rules. Take your pic.

Bike infrastructure can increase safety/reduce accidents. That is why in the Netherlands, there are so many separated bike lanes. They also exist to provide handy short-cuts that are not available for cars.

Two-wheeler safety is not always straightforward though. It was only recently found that it is safer (less crashes) to keep mopeds on the road, between cars, as opposed to on bike lanes.

by Jasper on May 5, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

@oboe: infrastructure increases the *appearance* of safety, leading to greater mode share. And that's a good in and of itself, setting aside safety concerns.

You are implying that bicycle safety is not really improved, but in this case appearance and fact coincide. I can tick off a number of accidents between trucks and bicyclists, in which the biker got the worst of it. More bikes in dedicated lanes does improve safety.

by goldfish on May 5, 2011 12:05 pm • linkreport

@Oboe

"I think Americans tend to dismiss how much the legacy of our racist past still haunts our institutions."

I have thought about this, but it still doesn't explain how D.C. got this far along without voting rights. There was a point in 1950 where the District had 200k more people than it does now, the vast majority of whom were white and middle class. I wonder how/why a greater push for D.C. voting rights didn't take hold then.

by Adam L on May 5, 2011 12:21 pm • linkreport

@goldfish -- I'm not sure that oboe was making a comment either way on whether safety has improved, just making an arguement that the appearance of more safety is what's important for building more demand for cycling.

by Jacques on May 5, 2011 12:31 pm • linkreport

@Adam L

I think a push did take place then. That's when we got the 23rd amendment (proposed in 1960, ratified in 1961) and the DC Voting Rights Amendment (passed Congress in 1978, but never ratified).

Also, remember that in 1950, not only was DC at its peak population, but that peak population represented a much larger share of the US population. Then, DC was the 36th most populous 'state', right after Maine, but still larger than RI, AZ, UT, NM, ND, SD, MT, ID, NH, VT, DE, WY, NV, and then non-states AK and HI.

As an indication of how things have changed since 1950 - Nevada was last among the 48 states in population in the 1950 Census with a whopping 162,000 people. Nevada checked in at 2.7 million in 2010.

by Alex B. on May 5, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

You are implying that bicycle safety is not really improved, but in this case appearance and fact coincide. I can tick off a number of accidents between trucks and bicyclists, in which the biker got the worst of it. More bikes in dedicated lanes does improve safety.

Not to start a bike-lanes food-fight, but in at least two fatal high-profile cases I can think of, confusion as to proper bike-lane behavior contributed heavily to the accident. Certainly in the Alice Swanson case.

This is arguable also the case in the 15th Street contra-flow lanes. One could argue there's a marginal decrease in safety as cars enter and exit side streets and driveways without checking for bikes operating against traffic.

Again, probably not enough to swing the numbers in any noticeable way. But it's certainly not a given that dedicated lanes necessarily improve safety. More bikes is better for the city though, so appearances are everything.

by oboe on May 5, 2011 12:57 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.

I get that, but Oboe seemed to be saying that race and class had much more to do with D.C.'s lack of autonomy and voting rights than I think it really did. By 1960 when the 23rd Amendment passed, the District already had an African American majority. By the time the Home Rule Act and the DC Voting Rights Amendment passed, more than 70% of D.C. residents were African American.

by Adam L on May 5, 2011 1:04 pm • linkreport

@oboe -- Genuine safety is what matters, not appearances. If bike lanes do not improve safety -- one way or another -- then there is no reason to have them.

by goldfish on May 5, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

RE: NY Ave-
These past few weeks have actually been so great that my driving commute has been cut by 10 minutes... that's a third off my commute. It made the difference between me opting to use transit vs sticking with my car.

While traffic may be shying away, one thing I've noticed is that it actually cuts out a bottleneck that forms under congested conditions. Coming westbound, the left-turn at Penn regularly blocked the left lane; and right-turns onto Florida regularly locked up the right lane. That left only a single continuous lane... and even with that: illegal rights from the center lane tended to slow that one down, too.

With the current configuration: both Penn and Florida get dedicated turn lanes... while I can't say how much lower volumes have played a part since I don't have the data: I can't help but think that separating out the turns has also played a part.

by Bossi on May 5, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

@Gavin - for the young people who've only recently moved here, there's another hurdle: getting them to understand and care about freedom for DC. - I've never met anyone who didn't understand immediately and intuitively the injustice of DCs status, and care. Of course levels of passion are variable.

by Tina on May 5, 2011 2:50 pm • linkreport

@goldfish - I would find it really hard to believe that bike lanes do NOT improve safety, first off. However, there are more concerns than simply safety. If the priority of a community - for a variety of reasons: reduce congestion, decrease emissions, get people out and exercising - is to increase bike usage then lanes should be built.

And I hate using this argument but you opened yourself up to it. Do building highways increase safety? Probably not, so we should not build anymore.

by Ryan on May 5, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

@goldfish: The direct safety effects of bike lanes as presently implemented everywhere I've seen, including DC, are neutral at best and distinctly negative where bikes and motor vehicles _have_ to interact, as at almost every intersection. However, many people _feel_ safer riding in marked bike lanes (even though they are in fact no safer between, and somewhat less safe at, intersections), and the lanes have thus made many more willing to ride bikes. The increased numbers of bike riders have made many motorists more accustomed to bikes and able to deal effectively with them as part of the traffic mix. THAT has increased safety for bike riders.

(All of this is based on my observations as a daily bike commuter in DC.)

by davidj on May 5, 2011 3:24 pm • linkreport

There have been quite a number of studies which look at the safety effects of bike lanes & have come up with mixed results, largely based on the nature of the roadway segment to begin with. Some consistent observations, however:

Motorists tend to pass more closely to bicyclists when there is a bike lane than without, as the stripe creates a more comforting buffer & makes the motorist feel more confident that the bicyclist will not suddenly veer out of their area.

Bike lanes also create more of an "my side; your side" approach, whereby motorists feel intruded upon if a bicyclist leaves the bike lane; and a bicyclist feels intruded upon when a motorist veers into the bike lane. While each mode may have a perfectly reasonable cause to enter into the others' space, aggression quickly mounts whenever it occurs regardless of whether it's a justified or unjustified reason.

There have been a number of case studies (and one rarely need go far to find plenty of their own) which have found that bike lanes also run into issues at intersections, were roadway designers may not be familiar with how to properly implement them. Speaking as someone with a couple degrees in traffic engineering: I'll be first to say that I've never had a class in bike lane design... all my knowledge comes from my own ambition to learn, for better or worse!

Those last 3 paragraphs have been a bit negative, bike lanes have also been credited with catering toward more novice riders by creating an area that feels safer, helping to entice greater ridership. Even if research isn't the most conclusive one way or another, adding additional riders is a great first step toward increasing safety and awareness as a whole.

There's been some great research which is available on TRB (I believe some must be purchased) and the ITE Journal has had some fascinating articles recently. I think there was a whole issue or two dedicated to bike lane research back around 2007 or 2008; I'm sure I have it on my bookshelves somewhere.

by Bossi on May 5, 2011 3:48 pm • linkreport

@ Bossi: I'll be first to say that I've never had a class in bike lane design...

Perhaps because it's not an important subject in the US (yet). But all a teacher would have to do is contact the Dutch, Danish, Belgian or French national ministry of transportation for a copy of their rule book. Or perhaps the Seattle or Oregon rule books.

All I'm saying is: It has been figured out. It's a matter of looking up the info. I bet the Dutch, Danish and Belgians have their info in English as well.

by Jasper on May 5, 2011 9:41 pm • linkreport

@Jasper-

The information is absolutely out there... I just kind of wish some professors would take the reigns and take even just one class to go through some basic concepts. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a university somewhere in the USA that covers bike lane design; I'm just not sure of any off the top of my head... it'd certainly be the exception rather than the rule. It's information that I shouldn't have to get on my own prerogative; it'd be great if new engineers at least had an awareness from the get-go.

by Bossi on May 6, 2011 12:56 am • linkreport

@ Bossi: I agree. But it is a serious academic problem that faculty tends to be old and stuck in their methods. "I've done this for 30 years now, and it's always worked well." "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Yuk.

Who wants to be taught by crap that's not broke, but outdated by 30 years? There is a serious flaw in general university policy that young faculty get to teach the "easy" large classes, while "experienced" faculty teach the advanced subjects. It should be the other way around. Young faculty are fresh from the field and know the latest developments. Older faculty is more capable to place the basic classes in perspective.

Academics are often accused of being liberals. When it comes to teaching material and methods, they're more conservative than Pat Buchanan.

by Jasper on May 6, 2011 1:35 pm • linkreport

Did anyone else do the math on the Montgomery County BRT? $2.5 billion / 85,000 cars = approx. $30,000 per car! And that's not including operating costs or land acquisition. Ridiculous!

by Shane on May 12, 2011 4:22 pm • linkreport

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