Greater Greater Washington

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Lunch links: How we compare


Photo by Transportation for America on Flickr.
Metro areas ranked by pedestrian safety: The DC area is 34th most dangerous for pedestrians, 2 spots better than Baltimore but far worse than Boston, Cleveland, New York, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis. The 4 worst are all in Florida. That's not just because of its many seniors, but pedestrian safety will become even more important as the numbers of seniors and people with disabilities grows. (T4America, NPR)

Why Washington is better than Atlanta: Atlanta and Washington both had few walkable places in 1976; today, our area has many while Atlanta still has few. A big difference: we invested in Metro while Atlanta let MARTA stagnate. (AJC)

DC second fittest; biking a factor?: DC was displaced by Minneapolis as the fittest city in the US. Minneapolis also happens to have a lot of bicyclists, and the most equal gender ratio of people biking; DC is also high in both. Coincidence? (Post, DCBAC)

Gray wants Skyland Walmart: Mayor Gray told Walmart that they better open a 5th store at Skyland, in Ward 8 7, or else he'll fight their plans to open 4 others elsewhere in the city. (Post)

Cheh proposes awesome budget ideas: In a great joke budget memo, Councilmember Mary Cheh announces plans to build an amphitheater in Klingle Valley to host a musical about Sulaimon Brown, using eminent domain to destroy all DC campuses and replace them with strip malls and dog parks, and much more. (DCist)

VRE bends over backwards: A freight train broke down in Alexandria yesterday blocking VRE trains. The railroad originated outbound trains at the Van Dorn Metro, offering to hold trains for customers who got stuck on Metro and to cover taxi costs for those who missed the contingency service. (Train Talk)

HSR an even clearer win for California than France: Facing near-constant calls by some quarters to cancel California's high-speed rail, a Sacramento Bee editorial and amazing graphic notes that Calfornia's system would be a similar size to France's, which operates at a profit, but serve even more people. (Burrito Justice)

Building transit takes a long time: If you want to build a heavy rail line with 30-50% federal money, it takes 9-15 years even if there's 100% support. Doing it without federal money takes 6-8+ years. (PlanItMetro)

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David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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I'm not too surprised we don't rank all that well in terms of pedestrian safety. A lot of pedestrians in DC think the minute they decide to cross a street the whole world should stop for them ... It's an attitude problem that DC is unfortunately well known for and not restricted to just its pedestrians. Perhaps handing out more tickets to these pedestrians would help?

by Lance on May 25, 2011 11:18 am • linkreport

What the hell? This WalMart business is getting out of hand.

If you want specific requirements for businesses to locate themselves in the district, that's fine. Codify them into law. The way in which WalMart has been singled out makes DC appear to be a piss-poor destination for a corporation to set up shop. I'm finding it hard to view the Skyland ultimatum as anything other than corruption, and a blatant misuse of the mayor's office.

And I say this as somebody who hates WalMart.

by andrew on May 25, 2011 11:29 am • linkreport

In terms of pedestrian safety, you have to break down DC vs the suburbs. I suspect DC is incredibly safe, and the real danger is Fairfax and Maryland.

The HSR article is good. I wouldn't say AVE is an unqualified success in Spain. It is still cheaper to fly between Madrid and Barcelona. Driving isn't much of an option -- very heavy tolls and no decent highway.

by charlie on May 25, 2011 11:31 am • linkreport

Two other datapoints:

1. Is the failure of MARTA also related to skyscrapers in Atlanta?

2. Obesity rates of whites in DC: 9%

by charlie on May 25, 2011 11:34 am • linkreport

It would be interesting to know how much less money a project would cost, too, without Federal involvement. If the Feds provide 50% of a $1 billion project, the local share is $500 million. But if the project cost significantly less than $1 billion without the strictures of the Federal process, then local governments could get new transit projects much quicker and more reliably without Federal funding for not that much more local expense.

From a local real estate point of view, the difference between having certain project timing with local funding and uncertain timing dependent on the Federal funding process is huge.

by jnb on May 25, 2011 11:35 am • linkreport

@ Andrew...

Exactly. Nothing more than a horrible veiled attempt at extortion that is going to end up badly for DC in two ways.

1. It will embarass the Mayor if/when they call his bluff and build anyway without the Skyland location. I believe the other locations are by-right, meaning they don't need any special dispensation from the city, and Walmart never asked for tax breaks. The only way Vince could stop them is if he stood in front of the bulldozer.

2. Walmart will wait Vince out. They've waited a long time, they can wait another 3.5 years (or less if this fool is recalled).

Either way, DC loses.

by freely on May 25, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

On safety:
Perhaps handing out more tickets to these drivers would help?
Perhaps improving conditions for pedestrian travel would help?

If the total dead compares to a crashed jumbo jet a month of people... wouldn't we look hard at the air industry if a jumbo jet a month crashed (killing all abord)?

by greent on May 25, 2011 11:41 am • linkreport

saw this link the other day:

http://247wallst.com/2011/05/20/the-ten-states-where-walmart-is-everywhere/

Gives you a sense on why Walmart wants to expand, and why it is good idea to keep them out of DC

by charlie on May 25, 2011 11:41 am • linkreport

Is there a VRE station at Van Dorn?

by ErikD on May 25, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport

@EricD
No. But the tracks are adjacent, and they were able to "MacGyver" a solution.

by Matt Johnson on May 25, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

@Charlie,

Simple question. All rhetoric about wages and China aside, lets focus on DC. Here it is...

1. How would you foster development in the 3 of the 4 places that Walmart wants to build in DC, which are also horrendous ghetto wastelands?

by freely on May 25, 2011 11:54 am • linkreport

@Freely; if you look at the link, it has nothing to do with China/wages.

What it does suggest is Walmart is most comfortable dominating retail where poor people live. I doubt that helps "develop" the ghetto much.

by charlie on May 25, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport

@Charlie,

Fact: 3 of the 4 locations have no retail.

You didn't even try answering the question. How would you foster development in these areas. You seem to know what doesn't help develop the ghetto, so please tell us what would?

by freely on May 25, 2011 12:03 pm • linkreport

As much as I support HSR, I don't think the numbers are right...

1. For HSR to be successful, the train network has to connect high-density core areas. While California and France may have a similar average density along the area of the proposed route, Paris proper has 7 times the density of Los Angeles proper. The fact that European cities have greater densities and much more efficient transit systems in their cities make trains extremely convenient.

2. The French system doesn't travel exclusively within France. Its most profitable routes are those to London, Brussels, Amsterdam, etc. not Paris to Marseilles...

3. Airfare is significantly more expensive in Europe. The flight between London and Paris is twice the cost of the flight between LA and SF. Unless there are moves to make US air travel more expensive, trains will still have a hard time competing on that route.

The only area of the United States that begins to reach European levels of core densities where HSR would be heavily utilized and profitable is the Northeast Corridor.

by Adam L on May 25, 2011 12:03 pm • linkreport

@charlie -I didn't read the article. Is it concluding that surrounding poverty is maintained in the presence of a Walmart? I.e., that Walmarts presence is associated with impairing economic development, the type that takes place in other like areas (all things being equal) that don't have Walmart ?

by Tina on May 25, 2011 12:05 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson: You sure about that? It seems it'd be a lot easier to transfer at Franconia-Springfield, where there's actually a VRE stop. I haven't been to the Van Dorn Street station, but it looks like you'd have to get off the train, out of the station, over (or under) the Metro tracks, then get on the VRE train where there's no platform or station.

by Tim on May 25, 2011 12:09 pm • linkreport

Tim,

I just googled "VRE Van Dorn" and found this: http://www.vre.org/service/disruption/manassas.html

Looks like Van Dorn has been used as a VRE stop before. Franconia wouldn't work for the Manassas Line because the tracks diverge before reaching Franconia.

by Max on May 25, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

Does DC really need 5 Walmarts? That seems excessive. There's only 1 within the city limits of Los Angeles, which has 7.5x more land area and 8x as many people within the city limits.

by jyindc on May 25, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

@Adam L:
"The flight between London and Paris is twice the cost of the flight between LA and SF."

Are you sure about that? That 100% definitely wasn't true five years ago, and I sort of doubt it is now.

by prognostication on May 25, 2011 12:25 pm • linkreport

LAX-SFO: $139 (Virgin America, Southwest).
LHR-CDG: $227 (British Airways, tho a trip involving two late-evening flights was only $191).

(Fight search for mid-June.)

by anon on May 25, 2011 12:33 pm • linkreport

@Tim:
Yes, I'm sure. The shuttle train was for Manassas Line riders. As was pointed out above, the Manassas Line diverges prior to passing Franconia-Springfield.

by Matt Johnson on May 25, 2011 12:36 pm • linkreport

Matt and Tim

For giggles I looked up a 1 way ticket from LHR to CDG for next Tueday. Lowest fare (I kid you not) $15/without Taxes, $103 with. Lowest Fare LAX to SFO $99 with taxes.

by RJ on May 25, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

The failure of MARTA in Atlanta is because the Georgia DOT doesn't oversee it and therefore has never been able to dictate where MARTA is built. Only the three jurisdictions fund MARTA and the heavy rail lines are restricted to them: City of Atlanta, Fulton County and Dekalb County.

Missing are the two other counties that share a border with the City of Atlanta: Cobb County (pop 714,000 in 2009) and Gwinett County (pop 808,000 in 2009). Imagine if Metro wasn't allowed in Mongtomery County or Fairfax and that's what you have in Atlanta. Since the MARTA's rail program's inception, these two counties have fought vigorously to keep it out and many charge that these exclusionary policies are rooted in racism (and fear of crime, or both).

Another problem with MARTA is that with the exception of downtown, the lines were built along existing rail corridors, rather than to existing business/residential areas--the idea being that the stations would spur development (similar to what we did in our suburbs--think Rockville Pike).

by Woodsider on May 25, 2011 12:44 pm • linkreport

European HSR has been very hurt by the introduction of budget airlines. While I suspect California could support a workable HSR system, the price per ticket is not going to be attractive. Much like Acela, it will become the most expensive way to travel between two regions. Why a project like that deserves public funding is another question...

@Freely; I don't have a bone in the fight about Wal-mart. I'd just suggest a different framing -- rather than looking it as a sign of development, see it more as marker for poor people. Also, the linked article suggests how desperate Walmart is to expand, which could mean more concessions.

by charlie on May 25, 2011 12:47 pm • linkreport

Thanks, Anon. Fares obviously depend on the day/time but I think the general statement that train travel is more competitively priced in Europe stands true, especially on these short-haul flights like popular routes between Paris and Brussels (similar to D.C. and New York). Airfare can be twice as expensive and often requires a connection. It's just not worth it in time and money in very many cases...

by Adam L on May 25, 2011 12:48 pm • linkreport

@RJ, It used to be that it was very expensive to travel between European cities. Then Europe followed the US in its deregulation of the airline industry. I hear there are similar 'give away' fares like the $15 one you found. It's litterally changed the face of Europe with Europeans now viewing crossing country boundaries no differently from Americans crossing state boundaries. Hopefully it'll lead to the same 'one people' identity as we have here and make for a much stronger and more cohesive Europe.

by Lance on May 25, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

@jyindc,

DC's population density is 25% higher than LA. And considering...

1.These Walmarts are going in areas of the city that have been ghetto wastelands since they were burned down during the race riots of the 60's, and didn't get any development attention during the biggest building boom this city has ever seen (2001-2008), and

2. DC has a high (9.4 %) unemployment rate and 20% of the cities adults are illiterate and qualified for only the most basic of unskilled labor jobs, of which there are few. DC is a white collar town, and the otherwise unemployable have no other options. These walmarts bring with them ~1200 new unskilled labor jobs to a town that needs tens of thousands of them.

So the answer to your question is yes.

@Charlie,

You obviously have some bone in the fight. Otherwise you wouldn't have said "and why it is good idea to keep them out of DC". I have also seen you posting previously re Walmart.

And Walmart doesn't need concessions (atleast at 3 of the 4 stores). They can build as a matter of right. They don't need money from the District, they don't need any special zoning considerations.

And why would we specifically target a retailer like Walmart, when we don't for their competition (Target) whose employee pay and benefits are the same?

DC needs 3 things

1. Redevelopment for these 40 year untouched ghettos.
2. Increased revenues, Walmart provides that in terms of sales tax, increased property tax values in the specific locations.
3. Jobs for the tens of thousands of otherwise unemployable District residents. Will all the jobs go to DC residents? Of course not, but some will, and any District resident that goes from unemployed, to employed is a net benefit to all of us.

Now, as I said before. If you and the other anti-walmart crowd have a better idea how to exactly what Walmart is doing, and without taxapyer subsidies, then I am all for it. But we've yet to see any.

by freely on May 25, 2011 1:07 pm • linkreport

@Matt/Max: actually, the Manassas Line/Norfolk Southern tracks diverge before even getting to Van Dorn...the interlocks are just west of Telegraph Rd. There's an old railroad yard area with easy access to Eisenhower Ave just east of Van Dorn St which is about 1/4 mile from the Metro station entrance...this is likely what they used for the Manassas Line train.

Reading through the Train Talk archive, looks like it was just one Manassas Line train that originated at Van Dorn. The other Manassas Line trains and the Fredericksburg trains still went through Alexandria, though one of them wound up having to be backed up all the way to Crystal City in order to access a track to get around the disabled freight train.

by Froggie on May 25, 2011 1:17 pm • linkreport

@ Adam L: 2. The French system doesn't travel exclusively within France. Its most profitable routes are those to London, Brussels, Amsterdam, etc. not Paris to Marseilles...

The track from Paris to Amsterdam is not yet operational at full speed, and years behind schedule. Does that sound like a profitable operation? No, it sounds like the Dutch government has wasted billions and years by being stubborn idiots and not following the French guidelines. I'm sure at some point in time, the line will be profitable. But currently, there are mostly empty trains riding back and forth, despite heavily discounted tickets.

The line from Paris to London is a big success. As is Brussels-London. I doubt Brussels-Paris is very popular as it's a 3 hour drive.

@ anon:(Fight search for mid-June.)

Is that including all fees? In Europe, airlines are required by law to disclose final prices. Not so much in the US.

@ charlie: Much like Acela, it will become the most expensive way to travel between two regions. Why a project like that deserves public funding is another question...

Yeah, as opposed to maintaining I-5 and I-95. That happens for free at night by little gnomes that live of exhaust fumes. Those tolls that Baltimore, DE and NJ knock out of drivers all go to their art programs, because the roads maintain themselves.

@ Lance:It's litterally changed the face of Europe with Europeans now viewing crossing country boundaries no differently from Americans crossing state boundaries.

Wow. I almost agree. But this is mostly true for the younger (<40) generations. The older people still see crossing borders are a somewhat of an event.

Hopefully it'll lead to the same 'one people' identity as we have here and make for a much stronger and more cohesive Europe.

That won't happen. The disappeared borders and single currency (still stronger than the US$ despite Greece, Portugal and Ireland being virtually bankrupt) are helping, but the cultural and linguistic borders are still very intact, and difficult to cross. It's easy to cross from Ireland to Northern Ireland, or from Germany to Austria. But crossing from Poland to Finland is quite a larger step. There are very few Bulgarians that speak Estonian. And few Cypriots that speak Luxembourgian.

by Jasper on May 25, 2011 1:25 pm • linkreport

@Lance-Yeah...I TOTALLY AGREE. Just yesterday I saw a man and a woman both wearing earbuds looking at their phones while they were texting, literally dive, head-first into the street like beached whales into oncoming traffic. They were, of course, run over and it was ABSOLUTELY their fault. What idiots! It really opened my eyes to how entitled pedestrians feel in this town (ME, ME, ME). It's like their parents never taught them to look both ways or something. On my way home some jerkoff made me wait at a stop sign while he sauntered through the crosswalk. Again, he seemed totally oblivious that the road was clearly designed for motor vehicles and that I had to get home for a pre-meal cocktail! My wife had to hold off serving me dinner for 5 seconds....5 SECONDS!!! That kind of inconvenience shouldn't happen to drivers, ever.
The question is, what to do about it? My original thought was to take out all the sidewalks and convert them to roadway (the way God and nature intended in the first place) so that we have more space for cars. We can tunnel under DC and make the pedestrians walk to businesses and schools there, that way the legitimate users of the public space (drivers) can have unfettered access to the spaces that they alone payed to create. This will have the added benefit of reducing congestion, and motorists won't have to deal with all those pedestrians that jump off the curbs willy-nilly believing we should stop in time to avoid them (even when we're going 45 mph in a 30 mph zone!!). It takes away the uncertainty of driving so we can better concentrate on sending a quick email to our boss that we'll be in early because traffic is so light. Again, I TOTALLY agree with you that pedestrians suck. I'm filled with self-loathing each and every time I use my legs to get to my car...I really wish I could drive out my front door and into my office.

by thump on May 25, 2011 1:27 pm • linkreport

I lived in Atlanta for almost 5 years and now more than 3 years here in DC and in my opinion the MARTA system plays a smaller role than some other factors.

- There is no pedestrian mentality in the city ... only a driving mentality. It is not uncommon to hop in the car to drive a half mile because almost every place has ample parking or valet.

- The street grid is haphazard, too spread-out, or non-existent. In addition, many of the sidewalks are falling apart, have telephone and electrical poles right in the middle of them, end abruptly, are not properly paved, or are too narrow.

- There is little mixed use development ... only recently has the city caught on to this concept, and only in a few specific areas like Midtown.

- There is a 16 lane highway running literally through the middle of the city. Need I say more.

- There is not very much density and far too much sprawl. The city planning has almost entirely revolved around automotive travel for much of of the last century. In addition, very little is built on a human scale.

- The city has not appeared to encourage building density around MARTA stations, and private development has not caught onto the idea either, possibly because of MARTA's reputation as a transit system for the working poor. Many of the stations, even intown, seem to empty out in areas that are not close to destination areas.

Of course, the MARTA plays a role in all these issues. But there are plenty of very walkable cities with public transit systems very similar to MARTA. Rome is the first one that comes to mind. The city has a basic 2-line N-S-E-W system with not much infill. Yet it is very pedestrian friendly because it has a lot of density, is built on a human scale, has a clean and efficient bus system and lacks easy access to superhighways.

by Scoot on May 25, 2011 1:48 pm • linkreport

DC area is 34th most dangerous? Or 19th safest?

It depends whether you read the T4America study of 52 largest metro areas from the top or the bottom.

Furthermore, only three of the 52 metro areas have lower pedestrian fatality rates than the DC metro area.

Again, it depends how you read the data and what point you want to make.

by Mitch Wander on May 25, 2011 2:31 pm • linkreport

@Charlie

Just because poor people like walmart doesn't mean we shouldn't allow it in DC. That just seems awfully elitist. Also, the article makes pretty clear that walmart recognizes the need to serve other customer bases and is working hard to do just that. If you're worried that walmart will slow the pace of gentrification because it's a marker of poor people, I think your concerns are misplaced because I would guess that walmart would love to be a force for urban gentrification much like Target.

by Falls Church on May 25, 2011 3:19 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church I think your concerns are misplaced because I would guess that walmart would love to be a force for urban gentrification much like Target.

I'm not convinced Target is helping the District in any way. When I first saw Target coming in, I thought it was great thing to happen. I could now do my big box shopping in DC! But in reality this hasn't happened. Why? Because I have to pay to park at Target ... If I have to pay to park there I may as well just stop at a Target in the burbs when I'm out there ... And at least at that Target I won't have to play with that silly 'shopping cart' escalator! Also, like other big box stores that have opened in the District (e.g., Home Depot) there's a very real problem with 'service' in this store. Last Christmas I went there looking for what I thought was a simple thing ... an electric Christmas candle to put into the window. The first salesperson I approached there didn't speak English well enough to understand that I even needed help. The second spoke it well enough to direct me to their scented candles. Finally, someone pointed me to a Christmas section that had been set up ... but that had shelves that were 90% bare (this was still 2 weeks before Christmas.) I left there vowing never to return. And of course the 'adding insult to injury' part was having to pay $2 bucks to get out of that garage ... for a wasted trip.

If DC really wants to capture all those dollars being spent out in the burbs at the big box stores there first it needs to be sure there is FREE parking at these stores and next it needs to help ensure these retailers provide the same level of customer service in the District that they provide in the burbs. Else there's no reason for them to open here ....

by Lance on May 25, 2011 3:37 pm • linkreport

@ thump: +1

@ Lance: And at least at that Target I won't have to play with that silly 'shopping cart' escalator!

Clearly, you never venture out to the Springfield mall.

And of course the 'adding insult to injury' part was having to pay $2 bucks to get out of that garage ... for a wasted trip.

Oh the horror. Of course you could have shopped online, walked or biked to the store, or taken a bus/metro. Or gone out of the District. But noooo, stubborn Lance wanted to support the DC tax base and chose to go there, knowing that you had to pay to park, having all these other options. And now you're upset that you had to pay to park? Really. Lemons -> lemonade: At least you still supported DC a bit through the parking tax!

Anyway, Lance's anecdote here is further proof that despite higher sales tax rates, poor service due to DC hiring restrictions and paid parking, District residents still choose to stay in the District for their shopping, while not making true on their threats to leave the District and shop elsewhere in shopping heavens.

by Jasper on May 25, 2011 4:23 pm • linkreport

Lance also commutes to distant parts of NoVA. Most of us don't. Those that don't and live somewhat near Columbia Heights find it much more convenient to pay $1.50 to park at this Target than to drive to another one. I'd never drive to Potomac Yard to save on the parking fee.

And I like the cartolators. They're fun.

by David Alpert on May 25, 2011 4:26 pm • linkreport

And, unless you drive a Prius, it will cost you at least $2 in gas to drive to NoVa.

by Phil on May 25, 2011 4:42 pm • linkreport

The article notes that property values have gone up only in 3 "walkable" neighborhoods. Actually, there isn't much to walk to in any of these. Virginia-Highlands has a lot of restaurants. Eastlake has a small commercial area that is not connected at all to the residential and Grant Park has a very nice park (and a lousy zoo), but little retail and just a few restaurants, most of them concentrated in two areas on the extreme far North of the neighborhood. None of these neighborhoods is convenient to Marta (the EastLake Marta station is in Kirkwood, a couple miles away). There are a couple more interesting and more walkable areas: little Five Points (which is a bit bar heavy) and East Atlanta). Some of the areas near Little 5 are near a bike path, and others have proximity to Marta stations. Midtown, which has bars and restaurants, but limited retail does have Marta.

Marta did experiment with transit-oriented development at the Lindberg station (a connecting point for the 2 northbound lines). It was a failure--it didn't connect well to the nearby streetscape, was dependent on a tenant that has kept shrinking its footprint, and the station itself is poorly designed. OTOH, there is a relatively successful replacement of an old strip mall almost across the street and no real integration exists between the two. Decatur 9close-in surburb) is the closet thing to a successful transit oriented development with condos, a hotel and an abundance of restaurants (but few shops) near its station.

The main problem with Marta and development is racial. The rail system is used by whites who are out-of-towner visitors and people who from actual cities. The African-American users tend not to include the relatively well-off. The buses are almost entirely African-American in their ridership. the system actually doesn't function badly although the lack of coordination between the N/S and E/W lines at nights is ridiculous.

There are a number of places where transit oriented development could thrive more in Buckhead and in the area near Perimter Mall. There also are stations with a lot of buildable land nearby on the Northeast line and the Eastern end of the E/W line.

Atlanta is a place that talks progressive but isn't. there is little that is imaginative and the city is a frustrating place because even walkable areas require a car. Not needing a car was one of the things I liked about coming back to DC. Atlanta's lack of vitality and lack of real public spaces (mostly, they are malls) reflect the carbound nature of the place, as well as its many racial and class divisions. Underlying the management of the city and the business community is a feudal mindet that has little faith in regular people. When a light rail line was proposed near Emory University, neighbors balked and the subtext probably was racial. Despite this, there are people who will take what is available rather than the endless, soulless suburbs that dominate the landscape. The '96 Olympics fueled the big re-assessment of intown neighborhoods, but even without that, areas like Inman Park and Candler Park, Virginia-Higlands Grant Park, parts of East Atlanta, and the town of Decatur had been slowly renewing themselves without any help from anyone. CDC and Emory played large roles in these areas, not as institutions but as employers who attracted people who were willing to invest in the city when the establishment wouldn't. The gentrification of the city, including unlikely places like Vine City has been stunted by the real estate market--Atlanta didn't so much have a price bubble as a speculation bubble. It's a place where a quick buck and slimely salesmanship are confused with being an "entrepreneur". It's meant that a lot of people are stuck with empty houses, often vandalized in marginal areas that had promise but have since collapsed. this threatens any effort at intelligent redevelopment of the city, because it adds to the lack of imagination and willingness to try anything new.

by Rich on May 25, 2011 4:53 pm • linkreport

@ Lance

Despite parking being cheaper at Target than other places in Columbia Heights, the garage is severely under-utilized. Is this because the CH Target lacks customers? Not in the least. As you noted, their items are purchased so quickly that the shelves are often bare and I'm sure you've noticed that the store is usually insufferably crowded with shoppers. So, I think their strategy of integrating their store design with the urban landscape and catering to customers coming by modes other than car is working very well for them.

As for whether the CH Target is helping DC, all you need are some before and after pictures of the surrounding area (which some call Targetville) to see how Target transformed that area virtually overnight. If Walmart does things right, their New Jersey Ave store could easily have the same effect in that part of town.

by Falls Church on May 25, 2011 5:27 pm • linkreport

Disclaimer:

I posted a similar post on DCist and WP..

On Mayor Gray and WalMart.....

Only an idiot would go on record saying they are going to deny legally--obtainable building permits on private land absent some legitimate land use issue, like traffic hell, environmental concerns, etc.

Sure, of course that's threatened in private from time to time.

But last time I checked private developers can sue the BeJesus out of a city government that arbitrarily denies them permits.

Which DC is now actually on record as threatening. From literally the highest elected official.

And Gray didn't even pretend it was was for something like 'traffic issues' or the usual.

He actually went on record saying he'd hold their private property plans hostage as economic blackmail.

A decent lawyer would have a field day with this. And it would go well beyond WalMart.

If I was a developer in DC and I was denied permits even for valid reasons I wouldn't let the sun go down on me before I was in court saying Vince Gray's statement set unofficial city policy, and I'd sue for damages.

The sheer stupidity of this is sortof mindboggling.

Sure, it's easy to hate on WalMart.

But if he can do this to WalMart, why can't he do it to, say, Results Gym, or Busboys and Poets, or some other more popular establishment?

Do we really want our Mayor setting this precedent?

And do we really want the multiple lawsuits that this may bring?

Last, do we really not want the tax dollars that WalMart would bring? What with all the recent hand-wringing over social services, talk of a dire need for tax increases, lack of jobs for the underskilled, etc?

by Hillman on May 25, 2011 5:58 pm • linkreport

There's a good site on California HSR that's makes one drool and regret being on the backward coast:

http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/home.aspx

Also a CaHSR blog:

http://www.cahsrblog.com/

Right now the rich in Palo Alto are fighting HSR from coming through. They like their CalTrain commuter service but fear HSR will disturb their meditations. The first segment is to be built in the Central Valley anyway and the DOT ultimatum hurts Palo Alto's attempts at delay.

Just as with car emissions, California leads the way. With their concern for the environment I'm sure they will find a way to curtail or undercut the air shuttle.

We'll probably never have true HSR in the northeast as we're consumed with improving rickety old lines from center city to center city ad nauseum. Hence we'll never reach HSR speeds.

On WalMarts- The sites on New York Avenue and Georgia Avenue at least are prime development parcels, not backwaters. DC could do better. Once WalMart is there , it's there forever. WalMart must give out the best benies at the Las Vegas Shopping Center Convention.

DC needs to remember it's a Paris, not a Greensboro or Charlotte and think La Defense.

by Tom Coumaris on May 25, 2011 6:34 pm • linkreport

@ David Alpert: Lance also commutes to distant parts of NoVA. Most of us don't.

Tysons is no distant part of NoVa. It's right there at the Beltway. As for distant NoVa, try Winchester, Front Royal, Fredericksburg or Culpepper.

Also, my commute is longer than Lance's. Both in time and distance. He has nothing to complain about, especially since he's a reverse commuter.

by Jasper on May 25, 2011 9:04 pm • linkreport

Silly me, I thought that having the council chair and mayor living in Hillcrest would mean good things for the neighborhood. Not to say I voted for Gray, but I didn't think he was an idiot. Now I do.

Walmart would probably be the only thing to make Skyland worse than it is now.

by Clarice Reed on May 25, 2011 10:36 pm • linkreport

Rich made some good points about the racial divide and MARTA, but for what it's worth, DC is a heavily racially divided city, maybe even as divided as Atlanta or perhaps moreso, yet managed to build a very substantial system anyway.

by Scoot on May 26, 2011 12:41 am • linkreport

@Adam P -

Others have already discussed comparisons of CA airfares with European ones. But an important point no one's mentioned yet is that the right question to ask is what those airfares will look like in a decade or more. With $5 gasoline coming in the not-so-distant future and the need to reduce carbon emissions a critical goal for the rest of our lives, I see no way that air fares will remain as cheap in the long term.

But I also have to take issue with your statement that "While California and France may have a similar average density along the area of the proposed route, Paris proper has 7 times the density of Los Angeles proper." It really depends on how you define Los Angeles proper. Official city limits are irrelevant, but the LA-Long Beach-Riverside MSA is no good either because its borders are drawn to follow county lines and include huge amounts of mostly-uninhabited desert and mountains northeast of the populated coast. The best basis to use is the LA-Long Beach-Santa Ana Urbanized Area, which has a total population of 12.87 million in 2009 and a density of 2654/square mile. The Paris metro area had 11.83 million in 2007 giving a density of 2111/square mile. The urban cores of these cities are very comparable in both population and density.

"The fact that European cities have greater densities and much more efficient transit systems in their cities make trains extremely convenient." I agree about the more efficient transit systems - though in my three years in LA I found its system to be much better than most people think, particularly the bus coverage which is superb. And LA is investing majorly in expanding its system. The new Expo rail line is on track to open this fall (a year after I moved out of the area it will serve. Hmpf!). As stated above in the links, yes, it takes decades to build out rail -- but LA is well on its way down that path already.

"The French system doesn't travel exclusively within France. Its most profitable routes are those to London, Brussels, Amsterdam, etc. not Paris to Marseilles...". That could have something to do with the fact that Marseilles metro only has 1.6M people. It's half the size of San Diego. France, like many European countries, is dominated by a single capital mega-city, with no nearby population concentration equivalent to the Bay Area until you cross international borders. The closest European analog to CA is Spain, which has both Madrid (7M) and Barcelona (5M) -- and that's an extraordinarily successful HSR route today.

by Marshall P on May 26, 2011 9:19 am • linkreport

@ Marshall P: like many European countries, is dominated by a single capital mega-city, with no nearby population concentration equivalent to the Bay Area until you cross international borders.

And yet France keeps investing heavily in its internal TGV system. On the newest line to Strasbourg, they broke yet another speed record. The normal travel speed is around 350km/h/220mph, which was broken by the Chinese. However, it seems that their speed record of 540 km/h/330mpgh still seems to stand.

The French see their TGV network both as an excellent transportation utility, as important as their highway network (with expensive tolls), as well as an opportunity to keep developing and *exporting* high end technology. The state sponsors the development of the technology by keeping ordering faster trains, and France as a whole profits from the jobs created and the export.

France finds is very important to stay self-reliant. Europe is fine and well and good for exporting things, but France is ready at any time to close its borders, and can survive. They are very careful to make sure they make everything they need. Cars, trains, planes, food.

High speed trains are popular in Europe because of the strong position of many Green Parties. They abhor flying and love the trains. A position that is helped by Icelandic volcanoes, messing up air travel.

Also, do not let national borders confuse you too much. An enormous number of people live in the relatively small area of England (proper), northern France (including Paris, the BeNeLux, the German Ruhr area and Frankfurt. This area combines a very large part of Europe's power, people, money and manufacturing. It's the engine of Europe.

by Jasper on May 26, 2011 9:58 am • linkreport

Hey, thanks for the link!

I agree with @Marshall on the LA vs. Paris density issue. But in reality, the TGV is a hub and spoke model. More relevant to California seems to be Spain / Madrid / Barcelona - two nodes of roughly the same size.

But even with today's fuel prices, HSR winning over flights in both those markets.

I made a new map showing population density along HSR corridors - while France is denser along the line than California, Spain is very similar.

And I *cannot* emphasize enough the importance of a taco car with good microbrews.

by Burrito Justice on May 26, 2011 11:56 pm • linkreport

I just looked up the price of an AVE ticket between Madrid and Barcelona.

Between 70 and 140 euros for a tourist class, depending on times -- one way. So 140 to 280 roundtrip.

I'm seeing fare of 170 to 200 roundtrip on Orbitz.

by charlie on May 27, 2011 8:23 am • linkreport

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