Greater Greater Washington

Lunch links: How to improve


Photo by Moravsky Vrabec on Flickr.
Good schools help cities or vice versa?: Does improving city schools bring in more families, as conventional wisdom holds, or is it the other way around, and improving cities brings better schools? (The Urbanophile via Streetsblog Network)

ANC wants changes for Walmart: An ANC subcommittee co-chaired by Richard Layman suggests residences on top of the Georgia Avenue Walmart, a shuttle to the Metro, free delivery over $50, and rebuilding the Georgia-Missouri intersection. (Examiner)

Why the hating on neighborhoods?: Articles about new galleries or restaurants in neighborhoods like Trinidad or H Street often use negative adjectives like "hardscrabble" and "dive." Is doing so "glib" and "lazy"? (The District Curmudgeon)

Transportation is political in Virginia: Sean Connaughton defends his decision not to apply for HSR money for Virginia, but Peter Galuszka says he's leaving out some factors. (Post) ... Republican challengers in Alexandria and Fairfax are attacking incumbents over BRAC, but Democrats note the decision came from the Bush administration. (WAMU)

Just what transit needs: TSA screening: Senator Chuck Schumer wants to add the same security measures to buses and trains that airlines have. Even if well-meaning, the inconvenience would likely push people to more dangerous driving and hurt transit. (Cap'n Transit Rides Again)

Crashes around the region: A motorcycle rider ran off the road at Quantico; a cyclist was trapped under a truck near the Mall; two crashes in Prince George's each resulted in deaths. (Examiner, DCist, Post)

Klein bringing bus shelter screens to Chicago: Beyond building cycle tracks, Gabe Klein wants to put real-time displays in bus shelters like the ones he piloted in DC. They'll show bus arrivals, nearby car sharing and more. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Watch young planners showcasing: If you missed the Young Planner Showcase, you can see the video of the three planners discussing their projects. The Arlandrian is pleased with progress on the one which affects them.

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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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Interesting article on good schools. I'm also inclined to believe that contrary to conventional wisdom, attracting more middle class families to urban centers will inevitably lead to better schools because the parents of those students usually have the resources and dedication required to turn a school around..school policies nothwithstanding.

Imagine an important person (a politician) leading the charge for/against how his/her child's public school is performing. What better spokesperson if you ask me.

by HogWash on Jun 14, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

Good schools help cities or vice versa?: Does improving city schools bring in more families, as conventional wisdom holds, or is it the other way around, and improving cities brings better schools?

"Bad schools" are exactly like "high crime rates". They're a function of concentrated poverty. You can tinker around the margins, but the answer is to fix poverty--or if there's no political will to do that, to disperse poverty as widely as possible.

Unfortunately, our society is heavily invested in treating poverty as a moral issue, and in quarantining that poverty in the smallest possible area. How are you supposed to flee poverty unless it's kept penned up in the ghetto?

by oboe on Jun 14, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

The string of weak arguments relating to Virginia asking for money for Richmond-DC rail continues.

In order to believe this line, you've got to believe that McDonnel is running for Presidents in 2016 and thinks asking for rail money is going to kill his chances with Republican activists. This on a day the founder of Obamacare won the Republican debate...

On the other side, you can see the Governor's argument that 1) it isn't a priority; 2) the timeframe couldn't get done by 2017; and 3) we don't want to
commit to a $2 billion project.

In terms of local priorities in Northern Virginia, Richmond-DC rail is about a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10. The Governor getting more Amtrak service seems to meet that need.

I don't like McDonnnel, and I don't like this funding plans. But this smells like partisan hackery.

by charlie on Jun 14, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

Does DC still have the bus display thing? If not, what happened?

It'd be great for chicago. Love the city.

by HogWash on Jun 14, 2011 12:15 pm • linkreport

Does improving city schools bring in more families, as conventional wisdom holds, or is it the other way around, and improving cities brings better schools?

I'm not really sure that's the "conventional wisdom" nor am I sure that these are opposite poles of an argument. Both are part of a feedback loop.

I don't think it goes against "conventional wisdom" to say that if you bring in more middle class people one way or another, schools will improve. Isn't the number one predictor of a child's success in school demographic characteristics like income level, and education level of parents?

by MLD on Jun 14, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport

fta on cities/schools: What if rather than improving the schools before we can attract families back to the city, it will be attracting families back to the city that improves the schools.

Duh statement there, imho.

by greent on Jun 14, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport

One further thing: you see a faster "improvement" in public schools when you have "neighborhood schools"--in other words, schools that have in-boundary/out-of-boundary restrictions.

I was told that in San Francisco they have a policy where all school applicants are "ranked" according to the level of educational attainment of the mother. The applicants with the lowest ranking are sent to the shittiest schools, the ones with the highest ranking to the best. If true, this seems like the most effective method of ensuring that public schools will suck into perpetuity.

by oboe on Jun 14, 2011 12:30 pm • linkreport

It's worth pointing out that Schumer (and the rest of congress) don't go through airline screening. Methinks he (and any of his cosponsors) should volunteer for screening before he forces it into new venues.

by Steve S. on Jun 14, 2011 12:30 pm • linkreport

Why the hating on neighborhoods?

Just wanted to pluck this gem out of the linked piece:

Monday, Matt Ashburn (owner of the Capital City Diner and a Trinidad resident) found an advertisement for a new restaurant coming to the H Street NE corridor. An excerpt:

"We want to give the idea of a nice restaurant, but we are in a dive neighborhood."

Setting aside the characterization of H Street as a "dive neighborhood", any potential business owner who claims to want "to give the idea of a nice restaurant" ought to be laughed out of business preemptively.

"I would like to give the idea of being a competent physician, even though I am opening my office in a dive neighborhood."

*Plonk* as the Internet kids once said.

by oboe on Jun 14, 2011 12:34 pm • linkreport

@ charlie: you've got to believe that McDonnel is running for Presidents in 2016

How about running for the Senate? Who was the last governor of VA not running for Senate?

by Jasper on Jun 14, 2011 12:46 pm • linkreport

OK. What restaurant was that? They need to be named and shamed.

It's seriously offensive when people tell me that I live in a "Bad neighborhood." I love where I live, and do so by choice. If I had more money, I'd buy a nicer place on the same block.

It's especially funny when Columbia Heights residents tell me this, because my neighborhood is objectively safer in almost every measure.

by andrew on Jun 14, 2011 12:53 pm • linkreport

the resturant is the new Big Board, opening where Toyland used to be:

http://www.princeofpetworth.com/2011/06/toyland-closes-on-h-st-ne-the-big-board-coming-soon-featuring-gourmet-burgers/

by greent on Jun 14, 2011 1:06 pm • linkreport

andrew: The restaurant has yet to open, but it is called "The Big Board." It appears that the page that Matt Ashburn linked to has either been removed or expired, so here is a permanent link.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jun 14, 2011 1:07 pm • linkreport

Oh, jeez. That building is cursed. There will *never* be a successful business there. This place is already a lightning rod for controversy, and it hasn't even opened yet!

(But, seriously. How great would that space be for a bakery? H St doesn't have one, and this place is about the right size for one, with a huge kitchen downstairs to boot.)

by andrew on Jun 14, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

Charlie,

Perhaps McConnell sees HSR as most people see it - one giant White Elephant. It makes no economic sense to spend 2 billion dollars on fixed line of traffic that will likely only result in taking a few hundred cars off the road to increase travel between Richmond and DC - which isn't a very heavily traffiked line in the least.

Jaspar,

I would guess it is Wilder as the last Va governor to not run for a Senate seat but did and was mayor of Richmond.

by Burger on Jun 14, 2011 2:14 pm • linkreport

@ Burger: It makes no economic sense to spend 2 billion dollars on fixed line of traffic that will likely only result in taking a few hundred cars off the road to increase travel between Richmond and DC - which isn't a very heavily traffiked line in the least.

Having spent an hour driving 5 miles from Lorton to Potomac Mills last Saturday, I'd like to dispute that DC-Richmond is not heavily trafficked.

Also, if G$2 for some trains makes no economic sense, how does M$676 for the Springfield Interchange Project make sense? How 'bout G$2.5 for the WW Bridge project? How about G$1.3 for the HOT lanes?

How many cars got taken of the roads by that combined G$4.5?

Oh, and you're right on Wilder (says Wiki).

by Jasper on Jun 14, 2011 2:43 pm • linkreport

Jasper,

Comparing Amtrak and funds spend on road improvements is like comparing apples and golf balls for one undeniable reason...Amtrak doesn't haul freight, which highways do.

That aside, the Amtrak line from Newport News to DC (going through Richmond) carries 53000 passengers per month, or ~1800 per day.

The WW Wilson Bridge carries 225K vehicles per day.
The 395/495 mixing bowl sees 400K vehicles per day.

Those two projects cost a combined 3 billion dollars (33% more than this HRS boondoggle) and carry combined minimum of ~625K vehicles per day. Considering much of the traffic is buses and freight, what we are really talking about is millions of passenger trips and hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars a day in freight/commerce all for a 3 billion dollar investment.

Or you could spend 66% of the money for ~1800 people per day.

HSR makes tons of sense in certain situations (NEC between DC and Boston would be one), but rolling out what would be a boondoggle of enormous proportions (like the silver line) only serves to destroy the reputation of HSR as a whole.

by freely on Jun 14, 2011 4:07 pm • linkreport

@ freely: Or you could spend 66% of the money for ~1800 people per day.

Yeah, because if you improve service, the level of use staysthe same.

HSR makes tons of sense in certain situations (NEC between DC and Boston would be one), but rolling out what would be a boondoggle of enormous proportions (like the silver line) only serves to destroy the reputation of HSR as a whole.

Yeah, the Silver Line will be a failure. Because the rest of metro is underused as well...

Why can Richmond not be seen as an extension of the NEC? Or, for that matter, Williamsburg/Busch Gardens? The Marne-la-Vallee station next to Disney World is highly popular. It pretty much rides into the park. Would Virginia not be interested in getting making getting to one of its major touristic attractions easier to reach? I mean, this weekend, Busch Gardens was nearly dead, yet I-64 and I-95 were stuck stuck stuck. In stead of offering a 5.5 hour ride from Philly (excluding 4h in traffic) you can offer a 2.5h train ride into history and roller coasters. Would seem an attractive proposition. One that works from London to Eurodisney, which is about the same distance.

by Jasper on Jun 14, 2011 4:19 pm • linkreport

Jasper, seeing as Amtrak classified the Lynchburg line an extension of the NEC, i don't see why they would not do the same for Richmond.

by dcseain on Jun 14, 2011 5:16 pm • linkreport

Jasper,

Your blind inability to see any other side of any argument is a serious misgiving that makes it impossible to be taken seriously.

1. I doubt ridership would stay the same. I imagine it would grow, but it would have to increase ~345 times to equal the ROI the Bridge and mixing bowl has. When 419K people (30% of the number of people who use it today) use Amtrak between Richmond and DC, then you can call it a worthy 2 billion investment...kinda.

2. Reading comp is key. I didn't say the Silverline is a failure. I said it was a ridiculous boondoggle. Something that is yet have done, but something already twice priced at ~7 billion after 3 years is a boondoggle, and the reason infrasture projects get lampooned so often. Useful and relevant infrasture projects get delayed, ridiculed and jawboned into nothiningness because of projects like the Silverline, which people never forget.

3. Why can't Richmond be an extension of NEC? Because no one rides it and the ROI is squat! In the real world things cost money, and spending a couple billion dollars on something a relative handful of people use is a ridiculous waste of money. And if you are really advocating spending 2 billion bucks taxpayer bucks so a tiny handful of people can take their kids on a train to a privately owned amusement park, then you've really gone off the deep end.

by freely on Jun 14, 2011 5:29 pm • linkreport

@freely One of the reasons people don't use Amtrak to travel between DC and Richmond is that currently it is unreliable - because Amtrak shares the line with freight. I have colleagues who take the train to Richmond for meetings, and frequently get off at Staples Mill because the train is notorious for being delayed between Staples Mill and downtown Richmond. If the plans for HSR could help fix this problem, I am sure more people would be interested in using Amtrak.

by Esmeralda on Jun 14, 2011 6:08 pm • linkreport

The rhetoric around schools is so full of uninformed nonsense and stereotypes as to be ridiculous. Individual schools within a district vary widely in their performance and management. Having known many DC area grads before I came here and having taught or supervised products of local schools over the last 20 years, I can tell you that many of the grads of suburban districts are pretty unimpressive, although even graduates of less heralded districts often have a chip on their shoulders based on what they think they know as DCers. There are many exceptional magnet programs here, but much of the normal curriculum is oriented toward standardized testing and people often have woefully inadequate writing and critical thinking skills, not to mention a tiresome inability to deal with writing projects or anything else that isn't based on regurgitation. I've also known graduates and parents of graduates from DC, NYC, and Chicago public schools among other urban school districts, and my impression is that people who know what their districts offer and how to negotiate those systems do quite well in urban schools and often are more attractive to college recruiters than graduates of suburban districts.

Private schools are another matter. For every Georgetown Prep or Sidwell Friends, there are inept anarchic versions of progressive education, dogmatic religious schools with weak general curricula, and military academies that function as de facto residential treatment programs.

And don't forget that charters, on average, do no better than regular schools, many of them operating as McSchools.

by Rich on Jun 14, 2011 6:19 pm • linkreport

It is endlessly frustrating and infuriating to see a real star like Klein in Chicago when he could still be working here. As dirty as Gray is, firing Klein and Rhee are the worst things he perpetrated against this city. When can we start that recall?

by asuka on Jun 15, 2011 12:31 am • linkreport

@ Freely:And if you are really advocating spending 2 billion bucks taxpayer bucks so a tiny handful of people can take their kids on a train to a privately owned amusement park, then you've really gone off the deep end.

Ok, then the French have gone off the deep end. And are faring well by it.

Useful and relevant infrasture projects get delayed, ridiculed and jawboned into nothiningness

Every complex project in the US gets delayed, ridiculed and jawboned into nothiningness. Too many different work groups, committees, departments and jurisdictions are involved in virtually any decision, be it in goverment, or large industry. It's an unfortunate results of how America has organized itself. Are you suggesting no more complex projects get started in the US?

by Jasper on Jun 15, 2011 12:52 pm • linkreport

@Freely: So then I take it that you think that the $7B expense for the silverline is too much? How do you determine when the cost of a large infrastructure project, that will have a profound and unforeseen effects on the city, is too high?

by goldfish on Jun 15, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

I am writing this from aboard an Amtrak train in Virginia, and I can attest that I have seen PLENTY of freight trains on this ride. Any improvements to this corridor (like the triple tracking underway near Fredericksburg) would largely go to untangle the current mess of Amtrak, VRE, and freight, so I have no idea why comparing VDOT's lavish road budget to its paltry rail budget is "like comparing apples and golf balls for one undeniable reason...Amtrak doesn't haul freight."

Also, I have no idea what ROI figures you're looking at, freely, but Amtrak's existing Southeast services (even excepting the ever profitable Auto Train) have returned operating surpluses since the 1990s:
http://www.sehsr.org/reports/time2act/actchapter6.htm

The same report (written long before Amtrak's current multi-year string of record ridership, despite static service levels) notes that high speed service would multiply ridership several-fold.

by Payton on Jun 15, 2011 7:11 pm • linkreport

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