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Breakfast links: Follow the money

Photo by playhockeyeh on Flickr.
Team Thomas spends on luxuries: In one week, Harry Thomas, Jr.'s "nonprofit" spent money allocated for youth sports instead at Hooters, golf at Pebble Beach, and much more. (City Paper)

Imagine the L Street cycletrack: If the L Street cycletrack existed, it might look like this mockup from WABA. That, and if some bikes floated in the air, like the one in the lower left corner.

Ike Memorial has windshield perspective: Another writer piles on to the criticism of Frank Gehry's Eisenhower Memorial. It's primarily designed for the view from people speeding past in cars, not as a usable public space. (New Urban Network)

Gray supports aerial Dulles station: Mayor Gray has endorsed the aboveground Dulles station after talking with Govrenor McDonnell and former Congressman Tom Davis. DC's MWAA board members may still support the underground choice. (Post)

Gowdy, unexpected champion of DC autonomy: Trey Gowdy, the freshman Republican heading DC oversight in the House, is not seeking to score political points by messing with DC's budget because, sensibly, it's not important to South Carolina voters. (TNR)

Rage against the machine: A man wielding a shotgun and a hammer emerged from the woods along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and smashed an SUV that had a speed camera mounted to it. (Washington Times)

Hate crimes shift, but still under-reported: DC's police chief says that the a greater portion of city's hate crimes are targeting whites and Latinos. Even still, officials lament under-reporting of all hate crimes. (Examiner, Post)

Community polices trail: DC's Guardian Angels, as well as our own Stephen Miller, are uniting neighbors to patrol the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Police recently arrested ruffians who attacked trail users. (Post)

And...: The dispute over a vacant house in upper NW drips with pretension and pedigree. (Post) ... DC will get 1,000 more efficient LED streetlights in alleys. (TBD) ... A recent critique of Fairfax's affordable housing policy may carry a partisan tinge. (Post) ... Horse manure threatens drinking water. (TBD)

Have a tip or Team Thomas receipt for the links? Submit it here.
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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Not that Gray was likely to receive my vote in the future, but he's further cementing my lack of support for him with his support for the elevated Dulles station further from the terminal.

by Aaron on Jul 7, 2011 9:22 am • linkreport

It's telling Thadani's analysis is based on a year-old plan for the Eisenhower memorial. It's almost as though his argument is a foregone conclusion arising from a single quotation that the post already decontextualized...

by Neil Flanagan on Jul 7, 2011 9:31 am • linkreport

The bike in the lower left (Imagine the L Street cycletrack) just came off a wicked, sweet ramp.

by Mark on Jul 7, 2011 9:33 am • linkreport

FWIW, I'm not convinced the aboveground Dulles station is the wrong move. We're working on a longer article on this.

by David Alpert on Jul 7, 2011 9:44 am • linkreport

Eisenhower Memorial:

Being an experience from the POV of a car (or a tour bus, a regular bus, a bicycle, a zipcar, a taxi, a delivery van, a etc.) and having a pedestrian "place" experience are not mutually exclusive. It's a fallacy for them to automatically assert that.

by Bob See on Jul 7, 2011 9:51 am • linkreport

Re: affordable housing in fairfax,
From what I know about the programs in fairfax is that the developer puts aside a proportion of the housing stock they build and keep it below market for people who qualify for the program. So while yes someone may be getting luxury amenities those were put there by the developer to attract the market rate clients. This isn't really subsidizing luxury as is claimed. Now there is an argument made for why every apartment dwelling must include a pool/fitness center/concierge but thats again something that stems from the market rather than the board of supervisors.

by Canaan on Jul 7, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

The underground station could be built at the Airport, but MWAA needs to pay for it and recover the costs from station users. MWAA has refused to take this action, but want Toll Road drivers to pay. It is wrong, unfair and counterproductive to try to recover most of the costs from Dulles Toll Road users who do not benefit from the station. Fortunately, elected officials in Virginia and apparently in D.C. understand this and are fighting MWAA. that would please the vast majority of Virginia residents.

by tmtfairfax on Jul 7, 2011 10:01 am • linkreport

Hmm...maybe shotgun man can be captured and set loose near the speed cam on New York Ave. Just a thought.

by aaa on Jul 7, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

Shouldn't toll road users benefit from the station from having people ride the metro rather than drive on the toll road? I don't know the exact math but to claim no benefit for drivers is misleading.

by Canaan on Jul 7, 2011 10:12 am • linkreport

@tmtfairfax If those toll road drivers didn't want to pay, they should've pressured their elected representatives not to give the project to MWAA 5 years ago. The state and the General Assembly thought they could get something-for-nothing on this, and it backfired on them.

by Froggie on Jul 7, 2011 10:12 am • linkreport

I too am not totally convinced that the underground station at Dulles is an absolute necessity for its success and its cost is certainly problematic. On the other hand, I don't think that Gray's decision is purely driven by reason. My guess is that this is a bone being thrown to Virginia over the decision to require union labor for the project and the deep offense that the Virginia government has taken over it.

by Dave J on Jul 7, 2011 10:12 am • linkreport

I think Gray must realize that the MWAA is a dysfunctional organization that's run amuck and that the governors/mayor need to stick together. While today it's Dulles Toll Road users the MWAA is attempting to screw over, tomorrow it could be DC residents.

If we're going to spend extra money on the Silver Line, it should be spent on re-instating the pocket track at East Falls Church. This pocket track will allow silver trains to turnaround at EFC and is the only way we can provide decent rush hour headways to Tysons from points west (you can't run all the trains to DC because of capacity constraints at the Rosslyn tunnel). Good headways to tysons are critical to convincing people to use metro instead of driving to tysons, which is critical in transforming tysons into a less car-centric place, which is critical to achieving the economic development at tysons that will pay for silver line construction.

by Falls Church on Jul 7, 2011 10:13 am • linkreport

While I support the use of toll road revenue to build the silver line, I do think that the difference between an above ground station and a below ground build should not be foisted off on them. The difference is that the existence of the silver line benefits road users and flyers. The below ground station only benefits flyers.

A surcharge for flyers that improves the provision of rail service to the airport seems reasonable. I don't know if the below ground station is needed, but if it is, then airport users should pay for it.

by CJ on Jul 7, 2011 10:15 am • linkreport

The other thing any available extra money should be used for is building out the plan for bike/ped/bus access to the tysons metro stations because none of those stations will have parking. I know tmtfairfax will point out that they are working on building parking structures at two of the tysons stations but this is a bad idea. All that will do is exacerbate the already bad traffic in tysons. Also, parking does nothing for the commuters coming into tysons, it only helps people commuting from tysons to the city. However, we're not going to have any problems filling trains going to the city. The bigger problem is filling trains with commuters coming to tysons for work and to do that, they need good ped infrastructure from the stations to their jobs.

by Falls Church on Jul 7, 2011 10:21 am • linkreport

@Dave Alpert

I agree with you about the above ground option. First, I think we can all agree, maybe I am naive here, that the above or the below ground option will deter very few local users. I mean we understand the metro and being above ground and a little further should not be an issue in our decision whether or not we use - other factors such as time, etc. may.

So, the question becomes how will this effect non-local residents, and also, is it worth it to be that concerned with their ridership levels (what percentage do they generally constitute for ridership) ?

For me, the one advantage of the above ground station is that they, non-locals, can see the people waiting for the train, the platform and also the train itself. Below ground it may be more of a out of sight out of mind kind of deal. I just dont think being under ground and being 600 ft. closer is going to make that many more people take the metro as opposed to paying 35 bucks plus probably to take a cab. Travel and wait times will be the biggest deterrent and on that issue the above and below ground options are identical.

by Ryan on Jul 7, 2011 10:23 am • linkreport

@ Ryan: For me, the one advantage of the above ground station is that they, non-locals, can see the people waiting for the train, the platform and also the train itself.

Yeah, how's that working at Reagan? Ever seen anybody there change their mind about transportation because they can see the above ground station?

The underground station is about convenience. Ask anybody who's been in Schiphol / Amsterdam how convenient it is to have a train station under the terminal.

The Dulles stations should not only be underground; it should be under the terminal. That's how Dulles was designed.

by Jasper on Jul 7, 2011 10:32 am • linkreport

I definitely agree that MWAA should enact a ticket fee on passengers of Dulles Airport. $2 on 20 something million passesngers a year would pay this off in a reasonable amount of time.

by NikolasM on Jul 7, 2011 10:33 am • linkreport

The L Street Cycle track looks like it will bring vacant storefronts and empty sidewalks. Great for cyclists, but not for ground floor retail. Is that the trade off?

I biked down L Street at 9:15 this am, and had no problems. It's not heavily traveled. I really don't see that this is so essential to city cycling, especially if it creates more of these long stretches where there's no ground floor commercial activity.

by mtp on Jul 7, 2011 10:35 am • linkreport

In 50 years, we will regret having built the above ground station instead of the below ground one. It's like no one wants to pay extra money now for benefits in the future.

by JustMe on Jul 7, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport


I have never seen anyone change their mind, but it was just a thought. I was suggesting that maybe they had not thought about the metro and it being above ground made them think maybe I should take that. Could be a stupid thought, but you never know. Secondly, National is a totally different animal. I can get to my apt. to National via cab for usually under 15 bucks and in under 20 minutes. So, I generally take the train on my way out, unless I'm late, and when I come back late at night i usually take a cab. Again nothing about it being any closer walking wise or it being above or below ground.

by Ryan on Jul 7, 2011 10:39 am • linkreport

And that is a lot of street parking being lost off the left (north) side of L st.

L st from New Hampshire to Connecticut would be easy to make a cycletrack. However, L from Penn to New Hampshire is a real mess. And the few blocks PAST Connecticut is also problematic.

by charlie on Jul 7, 2011 10:39 am • linkreport

@ mtp,

how does the cycle track bring empty sidewalks and vacant storefronts? I've never heard that.

L street is a challenging street to bike for even the most seasoned city biker, as is M.

by CJ on Jul 7, 2011 10:45 am • linkreport

If MWAA wants an underground station then they should foot the bill. People are always brilliant when it comes to spending money that isn't theirs or that they're not directly responsible for.

by Fitz157 on Jul 7, 2011 10:45 am • linkreport


Fairfax (as well as other local jurisdictions) affordable housing programs come in a couple different flavors.

1. There is the affordable housing that is foisted on the pocketbook of the developer, usually via a proffer that forces them to set aside a percentage of their SFD, SFA, or condo units to be put into the affordable housing program (which the county then runs). This subsidy is actually pretty significant because the only difference between these units and the others in the development/community are interior finishes. Regular appliances rather than stainless, faux hardwood floors instead of maple etc, but in terms of building a new housing development or condo building, the overriding bulk of the expense is in the infrasture and physical structure itself. The actual cost of the interior finishes is a difference (to the developer) of 10-25K depending on size. They however, are by proffer forced to sell them for hundreds of thousands less.

2. Then there is the affordable housing that this article is talking about. The kind where Ffx goes out and rents/buys existing housing for market price, then sells it/rents it to someone for significantly less, subsidizing the cost of living in that house/condo.

Both of the above cost the taxpaying public. The first option, the developer simply passes on the cost of the affordable housing in the development to the market rate unit buyers, the second the taxpayers are directly funding.

by freely on Jul 7, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

@MTP; the verizon building in the left of the picture is being renovated and will have retail. On the right there are a CVS, coffee and a gym. That block is bad choice -- easily the deadest block on that part of L. But the verizon building (formerly a switch) will bring some retail. I hope.

by charlie on Jul 7, 2011 10:59 am • linkreport

@JustMe: Generally agree that people are far too easy to try to save a quick buck without thinking about the long term. Penny wise, pound foolish. However, that ship has already sailed on the silver line. If we'd really learned lessons from the past thirty years of Metro operations, we'd have at least a three track Silver line, and possibly four with express tracks. Compared to *that* missed opportunity, the whole above ground/underground debate seems inconsequential.

by Distantantennas on Jul 7, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

"Shouldn't toll road users benefit from the station from having people ride the metro rather than drive on the toll road? I don't know the exact math but to claim no benefit for drivers is misleading."

That sounds good, but it is not backed up by the traffic studies prepared by Fairfax County and submitted to VDOT. Those studies showed that, with the added growth and motor vehicle traffic from Tysons, the Toll Road will need expansion by as many as three-to-five lanes by 2030 and upon completion of the construction, the new traffic volumes will be so high that the Toll Road (as well as the Beltway, Route 7 and Route 123) will reach total failure every work day.

In other words, the Toll Road trip reductions that will be obtained with rail (and good mixed use development) will be overwhelmed by the additional motor vehicle traffic on the Toll Road, such that most commutes will get worse. This is the reality of it all.

If you have data and studies that rebut Fairfax County's analysis, for which it won the Daniel Burnham award, in part, please identify them.

The Toll Road users are getting screwed already. MWAA should not be allowed to screw them even more. Let the passengers using the Dulles Rail station pay the added costs for the underground station. That is fair and good economics.

by tmtfairfax on Jul 7, 2011 11:29 am • linkreport

@ Ryan: I have never seen anyone change their mind, but it was just a thought.

Ok. So, thruthiness +1, reality 0. Thank you for taking down your own argument. [Colbert] Apology accepted [/Colbert].

To push the subject further: Ever seen a tourist think: Oh a bus, let me take that in stead of (underground) metro?

National is a totally different animal.

True. It has a metro station that is used by many. A choice that Dulles users are yearning for. I know I am.

Cost can not be an issue. Dulles has cheap options to. 5A and the Washington Flyer (that never goes to Washington).

by Jasper on Jul 7, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

Falls Church - you make some good arguments on parking at Tysons. But the residents of Fairfax County want the parking in order to be able to use the Tysons Stations. Elected officials are responding to their constituents.

Fairfax County is finding it virtually impossible to provide good and safe biking and walking paths from McLean to any of the Tysons stations. The Beltway and the Toll Road create strong physical barriers. Federal and state regulations prohibit bike lanes on 7 and 123. Moreover, county engineers do not believe those routes can be made safe.

There will be little bus service from nearby communities because of the high costs and low densities. If we want to encourage Silver Line ridership, we need to provide interim parking at Tysons. The County is looking at the interim parking that was in the R-B corridor until development occurred over time. For example3, right above the Virginia Square station was a parking lot for many years. When the parcel was ready for development, the lot went away. The same thing will happen at Tysons.

by tmtfairfax on Jul 7, 2011 11:39 am • linkreport

It seems to me that if they really want an underground station, they should fund it with a higher charge on the actual USERS of the Dulles metro station. Metro already charges different fares to different stations, so the technology is there. At first glance, it might seem odd to charge someone getting off a train at Dulles a dollar or two more than someone taking a longer trip and getting off farther out, but it actually makes sense as a way of recovering the cost of construction. Unless they really raise the fares to unreasonable levels, metro from Dulles is still going to look like a great bargain compared to the current Washington Flyer bus (which only takes you to the metro anyway), and obviously even more so, a taxi.

by Mike on Jul 7, 2011 11:44 am • linkreport

Froggy - You continue to misstate the details of the transfer of the Dulles Toll Road to MWAA. The transfer was not authorized or approved by the General Assembly. It was transferred by fiat by then Governor Tim Kaine. Many in the General Assembly, both Democrats and Republicans, have objected to Kaine's unilateralism. Kaine was heavily financed by Tysons landowners, who wanted rail at any cost so long as they did not need to pay for most of the costs.

I don't know what would have happened had the General Assembly been asked to approve the DTR transfer. It may or may not have been approved. There may or may not have been toll caps imposed as part of the deal. But that never happened as the General Assembly was not involved. Kaine did this and he alone among Virginia's elected officials is responsible for MWAA being in the position of screwing DTR drivers.

by tmtfairfax on Jul 7, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

Instead of charging the users of the station and making Metro's already insane fare structure even more complicated, why not just tack on a small surcharge to all air tickets into IAD? You'd pay for the station in no time.

by Phil on Jul 7, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport

@mtp: I disagree with you about L St... during the afternoon rush, L St is extremely crowded (especially east of 20th St) and very dangerous for cycling. M St is not as crowded but it's still a challenge. Although my fastest route home would be L to the 15th St cycle track, I usually turn north at 22nd and go up to the Q St lane. I am very much waiting for these L/M St bike lanes.

by tj on Jul 7, 2011 11:55 am • linkreport

That makes sense but if the county purchases a property that had a pool or similar included then it would make sense to keep said amenity (assuming costs can be controled) rather than drain it or close it off which could add to perceived "ghettoness" of a public housing project. There is more to affordable housing than four walls and a roof but the report talked about in the article seems to disregard that.

by Canaan on Jul 7, 2011 12:02 pm • linkreport


I conceded that my argument, like you mentioned, may function outside of reality, but unfortunately probably does not hold water, and at the very least is impossible to quantify in any way. Thus it should be be thrown out.

So why do you then continue by pushing the subject forward - as you call it - especially when you have not yet - on this article thread anyways - provided any theory or evidence as to why the underground option is any better for increasing ridership.

All you have stated is that the underground option is more convenient than an above ground option, but you have simply left us to assume that the more convenient option - and by how much you have yet to tackle - will automatically mean that a great number of people will take it instead of a cab, etc.

Finally, you actually seem to make my point when talking about National vs. Dullas

"True. It has a metro station that is used by many. A choice that Dulles users are yearning for. I know I am."

So, does it matter to you whether or not the station is above ground or below? Is an above ground station going to ruin the existing beautiful scenery and the great fabric that is Dullas Airport? Are not the 2 biggest factors in determining ridership, which are identical for the above and below ground options, cost and time? Aren't the same people who would hypothetically NOT use the metro because it was 600 ft. further and above ground NOT going to use the metro anyways?

by Ryan on Jul 7, 2011 12:07 pm • linkreport

FWIW, I'm not convinced the aboveground Dulles station is the wrong move.

I am. But it'll cost too much money, so it'll get screwed.

How are those cheaper to build 2 rails for Metro working out nowadays? Cheaper now = Problems for future fixes. Then again, anything that messes with the orange line amuses me in some stupid way.. so YEAH!

I definitely agree that MWAA should enact a ticket fee on passengers of Dulles Airport. $2 on 20 something million passesngers a year would pay this off in a reasonable amount of time.
no doubt. Why is this so dang hard to figure out? 4$ airport service fee on each ticket, and the thing is financed. What the heck is the issue with this?!?!

Are not the 2 biggest factors in determining ridership, which are identical for the above and below ground options, cost and time?
No, the 3 biggest are cost, time and convenience.

Aren't the same people who would hypothetically NOT use the metro because it was 600 ft. further and above ground NOT going to use the metro anyways?
Well, we could look at the increase in ridership at National - how many more people use metro now that the station is directly across the street rather than that long walk around the metro, through a garage, across a street and around a parking lot and cab stand?

Schipol airport is wonderful to fly into and out of. It is my favorite - convenient and easy to get to.

by greent on Jul 7, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport

Don't tell aynone but M street is a delight to bike during the morning rush if you hit the lights the right way. Car speeds aren't too dangerous, and it is pretty much smooth sailing in the right lane. L Street, on the other hand, gets a little bit scary with all of the parked cars and lane changes. I'm not sure we're talking about the same L Street if you claim that it is not heavily traveled. A dedicated bike lane would definitely be an improvement.

by aaa on Jul 7, 2011 12:33 pm • linkreport


Temp parking at tysons stations would be fine but my understanding is that tjey were considering long lived structures like garages. In the medium term, parking is not going to increase the number of riders on silver train to the city because demand is going to exceed the rather limited supply caused by rosslyn tunnel capacitu constraints.

I haven't analyzed the tysons bike/ped plan from a mclean perspective but overall it seems pretty good. There will be a new trail from pimmit over the beltway and a trail that will connect the w&od to the central 7 station. My guess is that we can fill those inbound trains with walkers and bikers, especially once some of the new tysons condos go up, without long lastng parking structures.

by Falls Church on Jul 7, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

WABA challenges us to imagine a world where we go to work in hoverbikes. Can't wait!

by Ward 1 Guy on Jul 7, 2011 12:46 pm • linkreport


Well the issue that the folks are getting in a tizzy over is that the County has bought condominiums/townhomes and SFD homes in communities with things like pools.

You can't shut these amenities down, without affecting all those people living in the same development who paid market price, but the taxpayers are still on the hook for paying the monthly HOA/maintenance fees that support these amenities.

I think the whole thing boils down to, why is FFX county subsidizing housing in the counties most expensive developments/communities, when the "average" development (without pools etc) would suffice.

by freely on Jul 7, 2011 12:53 pm • linkreport

"I think Gray must realize that the MWAA is a dysfunctional organization that's run amuck...."

By now Gray should be able to recognize what a dysfunctional organization is!

by Bob on Jul 7, 2011 1:07 pm • linkreport

That may be the case but from what I can tell from this article (I can't see the report itself) that it sort of cherry picks a couple of places and indicts the whole system. Personally, I don't think there is a good government based solution for a permanent solution to affordable housing except through planning for more housing.

by Canaan on Jul 7, 2011 1:27 pm • linkreport

Falls Church

As you suggest, there is a chance there would be privately built and operated parking garages at Tysons. Fairfax County would not build them; they would be built by landowners on parcels not ready to develop. This would not only provide some parking for commuters, but also give the landowners another source of revenue. When those parcels are ready for development, there is no chance that the landowners would not tear down the garage and build other structures. The alternative is empty lots and angry Fairfax County residents. I do, however, expect there will be more lots than ramps.

You are absolutely right about the limited tunnel capacity. That issue should have been part of the Tysons re-planning process. But everyone wanted to play pretend so that mega-density could be awarded and campaign contributions be given. Still, ridership is important.

Access to the stations. We must have different sources of information. I heard Fairfax County DOT engineers tell both the McLean Citizens Association and the Fairfax Federation in two separate meetings that it is extremely difficult at best to provide bike and pedestrian access from McLean to the rail stations. Again, quite a few people expressed concern and, even anger, with the lack of access to the stations. This is a big political problem, and the supervisors are addressing it through looking for more access of all types. Commuter parking is part of that access.

The first real test of Tysons will be the initial housing units. Some will be high-rise and some will be mid-rise. The builder of the latter has said it will build rentals with an average size of 850 square feet, renting for $2200. That is still stick-built construction. Of course, the high-rise units will be much more costly to build and expensive to rent. One can only wonder how well they will go in the market. The first recent attempt to build higher-end condos in Tysons (Park Crest) was not very successful, but the newer units will be closer to rail.

by tmtfairfax on Jul 7, 2011 2:51 pm • linkreport

I think Gray must realize that the MWAA is a dysfunctional organization that's run amuck....

I suspected such a thing myself when I first heard Mrs Oboe pronounce "MWAA" the way an evil super-villain would laugh:


by oboe on Jul 7, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

I think Gray must realize that the MWAA is a dysfunctional organization that's run amuck....

replace MWAA with:

DC City Council

Shoot, pick an agency. It fits.


by greent on Jul 7, 2011 3:35 pm • linkreport

My comment on the cycle track was based on the mock up picture, which looks a lot like 15th Street south of Mass Ave. A pedestrian dead zone.

If L and M need a bike designation, a cycle track is not the answer. There needs to be some sort of bike lane that converts to parking when it's not rush hour. I don't know what that solution would be, but then you'd have something for cyclists, and some street parking for the other 20 hours of the day (and weekends), when on street parking are needed on those routes.

by mtp on Jul 7, 2011 3:48 pm • linkreport

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