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Weekend links: Streetcar head rides away


Kubly on a holiday bike ride, Image from M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.
Kubly moving on: Scott Kubly, in charge of the streetcar, Circulator, and Capital Bikeshare, is leaving DDOT. Tommy Wells praised him as "impatient, creative & effective." (City Paper)

Beware the poll numbers: A DC blogger recounts a phone survey he received that sounded suspiciously like a pro-Walmart push poll. Is it ethical to disguise PR material as an opinion survey? (14th & You, Ward 1 Guy)

Boston columnist wants bikes banned: Just as Boston is rolling out its bike sharing system, a columnist wants all bikes banned in the city. Why? These "cavalier cyclists" get in the way of his car. (Boston Globe)

Cyclists race a plane during LA's "Carmageddon": I-405 in LA closed this weekend for scheduled construction. Some people have predicted a "Carmageddon" that will ruin Angelenos' weekend plans. (LA Times) ... As a PR stunt, JetBlue will fly $4 flights today from Long Beach to Burbank, but a group of cyclists bets it can beat the 30-mile flight if you count time spent in security lines. (Slate) ... Follow it on LA Streetsblog.

Downtown offices getting pricier: Some companies find it easier to recruit younger hires to downtown offices. Employees with families, though, may still find suburban offices more convenient. (Fortune) ... Meanwhile, the premium on downtown offices has increased sharply. (WSJ)

Feds still building sprawl: Despite the Obama Administration's sustainability rhetoric, the feds continue to fund sprawl and now propose a veterans' home in the middle of nowhere. The nearest VA hospital is a full 7 miles away. (Streetsblog)

And...: On the bright side, falling home prices are making housing more affordable. (MetroTrends) ... Rhode Island may eliminate its bike and pedestrian transportation programs. (RIBC) ... Mash up today's street views with historical photos. (GOOD)

Have a tip 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. 

Comments

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"And [the people on bikes] are the scourge of the city. I don't mean anything negative by that."

by jakeod on Jul 16, 2011 4:33 pm • linkreport

I read the "ban bikes" article as satire. Did I miss something?

by Adam L on Jul 16, 2011 6:10 pm • linkreport

It was certainly better than the PJ O'rourke column.

by Canaan on Jul 16, 2011 6:51 pm • linkreport

The Fresno Veterans Home is not being built by the Obama Administration, but by the State of California. It has been on the books for eight years. It is 27 acres and cost of land acquisition has been a key factor. California, as you might have heard, seems to have some serious financial issues.

Fresno is a farm town - smack in the middle of the central valley - and there's plenty of farmland within the city limits. This place is maybe a mile or two from two major freeways, Route 180 and the legendary Route 99. It ain't in the middle of nowhere by the standard of Fresnans.

To blame the Obama Administration for the location of a California state project for veterans is horsecrap, especially since it's been on the books since the first Bush Administration. And even then, it was Ah-nold's decision, not W's.

Full disclosure: we have a little farm/ranch east of Fresno, along the escarpment of the High Sierra. Nobody will ever confuse Fresno with Athens or Paris, and the economy there is dreadful. The three or four hundred jobs this project will create are desperately needed.

by Mike Silverstein on Jul 16, 2011 9:09 pm • linkreport

Just so you know, the term "push poll" does not mean what you and http://bit.ly/qEfJn4 think it means.

A "push poll" is a form of persuasion advertising dressed up as a series of questions, like a poll. However, it is ineffective as advertising unless the phone calls are made to everyone in the target audience. The telephoner does not record answers--the goal is not to measure anything, it is to reach everyone with the messages.

A market research poll is a survey--only a random few are scientifically selected from among the target audience in order to test messages. Those messages that score best among a random sample of the target are then incorporated into advertising, such as print ads, TV or radio ads, even social media messages delivered by trolls.

Is it "ethical" to disguise PR material as an opinion survey? It would be malpractice for a PR firm to spend a lot of a client's money on advertising without first testing it in an opinion survey. 14th and You was a participant in a market research opinion survey, designed (not particularly well-designed) to measure which of the positive messages about Wal-Mart offered would be the most effective elements of an advertising campaign.

Nothing sinister about it. Just SOP for PR.

by Trulee Pist on Jul 16, 2011 9:44 pm • linkreport

Mike Silverstein, the person who wrote that article, myself, lives in Fresno. It's in the middle of nowhere by any account. You know why it's so close to highway 180? Because highway 180 was extended that way just 2 (3?) years ago. If you've ever been on 180 that way (I have) you'll note that a dirt road could handle the demand.

As you noted, there is plenty of vacant land within the urbanized city limits, no need to jump so far out to an area that clearly no one wants to live in.

by JJJJJ on Jul 17, 2011 12:51 am • linkreport

@Trulee Pist

Actually, based on 14th and You's description, the Walmart poll was a push poll by your own definition.

A "push poll" is a form of persuasion advertising dressed up as a series of questions, like a poll.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jul 17, 2011 1:32 am • linkreport

Actually, not.

Not until you show me that 200,000 such phone calls were made. This was a message-testing poll. Different things.

by Trulee Pist on Jul 17, 2011 1:42 am • linkreport

JJJJJ:

I'm not sure exactly what to make of your response.

First, you don't address my main point, which is that you took a cheap shot at the Obama administration by intimating that it's their project. It's not. It's a California state project, planned and built by the CALIFORNIA Department of Veterans Affairs. And yet you - and Eric Fidler - specificially criticized Obama and not Schwarzenegger. That was - and is - horsecrap and you know it.

Second, your comment about how highway 180 was extended three years ago in that direction puzzles me. Are you intimating that they simply decided three years ago to build the road there? It had been in the plans for years, and was no doubt part of the decision to locate the home on that site. The traffic flow on the 180 is the reddest of herrings.

Third, you completely ignore the difficulties of building a facility like this. Money is tight. They want to build something large enough to allow for growth, and so the decision is to build on 27 acres. Assembling a plot that big next to the VA Hospital is out of the question. Buying anything that big in the northern part of town is also out of the question because of real estate values and the need to resort to eminent domain. Everyone who has money is moving north, it seems. And there are serious crime and gang issues in many areas near downtown. Options are limited.

I'm not saying the current site is ideal. It's not. But even that site took eight years of drama (including an appearance by Donald Trump) to finalize. And even with the cheap real estate, California's financial squeeze may delay the home even longer.

For my money, I'd prefer they build it east of the city, near the future right of way of the Sierra Freeway (the 168). It's prettier, and there's more growth in that area. But I think there are water issues out that way, and - from the air - the area looks as undeveloped as your well-cropped photo of the current site.
And the land, no doubt, would cost a helluva lot more. Either site means a loss of farmland or ranchland, and that's a serious concern. (If I had my druthers, I wish the halt in construction of the 168 would be made permanent.)

Again, please address my main concern: Nobody gives a hoot about a state sponsored project, so you and Eric tried to shift the blame to the President for a California state-sponsored initiative. Misleading, intellectually dishonest, and a cheap shot.

by Mike Silverstein on Jul 17, 2011 8:11 am • linkreport

Why are you including that link to a story about falling housing prices? In DC, the prices haven't fallen. Moreover, we are losing our rental properties. This is not a good *DC* story.

by Jazzy on Jul 17, 2011 9:17 am • linkreport

Jazzy,
For weekend links, we try to include a good number of stories from around the nation.

Mike Silverstein,
This project, like many projects around the nation, is financed by a mix of federal and local money. Federal money usually comes with strings attached, e.g. environmental review, civil rights compliance, etc., to ensure that federal money is not being spent in contravention of national public policy goals.

Certainly there are many players involved in deciding these projects, and I'll gladly take your word that the Schwarzenegger administration is largely responsible for the location decision.

However, my point, and Streetsblog's point, is that federal policies continue to contradict each other. I'd further add that the president has been in office for 2.5 years and it is painfully clear that there are many poorly considered projects that are continuing to slide by despite the fact that they contradict his promises. This doesn't excuse Schwarzenegger one bit, but the president himself is not blameless.

by Eric Fidler on Jul 17, 2011 10:06 am • linkreport

A better heading might have been:

"Weekend Links: A Streetcar Named Desire Left Behind by Blanche Dubois ... incomplete, underfunded, and with no clear direction in sight."

by Lance on Jul 17, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

Fantasy’s Inability to Overcome Reality

Although Williams’s protagonist in A Streetcar Named Desire is the romantic Blanche DuBois, the play is a work of social realism. Blanche explains to Mitch that she fibs because she refuses to accept the hand fate has dealt her. Lying to herself and to others allows her to make life appear as it should be rather than as it is. Stanley, a practical man firmly grounded in the physical world, disdains Blanche’s fabrications and does everything he can to unravel them. The antagonistic relationship between Blanche and Stanley is a struggle between appearances and reality. It propels the play’s plot and creates an overarching tension. Ultimately, Blanche’s attempts to remake her own and Stella’s existences—to rejuvenate her life and to save Stella from a life with Stanley—fail.

www.sparknotes.com/lit/streetcar/themes.html

by Lance on Jul 17, 2011 11:51 am • linkreport

Well ok, but the point is that nothing budges (overpriced) DC real estate.

by Jazzy on Jul 17, 2011 11:51 am • linkreport

I work in the executive office of an agency that has a significant regulatory role where Wallmart is concerned and, in the past several months, I've received multiple robo calls from "Walmart affiliates" offering me gift certificates and other consideration- on my DC Government cell phone.
I have never received similar solicitations on my Gov phone from other entities. This is a first.
I wonder how they got my contact information.

by DC Gov Worker on Jul 17, 2011 1:51 pm • linkreport

@JJJJ:

"It's in the middle of nowhere by any account."

WRONG! Not by my account. It's 11 minutes from the VA hospital (7 mi), 10 minutes from the trendy Tower district (4.6 mi), 9 minutes from the Saroyan Theater (4.5 mi), and 10 minutes from Roehning Park and the Chaffee Zoo (3.6 mi).

Your deliberately carefully cropped picture is misleading, because the site is surrounded by Running Horse, a planned golf course and housing community that fell apart in 2007 after some high drama involving Donald Trump. Just beyond your cropping to the east is housing, some shopping, and beyond the housing is Nielson Park, less than a mile and one minute away.

A google map picture of the site and google directions will confirm that this site is NOT in the middle of nowhere, but, rather, five or six minutes from the center of downtown Fresno via the 180. It's on the edge of development, surrounded by a golf course that didn't get built.

@Eric:

Are you really trying to say sick, aged, and even homeless veterans in California should have to wait another eight years for a home because you don't like the present, planned location? Are you that myopic?

There are no apparent environmental or civil rights violations involved in the siting or construction of this project. In fact, the central valley has a high concentration of Mexican-Americans who serve in disproportionately high numbers in our military. Why would YOU want to discriminate against them by having Barack Obama and Rik Shinseki come up with some bogus excuse to delay construction of a state Veterans' Home that will serve many Mexican-Americans and provide employment for many others? Don't you care that the jobless rate in Fresno Country has been hovering above 15%?

Barack Obama is absolutely blameless in this matter, because he and Shinseki have no business sticking their noses in what is essentially a state-funded project to care for veterans - especially remembering that such interference would mean NO such home for years to come.

@David Alpert: This thread is exhibit A as to why GGW has lost clout with the political class. You shouldn't attack your friends without good reason. You should take care not to offend or harm groups such as the elderly or veterans without good reason. Seeking to delay a home for needy veterans is a certain way to earn the emnity of veterans and seniors. And you should really stop being so whiny about it.

It was one thing when Courtland Malloy used the term "myopic little twits." But now, after l'affaire Wells, others in the media have been every bit as dismissive, referring to GGW as "granola eaters" and such. But i guess the big wake-up call was the 12-1 vote in Council and Mary Cheh's comments that appeared to mock both Wells and GGW. Something's happening here, and it's not good.

GGW has been a wonderful gift to the community, and the issues on which it focuses are vitally important. You are certainly not little twits, but you can be myopic and often are. At times you seem immature - such as when you attack people like Obama here. Or a project that will provide shelter for needy veterans. Should your hobby trump their survival needs?

I believe it was LBJ who once described another politician as having all the attributes of a dog, except one: loyalty.

Why should anyone take you seriously or curry your favor if they feel you will turn on them will little or no reason at all?

Your attack on Obama on this issue is - and will be - Exhibit A. Your thoughts David? Anyone else?

by Mike Silverstein on Jul 17, 2011 5:58 pm • linkreport

when did this become tennessee williamsist? :)

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 17, 2011 8:12 pm • linkreport

Push polls are ethically dubious because they try to influence respondents' opinions instead of measuring them. An insidious side effect is that they reduce response to legitimate surveys, thereby degrading their quality. :-(

by Chuck Coleman on Jul 17, 2011 9:01 pm • linkreport

Boston streets "were built for, yes, cars"? That's some foresight for a city founded in 1630. It must have been frustrating watching those roads go unused for two and a half centuries while Bostonians awaited the invention of the automobile.

by Dave M on Jul 17, 2011 9:16 pm • linkreport

Oh Geoffrey ... I think you and I could be fast friends if we put our hearts in it!

when did this become tennessee williamsist? :)

I hope you had a nice weekend?

by Lance on Jul 17, 2011 10:19 pm • linkreport

Oh Mike ... You've been on here too much too! Don't let them get to you! Seriously ....

by Lance on Jul 17, 2011 10:20 pm • linkreport

Mike Silverstein, your first reply above makes it 100% clear you didnt read my post, but only the summary of it.

For example, I didnt provide one "well cropped" photo....I provided four, each zoomed out a bit more, even showing downtown Fresno and an exact link showing where the hospital is.

"Again, please address my main concern: Nobody gives a hoot about a state sponsored project, so you and Eric tried to shift the blame to the President for a California state-sponsored initiative. Misleading, intellectually dishonest, and a cheap shot."

I didnt mention Obama at all, or place the blame on the feds, I said "a mix of government" was responsible, because the construction is financed on multiple levels, meaning multiple levels of government checked off on the location.

Please visit my actual post and youll note that most of your complaints are directed at others mentioning what I wrote, and not my actual article.

Please click my name to see the actual post.

And using "5 or 6 minutes" to say something is close is ridiculous. Yes, NOW it's 5 or 6 minutes from the hospital, because you can drive at 90mph on the empty highway. A highway empty because it goes nowhere.

Is it a good idea to make elderly injured vets have to drive 90mph on a highway for medical help...?

When sprawl catches up, lets see how long it takes.

And you know whats more relevant then distance to the zoo?

Distance to the supermarket.
And a hospital.
And any kind of store.

by JJJJJ on Jul 18, 2011 2:30 am • linkreport

'Despite the Obama Administration's sustainability rhetoric, the feds continue to fund sprawl and now propose a veterans' home in the middle of nowhere. The nearest VA hospital is a full 7 miles away.

This is hilarious ... because anyone who's ever lived out west knows that 7 miles is 'nothing' out there. 7 miles is like the place where your subdivision hits the main road. 7 miles is half the distance to the grocery store. Etc. The 'East Coast' city centricity evident in this statement is shocking ... to put it nicely. Some folks really don't have a clue about anything other than their own limited life experiences, do they?

by Lance on Jul 18, 2011 8:41 am • linkreport

Eric

Have you ever tried to turn around a supertanker?

The sustainability initiative is a HUD/EPA/USDOT initiative. They have, IIUC, been focusing on the things those three agencies can do without changes to statutes. And on (modest) changes to statutes that apply to those three agencies. And on things the White House can do wrt to the rest of the Federal Govt, without change to statute.

To require every federally funded project, from every agency budget, including partially funded, to have urbanist/sustainable location as a major criteria, is I think a pretty tall order. It would require major new legislation, IIUC. It would be a tall order for 4 years into the admin, a fortiori for this point in the admin. To make such changes retroactive to past approved projects would seem to be an even taller order.

This really is setting the hurdle exceptionally high. I have trouble imagining any administration that could meet it.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 18, 2011 9:39 am • linkreport

JJJJJJJJJJJJ:

The time and mileage figures I used were directly from google maps. They were NOT my own and are not ridiculous. In fact, you could get to the VA Hospital in far less than 11 minutes redballing an ambulance.

You're right, though. It was Eric's comments that got my goat.

And as for Eric's comment that the home is "a full seven miles from the nearest VA Hospital," he didn't note that there are only TEN full-service VA Hospitals in the entire state of California. Considering the next nearest VA Hospital is more than 150 miles away, near San Jose, being 7 miles away and next to a freeway is no big deal. And since the one on East Clinton Street is in a fully developed area, it would be hard to find a 27 acre undeveloped parcel of land much closer. Of course, there may be other hospitals closer. Veterans are allowed to go to any hospital for emergency care, you probably know.

It was Eric who said, "the President himself is not entirely blameless." It was that and his opening comment that led with "despite the Obama Administration's sustainability rhetoric, the feds continue to fund sprawl and now propose a veterans home in the middle of nowhere" that set me off.

Other than the fact that this project was proposed and began when Obama was in the Illinois State Senate, ground has already been broken, and it's a state project, and it's five minutes by google maps from downtown Fresno, there's nothing much wrong with his first sentence. Every word of it is wrong, even the and's and the's.

Again, it was just a week ago that David posted something about how GGW folks were knocked back on their heels and had to consider how to build a bigger tent. Well, attacking the President for not getting in the way of a state run home for needy veterans is certainly no way to build a bigger tent.

Man up, folks, and admit you were wrong. Obama can be blamed for any number of things, but he bears no blame here. The only thing he could have done was cut off federal funds to help veterans in a state-sponsored project, and - even if the project was in the middle of nowhere (which it isn't) - that would have been uncommonly stupid and politically toxic.

by Mike Silverstein on Jul 18, 2011 11:06 am • linkreport

Lance, again, the article was written by someone who lives in Fresno. 7 miles is a lot, ANYWHERE. It's a city, not the country. Or it's supposed to be, these new homes are being built too far out.

But I guess some folks really don't have a clue about anything other than their own limited life experiences, do they?

Mike Silverstein, as I pointed out in the post, there was a very large amount of open available space right NEXT DOOR to the vet hospital. THAT is where it should have gone. Government owned too!

Now they're some relatively nice looking public housing apartments. Not a bad use at all, but it would have been logical to put the vets by the vet hospital, the the public housing in one of the thousands of vacant undeveloped parcels inside urban Fresno.

by JJJJJ on Jul 18, 2011 3:22 pm • linkreport

JJJJJ:

I'll agree with you that the site chosen was clearly not the best place to put the veterans home. It was a vineyard, and even the wines from that neighborhood are lousy, unless you like Delicato and other sub-standands vins ordinaires.

But the money was set aside for this project in the year 2000, and the site selection was done eight or nine years ago. The guess here is they expected the Running Horse golf course and housing development and the Veterans Home to provide the critical mass to turn the neighborhood around. It could have done just that, except Running Horse went belly up very early in the housing crisis. So the Home sits out there, under construction now, and surrounded by what coulda/shoulda been.

I agree there might have been been urban options for the siting, but that decision was made and locked in years ago. Maybe Eric didn't understand that when he tried to put the blame on the Obama Administration.

And we agree to disagree about the importance of having the VA Hospital next to the Home. Personally, I'd rather be next to a golf course (the original plan) or in a nice residential area than sitting and staring at a hospital. Those vets who live in the Home can be sent to ANY hospital for emergency care, and the VA Hospital - eleven minutes away at 55mph by google maps - is available for long-term care, surgery, and other such things.

And we also disagree about whether this property is "in the middle of nowhere." I'll just point out that it's probably quicker to get to town from the Home than it is from Riverwalk or Friant. Eventually, the Home will spur in-fill, including yet another strip mall and additional housing. It won't be surrounded by a stillborn golf course for long. Perhaps it will spur development of close-in areas southwest of downtown. That would be better and less sprawl-inducing than the relentless march to the north.

Forgive me if I've been a bit strident about this, but I know a little bit about your home town, and more than a little about military medicine. My late Uncle was an Air Force lifer who ran a base hospital and clinic in California as his last ticket, and he died at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda. So I guess this story pushed all my buttons. Sorry about that!

And the blaming of the current administration (not by you) for something in the works for more than a decade was the one that set me off.

Anyway, thanks for a good and lively conversation, and good luck trying to make Fresno more walkable and livable. The cars and pickup trucks still rule out there, and the people are stubborn as hell about it. You have your work cut out for you. Good luck.

by Mike Silverstein on Jul 18, 2011 5:21 pm • linkreport

Mike Silverstein,

"Eventually, the Home will spur in-fill, including yet another strip mall and additional housing."

I agree this will eventually happen, and thats not something Im looking forward too. Fresno is wide enough as it is, we dont need to keep growing outward. There's so much abandoned commercial space and foreclosed housing that you can send in another 20,000 people and not need to build anything new.

And yes, I appreciate the comments. It's a coincidence that I happen to read this website (from the time I lived in DC) and noticed your comment. If you would have left your comment at greatgreaterchicago or something, I never would have seen it.

by JJJJJ on Jul 18, 2011 7:11 pm • linkreport

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