Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Keep us safe


Photo by hradcanska on Flickr.
Police brutally tase pedicab driver: A Park Police officer tased a pedicab driver, then shot him again while he was writhing on the ground. (WAMU)

More crime on the MBT: A man robbed a pedestrian at gunpoint on the Metropolitan Branch Trail Friday morning and another robbery occurred on July 9th. These incidents occurred after the Guardian Angels and MPD increased safety patrols on the trail 2 weeks ago. (DCist, Post)

Should trains carry chemicals through urban centers?: A train carrying hazardous materials derailed and caught fire in a downtown Baltimore tunnel in 2001. 10 years later, trains are still carrying chemicals through the city (and DC). (Baltimore Sun)

More tweeting @metroopensdoors: WMATA is expanding its social media communication with a new social media manager and 2 people in the bus operations center to notify riders about delays. (Post)

Homeless to build homeless housing: Mayor Gray is launching a program called "Sweat Equity" which will train homeless and formerly homeless residents on welfare in home construction. The group will then help to rehabilitate vacant properties to become housing for the homeless. (WAMU)

Might TIGER support TOD?: The Transportation Planning Board hopes to apply for a TIGER grant to support TOD around underutilized transit stations. The money would cover bike and pedestrian connections. (Examiner)

No enforcement leads to parking anarchy: Elimination of parking control officers has led to a "Lord of the Flies" state of anarchy in the Welsh town of Aberystwyth. Drivers are ignoring specialty parking spaces and delivery drivers are threatening to boycott the town. (Telegraph, Michael Perkins)

And...: A tour bus from DC crashed in upstate New York and killed two people. (Post) ... A gas station that burned in Georgetown is still vacant. (Patch) ... 3 Kimpton hotels will provide free CaBi memberships and helmets to guests. (DDOT)

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Jamie Scott is a resident of Ward 3 in DC and a regular Metrobus commuter. He believes in good government, livable communities and quality public transit. Jamie holds a B.A. in Government from Georgetown University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Policy at Georgetown. 

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Don't tase my toes!

by TGEoA on Jul 18, 2011 9:28 am • linkreport

I think we're approaching the point where we need Mayor Gray and EHN to start a campaign to run the Park Police out of town.

This is getting ridiculous -- it's one high-profile incident after another with them, and they have absolutely zero accountability to the people of the city.

by andrew on Jul 18, 2011 9:45 am • linkreport

I'm not a "F the police" kind of guy, but the Park Police is out of hand. I don't have much confidence in the who NPS.

by spookiness on Jul 18, 2011 10:00 am • linkreport

Letter writing campaign to the chairman of the congressional committee that oversees parks?

by Michael Perkins on Jul 18, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

It is interesting how a weapon, like the taser, that was intended to replace lethal force has merely resulted in the use of more force. It is tough to know who is to blame here without all the facts, but the circumstances -- an unarmed pedicab driver -- sure smell fishy.

by aaa on Jul 18, 2011 10:12 am • linkreport

Wait, what? Nobody jumping in blind defense of the copper "who's putting his life on the line every single day"?

by Jasper on Jul 18, 2011 10:14 am • linkreport

"It is tough to know who is to blame here without all the facts"

Yet here we are, throwing around blame without knowing all the details.

Typical GGW nonsense.

by Anon on Jul 18, 2011 10:24 am • linkreport

@Anon -there were witnesses. The guy was tazed a 2nd time while he was on the ground screaming in pain.

by Tina on Jul 18, 2011 10:36 am • linkreport

I could also say that there have been no disastrous train chemical accidents in Baltimore for over 10 years . That sounds like pretty good news.

by OX4 on Jul 18, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

In the DCist article on the Park Police Officer vs the Pedicab, there was a quote from Mayor Gray regarding regulating pedicabs. And on the difficulty of doing so he said this:

"They're like bicycles, but they're not bicycles. They're like automobiles, but they're not automobiles."

I'm not sure what to make of this quote. Clearly pedicabs are more like bikes than cars. But putting that aside, I also wonder what Mayor Gray thinks the legal differences are between cars and bikes. From a rules of the road perspective, they're fairly similar (though obviously from a practical perspective there are some differences).

by Steven Yates on Jul 18, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

This one I think slipped under the radar.
A large milestone was passed this weekend. The contractor doing the track work for Dulles Transit Partners installed the inbound junction turnout for the Silver line this past weekend. Inbound passengers boarding trains west of the East Falls Church station will be the first to ride trains on track attached to concrete ties.

by Sand Box John on Jul 18, 2011 10:55 am • linkreport

Really there should be a parallel rail system west of the main East Coast cities. Not only would it help avoid the situation like the 2001 fire (I was there when it started, coming out of a ball game), but also free up the urban rails for passenger service. I suspect building such a bypass around DC/ Baltimore (like I-81 is for trucks) would lead to much better MARC and VRE service.

by To mA on Jul 18, 2011 11:02 am • linkreport

NPS needs to get officers that understand they are part customer service representatives as well as LEO.

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

@John Why don't use use concrete ties elsewhere in the system? On other lines, we've been replacing the old wooden ties with newer wooden ties. Haven't most other rail systems stopped doing that?

by andrew on Jul 18, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

"10 years later, trains are still carrying chemicals through the city (and DC)"

10 years later, our economy still has an industrial sector that generates and uses chemicals - and freight rail is still the safest way to move them.  10 years from now this will likely still be the case. 

by intermodal commuter on Jul 18, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

I thought the pedicabs are not permitted down by the Mall. How did this pedicab driver even encounter the Park Policeman if he was obeying the law?

And if he wasn't obeying the law with regards to not being permitted to operate in this area where the Park Service already has an exclusive concession (i.e., contract) with the tour mobiles, why should we believe that he didn't resist arrest? He'd already disregarded one law ... Don't get me wrong, I agree that the tasering is over-kill. And while that should be address, let's not make this law-breaking pedicab driver out to be a saint. He deserved something ... probably not being taserd ... but something ...

by Lance on Jul 18, 2011 12:04 pm • linkreport

And if he wasn't obeying the law with regards to not being permitted to operate in this area where the Park Service already has an exclusive concession (i.e., contract) with the tour mobiles, why should we believe that he didn't resist arrest? He'd already disregarded one law

And why shouldn't we believe he murdered someone, for that matter?!

by aaa on Jul 18, 2011 12:10 pm • linkreport

Because that's not what's being questioned. What's being questioned is whether he resisted arrest.

by Lance on Jul 18, 2011 12:32 pm • linkreport

Lance raises a good point, which WashCycle also brought up. The Park Police are defending the monopoly of Tourmobile.

So we really have two questions:

1) Continuing pattern of using too much force by the Park Police.
2) Why exactly is it a good idea to limit transit and travel options by virtue of the NPS contract?

By that logic, Lance, you couldn't get a taxi --or use bikeshare on the mall -- by virtue of the NPS contract. And should be Park POlice be the ones enforcing a private contract?

It is high time to get ride of that contract. Segregating tourists on the mall is costing a lot of potential tourist dollars to go away. The various vendors -- tourmobile, hot dog stands and t shirts --need to go away. And we need to solve the tour bus problem.

by charlie on Jul 18, 2011 12:32 pm • linkreport

@Lance
I thought the pedicabs are not permitted down by the Mall. How did this pedicab driver even encounter the Park Policeman if he was obeying the law?

They're not permitted on the mall according to whom? Like others have said, are taxicabs not allowed to pick up and drop off people adjacent to the Mall? Because I see plenty of that going on. What about buses and the Metro, don't they violate the "exclusive" contract too? And what if I get a bike from Bike & Roll, or CaBi, or go on a Segway tour, and ride along the mall? Isn't that someone providing transportation there?

Why is the federal government giving a private company a monopoly over this service in the first place? Not to mention the fact that given how transportation works this arrangement is completely untenable - how do you prevent someone from transporting a person to the mall?

On another note, the park police is totally out of control. The crackdown on pedicab drivers, this recent incident, the incident at the taxicab commission meeting, etc etc. A couple weeks ago I was on a Sunday bike ride on Beach Drive near the park police station near Military Road, and the driver of a park police cruiser aggressively bullied his way through the crowd of people on bikes (including families with kids) to get through to the station instead of opening up the gate to go through.

by MLD on Jul 18, 2011 12:46 pm • linkreport

@Lance - how many witnesses and reports do you need before you see a pattern? http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=156139

by Tina on Jul 18, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

@MLD 'They're not permitted on the mall according to whom?

Maybe you didn't see the threads a couple weeks ago where this was already discussed. The National Park Service, which has full jurisdiction over the Mall and the surrounding streets has given the Tourmobile folks an exclusive contract vis-a-vis picking up people in that area.

And in case you've missed previous postings over the last several years (done in conjunction with the PA Ave bike lanes, the streetcar wires issues, and the NCPC's jurisdiction over them) the federal government has retained title to nearly all the streets in the District. Additionally, there are some streets, such as the ones near the National Mall, where they've also retained all maintenance and operations authority and responsibility. Hence why Constitution Ave. is being re-constructed by the National Park Service. I.e., DC has absolutely no power or authority to do anything in regards to the pedicabs serving the Mall.

by Lance on Jul 18, 2011 1:28 pm • linkreport

@Charlie 'And should be Park POlice be the ones enforcing a private contract?

It's not a private contract. It's a government contract ... issued by the National Park Service. The Park Police is the the National Park Service's uniformed law enforcement branch. If the feds say 'though shall not pick up passengers at the Mall without a permit', then that is a federal law being broken ... a federal offense ... Nothing private about it.

by Lance on Jul 18, 2011 1:31 pm • linkreport

MLD,

Are taxi drivers giving guided tours of the Mall to their fares? What about Metro buses...they parking in tourmobiles stations, and giving tours? The answer is no.

Pedicabs are just like any other unlicensed vendor on DC streets trying to sell their wares, and are doing so illegally.

I think tourmobile is a tired old relic of what it used to be and I would like the NPS to put that contract out to bid again, but it doesn't change the fact that Tourmobile pays both NPS and the District a princely sum for their operations, in both registration fees and user tax. Part of their contract stipulates that they are to be the only business in town on the National Mall.

Pedicabs pay nothing to either the NPS, or District, aren't registered and are not legally recognized to do business anywhere in the District, let alone the national mall.

How is this so difficult to understand.

Furthermore, with all the press this has been getting for 3-4 months now, I find it a little strange and galling that the pedicabs continue even though they know they are 100% in the wrong.

by freely on Jul 18, 2011 1:36 pm • linkreport

if you go to Germany and check out the rail infrastructure you will discover that they gave up using wood for ties decades ago- and you cannot find them anymore. Actually- for the super fast Koln to Frankfurt Ice 3 line- one of the world's fastest regularly scheduled trains on wheels- they no longer use concrete ties but ballast-less concrete blocks that have ties built into their tops that are rated to last 75 years w/o maintenance. We have simply lost the will and resolve in the USA to build anything well anymore- it all has to be done as cheaply as possible- the most "efficient" way is to build cheap. But you have to keep starting over and over when $hit breaks down...

by w on Jul 18, 2011 1:37 pm • linkreport

@Lance

I've seen the posts, I'm around here all the time.

The real question is why pedicabs and why has there has never been a peep about taxis, or bike & roll, or segway tours, or buses, or the metro, etc. The other question is why/how should they be able to ban a transportation option bringing people from somewhere else to the mall? I understand that perhaps they have the legal authority to do so because they are in control of the roads, but does that mean we should not question their decision to do so?

The tourmobile only drives around the mall/tidal basin/white house. I can't take the tourmobile to the mall from somewhere else. So why are we banning transportation options that take us there?

by MLD on Jul 18, 2011 1:43 pm • linkreport

I don't think Metro's wood ties are too much of an issue. Since Metro trains aren't travelling at super-high speeds (like HSR) nor are they very heavy (like freight rail), there's not as much stress placed on the track.

Given the current maintenance status of rail replacement and track fasteners and the like, I get the impression that other track elements are wearing out faster than the ties themselves - ergo, the ties are not the limiting factor.

by Alex B. on Jul 18, 2011 1:58 pm • linkreport

...why are we banning transportation options that take us there [to the mall]? ....and away from the mall! The tour bus only circulates the mall. What if I want to from the mall up 7th St NW to a restaurant? And when did it become the US Govt's best interest to block people from making a living during a time of historic unemployemt?

None of those questions answers why the park police tazered a guy -twice -in front of hundreds of tourists when, according to the witness, he was not resisting, he was only being screamed at.

by Tina on Jul 18, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

@freely
Pedicabs pay nothing to either the NPS, or District, aren't registered and are not legally recognized to do business anywhere in the District, let alone the national mall.

Source? Just because they are unregulated does not mean they aren't a business or aren't registered.

by MLD on Jul 18, 2011 2:05 pm • linkreport

@w 'We have simply lost the will and resolve in the USA to build anything well anymore-'

Yes, let's hope this is remembered the next time someone suggests building our streetcar system on the cheap ... i.e., with wires ...

by Lance on Jul 18, 2011 2:07 pm • linkreport

@To mA

Really there should be a parallel rail system west of the main East Coast cities

Well, there is. Norfolk Southern has lines that run along the Shenandoah Valley, cross the Potomac at Harpers Ferry into Harrisburg, through the Lehigh Valley and up into Binghamton. Not a major east coast city there. It's CSX's main east coast line runs through DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia (and comes fairly close to New York, though it stays west of the Hudson).

You want to close down CSX?

by jim on Jul 18, 2011 2:09 pm • linkreport

@MLD, 'So why are we banning transportation options that take us there?

I think the key to your answer is this:
'The pedicabbers say an officer with the U.S. Park Police confronted pedicab driver Charles Guillon, as he was picking up customers in his bicycle-drawn rickshaw Friday afternoon.'

I'd imagine it's like the concession at Dulles. Anyone can drop off a passenger there, but only the cab company with the consignment agreement can pick up passengers. Would it make more sense that empty cabs didn't have to go home again without picking up passengers there? Of course. Maybe the same applies to pedicabs. But the laws says you can't. So, you don't. It's not like we're talking life or death circumstances resulting from following the law until you can persuade the proper authorities to change it.

by Lance on Jul 18, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

@Lance; sorry, my bad. It is a government contract, but with a private company. So again, why is the government the one enforcing it. The proper remedy is for the private company (Tourmobile) to file a suit asking for damages. As I doubt very much there are any damages, good luck.

And your model assumes the feds have those rights. I'm not so sure. Even if they "own" the roads, can they stop a taxi? Or a bus?

Any claims here have to be viewed in the 50+ year history of the tourmobile contract being violated thousands of time a day by other tour buses. I'd say there is nothing here.

by charlie on Jul 18, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

@andrew

WMATA has, sense day one, had in their specifications a provision to allow the track work contractor to provide concrete ties at his discretion. The only reason why they haven't been used in the past is their up front cost. Dulles Transit Partners specifically specified that concrete ties shall be used in the construction of the track work on the N Route Silver line. I thought it kind of odd that Dulles Transit Partners didn't change that specification during their search to cut construction costs.

One of the problems with using concrete ties in various parts of the system has to do with added expense of changing them out in limited clearance areas when they reach the end of their useful life. In some areas of the system old ties are cut in half to more quickly remove them.

The tie changing out project WMATA has been doing in resent months along the Orange line inside of the Capitol Beltway required detaching the fence fabric from the posts to pull the ties out and put the new ones in. This was done to allow the other track to remain open to maintain service.

Not all transit properties have converted to concrete ties. Some have converted a portion or portions of the their systems to concrete ties. Many of the light rail properties that have been built in resent years were built with concrete ties.

by Sand Box John on Jul 18, 2011 2:20 pm • linkreport

@Lance, pedicabs dropping off or picking up aren't violating any law. The NPS contract simply gives Tourmobile the sole concession for the Mall area. NPS would be unable to offer a concession with a pedicab company under this dated and plainly anti-competitive but enforceable contract. There is no city or Federal ordinance that they are violating. It's simply a contract dispute and Police do not enforce civil contracts.

Either way, it's a strawman. That's not what today's post is about. Even if we stipulated that you were right about pedicabs' legality on the Mall (and I certainly do not), the issue is the level of force the Park Police used is plainly inconsistent with the seriousness of the offence (if any). It can be frustrating for police officers to deal with uncooperative people. They don't get to taise them. Certainly not twice.

Captcha word: fallacy

by Tim Krepp on Jul 18, 2011 2:32 pm • linkreport

Is this the only federal contract that has police enforcing it? Isn't this a civil matter and not a criminal matter?

I wanted to know the last bit: other private companies pick up and drop off people on the mall.

--Tour buses drop off and pick up on the mall everyday.
--Segway tours give mall tours.
--Bike tours give mall tours.
--I have paid a lovely cabbie to take me and friends around the mall, to drop us off and wait while we went to a memorial and then back again to drive up to Cap Hill. My cabdriver never got tazed.
--And what about the Circulator National Mall Loop? That went around the mall - and only around the mall. Did Park PoPo taze the Circ drivers?

Park Police: they know nothing about parks and even less about policing.

by greent on Jul 18, 2011 2:32 pm • linkreport

"They're like bicycles, but they're not bicycles. They're like automobiles, but they're not automobiles."

I'm not sure what to make of this quote

I know what to make of it: that Mayor Gray is not a very smart man. The issue of how to deal with pedicabs is too complex for his tiny little mind.

by JustMe on Jul 18, 2011 2:34 pm • linkreport

@greent:
WRT your Circulator example: That went on Independence and Constitution, which is outside NPS perimeter, which (my understanding) goes up to essentially where the museums and other buildings start, as to include Jefferson and Madison Drives. The Circulator would (stupidly in my opinion) be prohibited on running a loop that used Jefferson or Madison Drives.

by Steven Yates on Jul 18, 2011 2:38 pm • linkreport

Nice to see Lance getting more outraged about a guy on a pedicab dropping off a passenger than the use of a taser on a non-threatening suspect.... just in case you were wondering what the moral mindset of the Committee of 100 was.

by JustMe on Jul 18, 2011 2:39 pm • linkreport

Tourmobile is a concession, not a contract. The money flows in the other direction.

by andrew on Jul 18, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

"Pedicabs pay nothing to either the NPS, or District, aren't registered and are not legally recognized to do business anywhere in the District, let alone the national mall."

I suggest you read up on the section of the DC code governing the registration and regulation of commercial bicycle operators.

by Sam on Jul 18, 2011 3:04 pm • linkreport

Well, it's a contract to provide a concession.

Greent, you're quite right (except about the Circulator as Steven pointed out). As a tour guide, I routinely drop off and pick up my groups on the Mall. This seems to be allowed, as I've been doing it for many years now and have yet to be tased. I'm keeping my eyes open though (he says half-kidding)!

by Tim Krepp on Jul 18, 2011 3:05 pm • linkreport

@Tim & Steve - thanks - I thought for some reason the NPS ara was all the way up to 2nd St, not that the NPS area ended at the capitol. Thx for the info (not like that Circ is runnin anymore anyway.)

I think the pedi-cabs should seek out a new sponser - Tazers :)

by greent on Jul 18, 2011 3:29 pm • linkreport

Sorry, what I meant to say was I love my blue shirted overlords and am grateful for the discipline they administer to those who dare oppose them. Long live the Park Police and god bless them as they thanklessly toil everyday to defend our freedom.

by CensoredDoug on Jul 18, 2011 3:32 pm • linkreport

I have removed a comment which advocated for violence against other people. Such comments are not permitted on GGW.

by David Alpert on Jul 18, 2011 3:38 pm • linkreport

A quick look at the GGW suggests the contract in question is for "guided experiences" rather than moving people around.

A more appropriate sting would be police officers getting on pedicabs and then soliciting tourism tips. That would be funny.

by charlie on Jul 18, 2011 3:39 pm • linkreport

@charlie

I better watch out - a cop asked me for directions yesterday, I'll have to make sure in the future that it's MPD and not Park Police!

by MLD on Jul 18, 2011 4:12 pm • linkreport

@ Sand Box John -

I am surprised that they are already cutting in this switch. Opening is still 2 years off. Lots of trains will be running over that switch, wearing it, and it will require a lot of maintaining between now and 2013. Do you know why it is being built first? Will track-laying equipment come in from the east via WMATA?

by DavidDuck on Jul 18, 2011 7:55 pm • linkreport

10 years later, trains are still carrying chemicals through the city (and DC).

Water is a chemical. Oxygen is a chemical. Chlorine is a chemical. All trains are carrying chemicals. Even the VRE and MARC, given that diesel and humans are chemicals. Water can be as deadly as chlorine. Trying falling on it from say 40 feet.

The point you are trying to make here is not that trains carry chemicals. The point you are trying to make here is that some trains carry chemicals that are dangerous when released in an uncontrolled manner.

A website that makes a big deal about the difference between a car accident and a car crash, should also have the savvy to not blame all chemicals for the dangerous properties of some chemicals.

by Jasper on Jul 18, 2011 9:28 pm • linkreport

@DavidDuck

I thought it kind odd they cut it in this early as well. My guess is they want to get all the heavy lifting done in the area of the active trackage as soon as possible so the other contractor can secure the right of way. As it is now there is no intrusion protection system in place as the barriers and fences have not been completed between Great Falls Street and the flyover bridge abutments.

As to the wear and tear, under normal condition the junction turnouts have a service life of roughly 20 years. Because it is new construction that 20 might end up turning out to be 25.

Maintenance won't be an issue between now and the time startup testing begins as the points of the turnout will be spiked so the can't move.

I don’t think the track laying equipment came in from east. My guess is it was trucked in and put on WMATA's track in Falls Church Yard. This is similar to what Norfolk Southern did when they rehabilitated the Delmarva Subdivision, the track gang shipped their equipment from Harrisburg PA to Herrington DE aboard flatcars, unloaded it and went to work.

For now I think they are storing their equipment in the Falls Church Yard. The tie tamper used to stabilize new track belongs to the track work contractor. Once the contractor gets enough of the track laid they will likely store there equipment near where they are going to work the next day, that's pretty much the way the track work contractors did it during construction on the rest of the system.

by Sand Box John on Jul 18, 2011 11:06 pm • linkreport

"Is this the only federal contract that has police enforcing it? Isn't this a civil matter and not a criminal matter? "

Not at all. We won a contract to supply pencils to the White House, and now Secret Service agents roam the halls there tasing anyone who dares to use an unapproved pencil.

by Brian White on Jul 19, 2011 2:48 pm • linkreport

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