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Breakfast links: Law and Order

Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.
Commuter scofflaws get amnesty: DC is offering amnesty on late fees for unpaid parking tickets and traffic fines. VA & MD residents are responsible for 61% of DC's unpaid tickets. (Examiner)

We know so little about crime: Criminologists wonder why crime has declined steadily since the early 90s, even during recessions. Perhaps the 70s and 80s were a "crime bubble". (MetroTrends) ... Two Examiner articles, one year apart, wonder if there's a link between heat and crime, but the crime changed in opposite ways. (Homicide Watch DC via Mike DeBonis)

Tourmobile contract invalid?: Attorneys helping the National Coalition to Save Our Mall believe the Tourmobile contract actually doesn't prohibit other transportation like Circulator, and NPS's repeated extensions might be illegal to boot. (City Paper)

How to legalize urbanism: Many historic neighborhoods, like downtown Annapolis, would be illegal to build today. A few simple policy changes would make urbanism legal. The ones applicable to DC are allowing corner stores and accessory dwellings in residential areas, both of which have drawn strong opposition. (Switchboard)

Bethesda ditches nostalgic buses: Downtown Bethesda's free circulator bus has replaced its fleet of fake trolleys with modern, low-floor buses that resemble the DC Circulators. (BeyondDC)

No brain drain at DDOT?: Gabe Klein says Terry Bellamy "absolutely is forward-thinking and progressive," but might not be allowed to innovate enough or keep good talent. Bellamy says DDOT is not experiencing a brain drain. (Post)

Is CaBi becoming a victim of its own success?: An unnamed Capital Bikeshare worker admitted that the Living Social membership discount may have overwhelmed the system. Hopefully new and expanded stations will provide relief. (Washington Times)

Bike lanes on Oregon Ave?: DDOT may add a shared-use path or sidewalks and bike lanes to a section of Oregon Avenue which currently has no bike infrastructure. WABA is asking people to comment in support of bike lanes. Comments are due tomorrow.

And...: Metro will replace the lengthy, unreliable escalators at Bethesda in 2014. (Post) ... Mayor Gray is expected to name transportation consultant Ron Linton as chair of the Taxicab Commission. (Post) ... Flight from DC schools is uneven across the city's neighborhoods. (City Paper)

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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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I'm so sick of hearing about broken escalators!! Stairs, people. Stairs don't break down. Can't we have some sort of balance?

by MJ on Jul 28, 2011 8:53 am • linkreport

As important as Oregon Avenue, Broadbranch Road is undergoing evaluation. Adding a bicycle facility to this stretch of NW will open up protected access to Rock Creek Park for thousands of potential bike commuters (and make is much safer for those who already are riding to work):

Comments are due immediately.

by Andrew on Jul 28, 2011 8:55 am • linkreport

Why do you think that 61% figure is high? I think that it's shockingly low. It means that despite making up just a little over 15% of the metro DC population, residents of the urban core contribute as much as 39% of the unpaid traffic tickets! Seems to me the scofflaws aren't the the 85% of metro area resisted that account for 61% of unpaid urban core parking fines.

by scofflaw on Jul 28, 2011 8:55 am • linkreport

It means that despite making up just a little over 15% of the metro DC population, residents of the urban core contribute as much as 39% of the unpaid traffic tickets!

This is an improper comparison. You're comparing the DC population to the population of the entire metro area, but comparing the number of DC tickets for DC residents to the number of DC tickets for everyone. Of course DC residents make up a higher proportion of DC tickets than their percent of the metro population - they are likely driving in DC more. There's a whole chunk of the metro DC population that probably never drives into DC.

by MLD on Jul 28, 2011 9:02 am • linkreport

I wouldn't call it a victim of its own success, but would take a page from ggw's playbook.

They under-priced it, just as ggw states that parking is under-priced. They should not have sold it for below its value. Simple supply and demand.

Somehow under-pricing parking = bad, but under-pricing biking = good?

by Brandon on Jul 28, 2011 9:03 am • linkreport

And actually, if you read the article, only 17% of the tickets are from DC residents, 22% are from states other than DC/MD/VA. Though probably some of those are people who live here but haven't registered their car here.

by MLD on Jul 28, 2011 9:04 am • linkreport

The breakdown for ticket delinquency is as follows:
Maryland - 38%
Virginia - 23%
District - 17%
elsewhere - 22%

by Eric Fidler on Jul 28, 2011 9:05 am • linkreport


If you consider the externalities, then yes, it probably is.

by Andrew on Jul 28, 2011 9:05 am • linkreport

1. Tickets: I've often wondered why DC didn't push for reciprocity in terms of its traffic violations. Many states in the country have them with neighboring states. Heck, you could even structure it so that the state of residence gets to keep half the revenue from the ticket, DC still wins out. I used to live in Philly and would have to pay off any Jersey tickets I had on my record prior to getting new registration for my car.

Which brings me to another point, in the District, you have to get your registration renewed every two years max, and I know they force you to pay off outstanding traffic violations before they will give you a new registration so I am wondering why its so hard to collect from DC residents. They can avoid it for a max of 2 years. Why let them off easy. Just wait them out and when they go to get a new drivers lic, or get a new sticker for their car, they will have to pay.

by freely on Jul 28, 2011 9:12 am • linkreport

I definitely noticed more dockblocking right around the Living Social promotion. But that was also the spring. So the weather night have had something to do with it. Either way, I've definitely noticed an improvement in the last month or so. They seem to have got a handle on the larger demand. And the station expansions are also encouraging.

by TM on Jul 28, 2011 9:22 am • linkreport

I think the station expansions will help. Outside of the downtown core, station availability is largely geographic:

If you live in Dupont/Logan/Mt. P/Columbia Heights, or if you live in Hill East, you pretty much have to grab a bike well before 8:00 in order to guarantee a ride.

If you live in Georgetown/Cleveland Park/Southern Cap Hill, or about 50% of all "residential" stations, the likelihood of empty stations is much lower.

That's partly because many of those neighborhoods have a lower station density (and therefore fewer places to ride nearby), but also because that lower density leads to less competition for people who are interested in commuting.

The combined set of new and expanded stations should help alleviate some of the excess demand at high-use residential stations, but the more reliable the service becomes, the more people will attempt to use it, and I think on some level, there will be surplus demand in certain areas until/unless the system actually reaches a saturation point (stations every two blocks, probably close to 300 stations in DC proper).

Two things that should help the balance (in addition to the new stations) this fall:
-- falling temperatures, may initially boost ridership, but once it gets down to the 40s, we'll likely see a drop.
-- more stations and bikes means more redistribution vehicles. If there are currently 3 vans and 2 other vehicles, then a 50% station increase (34 in DC, 30 in Arlington) should add at least a couple more vans to help with balancing.

If they can get their FY2012 expansion of 40 stations started earlier (like in the spring), that will also help with supply once the seasonal demand picks up.

Whether it was planned or not, I think there was a decision that the Living Social deal, despite potential short-term pain, would boost the demand and ultimately the size and usage of the system.

by Jacques on Jul 28, 2011 9:43 am • linkreport

It is staggering that DC gives law-breakers a break when its own budget has a massive deficit. Makes me wonder if I should ignore my next DC ticket...

by Jasper on Jul 28, 2011 9:47 am • linkreport

There's another implication of the Living Social bikeshare deal. CaBi is going to have to face the music next spring, and decide whether to run the deal again, or risk a potentially large drop in members whose memberships will all expire around the same time. A big drop in numbers would give ammunition to opponents of the system to argue that the system isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

by Rob P on Jul 28, 2011 9:58 am • linkreport

RE: the drop in crime - didn't Freakanomics posit that the legalization of abortion in '73 had a lot to do with it? (And yes, I know that's a highly controversial position; just throwing it out there.)

by Shipsa01 on Jul 28, 2011 10:01 am • linkreport

@ Rob P,

The Living Social deal was advertised as a first year of membership price reduction. Similarly, the first 2000 subscribers to the service got in for 50 bucks our first year (we also got a t-shirt, and an uber-cool black key fob). CaBi can watch the early subscribers to see if there's drop off when we have to roll over at 75 dollars, but I expect that it will be minimal.

It's an interesting issue though, in general. The service automatically rolls over, but I wonder what kind of drop off CaBi will see this fall as people get to their annual subscription date.

by CJ on Jul 28, 2011 10:05 am • linkreport

@CJ, since the Living Social deal applies to both new memberships and renewals, a lot of those early adopters you reference likely purchased a deal to renew when it comes due in the fall. So I don't think CaBi can watch early subscribers to see what they do because a lot of them will be renewing at the deeply discounted price anyway.

by Rob P on Jul 28, 2011 10:12 am • linkreport

It is staggering that DC gives law-breakers a break when its own budget has a massive deficit. Makes me wonder if I should ignore my next DC ticket...
The amnesty is for tickets issued before 2010. The amnesty does not apply to newer tickets because the city claims it has become more efficient at collecting what it's owed. The heat is on!

by Eric Fidler on Jul 28, 2011 10:16 am • linkreport


The article kinda dismisses the idea of legalized abortion producing a drop in crime, explaining that the idea doesn't hold up to much scrutiny, without really discussing why.

by Josh on Jul 28, 2011 10:20 am • linkreport

[Tourmobile] generates a tidy income for the Park Service—a total of $1,660,990 between 2004 and 2008, according to the Park Service’s own calculations.

The Park Service is disgustingly underfunded, but does $400k a year really make it worth it? Something smells fishy in the fake exclusivity here.

by aaa on Jul 28, 2011 10:21 am • linkreport

I thought the article said DC would be offering amnesty on "late fees" for unpaid parking tickets--not the entire ticket.

More Klein quotes *sigh*.

Well I guess a critic of Chicago/Rahm Emanuel could argue that Klein may not be able to be innovative enough or draw in the talent.

Ok, let me stop. His quote really didn't say much. Every boss may/not be able to be innovative enough or draw in the talent. Isn't that one of the realities of running something?

The article about student exits is interesting. Students living in foreclosed buildings leave the school system and most of the disruption is largely concentrated EOTR - namely Ward 8.

by HogWash on Jul 28, 2011 10:32 am • linkreport


I had the same reaction. A "tidy sum" of $400K per year? That seems more like a tiny sum to me.

How much does the Trust for the National Mall give out every year?

by MLD on Jul 28, 2011 10:37 am • linkreport

@aaa - according to the Tourmobile website, they serve more than 2 million customers per year. Figuring that half the tickets are sold to adults and half to children, for an average ticket price of $24, that revenue is in the range of $5 million per year. Meaning that NPS is getting approximately 1% of the revenues.

Another way to look at it is that if Tourmobile serves more than 2 million customers per year, NPS is seeing 20 cents per rider, out of the $32 (adult) or $16 (child) ticket price.

by Jacques on Jul 28, 2011 10:42 am • linkreport

despite the headline, the Washington Times article was surpsingly positive concerning bikeshare, its impact, and future. odd.

by cmc on Jul 28, 2011 10:45 am • linkreport


True, that just seems odd. I wonder what magnificent sum the Jefferson Memorial paddle-boat concession clears in a year.

by oboe on Jul 28, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

Jacques -- I'm not a contract expert but 1% seems low. In other national parks, the NPS concession fee has been stamped on my receipt and it was usually much higher. Hmmmmm.

Some interesting reading here:

by aaa on Jul 28, 2011 10:59 am • linkreport

The breakdown for ticket delinquency is as follows:
Maryland - 38%

Figures that MD is the highest. I'd wager they are the top of the moving violations as well. People in that state are by far the worst drivers in the region.

by Martin McDonnell on Jul 28, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport


D.C. is part of an interstate compact that enforces ticket across jurisdictions; however, this applies primarily to moving offenses, not parking tickets. New Jersey and Pennsylvania may have their own reciprocal system to deal with parking tickets, but it seems like Pennsylvania (or, at least, NJ drivers coming in to Philly) would be the main beneficiary of such an agreement.

In any event, the District doesn't need to come up with a legislative patchwork to enforce parking tickets; bill collectors are much more effective. If they don't work, the District should get a court judgment for the larger violators which would then appear on people's credit reports.

by Adam L on Jul 28, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

thanks for mentioning the paddleboat concession on the Tidal Basin as well. It's another relic of the 1970s or earlier, and should be kicked to the curb as well. Kayak and canoe rentals would be better, or they could have a design comppetition for a more unique style of boat specifically for DC (such as the swan boats in Boston or gondolas in Venice). Those slow, generic blue paddleboats are a bore.

by MrTinDC on Jul 28, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

@MrTinDC The paddleboats could just be decorated, maybe as U.S. Navy battleships. That's what might happen if someone actually had to compete for that concession -- come up with ideas to keep it fresh.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jul 28, 2011 11:39 am • linkreport

freely, the anticipation is killing me. What is 2.?

by David C on Jul 28, 2011 12:05 pm • linkreport

@Rob P, I don't think CaBi will see any massive drop off. I think most users are easily able to absorb the extra $40 a year in costs. Brandon is right, it's underpriced. I have yet to have met the person who thinks it's worth $35, but not $75.

A big drop in numbers would give ammunition to opponents of the system to argue that the system isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

And increasing membership, which I'm confident you'll see through the end of 2012, should silence them (but it won't).

by David C on Jul 28, 2011 12:09 pm • linkreport

What would be even better would be if the Potomac were clean enough to allow recreational swimming in the Tidal Basin like they did in the early 20th century.

by TM on Jul 28, 2011 12:10 pm • linkreport

What would be even better would be if the Potomac were clean enough to allow recreational swimming in the Tidal Basin like they did in the early 20th century.
Why, people went swimming there as recently as 1974!

by eck on Jul 28, 2011 4:04 pm • linkreport

@eck @TM People swam in the potomac as recently as last month:

by Tina on Jul 28, 2011 4:15 pm • linkreport

Amen, to the story about allowing for more accessory dwellings. It would lower overall housing costs and completely separate facilities (including a new kitchen with a real stove and fridge) could reduce housing costs without having to pack people in like a frathouse. (Not really a tenable option when you're getting married)

by Canaan on Jul 28, 2011 11:28 pm • linkreport

I work near Bethesda's fake downtown. I got tired of the RMA shuttle buses that were being used in place of the defunct trolleys, so I really appreciate the new vehicles.

by DC Bus Rider on Jul 29, 2011 2:22 pm • linkreport

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