Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Where can we live?


Photo by stgermh on Flickr.
No place for homeless shelter: Residents of Anacostia are protesting a women's shelter on Good Hope Road. Community leaders says there are already too many social service organizations and the shelter would hurt economic development. (City Paper)

Wealthy but still segregated: A new study shows affluent minorities live in poorer neighborhoods than middle class white residents. The bad housing market has reshaped many neighborhoods but minority neighborhoods continue to lack some of the same amenities as white neighborhoods. (Post)

Philly makes redistricting tool: An organization in Philadelphia created a redistricting tool for residents to draw their own maps. Makers of the best ones will win $1,000 and present them to the city council. (newsworks, @eclisham)

Are intercity buses hurting Amtrak?: Intercity buses are growing in popularity and are diverting passengers from rail more than cars. Many routes serve cities Amtrak doesn't, but Amtrak may not be suffering. (Transportation Nation)

Possible makeover for L'Enfant Plaza: Developer JBG is planning to renovate the retail corridor at L'Enfant Plaza with new restaurants, a hotel and office space. The plans will also improve lighting and pedestrian design, but could end up just serving workday crowds. (Post)

Future of Dream Act uncertain: A Maryland group is challenging a petition that overturned the state's Dream Act, claiming a bulk of the signatures are fraudulent. The petition puts the bill on the ballot for the 2012 election. (NBC Washington)

Traffic enforcement on two wheels: DDOT is putting traffic control officers on bikes to help enforce traffic laws and improve traffic flow. The officers could help crack down on blocked bike lanes and cyclist harassment. (WABA)

And...: Peaceaholics co-founder is challenging Marion Barry in the 2012 election. (City Paper) ... Fairfax county firefighters appear to be using the take-home car fleet for non-emergency trips, contrary to rules, (WUSA9) ... This is one way to enforce no parking in bike lanesa tank. ... (YouTube, @lydiadepillis) ... DoD will subsidize fares for a bus route serving the Mark Center. (Examiner)

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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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I rode the East Capitol St Bike Lane from 2nd St to 11th St yesterday, and had to swerve around 3 parked cars, 1 delivery truck, and a Segway.

Time to start writing tickets for these folks. It wouldn't be OK to park your car in a travel lane, and it's not OK to do the same in a travel lane intended for other vehicles.

by andrew on Aug 2, 2011 8:50 am • linkreport

Definitely not a tank. I believe it's a BTR. Either way, don't park your car where it wants to go.

by thump on Aug 2, 2011 8:59 am • linkreport

I think the link for the Buses hurting Amtrak is wrong. It is instead bringing up an article about redistricting in Philly.

by OhioExile on Aug 2, 2011 9:04 am • linkreport

OhioExile: Fixed it, thanks!

by David Alpert on Aug 2, 2011 9:09 am • linkreport

If only my bike were as big and heavy as a tank (well, it would be impossible to pedal) this would be a very satisfying way to deal with autos in bike lanes. I suppose I'd need some kind of sci-fi laser automobile vaporizer for when people leave their autos in sidewalks and crosswalks.

Honestly, though, I don't see much value in this except for a bit of catharsis for frustrated cyclists. I'm pretty sure there aren't any cities that actually make a policy of permitting tanks in bike lanes for the purpose of squashing errant autos: it doesn't exactly promote lawful activity, and probably promotes antagonism between cyclists and motorists.

by Lucre on Aug 2, 2011 9:12 am • linkreport

You may be right, Lucre about the antagonism. But at the same time, it promotes awareness. You have to get people's attention somehow. At least someone is trying to get the word out. In DC, we don't even try. Of all the links like this posted on GGW, how many are DC-made?

by Jazzy on Aug 2, 2011 9:24 am • linkreport

@Andrew

Segways are allowed to ride in bike lanes

by TGEOA on Aug 2, 2011 9:26 am • linkreport

Andrew's experience demonstrates why bike lanes are a bad deal, not only for regular people, but also for bicyclists.

The bicycling fanatics at DDOT have tried to take away space that belongs to motorists. This makes bicyclists believe they can ride in those so-called bicycle lanes, but the truth of the matter is that motorists ignore DDOT, and until bicyclists learn to get out of the roadway, they're going to be hit by cars. It gives me no pleasure to say this, but it's true: the vast majority of drivers will break the laws protecting bicyclists, and as a result bicyclists will die.

It would be a wise use of our increasingly-scarce transportation dollars to turn some of those bicycle lanes back into real lanes. Not only would this improve traffic flow, It would send a message to scofflaw bicyclists that breaking traffic laws isn't rewarded, while rewarding the vast majority of motorists who follow all the rules.

by Fake Lance on Aug 2, 2011 9:32 am • linkreport

Here's the No Parking - Tank video with English translation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-fWN0FmcIU

by EthanS on Aug 2, 2011 9:34 am • linkreport

I'm a frequent cyclist, and while having a bike lane blocked is annoying, I'm not sure how I feel about policing it. To use the example provided by Andrew, imagine you are riding down East Capitol Street and there is a car blocking the bike lane. Are we saying the car should have stopped in the car traffic lane, thus leaving the bike lane open? Or that the car shouldn't be able to stop anywhere on the road? The latter option seems unreasonable; the first option seems unsafe for cyclists. Passing a car on the right is a terrible idea for cyclists, even if you are in a bike line. I would probably still move out of the bike lane and around the parked car.

by MJ on Aug 2, 2011 9:46 am • linkreport

@amtrak/buses

I wouldn't be surprised if Amtrak is losing money on it's most popular route, DC to NYC. There are so many buses at so many different times that go straight into Manhattan all at prices cheaper than Amtrak. Throw in Wi-Fi and a bathroom (megabus and bolt-bus) and Amtrak has to do a lot more than get me there an hour faster for the price it wants to charge. If i'm looking for speed (and don't have any bags), I would probably take a plane.

by cmc on Aug 2, 2011 9:47 am • linkreport

I guess nobody here has seen a truck double parked in a traffic lane. It's pretty rare. The police almost always ticket it.

@Cmc; I think the last financial statement I saw shows a small profit on the DC-NYC-Boston (aclea). Not sure if you can break that down further into just DC-NYC. I think the buses have accelerated the push for Amtrak to keep their prices up -- there is no way for the compete on the lower end.

by charlie on Aug 2, 2011 10:00 am • linkreport

The second link (Wealthy but still segregated) goes back to GGW rather than the Post

by MW on Aug 2, 2011 10:01 am • linkreport

The "Wealthy but still segregated" link is broken.

by JustMe on Aug 2, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

Fixed.

by David Alpert on Aug 2, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

Assuming that post is right about buses taking market share away from Amtrak, I'm not sure that it's a bad thing. It's cheaper for the customers, it's more flexible for the carrier (imagine if DC told Amtrak it had to change its terminal three times in one year) and it's still more environmentally friendly than alternatives like driving and flying.

by Tim on Aug 2, 2011 10:06 am • linkreport

@CMC, yes amtrak is waaaaaay too expensive and the mega/bolt are the much better option.

Re: Marion Barry challenger...Silly season in politics has just begun.

@Anacostiashelter: Lydia Phillips further hurts the "progressive/urbanist" cause by labeling those who don't want another shelter (14ksq ft) in Ward 8, especially where this one is going to be located, as NIMBY's.

Not cool. Not cool at all but expected from her.

by HogWash on Aug 2, 2011 10:07 am • linkreport

Re: Amtrak profits

According to a Pew study from a couple years back: "The Northeast Corridor has the highest passenger volume of any Amtrak route, carrying nearly 10.9 million people in 2008. The corridor's high-speed Acela Express made a profit of about $41 per passenger. But the more heavily utilized Northeast Regional, with more than twice as many riders as the Acela, lost almost $5 per passenger." (http://subsidyscope.org/transportation/direct-expenditures/amtrak/analysis/)

Acela, I think, will always have a market base, as long as there are businesses and people with expense accounts. For downtown-to-downtown service, it's much more comfortable, and arguably faster, than flying between NYC-DC, and certainly more convenient for trips to Philly.

The regional service on the NE Corridor seems to do plenty of business to get by, (at a subsidy of $5 per seat, it might be Amtrak's second-most successful line). Though I think that many of the passengers on Bolt/Mega/other buses, are typically taking advantage of a cheap option and taking more trips to NYC than they otherwise would (rather than making a lot of 1-for-1 substitutions of bus for train).

One thing that I've been impressed by is Megabus's expansion to all of the non-NE Corridor cities. In the last few months, I've taken Megabus to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Providence, all of which replaced a car trip, and for two passengers, did so at a lower price.

by Jacques on Aug 2, 2011 10:15 am • linkreport

Thanks. The article on affluent African Americans more or less answers its own question but only does so by getting a quote from the head of the PG County NAACP: “As a whole, African Americans don’t want to move from Prince George’s. We don’t want to go through the hassle of going to another community.” The writers don't make any effort to "own" this quote by actually talking to local affluent residents of EOTR neighborhoods and poorer areas of Prince George's County to confirm it, but this is pretty much my take on things. While the first thing my family did when they had enough money was move the heck out of their poor ethnic neighborhoods, DC seems to have a lot of middle class and upper middle class people who decided to keep their homes in poor neighborhoods over the long term, because DC residents seem to be very attached to their local communities.

by JustMe on Aug 2, 2011 10:18 am • linkreport

Despite the competition from Megabus and Boltbus, Amtrak's ridership numbers are up for all their corridor services across the US for the first 9 months of the FY. Amtrak is on track (ahem) to easily break their FY10 ridership record with over 30 million passengers for FY11. This despite severe disruptions the past several months for the western long distance and some mid-Western corridor trains due to the extensive flooding shutting down freight tracks for weeks at a time. The Acela is making a tidy profit (above the rails), the Northeast Regionals are just about breaking even and should move into the black if the NE Regionals can sustain their recent 8% to 10% ridership growth.

Megabus and Boltbus may be drawing some business from Amtrak, but it is not showing up as fewer riders for Amtrak. The bus services and Amtrak have to be both getting new riders who otherwise might have driven a car due to high gas prices. High fuel costs (and the TSA) are hurting shorter distance airline travel as well with people taking trains and buses instead where they can.

I wonder about the long term sustainability of the really low prices for Megabus and Boltbus. How much of it is low overhead due to new hires with low salaries, new buses with deferred acquisition costs, fuel hedge contracts to lock in lower gas prices for a time, and loss leading low prices to capture market share? Would be interesting to see a breakdown of the costs and revenues for a DC to NYC curb side bus.

by AlanF on Aug 2, 2011 10:20 am • linkreport

The Amtrak trains and buses don't really compete with each other. Business travel demand eats up the tickets for both the Acela and NE regional services. Amtrak has no problems selling seats. The buses coexist with Amtrak just fine for now.

by Cavan on Aug 2, 2011 10:23 am • linkreport

The market base of business people with expense accounts primarily riding Amtrak is not exactly sustainable, and further, is this the role that we want Amtrak to fill in our transportation system? I would say no.

Since I follow a lot of technology issue, the Amtrak vs. bus issue seems quite similar to the issue of Blackberry vs. iPhone. The assumption was that Blackberry would always have a thriving market base so long as it markets its products and services to enterprise systems, business people with expense accounts, and the like... whereas iPhone was considered the everyman alternative. But Blackberry has steadily been losing market share every month for the last several years. A smartphone market that was once dominated by Blackberry is now dominated by iPhone and Android (which cropped up in a direct response to the iPhone, not the Blackberry). This is because the market for business people with expense accounts is ultimately finite, and is highly dependent on the strength of the business economy and the perceived value and security that the system provides. There are also a lot of companies now switching over to iPhone because it is less expensive to maintain, more user friendly, and importantly, more current. Unfortunately I see Amtrak headed in this direction as well, as not only more 'regular' people, but also more businesspeople, consider intercity buses for transportation instead of trains.

by Scoot on Aug 2, 2011 10:28 am • linkreport

T-nation might be right about busses stealing customers from Amtrak for short hauls (DC to Baltimore, Philly), but a lot of people who spend $1-$30 to take Bolt/Megabus to New York probably weren't originally planning to spend $50-$200 on Amtrak's NER/Acela.

Both systems can benefit from a renewed demand for intercity travel. But right now the bus lines also benefit from EXISTING rail infrastructure, while not contributing anything to help rail travel.

From the report:
"Another key difference between the curbside carriers
and traditional bus lines is the absence of ticket counters...and waiting rooms at departure locations."

This holds true for curbside v. rail. Bolt/Mega make use of existing transit hubs (major Penn line stations with intracity subway/bus connections) for their business. If Amtrak is concerned about mooching, they should lobby city governments to ban curbside pickup and require Bolt/Mega to operate from--and pay licensing fees to--train stations. Bolt tickets might go up a little, but they'd subsidize Amtrak fixed/operational costs. Hopefully that could lower rail prices in turn and spur more interest in rail without damaging bus business (bus-iness?).

by Ronald on Aug 2, 2011 10:40 am • linkreport

"T-nation might be right about busses stealing customers from Amtrak for short hauls (DC to Baltimore, Philly), but a lot of people who spend $1-$30 to take Bolt/Megabus to New York probably weren't originally planning to spend $50-$200 on Amtrak's NER/Acela."

Yeah. Pretty much I take the bus for leisure travel, and Amtrak for business travel. Most people I know do the same thing.

by Phil on Aug 2, 2011 10:42 am • linkreport

"One thing that I've been impressed by is Megabus's expansion to all of the non-NE Corridor cities. In the last few months, I've taken Megabus to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Providence, all of which replaced a car trip, and for two passengers, did so at a lower price."

It's plausible that the availability of intercity non-car transit in places that Amtrak doesn't serve (or no longer serves)access will create the initial demand by car non-dependent urban residents to justify Amtrak investement/reintroduction.

by Ronald on Aug 2, 2011 11:00 am • linkreport

Please tell me people understand the armored personnel carrier running over the Mercedes in the bike lane was a gov't publicity stunt...

And the City Paper's spin on the latest shelter planned for Ward 8 is pretty lame. How does it make any sense to locate a women's shelter in the middle of a commercial corridor that local residents and businesses are desperately trying to revitalize? Does the City Paper know about DC laws applicable to the number of such shelters and community facilities that can be located near one another to prevent the warehousing of the poor? Or is it just way easier to write a snarky article about NIMBYs without doing additional research?

by Fritz on Aug 2, 2011 11:04 am • linkreport

"It's plausible that the availability of intercity non-car transit in places that Amtrak doesn't serve (or no longer serves)access will create the initial demand by car non-dependent urban residents to justify Amtrak investement/reintroduction."

All of the cities mentioned in that post have decent Amtrak service. Providence is even on the NEC. Personally, I would drive for all of those trips, because once you're there you are stuck in an auto-dependent environment and it kind of sucks having the people you're visiting driving you everywhere.

by Phil on Aug 2, 2011 11:04 am • linkreport

@Phil -- in my trips, the bus made a lot of sense, as I was meeting up with my wife, who had been at a conference at Carlisle for the week (w/ our car). The other two were visiting family in Pittsburgh and Providence, where we had borrowable cars.

Two roundtrip Megabus tickets to Pittsburgh: $50 total. Cost of driving, $65 in gas plus about $15 in tolls on the PA turnpike. The Providence trip was even more cost effective, as 2 roundtrip tickets ran about $120 total, while driving would have cost $140 in gas plus $35 or so in tolls, not to mention the wear and tear of putting 1,000 miles on the car.

I'm not sure how much the buses themselves will create demand for non-car dependent intercity travel, but I do think that rising gas prices have been, and will continue to bump the demand for non-car alternatives. And with moves such as ethanol subsidy cuts likely coming as part of debt reduction, I think those prices will continue to rise sooner rather than later.

by Jacques on Aug 2, 2011 11:16 am • linkreport

I wonder if Calvary would consider renting the ground floor of the building to a business. If they could get a market-rate one, it would subsidize their expenses, or they could charge below-market rent in exchange for a promise to employ a couple of their clients.

Mixed-use would allow for continued economic development/a livelier street life, and create more population density in the area.

by Stacy on Aug 2, 2011 11:20 am • linkreport

Actually, many of the northeastern discount bus routes cost less to ride than the equivalent tolls along that same route.

It's one of the few non-car alternatives that is literally and unquestionably cheaper than driving.

It's also a direct route, so not horribly inconvenient either if you're going from city center to city center.

We also need more Amtrak service on the NEC, and cheaper Amtrak service on the NEC. The proposal to build a second rail corridor from DC to NYC was a good one -- the demand's there for it.

by andrew on Aug 2, 2011 11:20 am • linkreport

@Phil

From the report:
"The high rate of traffic diversion from trains in the East is partially a function of the enormous scale of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor... This is not the case in the Midwest, where the Chicago to [Cincinnati, Columbus,
and Des Moines] have less-than-daily train service or no service at all. In the Chicago to Cleveland and Memphis markets, Amtrak passengers must accept arrivals or departures between...midnight and 6 a.m."

by Ronald on Aug 2, 2011 11:21 am • linkreport

...er, posted too quickly.

A lot of the Midwest cities HAVE Amtrak, but not necessarily Amtrak service to the same cities that the busses serve. Some cities can take train to two big cities, but can take these busses to 20 destinations.

by Ronald on Aug 2, 2011 11:22 am • linkreport

If you have access to a car at your destination or are willing to rent, then sure, it makes sense to take the bus. Although for me personally, the slight cost premium of driving is worth it to avoid the drawbacks of Megabus. I get good fuel economy, and highway miles are easy on cars so any depreciation is fairly minor.

In fact, if you mainly drive in the city, it is good for your car to go on a long roadtrip from time to time. With stop-start city driving, things build up in your engine over time, and a long roadtrip has a cleansing effect similar to a self-cleaning cycle on an oven.

by Phil on Aug 2, 2011 11:26 am • linkreport

re: Amtrak/Bolt

With the new bus terminal going into Union Station what competition there is will get worse for Amtrak. There really isn't much direct competition though. Everyone who cares about cost takes the bus while everyone who has expense accounts takes Amtrak.

And this is Amtrak's biggest failure. It is not competitive at all price-wise except against the air shuttles. With it's huge subsidies it should be competitive against buses too. It's not.

by Tom Coumaris on Aug 2, 2011 12:01 pm • linkreport

If you have access to a car at your destination or are willing to rent, then sure, it makes sense to take the bus

Or if you have no need for a car at your destination. I take the bus from DC to NYC regularly and took the bus regularly between NYC and Boston. The expense of driving-- tolls as well as gas-- along with the hassle makes the bus ultra competitive.

If the distances are long, then it becomes worthwhile to fly, in which case you have a rent a car, anyway.

I'd prefer to take the train, but it's not worth the money.

by Tyro on Aug 2, 2011 12:02 pm • linkreport

@Anacostiashelter: Lydia Phillips further hurts the "progressive/urbanist" cause by labeling those who don't want another shelter (14ksq ft) in Ward 8, especially where this one is going to be located, as NIMBY's.

I agree that Ward 8 has way too many of these types of services. Also Ward 6. In fact, it's only a short leap of logic from there to the position that all the wards of DC do too much. Which is why the suburbs should step up and provide the same level of service that the District does. And why DC should pursue policies to encourage that.

by oboe on Aug 2, 2011 12:25 pm • linkreport

"The market base of business people with expense accounts primarily riding Amtrak is not exactly sustainable, and further, is this the role that we want Amtrak to fill in our transportation system? I would say no. "

Why is that the wrong role for the NEC trains? If it takes passengers from Air/auto, thus lowering associated externalities and relieving congestion in those modes, why does it matter what the incomes/travel purposes are? Sustainability is a different question - you think all business travel will end because of teleconferencing? Or that TSA will find a way to make air travel easier?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 2, 2011 12:31 pm • linkreport

"And this is Amtrak's biggest failure. It is not competitive at all price-wise except against the air shuttles. With it's huge subsidies it should be competitive against buses too. It's not."

The huge subsidies mainly go to the routes outside the NEC, where the economics are very different.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 2, 2011 12:33 pm • linkreport

@Fritz I for one did get that - or at least strongly suspected it.

by Lucre on Aug 2, 2011 1:06 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, The market base of business people with expense accounts primarily riding Amtrak is not exactly sustainable

Why isn't it?

by Miriam on Aug 2, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

Newsflash: people of certain cultural backgrounds like to live amongst their fellow cultural adherents. Is it racism? Depends on if you ask a politician or the average person making the decision. Is it government encouraged racism? Absolutely not. Wealthy blacks and hispanics have no barriers to moving into established /wealthy/ neighborhoods where land values are (historically) more stable. Did they do that? No, they made a decision that cultural priorities were more important than asset risk.

Does it require a political intervention and the requisite transfer of wealth via tax policy? No. It was a decision that didn't work out for the best but it wasn't forced on anyone.

Maybe the wealthy of every culture should reconsider self-segregation when it impacts their primary wealth asset.

by ahk on Aug 2, 2011 2:36 pm • linkreport

@Ronald: "If Amtrak is concerned about mooching, they should lobby city governments to ban curbside pickup and require Bolt/Mega to operate from--and pay licensing fees to--train stations. Bolt tickets might go up a little, but they'd subsidize Amtrak fixed/operational costs. Hopefully that could lower rail prices in turn and spur more interest in rail without damaging bus business (bus-iness?)."

AMTRAK has been mooching - so to speak - for four decades, with taxpayer subsidies keeping them afloat. Personally, I have no problem with that. But the intercity bus services are providing transportation from stops that are safer and more convenient (like Dupont) that ones favored by some bureaucrats (like L'Enfant late at night). Let the people and the market decide.

And, Ronald, if you haven't noticed that every time local governments get involved in transportation regulation (like taxi medallions), you are encouraging mischief, shakedowns, and the like. The public is damned when this stuff happens.

by Mike S. on Aug 2, 2011 2:47 pm • linkreport

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is what is for me the deciding intangible for taking Amtrak over the bus, even when not for work: taking the bus is a miserable experience. Cramped seating, interminable traffic, poor climate control, and unreliable schedules make it a really degrading experience. I could never afford to take the Acela, but going to NYC in a bus is more punishment than vacation. I can see some of the other short destinations where there are no options (though my same objections still apply), but not to New York or other eastern corridor locations. I'd rather stay at home.

by Joe on Aug 2, 2011 3:25 pm • linkreport

taking the bus is a miserable experience. Cramped seating, interminable traffic, poor climate control, and unreliable schedules make it a really degrading experience.

Actually, Bolt Bus is quite nice. Megabus runs a relatively distant second, but is still a pleasant experience, not counting traffic jams, which are equally as problematic with driving your own car.

Yes, the train is better, but it's not $50-$100 better, which is how much more money a trip costs on the train, each way.

by JustMe on Aug 2, 2011 3:31 pm • linkreport

As always discussed with Amtrak: it has not been mooching off the govt. It IS the govt.

and, if Amtrak were a business like BoltBus, there would be zero trains outside of the NEC. All right, there MIGHT be a few trains on teh West Coast. But the NEC is where the money is. It would all be NEC.

by greent on Aug 2, 2011 3:32 pm • linkreport

@Joe, you must haven't taken the Bolt or MegaBus. Neither of the criticisms you mentioned have been the norm.

by HogWash on Aug 2, 2011 4:05 pm • linkreport

Someone needs to buy the DDOT traffic control officers some Schwalbe Marathons or other reasonable tires for biking in the city. Knobby tires in the city makes no sense at all.

And I don't see any lights on those bikes - will they be riding after dark? I believe the law is you have to have a bell, and you have to have lights after dark. If anyone's bike should be technically street-legal and sensible, it should be the actual DDOT traffic control officers' vehicles.

by Lee on Aug 3, 2011 9:44 am • linkreport

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