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Weekend links: Not that easy being green

Photo by Steve and Sara on Flickr.
Anacostia to get green help: EPA is partnering with the District to green Anacostia's streets, intersections, and public spaces. (TBD) ... However, building housing on vacant land at the Anacostia Metro might be the most effective green measure. (City Paper)

VMT tax programs run out of fuel: Even in environmentally conscious places as Oregon and the Netherlands, taxing by mileage is politically impossible even though current US gas and car taxes come nowhere near covering the cost of roads. (NYT)

States want mega-highway locals oppose: The I-5 bridge between Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA, needs renovation. Both states' highway departments want a $3.2-billion mega-bridge that many local residents strongly oppose. (Streetsblog)

Vote for a Farragut transfer name: Metro has selected 5 names for the out-of-system transfer between the Farraguts: "Free Transfer," "Surface Transfer," "Farragut Connect," "Farragut Exchange" and "Farragut Crossing". Vote for your favorite. (DCist)

Zipcar loses street parking: DC has finished auctioning off street spaces to car sharing companies. Zipcar will lose 80% of its existing street spaces, many of which will likely be replaced on nearby private property. (TBD)

Gentrification is nothing new: An old waterfront industrial area in DC sees new apartments and office buildings replace industrial uses. Sound like the Navy Yard? It's actually Foggy Bottom in the years following WWII. (DCentric)

NYC deploys bollards, poles, and rocks: Some NYPD precincts are notorious for parking their cars on sidewalks with impunity. To stop this, the city had to install 13 obstacles at one intersection alone. (Streetsblog)

Municipalities face bankruptcy too: Jefferson County, AL, is nearing bankruptcy largely due to debt incurred over rebuilding its sewers. Meanwhile, bankrupt Central Falls, RI, is cutting pension payments by as much as 50%. (NYT)

Buy America, hurt America: Protectionist "Buy America" provisions raise the cost of Amtrak locomotives by 30%. Does protecting a few domestic jobs from competition outweigh the public interest in buying more infrastructure? (Think Progress)

And...: The ban on bikes in Black Hawk, CO, goes to the state supreme court. (Streetsblog) ... Montréal, which experienced an infrastructure boom 40 years ago, finds its highways crumbling fast. (Globe & Mail) ... Curbside parking looks much better when compared to the alternatives. (NUN)

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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 will admit to not reading the linked train article, on the account of its author, but isn't the problem not buy american but FRA regulations in jacking up the price of Amtrak trains?

by charlie on Aug 13, 2011 1:37 pm • linkreport

It would be nice to have a smaller DC government so that they are not consistently trying to find new and creative ways to suck more money from job creating companies. If programs like zipcar don't have to pay as much for parking they can expand. The auction of parking spaces takes money out of the pocket of car sharing programs and reallocates to wasteful government programs. This tax should have been avoided.

Instead, the city should have increased the number of parking spaces available for other car sharing companies at the same rate as zipcar was paying before the auction. This would have increased competition for car sharing and helped to drive down rates for everyone making the program available to more people. Instead by auctioning the parking at such high rates, you will still get competition but it places a much higher floor on how low car sharing rates can go since the rates the car sharing companies charge will have to take into account the sky high parking fees. I'm disappointed that DC government doesn't see how beneficial caring sharing is for the community.

I hate to say it (really!) but this is one more way in which the Gray administration is short sighted compared to the previous administration.

by Jim on Aug 13, 2011 1:57 pm • linkreport

@Jim'it places a much higher floor on how low car sharing rates can go since the rates the car sharing companies charge will have to take into account the sky high parking fees.

How is this any different from the principles behind performance parking? ... i.e., that all costs need to be factored into the price of one's choice of transportation if the market is to keep it 'in check'.

by Lance on Aug 13, 2011 2:54 pm • linkreport

As development policy gentrification is a best on the borderline in terms of being ethical. And in many places in DC is built upon unethical behavior. Efforts to gloss this over are unwise, better to face these challenges head on than to cover them up by rewriting history.

by W Jordan on Aug 13, 2011 4:20 pm • linkreport

Gentrification is nothing new: An old waterfront industrial area in DC sees new apartments and office buildings replace industrial uses.

As usually utilized around here, 'gentrification' has to do with the evolution of a neighborhood (or part of town) from working class (or unemployed class) to upper class (or 'gentry'). I.e., Taking an industrial area and transforming it into a high-class residential area isn't 'gentrification'.

by Lance on Aug 14, 2011 12:05 am • linkreport


I should have been clearer. Foggy Bottom was an industrial area and a residential neighborhood, too. The article states, "Most Foggy Bottom residents lived in abject poverty, according to a 1944 Washington Housing Association survey. Over half of the population shared or had no bathing and toilet facilities, a quarter had no running water and one-fifth had no electricity."

by Eric Fidler on Aug 14, 2011 2:25 am • linkreport

Under current human rights laws that act could be considered ethnic cleansing. Bulldozing the area did not resolve the poverty issue, but led to large public housing project. Even under Lance's definition, his definition is not the type of gentrification we are primarily experiencing/ed in NW DC. Instead was driven by easy money from Wall Street via the bubble which we know now create by unethical even criminal means, highly speculative developers and unethical behavior at the government level. Up rooting 10s of thousands of people in a few years is social dynamite and should not be taken lightly.

by W Jordan on Aug 14, 2011 7:31 am • linkreport

Rekening rijden, as the VMT is called in the Netherlands will never get there. NOt because it's a new tax, because the very high gas tax is pretty much a result of popular demand, when the question was: How do you want to pay for roads? Gas or road tax?

The problem with the VMT is that people are worried about their privacy. Nobody wants the government tracking their movements, however much the government and technology companies ensure that won't happen. Of course it will.

The reason why the idea keeps coming back is that the lefties in the Netherlands like the idea of taxing by the mile kilometer. Which is not a bad idea. However, it can't be done without surrendering privacy and the Dutch simply won't.

by Jasper on Aug 14, 2011 10:04 am • linkreport

Taxing by the mile/km is a great idea. Implementing it is nigh on impossible. That is a level of privacy I could not imagine anyone giving up.

Companies... I can see it occuring for vehicle traffic... but would that then exempt companies from the gas tax, or not?

by greent on Aug 14, 2011 11:33 am • linkreport

@ greent:That is a level of privacy I could not imagine anyone giving up.

That's the whole thing. Politicians campaign with nice slogans motivating the VMT, but nobody wants a bill that specifies where you have been when.

One thing that that article does not state is that one of the key elements of the Dutch VMT would be that pricing would vary based on time and location. During rush hour, driving would be more expensive, especially in bottle necks. Problem is, all of the country is a bottle neck at rush hour. Totals of 200-300 miles of combined traffic jams are normal during rush hour. In a country that is a twice the size of NJ.

This site give traffic info based on GPS tracking. Just look at the numbers. Rush hour there is midnight-3am and 10am-1pm here.

by Jasper on Aug 14, 2011 12:38 pm • linkreport


Not as impossible as you might think...except to pass a tax in this congress, however... All you need to do is dumb it down a little. Make the states collect it by an annual odometer check. Most states have a vehicle inspection or emissions inspection ever year or 2, just gather the info there. Sure you will have to place stiff on odometer tampering, but technically mileage monitoring it is rather simple and not that invasive.

by rj on Aug 14, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

@Eric, thanks for the clarification. Admittedly, I didn't read the underlying article ... just your headline.

by Lance on Aug 14, 2011 12:48 pm • linkreport

@Jasper, However, it can't be done without surrendering privacy and the Dutch simply won't.

Nice thought, but not true. Not true for the Dutch and not true for the Americans. Cell phones are the best tracking devices there are. Not to speak of cameras in the public space ... such as the thousands of which already exist in Washington alone ... Permitting facial recognition and other new technologies. We all long ago gave up this level of privacy. Maybe we just don't realize it?

by Lance on Aug 14, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

@rj:collect it by an annual odometer check

Odometers are notoriously easy to roll back. Kits to do that would sell better than donuts and coffee.

Also, odometer does not allow for taxation based on time and location. I.e. you can not tax extra for rising during rush hour, like on the metro.

If you want to tax for mileage, it's much, much easier done through a gas tax. Which is why gas taxes are so high in Europe in any developed country other than the US.

Gas taxation also gives an incentive to ride fuel efficient cars.

@ Lance:
We all long ago gave up this level of privacy.

Not in the Netherlands to the extend of the US. In the Netherlands, anybody holding personal information as simple as customer data needs to report that to the national privacy authority and subject to its rules. Thanks to this system ID fraud does not exist in the Netherlands. They only ID fraud that exists there is true false and stolen ID documents.

Maybe we just don't realize it?

That does not matter. It's perception that counts, not reality. Secondly, even if the government knows, do you want your partner to know? Do you want to answer the question what you were doing riding around that night you said you were working late?

Not gonna happen.

by Jasper on Aug 14, 2011 8:58 pm • linkreport

It will be interesing to see what DC got per space for those spaces. Folks here were claiming that there would be no way that the spaces would go for anything near the $3,600/yr being discussed.

by freely on Aug 15, 2011 8:52 am • linkreport

@Jasper, yeah, I've been stuck in a dutch traffic jam once. It was awful.

@Lance: a) that would be a reason why some do not buy smart phones. b) yes, perception matters... but it's more the growing despication americans have for government. Silly americans will gladly hand google/FB all their information, they will "check in" at all their favorite locations and post that online. But if that info is tracked by the govt... hell would be paid.

@rj: Jasper covered anythin I would say in response.

Really, it would be the best way to tax those who use the resource. But implementing it... Americans still freak over the full body scans... does anyone think americans would not go apecrazy over teh govt tracking their every move?

Or will we just wait until GenYners are in charge... will the "there is no such thing as privacy" generation hand over this info...

by greent on Aug 15, 2011 9:58 am • linkreport

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