Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: The earth moved


Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.
Welcome to the seismic zone: Did you know there was a Central Virginia Seismic Zone? Ever heard of Mineral, Virginia? Now you do, after Virginia's largest earthquake since 1897. (Post)

What's damaged: The Washington Monument's top developed some cracks. 3 finials fell off the National Cathedral and some spires are significantly damaged. Pieces also fell from St. Peter's on Capitol Hill, the Ecuadorian chancery, and the ceiling of Union Station. (Examiner, City Paper, Atlantic, Flickr, WAMU, AP)

What's closed: DC public schools are closed to inspect buildings; 2 students suffered minor injuries in the quake. (WAMU) ... Schools are also closed in Prince George's, Fauquier, Culpeper and Spotsylvania counties. A few federal buildings are closed and federal workers can take unscheduled leave or telework. (Post)

Transportation bounces back: After running at 15 mph yesterday while workers inspected tracks, Metro is running at normal speeds. There are delays on the MARC Brunsuck Brunswick Line and a variety of road collisions slowing commutes. (Post)

What were you thinking?: Many people assumed the quake was a terrorist attack. That might be why many people ran for the stairs despite the danger of falling objects. Few people followed official evacuation plans, and there was little communication. (Post)

Bikes came in handy: While roads were jammed and trains slowed, many people found themselves very glad they had biked to work or really wishing they had. Capital Bikeshare stations downtown were totally cleared out hours after the quake. (TheWashCycle)

Tweets beat the quake: As explained in an xkcd comic strip, seismic waves travel much more slowly than electronic signals, allowing many people in New York and elsewhere to see tweets about the earthquake before they felt it. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Gray aides broke laws: The DC Council issued its report on hiring misdeeds from the Gray administration, pointing fingers at 3 particular top Gray aides. It doesn't appear Gray was personally involved, but he says he takes responsibility. (Examiner)

Get ready for Irene: Hurricane Irene's track is very uncertain, but most likely to stay along the coast causing significant damage but less to DC. (Capital Weather Gang)

Meanwhile...: Virginia had a primary yesterday. ... Ashley Halsey prints another AAA press release. (Post) ... Some earthquake Twitter jokes were funny. (City Paper)

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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There are delays on the MARC Brunsuck Line

Typo, or editorial comment?

by cminus on Aug 24, 2011 8:58 am • linkreport

Thank god they're naming the earthquake after Mineral, VA. It would be so embarrassing if it were called the "Bumpass quake".

by B.O. on Aug 24, 2011 9:03 am • linkreport

cminus: Ha, whoops. I was racing to get this done and must have muscle memory around Unsuck DC Metro. Fixed.

by David Alpert on Aug 24, 2011 9:48 am • linkreport

@B.O.:

*sigh* I TOLD Aunt Edna that she could stand to lose a couple of hundred pounds. I thought she'd figure it out after she flattened the dog.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Aug 24, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

Why the slam on the Post story on parking tickets?

Half of all contested parking tickets are tossed out. What does that tell you about their validity?

Parking fines are a huge revenue source for the city. It makes sense that meter maids are "encouraged" to write as many tickets for they can and that leads to the issuance of bogus tickets. And the city clearly knows that a large number of recipients of these bogus tickets won't bother to appeal them, thereby pocketing the money.

I'm not sure why the need for such a dismissive tone of an article that makes pretty clear that the city is knowingly issuing a large number of bogus parking tickets simply to pocket the revenue. I'm fairly certain that if WABA or some other favored group pitched a story to the Post about similar stats on the number of jaywalking or cycling tickets, we wouldn't be seeing such a dismissive tone.

by Fritz on Aug 24, 2011 10:16 am • linkreport

I think that was the Government Oversight Committee's first draft report, it wasn't the final version.

by @SamuelMoore on Aug 24, 2011 10:21 am • linkreport

@Fritz - 1/2 of *contested* tickets were thrown out. But less than 10% of tickets were contested. (90k of 1.1m issued through 5/20).

There's no way that the contested tickets are a fair sample of all tickets--those are the ones where people thought they had a legitimate excuse/reason or there was a clear error. Of course there are people that don't take the time to appeal an incorrectly issued ticket, but even if you assume that 50% of people with tickets that could be dismissed don't bother to appeal, it still means that less than 10% of tickets issued were done so incorrectly (45k wrongly issued, and 45k wrongly issued but not appealed) out of 1.1m.

by ah on Aug 24, 2011 10:22 am • linkreport

As the people of America (often children sending in pennies) by and large built the NATIONAL CATHEDRAL over an 8-decade period...how about GGW getting behind an effort to ENCOURAGE blog readers to send gifts to help repair it?

I'm in. Anyone else?

by Pelham1861 on Aug 24, 2011 10:24 am • linkreport

Re: Parking tickets

hearing examiners at the Department of Motor Vehicles dismissed 43 percent of tickets in 2010 and had tossed out 47 percent of the 89,068 contested tickets as of May this year.

Something is wrong with the system if nearly half of parking tickets are getting tossed by adjudicators.

I also think it's interesting that DC issues almost twice as many tickets as Chicago even though Chicago is much bigger.

Finally, AAA is correct in chiding cities for using parking fees to maximize revenue (if that is truly the case). Parking is a part of a city's infrastructure and as such, rates should be set to promote general economic activity. Most people agree that a rate that achieves 90% parking occupancy is the right balance. Simply aiming to maximize parking fees is killing the golden goose, being penny-wise pound-foolish, or your pick of short-sighted metaphors.

by Falls Church on Aug 24, 2011 10:28 am • linkreport

There's no way that the contested tickets are a fair sample of all tickets--those are the ones where people thought they had a legitimate excuse/reason or there was a clear error.

According to uncited statistics by the Townsend guy from AAA, other cities have a significantly lower rate of contested tickets getting thrown out by adjudicators. Of course, it would be nice to see the stats. Here's what he said:

Townsend said that, unlike in many other cities, people who fight parking tickets in the District have a reasonable chance of success.

by Falls Church on Aug 24, 2011 10:33 am • linkreport

"Something is wrong with the system if nearly half of parking tickets are getting tossed by adjudicators."

But they're not. According to the numbers in the Post, through May this year less than 4% of parking tickets issued were tossed out by adjudicators.

by dcd on Aug 24, 2011 10:52 am • linkreport

I meant that something is wrong with the system if half of contested tickets are getting thrown out and if the rate is significantly lower in other cities.

by Falls Church on Aug 24, 2011 11:00 am • linkreport

There is also a huge backlog in tickets. I contested one and didn't hear back for almost 11 months.

Perhaps some of the numbers are diplomatic cars?

In the old days, it cost the district more to adjudicate a ticket than the revenue. Not sure if that is still true.

I'd also say ticket collection seems less aggressive than before. Cars used to be ticketed on M st right at the rush hour cut off and towed five minutes later. No longer the case. I've seen cars on the rush hour lanes as late as 5 without visible tickets.

by charlie on Aug 24, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

Half of all contested tickets being thrown out is pretty huge and says quite a lot about how completely slimy and backhanded the parking enforcement people are.

Then again with 200 full time ticket writers in a town as small as DC, you are bound to get that.

But saying it is insignificant because only a certain percentage of tickets get contested is not a convincing argument.

3 years ago I kid you not, got a 100 ticket while parked on a residential street, for not having a lic plate displayed.

It was of course, insanely ridiculous. My lic plate was obviously displayed, how else did the ticket writer know what my plate number was to put on the ticket. It was clearly and irrefutably a sham ticket.

I fought it. And while it was thrown out in 3 seconds, it required me to lose a whole day of work by the time the whole thing was done. At my salary, I lost 5 times the value of the ticket in salary for the day satisfying my indignation, and you are wrong if you think a a large percentage of BS tickets don't simply get paid because people don't want the hassle of having to go downtown and lose a day dealing with it.

I am sure that is probably an unofficial standard operating procedure for parking enforcement, especially in places like Ward 3 where dealing with a ticket is a far larger annoynace than simply paying it.

I get atleast one ticket a year that is complete and utter BS that would be thrown out in a heartbeat, but I view it as simply a consequence of living in DC which, while I admit I like, I will also admit is only about 2 levels above Somalia from the standpoint of a efficient and useful city government.

by re on Aug 24, 2011 11:18 am • linkreport

@Pelham1861:

I'm in, too. And hey, if they're replacing stonework, why not a gargoyle for the internet age? If they have a Darth Vader carving...

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Aug 24, 2011 11:19 am • linkreport

something is wrong with the system if half of contested tickets are getting thrown out and if the rate is significantly lower in other cities.

Or, something is wrong in other cities, and they're pressuring their adjudicators to uphold questionable tickets for the sake of greater revenue.

After all, Townsend suggests that people who fight parking tickets in other cities don't have much of a chance of success. Sounds to me like he thinks the deck is stacked against parking ticket recipients in other cities.

by cminus on Aug 24, 2011 11:31 am • linkreport

I don't think that tossing out half of contested tickets is a big deal. I think it's a big deal that half of the contested tickets aren't tossed out, meaning that people are wasting the DC court's time.

by mc on Aug 24, 2011 11:33 am • linkreport

@ Pelham1861:As the people of America (often children sending in pennies) by and large built the NATIONAL CATHEDRAL over an 8-decade period...how about GGW getting behind an effort to ENCOURAGE blog readers to send gifts to help repair it?

That assumes that GGW and its readers would be in favor of a megalomanically large building (6th largest church in the world) that sits on prime real estate but is largely unused.

by Jasper on Aug 24, 2011 11:34 am • linkreport

@re-

Did you get a ticket for "P170 Fail to Display Current Tags"? I believe that violation refers to registration and not your actual license plate. If you remember, DC used to give you stickers that you would put on your plates, and I guess that they did not update the violation description when they did away with those little stickers.

Perhaps you don't know this, but you can contest your parking tickets on the DMV's website. You don't need to take the day off from work, you just need to spend 10 minutes on the Internet. Even those of us who don't live in Ward 3 can avoid the hassle of in-person adjudication.

by todd on Aug 24, 2011 11:35 am • linkreport

I fought it. And while it was thrown out in 3 seconds, it required me to lose a whole day of work by the time the whole thing was done.

Huh? You didn't contest by mail?

by andrew on Aug 24, 2011 11:35 am • linkreport

Regarding post-quake transportation:

It took me 51min to drive home from Suitland to Huntington at 4pm. Normally, it takes me 25min or less. Sadly, my BEST time on Metro for the same trip is 57min.

Because of the traffic and Metro mess, I wound up biking to/from the Happy Hour last night. Took about the same amount of time it usually takes, which was impressive since I'd jogged 3.3mi yesterday morning. Noted the cleaned-out Bikeshare stations mentioned above and also tweeted by seceral.

by Froggie on Aug 24, 2011 12:21 pm • linkreport

School closure policies are RIDICULOUS. There were 3 buildings with any concern. No need to shut down the rest.

by Ward 1 Guy on Aug 24, 2011 12:38 pm • linkreport

JASPER - One would hope anyone interested in a 'GREATER' Washington DC would desire all of Washington's historic landmarks to be protected and in top shape. The entire National Cathedral 'campus' up there is used every day of the week. But, help me understand...do you feel the GGW blog readers would prefer their money go elsewhere?

by Pelham1861 on Aug 24, 2011 12:47 pm • linkreport

I have a hunch that some of you who think the District isn't issuing large numbers of illegitimate tickets don't park on the street very frequently. I've been parking on the street on a daily basis for about 2.5 years now. I have experienced: tickets issued outside the posted enforcement times, tickets written for amounts larger than the code authorizes, and, my personal favorite, one night where nearly every car on my block was issued a ticket for "parked within 3 feet of another vehicle."

by prognostication on Aug 24, 2011 6:40 pm • linkreport

@ Pelham1861:One would hope anyone interested in a 'GREATER' Washington DC would desire all of Washington's historic landmarks to be protected and in top shape.

Sure, the Cathedral can get in line with all the other underfunded historic and/or touristic landmarks.

But, help me understand...do you feel the GGW blog readers would prefer their money go elsewhere?

I can't speak for others, but I can think of a few more pressing places, yeah.

[BTW, no need to SHOUT my name. I am not blind and will find it.]

by Jasper on Aug 24, 2011 8:04 pm • linkreport

Pelham, bluntly, I would expect that non-Episcopalian readers of GGW might prioritize funds for other landmarks over the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

by Craig on Aug 25, 2011 11:33 pm • linkreport

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