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Breakfast links: Transparency and residency in question

Photo by The Great Photographicon on Flickr.
It's Car-Free Day: Record numbers of people have taken the pledge to go car-free today. (WAMU) ... Also, Capital Bikeshare is having a 1st birthday party tonight.

Agency communications turn gray: DC public safety officials will now encrypt police radios and censor the popular Fire & EMS Twitter feed. Journalists sparred with Mayor Gray over whether this breaks transparency promises. (Post)

Another pick disqualified: The mayor's nominee to head the Board of Elections and Ethics doesn't meet a residency require­ment to have lived in DC for 3 years. (Washington Times)

Diplomats flout parking laws: Foreign embassies owe DC $500,000 in unpaid parking tickets. Russia owes $27,200 in unpaid fines, while the UK owes just $20. The city confirmed that it does occasionally boot and tow diplomats' cars. (WTOP)

Bad bypass doubles in price: A bypass that Albemarle County doesn't need and Charlottesville doesn't want has doubled in cost estimates. Some accuse VDOT of misleading leaders to sell the now-$436 million project. (Charlottesville Tomorrow)

Solar Decathlon houses set up: Teams set up their houses in East Potomac Park for the Solar Decathlon, showcasing the latest green technology and techniques. Lydia DePillis got pictures. (City Paper)

Big bike sharing coming to Chicago: Gabe Klein is replacing a very small bike sharing program with a much larger one. First that was in DC; now it's in Chicago, with a goal of 3,000 bikes on 300 stations. (Chicago Tribune)

Wi-Fi coming to Amtrak Regional?: An Amtrak conductor told Aaron Morrissey that Amtrak will soon have Wi-Fi on all Regional trains. The conductor says it's all installed and just has to be turned on.

And...: The grace period for new Prince George's traffic cameras is over. (Examiner) ... WMATA can now monitor 24 escalators remotely. (Examiner) ... A psychiatrist will use CaBi to study how physical exercise influences patients' health. (Post) ... In another Washington, Georgetown is like H Street. (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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3000 bikes doesn't look that big compared to the proposed 10K bike system in NYC. Times change.

by charlie on Sep 22, 2011 9:16 am • linkreport

The laws of China do not apply to the DC police. The laws of the DC police do not apply to China. Diplomats do not owe parking fines.

by Mark on Sep 22, 2011 9:18 am • linkreport

FYI the solar decathlon is being held on West Potomac Park, not East Potomac Park.

by rsn on Sep 22, 2011 9:21 am • linkreport

The laws of the DC police do not apply to China. Diplomats do not owe parking fines.

While it's true that diplomats are not legally bound by host country laws, those laws have applicability in the broad sense. The Vienna Convention is explicit that "without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State."

Also, certain cities, e.g., The Hague, have taken to impounding diplomatic cars rather than fining their owners. A diplomat cannot demand the release of an impounded car based on their status.

by Falls Church on Sep 22, 2011 9:36 am • linkreport

There is undoubtedly a correlation between the respect for the rule of law in a country and their DC parking/traffic fine balance.

by ksu499 on Sep 22, 2011 9:37 am • linkreport

Diplomats owe parking fines, just like everyone else. There is just no way to enforce those fines on them.

As I said in the earlier post, new State policy is to deny individual diplomats renwal plates if there are outstanding fines. Clearly there is a lot of play in the joints there.

Funny, I saw a DC cop pull over a dip plate car in Georgetown on M st rush hour. Backed up traffic badly as it right after the Wisconin intersection. I had to wonder what that guy did to piss off a cop that much.

by charlie on Sep 22, 2011 9:41 am • linkreport

There is undoubtedly a correlation between the respect for the rule of law in a country and their DC parking/traffic fine balance.

You are correct. A 2006 study by two economists found that there was a significant correlation between home-country corruption (as measured by Transparency International) and unpaid parking fines; nonetheless, approximately 30 countries (or 20%) had fewer than one unpaid fine per diplomat over a five-year period, and 20 had none at all. Six countries had in excess of 100 violations per diplomat: Kuwait, Egypt, Chad, Sudan, Bulgaria and Mozambique.

by Falls Church on Sep 22, 2011 9:42 am • linkreport

The biggest issue with DC police going to encrypted radios isn't that the press can't figure out what's going on, it's that police in surrounding jurisdictions won't know what's going on and won't be able to communicate effectively with MPD in times of emergency. Setting aside large scale situations like terrorist attacks or natural disasters, where we'll all have an idea something has happened in a relatively short time, are situations where a suspect is fleeing into or out of DC and surrounding PD's need to give or get quick, accurate information.

by thump on Sep 22, 2011 10:06 am • linkreport

"Diplomats flout parking laws: Foreign embassies owe DC $500,000 in unpaid parking tickets."

Give them the Boot! That's the only way to get the attention of scofflaws, and a message that needs no translation.

by Bob on Sep 22, 2011 10:10 am • linkreport

They aren't exactly the same but the US embassy in London apparently owes the city more than 50 million dollars in unpaid traffic congestion fees, so the gross aggregate of all the foreign embassies in DC only being half a million is really chump change.

In the end, the DC DMV can't deny them registration or plates, because they don't issue them. The only thing they can do is boot the car if they find it parked on the street until they pay.

by freely on Sep 22, 2011 10:29 am • linkreport

The report on Amtrak adding WiFi to the NE Regionals and the other Amfleet I car equipped trains is not exactly news. Amtrak put out a news release early this year that they had contracted a technology provider, would be rolling out WiFi later in 2011. The maintenance facilities have been been adding Wi-Fi hubs to the Amfleet I cars & routers to the cafe cars since February or March. People have been seeing the WiFi hub signals for some months, but since the system was not complete or connected, the WiFi hubs were locked out.

A report that Amtrak posted on their website a month or so back stated that WiFi was scheduled to be added in October 2011 for the NE Regionals, Carolinian, Empire Service trains, Ethan Allen, Keystone service trains, Springfield (MA) shuttle, and the Vermonter. October 2011 may be Saturday October 1 which is also the start of the fiscal year, so there may be contract dates tied into turning on the WiFi. Amtrak should have added WiFi to all corridor trains several years ago, but they are finally getting caught up.

Of course, once the free WiFi is activated, that will be followed by a litany of complaints on access speeds with 200 or 300 people all going through one router.

E-ticketing, BTW, is in pilot testing on the Auto Train, Downeaster, and Capitol Corridor (CA) trains. Scheduled to roll-out system wide in February 2012.

by AlanF on Sep 22, 2011 10:30 am • linkreport

So now it is a fact that Albemarle doesn't need the bypass? The more you guys come across as propaganda-mongers, the worse you look.

by movement on Sep 22, 2011 10:36 am • linkreport

@Freely - More like $5m (although that's a 2009 number).

It sounds like a GGW argument: Is it a tax or is it a fee?

by ah on Sep 22, 2011 10:52 am • linkreport

Wi-Fi coming to Amtrak Regional?: An Amtrak conductor told Aaron Morrissey that Amtrak will soon have Wi-Fi on all Regional trains. The conductor says it's all installed and just has to be turned on.

And two weeks later it will go permanently black as Congress guts Amtrak.

Seriously - is that still on the docket? The gutting, that is.

by Jazzy on Sep 22, 2011 11:16 am • linkreport

It will always be on the docket so long as Amtrak continues to suck money out of the federal budget for all of its operations other than the northeast corridor.

by ah on Sep 22, 2011 11:38 am • linkreport

Weird, it says 54 million in fines, then lists a million dollar number, so I dunno.

Either way, traffic law issues and the unpaid fines that accompany them seem to be pretty standard issue with the diplomatic crowd. I am kinda suprised that of all the foreign missions in DC and the thousands of foreign nations working in them that 500K is the amount outstanding.

by freely on Sep 22, 2011 12:27 pm • linkreport


Looks like $54 million is the total for all countries' fines, $5.75 million is the US' share.

by MLD on Sep 22, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

Re: the underground trolley park. It looks good - especially the girl in the short shorts. Yowzah!

by David C on Sep 22, 2011 12:48 pm • linkreport

Here let me fix this:

It will always be on the docket so long as some Congress members fail to recognize that the benefits of Amtrak outweigh the costs.

by David C on Sep 22, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

Amtrak already has wifi on amfleet cars in the Pacific NW.

by JQ on Sep 22, 2011 3:21 pm • linkreport

@JQ, those were not Amfleet cars in the Pacific NW, but Talgo trainsets unique to the Cascades service. The Acelas, the Downeasters (Boston to Portland Maine) have had WiFi for a while, the Cascades got WiFi more recently. The other trains to get WiFi this fall are the 3 California services: Surfliner, Capitol Corridor, San Joaquin and the lounge cars on the AutoTrain.

As for Amtrak's federal support, the 6 month extension of the Transportation authorization funded Amtrak at FY11 levels for the next 6 months. Meanwhile the Senate and the House will have a major fight on transportation funding for the longer term - among the many other budget and revenue battles to come.

by AlanF on Sep 22, 2011 9:10 pm • linkreport

Chicago is going for 5000 bikes over 2 phases and 2 years

by fonzie on Sep 23, 2011 4:18 pm • linkreport

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