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Weekend links: More reasons to go downtown


Photo by ElvertBarnes on Flickr.
MLK Library stays open: Mayor Gray found money to keep the MLK Library, which is DC's central library, open on Sundays. (Post)

Only some cities have a downtown renaissance: Several big companies nationwide have made headlines in choosing to relocate from the suburbs to downtown. Looking at vacancy data, however, this trend is only happening in a few cities. (Atlantic Cities)

Streetcar projects get a waiver: US DOT has issued a waiver for protectionist Buy America provisions after it confirmed that not a single company in the U.S. makes streetcar rails. (Transportation Nation)

Feds reduce housing subsidies: Starting today, the federal government will reduce its subsidies for mortgages exceeding $625,500 in Washington and other expensive markets. The previous limit was $729,500. (Reuters) ... Other indirect subsidies, such as the mortgage interest deduction, remain politically sacrosanct.

Real estate articles mention walkability: Are real estate articles focusing more on walkability? Even still, the demand for walkable neighborhoods outstrips supply. (RPUS) ... Let's hope policymakers who write zoning codes and road guidelines take notice.

Maryland Republicans may lose seats: What do Rockville and western Maryland have in common? They may have the same member of congress if Maryland approve's Gov. O'Malley's gerrymandering plan for redistricting. (Post)

Website measures perceptions of neighborhoods: MIT is gauging people's reactions to street scenes from Google Street View. The purpose is to see how the physical form of a neighborhood shapes public perceptions of it. (Metafilter, Andrew Schmadel)

Metro map is iconic: What are the world's best subway maps? It's certainly a matter of opinion, but one designer lists DC's as one of the top 20 for its ample white space, easy legibility, and its "very pleasant color balance." (Atlantic Cities)

And...: Providence joins the streetcar resurgence. (Providence Journal) ... DC now provides photo proof of your parking violation. (DCist) ... DDOT, WABA, and ANC Comm. David Garber (6D07) are installing bike racks all over the ballpark neighborhood. (DDOT)

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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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They way I read the Transportation Nation story about streetcar rails, it didn't seem to say that a waiver was definitely granted. I was under the impression that they're trying to convince US steel manufacturers to produce girder rail, and that a waiver was a fallback option.

by Amber on Oct 1, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

The economic viatlity of western Maryland is far more connected to the DC area than it once was; somehow I don't think it's great tragedy for it to no longer be a safe seat for some backbencher like like Roscoe. If anything a district that includes rural areas and MoCo might actually be a hore race one in awhile.

by Rich on Oct 1, 2011 4:53 pm • linkreport

not a single company in the U.S. makes streetcar rails.

And people wonder why the American economy is struggling...

DC now provides photo proof of your parking violation.

Can we also upload picture proof of DC government vehicles breaking the law? Only yesterday, I saw one cop ticketing and the other one was sitting in the car with the windows open, blocking the street while many parking spots were free.

by Jasper on Oct 1, 2011 4:56 pm • linkreport

@Eric, In your mortgage story you've erred in your use of the word subsidy. A subsidy is when tax dollars are collected from one group to help another group. It is a wealth transfer. When the government let's an individual keep more of their own money for whatever reason, no one is subsidizing anyone.

by Lance on Oct 1, 2011 9:30 pm • linkreport

i.e., there's no 'wealth transfer' ... and actually, if you think about it, it serves to prevent such transfers ... And that in essense is the difference between a subsidy being used to encourage a political agenda and a tax cut being used to do the same. While to the casual observer, they may appear to be the same thing, at their heart they are nearly completely opposite actions.

by Lance on Oct 1, 2011 11:16 pm • linkreport

@Lance--

That's not correct. It is a tax expenditure. A tax expenditure is defined at 2 USC 622(3):

The term “tax expenditures” means those revenue losses attributable to provisions of the Federal tax laws which allow a special exclusion, exemption, or deduction from gross income or which provide a special credit, a preferential rate of tax, or a deferral of tax liability; and the term “tax expenditures budget” means an enumeration of such tax expenditures.

Tax expenditures are economically equivilent to spending and cost nearly as much as all federal discretionary spending every year. They are subsidies just as much as a direct check would be.

by WRD on Oct 1, 2011 11:26 pm • linkreport

And people wonder why the American economy is struggling…

You think the economy is struggling because America doesn't do low-value-added, low-skill manufacturing anymore? There are many reasons our economy is struggling, but a lack of rail girder manufacturers is not one of them.

by Stephen Smith on Oct 2, 2011 4:05 am • linkreport

The mortgage interest tax deduction is the real estate industry's way of getting free money for nothing. The deduction serves no purpose (except to inflate house prices) and no one (except agents and banks). Talk about a transfer of wealth that's worse than useless, and paid for by renters and by homeowners a few years into the curve of their mortgage amortizations.

It’s fine to say misguided people “feel like” it’s a nifty break for them (just like they “feel” safer riding in an SUV). But please, spare us the long-refuted palaver about how it encourages home-ownership, etc.

by Sydney on Oct 2, 2011 9:08 am • linkreport

@Lance

Subsidy does not mean wealth transfer. Subsidy is any monetary aid provided by government to a group/organization/individual.

Any tax expenditure like the MID reduces revenue the government gets from a certain class/group of people and is equivalent to just collecting the money overall and then handing that group a check.

by MLD on Oct 2, 2011 9:13 am • linkreport

Odd view that keeping more of your own money is considered to be a government subsidy.

And the reduction of the cap on luxury homes will have an impact on sales. Which will have an impact on deed recordation taxes and capital gains taxes. Which are used to pay for welfare subsidies, Housing Production Trust Fund subsidies, etc. Which I think most GGW contributors strongly support. So, in effect, some are cheering the death of a program that helped pump money into social welfare subsidies they support.

by Fritz on Oct 2, 2011 3:51 pm • linkreport

@ Fritz:Odd view that keeping more of your own money is considered to be a government subsidy.

Why exactly? If democracy has decided that *everybody* has to pay a certain tax, except certain people, how is that not a subsidy to certain people? It's classic Animal Farm - some people are more special than others.

So, in effect, some are cheering the death of a program that helped pump money into social welfare subsidies they support.

Yeah, because it's way more efficient for the government to first not collect taxes, then wait until rich people buy expensive houses and then receive a deferred tax.

Here's what I don't get. People say that the folks are way better in spending their money than the government is. Yet, it's the government that is spending literally $1.50 for every dollar they collect. You and me can't do that. The government can, because they can print money.

by Jasper on Oct 2, 2011 10:35 pm • linkreport

"So, in effect, some are cheering the death of a program that helped pump money into social welfare subsidies they support."

Check out where jumbo mortgage rates are right now. I'm not worried about the effect the change will have on the market. It only affected a narrow price band (namely homes in the 800-920 range) and with rates as low as they are, the increase in monthly payments is pretty minimal.

by TM on Oct 2, 2011 11:00 pm • linkreport

detroit should be making streetcars.

by a on Oct 3, 2011 8:31 am • linkreport

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