The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Breakfast links: Time to start planning for growth

Photo by dissolved on Flickr.
Washington will grow no matter what: The region will gain 1 million jobs by 2030. If we don't locate new housing closer to where people work, traffic will get even worse. We need to start planning seriously right now. (Examiner)

Money talks: When the economy turned bad, young people started flocking to the Washington area. Is that because we're "hip" or because we have jobs available? (Post)

Tysons Corner does its part: Over the coming decades, Tysons Corner will grow significantly to double it job base and increase its population six-fold. The growth would be impossible without the Silver Line. (Streetsblog)

Repubs demand more spending: Many of the state's rural Republicans don't like Gov. O'Malley's PlanMaryland, which prioritizes development around existing infrastructure. PlanMaryland will save taxpayers $11 billion in new roads. (Washington Times)

Cross the virtual tunnel: At noon today, WMATA will activate the Farragut Crossing virtual tunnel. SmarTrip customers will have 30 minutes to transfer along the street. The crossing will relieve pressure on Metro Center as a transfer station. (Examiner)

Trail costs jump: Cost estimates for rebuilding the Capital Crescent Trail alongside the Purple Line jumped from $65 million to $103 million. Fitting the trains and the trail into the existing tunnel in Bethesda consumes nearly half of the cost. (Post)

Shout it from the treetops: Residents in one Fairfax neighborhood don't like the county's plan to let a private company build a "treetop adventure" in Riverbend Park. Critics say the county has become too desperate to raise money in parks. (Examiner)

Movie popcorn gets even more expensive: Mayor Gray has proposed a 5% tax on theater concessions. The money would be used to lure a theater east of the Anacostia and to lure big movie studios to film in DC. (WBJ)

And...: Gaitherburg's election board may be defying the Supreme Court. (Gaithersburg Patch) ... Get a rare tour of the abandoned, underground McMillan Sand Filtration Site tomorrow. (PoP) ... Do you have what it takes to play Robert Moses on HBO? (Atlantic)

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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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The cost of having the Capital Crescent trail run underground is ridiculous. I see no good reason, given the price, that they couldn't just keep the surface alignment through downtown Bethesda.

by Fitz on Oct 28, 2011 8:58 am • linkreport

From the jobs report:

Net new jobs 2010-2030; percent change

Washington Metro Area 1,053,855 38.2%
District of Columbia 152,130 20.8%
Montgomery County 163,008 34.5%
Prince George's 76,578 23.7%
Alexandria 41,340 39%
Arlington 46,640 26.1%
Fairfax 168,833 26.7%
Loudoun 146,909 104.7%
Prince William 81,241 58.2%

I can't find the orginial report, but it says 1M new jobs, and 1.8 M retirees. I can't tell their assumption on federal spending either. They claim 1M new jobs even if federal hiring stays level.

In terms of Tysons, they are expecting to double employment there, to 200,00. Residence would be 100K. Off the top of my head, that sounds a bit larger than the R-B corridor. However, as you see, Fairfax is expected to only get 170K new jobs in 30 years. You can see why Rt. 1 isn't a priority -- they are really expecting to dump all the growth into Tysons. Not sure that is a good assumption.

Can movie tickets in DC get any more expensive?

by charlie on Oct 28, 2011 9:19 am • linkreport

Nothing happens when i click on the link about Gaithersburg and the supreme court (using ie, not my personal computer).

I think what rural politicians are missing about planmaryland (besides the partisanship) is that it isn't going to stifle development in rural areas, its just going to help equalize the costs of building where there is less infrastructure and let the government off the hook when its all stretched out. Besides, it should help communities remain rural which is a value for a lot of people in rural areas (at least in my experience growing up in a rural to exurban area)

by Canaan on Oct 28, 2011 9:29 am • linkreport

I grew up in Frederick county, and these "rural Republicans" have always cracked me up. They cry about state money going to horrible, crowded, suburban (also "diverse" - not that that's the word they use in private) Montgomery county. Because hey - we need that money to become just as built up as Montgomery!

by kinverson on Oct 28, 2011 9:39 am • linkreport

Regarding the forecasted growth, don't tell this to the Tenley NIMBYs who (I'm not making this up) claimed on the neighborhood listserve that Tenley still has the region's last remaining country roads and oppose even a six-story building almost directly next to the metro station.

by Ben on Oct 28, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

Mayor Gray has proposed a 5% tax on theater concessions. The money would be used to lure a theater east of the Anacostia and to lure big movie studios to film in DC.

Wait, what? I have to pay ever more for overpriced popcorn so that more MPD police cruisers can ram into more Transformers? Does the city levy fees and taxes on movies shot here? That is supposed to be a money making business. Not a money-costing business.

Perhaps mayor Gray can call the NCIS set and ask them to come and actually film in DC and the area in stead of faking DC in SoCal.

by Jasper on Oct 28, 2011 10:05 am • linkreport

Are you guys planning to report on the EIS initial screening for Potomac Yard Metro? That is much bigger news than any of these things and it was announced two days ago.

by movement on Oct 28, 2011 10:14 am • linkreport

Hah! Perfect timing.

by movement on Oct 28, 2011 10:15 am • linkreport

Trail users by and large supported the Purple Line because promises were made, including this one. A flip answer like making them "keep" the surface alignment (there isn't one at present) ignores the very real safety issues of dumping a multi-user trail onto a major auto commuting thoroughfare. Experiences elsewhere in the region indicate this is likely to be a major safety problem.

It might be possible to create a surface alternative. That would require dedicated lanes close to the current underground alignment, a tall order in downtown Bethesda. At least some would probable come out of a local park. Further, the trial would need a separate or significantly lengthened signal cycle at Wisconsin, since the likely crossing would be at Bethesda Ave., which ends at Wisconsin Ave. Accordingly, most drivers on that road are turning across the likely trail alignment.

It's not imossible, but it would come at a cost in money, loss of parkland and degradation of already bad rush hour commuting through Bethesda.

by Crickey7 on Oct 28, 2011 10:22 am • linkreport

If we don't locate new housing closer to where people work, your traffic will get even worse.

Just so I can get it out there first, here goes:

Yes population will be increasing. But the majority of that growth will be in the suburbs. That means more people will be working in the suburbs. Which means that we need *more* suburban sprawl, because suburban sprawl is, by definition, in the suburbs. (Obviously, if you work in "the suburbs", living in "the suburbs" is closer than living in the city.)

Look for the metro region to move away from the 20th century hub-and-spoke model served by Metro, and towards a distributed "network" approach where everyone works in "the suburbs" and lives in "the suburbs" making the urban core irrelevant.

My thinking seems airtight on this one.

by oboe on Oct 28, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

And then the market shall determine who lives in such urban enclaves as McLean Gardens, Shepherd Park, and Brookland while others will choose sleepy suburbs like Downtown Silver Spring, Rosslyn/Ballston, and Tysons Corner. Then we'll know whether people prefer the city or suburbs.

by Canaan on Oct 28, 2011 10:46 am • linkreport

How about instead of a movie concession tax to pay for things that are totally unnecessary we enact a tax to pay for the maintenance and programming of our many parks, includng those in Anacostia, that do in fact need funding?

by neb on Oct 28, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport


A flip answer like making them "keep" the surface alignment (there isn't one at present) ignores the very real safety issues of dumping a multi-user trail onto a major auto commuting thoroughfare. Experiences elsewhere in the region indicate this is likely to be a major safety problem.

So we should ask the public to pay $106 million so they can use an underground tunnel instead of asking trail users to take a short, temporary detour along Bethesda Ave and cross Wisconsin. Slow down, be vigilant, have the crossing signal extended slightly. Why is that an insufficient solution?

by Fitz on Oct 28, 2011 10:53 am • linkreport

$106 million is the full cost of the trail. The portion caused by this issue is less. Not sure what the temporary refers to--the trail would never connect if not built now.

There is no current viable surface connection. If one goes through the park and onto Elm, then one has to ride along Wisconsin Avenue for a block to Bethesda Ave. Willow Ave. (the road that roughly links to Bethesda Ave. on the East side of Wisconsin) is one lane, one-way.

Usership of the trail segment is pretty significant right now. It will rise as the trail become safer and more functional with the Purple Line construction. That is, unless prosepctive users are force to ride along Wisconsin Avenue, or on a narrow sidewalk to cross a six-lane road that carries huge volume at ruch hour and on weekends.

Yes, the cost is high, although it is one-time. So are the costs of all the auto-oriented improvements associated with BRAC, the ICC, the Montrose Parkway, etc. Why are only auto-oriented improvements worthy?

by Crickey7 on Oct 28, 2011 11:21 am • linkreport

Trail users by and large supported the Purple Line because promises were made, including this one.

The right of way between Bethesda and Silver Spring was purchased for the purpose of building light rail. Trail users (who must be carefully distinguished from light rail opponents in disguise) have supported light rail for two reasons (at least). (1) Expanded public transit and bicycling facilities are aimed at the same goal of reducing our dependence on the automobile and making our communities more livable. (2) The only way to get an off-road bike trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring was to build light rail.

If anyone is breaking a promise, it is those who supported purchase of the right of way because it would provide trail and transit, but now want to take land bought for light rail away from transit riders.

by Ben Ross on Oct 28, 2011 11:23 am • linkreport

I have tried to figure out the usefulness of the Farragut tunnel and I just don't understand it. Could someone please explain to me when it would be useful to use? The only time it would seem useful is people are commuting from Arlington on the Blue/Orange and are going somewhere north of Dupont or vice versa.

Otherwise it makes sense to just transfer at Metro Center, right?

by Ryan on Oct 28, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

Not sure I understand the last point. Who wants to take land bought for light rail? I think the issue is whether to fund the trail along its current alignment in addition to, not in place of, rail.

I'm not saying no surface route is viable. Just that any viable surface route needs to really be viable, not a rube goldbergian fix that ends up making the downtown Bethesda Trail connection a major convenience and safety problem that in turn suppresses usership.

by Crickey7 on Oct 28, 2011 11:34 am • linkreport

@Ryan: That's right, that's exactly what the virtual tunnel is intended for. By walking across Farragut Square and skipping the McPherson and Metro Center stops, it will often be possible to land 1 train earlier on the line to which you're transferring, saving the time equal to the headway on the line. More importantly, use of Farragut Crossing will benefit all users of Metro Center by reducing crowding on the platforms and escalators from those transferring.

I think Metro may come to regret listening to business owners who advocate a transfer long enough to patronize their businesses, however. Seems like that will have an actual revenue cost to Metro, particularly by enabling some users to game the system by getting a round-trip for a single-ride price.

by Arl Anon on Oct 28, 2011 12:07 pm • linkreport


What thinking? Your argument seems to be that if you take it for granted that growth will primarily take place in the suburbs, then there will need to be a lot of growth in the suburbs.

Well, okay, if you assume your conclusion then your conclusion is assumption.

by Gray on Oct 28, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

@Ryan - as someone who lives in Adams Morgan and works in Rosslyn, that's exactly right! The virtual tunnel will probably shave 10-15 minutes off my commute. A longer transfer window would be nice, though.

The more incredible thing is that this "virtual tunnel" couldn't have amounted to more than a few lines of code in the computers that run the faregates, right? The fact that it's taken THIS LONG to implement a simple, no-brainer change is slightly, well, disturbing.

by Corey on Oct 28, 2011 1:01 pm • linkreport

couldn't have amounted to more than a few lines of code

Famous last words.

by Ben Ross on Oct 28, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

I think that Farragut Crossing is a great alternative, especially on a nice day.
But WMATA needs to remind folks that on the weekends the walk is a block longer. (the east entrance to FW is closed on weekends)

by chris on Oct 28, 2011 1:22 pm • linkreport

On weekends the transfer is probably not worth it since the walk is twice as far. You might even end up missing a train you would have caught at Metro Center.

by MLD on Oct 28, 2011 1:35 pm • linkreport

Re virtual tunnel..FINALLY...only took them what? 10 years?


When can we expect new maps to reflect that for all passengers.

I suspect the heaviest users will be "bar hoppers" and young folk/college kids going from Arlington(Clarendon) to Adams Morgan. Thursday nights I bet will be the highest usage.

by LuvDusty on Oct 28, 2011 1:54 pm • linkreport

Metro probably should close the West entrance to FW and open the East one on weekends anyway. The latter is a better link to buses. the West entrance is really in a dead zone.

by Rich on Oct 28, 2011 2:17 pm • linkreport

This concession tax notion of the Mayor's is his second box office hit; his first was assigning Lorraine Green's daughter to a management position in the city's film office.

The reviews are in on the Mayor's professional approach to the business of attracting productions here.

Someone polish up the Palme d'OH.

by Joel on Oct 28, 2011 3:16 pm • linkreport

They can't close the 18th Street entrance to Farragut West, because that's the entrance with the elevator.

So if the 17th Street entrance is to be opened, that's one thing. But no matter what, as long as the station is open, the 18th Street entrance has to be open, too.

by Matt Johnson on Oct 28, 2011 3:18 pm • linkreport

I have a big ideological problem with hyperspecific taxes on items that aren't particularly important to the health, sustainability, and security of our society, but aside from that...

As I understand it, at this point in time the movie theater industry makes essentially zero money on selling tickets; Basically all of that revenue goes to the studio. They are loads better off selling 75 seats to people who have a 15% chance of buying popcorn than they are selling 100 seats to people who have a 10% chance of buying popcorn. There is every reason to believe that a significant tax on movie theater concessions cannot be painlessly absorbed by a movie theater, like a soda tax would be painlessly absorbed by a supermarket.

by Squalish on Oct 29, 2011 5:37 pm • linkreport

Why does a tunnel have to be either a $100M bored tunnel or an invisible "virtual" tunnel? Why not consider blowing $100K on some sidewalk paint and Metro-branded rain canopy for the walk between stations?

by Squalish on Oct 29, 2011 5:40 pm • linkreport

We need to be planning for the end of growth, not how to keep growing past the limits to growth.

There's not any oil in the Chesapeake Bay region.

The largest oil fields in North America are all in long term decline.

There's unlikely to be any offshore oil on the Atlantic Coast.

Even the coal is beginning to peak, with the mining industry going after thinner seams of lower quality.

Yes, the military industrial complex will probably keep throwing digital money at all of the Beltway Bandits who are the primary causes of suburban sprawl in the DC area. But unsustainable doesn't mean something is a bad idea, it means it cannot continue forever. Something that is physically impossible, such as endless growth on a round, finite planet, eventually runs into the physical limits.

The economic crises are not merely a cyclical recession caused by kleptocracy, we have reached the long expected limits to growth and planning should reflect these physical facts.

Remember, the term "Smart Growth" was first unveiled by then Gov. Glendening to sell the Intercounty Connector and other boondoggles ("Smart Growth" included "connector roads" between "designated growth areas").

The biological analogy to endless growth is cancer.

by Mark on Oct 29, 2011 6:20 pm • linkreport

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