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Breakfast links: Patience is a virtue


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Slower speeds may come to DC: Muriel Bowser wants to lower residential speed limits in from 25 to 15 mph. Slower speeds reduce the number and severity of injuries to pedestrians hit by drivers. And Mary Cheh proposes a new rule about stopping at crosswalks. (DCist)

Bag fee increases shoplifting?: Some Safeways now check your receipt after you check out. Safeway blames the bag fee, saying more people bringing reusable bags means some use them to shoplift. Commenters are skeptical. (City Paper)

One man owes $17 million in back taxes: The District placed a tax lein on the house of a Chevy Chase man they say owes the city $17 million in back taxes. The next-highest alleged tax delinquent owes the District a far smaller sum of $856,439. (Post)

Bike "garage" slated for Franconia : WMATA plans an indoor bike parking facility at Franconia-Springfield, as part of a new garage. Rates will be lower overnight, to encourage reverse commuters to ride from the Metro to a nearby office. (FABB)

Struggle on the waterfront: Some Alexandrians opposed the city's plan for waterfront redevelopment say the city doesn't listen to them. The city's acting manager says opponents are confusing 'listen' with 'agree.' (Post)

BRAC bits: DoD awarded our area $269 million for transportation upgrades to alleviate the congestion from BRAC. ... Fairfax officials are unhappy with a delay in building a new road near Fort Belvoir after the project had to be re-bid. (Examiner)

Utah entitled to Arizona highways: I-15 connects UT and NV via a 30-mile route through a nearly uninhabited corner of Arizona. Arizona wants to toll the highway to fund repairs since it serves few Arizonans. Utah's governor is unhappy. (LA Times)

And...: Sekou Biddle will challenge Vincent Orange in April's primary. (DCist) ... A speed bump creates electricity from passing cars. (SmartPlanet) ... GSA may stop building due to cuts. (Federal Times) ... This year's Metro repair money passes the Senate. (Post)

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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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Lower speed limits may well reduce the severity of crashes, but simply slapping up a lower speed limit sign is not going to do a thing. You need to either A) reengineer the street for lower speed limits, or B) have increased and CONSISTENT enforcement. DDOT doesn't have the budget for (A) and MPD doesn't have the manpower or resources for (B). Because of this, CM Bowser's proposal is a "feel-good" measure that is basically useless.

by Froggie on Nov 2, 2011 8:50 am • linkreport

I thought that overnight parking was currently free (and technically not allowed) in Metro garages?

by andrew on Nov 2, 2011 9:36 am • linkreport

@ Froggie

The solution is probably using speed cameras. I believe they are typically set in DC at 11mph above the speed limit, meaning enforcement would begin at 26mph. Considering that 25mph is widely cited as the upper limit of speed where a ped is still likely to survive after being hit by a car, that seems like a reasonable thing to do.

by Falls Church on Nov 2, 2011 9:39 am • linkreport

@Froggie

I agree with you. I actually think lowering the speed limit, without implementing your A & B, would be counter-productive. It would be something else that would go unenforced and further erode citizens' respect for government guidelines such as speed limits.

Re: Back Taxes

How did DC allow the back-taxes to grow to $17 million?

by Rob P. III on Nov 2, 2011 9:48 am • linkreport

+1 to Froggie. The big problem is speeding well above 25 mph that is not enforced. How about enforcing that limit more strictly before lowering the speed limit to a point where it will continue to be sporadically enforced, and probably arbitrarily rather than consistently, given it is well below a realistic speed.

by ah on Nov 2, 2011 9:49 am • linkreport

@ Rob P. - While perhaps they should have brought a tax evasion prosecution, it may be fairly difficult to do much more. With income at that level, it's not from an employer where they can garnish wages. It's either investment or business income, so they can't easily get a third-party involved to stop the money flow.

by ah on Nov 2, 2011 10:01 am • linkreport

I know at springfield (having used them) there are about 12 overnight designated spots. I don't recall how long the limit was.

by Canaan on Nov 2, 2011 10:13 am • linkreport

Good grief. $17,000,000. And the slap on the wrist of "hey, if you ever sell your house, we'll get some of that money." Yet a kid with a possibly stolen bike wheel gets chased around town. It's amazing what being white and/or rich buys you.

by jag on Nov 2, 2011 10:34 am • linkreport

Oh, Greater Greater Washington, you never fail. Most of the comments in the Safeway story actually side with the store.

by beatbox on Nov 2, 2011 10:35 am • linkreport

Based on my walking commute, rigid red light enforcement would do far more to prevent pedestrian crashes than lowering the speed limit. 90% of the times I almost get hit involve a driver running a red light.

by dal20402 on Nov 2, 2011 10:39 am • linkreport

@Froggie: speed bumps are the engineering. They are very effective; if you go more than about 10 mph, you leave part of your car behind. It is a fun game, watching cars come off of the highway and then hit the speed bump -- you drink if you see sparks.

by goldfish on Nov 2, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

@andrew

The overnight parking is for bikes in the secure bike corral, which would be treated separately/differently from auto parking. Overnight parking not allowed at Metro to avoid multiday parking, which system is not geared for. Bikes and bike fare system, however, would be designed to permit storage, even for multiple days. Current notion is 2c per hour overnight compared to 5c per hour during the day. Not sure of how weekends/holidays would be priced.

by jnb on Nov 2, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

@goldfish: in my opinion, speed bumps are worthless. Yes, they do force some people to slow down, but in my experience, that's more to do with panic-braking than any real potential to "leave part of your car behind". I routinely go over speed bumps at 25 MPH with no issues.

by Froggie on Nov 2, 2011 10:57 am • linkreport

Is the #2 most delinquent person in DC THE William Webster, the former head of the CIA?

by Cassidy on Nov 2, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

@Froggie, those speed bumps must not be in my neighborhood. They are immense, higher than the ground clearance of an SUV. I assure you, if you hit one of them at 25, you will provoke laughter and probably some drinking...

by goldfish on Nov 2, 2011 11:05 am • linkreport

Froggie: in case you don't believe me, check this link:
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/DC-Three-Dead-in-South-East-Car-Crash-124919169.html

by goldfish on Nov 2, 2011 11:11 am • linkreport

A 15 mph speed limit would be a farce, just as the 15 mph speed limit in "school zones" is now. No one observes the latter and no one will observe the former. It won't improve safety, it will just lessen respect for the law.

@beatbox -

Of the 14 comments showing in the City Paper article at 11 am, I count at least 10 which are critical of Safeway.

by Frank IBC on Nov 2, 2011 11:11 am • linkreport

I think the GSA article is a little misleading. While, I'm sure GSA may face challenges in providing services in existing space, I'm not sure new space is going to be needed. My agency rolling out pilots to dramatically increase telework and cut our footprint in GSA owned space outside DC by 50% (although we are a tiny agency 3,000 FTE total). In DC, we own our space, but they are looking at a variety of changes that would let them lease another half a floor out to some other agency. I've heard other agencies are doing the same thing.

by Kate W on Nov 2, 2011 11:16 am • linkreport

The Mulligan Road project from Route 1 to Telegraph Road is a great idea. However, the end of the road at Telegraph does not form a cross intersection with existing roads on the west side. It's only stone's throw from the existing intersection of Old Telegraph Road & Telegraph Road, which already gets it's fair share of northbound traffic turning left. I hope the completion of Mulligan Road includes the proper intersection improvements needs.

by John T on Nov 2, 2011 11:29 am • linkreport

I disagree with those that say the 15 mph limit won't be observed. We've seen countless posts here that prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that drivers ALWAYS obey the law, no matter what. Drive the speed limit, stop at stop signs, you name it, they do it. Why should we not expect that slavish devotion to the rule of law to continue? It's the lawless cyclists that are responsible for anarchy on our roads, what with their rolling stops and riding on city streets.

by dcd on Nov 2, 2011 11:39 am • linkreport

@goldfish "@Froggie, those speed bumps must not be in my neighborhood. They are immense, higher than the ground clearance of an SUV. I assure you, if you hit one of them at 25, you will provoke laughter and probably some drinking...

You must not live in DC. Speed bumps are illegal in DC. We have speed humps instead. They're a wider and flatter variety of hump. One can easily go over them doing 25 mph ... or 30 mph ... or more. The problem, as Froggie correctly states, is people freaking out and stopping for them. Personally, I think either variety is self defeating and basically useless as to its purpose. As many studies have proven, it's not speed that kills, it's bad drivers (and in our case, bad pedestrians and cyclists) that cause the problems. I've seen drivers in Europe driving twice as fast in their cities than any of our speed limits here, yet have rarely heard of a problem resulting from that (as evidenced by their lower accident rates.) The issue is having a respect for the rules. As evidenced by what we hear the cyclists saying on here, in this country we tend to think we have a right to disregard the rules if we think they aren't fair ... or really applicable to us. The Europeans tend to have a blind adherence to these same rules ... And in mixed traffic, obeying rules is a far more important safety factor than is slowing down. Look at it this way, if both the driver and the pedestrian are following the rules, never will they both be trying to be in the same spot at the same time. Not in the same spot at the same time? No problem then. Our trying to justify lower speed limits on the basis that less damage occurs in an accident makes the presumption that the accident happened in the first place. We'd all be better off if we just worked at stopping the accident in the first place ... vs. trying to mitigate its damages via lowering the speed limit to speeds so low that they are not only absurd, but impossible to realistically expect people to be able to follow.

by Lance on Nov 2, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

@jag "Yet a kid with a possibly stolen bike wheel gets chased around town. It's amazing what being white and/or rich buys you."

Your analogy is slightly flawed. In the case of the kid, he's stealing something isn't his to begin with. In the case of the taxpayer, he's trying to hold on to something this IS his. And I think while most of us think the thought of stealing something from someone else is disgusting and should be appropriately punished. We also have some sympathy for an individual trying to keep the government from stealing from him ...albeit be it 'legal' stealing ...

by Lance on Nov 2, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

@dcd -

I've lived in the DC area for nearly five decades, and I've NEVER seen ANYONE driving less than 25 mph (actually 30 mph) in the designated 15 mph "school zones", when traffic is flowing freely.

by Frank IBC on Nov 2, 2011 11:51 am • linkreport

@Lance, terminology aside, did you check out the link? That should convince you that hitting one of them at speed, well, has consequences. My condolences to the families.

by goldfish on Nov 2, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

And before eveyone comes down on me ... YES, I understand we all have a legal obligation to pay our taxes. But that doesn't change the fact that under it all, it's still a taking of money from one individual ... since few of us (other than Warren Buffet) would willingly offer it up to our beloved council and executive branch for them then to spend our behalf ... often in ways were we really have to scratch our heads in wonderment in how it's supposed to benefit us. I.e.. Deep down, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, any of us who have experienced paying taxes have some sympathy for the guy ... and it has NOTHING to do with race.

by Lance on Nov 2, 2011 11:57 am • linkreport

From the link:A provision of the 1998 federal highway bill authorized three projects nationwide to test tolls as a way to address deteriorating segments of the interstate system at a time when gas tax revenues have fallen because of increased vehicle fuel efficiency and there is strong opposition in Congress to a fuel tax increase.

Nice work Congress. Shun your duty to keep the Interstate system properly running, pass the buck onto states and let them raise revenue. Great job!

by Jasper on Nov 2, 2011 11:57 am • linkreport

A 15 mph speed limit would be a farce, just as the 15 mph speed limit in "school zones" is now. No one observes the latter and no one will observe the former. It won't improve safety, it will just lessen respect for the law.

Ok, so based on this argument, we know that you'd support strict speed-camera enforcement in residential neighborhoods at 15 mph, right?

Frankly, the only person who could argue that 15-20 mph is too low on residential streets with lots of pedestrian traffic are people who never, ever walk anywhere. Frankly, I'm sick and tired of driving out to the suburbs and seeing posted speed limits of 20 mph in the neighborhoods of the same people who come into the city and drive 35-40 mph on residential streets.

I agree with several previous commenters: We should increase red-light enforcement, we should get creative in how we enforce speed limit laws (whether with "average speed" speed camera systems, non-police deputies with hand-held speed guns that record speed and plate info, etc...), and we should lower the residential speed limit to 15.

by oboe on Nov 2, 2011 12:22 pm • linkreport

I think that guy is a tax cheat and should pay up, but the numbers in that Post article don't sound right. They say he owed $3.4 million in taxes from 2005 alone (not even including penalties and interest). This is on DC income taxes, so to owe that much would mean he made $43 million that year. Yet he lives in a house appraised at $750k? That doesn't make sense.

by TM on Nov 2, 2011 12:31 pm • linkreport

@ Lance:As many studies have proven, it's not speed that kills, it's bad drivers (and in our case, bad pedestrians and cyclists) that cause the problems.

Please cite your many studies, because all studies I've seen show direct relation between death and speed.

http://www.sdt.com.au/safedrive-directory-PEDESTRIAN.htm
http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dft.gov.uk/foi/responses/2005/nov/203040message/paperaboutthedepartments20302445
http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/speed_limits.html
http://www.swov.nl/rapport/Factsheets/UK/FS_Speed.pdf
http://www.americawalks.org/wp-content/upload/Speed2.pdf

by Jasper on Nov 2, 2011 12:37 pm • linkreport

So Lance is basically arguing that we should be able to drive at high speeds through residential neighborhoods because Europeans speed through their cities. Rich, Lance, very rich. My European uncle is permanently disabled because of speeding through a European city. It's dangerous, here and abroad, whether it's Europe, Africa, or Asia. Period.

My suggestion is to narrow residential roads by widening sidewalks and/or putting in parking to make the residential road so narrow that if two cars pass each other head-on, they have to slow down to 10 mph. Take out the yellow median while you're at it.

by dc denizen on Nov 2, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

So Lance is basically arguing that we should be able to drive at high speeds through residential neighborhoods because Europeans speed through their cities.

You're operating on the assumption that there is some person "Lance" who is posting and not an elaborate multi-year performance art project testing the limits of poetic irony.

The statement "I've seen drivers in Europe driving twice as fast in their cities than any of our speed limits here, yet have rarely heard of a problem resulting from that" is wholly accurate once you invert its meaning.

After all, we know that European countries have been hard at work trying to address speeding issues in city centers since at least the 70s:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/6743003/Average-speed-cameras-installed-in-neighbourhoods-for-the-first-time.html

A few further translations:

As many studies have proven...

[i.e. "There are no studies"]

it's not speed that kills, it's bad drivers...

[i.e. "Obviously even good drivers cannot drive at an arbitrarily high rate of speed in crowded urban areas without fear of incident"]

(and in our case, bad pedestrians and cyclists) that cause the problems.

[i.e. "Obviously in the case of children, but also adults, no one can have perfect awareness at all times, even if children, walkers, and bikers strive to adhere to the Principles of GTFOOMY at all times, so we must all work together to keep one another safe."]

Makes total sense to me.

by oboe on Nov 2, 2011 12:56 pm • linkreport

In the case of the taxpayer, he's trying to hold on to something this IS his.

While this isn't a blog about tax policy, this opening is hard to resist. I think folks on the left and right generally have tax philosophy all wrong. Tax policy should have nothing to do with "fair share" but taxes are also not "stealing from individuals".

Taxes should work on free market principles. The government provides services that are necessary for people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and John Q Public to earn their money (don't believe govt services are necessary for them to make their money? I'd like to see Bill Gates become a tech billionaire in Somalia). For those services, the government charges its customers/taxpayers some money in the form of taxes and fees.

How much money should the government charge? Well, free market principles are at work here. The government employs "price discrimination" which is how every savvy business prices their goods/services. That means you don't charge everyone a flat price but rather charge according to their price sensitivity (airlines charging business customers higher fares for the same seat as a vacationer is an example of price discrimination). Charge too much and the citizens will vote you out of office or they will move and get their government services from some place that provides better value (possibly Switzerland). Charge too little and you run a deficit.

Of course, the federal government has a monopoly on many the services they provide (like national security), so regulations need to be put in place to protect customers/taxpayers from abuses. So, just like airlines (which essentially operate an oligopoly) are subject to the Passenger Bill of Rights, citizens have their own constitutional rights.

So, failing to pay your taxes is stealing just as much as going to a restaurant and running out on your bill. You're receiving services but not paying the charges.

by Falls Church on Nov 2, 2011 12:59 pm • linkreport

Nice work Congress. Shun your duty to keep the Interstate system properly running, pass the buck onto states and let them raise revenue.

Actually, the federal government's job is building interstates. Responsibility for maintenance has always fallen to the states.

by Falls Church on Nov 2, 2011 1:00 pm • linkreport

@beatbox, how do you figure that a majority of the City Paper commenters support the store? By my count it's 7-3 against, plus one "Safeway's security guards are idiots", one "and why don't they sell cups of ice?", one "interesting", one "I hate taxes", one "it wouldn't make sense to ban backpacks in grocery stores", and one "remember, the receipt check is voluntary".

True, all three supportive comments did come in a row, just after the link to the story was posted on GGW, so it might have seemed that was where things were headed if you looked in this morning, but at no point did people agreeing with Safeway comprise a majority.

by cminus on Nov 2, 2011 1:30 pm • linkreport

The 15 mph limit will be unenforceable--Cheh seems to alternate between sensible "good govt" stuff and silly things like this.

The people on the block over from mine in Atlanta had a large number of speed bumps installed over a long block. Then they complained about the noise created by said bumps. When one of my neighbors tried to get bumps for our street I refused and they were unable to get enough signatures from others. Bumps are an annoyance and, yes, you can go more than 10 mph w/o wrecking your undercarriage.

by Rich on Nov 2, 2011 1:32 pm • linkreport

Maybe Lance has spent time in a different part of Europe than I have, because in Germany the regulations on driving in residential areas are much stricter than in the US - and they are usually followed.

The speed limit is 20mph and besides that, if you even SEE children on the sidewalk you are legally required to remove your foot from the accelerator pedal and prepare to stop.

by Phil on Nov 2, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

Yeah. Not sure how anybody could possibly think that "Drive more like European city drivers" could ever be a serious suggestion for anything other than a pouplation-reduction measure.

by andrew on Nov 2, 2011 1:39 pm • linkreport

@Phil,

I prefer the way we do things in America, which is to wait until drivers run down children in residential areas, then throw up our hands and say "nothing can be done" other than to blame the parents for never talking to their children. I mean, we all know that three-year olds have tons of impulse control, but adults who drive cars can never, ever be expected to slow down.

by oboe on Nov 2, 2011 2:30 pm • linkreport

@Lance: if in fact you have driven over one of the various "speed humps" at 25MPH, you would have done severe damage to your car, your brain, or possibly both.

Actually, maybe that explains a lot......

by Anonny on Nov 2, 2011 4:26 pm • linkreport

Why yes, in Europe, they always drive like sociopathic maniacs on amphetamines.

by David R. on Nov 2, 2011 4:52 pm • linkreport

Why yes, in Europe, they always drive like sociopathic maniacs on amphetamines.

Further evidence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rnf4v5mqHes

No regard for human life whatsoever.

by oboe on Nov 2, 2011 5:20 pm • linkreport

@Oboe -

If there is a problem with drivers not observing a speed limit of 25 mph, why do you assume that lowering the speed limit is going to solve that problem? The problem is not that the speed limit is too high, it's that it's not being enforced.

by Frank IBC on Nov 2, 2011 5:22 pm • linkreport

No regard for human life whatsoever.

Those Europeans just can't compete when it comes to motorist-friendly shopping, though.

by David R. on Nov 2, 2011 5:56 pm • linkreport

@Frank,

I'd argue it's both. Even if drivers were to obey the maximum speed limit of 25 mph, and if MPD were to actually enforce it, and if MPD were to enforce it without giving a 50% grace buffer (making it effectively 36mph speed limit), they'd still be driving too fast in congested pedestrian areas and in neighborhood streets where there is likely to be pedestrian traffic.

I'd be fine with a 20 mph speed limit on all non-arterial streets in DC, if there were guaranteed enforcement, either with synchronized speed cameras, or (if we're going to get into fantasyland) with required speed limiters for vehicles operated in the city limits.

Obviously, that's not going to happen, so if you're going to spot everyone 10 mph over the posted speed limit--lest you open MPD up to charges of being unfair ("They can't change the rules in the middle of the game!!!")--you need to post a speed limit that tells drivers how fast they should be driving.

In our culture of near-universal driver scofflawism, "15" means "20". But drivers want to have it both ways: 15 is far, far too low, and undermines government authority; therefore, we should set the posted speed limit to whatever speed drivers feel they're entitled to drive, regardless of the danger posed to non-driving folks with whom they're sharing public space. Of course, we have to lard another 10-15 mph on top of that posted speed limit. Because somehow enforcing the posted speed limit is unfair. Which means, in the final accounting, the lowest possible effective speed limit we can impose is something like 35-40 mph.

Whatever we decide to set our residential speed limit to--and speeds of 15-20mph are quite common in residential suburban communities--we should be looking into automated enforcement mechanisms that work in the neighborhoods. We'll make our neighborhoods safer, we'll make a ton of cash, mostly from non-residents.

by oboe on Nov 2, 2011 5:59 pm • linkreport

Just want to note that the reason we basically get zero enforcement of current speed limits in neighborhood streets is that the "effective" speed limit is so high that there's really no point (i.e 25 mph + 11 mph). So one could argue that lowering the posted speed limit is a critical component of actually getting MPD off their asses and enforcing residential speed limits.

We always hear about the "85% rule" which essentially stipulates that whatever speed drivers feel safe driving is the speed they should be driving, but I don't think that's applicable outside of auto-only environments, because the risk to others is not factored in.

It's funny, if you're in the parking lot of a suburban big box store, God help you if you're driving faster than 5-10 mph. You'd be pulled from your car and beaten. But the same people will think nothing of doing 35 mph down Barracks Row on a crowded Saturday.

by oboe on Nov 2, 2011 6:12 pm • linkreport

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