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Breakfast links: Here comes the train again

Photo by John H Gray on Flickr.
Crack is whack for Metro: Two early morning rail cracks caused delays yesterday on Metro. The cracks were caused by the cold weather and not the aging infrastructure. (Examiner)

VRE going without Wi-Fi: VRE is backing off from plans to offer Wi-Fi on its trains. It was originally planned for 2011, but now it might not happen in 2012 due to funding constraints. (Examiner)

Brookland development gets ANC OK: The Colonel Brooks Tavern mixed-use project in Brookland won ANC approval. Supporters overcame devoted opposition to convince ANC 5A to approve the project. (City Paper)

Traffic studies unbelievable but true: Neighbors often don't believe traffic consultants when they say new development will cause minimal new traffic, but those consultants are counting on mixed uses, transit, and changing behavior. (City Paper)

CaBi may soon get ads: DDOT officials are working on getting corporate sponsorship for CaBi. Any advertising would only be on DC stations and bikes, as Arlington can't legally fund the system through corporate sponsorship. No word on how DC bikes crossing into Arlington will be handled. (HuffPo)

Emergency pedicab regulations permanent: DDOT is now enforcing emergency pedicab regulations indefinitely. Pedicab groups say the regulations, supposed to expire after 180 days, were made permanent without any consultation. (TheWashCycle)

A strong core is key to health: A study by the Cleveland Fed suggests cities that maintained their downtown density had economically healthier regions than cities whose downtowns emptied out. (Streetsblog)

And...: Now you can play PlanMaryland. (Smart Growth Maryland, Jaime Fearer) ... Between 2007 and 2010, the average car buyer age jumped from 52 to 56. (AOL, Matt Johnson) ... 2011 was not a great year for Ward 5. (RPUS)

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Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  


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What killed Cleveland's downtown wasn't population transfer or empyting out. It was Fortune 500 companies movies to southern states or Beachwood. That removed a lot of executives, and more importantly the services they needed (lawyers, accountants) and then that killed retail. And now, there is no need to go downtown.

Yes, the 1968 riots emptied good parts of the east side. But of lot of the population transfer, especially post war, was moving out of multi-family single houses. School intergration -- or rather busing -- was the final blow.

RITA and the Cleveland tax probably didn't help the situation. And the "Economnic Development" team in Cleveland was pretty weak -- they had the silly notion of bringing in stuff like Walmart would help.

by charlie on Jan 5, 2012 8:36 am • linkreport

I don'[t know enough about Cleveland to offer real insight, but I think planners understood the need to make downtown a destination -- and were probably aiming to get residents, too. The 80s were a disaster for the city, but the 90s started hopefully with huge crowds at Jacobs Field and the nightlife boom in the Flats. Why more wasn't done, I can't say. Maybe it's simply that Cleveland never caught on as cool in the way Seattle and Portland have. Or, maybe that's a product of poor regional planning.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 5, 2012 9:46 am • linkreport

Re: Fed Study

I don't know that one can necessarily conclude that the causation runs from healthy core to healthy region. The core could just be the most sensitive/volatile area of regions (the canary in the coal mine). Based on the link, it sounds like when a region does well, the core does the best and when a region does poorly, the core performs the worst. Changes in suburbs are more muted in comparison.

That makes sense because suburbs are usually comprised of stable middle class families who own their houses. Downtowns tend to have more renters, childless people, and super rich for whom it's easier to move.

by Falls Church on Jan 5, 2012 10:05 am • linkreport

@Fischy; actually, it is backwards.

The 80s were huge for Cleveland's downtwon -- massive amount of new construction for the first time in 20-30 years. Two downtown malls -both high end. 2 800+ foot buildings.

The 90s did bring Jacobs field, and some visitors. Actually, in that part of downtown a lot of visitors. But losing so much corporate work knocked the base out.

the oughts brought nothing. A wasted rail line, federal courthouse, and little else. yes, downtown loft living is happening but you're dealing with a stangant demographic area.

Honestly, I think the planners just gave up. The mayor at the time (who was a family friend) didn't help.

The newest policy seems to be tearing down housing stock. Great idea.

Urban renewal and tearing down buildings is what really destroyed cleveland's downtown in the 60s.

by charlie on Jan 5, 2012 10:10 am • linkreport

I've been surprised at the number of young people who appear to have moved into the West Side of Cleveland (Ohio City, Lakewood border, etc.) since 2005 or so. Downtown is still pretty dead, but whenever I go back to visit my parents I notice how much more vibrant that part of the city is compared to the "renaissance" years of the late 1990's.

by Matt on Jan 5, 2012 10:41 am • linkreport

In the examiner article: Metro spokesman Dan Stessel asserts that the "problems weren't caused by the transit agency's aging system" but by "extreme shifts in temperature". This is suspicious, because cracks are usually caused by metal fatigue, which accumulates over the years.

When the temperature last year was just as low, there was no service disruption caused by rail cracks. The only difference between last year and this year is that the tracks a year older. Therefore the aging infrastructure did cause the problems.

Metro is jiving the public. If they don't know why the rails cracked, they should say so. If they do, they should present better evidence that is not undermined by clueless newspaper readers like myself thinking the problem through. Metro should be more straightforward when communicating its problems to those that support it with taxes.

by goldfish on Jan 5, 2012 11:30 am • linkreport

I thought we had a constitutional right to WiFi while travelling?

by Crickey7 on Jan 5, 2012 11:52 am • linkreport

It's probably a little of both (age and extreme temps), but remember, it's not the absolute temperature that causes rail cracking. It's the change in temperature.

If you want to try this at home, take a glass (not pyrex) dish. Bring the water in it to a steady boil. Now take the glass dish and put it on a marble countertop that has been cooled to a very cold temperature.

You'll need to buy a new bowl at the end of this experiment. Even if your bowl was brand new beforehand.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 5, 2012 12:09 pm • linkreport

Does anyone else besides me think that Metro might have been better off just not using the Potomac Bridge in the morning rush hour yesterday, rather than slowing down the Yellow, Blue, and Green lines by single-tracking? On the DC side, they could have operated Yellow Trains as Green line trains south of L'Enfant. In Northern Va, they could have turned Yellow trains around at Reagan National Airport. This would have caused significant crowding in-bound on the Blue Line, but at least trains would have been moving.

by TimG on Jan 5, 2012 12:19 pm • linkreport

Metro did not use the Potomac Bridge yesterday morning. I got on a Yellow Line that was marked "Special," and the train operator announced that it was a Yellow Line terminating at Smithsonian. We followed the Blue Line route around to Rosslyn. I thought it would have been clearer just to say that there were no Yellows, just Blues, heading toward downtown. It also would have been helpful to have had better information before I got on the train, but that's another story.

by Mary on Jan 5, 2012 12:37 pm • linkreport

@Goldfish, exactly right.

by charlie on Jan 5, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

@Matt @Goldfish

The cause of the cracking is Metro's investment in inferior weight rails to save capital budget money. If you dig into the type of rails they purchase, they are not the same as other entities with similar weight rolling stock. They buy the cheap stuff.

So on one hand the Metro spokesman is correct, on the other he's a lying bag of poo.

by AFF on Jan 5, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport


That's interesting, when were you riding? When I was riding in shortly after 8 AM, they were single tracking the Yellow line between Pentagon City and L'Enfant. Consequently, my usual 25 minute trip to Rosslyn took nearly an hour.

by TimG on Jan 5, 2012 1:00 pm • linkreport

@Matt: the temperature changes that night were not very large; starting at 16:52 it was 28 F and by 02:52 it was 17 F, a change of only 11 F. There certainly have been days when the temperature change was far larger. Bottom line: Metro is messin' with us.

by goldfish on Jan 5, 2012 1:01 pm • linkreport

@mattjohnson; so, metro rails are as frail as soda glass? Not exactly inspiring.

A quick Google news search reveals WMATA seems to be leading in the "Cold Rail cracking" section. Not very exact, but I wonder how many rail system fail because it is 17 degrees?

Rather like when WMATA cancels rail service for 2" of snow....

by charlie on Jan 5, 2012 1:08 pm • linkreport

@AFF: I appreciate your information, BUT: if the rails did not crack last year when the temperature was the same, why did they this year? My point stands: it was fatigue, lacking any information to the contrary (and none has been presented). In fact, it makes sense that this would happen to lower cost rails (what makes them lower quality--thinner? not tempered?). This means aging infrastructure.

by goldfish on Jan 5, 2012 1:51 pm • linkreport

If you want to try this at home, take a glass (not pyrex) dish. Bring the water in it to a steady boil. Now take the glass dish and put it on a marble countertop that has been cooled to a very cold temperature.

How about taking a dish from the oven (as you're preparing holiday dinner) and stupidly placing it on your cold glass table. Then imagine the strange cracking sound I kept hearing you hear as you then see your 70-inch glass topped table collapse into shards.

by HogWash on Jan 5, 2012 1:54 pm • linkreport

Remember this track cracking when you extol the virtues of transit. Say what you want about roads, but no change in temperature can render a road network unusable like it can with a rail line. That's one of the biggest problems with transit. It is by nature so brittle that you have to have a backup plan. Transit can augment a road network, but it cannot replace one.

by movement on Jan 5, 2012 10:48 pm • linkreport

"Neighbors often don't believe traffic consultants when they say new development will cause minimal new traffic, but those consultants are counting on mixed uses, transit, and changing behavior."

And in reality: what people count on doesn't often come true. What are the consultants plans for that?
If the consultants (who are paid for by developers, whose interest is making money off a development) are counting on improving transit to ensure no increase in traffic pattens... do these studies show what happens to traffic patterns if there is no improvement in transit? Or.. if transit worsens... do they plan for that?

by greent on Jan 8, 2012 3:43 pm • linkreport

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