Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Don't jump


Photo by gellnerd on Flickr.
Metro behind in suicide prevention: While suicide by train continues at an alarming rate Metro's prevention program is months behind schedule. Metro hopes to catch up this year. (Examiner)

Troubles for the trolley?: Arlington's new cost estimate for the Columbia Pike streetcar may put it over the limit for the Small Starts program, but the county appears to be going ahead with the application anyway. (Pike Spotter)

11th St. Bridge span opens: The new outbound span of the 11th Street Bridge opened over the weekend. The local span, featuring a bike and pedestrian path (but no streetcar tracks), will open this summer. (Examiner)

Who should maintain the roads?: Virginia is considering devolving road maintenance to the city and county level to save money, but local leaders think it will just transfer the burden to localities who can't afford it. (WAMU)

Gentrifiers get gentrified out : Love Cafe on U Street and the H Street Playhouse are both is closing due to high rents, and the H Street Playhouse has to move. The businesses opened in 2003 and 2002 respectively as part of a first wave of new businesses for those areas. (WAMU, City Paper)

More playgrounds than you think: Does DC have a playground problem? DC's 101 playgrounds are more per capita than New York, LA, or Philadelphia, but there are no playgrounds downtown. (DCist)

Photo tickets down, bike lane tickets up: DC photo enforcement tickets dropped about 29 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, police have quadrupled the number of tickets issued for blocking bike lanes. (Post, Falls Church)

And...: SW Waterfront's Wharf development looks to be sailing along. (DCmud) ... Elections don't matter that much when it comes to real estate. (Post) ... A shanty town has sprung up in a half-finished shopping mall in the heart of Caracas. (Foreign Policy) ... Metro riders go pantless. (Post)

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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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"Gentrifiers get gentrified out"

For good or for bad, this is how a neighborhood 'redevelops'. I.e., one group of retailers who can be profitable when the neighborhood isn't desireable, can no longer be profitable when the neighborhood IS desireable and other businesses are bidding on the same space out of which to try THEIR luck. A good example is Rough and Ready which recently closed its doors on 14th Street. For me (and my dog) our weekend strolls down 14th will never be the same ... No more of that 'lets see if we can find a treasure in that attic of a store' ... BUT that's progress, the only constant of which is CHANGE.
I understand that to be profitable, that kind of store needs to locate where no one else will.

Now Love Cafe though I'm a bit surprised. Have you ever bought anything at their bakery across the street? Prices are exceptionally high there ... and have been since it opened. (Though the product IS very very good.) Maybe the problem with the cafe is the pricing model. Maybe the very very high prices they charge at the bakery aren't sustainable at the cafe where people aren't necessarily going to for special occasions like they are the bakery. I remember going there once and not going back because it was way too expensive. The bakery though, I've been back to. Maybe if they lowered prices in the cafe they'd find it to be profitable because of increased business ...

by Lance on Jan 9, 2012 9:12 am • linkreport

Virginia is considering devolving road maintenance to the city and county level to save money, but local leaders think it will just transfer the burden to localities who can't afford it.

It's a bit ironic that Conservative, rural America seems to support these kind of initiatives. If they're successful at decoupling themselves from the largess of the wealthy cosmopolitan areas, I can't imagine how they won't devolve into some kind of a primitive 19th century society.

The whole dynamic reminds me a bit of my timid male tabby who was always scheming to get outside...where all sorts of misfortunes would befall him.

by oboe on Jan 9, 2012 9:42 am • linkreport

I agree with Lance on this one, it sucks when it happens to your favorite store/venue/restaurant but thats the way of the world.

by Canaan on Jan 9, 2012 9:43 am • linkreport

It's no reason that Warren (Cake Love/Love Cafe) should not have been at the forefront of the whole "cupcake" revolution, especially after the Oprah endorsemtn But IMO, not only were his prices ridiculously high, the product just wasn't nearly as good to justify the cost.

I tried to support the brotha throughout the years but remained rather disappointed. So I stopped going. Dense, dry, and rather boring is how I would describe it. He should've perfected some great cupcakes...but he didn't.

Now we have a slew of "I can never eat there again and be ok w/it" cupcakeries (Crumbs, G'townCup, Hello Cup, Cupcake truck etc)...yawn...but none truly hit the spot...

Although I have been pleased what Red Velvet's selections...

by HogWash on Jan 9, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

Also, I can see why devolution state-wide is a bad idea but in Arlington they already have local control which seems to me to be at least one reason that Arlington can be more forward thinking about its bike infrastructure on the streets. One issue I ran into when I lived in fairfax was that any road improvements/changes had to go through VDOT even for the most minor of changes. I want something that gives counties flexibility but doesn't leave them on the hook financially for every piece of asphalt.

by Canaan on Jan 9, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

I love bagging on WMATA, but the suicide thing?

I don't think traning station managers to spot suicidal passengers will work? signs -- hell -- they might give people some ideas.

The glass partions would work well, but would require a lot of money and cough, computer controlled trains.

@Oboe; is this proposal coming from "Conservative, rural America" as you kindly put it? Most of the counties in Virginia would do well with the proposal, and frankly the biggest win would be residents of fairfax. However, the politicans in Fairfax would be accountable, instead of muttering "Dillon's rule" on why they can't fix streets.

by charlie on Jan 9, 2012 10:09 am • linkreport

@charlie

Training employees to spot suicidal behavior and putting up signs about help are two of the most effective things you can do other than physically blocking people from jumping on the tracks. Anything that makes someone consider their choice an additional time can help prevent them from making that choice.

Toronto is in the process of installing speed dial buttons on the phones in stations so people can call a suicide hotline easily.

by MLD on Jan 9, 2012 10:24 am • linkreport

Gave Cakelove a chance, but like HogWash, I was not impressed with their product. Went to Lovecafe once after a date, and was kicked out because they close rather early for a food business located in a district associated with nightlife. Change happens and life goes on. In Alexandria this week the Old Town theater announced it is closing, and in the papers the owner blamed the closing on rents and all kinds of other issues (actually blamed the "trolley"). A lot of business owners use "gentrifcation" as a scapegoat, when in reality they need to dig deeper and find better ways to run their business.

by spookiness on Jan 9, 2012 10:27 am • linkreport

@charlie,

I think we can both agree that "state's rights" and "local control" are core modern "Conservative" principles. The logical result of such policies would be a country that looked a lot like the Euro-zone, with "blue states" in the role of Germany, and "red states" as Greece and Spain.

As it is Federal spending is a massive transfer of wealth from blue to red.

In Virginia, the most dyed-in-the-wool conservative areas are generally the poorest, rural areas. Northern Virginia is comparatively liberal, and Fairfax is no exception. If conservative voters followed their principles, the disparities in states across the country would be staggering.

by oboe on Jan 9, 2012 10:33 am • linkreport

@charlie

Training staff to recognize suicidal passengers does work. Toronto has experience with it. The warning signs are that most don't just stand there and then get on the tracks when the next train arrives, they agonize over the decision and take their time, often waiting for several trains to pass at the end of the platform, which gives time for a station manager time to identify the person and offer some sort of intervention. Even engaging that person in conversation can help.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_Transit_Commission#Suicide

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2232036/

In short, there are likely some programmatic elements that can work short of platform screen doors.

I'd also note that you don't need platform doors for fully automatic operation (see Vancouver's SkyTrain).

by Alex B. on Jan 9, 2012 10:33 am • linkreport

This is obviously contingent on local taxes increasing as a share of total taxation compared with state and federal taxes.

by oboe on Jan 9, 2012 10:34 am • linkreport

If they're successful at decoupling themselves from the largess of the wealthy cosmopolitan

They're not decoupling from the largesse. Richmond is still going to take all of NOVA's tax money. They're just not going to give any of it back for road maintenance in NOVA. Basically, they want our money but don't want to provide any services.

Re: Love Cafe

I think they're original problem was that few people realized the Cafe was related to the Cakelove bakery. Their failure to keep up in the cupcake wars just made things worse.

@ Hogwash -- try Baked & Wired in Georgetown. Best baked goods, coffee, and ambiance...hands down.

by Falls Church on Jan 9, 2012 10:42 am • linkreport

@Charlie: probably the most frequent cause of delays are when a train hits someone. Don't know how effective the training is, but it is possible that it will help reduce these sorts of delays.

Oh yeah, and it may save some lives, or at least convince people to will kill themselves in some other way.

by goldfish on Jan 9, 2012 10:42 am • linkreport

But IMO, not only were his prices ridiculously high, the product just wasn't nearly as good to justify the cost.

I could not agree more - I gave them more chances than I normally would (I went to school with the owner) but never became a fan of the cakes/cupcakes. Some of the other baked goods were pretty good, though (the eclairs).

@HogWash - try Baked and Wired in Georgetown. Best part about it is that if you don't want a cupcake, there's a multitude of other baked goods to choose from, all delicious.

by dcd on Jan 9, 2012 10:43 am • linkreport

Pushing more responsibility for maintenance to localities is clearly a prefatopry step toward pshing down the costs as well. And it will be poetic justice for the rural localities whose state leglislators have starved NoVa road improvements for decades, given their per capita road costs are undoubtedly higher.

by Crickey7 on Jan 9, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

They're not decoupling from the largesse. Richmond is still going to take all of NOVA's tax money. They're just not going to give any of it back for road maintenance in NOVA. Basically, they want our money but don't want to provide any services.

Theoretically, wouldn't the solution be to increase local taxes--which are deductible from state/federal tax? Please keep in mind I can barely complete my yearly 1040EZ, so I readily concede I know less than anyone else here about it.

by oboe on Jan 9, 2012 10:46 am • linkreport

RE: stations managers and suicide.

For that to be effective, you need to get your station manager out of a kiosk. And that is not the WMATA way. Personal ancetodte on: I've seen a woman falls down an escalator in MetroCenter. And i've been evacatued from Foggy Bottom whem a smoking train pulled up. In neither case did the manager ever come out. Exactly how is that person going to stop suicide.

And warning signs? the program seems to put up billboards. again, effective?

@Oboe; You're missing the point. Is the devolution process coming from "conseravtive rurual" Virginia, or is it being proposed by someone else? As the article says, party leaders on both sides in the GA don't like it. So where is it coming from?

VADOT would love to continue and reduce services, but I dont' see that as conseravtive/liberal/rurual/urban.

Why is this an issue -- a constant frame on this blog is "urban vs. suburban". There are times when that is useful. There are other times it is highly misleading.

by charlie on Jan 9, 2012 10:54 am • linkreport

Suicide by Metro has two consequences: tragedy for one person, and system-wide delays with unsafe platform crowding for everyone else. In this way, I think a lot of DC residents find "Metrocide" extra unpleasant becuase we feel selfish for being upset that the person slowed our commute a little. In contrast with Toronto, I heard tell that Paris Metro opted to focus on the latter part by putting up signs asking people to just do it somewhere else. Anyone know if the went through with it and/or if it worked?

Sounds incredibly insenstive and crass, but frankly might be a better fit with WMATA's level of employee capability. Metro seems way better at putting up signs than training its employees--especially to interact with customers. Other than the awesome Farragut West Christmas-spectacular station manager, I can't see many other station managers actually making someone feel better.

by Ronald on Jan 9, 2012 10:59 am • linkreport

The solution to "jumpers" is easy and doesn't require Metro spending millions on automatic glass walls, or training roving suicide "spotters", or paying for 24/7 hotlines.

Just deccelerate the train before it comes out of the tunnel.

Metro trains currently burst out of the tunnels at ~30 mph and then start to slow. If the trains slow in the tunnel approach and then travel the lenght of the platform at ~5 mph then "jumping" opportunity would be lost.

Yes, it would add ~2o seconds to the approach/load cycle but that can be accomodated through a schedule adjustment.

There, we just took the opportunity away for people to use metro to kill themselves and didn't spend one dollar.

by freely on Jan 9, 2012 10:59 am • linkreport

Theoretically, wouldn't the solution be to increase local taxes--which are deductible from state/federal tax?

Yes, they are deductible from income but they are not a tax credit...huge distinction. A deduction from income of say $1000 means that your taxes are based on your income minus $1000 (if you make $50K, your taxes are as if you made only $49K). A tax credit means your taxes are reduced by that amount (if you make $50K and your taxes are $5K and you have a $1K credit, you only pay $4K).

So, raising local taxes doesn't help because then Fairfax will be paying taxes to Richmond for road maintenance that they don't get plus paying taxes to the local government for actual road maintenance (although it won't be a true double tax since residents will save a little money by deducting local taxes from their reported state/federal income).

by Falls Church on Jan 9, 2012 11:02 am • linkreport

As the article says, party leaders on both sides in the GA don't like it. So where is it coming from?

This isn't a partisan issue. This is a NOVA vs. Rest of VA issue. The entire NOVA coalition (Rs and Ds) oppose devolution. It's just another way to plug budget holes in Richmond with NOVA money.

Check out this editorial from the Chair of the Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun Supervisors (D, R, and R respectively):

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-road-devolution-is-a-bad-deal-for-northern-virginia/2011/11/30/gIQAmYBNMO_story.html

by Falls Church on Jan 9, 2012 11:08 am • linkreport

@FC/DCD...thanks..they're actually on my list of places to visit. I've heard from more than a few people that B&W was really like that, especially from those who weren't as superthrilled about G'town Cup. Where is it in G'town anyway?

@FC, I didn't realize the two were the related until a couple of years ago. Go figure!

While I understand how training wmata employees might help in preventing suicides, wouldn't that require the station manager to be down on the platform? Aren't most kiosks in the system on an upper level?

by HogWash on Jan 9, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

Baked and Wired:


View Larger Map

by Falls Church on Jan 9, 2012 11:20 am • linkreport

@Freely

A Metro Platform is 600 feet long. At 5MPH, the train would take 81 seconds to reach the end of the platform.

Added together, that would add 20 minutes to the travel time from Vienna to L'Enfant Plaza.

Somehow, I think those glass doors are the way forward. I was a bit surprised to not see them included in the design of the Silver Line, given that most new Metro lines around the world are including them.

by andrew on Jan 9, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport

@FallsChurch; thanks.

by charlie on Jan 9, 2012 11:22 am • linkreport

RE: Metro suicides,

The person I feel the most sympathy for is the train operator who has to live with the fact that he/she has killed someone and they couldn't do anything about it.

I saw what running over a jumper did to my uncle who was a NY MTA train operator in the 1980's. It destroyed him. It's time to seriously consider the glass walls seen on the airport terminal train platforms.

by ceefer66 on Jan 9, 2012 11:25 am • linkreport

@Andrew,

Ok, fine (rolls eyes). Have them enter the tunnel at 15mph then. Slow the trains to the point where they have enough stopping time should someone try.

The point is there is a lot that can be done between spending hundreds of millions of dollars WMATA doesn't have on some whizbang new automatic system that will then cost a fortune moving forward to maintain, and keeping the status quo.

by freely on Jan 9, 2012 11:31 am • linkreport

Who the hell eats cupcakes more than once or twice a year anyway?

by Twiggy on Jan 9, 2012 11:42 am • linkreport

@FC/DCD...thanks..they're actually on my list of places to visit. I've heard from more than a few people that B&W was really like that, especially from those who weren't as superthrilled about G'town Cup. Where is it in G'town anyway?

It's on Thomas Jefferson St. (east of Wisconsin) between K and M, just south of the canal. Try the donut muffin. Or the pumpkin-ginger bread. If you come on a weekend afternoon, be prepared to wait in (a long) line.

by dcd on Jan 9, 2012 11:43 am • linkreport

I agree with spookiness - Love Cafe wasn't open late enough. There were plenty of times where I would be coming home from the U Street metro, thinking "hey, Love Cafe!" then it's closed because it's 10:15.

by MLD on Jan 9, 2012 11:48 am • linkreport

@Oboe and Krickey,
Would VA really devolve roads, or just move toward the approach that Maryland has, with main arteries being run by the state but localities responsible for the local streets?
The rural self-reliance that oboe foresees is not entirely evident in Maryland. In many places, almost all the significant roads (and all the bridges) are on state highways.
The proposed devolution seems likely to shift road costs from road users toward the general fund. A true devolution would give the localities authority for a gas tax to pay for roads.

by JimT on Jan 9, 2012 11:59 am • linkreport

Jim:

Va is a "Dillon's Rule" state. Local governments have only the authority specifically granted by the state. Which they won't.

by Crickey7 on Jan 9, 2012 12:32 pm • linkreport

"Who the hell eats cupcakes more than once or twice a year anyway?"

by Twiggy

Got a chuckle from this one.

by Jack Love on Jan 9, 2012 1:10 pm • linkreport

Can "devolution" also apply to a county no longer being in the Commonwealth of Virginia any more?

by Jack Love on Jan 9, 2012 1:29 pm • linkreport

@ALex B---Looking at the numbers, there probably isn't a statistically significant different trend in Toronto's suicides and their "effective program" is brand new and unevaluated. The lit review suggests (duh) subway suicides usually have serious mental illness.

Suicide is a relatively rare event, relative to everything else that happens on a Metro and more complicated than a disintegrating brake. Suicide hotlines have demonstrated no significant impact on community-wide suicide rates and someone who wants to off themselves is not going to look up, see a sign and suddenly call. It doesn't work that way. I'm dubious about the training--it's a CYA. A disintegrating economy for people on the margins and jurisdictions with often less than stellar community mental health are more like causes and much more difficult to fix. the examiner, like more mainstream publications is clueless about mental health matters and just wants to be nasty to WMATA mgmt.

Cake Love = overpriced and nothing special. Their retail store will soldier on.

Devolving road maintenance to localities will be grossly inefficient, but I doubt the guv or the teabaggers care about that.

by Rich on Jan 9, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

@Rich

Those links I posted earlier don't get into the fullness of Toronto's training. The point of it is, it's not like these subway suicide attempts can't be identified in advance. The same thing with bridge jumpers, top - there's a fairly specific behavior pattern that's not hard to identify.

It's not about solving their mental issues, it's about delaying them long enough so they don't attempt suicide in the station and getting them the help they need.

Unfortunately, I think suicide attempts via Metro trains are far more common than you imply.

Here's more more links on Toronto's approach, documenting everything including potential engineering solutions like platform screen doors:
http://www3.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Commission_reports_and_information/Commission_meetings/2010/Feb_17_2010/Supplementary_Reports/Subway_Suicide_Preve.pdf

by Alex B. on Jan 9, 2012 4:44 pm • linkreport

@Rich

TTC's suicide prevention program is not brand new; they've been working on various forms of suicide prevention since the late 70s.

As crass as it may sound, the point of transit agencies taking these efforts isn't to turn around the person's entire life; it's just to discourage them at one particular place and time.

by MLD on Jan 9, 2012 5:46 pm • linkreport

Mr Block: I'm impressed that you've actually done your homework on something like TTC suicides. To reiterate how WMATA's proposed measures will work: people typically waver before tossing themselves overboard, and so there are a few minutes when an intervention can be staged -- either by a bystander on the platform or by a station manager who has been watching the situation from upstairs.

freely: a moving train intrinsically has so much momentum (from mass, not velocity) that it's not feasible to implement a "slow train" policy that wouldn't result in a whole lot more inconvenience to everyone.

Love Cafe had a great space -- the sequence of rooms works really well for both conversation and reading -- and actually kept later hours relative to other coffee places in the city, but even my inveterate sweet tooth could never get all that excited about the product. Plus, staffing two shops across the street from one another, with one doing the much higher margin catering business, can't have been the best business proposition. Many bakeries use the cafe more as a marketing tool (outreach to potential custom cake customers) than as a profit center; CakeLove probably has enough of a regional footprint to do fine without the cafe.

by Payton on Jan 9, 2012 6:01 pm • linkreport

@Krickey. I agree that Virginia is an extreme Dillon Rule state, so that giving localities the power to build roads would give them a power they do not have. Yet I don't see
the importance of that situation for rural localities, unless you know of some that really want to build some roads rather than have the state do so. (Don't localities already have an exaction power for some roads in new development?)

Nor do I see how this will make rural localities any more self-reliant than those in Maryland already are. Neither MD nor VA localities will be able to tax gasoline to pay for the roads. And as far as I can tell, rural localities in VA will still have mostly state highways.

by JimT on Jan 9, 2012 6:07 pm • linkreport

more re: suicide: I submit that this sort of training for station managers could have far more important benefits. Eye-balling the customers as they approach and seeing who is visibly jumpy, anxious, and/or sweating on a cold day could also identify the real security threats, aka suicide bombers. It would probably be more effective than sending out an army of transit cops on days when DHS is spooked.

Paying attention to the demeanor of the passengers, if for no other reason than to size up their customers and meet their needs, is something Metro should be doing already.

by goldfish on Jan 10, 2012 8:54 am • linkreport

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