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Breakfast links: Metro money

Photo by jcolman on Flickr.
More revenue ideas: The WMATA board added other revenue options to the menu for public hearings, including a paper farecard surcharge of $1, a 2-zone system for paper farecards, a 5¢ surcharge for 6 stations, and changing MetroAccess fares. (Post)

Two Metro employees accused of stealing: A Metro Transit Police officer and a revenue technician are accused of stealing thousands of dollars in coins from WMATA while collecting money from fare machines. In response, GM Richard Sarles says he will implement tighter controls on the revenue collection system. (Post)

CCT likely to be BRT: The Corridor Cities Transitway will likely be bus rapid transit and not light rail, as a majority of councilmembers now support BRT. (Examiner)

Shields up: WMATA may install shields on 100 buses to test how well they protect bus drivers. This was tried in 2008, but 70% of the drivers didn't like the shields. (Post)

Historic track preservation: Contractors are running into difficulty with historic streetcar tracks in Georgetown. Many are deteriorated and need to be replaced, but historically accurate replacements are hard to find. (Patch)

Maryland smart growth tools not enough: A UMD study finds existing smart growth tools are not enough when battling community opposition and regulation, making it easier to develop outside of areas designated for smart growth. (CityBizList)

Tenleytown Safeway still gets opposition: Safeway designed a new mixed-use plan for its Tenleytown store after many objected to an original big box design, but some residents now aren't happy with the density. (DCmud)

What crazy drivers do: A drunk driver drove into the Muni subway tunnels in San Francisco and traveled half a mile before getting stuck. (SF Chronicle) ... Anne Arundel police used DNA evidence to catch a hit and run driver who injured a cyclist. (Post)

The smaller American home: This year's "New American Home," a show house built to show trends in housing, is one of the smallest ever, demonstrating that many Americans are choosing walkability over space. (WSJ)

And...: Arlington works toward building bike culture. (Patch) ... Yvette Alexander indefinitely postpones a hearing to let the Verizon Center add digital animated signs. (Post) ... Phil Mendelson opts to not go for a fully loaded SUV. (DCist)

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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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Historic track preservation: Contractors are running into difficulty with historic streetcar tracks in Georgetown. Many are deteriorated and need to be replaced,

The last word here should be the clue why this is NOT a historic preservation action. Regretably, this historic resource was lost through neglect. While we normally think of houses and buildings and private ownership when we discuss the topic of Demolition by Neglect, in this case it's these two paved streets in Georgetown with streetcar tracks from another era that have suffered this fate. What's occuring now is no better than the Disneyfication of historic districts which historic preservations are opposed to. (I.e., Despite what a lot of people think, most preservationists would prefer to see state-of-the-art modern buildings put in infill locations in historic districts rather than there be an attempt to recreate a past building that might have been built on the site had it been developed concurrent with its neighbors.) In short, this relaying of the tracks and pavers is an abuse of the good goals of true historic presevation efforts.

by Lance on Jan 20, 2012 8:49 am • linkreport


One guy, since 2008, with more than $150K in suspicious cash account.

$300K total.

They were washing the money in lottery tickets; so the actual cash being stolen was much higher. Let's say $1.5M since 2008, turned into lottery ticket winning at a 5:1 ratio. That is a low end estimate.

And WMATA never noticed.

Rather much like when $20M was being stolen from parking lots, or when WMATA didn't notice for 25 years that the paper fare cards were being hacked.

Here's my point -- you'd think somebody would notice that revenue was down a bit and wonder why. Oh, I'm sure it is only .001% of daiy revenue, but if you tried that at other institutions you'd be caught far sooner. Try it at McDonalds for instance...

by charlie on Jan 20, 2012 8:55 am • linkreport

A majority of Montgomery Council members now need to be replaced.

by Redline SOS on Jan 20, 2012 9:04 am • linkreport

Thanks for posting further proof that the "historic track preservation" in Georgetown is nothing more than an exercise in futility. Not to mention how grossly wasteful the project is! Why these tracks need to be saved is beyond me. They are an eyesore and make driving nearly impossible.

by MJ on Jan 20, 2012 9:05 am • linkreport

Speaking of shields, what is the technical reason that metro can't stop at predetermined stops in the station and have shileds on the platform?

by TGEOA on Jan 20, 2012 9:07 am • linkreport

Pull up a section of the tracks and give them to the streetcar museum to make a display.

Money should not be spent trying to preserve in-place infrastructure that's out of date and useless. We missed our chance to keep this infrastructure around and use it; we should be concentrating on building a new streetcar system.

RE: Metro Fare Theft
Metro should be keeping track of how much each team is picking up/dropping off. The fare machines are designed to be secure and have secure boxes and such, like parking meters, right? Then they should be able to track that a team picked up the fares from machines 1, 2, 3, the machines know how much they collected, and the revenue center should be counting how much each team drops off.

@charlie, I don't think McDonald's would notice if .001% of revenue at a location went missing - that's the equivalent of like 5 cents per day. Registers are accurate but not THAT accurate.

by MLD on Jan 20, 2012 9:21 am • linkreport

re: Georgetown tracks

People in the area seem to want the tracks. I imagine that one of the main goals is to smooth the road surface, so I don't think that they will keep the flangeways. As far as the conduit goes, I think they should fabricate a very short stretch - maybe 12 or 15 feet - at one (or two, one on each street) location where there can be an interpretive sign explaining the how and why of underground conduit power supply.

re: CCT

I can just see this getting more and more watered down. I think they're so desperate to build that 'Science City' project that MontCo wants to just do something, anything. Are they really going to build a large bus only flyover above the Shady Grove Rd. interchange? Or will someone say, "Hey, we can save a bundle if we just run the busses in traffic on Shady Grove to Key West Hwy., to Great Seneca Hwy., etc. etc. And before it even opens, its just a slightly nicer bus line.

by kinverson on Jan 20, 2012 9:27 am • linkreport

@MLD; I suspect it is more like $5 rather than 5 cents, but my math isn't that good this morning. The point being, as you state, there should be systems that prevent this. Looks like Metro PD got turned on to this crime by reports of a uniformed officer buying large amounts of lottery tickets with bags of coins.

by charlie on Jan 20, 2012 9:35 am • linkreport

That Safeway mixed use project in Tenley looks pretty good. In looking at the presentation, it looks like there is a pretty healthy buffer between the existing houses and the new buildings. It is hard to understand where the complaints are coming from. It is much better than the original proposal.

by William on Jan 20, 2012 9:36 am • linkreport

The "American Home" is still bigger than it needs to be. Everyone I know with a mini-mansions has plenty of wasted space.

by Rich on Jan 20, 2012 9:40 am • linkreport

@Lance: I own a historical house. It has several baseboard pieces that have been damaged beyond repair. What to do, replace with identical new pieces, try to find old pieces from salvage, or tear it all out and replace with modern woodwork? The answer for me is obvious, replace with new.

Such is the situation in Georgetown. Nothing last forever and tearing out the tracks would forsake the history, causing the streetcars to eventually be forgotten. Do you think they should pave over the canals in Venice?

by goldfish on Jan 20, 2012 9:42 am • linkreport

We waste money on preserving defunct streetcar tracks and simultaneously quibble over a measly 2.5% of the Dulles Metro Expansion by removing its namesake. Sometimes I just want to scream.

by Brian Vargas on Jan 20, 2012 9:42 am • linkreport

Re: CCT-

The simple fact of the matter is that the CCT as LRT was never going to get built. It was third in line for federal funding behind the Purple Line and Baltimore's Red Line. Both of those will have to wait for some time before getting funding.

Further, CCT as BRT allows the line to be integrated with the county's large-scale BRT plan. That system will be locally funded. Despite certain articles on this site castigating the county's plan, the work on the county's website regarding the BRT plan suggests that they are moving towards a high-quality system.

by thesixteenwords on Jan 20, 2012 9:43 am • linkreport

So the unions aren't being blamed for not "managing" its members, preventing them from stealing 1000's of dollars? Well great friday it is!

It's rather ironic that residents in Chinatown, a bustling mishmash of consumer energy, don't like the idea of Chinatown becoming Times Square. Although I personally don't like everything in DC always being compared to some other favorite city, I would love seeing digital billboards and the like @the Verizon Center.

I'm not sure whether the shields would actually work but the problem for drivers really is that bad.

by HogWash on Jan 20, 2012 9:49 am • linkreport

Why is WMATA so he hell bent on getting rid of the paper fare cards through excessive fees.

WMATA should simply set up a mechanism allowing the casual user or visitors to rent a SmarTrip cards for a nominal fee that would allow it's return when it is no longer needed. After it's return it would be wiped clean and made available for rental or sale to a new passenger.

After the rental system is fully deployed WMATA can remove all of the hardware in their fare venders needed to vend paper fare cards.

by cambron on Jan 20, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

Re: Georgetown Tracks

The O St. and P St. tracks are incredibly annoying and isolate the confused positions of this blog's writers. Does GGW love transit access and road-sharing bikeable streets or quanit cobbles and tracks that keep out the riff-raff? The rail re-construction that Topher and Ken have supported suspended G2 bus activity in most of West Georgetown, cutting off the university main campus, and in their finished state will make all of P St and O St essentially off-limits to bikes (rails v. tires, tires win).

As a grad student at Georgetown, I don't have a lot of visibility into the neighbor-undergraduate relationship. But the trolley tracks and the consequences of their reconstruction make my car-free commute a nightmare, and definitely doesn't engender goodwill for the Tophers, et al., from outsiders.

by Ronald on Jan 20, 2012 9:59 am • linkreport


STM has a temporary smart card (L’occasionnelle) and I think other agencies are working on this too:

Basically it's like a NYC Metrocard in strength, so it's cheaper to make, but it has an RFID chip and antenna like SmarTrip.

I wouldn't say creating the infrastructure for a rental system for SmarTrip cards is "simple."

by MLD on Jan 20, 2012 10:12 am • linkreport

Regarding the Safeway, here is whay I posted on another blog about the height:

"At last night's hearing several of the residents and one ANC commissioner complained about the height of this building along 42nd street (75 feet-- everyone panic!!). Several of the residents and opponents said this height is inconsistent with the existing uses in the neighborhood.

This is a completely fabricated reason to oppose this development. The heights will be tapered down as this development approaches the existing single-family homes. I asked about the office building ( right next to the Martens Volvo dealership on 42nd Street, not more than 50 yards from the Safeway. This building is approximately 55-65 feet at its tallest point yet few if any neighbors could even recall this building, let alone were aware that this building even existed.

The Central Pension Fund building is directly across the street from several rowhouses but few neighbors seemed bothered by this charmer of a building. On the other hand, next to the maximum height of the Safeway, the project would be bounded by 42nd Street, then the Martens dealership, followed by six lanes of Wisconsin Avenue.

Similarly, Georgetown Day School looks like it is 50-60 feet in some locations ( By suggesting the proposed height of the Safeway is inconsistent with existing structures, the opponents are fishing for any excuse they can find."

by No NIMBY on Jan 20, 2012 10:37 am • linkreport

@HogWash - "It's rather ironic that residents in Chinatown, a bustling mishmash of consumer energy, don't like the idea of Chinatown becoming Times Square. Although I personally don't like everything in DC always being compared to some other favorite city, I would love seeing digital billboards and the like @the Verizon Center."

I don't think it's ironic; I think it's prudent. One big difference between Times Square and DC's China-block is size; Times Square itself is a huge space, generally with residential buildings around the periphery. In Chinatown, any residences across the street from a digital billboard are probably going to be no more than 70-100 feet from it, given the more typical layout of 7th St and H St. That's a Kenny Rogers' Roasters outside Kramer's window situation.

by worthing on Jan 20, 2012 11:07 am • linkreport

The Safeway project in Tenleytown definiitely looks like a promising proposal, I think far better then its downmarket cousin Giant's Cathedral Commons project to the south on Wisconsin. Safeway and its partner seems much more attuned than Giant was to considerations of setback, scale and buffering the project from adjoining homes and fitting better into the community context. Plus, the project is very close to the Metro. A significant bonus is the proposal to close off part of 42nd St., creating more green space or a small park for the Tenley neighborhood. By contrast, it turns out that Giant's project requires DDOT to widen Idaho Ave. and remove the mature tree canopy (possibly 38th St. also). Safeway seems to be consulting the community and doing a better job overall, which should help them with a smoother process.

by Bob on Jan 20, 2012 12:31 pm • linkreport

@Bob: Safeway seems to be consulting the community and doing a better job overall, which should help them with a smoother process.

This sets of my "astro-turf" detector.

Bob: do you have any financial connection to this project?

by goldfish on Jan 20, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

Out-of-control costs is the urgent issue facing WMATA, not revenue.

Until the weak-kneed gurus on the top floors at 600 5th Street wrap their heads around this, something they have so far failed miserably to do, our only hope for a first-class transit system is for the Feds to assume control.

And, if those so-called expert managers think the Feds won't act, they need to remove their ... from their .... Repeatedly boosting fares is bound to cause a major backlash at some point. The death spiral possibility only increases with each revenue enhancement "tweak."

by Sage on Jan 20, 2012 2:30 pm • linkreport

No financial connection whatsoever to either project. And I'm sure that the Safeway proposal can be made better through negotiation. But the contrast between the Safeway and Giant projects and their approaches to the respective neighborhoods is pretty telling.

by Bob on Jan 20, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

@Bob: where did you get the info about closing 42nd St? That was not in the DCmud link of the project.

by goldfish on Jan 20, 2012 2:39 pm • linkreport

Correction: this link.

by goldfish on Jan 20, 2012 2:42 pm • linkreport

BRT for the Corridor Cities Transit way is a less robust solution than Light Rail... but BRT lines with their own right-of-way certainly can be replaced with light rail sometime in the future. Heck, after 20 years of operation, if they decide to upgrade to Light Rail, they can rip up the pavement and put the tracks in without eminent domaining any more land. If they set the tracks in pavement, like a streetcar, they could use buses and LRVs on the same right-of-way. Not sure if that works, but, I mean, why not?

Trying to be optimistic, here.

by Chris from Arlington on Jan 20, 2012 3:46 pm • linkreport

Why is Metro using its own employees to haul around cash and coins.

Haven't they heard of armoured truck deliveries?

by ceefer66 on Jan 20, 2012 4:06 pm • linkreport

"The rail re-construction that Topher and Ken have supported suspended G2 bus activity in most of West Georgetown, cutting off the university main campus, and in their finished state will make all of P St and O St essentially off-limits to bikes (rails v. tires, tires win)."

A couple things: You seem to be blaming me for this project, when I had absolutely nothing to do with it. It has been fought over for about 30 years, with the feds repeatedly trying to rip out the tracks, but preservationists successfully suing to keep them. My position on the matter is completely inconsequential.

That said, I do support the construction for the very fact that it will make O and P actually a lot safer for everyone, bikers included. Check out the completed sections of P St. and see how much smoother the road will be. And with the tracks now flush with the blocks, cars will not fly out of control as they twist off the tracks, which happens now and causes a lot of accidents. And for the record, bikes are technically not allowed on O and P St. right now, so this won't "make O and P St." off-limits, seeing as technically, they already are.

So, short of paving the streets, this is the most pro-bike safety move than can be made. (And again, paving is not an option due to the successful litigation). As someone who bikes around Georgetown all the time, I think this is good for bikers, or at the very least it will have a neutral effect.

And even if you don't ultimately feel comfortable on the finished roads, there is always N St., the use of which should add mere seconds to your trip.

As for the G2, I certainly didn't want WMATA to shorten G2 service. I don't see why they can't use Prospect or Volta during construction. I'm sure it's incredibly annoying for students to lose this as a convenient option. But blame WMATA for that. Or better yet, organize enough GU students to demand a more convenient reroute.

by Topher Mathews on Jan 20, 2012 11:19 pm • linkreport

So what will the riders suffer from the thief this time.

Before when they had the parking lot problem WMATA claimed users were cheating them and it was later found that employees stole but the riders got hit with the pay by smartrip card what now credit/debit only for paying for fares.

by kk on Jan 21, 2012 12:52 am • linkreport

Nothing is more Georgetown than installing fake streetcar tracks while banning the university from running real buses on their precious streets.

by tom veil on Jan 23, 2012 12:54 pm • linkreport

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