Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Streetcar pays


Photo by tracktwentynine on Flickr.
Streetcar pays for itself: A report to DC's Office of Planning states that taxes on real estate development from the streetcar could cover 40 to 60% of the system's $1.5 billion price tag. If the city can get 50% funding from the federal government, construction would essentially be free. (City Paper)

Not much on state of transportation: President Obama only made a few references to transportation and infrastructure in his State of the Union, including a promise to eliminate red tape on construction projects. (Transportation Nation)

No south exit at Dupont: Starting February 1, Metro will close the south exit at Dupont Circle for eight months while new escalators are installed. Metro advises riders to take the Q St. exit or exit at Farragut North. (Post)

Cab company shut down: The DC Taxicab Commission shut down the Anacostia Cab Association, which couldn't show it had paid taxes or had a proper address. (Post)

Georgetown fights to keep corner grocer : As the current owners retire, neighbors are forming a non-profit to save the Georgetown neighborhood grocer Scheele's. The group will have to come up with $70,000 to save the store. (Patch)

HPRB nominee too "rigid"?: Nancy Metzger has doggedly pursued some of the preservation cases that make preservationists seem extreme and "rigid." At her confirmation hearing to be a member of the Historic Preservation Review Board, some challenged her to think about preservation more holistically. (City Paper)

No more landed gentry requirement: A proposed Virginia law would eliminate a requirement that 50% of planning commission members be homeowners. The aim is to allow older members to remain on the board if they start renting. The Alexandria NAACP called the requirement "remaining vestiges of Jim Crow." (Sun Gazette)

And...: DC ranks second in a report for best cities for bikers and pedestrians. (DCist) ... Loudoun and Fairfax want to know the cost to run the Silver Line. (Examiner) ... Grand mansions in Columbia Heights are being converted to luxury condos. (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.  

Comments

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If the streetcar was funded by farebox recovery and advertising, I'd say it was paying for itself.

by WFY on Jan 25, 2012 8:50 am • linkreport

If the city can get 50% funding from the federal government, construction would essentially be paid by the US tax payers only.

/fixed

by RJ on Jan 25, 2012 9:00 am • linkreport

A street car system would propell this city into first class status. Just keep the height limit, especially since the street car system would by the catalyst to spread out some more development to areas that are still woefully under developed. One correction to the map that's essential is to get the northern route up to down town Silver Spring. With the volume of commuters comming through their (yet to be completed) transit center, it would be lunacy to not link up with it there.

by Thayer-D on Jan 25, 2012 9:04 am • linkreport

RJ,

true but how do you think the interstates/metro/and major new starts were funded in the past 60 years?

Personally if my tax dollars go to fund a light rail line in Salt Lake City I'm ok with that.

by Canaan on Jan 25, 2012 9:04 am • linkreport

Yeah, unfortunate wording on the streetcar link.

And nothing on the operating costs -- which, as we're seeing with WMATA - can be considerable. I suspect running a streetcar contract is more complicated that the Circulator.

Thanks for the full-style links. You can step on it when you add the additional line, but as you saw yesterday with the blacks don't like walking article, there is a self correction process in the comments.

Why will it take 8 months to replace the escalators?

by charlie on Jan 25, 2012 9:08 am • linkreport

Canaan,

US taxpayer money. Using the word free is wrong. Nothing is free and set the wrong tone because someone is paying; no matter if it is for roads, rail or fuzzy rainbows

by RJ on Jan 25, 2012 9:15 am • linkreport

I don't want to get too pedantic and maybeit should have had the words "...for the district" at the end. That's what was implied. We don't need to get into argument about whether a given thing is free or not.

by Canaan on Jan 25, 2012 9:20 am • linkreport

I am kind of tired of reading, hearing and talking about OP and their magic numbers saying that all the development coming to the streetcar areas. At the cost of who? all that people write here is about taxes, fare boxes, etc. But what everybody including GGW fails to grasp is the loss of more affordable housing. The city is chuck full of expensive areas and Harriet Tregonning saying that everybody will be able to live close to a streetcar line - well that is just wishful thinking.

All I see are new buildings sitting empty - all over NOMA and Waterfront - so who is going to move in there? Is the city going to build more empty towers along RI Ave?

Just asking

by i have serious doubts on Jan 25, 2012 9:23 am • linkreport

In addition to all the other flaws about streetcars paying for themselves, does OP assume that no development will occur anywhere in the absence of a streetcar line? I doubt it. More likely, development that would have occurred anyway will be located along the streetcar line (maybe) instead of somewhere else. As a result, tax revenue will not increase in those other locations when it would have without the streetcar.

Then again, I do remember what monorail did for Ogdenville, North Haverbrook, and Brockway.

by ah on Jan 25, 2012 9:30 am • linkreport

Kudos to Virginia for working to weed out laws that discriminate in their effect. Homeownership does lend a certain perspective, but so does renting, owning a business, riding a bike, having children, being a member of a historically disadvantaged group, etc. No particular worldview should be favored in the required makeup of a Planning Commission. In the real world, most will end up being homeowners anyway.

by Crickey7 on Jan 25, 2012 9:36 am • linkreport

Will the north exit of Dupont still have its own escalator construction when the close the south exit? If so, this is monumentally stupid.

by TM on Jan 25, 2012 9:59 am • linkreport

"All I see are new buildings sitting empty - all over NOMA and Waterfront - so who is going to move in there? Is the city going to build more empty towers along RI Ave?"

Id like some more info on this - my impression is that new rentals fill up pretty fast. Naturally a condo building will go more slowly, and its not necessarily wise for a developer to cut prices so low that the they move really fast. Given that, a place with lots of new buildings (like near SE or NoMa) will have a lot of empty units for a while.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 25, 2012 9:59 am • linkreport

I'm surprised Ovi buying a house in Fairfax County isn't breaking news and deserving of a series on GGW.

by selxic on Jan 25, 2012 10:02 am • linkreport

Building the streetcars is predicated on DC selling bonds. But DC has hit its credit limit.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2012 10:02 am • linkreport

"But what everybody including GGW fails to grasp is the loss of more affordable housing."

You might go to the thread where some commentors are saying there is no shortage of affordable housing, and complaints about that are whining by the unfrugal.

I dont see LIMITING development as a very practical way to preserve affordable housing. DC already has affordable unit requirements for new housing IIUC, and could set them to make sure any given new development was not net negative on affordable units.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 25, 2012 10:03 am • linkreport

Re: Dupont South Metro Escalators:

From what we were told by Metro, they are rushing to complete maintenance and repairs on the Dupont North escalators in advance of the closure of Dupont South. They have also built (or are just now completing) a new set of stairs for an emergency exit.

They also explained that the addition of the third escalator made removal and replacement exponentially more difficult. Everything will have to be removed in a very tight space, and this work will be done while Metro trains carrying thousands of passengers continue to operate below.

Removing and replacing an escalator is not necessarily a process that takes a great deal of time, but doing so safely in this environment provides many challenges. If done wrong, the results could be catastrophic.

I live a block away from this stop and it's the one I use. The sooner the work gets done, the better. And the fact that they're working days, nights, and weekends makes me feel a lot better. But the most important thing is that they take the time to do it right, and do it safely.

My main concern now is that the Dupont North stop will be much more heavily used, and the area around that stop still has dozens of newspaper boxes - many unused. The sidewalks should be free of those boxes and vendors and all other impediments - at least for the first week of February so everyone can see how things are working out.

by Mike Silverstein on Jan 25, 2012 10:20 am • linkreport

@Mike Silverstein; I still have a hard time justifying 8 months.

IT was 9 months in Foggy Bottom, and they kept the station entrance open during that period.

I would not be surprised if they magically annouce it is done earlier.

Does anyone have any uptime/downtime reporting information on the FB escalators?

by charlie on Jan 25, 2012 10:32 am • linkreport

@selxcic - GGW suspended themselves 3 Breakfast Links for the "white people walk fast" hubbub yesterday, and will not be writing about Ovi till after the all-star game. (Sidenote: fist-pump to Mathieu Perrault for absolutely wrecking the Bruins last night!)

by worthing on Jan 25, 2012 10:32 am • linkreport

The idea that all or even half the development will be spurred by the streetcar is a stretch. These corridors are already seeing development -- partly because they are in the city and already served by frequent bus services or located near metro stations. Siphoning this money off for a TIF will basically prevent tax revenue growth that would benefit the entire city, not just pay for a streetcar that can equally be met in terms of mobility by upgrading the bus service and infrastructure.

by neb on Jan 25, 2012 10:33 am • linkreport

@Mike Silverstein wrote: they are rushing to complete maintenance and repairs on the Dupont North escalators.

Because nothing will ensure that the escalator repairs are successful and durable like a hasty finish!

by Arl Fan on Jan 25, 2012 10:40 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D - I agree with you. I would add that the streetcar should also connect acorss to the Rosslyn Metro.

by SoMuchForSubtlety on Jan 25, 2012 10:43 am • linkreport

@goldfish:
Building the streetcars is predicated on DC selling bonds. But DC has hit its credit limit.

From your linked article:

If revenue and spending on capital projects remains the same, the city will be up against a self-imposed 12 percent debt cap within five years.
This is a bit like saying that the Federal government needs to be shut down because we're going to reach our "debt ceiling". So long as we keep an eye towards long-term solvency, you just raise the debt ceiling.

Or that you can't afford to repair your car's transmission because you told yourself you were going arbitrarily limit your spending on non-essentials $X.

More than likely, increased revenues that come with a larger recovery and maybe some population growth will eliminate some of that debt. If not, the "self-imposed" cap can be lifted.

by oboe on Jan 25, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport

@oboe: Yes this is an arbitrary line, but it was established for a very good reason: to keep DC's golden AAA bond rating. To exceed it would increase borrowing costs.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

ah, please do some research. This isn't a monorail at all, it's a streetcar.

by jim d. on Jan 25, 2012 11:59 am • linkreport

Eight months to replace escalators! Crazy. Anyone want to take the under on that?

by Matthew on Jan 25, 2012 12:12 pm • linkreport

@jim d. You missed the Simpsons reference. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jF_yLodI1CQ

by Paulus on Jan 25, 2012 12:14 pm • linkreport

I thought it was agreed that, if anything, the DC cap is TOO high right now. Perhaps that is old.

by charlie on Jan 25, 2012 12:29 pm • linkreport

suppose DC does need to cut back the amount of capital spending each year. They could slow down the implementation of the street car plan, and reduce the annual spend. I dont see how that supports Goldfish's implication that the street cars can't be built because of the cap.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 25, 2012 12:37 pm • linkreport

Mansions in Col Hgts: I think the main story is not the one linked to but the response/folow-up article by the owner who sold to the developer.

He says: "Sadly, the District continues not only to encourage but require parking for automobiles on such properties. As a result, much of the yard where we had maintained our thriving kitchen garden has been dug out and paved over."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/where-we-live/post/why-i-sold-the-columbia-heights-mansion/2012/01/24/gIQAtcUoNQ_blog.html#pagebreak

by Tina on Jan 25, 2012 12:38 pm • linkreport

@oboe: Yes this is an arbitrary line, but it was established for a very good reason: to keep DC's golden AAA bond rating. To exceed it would increase borrowing costs.

There's certainly not a 1-to-1 correlation here. It's an arbitrary line that was established to help maintain DC's AAA rating, but crossing that line will not necessarily cause DC to lose its AAA rating. That's setting aside the fact that increased revenues in an improving economy will likely give DC more breathing room.

by oboe on Jan 25, 2012 12:58 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity: Never said the streetcar could not be built. Just that, at the present time, DC can't borrow any more -- so either the streetcar will need to be paid for in some other way or the borrowing cap is increased or older debt is retired.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2012 12:58 pm • linkreport

@oboe: but crossing that line will not necessarily cause DC to lose its AAA rating. That's setting aside the fact that increased revenues in an improving economy will likely give DC more breathing room.

When the bonds are sold that exceed the 12% revenue cap, how much of the bonds are you going to buy? What is your bidding interest rate?

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2012 1:09 pm • linkreport

@Tina, I get the former owners concern. But him talking about his former garden is no better than whining. It's no longer your property sir which makes your opinion irrelevant..at least wrt a garden that someone else would have to maintain.

by HogWash on Jan 25, 2012 1:15 pm • linkreport

@goldfish

but the article does NOT say that DC can't borrow any more it says the following

"If revenue and spending on capital projects remains the same, the city will be up against a self-imposed 12 percent debt cap within five years. "

a slow down in capital spending over 5 years could make a difference.

Whats DC's total debt? what the rate of revenue increase? What the net borrowing that would keep the growth in total debt below the rate of revenue increase? What is the make up and pattern of the capital spending other than for the street car? And how much could the spending on the steet car be slowed down and still be spent efficiently?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 25, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

After occcasional outages in the first few weeks after installation, the Foggy Bottom escalators always all seem to be running when I go through there.

Of course, they never actually reverse the third escalator, even during afternoon rush hour. There are always two going up and one down, with predictable crowding on the down escalator.

They're also taking months to build a simple set of concrete stairs and to slap a basic roof on the entrance, leaving the brand new escalators exposed to the winter weather.

And one of the platform escalators is now frequently broken too.

by Nick SA on Jan 25, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

And, personally, I'm especially hopeful on the free light rail, because all of the recent, local billion dollar mass transit projects are hitting their budget predictions so well.

@RJ Salt Lake City has a very nice light rail (TRAX), runs between University of Utah and downtown then continues South, and a relatively good collection of buses. Also has a heavy rail commuter line (FrontRunner)heading north. An expansion to the Airport is under construction, and it actually ends at the airport. Thanx for your tax dollars.

by Jim59 on Jan 25, 2012 1:43 pm • linkreport

I am not sure what the point of the Columbia Heightts mansion story is.

If I read it correctly, they are being divided into condos, but they are not being torn down. If so, what is there to mourn? The fabric of the streetscape is not changing substantially, and population density is increasing, which I favor. The physical plant of the old buildings is being reinforced, if we can believe they are being renovated properly, so the buildings will survive into the future.

Am I supposed to be sorry that a single family will no
longer occupy this 5,000 squre foot residence? I am not.
Am I supposed to be worried that the 5,000 square feet will now be owned by multiple families? I am not.
Am I supposed to be sorry that the kitchen garden is no longer there, after the owner sold it to new owners who apparently do not desire a kitchen garden? I am not.

I guess I can understand that the seller feels some nostalgia for a house that he lived in for many years and on which he expended a lot of hard work and expense, now that it is no longer his - is that it? Even so, it appears that he sold voluntarily and that he received what he considered a fair price.

I guess we could talk about how neighborhoods change, with this building now entering its second multi-family phase following its two phases as a single-family residence and and a previous multi-family stint, and I guess we could talk about the impact of parking requirements on this type of project, but while these could be useful discussions, I don't think that either was the point of the post.

My point is -- I don't understand what the point of the post is.

by Anon202 on Jan 25, 2012 2:00 pm • linkreport

@ah "Then again, I do remember what monorail did for Ogdenville, North Haverbrook, and Brockway."

Will Leonard Nimoy be there to greet the first revenue trip?

by Jack Love on Jan 25, 2012 2:41 pm • linkreport

@jim59

While the Silver Line has some cost issues, development (the revenue side of the equation) is AHEAD of projections. Particularly, residential development plans which are thought to be most critical to Silver Line success.

Are people really arguing that the massive development on H St is coincidental with streetcar plans rather than a direct correlation? I guess all the other places in the country where streetcars have coincided with significant economic growth are just dumb luck too.

Seriously, H St is a great example of why buses simply don't have the same economic impact as streetcars. These projects are high returning investments and worth the money.

And yes, just because an investment in streetcars has a quick payback doesn't mean its "free".

by Falls Church on Jan 25, 2012 2:42 pm • linkreport

@i have serious doubts: Actually, in there are NO new empty office buildings in NoMa. All of the newly built buildings are fully leased or almost there. All of the new apartments are 80% or more leased (most are fully leased). What we do have is a lot of construction. Email me if you want more specifics.

by Rachel Davis on Jan 25, 2012 4:26 pm • linkreport

Yeah. I was going to chime in to say that most of the empty buildings in NoMa are actually mostly leased.

The baffling part is why the new tenants aren't in a hurry to occupy them (although that seems to gradually be happening too).

Even the conspicuously-empty 111 K St and 1100 1st St apparently have paying tenants at the moment.

by andrew on Jan 25, 2012 4:50 pm • linkreport

"If the city can get 50% funding from the federal government, construction would essentially be free."
I too love free. But, an inconvenient comment is it ain't free. The money came from us. Would we still want it if WE were each billed for it?

by Geoff on Jan 25, 2012 9:57 pm • linkreport

"So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges; a power grid that wastes too much energy; an incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world. "

Its not just the broadband network that's incomplete:

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2012/01/crafted-controversy-scuttling-of-jfks-b.html

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 26, 2012 12:06 am • linkreport

for those with questions about how much of the development is coming anyway, etc, etc, I strongly suggest reading the report, now online. There is lots there about current development, growth under the no build case, incremental growth under the build case,the drivers of incremental growth, mitigation, needed ped improvements, possible alternative routings, etc, etc. Plus lots of data that could be useful for many of the conversations on GGW (for example the number of people currently living in DC within a 1/4 mile of transit, etc

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 26, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

@Mike Silverstein
I don't understand what bearing the trains running through the station have on the escalator repair, nor why they make it so dangerous. They're working on the escalators- not the tracks. Perhaps I'm being naive- I'd love to be enlightened. I don't buy the narrow and deep argument either. Entire structures get built in eight and a half months. Here we're talking about replacing an escalator. Let's see a project plan or at least some sort of acceptable justification of the schedule.

by BC on Jan 26, 2012 2:46 pm • linkreport

@Anon202

I don't understand what the point of the post is

Do you not understand the point of the Washington Post story? It is right there in the beginning."Grand single-family Victorian homes are disappearing in Columbia Heights"

Do you not understand the point of GGW's link? It is right there in the link "Grand mansions in Columbia Heights are being converted to luxury condos."

Here is one of the ways the city is changing. That's a story worth telling, no?

by David C on Jan 26, 2012 4:37 pm • linkreport

@BC -

I'm not an expert on these things, but I think we both recall how surface work on the Connecticut Av median caused portions of the Farragut West station to crack and portions of concrete to fall.

These are eight story high escalators, sitting atop a tunnel carrying the red line.
It's not like you can rip them out and expect everything to be just fine. I would imagine they have to be extracted slowly and piece by piece. And, as you do so, things have to be shored up.

Just remember when the system was built and the mantra was "deeper is cheaper." Well, it was then. It sure ain't now.

by Mike Silverstein on Jan 26, 2012 5:34 pm • linkreport

@Anon202 @HogWash re: the garden: The point is about a policy that forced the new owner to put in a driveway whether they wanted one or not.

Besides the additional cost to the new owner, which increases the cost of those housing units, and libertarian personal freedom implications, the consequence of the forced paving policy is:

loss of permeable surface which in the cummulative has a major impact on the rivers and secondarily the loss of someone else's ability to have a choice to improve their own health by growing their own veggies and/or to choose to reduce their carbon footprint by growing their own. Its not about the feelings of the old owner or even the fact that he had a garden. No. Its about the forced paving policy.

by Tina on Jan 26, 2012 5:39 pm • linkreport

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