Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Gambling on the water


Photo by krossbow on Flickr.
Las Vegas casino for National Harbor?: Rushern Baker wants a "Las Vegas-style" casino at National Harbor, though the County Council is conflicted. Legislation to permit a casino in western Prince George's is in the state legislature. (Post)

Bike and funeral parking lane: A church on 15th Street encouraged visitors to park in the cycle track for a recent funeral, giving cyclists no safe way to ride south. (TBD) ... M.V.Jantzen caught a Taxi Commission enforcement officer parking in the lane, too. (WashCycle)

Why such acrimony over campuses?: DC universities and surrounding neighborhoods always seem to be fighting. Is this the inevitable consequence of a campus with wealthy neighbors, or is there something about DC? (City Paper)

Overestimated enrollment yields windfall: DCPS overestimated its student population by 2,056 for this school year, meaning the district received $18.4 million to cover the costs of students who never enrolled. (Post)

Wheaton vs. Bethesda south entrance: Wheaton redevelopment is in direct competition for funding with the Bethesda station south entrance. Both projects are priorities in the county's Capital Improvement Plan. (Patch)

TOD? Really?: That M Square "TOD" project in College Park? It might be near transit, but it's not so transit-oriented, basically towers surrounded by parking. (RTCP)

Haitian New Urbanism: Planners want to use Port-au-Prince as a proving ground for New Urbanism in a developing country, rebuilding a thriving downtown and writing the city's first zoning code. (Atlantic Cities)

Yet another streetcar study: Oakland, California, wants a streetcar and will produce its third study in 10 years on the idea. The city hopes a streetcar will prove to be an economic engine first and transportation system second. (East Bay Express)

And...: The German Marshall Fund is looking for a Deputy Director of Urban and Regional Policy. ... Metro's real estate head steps down. (Post) ... Mayor Gray's team hopes to tweet a little more. (City Paper) ... A flash mob supports the Purple Line. (CBS)

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David Edmondson is a transportation and urban affairs enthusiast living in Mount Vernon Square. He blogs about Marin County, California, at The Greater Marin

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The Post has the laziest education writers.

Headline: OMG DCPS cheating the system!
Buried at the end of the article: They've made up 2/3 of the shortfall in attendance; if attendance rises at DCPS they get no extra money, if attendance rises at charters they DO get extra money.

Hello, of course the school system is going to overproject if they have to take in everyone who walks in the door but attendance is only counted day 1 of the school year.

by MLD on Feb 17, 2012 9:01 am • linkreport

Freely, a comment of yours was deleted for violating the comment policy, but the notification email we send went nowhere because you post under a fake email address, also a violation of the comment policy. You have then subsequently been posting irate comments about your first comment being deleted, which is also a violation of the comment policy.

If you want to continue commenting on Greater Greater Washington, please email us using a real email address to acknowledge that you understand the policy including the requirement to post under a real email address so that we can contact you if comments violate the policy.

by David Alpert on Feb 17, 2012 9:14 am • linkreport

I'm open to the idea of a casino at National Harbor. Big problem, as has been mentioned previously on this site, is that is its unassessible to everything but cars.

by Cassidy on Feb 17, 2012 9:23 am • linkreport

For the DCPS article, I have no experience working in education but the overestimation was by less than 5%. I think that is a pretty decent job in projecting the enrollment. Of course they are going to try and shoot high for the worst case senario (anyone who has ever put together a budget knows this), but only being off less than 5% isn't that bad to me.

by Cassidy on Feb 17, 2012 9:29 am • linkreport

No one should even consider a casino at Nat'l Harbor until transportation there is fixed. Parking lots take up more land than development and it is a tremendous pain to get there. I would be vociferously against any talk of a casino there until much better public transportation gets there, which won't be for many many years.

by LetDCVote on Feb 17, 2012 9:32 am • linkreport

As MLD and Cassidy said, the overestimation is a non-story.

by selxic on Feb 17, 2012 9:33 am • linkreport

While I agree National Harbor would be well served by more transit options, how is it a tremendous pain to get there, LetDCVote? Two highways lead straight to the place.

by selxic on Feb 17, 2012 9:35 am • linkreport

DCPS could place a percentage of its operating budget in a set-aside fund that would be remitted to the treasury (or retained by DCPS) following the results of the audit. The article does mention that post-October 5 enrollment (not reflected in the audit) typically does increase, due to the influx of transfers, so to be fair, some adjustment would be necessary.
And as MLD notes, the charters do get more money in later quarters if their enrollments justify it, so it is not as if there is a gaping funding discrepancy based on the current budgeting practices.

by DCster on Feb 17, 2012 9:36 am • linkreport

No one should even consider a casino at Nat'l Harbor until transportation there is fixed.

Because casinos are always located near transit? If they exist at all, transit accessible casinos are rare, so I don't see why lack of transit should stop a casino from coming to Nat Harbor. In fact, building transit out to Nat Harbor will just encourage more sprawl.

by Falls Church on Feb 17, 2012 9:45 am • linkreport

Buried at the end of the article: They've made up 2/3 of the shortfall in attendance; if attendance rises at DCPS they get no extra money, if attendance rises at charters they DO get extra money.

While that's true to a certain extent, isn't it obvious that the reason DCPS doesn't want to be funded on a quarterly basis (as charters are) is that it doesn't want to give up the additional unused padding (at this point, $6 million) it receives each year?

The galling thing about this isn't the over-projection alone, for which, as MLD wrote, there are valid reasons. However, it's apparent that DCPS does is overfunded each year (albeit an amount less than reported in the article), and it's aggravating that on top of this overfunding, the Mayor wanted to give an extra $30 million to DCPS while stiffing charters completely.

If it's not obvious, my daughter goes to a charter school.

by dcd on Feb 17, 2012 9:55 am • linkreport

@ Casino
Just a little side note the Gaylord hotel was built with the eventual goal of placing a Casino there. My neighbor was an electrician on the project and the place is already wired for slots.

Now they may end up building a new one anyway but this was always in the National Harbor master plan.

by Matt R on Feb 17, 2012 9:59 am • linkreport

The water taxi also goes there, and one imagines that boat transportation to National Harbor would improve if demand to go there increases. Eventually the Purple Line will go there, but a development that justifies that line is needed first.

My concern is that, like a gambler running out of money, PG may be doubling down on a losing bet. Ultimately, this casino idea is based on a monopoly priviledge that could easily be lost as other states leap frog Maryland in a race to the bottom.

If we want something high end and at least somewhat unique, that area really needs a high-end urban waterfront community. Similar to Federal Hill neare Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The hill alon the Potomac means that several rows of rowhouses would each have spectacular views, this could be extended all the way to Fort Foote Park, eventually. In the past, the trail along the river has been blocked by a few homeowners; but maybe a zoning change is needed there to permit a more urban waterfront conntected to National Harbor, with the trail part of that redevelopment.

The interstate ramps connecting National Harbor to the Beltway ultimatley must be relocated because they use a large fraction of the valuable waterfront there as well.

by Jim Titus on Feb 17, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by freely on Feb 17, 2012 10:04 am • linkreport

"A church on 15th Street encouraged visitors to park in the cycle track for a recent funeral

Gives new meaning to the expression "Share the road!"

In all seriousness though, this points out that 'maybe' these bikelanes weren't as well thought out as many on here would like to think. Church's normally reserve the curb lane (i.e. the parking lane) for funerals. I'd suspect that that's even codified, if not 'by practice' (such as the 'by practice' allowing of not ticketing outside churches on Sunday mornings.) Reserving the 'new' curbside parking, which isn't anywhere near the curb may not have worked out for the church OR maybe the church didn't think about it. They'd for years put out pylons next to the curb, and the maintenance man who handles that probably wasn't told to do otherwise. I.e., preparing these churches for this major change probably should have been a part of the bike lane installation ... 'course it's never too late. Maybe DDOT can contact these abutting churches and work with them to figure out how to cordon off (or pylyon off) the 'new' non-curbside parking lane?

by Lance on Feb 17, 2012 10:09 am • linkreport

If we want something high end and at least somewhat unique, that area really needs a high-end urban waterfront community. Similar to Federal Hill neare Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Now, THAT'S an idea that requires better public transit connections between DC and National Harbor. The problem is that I don't see that happening given Nat Harbor's lousy location, far from the core and existing transit infrastructure. Contrast that with Federal Hill which is smack dab in the middle of Baltimore. If we want to make a Federal Hill in DC, the SW waterfront is a better place to do that.

National Harbor has had a lot of economic development problems since it's birth. A casino is hardly something highly desirable but probably the best use of a poor situation.

Ultimately, this casino idea is based on a monopoly priviledge that could easily be lost as other states leap frog Maryland in a race to the bottom.

There are no casinos close to Nat Harbor at this time and building one there would reduce incentives for anyone else to build one nearby. If there's not sufficient demand for two casinos, no state is going to build another one within reasonable driving distance.

The interstate ramps connecting National Harbor to the Beltway ultimatley must be relocated because they use a large fraction of the valuable waterfront there as well.

Those ramps are the one piece of infrastructure that Nat Harbor has going for it. Nat Harbor is unlikely to ever get good transit because it's built as a car-oriented place and it's very difficult to make a place both car-oriented and transit-oriented. So, instead of blowing everything up and building from scratch (which is very expensive and risky), it makes more sense to make the best of what's there. We need a place to put low-end, undesirable businesses, with negative externalities like casinos (but that still generate a lot of tax revenue). A car-oriented parcel that's isolated from everything else seems like the perfect fit.

by Falls Church on Feb 17, 2012 10:16 am • linkreport

A church on 15th Street encouraged visitors to park in the cycle track for a recent funeral, giving cyclists no safe way to ride south.

I guess this answers the question, "Bike lanes for WHO??"

by oboe on Feb 17, 2012 10:20 am • linkreport

Also, there's no reason to build transit with taxpayer funds to a casino. Any half decent casino will provide free buses from dowtown to the casino, just like the Atlantic City casinos do.

by Falls Church on Feb 17, 2012 10:26 am • linkreport

Just once I'd like to see someone in this city take on the ridiculous church parking situation. Just because the congregation's been there forever doesn't mean all the members from Maryland can leave their cars on sidewalks, in crosswalks, in front of hydrants, and in the left-hand travel lane. Come to Lincoln Park on a Sunday and you'll see all of those and more. It's ridiculous.

by Dave on Feb 17, 2012 10:26 am • linkreport

Building the Yellow Line out to National Harbor would require about 4 miles of track, 2 of which would be located on the Wilson Bridge, directly over water.

It would link Alexandria, National Harbor, and DC, helping to create a more contiguous urban area. It might not be a great idea, but I'd hesitate to call it sprawl-inducing, especially since it actually brings the terminus of the Yellow line a bit closer to DC.

If you also built the Green Line out to National Harbor (another 5 miles of easily-built track along 495), the transit options would enable SE/PG/ALX to function as more of an urban area, as you'd significantly improve intra-suburb mobility by transit.

Truth be told, LRT is a better option for suburb-to-suburb commutes. However, there are already two Metro lines nearby, both of which could be extended (and linked!) at a site featuring targeted high-desnvity development. The tracks could also be built along the highway, which is cheap. The Wilson bridge was specifically designed to facilitate a future Metrorail expansion.

I don't think it's a terrible idea at all.

by andrew on Feb 17, 2012 10:32 am • linkreport

@Dave:

To paraphrase @Lance, "this points out that 'maybe' these [parks, like Lincoln Park] weren't as well thought out as many on here would like to think." The eloquent argument continues:

Church's normally reserve the curb lane (i.e. the parking lane) for funerals. I'd suspect that that's even codified, if not 'by practice' (such as the 'by practice' allowing of not ticketing outside churches on Sunday mornings.) [Not parking in the various travel lanes around parks and things] may not have worked out for the church OR maybe the church didn't think about it.

My guess is that things would work out better for everyone involved if we could just get the Dept of the Interior to remove these ill-considered parks, and replace them with eight-lane limited-access highways. It's a "sane" compromise that would leave us with plenty of parking for all.

by oboe on Feb 17, 2012 10:38 am • linkreport

@Oboe "I guess this answers the question, "Bike lanes for WHO??"

Wow ... playing the race issue again?

by Lance on Feb 17, 2012 10:44 am • linkreport

@Lance - The rule was changed, the church didn't "know about" the change,* the church violated the rule, therefore the law "wasn't well thought out?" OK then.

*This seems a little far-fetched for reasons so obvious I can't possible list them all.

by dcd on Feb 17, 2012 10:53 am • linkreport

The church parking thing is annoying, but surely the easiest thing is to ask the church to use one of the traffic lanes instead of the bike lane next time? Just explain that blocking the only north-south 2-way protected bike lane in the area has a greater impact than blocking one lane of a 3-lane one-way street. I'm sure they are reasonable people.

by renegade09 on Feb 17, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

@Oboe. "Whom." (Just sayin'.)

Regular bike commuter. Usually really annoyed by parking in bike lanes. Would prioritize enforcement of parking-in-bike-lanes-violations that occur during rush hour, or are done for profit (Fedex, UPS, Sysco Systems).

Parking enforcement pays for itself. Why is this hard? (Failure to hire enough parking enforcers is like not hiring enough IRS agents; pennywise and pound foolish.)

Would be fine with officially allowing funeral parking in bike lanes during off hours, but that should be done via democracy (get a law/reg change, don't just rely on political nervousness of police to cause discretionary non-prosecution).

by Bill on Feb 17, 2012 11:32 am • linkreport

@Falls Church,
I'm finding it diffult to see how Prince Georges County ultimately benefits much from National Harbor being an isolated odd place.
Of course you are correct that Federal Hill is less isolated from Baltimore than Oxon Hill is from Alexandria/DC. But there are many reasonably successful waterfront developments that are farther from a major city than Oxon Hill, such as those one finds on Roanoke Island, Kent Narrows, Chesapeake Beach,... Right now, National Harbor only has a population of about 1000, but once it is more built out, it might make more sense to have a gradual interface between it and the surrounding 1/2 acre lots with high-end waterfront row houses, rather than a fence and a highway.
I think your point about there only being enough demand for one casino is consistent with my concern. The upside is limited because if it does better than expected it will lose its monopoly.
I would not relocate the ramps that you admire until this area becomes an attractive community, probably decades in the future. But that possible eventuality still needs to be considered.

by Jim Titus on Feb 17, 2012 11:35 am • linkreport

Wow ... playing the race issue again?

Hmm. I gave the Robinson campaign the benefit of the doubt when they trotted that line out in the last Ward 6 primary, and assumed it was a dog-whistle based on class, age, and resentment of change on principle. In DC, those tend to map to race, but race isn't the salient factor.

by oboe on Feb 17, 2012 11:47 am • linkreport

RE: Oakland

Transportation systems ARE economic engines.

by Bossi on Feb 17, 2012 11:47 am • linkreport

re: Robinson & dog-whistle politics:

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/7061/robinsons-wedge-politics-destructive-for-dc/

by oboe on Feb 17, 2012 11:50 am • linkreport

While National Harbor may not be a livable community, Jim Titus, it is a huge benefit to PG financially. That development brings in a lot of tax money for the county. Likewise, business parks may not be active communities, but they are often very beneficial.

by selxic on Feb 17, 2012 11:55 am • linkreport

I still don't understand why the general sentiment always seems to be that National Harbor is way out in the boondocks somewhere. It's a bit over a mile as the crow flies from a boundary stone and a 15 min bike ride from Old Town Alexandria. How is developing that area (and yes, including more transportation options) contributing to sprawl? It's closer to the city center than many of the other places frequently discussed here that are being targeted for redevelopment and/or growth.

by Kolohe on Feb 17, 2012 11:28 pm • linkreport

I still don't understand why the general sentiment always seems to be that National Harbor is way out in the boondocks somewhere

I think it has more to do with its infrastructure and planning form than its distance from the city center as the crow flies. As the crow flies, it's probably not much farther than Tysons. That said, it's incredibly costly to retrofit a transit oriented form on a car-oriented one (see Tysons), so PG is probably best off making do with what they've built rather than blowing it up and starting from scratch. National Harbor still has plenty of potential as a casino / low-end convention center. There's a market for that. A $1Billion casino would generate plenty of jobs and tax revenue for the county.

by Falls Church on Feb 18, 2012 1:37 pm • linkreport

"not much farther than Tysons"

"low-end convention center"

You really should visit National Harbor some time.

by selxic on Feb 18, 2012 3:36 pm • linkreport

Singapore recently legalized casino gambling, in a bid to keep business travelers amused -- and so sought to minimize its impact on local residents by placing the casinos only within integrated resorts, far from local transit, and even requiring a passport check at the casino door (locals can enter for a $75 fee). That way, the city gets the tax revenue without having to deal with the external costs of residents' gambling addictions.

The closest analogue to that situation in this area, or indeed in most any American city, would be... National Harbor. (The Maryland-waters casino boat at the pier in Chesapeake Beach, Virginia was a similarly inspired way of internalizing the benefits and externalizing the costs, but I doubt Virginia would be quite so happy with it.) I also don't think that gambling will be all that sustainable a revenue stream, but I'd be hard pressed to find a more appropriately hidden-in-plain-sight site.

by Payton on Feb 18, 2012 5:57 pm • linkreport

@Kolohe. There may be an ambiguity in terminology. National Harbor is isolated by design, not because it is a great distance from center city. While National Harbor is only a 4-mile bike ride (or drive) to the heart of Alexandria, most of it on a trail (or expressway), it is a 3-mile drive (or bike ride or walk) from the neighborhoods that it borders. In that regard, it resembles a military base.

by Jim Titus on Feb 18, 2012 7:58 pm • linkreport

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