Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Taxes break


Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.
Taxes for truck tacos: Food trucks would have to start paying sales taxes like everyone else under a bill going to markup on Thursday in the DC Council. Food trucks earning less than a threshold could keep paying a flat annual fee as they do today. (DCist)

Give me a break: Konterra could qualify for tax breaks intended for transit-oriented projects inside the Beltway, despite county officials' best efforts. (Examiner)

Are mobile cameras about revenue?: One Prince George's delegate wants to prohibit mobile speed cameras being moved solely to generate revenue. County officials say they are writing fewer tickets, a sign the program is actually curbing speeding rather than being primarily about money. (Examiner)

Alerts for buses: Metro is now offering an alert system for Metrobus which will send riders information about service disruptions, similar to the ones sent for Metrorail. You can sign up here. (Post)

Good plan sails through: Redevelopment of Mid-Pike Plaza in White Flint received preliminary approval from the Montgomery County Planning Board. The pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use plan, which includes reducing Old Georgetown Road from 6 lanes to 4, has received no complaints. (DCMud)

More roads still needed?: After the BRAC merger with Walter Reed, use of transit has skyrocketed at the former Bethesda Naval Hospital from 11% in 2007 to 44% in 2011. Yet officials are going ahead with expensive road widenings. (Gazette, Ben Ross)

DC cleaner than burbs: DC residents produce less air pollution than their suburban neighbors. Virginia's pollution will likely increase in the future while Maryland's will decrease thanks to their adoption of California standards for cars. (City Paper)

Photography still legal: WMATA employees sometimes harass photographers for legally taking pictures. There have been at least 3 incidents in the past 4 months despite Metro's official statements that it's legal.

And..: Arlington seeks a streetcar manager with urban planning experience. (ARLnow) ... A DC musician pens a song about waiting for the 42 bus. (Post, Mike O) ... Someone has created a set of images showing animals that appear in the lines of the London Underground map. (Animals on the Underground)

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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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The White Flint project is fantastic. I think it's interesting that the developer is providing funds to Montgomery County Public Schools as part of the project. Why can't developers do the same with Metro? They sell the proximity and convenience of Metro even though the system is perennially out of cash and is under perpetual repair. An initiative to help Metro by developers building TODs would likely be a win for each side: riders get a safe and reliable system and developers have an easier time selling their projects.

by Adam L on Feb 29, 2012 9:01 am • linkreport

Is lydia dePhilips stealing stuff from oboe?

Both gasoline and in particular diesel produce a lot of ultrafine PM material that isn't being measured. Well, the new fangled DI gasoline engines.

PG County writing less tickets is just because, like a lot of jurisidiction, they move cops off traffic duty when the bring cameras in. That is not good.

by charlie on Feb 29, 2012 9:07 am • linkreport

Great. Northern Virginia can continue to export the harmful externalities of its wasteful suburban fetish onto more responsible actors like DC and Maryland. Until the benighted folks in Richmond start to care about the environment more, DC's and Maryland's efforts are held back.

by The Heights on Feb 29, 2012 9:19 am • linkreport

@the heights

its not clear if that VA pollution actually drifts across state lines or just means NoVa air is more polluted (as Oboe has suggested with supporting data). It still has a regional impact, because EPA sets rules (which punish metros with too much pollution) by metro area. But thats a consequence of administration and policy. If its suburban lifestyles that are driving this (not 100% clear) then the areas of NoVa closest to DC (like Arlington) are probably not at fault.

@Adam L

that happens a lot with new transit in the region - NoMaBID provided most (all?) of the local financing for the New York avenue infill metro station, I think theres a developer contribution to the Potomac Yard infill station, there is land owner contributions to the silver line (far too low in the opinion of many though), discussions of landowner contributions to the beauregard transitway in Alex.

What we dont have is landowner/developer funds towards operating costs for existing metro operations - thats a good bit more complex, I imagine - they could argue the service was in place anyway, and they added no costs. For schools proffers have a longer history and are more accepted, IIUC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 29, 2012 9:40 am • linkreport

PM material rarely drifts; it is usually being deposited with 100 feet of the street.

by charlie on Feb 29, 2012 9:51 am • linkreport

That article on pollution seems to focus on cars when electricity generation is the bigger component of air pollution in most places. NOVA is getting significantly cleaner air with the shutdown of the GenOn coal fired power plant. The other big contributor to air pollution in NOVA is the waste-to-energy incinerator in Lorton. You can see the effect of those plants in the local air pollution stats -- south fairfax is significantly more polluted than north fairfax.

In DC, by far greatest contributor to particulate matter (PM) air pollution is the highly controversial Capitol Power Plant. There is no need for a coal powered plant in the middle of the city but senators from coal producing states won't let that plant stop burning coal. Here's the breakdown on that plant:

Table 1: Summary of Point Source Emissions: District of Columbia in 2002 (Tons)

Facility PM2.5 NOx SO2 PM10
Capitol Power Plant 83 129 483 84
Pepco Benning Plant 15 253 1467 67
Pepco Buzzard Point 5 340 390 5
GSA Heating Plant 12 66 8 12
10 Misc Sources 12 529 320 14
TOTAL 127 1,317 2,468 182
Capitol Power Plant Share 65% 10% 20% 46%

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitol_Power_Plant

As for which place is has more air pollution, anecdotally my asthma tells me that DC has significantly worse air than NOVA. The reason for that is that air pollution can be extremely local, to within a few feet of the source. Stand on the sidewalk on Conn Ave in DC and you're breathing in car fumes. Go to most places in NOVA where you'll find people outdoors (which usually won't be next to a large number of cars idling) and the air is a lot cleaner.

For other kinds of pollution that can be carried by wind (smoke and ozone = smog), the prevailing west-to-east winds generally mean that NOVA has less smog as it blows eastward. The effect of winds on smog is not small as can be seen in LA where Long Beach has clean air and the San Gabriel Valley is filled with smog.

by Falls Church on Feb 29, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

Ask yourself why you've never seen me and "Lydia DePillis" in the same room together.

Actually Lydia, Bertie, and I are the same person. We're part of an elaborate viral marketing campaign being waged by the Washington City Paper's parent company.

by oboe on Feb 29, 2012 11:18 am • linkreport

Actually Lydia, Bertie, and I are the same person. We're part of an elaborate viral marketing campaign being waged by the Washington City Paper's parent company.

My current theory is that Bertie = David Alpert. No one has more ability to engender numerous outraged responses and make sure threads continue far beyond their natural stopping point than Bertie. I'm willing to entertain other, equally implausible conspiracy theories, however.

by dcd on Feb 29, 2012 11:24 am • linkreport

As for which place is has more air pollution, anecdotally my asthma tells me that DC has significantly worse air than NOVA. The reason for that is that air pollution can be extremely local, to within a few feet of the source. Stand on the sidewalk on Conn Ave in DC and you're breathing in car fumes. Go to most places in NOVA where you'll find people outdoors (which usually won't be next to a large number of cars idling) and the air is a lot cleaner.

This is interesting, especially given that DC is not homogeneously dense and congested. It seems that there's a real problem defining coming up with a single number for DC pollution. Wouldn't neighborhoods like AU Park, Capitol Hill, and Georgetown have significantly lower "local pollution" than the corner of 17th and K Streets?

by oboe on Feb 29, 2012 11:26 am • linkreport

Sorry for the horrific grammar and flow of my previous comment.

by oboe on Feb 29, 2012 11:28 am • linkreport

@dcd, I've long suspected that Lance was David Alpert's creation for that reason. Everyone needs a foil. Even Don quixote had his windmills.

by Tim Krepp on Feb 29, 2012 11:39 am • linkreport

Wouldn't neighborhoods like AU Park, Capitol Hill, and Georgetown have significantly lower "local pollution" than the corner of 17th and K Streets?

Absolutely, and it can be even more localized than that. Sometimes (like in the summer) the difference between triggering my asthma and not is the difference between biking in traffic and biking in a cycletrack. I've also noticed when I play tennis on code orange days (don't play on red or purple), I'm fine at the Rock Creek Park courts but not so much in Adams Morgan or Cap Hill (possibly because of the Cap Power Plant adjacent to Garfield Park).

In polluted developing world countries, a lot of people wear face masks while riding on scooters in the city but don't need the face masks once they're off the street.

by Falls Church on Feb 29, 2012 11:44 am • linkreport

Bertie = Lance = David Alpert

by Fred on Feb 29, 2012 11:46 am • linkreport

DC residents produce less air pollution than their suburban neighbors.

The link compares only total emissions by region. It does not adjust for differences in the size of the populations, and it doesn't provide any information about concentrations, which is what matters for public health. Nitrogen Oxide pollution, for example, is measured in parts per billion. Simply comparing the total quantities of the contaminant emitted by region is meaningless.

by Bertie on Feb 29, 2012 11:51 am • linkreport

Re: Pollution and Va. bashing. While it may be emotionally satisfying to reflexively bash NoVa and its suburban culture, and Virginia's larger red-state political atmosphere, in Virginia there are significant heavy-rail and light-rail projects either under construction, in the planning process, or both. And the funding mechanisms to pay for Metro Dulles are largely in place. In the MD suburbs and DC proper we have two light rail projects that seem to be moving at a snail's pace, facing numerous stumbling blocks and with uncertain futures. Metro expansion in MD or DC is simply not on the horizon. The purple line always seems on the verge of being derailed by well-heeled NIMBYs, or the changing political winds in Annapolis. DC Streetcar program appears to have entered zombieland, thanks to ham-fisted ready-fire-aim planning, procurement irregularities, and general ineptitude. (See story that Arlington actually wants to hire someone with an urban planning background, rather than a transit bureaucrat, to manage the Columbia Pike streetcar.)

Contrast the lassitude in DC and MD to an enormously successful light-rail start up in Hampton Roads, new Amtrak services, including a new route to Norfolk, Dulles Metro, new VRE equipment purchases and (probably) light rail in Arlington/Bailey's Crossroads. I wouldn't for a moment let McDonnell claim credit for any of this, but he did have the good sense to get out of the way.

by Phil on Feb 29, 2012 12:33 pm • linkreport

@phil - you're more optimistic about PikeRail than I am. Has there been any resolution of funding issues since the new cost estimate came out? The proposed Beuregard Small Area Plan in Alex is being attacked by similar kinds of resistance as in other parts of the region.

The real test of virginia will come when the silver line is done, and it becomes clear that any further expansion in Va - certainly heavy rail, but even feeder light rail and BRT - will require expansion in the core (especially a seperated blue line) to avoid transit gridlock. Will Va ante up for the seperated blue line?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 29, 2012 12:40 pm • linkreport

A reduction in the number of speed camera tickets does not necessarily mean a reduction in speeding. It may mean the people now are aware of where the cameras are, drive like they always did, and then slow down for the camera. This can actually be more dangerous, like the cars that race through the 395 tunnel then slam the brakes at the camera.

Before a speed camera is placed on a street, that street should have a study done to determine the actual safe speed limit, especially given that today's cars are able to safely handle higher speeds then the cars that were around when many of these limits were set.

by dcdriver on Feb 29, 2012 1:11 pm • linkreport

Will Va ante up for the seperated blue line?

No, it will not unless the political winds change significantly. Transit investment is likely to remain unilateral within jurisdictions given the difficulty of cross-jurisdiction coordination and the long-standing animosity between VA and MD/DC. Not to mention the fault line between NOVA and ROVA. The more likely scenario for transit investment in VA other than the Silver Line is BRT/light rail feeder routes in and out of Tysons.

by Falls Church on Feb 29, 2012 1:59 pm • linkreport

". It may mean the people now are aware of where the cameras are, drive like they always did, and then slow down for the camera."

Anyone who doesn't think this is exactly what happens just need to go for a drive on 16th Street. Traffic is a leisurely 22-24 MPH from Kennedy Street to Colorado Avenue, southbound. It's whatever it usually is everywhere else. Except at the site of the now-offically-broken camera at Juniper Street. (At least it's had it's "eyes" pointed at the ground the last few days. Either someone got up to some mischief and didn't fix it, or they did this to make sure it doesn't take any more photos while they figure out why it works so badly).

Of course ticket revenue goes down after a camera is installed. Once you get a ticket, only a complete fool would get one again at the same location. That's not to say there aren't complete fools out there, but most people learn about cameras pretty quickly and simply slow down there..

So unless *every single driver* passing a location never goes there again, it's not only expected tickets would go down a lot, but it would be astounding if they didn't!

Anyway, I agree with the councilmember. If the camera is there to slow traffic down because of a particular safety concern - a school zone it sounds like? - that hasn't it accomplished its goal? Removing it would just mean people drive fast again through there.

Unless, of course, the goal is making money.

by Jamie on Feb 29, 2012 3:32 pm • linkreport

@falls church

that means no orange line to centreville, among other things. That will make a lot of people in NoVa very unhappy, I think.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 29, 2012 4:40 pm • linkreport

I see we agree with a councilperson who said her sole evidence of placing speed cameras in places where they realize the most revenue is . . . a conversation she overheard. That makes it as good as any of the evidence against speed cameras. As opposed to the numerous studies showing they improve safety.

by Crickey7 on Feb 29, 2012 9:34 pm • linkreport

Delegate Howard is either pandering to people who want to speed or has little understanding about how government policy works.

Good policy does not depend on the purity of motives, but rather on the assumption that normal motives will achieve the goals. The purpose of enforcement is to catch violators, and cameras are moved to catch more violators. Why should we care or even speculate about whether the enforcement director cares more about revenue or safety. If speed limits are set correctly, then each ticket and subsequent compliance accmplishes about the same thing.

by Jim Titus on Feb 29, 2012 10:02 pm • linkreport

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