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Breakfast links: Test the status quo

Photo by roswellsgirl on Flickr.
More school, more tests: DC public school children must apply to college and take the SAT or ACT under legislation passed yesterday. Top teachers moving to poorly-performing schools will also get a $10,000 annual bonus. (Examiner)

Ban the bike ban?: One group is petitioning to allow bicycles on Metro during rush hour. Bikes are currently banned, but similarly large items such as strollers and luggage are allowed. (TBD) ... Martin Austermuhle votes no. (DCist)

Cap on money orders moves: In the wake of the Jeffrey Thompson scandal, Mary Cheh has proposed a $25 limit on money order contributions. The bill has enough support to pass the council and has the support of Mayor Gray. (Examiner)

Parking and bus get more expensive: Ike Leggett wants to raise Ride On fares and parking rates in Bethesda and Silver Spring. The plan would also start charging for parking on Saturday, which is a good idea. (Examiner)

Reporter finds money for DC: Lydia DePillis wondered why one Douglas Development property wasn't taxed at the vacant rate. She contacted DCRA, who discovered it was an oversight. Douglas will now have to pay $164,000 rather than $37,000. (City Paper)

Earthquake damaged buildings reopen: The National Cathedral's central tower will open for a tower climbm and an Arlington theater will reopen next month, after both were damaged in the August earthquake. (Post, Sun Gazette)

And...: Capital Bikeshare will launch a pilot program for the homeless, giving them access to low cost transportation. (City Paper) ... DC Police remind drivers about pedestrian safety. (TBD) ... Days after it started accepting unsolicited proposals, the Fairfax Town Council received a plan for a mixed use building. (Sun Gazette)

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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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Bikes are already allowed on Metro during rush hour, if they fold.

by Amber on Mar 21, 2012 8:38 am • linkreport

Given that the de facto cash fare is $2 anyway (seriously, how often do you have exactly $1.70?), I see no problem with that increase for Ride-On, and I think Metrobus and the other local operators should follow suit.

by Justin.... on Mar 21, 2012 8:41 am • linkreport

Exactly why are money orders more dangerous. They have to have name attached to them -- no different than a check.

Bike on rush hour trains: yeah, horrible idea. Please ban strollers on rush hour too. Take the damn bus.

by charlie on Mar 21, 2012 8:43 am • linkreport

That building in Vienna seems to be a no brainer. Though I hope somewhere in the design there is something that engages users of the W&OD rather than just cars moving in and out of a parking lot.

by Canaan on Mar 21, 2012 8:51 am • linkreport


Do you read the news? You can't be serious??

No, they don't have to have a name attached. You can buy a MO with cash, and write your name as Donald Duck for all you care. Checks at least have a bank account attached to them

by Kyle W on Mar 21, 2012 9:02 am • linkreport

How about allowing bikes in the first and last car during rush hour? Double-wide strollers will, of course, still have the right of way wherever they go.

by aaa on Mar 21, 2012 9:05 am • linkreport

I'm not sure the Examiner article was correct about the education bill requiring students to apply to college (along with taking the SAT or ACT). The Post was reporting that push-back from the mayor and school officials led the Council to drop that requirement and instead authorize the mayor to plan for such a provision. The tracking of students at risk of dropping out and the community schools provisions seem like the real news from that bill.

by DCster on Mar 21, 2012 9:05 am • linkreport

Bikes on Metro during rush hours is just a bad idea. The trains are too crowded.

Allowing reverse commutes doesn't solve the problem, since many overall reverse commutes still have quite crowded trains. Likewise, if any part of said reverse commute passes through the core of the system, then it's not really a reverse commute.

Designating the first and/or last car as bike cars won't work either. Again, the trains are too crowded.

Some of the most bike-friendly places in the world do not allow non-folding bikes on trains, for the simple reason that bikes are large and the trains are crowded.

Instead, they make biking to and from train stations easier, via large parking facilities for bikes, bike share systems, etc.

by Alex B. on Mar 21, 2012 9:16 am • linkreport

@KyleW; yes, but that is easy to detect with fraud.

IN every case in the news, the money order is traced to a real person. Ask that person if they wrote it. If they are lying that is a felony charge right there.

That is no different that if I gave you $1000 cash, and then asked you to write a check to a politican. Just as easy.

This reminds of me the outrage about ACORN voter registration. The harm isn't the fake registration. Voting as "Donald Duck", for instance, is impossible.

by charlie on Mar 21, 2012 9:20 am • linkreport

If bikes were allowed on Metro at rush hour, there would be many days when I'd take advantage of the policy change. But Martin A. is right: overall, it's a bad idea.

Metro's facilities are already frequently overwhelmed at rush hour, with dangerously crowded railcars (including the first & last cars on many, many Orange Line trains), lengthy waits for elevators, unreliable escalators, etc. And on many of those crowded cars, it is a constant fight for people to get on and off at their station stops.

It's not just a problem of bikes taking up space that would otherwise be filled by people, although that's significant. It's the problem of maneuvering to & from seats and doors for ingress and egress with the combination of crowds and bikes. Even in normal rush-hour operations, Metro has serious problems with passengers unable to board or exit at many busy stops. It's a problem sadly worsened by the fact that Metro's train cars aren't designed to allow wheelchairs any space except by the doors, so anytime a self-reliant disabled person overcomes all the other hurdles placed in his way by Metro's operations, door capacity is reduced significantly and maneuvering challenges are aggravated. Now compare the potential number of bikes that could end up on board on an unexpectedly-stormy evening. It's one more problem Metro doesn't need.

Yes, oversized luggage and strollers also take up space and contribute to crowding. But the fact that policies aren't perfect now doesn't mean we should make matters worse rather than better.

by Arl Fan on Mar 21, 2012 9:24 am • linkreport

Bikes should not be allowed on Metro during rush hour. The point of riding a bike is to get you from point A to point B. if you can't ride your bike from point A to point B, then find another way to commute. Strollers (which I despise) and luggage are different because they are not transportation modes in and of themselves, as bikes are.

by The Heights on Mar 21, 2012 9:41 am • linkreport

@charlie: IN every case in the news, the money order is traced to a real person. Ask that person if they wrote it. If they are lying that is a felony charge right there.

"Did you write a money order for $500?"
"I respectfully refuse to answer that question"

by goldfish on Mar 21, 2012 9:46 am • linkreport

Just wondering how many people who despise strollers actually have children.

by TM on Mar 21, 2012 9:48 am • linkreport

The architect of that eyesore proposed for Vienna is on the town's Architectural Review Board? That's really putting the foxes in charge of the hen house. Yikes.

by jimble on Mar 21, 2012 9:48 am • linkreport

@ goldfish; and right there, you've got a campaign finance case. Send it right to the grand jury.

by charlie on Mar 21, 2012 9:54 am • linkreport

The police leaflet telling drivers to yield at unmarked crosswalks is terrific - drivers almost never do that. But it should explain what an unmarked crosswalk is. Almost no one knows.

by Ben Ross on Mar 21, 2012 10:02 am • linkreport

@charlie, I think you will need more than the refusal to answer a question to convene a grand jury. Jurists expect something more meat, and get very annoyed after they have taken time off of work for no good reason.

by goldfish on Mar 21, 2012 10:03 am • linkreport

Bikes during rush hour...hell no.

Thank you Lydia! All our journalists should be so effective.

by Redline SOS on Mar 21, 2012 10:06 am • linkreport

What's with all the stroller hate? Is it really all that different than a wheelchair? Plenty of kids in strollers have the same level of mobility as folks in wheelchairs.

Or should we just confirm what all the anti-urbanists say, which is that cities are only for childless yuppies and just you wait and see, once they have kids they'll all move to the burbs.

by Falls Church on Mar 21, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

wrt strollers

Im a parent. We had one of those nifty folding strollers, that you can fit (or could in the old days) in an airplane overhead storage bin. On a train you take the kid out and hold them and hold the folded up stroller (this kind of requires someone giving you a seat though)

keeping the folder UNFOLDED (with or without kid in it) takes a lot of space. Thats quite an issue during rush hour.

Also - it is of course quite possible to have kids in a city and transport them by car. Living in a city does not necessarily mean living car free. It CAN mean living car lite. The notion that city living, or TOD living, necessarily means being absolutely car free, is in fact an antiurbanist meme, and one we need not concede.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 21, 2012 10:16 am • linkreport

Having kids who can barely read take the SAT will do nothing to help them succeed. If anything, it will only lead to more of them dropping out. How about putting the money and attention on reading programs for the younger kids and trade skills for the high schools.

If you graduate high school and don't go to college, and also have no skills training, you are pretty much doomed to a life of poverty in this society.

I know that "tracking" students is a dirty word in the world of education policy, but these are desperate times in DC, practically a state of emergency. Give every kid a test in 9th grade. Then put them in either a college track with full support for the SAT test, applications, even a small pool of money to visit a few campuses; or put them into a technical skills track with mandatory training, including some time at an actual job site, as well as help with getting into a trade union or apprenticeship program.

by dcdriver on Mar 21, 2012 10:19 am • linkreport

BTW, thats the Vienna Town Council. Its a town council IN Fairfax county, but the wording made me think this was something in City of Fairfax and that the writer meant the City of Fairfax City Council.

Note, Church street is a good example of a walkable area thats not that close to rail transit (over a mile from the vienna metro station, IIRC) and not on particularly good bus transit either.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 21, 2012 10:21 am • linkreport

@Goldfish; most grand juries are already sitting.

Refusing to tesify to a grand jury is civil contempt. You can, of course, plead 5th amendment protections -- but that is essentially admitting criminal activity.

And in any case, prosecutors are not interested in the dupe who name in on the money order. They are interested in the guy who gave the dupe the cash. So it is prety easy to crack.

Again, the money orders are leaving a pretty decent paper trail.

by charlie on Mar 21, 2012 10:25 am • linkreport

@charlie, good luck in your new career as a prosecutor.

by goldfish on Mar 21, 2012 10:28 am • linkreport

When Metro can fix its escalators and allow trains to stop mid-platform this would potentially work. Till then shrink rush hour to 7-9 and 4-6. With CaBi - there are plenty of options to get to work from a station. I'm a biker and Metro user - but really think in this case the status quo isn't that broken.
As a non-parent I don't hate all strollers just those enormous jogging strollers. Get a cheap umbrella stroller if you are riding metro during rush hour - leave the BoB in the 'burbs.

Also - if the city assesses that Douglas Development building at the higher rate, Lydia DePillis should be given an award - LOVE HER!

by andy(2) on Mar 21, 2012 10:29 am • linkreport

Let me reiterate what I said in an earlier post on this issue.

There is absolutely no reason why anyone should ever use a money order to make a campaign contribution. None at all. Not a single reason, except fraud.

Please, name me one reason why you would PAY and deal with the hassle of buying a money order over writing a check to a candidate, and why a person who does not have a checking account is wasting their money on a campaign contribution.

by dcdriver on Mar 21, 2012 10:30 am • linkreport

@Goldfish; thanks. I'll keep it in mind. But again, you are missing the point. We have the paper trail. The issue, as usual, is monitoring and enforcement -- not changing that law. And not talking to a journalist is very different than not talking to investigators.

@Dcdriver; while I tend to agree with you, you are overstating the risk of fraud. Cash is the real problem.

The classic money order case is when 10 money orders show up, and they are from people who are is hard to track down.

What seems to be broken here is the use of subsidiaries, against various independent corporations, donating money.

by charlie on Mar 21, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

@charlie, consider the following scenario: a tycoon buys twenty $500 money orders at the post office, using cash, and distributes them to his/her favorite politicians, forging the signatures on them. He contacts the each politician privately and explains in code where they came from and what they are for.

When investigators investigate, the refusal of the tycoon to answer any questions, coupled with accurate if misleading testimony from the politicians, means that what is effectively bribery cannot be prosecuted. The problem is that contribution via money orders -- which are a way for poorer people without bank accounts to contribute to political campaigns that cannot accept cash -- has been abused by the very rich seeking to bribe.

by goldfish on Mar 21, 2012 11:36 am • linkreport

There is absolutely no reason why anyone should ever use a money order to make a campaign contribution. None at all. Not a single reason, except fraud.

I thought you earlier contribution to the discussion was coming up w/the ridiculous idea that ANYONE who uses money orders (for any reason) are up to no good..since anyone w/a checking account should ALWAYS use checks...unless they're up to no good.

by HogWash on Mar 21, 2012 12:03 pm • linkreport

We've read enough about the obvious kinks in the system...from campaigns to OCF. I think we should be able to make whatever adjustments and not ban money order (or the paltry $25 limit) entirely.

Any campaign should question the receipt of any suspect money order.

We should make the campaigns and the OCF held liable for this stuff.

by HogWash on Mar 21, 2012 12:06 pm • linkreport

@ goldfish; here is a much easier way. Give your crooked politician $10000 in cash, and say it all from small donors.

by charlie on Mar 21, 2012 12:15 pm • linkreport

Please, name me one reason why you would PAY and deal with the hassle of buying a money order over writing a check to a candidate, and why a person who does not have a checking account is wasting their money on a campaign contribution.

You are unbanked because you are not rich and don't want to pay banks' ridiculous fees. You cash your paycheck at the check-cashing place. You cannot make a donation of cash to a politician. So you use a money order instead.

I concede that this is probably a rare scenario, but it is not ludicrous. Obama received a huge number of small donations, supported by not-very-rich people albeit at what for him were otherwise "token" levels.

by ah on Mar 21, 2012 1:07 pm • linkreport

@AWintC -The notion that city living, or TOD living, necessarily means being absolutely car free, is in fact an antiurbanist meme, and one we need not concede.

Absolutely. Thank you for repeating this.

by Tina on Mar 21, 2012 1:19 pm • linkreport

To the poster who compared strollers to wheelchairs:

You're right - they are a lot alike. The major issue is that strollers don't need to be as big as wheelchairs, although many are. Buy a smaller stroller and fold it on Metro and a lot of problems would be eliminated. It's not babies that annoy most people - it's the entitled mentality that many parents have that because they decided to have a child, it's their world and the rest of us are just renting. Taking up much more than your fair share of a Metro car during rush hour is obnoxious.

by The Heights on Mar 21, 2012 1:35 pm • linkreport

Re: ACT, etc.---linking to the Examiner is always asking for trouble.

Bikes on Metro: Lousy idea. 1st/Last cars are sometimes the most crowded. The last car on the Red Line to Shady Grove often is the most full because it's the easiest for Yellow/Green transfers and gets the kids going to Woodrow Wilson.

Stroller hate: Mostly it's the SUV strollers that are awkward even for their minivan/SUVs/mall shopping applications. Often, the kids in them are old enough to walk and the strollers are filled with parents' crap. Given the obesity epidemic and the lack of any walking that kids normally have to do, these are just another barrier to building healthy habits. I'd happily ban them from all forms of transport--they're completely inappropriate for the city and don't always seem viable in the 'burbs.

I, personally, am always happy to see the folding strollers small enough to put in an overhead bin--those make sense for all parties concerned. I saw a kid in a snuggly a couple weeks ago--even better. There was a whole generation that regularly used those.

by Rich on Mar 21, 2012 1:37 pm • linkreport

@ ah

"You are unbanked because you are not rich and don't want to pay banks' ridiculous fees."

As opposed to those oh so reasonable fees that check-cashing places charge?

I just typed "free checking" into Google and in about 2 seconds I found that you can get a free checking account, with no minimum balance and no monthly fee at PNC bank. I then clicked on the "Locate PNC" option and found 30 branches in the DC metro area, most in the city, and even one...gasp...on MLK in SE. You can of course also do most of your banking via the internet or from one of the many ATM machines in the city.

Now they do charge for the actual checks, although last time I bought checks I bought them online for less than $5 for a box of 150 (about 3 cents per check, lower than any money order fee out there I suspect).

by dcdriver on Mar 21, 2012 4:37 pm • linkreport

Parking on Saturday would adversely affect one group in major ways - Jews who observe the Sabbath by not spending money.

Right now the only way to park in downtown Silver Spring for any length of time is to (a) have a space in a building where you work/rent or (b) pay daily/monthly at a county lot.

I'll be moving into a building off of Georgia in the next few months. While I am paying $100 a month for a space, whenever family come to visit they will need to pay for parking in a county lot. Right now it is possible to pay, as a visitor, for only one day at a time. If parking were charged on Saturday my visitor(s) from out of town would be out of luck parking in Silver Spring.

There is one way in which this plan works - that would be to allow pre-payment of 1-2 days at a time so that someone could, say, park on Friday and pay for Saturday as well.

by Eitan on Mar 21, 2012 5:22 pm • linkreport

Why is signing your name on the moneyorder an issue couldn't they just send a blank moneyorder and you fill it out ?

Also with a prepaid/gift Visa, Mastercard, or Amex

by kk on Mar 21, 2012 9:05 pm • linkreport


Actually I never recall putting $2.00 on the bus ever but I have put $1.75 on many times.

by kk on Mar 21, 2012 9:26 pm • linkreport

Bikes on Metro during rush hour? Hell yes. At least in parts where there is actually no rush.

See here.

If NYC, SF and Dallas can do it, so can we.

by David C on Mar 22, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

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