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Photo by -Mandie- on Flickr.
Give peak a chance: Metro is dropping its peak of the peak surcharge, but some say they didn't give it enough time or design it in the way that would actually shift ridership away from the peak. (Examiner)

ICC too empty?: AAA complains that not enough people use the ICC because of the tolls, but Maryland says the traffic is meeting projections. Plus, lower tolls would take more money from other parts of the state. (Gazette)

The Tide rolls on: Virginia Beach rejected light rail in 1999, but with congestion, high gas prices, and its success in Norfolk, citizens will get a chance to reconsider extending The Tide on the November ballot. (Pilot, Jack Love)

Poplar going to auction: A developer who bought land on Poplar Point will lose it in an auction after being unable to get anything built. At least one adjoining landowner wants no development at all on Poplar Point. (Post, RU Seriousing Me)

Peds, bikes now count: Prince George's passed the bill to let the Planning Board make developers expand sidewalks and bicycle facilities around new projects. They already do this for roads but not for other infrastructure. (Rethink College Park)

Tourism without a car: It's not hard (or expensive) to visit Philadelphia without driving, but one writer finds a few ways SEPTA can provide clearer and better information to unfamiliar riders, and delays can frustrate plans. (Post, Ken A)

Biking in the future: Bill Nye the Science Guy envisions future bike infrastructure in DC, from tunnels protected from the weather, and that give riders a tailwind in both directions, to just having places to shower. (WashCycle)

Transit Score gets low quality score: Walk Score's Transit Score inherently prefers rail to bus even if a streetcar is slower than an express bus. It would be more difficult, but better, to score based on travel times. (Human Transit)

And...: ANC 1B opposes McMillan plans. (bloomingdale) ... DC looks to develop a Shaw parcel with mixed-use and affordable housing. (EastShawDC) ... Get caught up on Mayor Gray's housing and workforce development budgets. (DCFPI)

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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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Anyone have info on Amtrack's future 'high speed' rail (only 110mph) to Norfolk, which apparently will begin service in December 2012? First I've heard about this project. Will Norfolk Southern and CSX freight trains use these tracks? If so, did they help finance this project, or will they have to pay usage fees?
http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/04/virginia-high-speed-rail-projects-federal-support.php?ref=fpb

by n bluth on Apr 30, 2012 9:02 am • linkreport

Peak-of-the-peak: thought the purpose here was to increase revenue, not shift ridership patterns. If people shifted their commutes to avoid the extra-high fare, then WMATA would not get the extra money it needs to balance its books and the idea would be a failure.

by goldfish on Apr 30, 2012 9:38 am • linkreport

Re: Philadelphia

I had a day trip for a meeting in Center City Philadelphia a few months ago. I took the train up to 30th Street station and planned on taking the Market Line downtown. When I asked a station employee how to get get to the SEPTA station (it's not attached to the station anymore and there weren't any signs that I could see). He took one look at me and said, "You mean the taxi stand?" So much for promoting transit.

Re: ANC1B

I would note that too many ANCs have no idea what the Historic Preservation Review Board does and does not do. They don't like that too many historic structures are being removed? Fine. They don't think the materials and design fits in with other features in the neighborhood? Fine. HPRB can help with all of that. But when you start talking about size, height, density, etc. the HPRB doesn't control any of that. They need to be addressing their concerns to the Zoning Commission.

Re: Metro Fares

I avoid Metro like the plague, but the idea that they're going to up off-peak fares more than 25% is ridiculous. Between track work and increased fares, they're just shooting themselves in the foot as ridership continues to fall off.

by Adam L on Apr 30, 2012 9:59 am • linkreport

Regarding peak-of-the-peak, and the idea that they didn't give it enough time - that's bunkum. I don't see that people are really going to be able to change their commuting patterns that much thanks to it. I certainly didn't; I hated the extra fare, but my day is structured the way I'd like it to be and I didn't see fit to change it. I have a feeling it was the same for many other people.

And two picks to nit while I'm here: "it's peak of the peak surcharge" - that should be "its". Also, "AAA complaints" should read "AAA complains". Sorry - my folks were language teachers and editors, so I have issues. :-)

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Apr 30, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

Adam L - Too late for your recent trip but you could have ridden the regional rail lines east from 30th St. to Penn Center and Market East for free. And, even better, you wouldn't have had to leave 30th St. Station to do so.

Last I knew they almost never check tickets until you're out of the 30th St-Penn Center-Market East area. Just don't look like you're only riding for 1-2 stops when you get on or the conductors might ask you for your ticket.

by Hoagie Lover on Apr 30, 2012 10:08 am • linkreport

NYT: WalMart scandal hurting expansion:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/30/business/wal-mart-bribery-scandal-complicates-us-expansion-plans.html?_r=1&hp

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 30, 2012 10:08 am • linkreport

SAdN: Aargh. Fixed the typos. Thanks.

by David Alpert on Apr 30, 2012 10:20 am • linkreport

@n Bluth, the extension of Amtrak service to Norfolk is not high speed rail. The route will be over the CSX tracks from DC to Petersburg that Amtrak currently operates over, then over NS to Norfolk. VA is providing the funding to build a connecting track from CSX to NS in Petersburg, track upgrades on the NS line, restore a track into Norfolk, new station in Norfolk at Harbor Park with storage tracks. The max speed will be 79 mph AFAIK. The NS tracks from Petersburg to Norfolk could be upgraded to 90 or 110 mph with a long 50+ mile dead straight segment if NS were to agree and VA were to put up the funding.

The Norfolk service will start with a single daily train set up for government & military personnel and contractors to make day trips from Norfolk to DC. The 7 AM NE Regional from Richmond Staples Mill will instead depart from Norfolk at around 5-5:30 AM for DC and NYC; mid to late afternoon NE Regional from DC to Norfolk. The service will expand to 3 daily trains over the next several years, hopefully providing more useful times for those in DC to get to Norfolk. The 2 daily trains to Williamsburg & Newport News will remain on the schedule.

The Amtrak Norfolk station will be at Harbor Park, adjacent to the The Tide light rail station. The Tide LRT is a stub service at present, but if Norfolk and VA Beach can expand the system, it should be possible to someday take the DC Metro to Union Station, Amtrak from DC to Norfolk and then the Tide LRT to VA Beach or many other places in the Norfolk region.

by AlanF on Apr 30, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

I did in fact adjust my commute because of the peak of the peak, especially once the subsidy dropped and it covered my monthly commute only if I stayed away from the surcharge. The adjustment was only about twenty minutes at each end of the day. But I've been in jobs where that wouldn't have been possible.

by eva groening on Apr 30, 2012 10:33 am • linkreport

Goldfish is correct -- the rationale for peak-of-the-peak was to close an enormous budget deficit that WMATA was facing. The budget assumed that peak-of-the-peak would raise a substantial amount of money (which it did) not shift behavior significantly.

I also despise the name "peak of the peak". It should instead be called something like "off-peak of the off-peak" in reference to the lower off-peak fare that peak-of-the-peak permitted from a budget standpoint. Said simpler, removal of "peak of the peak" means that off-peak prices have to increase 25% to compensate. That makes no sense since WMATA already struggles to attract anything close to max ridership at off-peak times. Also, off-peak travelers are likely the most price sensitive since driving is a viable alternative at off-peak times.

by Falls Church on Apr 30, 2012 11:11 am • linkreport

Walk Score's Transit Score inherently prefers rail to bus even if a streetcar is slower than an express bus.

Transit users (and transit oriented developers) also inherently prefer rail to bus. Walk Score is only reflecting that reality.

by Falls Church on Apr 30, 2012 11:13 am • linkreport

I also despise the name "peak of the peak". It should instead be called something like "off-peak of the off-peak"

No business trying to attract new customers would tack on surcharges. Imagine an airline putting an extra charge to fly at thanksgiving -- they charge a high rate and then offer discounts. Calling it "peak-of-the-peak" just reinforces that this is a bureaucracy run by bean-counters, that does approach pricing from the point of view of its customers.

by goldfish on Apr 30, 2012 11:24 am • linkreport

@David Alpert: My pleasure. :-)

@eva groening: That's the thing - it wasn't possible for me to change my commute without severely disrupting the rest of my life. That's precisely what I disliked so about peak-of-the-peak; it's another way of saying "we have you over a barrel and we're going to make you bleed".

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Apr 30, 2012 11:30 am • linkreport

Personally, I think peak of the peak adds a level of complexity to an already cumbersome fare system. But my real issue: can we drop the crappy "some say" tag? Is there an issue out there that "some people" wouldn't say anything on? Put a name with it so we can evaluate credibility or don't bother running it.

by Tim Krepp on Apr 30, 2012 12:31 pm • linkreport

@goldfish:

No business trying to attract new customers would tack on surcharges.

I agree completely! That's why airlines have been working so hard to get rid of all of those surcharges they used to have for checked baggage, extra legroom, in-flight food, and priority boarding.

by Gray on Apr 30, 2012 12:39 pm • linkreport

I am so ashamed for ANC 1B. I can't believe they went NIMBY on the McMillan plans. What a pathetic letter too. Gotta protect those historic (underground) structures.

by Ward 1 Guy on Apr 30, 2012 12:51 pm • linkreport

Gotta keep that resplendent green space behind huge fences so nobody can use it. It's about the character of the neighborhood, or something.

by Boomer on Apr 30, 2012 1:01 pm • linkreport

Gray, I would argue that those charges are all avoidable, and you actually get something for them. Sure, most of us can remember a time when airline seats were more spacious than they are today, we were fed something on every flight no matter how short, our bags flew free, and airport security screenings were far faster. However, the charges for these things are not a surcharge on basic service as it currently stands today. For peak-of-the-peak I got to pay more for crowded trains that seemed to break down an awful lot (I get far more alerts for delays at rush hour than off-peak times, probably a function of more trains on the tracks to break down and more stupid people trying and keep the doors open), and, uh, nothing else. Americans chose the a la carte airfare for themselves by refusing to pay higher airfares, while Metro decided that rush hour commuters who really couldn't change their behavior were an easy cash cow.

by Ms. D on Apr 30, 2012 1:05 pm • linkreport

@Gray - and a lot of them are in bankruptcy or otherwise in great disdain.

Except for Southwest. Maybe that's the answer, have Southwest take over Metro.

by Kolohe on Apr 30, 2012 2:13 pm • linkreport

Re: Peak of the Peak; Many people lack elasticity to work around this. People who see this as "market based" assume people don't have commitments to meet.

by Rich on Apr 30, 2012 2:20 pm • linkreport

For peak-of-the-peak I got to pay more for crowded trains that seemed to break down an awful lot

You also get to ride the train at the time you want/need to. There's a lot of value in that.

And, what are we getting for the 25% hike in off-peak fares?

And, what are we getting for the quadrupling of gas prices since 2000?

Metro decided that rush hour commuters who really couldn't change their behavior were an easy cash cow.

That's precisely what I disliked so about peak-of-the-peak; it's another way of saying "we have you over a barrel and we're going to make you bleed".

As opposed to off-peak riders who can drive instead. All the off-peak hike accomplishes is encouraging more people to drive instead of metro, to the detriment of our roads and environment, and solving little of Metro's budget shortfall.

by Falls Church on Apr 30, 2012 2:20 pm • linkreport

Examiner piece repeats the stat that 40% of rush hour riders are fed. It doesn't mention that a great many people, feds or otherwise, with a subsidy, pay a significant portion of their fare out of pocket. My trip (Dupont to White Flint) easily exceeds $125, for example. I know people with far longer commutes (Bowie to Bethesda, people with bus/Metro connections in the District) etc. who would derive even less benefit from this. The people who argue for market based solutions, forget that most assumptions of markets are never met and that most markets are distorted in some way. The arguments in the Examiner piece really don't reflect the real world constraints on peoples' time which limits the elasticity of the use fo transit and other modes of transport.

by Rich on Apr 30, 2012 3:02 pm • linkreport

@Kolohe:

@Gray - and a lot of them are in bankruptcy or otherwise in great disdain.
Except for Southwest. Maybe that's the answer, have Southwest take over Metro.

Meanwhile, in reality, all major US airlines except American reported profits in 2010 and 2011. And even Southwest has added an early check-in fee in recent years, on top of new fees revealed in a quick googling like those for unaccompanied minors.

@Ms. D:

Gray, I would argue that those charges are all avoidable, and you actually get something for them.

I would argue that all charges are avoidable by not purchasing the good or service. Presumably those who purchase it do so because what they get is worth it to them. Yes, the purchaser may resent having to pay the price, but people are not being forced at gunpoint to buy anything.

The point here is that the surcharge represented an alternative to significantly hiking off-peak fares. The disadvantage was that it further complicated fares, but the advantage was clear: it raised fares at an overcrowded time relative to a much less crowded time. Switching back to raising off-peak fares (when both trains are crowded and users have more alternative transportation options, so demand is much more elastic) doesn't make much sense to many of us.

I just don't see how "surcharges are bad" is a reasonable argument here. Especially when the point that all other industries are avoiding surcharges is in fact false.

by Gray on Apr 30, 2012 3:57 pm • linkreport

Tourism Without a Car: I think the Post article illustrated how possible it could be to visit Philly without a car - or rather, how not to visit some distant corners of Philly without a car. In DC terms, it's as if the author took public transportation to the Manassas Battlefield and to the Nature Center in Rock Creek Park. No doubt SEPTA could always provide clearer and better information to unfamiliar riders, but this traveler seemed pretty casual about reading schedules and route maps; this is a large part of what caused most of her problems. As someone who hasn't owned a car in over ten years, I've learned to concede that there are some places which are at the outer edge of access by public transit and require the use of a cab, or at the very least, very careful planning.

by CarFreeDC on Apr 30, 2012 3:58 pm • linkreport

@Gray

The point here is that the surcharge represented an alternative to significantly hiking off-peak fares.

Did it?

A 20 cent POP fare hike, opposed to, say, a 10 cent across the board fare hike? Or a 15 cent hike on all peak fares?

I don't know the breakdown in percent of fares paid during the POP time, but nothing would possibly make the alternative a 'significant' fare hike for all riders.

Instead, I think the reality is that a) Metro had just raised fares, but was short on revenue, and b) saw this as a way to raise fares without appearing to raise fares.

The way they structured it made it very difficult for riders to actually shift their behavior, since the time window was way too big, the fare incentive way too small, and a broader misunderstanding of metro fares in the wider transportation system.

by Alex B. on Apr 30, 2012 4:15 pm • linkreport

@CarFreeDC Yeah, that was my issue with the article. Almost as if the writer went out of their way to find a difficult place and write it up as such. Also, the underlying supposition that traveling WITH a car is easy.

by Tim Krepp on Apr 30, 2012 4:22 pm • linkreport

If I had to list 100 places I wanted to visit in the Philadelphia area, with or without a car, the old Navy Yard would be about number 695.

It hasn't been a Navy yard since the mid-90's, its now an assorted collection of re-purposed buildings, a private shipyard, and lots of open space in between. The only possible thing worth seeing would be the Navy's "mothball" fleet of WWII-era ships, but ironically your best view of that comes either from the air or I-95.

SEPTA used to run trolley service from Broad St to the Navy Yard, back when thousands of people worked there. But, as they say, that ship has sailed.

by dcdriver on Apr 30, 2012 4:29 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.:

A 20 cent POP fare hike, opposed to, say, a 10 cent across the board fare hike? Or a 15 cent hike on all peak fares?

I don't know the breakdown in percent of fares paid during the POP time, but nothing would possibly make the alternative a 'significant' fare hike for all riders.

So is a 10, 15 or 20 cent fare hike significant or not? Either it isn't, in which case the POP surcharge is meaningless, or it is, and that would represent a significant hike in either POP or off-peak.

But I meant to say that it avoided an even larger off-peak hike, which is what it did, and which is what we're seeing now.

by Gray on Apr 30, 2012 4:38 pm • linkreport

So is a 10, 15 or 20 cent fare hike significant or not? Either it isn't, in which case the POP surcharge is meaningless, or it is, and that would represent a significant hike in either POP or off-peak.

My point is that the 20 cents wasn't significant enough to change behavior and if (as I suspect) it was all really about revenue, it would've just been more honest to get that same revenue from an across the board hike - either tacking it on to their 2010 fare hikes for peak trips or for all trips.

But I meant to say that it avoided an even larger off-peak hike, which is what it did, and which is what we're seeing now.

Well, not necessarily. They could've had the fare increase only in the peak period.

Also, I don't think we're seeing a fare hike now because of the elimination of POP. POP isn't providing the pressure on fares, as POP revenues represented only a small part of the overall revenue from the last fare increase, and that itself isn't the reason there's constant upward pressure on WMATA's operating budget.

by Alex B. on Apr 30, 2012 4:46 pm • linkreport

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