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Breakfast links: Paying for transportation

Photo by Rob Blatt on Flickr.
Agreement on transpo bill: Congress has reached a deal for transportation funding through September 2014. About half of local bike/ped funding survived, but states can still "opt out" of their share. The House also voted down incentives to deal with distracted driving. (Streetsblog)

No BRT soon: Several Montgomery councilmembers say the county can't afford the proposed BRT system anytime soon thanks to a state requirement for more education funding, and a special tax isn't likely. (Examiner)

DC would not be alone: Contracting or "privatizing" the streetcar wouldn't be unusual: Denver is doing the same. (BeyondDC) ... But what would be the incentive for a company to finance a streetcar if it can't make extra money? (RPUS)

How to fix parking?: Brookings' Christopher Leinberger, David Alpert, and many others, talked about parking policy at a DC Council roundtable. Ideas included smaller RPP zones and higher rates for RPP stickers. (WJLA)

Cities grow: DC and other large cities are growing even faster than before, outpacing suburban growth for the first time in decades. Alexandria has also seen explosive growth in the last few months. (Post)

What about health care?: By encouraging a more sedentary lifestyle, unwalkable communities cost Americans $190 billion a year in health care costs through health risks like diabetes and obesity. (Atlantic Cities)

And...: US cities are driving most of the nation's economic competitiveness. (McKinsey, charlie) ... LEED might limit plastics and vinyl, but the industry is fighting. (Post) ... BRT is working very well in LA. (LAT, charlie) ... Lieberman stands up for DC rights. (WT)

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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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Is it cities growing or Texas growing?

"Alexandria was singled out as one of the fastest-growing large cities in the country on a list otherwise dominated by places in Texas, although Alexandria officials disagreed, calling the growth solid but steady."

Goverment spending and natural resources. The future of America.

by charlie on Jun 28, 2012 8:49 am • linkreport

Cities are growing as more young'uns decide to stay where the action is, and what's MoCo doing? Not getting ready for the future. Ho hum...

by Thayer-D on Jun 28, 2012 9:07 am • linkreport

Haven't cities always driven the US's economic competiveness. When we were a mostly agrarian nation we were also not coincidentally seen as a backwater. It's when we became manufacturing king (with most or all of those factories in cities) that we became the economic powerhouse. And now our competitive advantage is in the service/knowledge economy which still has its base in the city.

tl;dr would this count as surprising to anyone even if they don't read up on urban issues?

by drumz on Jun 28, 2012 9:24 am • linkreport

Rush-Minus update from Franconia-Springfield:

Chaos this morning. PIDS on both sides of the platform announced a Blue Line leaving in minutes. But there were two trains. One Yellow, one Blue. Other than on the train itself, nothing indicated in the station which one was which. Luckily, there were WMATA dude in yellow vests directing passengers.

After the Blue Line left, the Yellow Line dropped it signage on the side, leaving an open train, and nothing anywhere in the station indicating where that train would go, other than the two dudes. The PIDS on both sides updated to another Blue Line leaving in 7 minutes. But that train had not come in yet. Very confusing.

Come on WMATA, how hard is it to indicate what train you have on a platform?

Also, why can't you activate the side-signage on trains properly? Yesterday, a Yellow Line came in. So far, this week, all Yellow Lines have turned around as Yellow Lines. However, while the driver walks to the other end of the train, the side-signage goes dark. Many Blue Liners waited on the platform. Others got in. When the driver got to the front, side-signage showed it was a Yellow Line to Greenbelt. Blue Liners stayed on the platform. The train filled up. Then the side-signage changed to Blue to Largo, about 30 seconds before the doors closed and the train left. No announcements. Nothing on the PIDS. A few Blue Liners were paying attention, ran in for standing space, but many were left at the station. I assume some Yellow Liners were surprised to end up at Arlington Cemetery. Not good WMATA!

Other than that, my Blue Line was not overcrowded. Upon leaving the train I found out why: It was an 8 car train! Thanks WMATA, that helps!

by Jasper on Jun 28, 2012 9:26 am • linkreport

I can't find the source for the information about city growth in the DC area, but the Census did release a press notice about the national top 15.

It seems as if Texas's growth is mainly due to exurban, northern Dallas area "cities" (although Travis county and South Texas make the top 15 list as well)---or am I extrapolating too much from this list.

by watcher on Jun 28, 2012 9:40 am • linkreport

Why BRT is a bad idea for high-ridership corridors, or corridors that might grow to high ridership (from the evaluation report for the LA Orange Line)

"The Orange Line attracted nearly 22,000 average weekday boardings...surpassing the Agency's ridership goal for 2020 in just seven months... carrying capacity ... is not adequate at maximum load points...reducing [4 min] headways is not a realistic option."

BRT maxes out at 1000 passengers/hour; streetrars/LRT at 5000 passengers/hour.

by egk on Jun 28, 2012 9:55 am • linkreport

@Drumz; I wouldn't be so confident on the "Knowledge" although service is real.

However, from the census:

"As of July 1, 2011, more than three in every five people living in the United States (62 percent or 194.4 million people) lived in incorporated places, commonly thought of as cities. More than a third of the nation's population (37 percent or 116.2 million people) lived in cities with populations of more than 50,000."

I sent in a link to McK global study on city GDP, although I don't know if GGW will run it.

by charlie on Jun 28, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

I'll backtrack that cities should focus more on the knowledge side rather than chasing after manufacturing (though environmental regs also do a good job of keeping factories out of cities.) I think it should and will be a bigger component in the future especially if the output is gonna be as large as the report suggests.

I like that the census stretches the definition of city to beyond how a jurisdiction defines itself. Tysons corner has a more distinct skyline than a lot of american cities but because its in fairfax people call it "the suburbs". Same with Arlington and so forth.

by drumz on Jun 28, 2012 10:22 am • linkreport

Exactly @ egk. They are already talking about turning it in to a light rail line.

Plus, there they had the advantage of an old ROW.

by H Street Landlord on Jun 28, 2012 10:29 am • linkreport

@ drumz; ok, I see there is already a link to the McK report - my bad.

Manufucting is doing well right now -- partialy undervalued dollar, mostly incredibly cheap electric costs. But it also very connected to supply chain and logistics, which, unforatnley, require easy trucking.

Yep, and looking more at the census list I see a lot of cities that are essentialy "suburban". Columbus, for one.

by charlie on Jun 28, 2012 10:38 am • linkreport


I find it hilarious that people do so much hemming and hawing about whether they should get on the train and whether it is blue or yellow when they have no fewer than 7 stops after that in which to change their minds, get off, and wait for another train.

I can understand people's complaints about being told one train is leaving first, getting on it, and then having the other train at the platform take off. But this? Just get on the damn train; you have 20 minutes to listen to the announcements and figure out what kind of train it is before you have to get off and transfer.

by MLD on Jun 28, 2012 10:47 am • linkreport


Yep, and looking more at the census list I see a lot of cities that are essentialy "suburban". Columbus, for one.

Why is that relevant? Those are still urban agglomerations of economic activity.

The point wasn't about an arbitrary urban/suburban distinction, but about the old notion of an agrarian/urban one.

by Alex B. on Jun 28, 2012 10:48 am • linkreport

Yeah, manufacturing is doing well I just think its a bizarre hope that it will somehow ever make sense for the USA to be seen as the leading manufacturer in all things. Again, its an important part of the economy per se but its no longer our competitive advantage (or as much as it once was).

And yeah a lot of cities have huge suburban areas within its jurisdiction (even DC and NYC have those) and what we are seeing is that density is increasing everywhere (in places with a modicum of economic vitality) and that places we've traditionally thought of as suburbs are turning into cities in their own right and some may eventually overshadow their primary city but many will just become more equal.

by drumz on Jun 28, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

Everyone's growing, but Baltimore! Bucking the trend like usual.

by Chris on Jun 28, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

@Drumz; err, we are the world's largest manufacturing nation. By a pretty big margin over China.

"in all things.", well no.

One of the few things Yglesias gets right is a lot of service sector -- think Mcdonalds -- is really "manufacturing."

But we are stuck in old ways of thinking -- much like AlexB here in trying to define cities. Is Columbus a place, where Jane Jacobs says, we get multi-levelled creativity? For that matter, is DC? Of course, I think Jacobs is really off on the service sector because she doesn't understand wealth.

by charlie on Jun 28, 2012 11:05 am • linkreport

the line in the op said something about suburbs. I see no data in the census PR discussing suburban growth. While the rate of DC and City of Alex growth suggests they led the metro DC area, without more info its impossible to say.

While manufacturing may remain important to the national economy, much of that will happen in non-metro areas, and within metros, it will likely happen in peripheral suburbs mostly. The future of cities, and city like suburbs, will mostly be with knowledge industries.

and yeah, there is some grey area between services and goods, when the service involves final processing of a good - but the distinction is still generally useful, I think

As for Jane Jacobs, while she had some fruitful ideas about urban vibrancy, I personally am not interested in her as an economic thinker beyond that.

Or even necessarily on urban planning issues - Ive had "antis" quote her at me on the existing suburbs being just fine, when what we need now is suburban transformation. When Robert Moses wanted to tear down the west village for an expressway, defense of urbanism and hostility to planning went hand in hand. Today hostility to planning (if not to zoning) is at the core of anti-urbanist thinking.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 28, 2012 11:16 am • linkreport

BRT maxes out at 1000 passengers/hour; streetrars/LRT at 5000 passengers/hour.

BRT can definitely carry more than that. I'm not sure what they mean by going to more than 4 minute headways is unfeasible - maybe it has to do with the design of the busway. If buses can pass one another at stops you can achieve better headways - the 16th street S buses run at about 2 minute headways during the height of rush hour (if you include S1,2,4,9)

by MLD on Jun 28, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport


I think for many blue line riders, the issue is that if they have to change trains later on, they're going to have a hard time getting on because they grow progressively more crowded at each stop to the point of total sardinery. If you get on at Franconia, when you might be able to get a seat or at least an advantageous standing position, I can see how it would be disconcerting to have to worry about wedging yourself in at a later stop.

by Dizzy on Jun 28, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

I realize that we are the worlds largest manufacturer. But my point is still is that its no longer our competitive advantage. Which means that I don't think its a good idea to keep putting it up on a pedestal like our politicians are generally wont to do because it seems more honest to them or some reason (kind of like how we keep subsidizing farming because we have romantic notions attached to it).

So yeah the US is great at manufacturing at a world wide level but it is a shrinking part of the US economy and nothing is indicating that the trend is reversing.

But that's getting away from my point that Manufacturing used to be a big part of the economy and was urban, now its more service/knowledge (and will be in the immediate future) and is urban and likely whatever new economic innovations in the US will come from the cities. Because thats why we have cities.

by drumz on Jun 28, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport


Is Columbus a place, where Jane Jacobs says, we get multi-levelled creativity?

Well, it is home to the third-largest university in the United States, so I think there's probably a good deal of "multi-levelled creativity" going on there, yes.

Also, the Blue Jackets continue to find exceptionally creative ways to lose.

by Dizzy on Jun 28, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity; in terms of services/goods; no, the line is pretty useless and misleading. Classic business school case in Rolls Royce. Do they make jet engines -- or do they service said engines. 50/50 split.

Jacobs is incredibly useful on economic thoughts -- see her history of detroit -- but she didn't predcit "knowledge" workers and the power of capital. Basically, since 1971 it more profitable to export dollars than goods.

by charlie on Jun 28, 2012 11:24 am • linkreport


As for Jane Jacobs, while she had some fruitful ideas about urban vibrancy, I personally am not interested in her as an economic thinker beyond that.

Which of her books are you basing this on?

I hope you've read more than just Death and Life. The Economy of Cities and Cities and the Wealth of Nations are great books, and spot on in terms of urban economic agglomeration economies.

by Alex B. on Jun 28, 2012 11:36 am • linkreport

Ive read quotes in which she basically trashes the new deal, reverses the relationship of cities as markets relative to rural surpluses, etc. I was not impressed. I fear reading her would just leave me frustrated and angry, and would not particularly change my view of any current economic issues. I'd rather read Krugman for a more uptodate, and less cranky, view of urban agglomeration economies.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 28, 2012 11:54 am • linkreport

i cant find krugman on Jacobs, but this reivew by Solow on a different work does not make me eager to read her .

Most of the fans of Jacobs on broader econ issues (i mean broader than stuff like walkability) seem to be fans of the Austrian school, who generally drive me up the wall.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 28, 2012 12:03 pm • linkreport

Again, I cited two specific books: The Economy of Cities, and Cities and the Wealth of Nations.

You don't have to subscribe to her ideas, but I just read your posts as unnecessarily dismissive of her contribution to urban economics.

by Alex B. on Jun 28, 2012 12:21 pm • linkreport

I havent read her books - it sounds to me that her arguments on agglomeration economies are embedded in a larger economic POV that I do dismiss, and so reading her would not be worth the aggravation, given that the same ideas on agglomeration economies are available elsewhere, in more uptodate form (that she may have made them first is interesting, but Im not that concerned with the history of urban economics, and her contribution - an analogy is that the neokeynisians are impossible without Keynes, but their statements of the theory are much better than whats in the General Theory - Keynes is important, but for someone not interested in the history of economics, its not really worthwhile to slog though the General Theory) . She happens to be cited here quite often as an authority, to which points must be reconciled, as see Charlie does above. I don't see the need to do that.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 28, 2012 1:02 pm • linkreport

@ MLD:I find it hilarious that people do so much hemming and hawing about whether they should get on the train and whether it is blue or yellow when they have no fewer than 7 stops after that in which to change their minds, get off, and wait for another train.

What Dizzy said.

And, I think you underestimate how many people loose themselves in their ad rag/smartphone/early morning nap etc.

There's also a difference in the frequencies of the trains. I am not surprised people wait for a seat on a Blue Line. I am surprised that people wait for the Yellow ones.

by Jasper on Jun 28, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

@Dizzy & @charlie: Columbus is about the dullest place imaginable, but it does have dense, walkable neighborhoods adjacent to downtown and in areas near Ohio State, as well some older suburbs that are at least built on streetcar densities (Bexley, Worthington). OSU may be large, but it's not a particularly great university---Miami of Ohio has better academic cred for instate students. Without the strong engineering & hard science programs, OSU probably would be at the bottom of the Big 10 schools. It's really gone no where in a lot of fields and lost pre-eminence in others. It's nothing like Michigan, Wisconsin, or Minnesota and Columbus is no Ann Arbor as a place to live.

by Rich on Jun 28, 2012 3:28 pm • linkreport

@ A Walker,
I highly recommend you read at least Life and Death of the American City. I don't know Austrian Economics from the Austrian Alps, but I have studied cities and how they work, and Jane Jacobs gets it better than almost everyone I've read.

by Thayer-D on Jun 29, 2012 6:27 am • linkreport

Do not let Leinberger's Brookings post fool you. He's a HUGE for profit land developer: (Oooops, did the reporter forget to include it? Or, like Lienberger did with me, make it an error of omission when he talks in public? How convenient his title switching can be.

by Mike Rogers on Jun 29, 2012 8:42 am • linkreport

Mike: how does that matter?

by Alex B. on Jun 29, 2012 9:27 am • linkreport

@Alex B. When someone says a parking space on the street is worth 10-60k they owe it to their audience to disclose their full background. No one arrives at Brookings to respond to an ad for "Senior Fellow (non-resident)" -- Translation: I'm paid a ton for my opinion.

A person working on a committee re: parking and neglecting to mention that he is a huge real estate developer (one who has publicly stated support for the elimination of the current height limit, at that) gives me -- as it should anyone believing in full disclosure -- pause.

Here's more about the guy... Saying someone is from Brookings is hiding the fact of who he really is. If his intentions are good why not put out his full background as it relates to this issue.

by Mike Rogers on Jun 29, 2012 9:44 am • linkreport

@Alex B.: I included Leinberger back in '07:

by Mike Rogers on Jun 29, 2012 9:46 am • linkreport

This sort of thing is the very definition of an "ad hominem" criticism.

Is a space worth $10-60k or not? Cheryl Cort cited a similar statistic (I think she said 20-50k). If it's true, it doesn't matter who said it; if it's false, then it's much more persuasive to explain why it's false rather than trying to discredit the person who said it just because they do work that makes money.

I don't think anything Leinberger said is false, except that (as you can see from the video) Cheryl and I disagreed with him when he lumped many parts of Ward 3 in with "driveable sub-urbanism" where walkability and bikeability is too difficult.

by David Alpert on Jun 29, 2012 9:52 am • linkreport

What I find hilarious about your issue with "disclosure" is that as a huge for-profit evil land developer, shouldn't Leinberger want cheap publicly available parking for people who work/live in his developments? One would think that's what he wants so that developers can push parking responsibility off onto the public - see externalities.

And yet here he is arguing that parking is underpriced and we should charge more for it. Doesn't seem like nefarious developerspeak to me.

Also, your huffpost article's arguments are just wacky - height limit is good because liberals who want the city life live in Virginia? And DC should be happy it can't develop for more tax revenue because the feds might decide to reduce their PILOT? That's the best we can do?

by MLD on Jun 29, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

It always strikes me as odd when people defend a lack of information as irrelevant. Regardless of what you think about him or his beliefs, how is anything but full disclosure on this ethical?

Does he want parking spaces? Doubtful. I commend him for his support of walkable communities, but when they do include some parking, I imagine he would rather people pay him than the city (more privatization, ugh).

The point about sharing the article had nothing to do with whether you agree with it or not, it was linked to show you how even WaPo neglected to mention this man's career while making him an "expert" on land development issues. He may be an expert, but that "expertise" (aka self interest) has made him a great deal of money.

This is akin to Daniel Snyder demanding Metro changes and failing to disclose 'oh, I own the stadium, the team and the for pay parking lot.'

Since Leinberger makes his fortune off of building in urban areas, does it seem unreasonable for him to include his bio or list of positions and ownership? If you believe it is unreasonable, I would ask "why?"

by Michael Rogers on Jun 29, 2012 10:17 am • linkreport

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