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Breakfast links: The future is soon

Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.
Water in McMillan's future?: DC Water is looking into whether it can relieve flooding in Bloomingdale using the McMillan Sand Filtration Site. That could stall development plans even to 2025, or at least require building it in stages. (Post)

Autoload is coming: A system to automatically reload SmarTrip cards from a credit card when the balance gets low is now in testing, as 30,000 riders got an invitation to try the feature. WMATA won't yet say when it will roll out to everyone. (Examiner)

Underground power?: A mayoral task force is looking at burying more power lines. Burying all could cost $5.8 billion, but a plan to eliminate 75% of power outages costs a mere $1.1 billion. Some protestors oppose the idea of ratepayers paying anything for such a plan, because they say Pepco "is greedy."

Less green, more sign: A developer removed 4 trees that separate a parking lot and the street in Rockville Town Center. Their reason was just to make signs for an upcoming grocery store more visible. (Patch)

Help Fairfax pay for transport: Fairfax is trying to decide how to raise more money for transportation, possibly sales or income taxes. There's a survey for residents to weigh in on the best solution. (Patch)

Politicians off the ticket: DC officials will not get any free seats to Nationals playoff games, meaning no fighting among the DC Council and mayor for tickets. (Post)

Less driving alone: The number of people commuting alone in cars declined slightly, reversing an upward trend since 2008. Transit also saw a small increase. (Streetsblog)

And...: Anacostia could be getting a BID. (DCmud) ... Skyland demolition has begun; Walmart will anchor the redevelopment. ... Create your own bike lane with lasers. (Patch) ... Some new insurance options give cyclists more peace of mind. (Bike League)

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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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On the commuting data, this is a good bit of "cherry picking" the results you want to see. The headline and discussion is a about the NUMBER of people driving alone (SOV) or commuting via transit. Yet the data is actually about the RATE. Rate and number are different figures (duh). For perspective, the data in this report for 2009 show 105 million "drive alone" commuters. That is a 76.3% rate. In 1990, those figures were 84.4 million and 73.2% rate. So both the absolute number and the rate are HIGHER in 2009 than in 1990. So in almost 20 years, the solo commuting, number of cars in solo commuting, and the rate of solo commuting have all gotten HIGHER.

by Tom M on Sep 27, 2012 9:01 am • linkreport

Also, I remember reading back during the summer outages that PEPCO's performance was related to cutting back on tree-trimming.

FWIW, I live in Rosslyn and the power there is horrible, worse I've ever had. My power was out for about 5 days after the July storms, and I've got underground lines.

by charlie on Sep 27, 2012 9:05 am • linkreport

Message to people selected to test the auto loading for smarttrip: don't screw this up. I would like to be able to do this very much thank you.

Re: trees in Rockville square, yeah the trees were nice but its obvious that the bigger eyesore is the parking lot.

by drumz on Sep 27, 2012 9:18 am • linkreport

I was one of the lucky 30,000 chosen to pilot the autoload feature for SmarTrip, but it just isn't worth it to me. I take Metro maybe once a week round trip and the bus 4 or 5 times a week round trip, but Metro's set the minimum threshold at $20 for the reload. I wish I could adjust the threshold, as I'd definitely do it if I could make $10 or so the trigger for reload. As it is, though, I don't like to carry $20 on my card at all times. Sorry to those who live out in the 'burbs and didn't get the opportunity to pilot the feature--I'm sure it'd make much more sense for you guys or more frequent commuters in general.

by eli on Sep 27, 2012 10:12 am • linkreport

As part of the Metro pilot program for autoloading SmarTrip cards, the story seems to be wrong. The minimum balance that triggers the autoload is $20, and that couldn't be changed. It even stated that in the FAQ. It was a different threshold for students and seniors, I believe. I was allowed to set the amount that gets added when autoloading is triggered. It also appeared to be available for various passes.

I like the program, as I get SmartBenefits from my work but it doesn't cover my full monthly commute charges and with the recent changes the SmartBenefit amount isn't eligible for parking, which I do about once a week. Just using my card on the turnstiles I only see the SmartBenefit amount until that's gone, it doesn't display the regular card balance. I've had on instance where I've got to the parking exit gate without realizing that I no longer had enough on my regular balance to pay the parking fee. This program should help me make sure I have enough on my card. It'll be about a month before I get back down to $20 to trigger the replenishment, so I'll see how it goes then.

by another Josh on Sep 27, 2012 10:14 am • linkreport

I'm also one of the 30,000 and I tried on Friday to set-up the auto-load for my weekly bus pass. It didn't work and I wound up locking myself out of the system. I tried again on Monday when I was let back in and this time it did seem to work. But I won't know until next Monday if the pass goes through.

In addition, with bus passes - it takes 2 (TWO!) business days to load onto the card after you buy it and use it on a machine (I think it might be less time if you use a Metro fare gate, but I don't take Metro ever so that wouldn't be applicable for me.)

Anyway, I'm not sure if the pass is going to be re-loaded in a way that I have no dropped coverage and days not covered by a pass - meaning it doesn't auto re-load until my pass is used and then after it's re-loaded I have to wait 2 days before it starts working. Does anyone know if that will be the case?

by Shipsa01 on Sep 27, 2012 10:34 am • linkreport


That's really surprising. I lived in two different places in Rosslyn over the course of 10 years and only recall my power going out once due to storms. Overall, I've been very satisfied with Dominion Power.

by Falls Church on Sep 27, 2012 10:59 am • linkreport

@fallschurch: breaking news -- power is out in Cherrydale.

Dominion did a major project running from Washington BLVD to Rosslyn, and really, since then it has just gotten worse.

by charlie on Sep 27, 2012 11:03 am • linkreport

The imminent return of streetcars has reminded everyone that in July 1888, Congress decreed that there would be no additional "telegraph, telephone, electric lighting or other wires" to be installed "on or over any of the streets or avenues of the City of Washington." The City of Washington means the L'Enfant-planned city. This law survives today in the DC Code at section 34-1901.01. One can get an idea of the situation at that point by looking at this picture taken on Pennsylvania Ave in March 1901 at President McKinley's inauguration.

It wasn't until June 1902 that Congress directed the removal of wires, starting with telephone wires and poles. This law survives in the DC Code at section 34-1911.01.

The point here is that Congress simply mandated that the overhead wires be removed and placed underground. DC Council could do the same today for the rest of the city. Start with a prohibition on new wires, with the understanding that in 14 years the existing ones will need to be removed. At Pepco's expense.

by thm on Sep 27, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

Pepco "is greedy."

Of course it is. It's a company. Is that not what capitalism is about?

by Jasper on Sep 27, 2012 11:24 am • linkreport

A couple of problems. One, as DC is substanially built up I don't think there is much new wiring going on. Two what happens in 14 years, if you charge Pepco who do you think pepco is going to pass on that charge to? It is going to be the customer and it will be something very expensive, doubling peoples bills.

by nathaniel on Sep 27, 2012 11:39 am • linkreport

@ nathaniel: It is going to be the customer and it will be something very expensive, doubling peoples bills.

And that is terrible, because all the outages we have now are completely free, right? Businesses do not loose money during outages. People never need to buy new groceries in their fridge after an outage. The government operates all the shelters during outages for absolutely free. Cops and fire departments also forgo payment for all the extra services that they provide during services. It does not matter that kids can't go to school because there's an outage, they can make it up. Same for patients in hospitals. They can wait a few more days before they're treated.

by Jasper on Sep 27, 2012 11:57 am • linkreport

In re to the underground burying, if it happens with a $200 a month surcharge, I will definitely move. That surcharge is 5x more than what my actual electric bill is in a month. I'm willing to put up with a few power outages a year than pay an extra $2,400 . I'm sure there are others who feel the same way.

And let's be honest, not every listed customer is going to pay that because of all the low income and other programs that already cut certain groups' utilitity bills. You think anybody under those programs will be paying $200 extra a month to make up for it. So those of us who don't qualify for any of that will be stuck with the tab of more than $200 a month. We already get taxed on our bills for these programs, I know I'll never see any of that money. If the burying is done, then the costs really should be spread equally among everybody.

by Nickyp on Sep 27, 2012 1:08 pm • linkreport

I have to giggle.

~5 years ago when Pepco released their 2.9 billion dollar number to bury the Districts Power lines, everything screamed and rolled their eyes, claiming Pepco was wildly inflating the cost to either get rich, or avoid having to do it.

Then the utilities commission paid for an independent study and a reputable international engineering firm came back with a nearly 6 billion dollar number.

And lets be real here. No, outtages aren’t free, but they aren’t expensive either. Unless you have your freezer stocked with Kobe beef, it really doesn’t cost that much to replace what you lost.

I replaced everything in my fridge and freezer with a 200 dollar trip to Costco and a 75 dollar trip to Safeway. Considering my power goes out once every 2 or 3 years, it costs a heck fo a lot less to deal with that, then it does to spend an extra ~2400 a year indefinitely for the promise of 100% reliable power.

by Poweroutage on Sep 27, 2012 4:35 pm • linkreport

I know I'm nitpicking, but it's often useful to differentiate between Fairfax County and Fairfax City for some items.

by selxic on Sep 27, 2012 7:11 pm • linkreport

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