Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Getting going


Photo by joelogon on Flickr.
Live social on late Metro: LivingSocial has put up money to keep Metro open late during any Nats playoff games. LivingSocial won't get advertising or even free tickets, though the Nats could break their stingy streak by giving them some. (DCist)

Metrobus gets more efficient: The fuel efficiency of Metrobus has risen by 27% over the past 8 year, to 3.76 mpg. Since 2006, WMATA has been replacing older buses with diesel-electric hybrids, which get 4.49 mpg. (PlanItMetro)

Metro wants help planning for the future: Metro is asking for input on its strategic priorities, how to expand the system, and more, with a new crowdsourcing site that lets you post and vote on ideas. What do you think of the new tool?

DC gets whiter and moves downtown: Most of the neighborhoods between Rock Creek and the Anacostia River grew much whiter over the last census period. DC was also had the 5th-most growth within 2 miles of a city hall. (City Paper)

DC fails elderly, disabled?: A new Inspector General's report claims DC is failing to care for its elderly and disabled population. The report asserts that Adult Protective Services rarely coordinates with police, even in instances of clear abuse. (Post)

Pepco gets rate increase: DC utility regulators approved a rate increase for Pepco; customers will pay $2.60 per month more starting in mid-October. Pepco requested more, but Mary Cheh criticized the deal as too favorable to Pepco. (DCist)

Louisville plans to build more urban highways: While many cities across the country are removing their urban highways, Louisville is bucking the trend with a $2.6 billion plan to widen highways and add a bridge between downtown and Indiana. (Streetsblog)

And...: A "Zipcar for scooters" begins operation in San Francisco. (Urban Turf) ... Marion Barry is writing an autobiography. (DCist) ... Did Britain's 1993 train privatization fail? (Atlantic Cities) ... A new bike lock comes with a GPS to track theft. (Atlantic Cities)

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LivingSocial is not getting any advertising for assisting Metro riders. The Washington Nationals and LivingSocial are not increasing any of their current promotions or agreements the Nats have with LivingSocial. LivingSocial is not doing this for publicity. LivingSocial is doing this as good will. LivingSocial, LivingSocial, and LivingSocial.

How much District money have they received?

by selxic on Sep 28, 2012 8:29 am • linkreport

RE: WMATA Strategic Plan

MindMixer is a cool tool for this, hopefully WMATA gets some good input and knows how to use it.

But wow there are some people posting on there with seriously misguided ideas.

by MLD on Sep 28, 2012 8:52 am • linkreport

Zipcar for scooters sounds like a pretty bright idea, but what about the noise on those things? That could be quite disruptive to any neighborhood.

by cmc on Sep 28, 2012 9:04 am • linkreport

I think the metro websites are a pretty smart idea. While very few productive ideas will come out of it most likely (beyond some obvious ones like better maintenance/safety) it gets the conversation started on the next major that is going to be needed. And for big projects that will probably be needed it's important to get that conversation going as soon as possible.

by jj on Sep 28, 2012 9:09 am • linkreport

"How much District money have they received?"

less than the Nationals, I think.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 28, 2012 9:18 am • linkreport

LivingSocial will make a deposit of $29,500 for each hour of additional Metro service. For each rider who boards at Navy Yard-Ballpark, Metro will credit LivingSocial back $2.68 (the cost of an average ride), multiplied by two to reflect a round trip. LivingSocial will get a refund of up to $29,500 per hour—it'll take roughly 5,500 riders to get there—but not more.
Does that read like the TOS of a LivingSocial deal to anyone else?

by selxic on Sep 28, 2012 9:31 am • linkreport

LivingSocial has put up money to keep Metro open late during any Nats playoff games.

WFT?

The fuel efficiency of Metrobus has risen by 27% over the past 8 year, to 3.76 mpg.

That is abysmal. Given that an average car with 20 mpg put a pound of CO2 in the air per mile driven, metro buses do so per 1000 feet...

DC utility regulators approved a rate increase for Pepco

Yeay! Pay more for more power outages during which you have to pay even more! Wohoo! So happy to live in Dominion land.

Marion Barry is writing an autobiography.
I bet it will be lacking a few chapters.

Did Britain's 1993 train privatization fail?

Yes.

by Jasper on Sep 28, 2012 9:33 am • linkreport

Sadly, while I'd like to think the Lehners got that news as a kick in the balls, the reality is they are so cheap they are glad someone else paid.

That is great news about the diesel-electric hybrids and MPG. I'm a bit suprised it isn't higher. Do buses have regeneration systems? That being said I still prefer the CNG buses for the lack of pollution. Noise-wise the hybrids are still pretty loud.

by charlie on Sep 28, 2012 9:34 am • linkreport

Zipcar for scooters sounds like a pretty bright idea, but what about the noise on those things? That could be quite disruptive to any neighborhood.

What about people knowing how to drive them? I would guess that many more people know how to drive an automobile (Zipcar) or a bicycle (CaBi) than have ever operated a scooter. Seems to me that would be a bigger concern than noise.

by Vicente Fox on Sep 28, 2012 9:41 am • linkreport

Is there a direct link to the Metro survey? I keep reading about this Metro survey, have been to the site three times and cant for the life of me find a survey to take. Am I missing something? Do I just need more coffee this morning?

by DAJ on Sep 28, 2012 9:55 am • linkreport

@jasper that may be true about busses, about as most busses are carrying more then 5 people at any given time, it is still less pollution per person than a car

by nathaniel on Sep 28, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

@Jasper

Considering your average transit bus weighs 10X what a car weighs, I'd say 1/6 the MPG is doing pretty well!

Average occupancy of US transit buses is 10 passengers so that's 37.6pmpg on average.

by MLD on Sep 28, 2012 10:17 am • linkreport

So Living Social only gets credit for passengers boarding at the Navy Yard Metro station against its $29.5K deposit? If people take advantage elsewhere of the Metro running an hour later and pay to ride between other stations, that additional revenue is not credited against the deposit? If that is the case, that is not very fair to Living Social or the other sport teams that do pay for the Metro to stay open longer.

Will Metro publicly announce the total system ridership and # of passengers who got on and off at the Navy Yard for the extra hour or hours once the data has been tabulated? Probably not.

by AlanF on Sep 28, 2012 10:18 am • linkreport

@Jasper, if you stopped your car every several blocks and idled the engine for a minute or two while letting people get in and out of the car while also stopping frequently for traffic, your car mileage would be lowered. Even more if you kept the A/C cranking away in the warmer weather months.

by AlanF on Sep 28, 2012 10:30 am • linkreport

Re: MetroBus ... they don't all use diesel, and they don't all emit CO2 at the same rates.

Covered in February on these pages.

by Jack Love on Sep 28, 2012 10:50 am • linkreport

3.76mpg for an urban bus is about what I'd expect. I did a short paper about interstate buses and it was not easy at the time to find typical estimates for the mpg of buses. A promo video for the newish Prevost coach that Greyhound is using was touting a 1.5 mpg gain from their existing fleet. So a coach cruising on the highway probably gets something like 7 to 9 at best.

by Bill Cook on Sep 28, 2012 11:02 am • linkreport

3.76mpg (and an avg 10 passengers per bus) for urban buses goes to show that while buses are great for maximizing people moved along a given space of road, they're no better for the environment than driving a Prius solo.

by Falls Church on Sep 28, 2012 12:02 pm • linkreport

@ MLD:Average occupancy of US transit buses is 10 passengers so that's 37.6pmpg on average.

My 11 year old car does 33mpg.

@ others: I understand buses are heavier and hold more people. I ride one nearly every day. I am still not impressed. I am happy it's going up.

@ AlanF: if you stopped your car every several blocks and idled the engine for a minute or two while letting people get in and out of the car while also stopping frequently for traffic, your car mileage would be lowered. Even more if you kept the A/C cranking away in the warmer weather months.

And that's where easy gains can be made. Most bus drivers can drive much more economically, by not constantly flooring the gas and slamming the breaks. They can roll towards red lights instead of speeding to them and then hitting the brakes. This would save gas and increase rider comfort.

Buses should stop their engine when they are stopped at end points, in stead of idling for minutes with the doors open and the airco cranking. Buses should have smarter airco systems. Drivers should make sure there are no windows open when the airco or heat is cranking. Airco should go off when doors open. The buses I ride only have two temperature settings: fridge or broiler. That is weird. There should be smarter options.

The biggest obstacle here is not even technology. It's training for drivers. They can make much smarter choices. And they should care.

by Jasper on Sep 28, 2012 12:10 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church

Indeed, they are no better "on average" than the cars that get high fuel mileage. But as fuel mileage improves on cars, it improves on buses as well, so it will continue to keep up with that number.

Not to mention the fact that during peak periods (which is when cars are most likely to be driven solo) buses outperform cars by a large margin.

by MLD on Sep 28, 2012 12:10 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

I didn't see your comment before - CUTA (the Canadian Urban Transit Association) has (could be had now) a program focused on teaching transit drivers to drive less aggressively, and part of that is saving fuel:

http://www.smartdriverfortransit.com/

by MLD on Sep 28, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

"3.76mpg (and an avg 10 passengers per bus) for urban buses goes to show that while buses are great for maximizing people moved along a given space of road, they're no better for the environment than driving a Prius solo"

a full size metro bus with only 10 passengers. In general commuter buses will have much higher ridership. buses with only 10 passengers are there to provide mobility to the carless, and those too young, too old, or too disabled to drive. And ideally that service should be provided with smaller buses (see DASH and ART buses) which are more fuel efficient.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 28, 2012 12:21 pm • linkreport

Bus priority could also make a huge difference.

As I said, not sure about regenerating brakes but that would also help a lot.

Sunshades, better AC systems, not opening rear doors unless neccssary; there are a lot of little steps.

Are the smaller DASH/ART buses more efficient? Are circulator buses?

How does WMATA budget for the "Shuttle"buses when a rail lines goes out. Massive waste there (low ridership, idiling, high speed, etc)?

Sorry, so many questions. I did way too much coke today apparently.

by charlie on Sep 28, 2012 12:26 pm • linkreport

@ MLD:CUTA a program focused on teaching transit drivers to drive less aggressively, and part of that is saving fuel:

It works. One of the Dutch bus companies did it in Leiden. They pretty much told their drivers to chill out, be courteous, and adapted the schedules to accommodate that. It helped that in Leiden, there are many tiny narrow old roads where big buses barely fit, as well as a couple of shopping streets closed to all traffic but buses. Yes, the bus was a bit slower, but it was soooo much more comfortable, both as a rider and as a pedestrian shopping.

@AWalkterWithTheLongName:In general commuter buses will have much higher ridership.

But commuter buses are also empty half of the time.

by Jasper on Sep 28, 2012 1:22 pm • linkreport

There are often comments here about the impact of trucks on roads versus cars. How do buses compare to trucks?

by selxic on Sep 28, 2012 1:48 pm • linkreport

Also shouldn't a really low mpg also add to the argument that streetcars are more affordable over the long run especially as they replace more than 1 bus service.

by drumz on Sep 28, 2012 1:49 pm • linkreport

So Living Social only gets credit for passengers boarding at the Navy Yard Metro station against its $29.5K deposit? If people take advantage elsewhere of the Metro running an hour later and pay to ride between other stations, that additional revenue is not credited against the deposit? If that is the case, that is not very fair to Living Social or the other sport teams that do pay for the Metro to stay open longer.

I believe I heard somewhere passengers will only be able board at navy yard during extended hours.

by ChrisB on Sep 28, 2012 2:11 pm • linkreport

While Zip-Scoots looks great, I do worry about the operating competency of the general public. And the fact that some folks will invariably run them in the bike lanes.

I don't think they're that noisy though, not those small engines.

by Jack Love on Sep 28, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

@Selxic; drumz; yes to both. You'd have to think a bus is more stressful to a road than a streetcar, although I'd also think a streetcar is probably much heavier (even if on rails) given it is a multiple vehicle. And again, yes, an electric or battery streetcar would be far better than a bus in terms of efficiency (and noise. and polliuion. and driver labor costs). i do think it would be slower than a bus due to the inability to maneuver and size.

by charlie on Sep 28, 2012 2:15 pm • linkreport

@ selxic:There are often comments here about the impact of trucks on roads versus cars. How do buses compare to trucks?

Damage to asphalt goes with the fourth power of weight. A car twice as heavy does eight times the damage. A car ten times as heavy does ten thousand times as much damage.

@ charlie: I'd also think a streetcar is probably much heavier (even if on rails) given it is a multiple vehicle

Yes, but rails are very durable.

i do think it would be slower than a bus due to the inability to maneuver and size.

That is a matter of giving them the right of way. They have in most European cities. True there are a lot of separate lanes, but where they share the road, they always have the right of way. More trams have loud bells to remind people to get the F out of the way.

Amsterdam:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vOyuPs_KT8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85AIT0blR5U
The Hague:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWXRQv-Ee_g
Brussels:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yi8HR9alI0
Paris:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5C14T0LY2Oo
Prague: These are remarkably silent.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL8qr79tFvw

by Jasper on Sep 28, 2012 2:27 pm • linkreport

"But commuter buses are also empty half of the time"

A - thats not always the case - there buses that run to the pentagon often have reverse commuters.

B. even if it were, I think most have MORE than 20 riders at a time, so the average would still be higher than 10

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 28, 2012 2:30 pm • linkreport

My only streetcar is in Philly and limited but it felt like it just moved a little quicker than if I was on a bus. And that point is moot because a bus would be in the same traffic anyway. At least the streetcar doesn't have to pull over. I agree that there should be all sorts of segregated lanes/priority but we don't have that for buses either.

Also when Philadelphia revived the Girard street line they literally used the same vehicles that they had used back when the line shut down in the 60's or so (not sure on when they shut down).

And the trams are running on the rails rather than the pavement. I don't know how often streetcar rails/beds are replaced though I'd bet my money on less often than streets need to be repaved.

by drumz on Sep 28, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

Nice gesture by Living Social, but that's chump change for them, especially since most of it will be refunded. Maybe they can reimburse the MTA for Light Rail service for late Oriole's games.

Also, on a per passenger basis, Metrobuses are definitely for fuel effecient than cars. There's no question about it. And that's before you factor in all te diesel-electric hybrid and CNG buses that make up half of their fleet. The region's second busiest bus operator, Ride-On, also uses CNG buses for most of its Upcounty (Gaithersburg/Germantown/Rockville) routes and hybrids for most of its Downcounty (Silver Spring/Bethesda) routes.

by King Terrapin on Sep 28, 2012 2:34 pm • linkreport

*My only streetcar experience, that is...

by drumz on Sep 28, 2012 2:41 pm • linkreport

The US average may be 10 riders per bus but it must be much, much higher in DC. Every time I'm on a bus (which is rarely around rush hours) they are packed to the gills. Granted I mainly only have experience with 90/92, Xs and Ds, but still.

by H Street LL on Sep 28, 2012 2:44 pm • linkreport

Even on WMATA routes it's about 10.5 on average - but that includes all the routes at all times, so many less productive routes, middle of the day service, late night service, weekends, etc.

During peak periods the average occupancy is much higher.

by MLD on Sep 28, 2012 3:10 pm • linkreport

Also, on a per passenger basis, Metrobuses are definitely for fuel effecient than cars. There's no question about it.

On what basis?

There are 10.5 passengers on a WMATA bus on average. Multiply that by 3.76mpg for the average bus, gets you 39.5mpg per person. A Prius gets around 50mpg.

If we cutback WMATA service to only the highly used routes, then the average passengers per bus would be higher and so would the avg mpg per person but that's not the case today.

by Falls Church on Sep 28, 2012 3:41 pm • linkreport

There are 10.5 passengers on a WMATA bus on average.

Does this include the time that WMATA buses are driving around with a "Not In Service" sign? I don't know if that's significant enough to change the average but I see a decent number of buses driving around empty that are not in service.

by Falls Church on Sep 28, 2012 3:46 pm • linkreport

"If we cutback WMATA service to only the highly used routes, then the average passengers per bus would be higher and so would the avg mpg per person but that's not the case today."

and it cant be the case in the future, because then the "transit captive" passengers would face severe mobility problems. The point is not to suggest eliminating such service - its to A.analytically distinguish "mobility to the deprived" bus service from "save energy by reducing VMT" bus service and B. To suggest the benefits of using smaller buses on more lightly traveled local routes

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 28, 2012 3:48 pm • linkreport

@Jasper, "And that's where easy gains can be made. Most bus drivers can drive much more economically, by not constantly flooring the gas and slamming the breaks. They can roll towards red lights instead of speeding to them and then hitting the brakes."

So you are saying that the Metro bus drivers drive like the typical American automobile driver? :-). I can see where better training should help improve fuel economy, but making the training stick is a problem. Unless the bus drivers are monitored or tracked in some way in how they employ more fuel efficient driving tactics, there is little incentive for the drivers to drive more efficiently. I don't know, is there any such monitoring program? I can see how the union relations could sour on any such program initiative.

Of course, there are a lot of other steps that can be taken to improve fuel economy to trim operating costs besides buying new hybrid buses. More efficient routes, timed traffic lights, fewer stops, dedicated bus lanes, etc.

by AlanF on Sep 28, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church

One of the fallacies of private vehicle vs transit vehicle fuel efficiency calculations is that straight comparisons treat a vehicles as a vehicle as a vehicle.

But a bus is different from a car in that it enables a development pattern that also includes pedestrian trips.

So what's the fuel efficiency of a bus if it also enables a few trips a day that don't even have to be taken by car? It's higher. How much higher? Good question...

by jnb on Sep 28, 2012 3:54 pm • linkreport

Nice gesture by Living Social, but that's chump change for them

Absolutely -- when your quarterly loss is nearly $100 million in a business where your product is a daily email, it's all chump change!

by Arl Fan on Sep 28, 2012 4:29 pm • linkreport

Anyone who thinks LivingSocial did this just to be nice is being incredibly naive. Key members of the City Council wanted Metro to run late for Nationals games. LivingSocial wanted handouts from the City Council. You do the math...

by Rob on Sep 28, 2012 7:06 pm • linkreport

@Rob: maybe so. OTOH, it is a gesture that other organizations that would gain by getting into the City Council's good graces did not do.

I guess that make them really smart, for seeing and taking advantage of an opportunity that nobody else saw nor took advantage of. For that reason alone they deserve admiration.

by goldfish on Sep 29, 2012 1:23 am • linkreport

Streetcars also last much longer than buses. In fact from what I've seen in San Francisco, Poland and Germany, they evidently last forever. I know the ones in Szczecin, Poland are the same ones from when it was German (pre-1945).

by Tom Coumaris on Sep 29, 2012 9:55 pm • linkreport

@ goldfish:For that reason alone they deserve admiration.

They deserve admiration for being openly bribing the city council? Admiration over others who did not?

by Jasper on Sep 30, 2012 12:22 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: this action does not meet the definition of "bribe." Far from it; and to suggest so is disingenuous.

by goldfish on Oct 1, 2012 10:06 am • linkreport

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