Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Another way


Photo by skabat169 on Flickr.
Third track on Brunswick?: Montgomery County wants a third track on parts of the MARC Brunswick Line so trains can pass slower freight trains. Officials haven't identified a funding source. (Examiner)

Beltway goes HOT: Virginia's Beltway HOT lanes opened this weekend. There have already been a few crashes when drivers got in the wrong lane and then backed up. Tolls will average $3 to $6 depending on traffic. (Potomac Local, WJLA)

Oh yeah, Rosslyn: Arlington County announced it will form Realize Rosslyn, a planning process that will look for ways to move Rosslyn away from its car-centric past and improve its urban form. (Patch)

Hotel bad for businesses?: Some neighbors of the planned Adams Morgan hotel will sue to stop it because they say a hotel will hurt local businesses. How could a hotel full of potential customers be worse for businesses than a church? (City Paper, Slate)

Ikes don't like memorial: The Eisenhower family still has issues with the Frank Gehry-designed Eisenhower Memorial and won't approve it until at least 2013. Some in the family think the current design is too expensive and extravagant. (WTOP)

Vouchers lack controls: Many federal voucher dollars go to unaccredited schools; DC has no way to ensure those schools meet any quality standards. (Post)

Baltimore goes international: In an effort to reverse a decades-long trend of shrinking population, Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake is aiming to attract immigrants by not asking people about their immigration status when they seek city services. (NAC)

Pop at the bus stop: An artist has added bubble wrap to bus stops in Milan for bored passengers to pop while waiting for the bus. The sheets come in different sizes corresponding to different wait times. (Atlantic Cities)

And...: Arlington won't increase funding for affordable housing. (Patch) ... Dulles Airport turned 50 years old this weekend. (WAMU) ... Montgomery County's vehicle fleet might be too large. (Examiner) ... Australia's Metro comes up with a "Dumb Ways to Die" PSA. (FlavorWire, Mark Jordan) ... Fun stocking stuffer: transit map magnets. (Transit Maps)

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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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"Tolls will average $3 to $6 depending on traffic."

Yet the picture on the news article has nothing over $1.10 and I think the highest I saw this morning was about $1.50. That $1.50 was getting on at Braddock and going all the way to the end. Of course, it was early (before 6:30) and there wasn't much traffic on 495. Do they mean round trip? Or do they mean the average rush hour price? The article just says a "trip" will average $3-6.

I'll have to pay attention on my way home tonight to see what the price is around 6 PM. I'd guess it won't be too high since I'll be heading northbound and most of the traffic heads southbound in the evening rush.

It's nice to finally see some different approaches to road congestion in our area.

by jh on Nov 19, 2012 9:03 am • linkreport

Re: Eisenhower Memorial,

When is Gehry going to give up? When the reaction to a memorial is so negative, maybe it's not the style but the design. Defenders like Paul Goldberger continue to make this into a Progressive vs. Tea Party Classicist thing when it's obvious the design is just plain ugly and over scaled.

As a truce, how about classicists sign a letter saying the design must be modernist and "of our time", just a design that dosen't screen off the context and make the passerby feel like an ant.

by Thayer-D on Nov 19, 2012 9:19 am • linkreport

@JH,

It is congestion pricing updated on a minute by minute basis. If there are only a few cars using it, the price will obviously be low.

Secondly, using today as the bellweather isn't really applicable. Traffic on DC roads this week is traditionally lite due to the fact that tons of people have already started their holiday vacations.

by rg on Nov 19, 2012 9:21 am • linkreport

Other than it being built and run by a foreign company, how is this different than the ICC -- which also hasn't been meeting expectations.

by charlie on Nov 19, 2012 9:28 am • linkreport

@rg

I realize all of that. But, how much will the prices rise for them to claim that the "average trip" will be between $3 and $6? When we get back to peak congestion in January, are we going to see some $10 tolls? I just don't see how the average can hit $6 unless we have some very high tolls at some point, considering we have some pretty low tolls at the beginning.

Of course, like I asked, maybe they mean the "average round trip" or even the "average round trip during both morning and evening rush hour". I could easily see a user paying $6+ if they use those lanes in both the AM and PM rush.

by jh on Nov 19, 2012 9:29 am • linkreport

Brilliant, 6$ for a 12 mile stretch of road.

I'm not being sarcastic, this should be pulled out every time an outer beltway is proposed without any commensurate transit improvements in the core.

by drumz on Nov 19, 2012 9:35 am • linkreport

@Eisenhower Memorial
I'm still very confused on why we let the family decide what is an appropriate memorial. This is not a memorial to their father; it's a memorial to a former president and general.

by rdhd on Nov 19, 2012 9:50 am • linkreport

I genuinely appreciate you not validating the Examiner's headline today.

by MDE on Nov 19, 2012 9:55 am • linkreport

Vouchers lack quality controls. That's rich.

Maybe if they get the same quality controls as DCPS they can also turn into dangerous daycare centers where no learning happens.

by Michael Hamilton on Nov 19, 2012 9:59 am • linkreport

Other than it being built and run by a foreign company, how is this different than the ICC -- which also hasn't been meeting expectations.

The ICC has been meeting projections for use at this stage.

This is different than the ICC since its a toll road that runs along an existing road. The ICC and DTR are toll roads that go to places not previously served by highways. On one hand, the HOT lanes have the advantage of going places for which there is already a lot of demand. OTOH, the HOT lanes only save you time if there is bad traffic on the beltway. The ICC saves you time vs. local roads regardless of traffic conditions.

I think the biggest limiting factor in using the HOT lanes is that unless you enter the lanes at their starting point, the only way to enter them is at a beltway entrance. So you have to make the decision to use the HOT lanes before you get on the beltway and know for sure what traffic is like. You could easily pay to use the HOT lanes not save any time. You can't just be cruising along the beltway, hit a pocket of traffic, and jump over to the HOT lanes. In comparison, you know the ICC/DTR will save you time regardless of traffic conditions on local roads.

by Falls Church on Nov 19, 2012 10:06 am • linkreport

@fallschurch; fair point. I guess all the stuff I saw this weekend was about the confusing pricing, which we've had in the area since the ICC.

I agree that the demand is going to be very different.

Good point on the entrance things. I suspect GPS units will be updated at some point to recogonzie that and make suggestions.

by charlie on Nov 19, 2012 10:13 am • linkreport

Price estimates of 3-6 are one way... and frankly low when real congestion begins on 495. The problem, they will find out, is that the flow rate they will attain will end up being far less than the "perfect flow" conditions they modeled because of the exits not the road. There are going to be big, big backups on the exits when this thing is really up and running on a regular day and in order to address that while maintaining their contractual 45 mph they will have to reduce the traffic flow to far less than anticipated.

The only way to do so is charge more. Seeing as this area is VERY affluent, I wouldnt be surprised to see $8-10 one way tolls next Monday. We'll see though.

by Tysons Engineer on Nov 19, 2012 10:46 am • linkreport

Some neighbors of the planned Adams Morgan hotel will sue to stop it because they say a hotel will hurt local businesses. How could a hotel full of potential customers be worse for businesses than a church?

I think the objection being stated by these neighbors is simple enough that any professed lack of understanding surprises me, especially from the savvy GGW crowd. It's a simple argument: a high-end hotel will raise commercial property values and introduce a wealthy clientele into the area. This will lead to neighborhood-serving retail establishments - places residents find useful - being displaced by cupcakeries, froyo shops, tapas bars, and other such establishments that are less useful to residents.

It's not a new argument, and it is one that urbanists need to tackle thoughtfully. "Let the market decide" is a tempting easy answer, but not one that seems in line with either this blog's general philosophy or with the broader goals of urbanism.

by Dizzy on Nov 19, 2012 11:17 am • linkreport

@Tysons Engineer

Interesting prediction re: $8-10. It will be fun to watch the pricing.

Is there a cap to what the toll can be? What happens when there's an accident and all lanes are blocked? Do they just block the entrances or raise the toll to $1,000,000,000,000? Do the people sitting in the traffic still have to pay the price based on when they entered or will it be discounted when they exit because it took so long?

by jh on Nov 19, 2012 11:18 am • linkreport

Dizzy,

Except that:

A. there is nothing to say that this hotel will be the catalyst for any changes to the businesses in the area.
B. Why should the city protect incumbent buisness/property owners if it means that other people don't get a chance to try their business ideas?
C. Why is a fro yo place "less neighborhood serving" than a pupuseria? Especially in Adams morgan which already has about every type of restaurant you can name? Is it really that impossible for a cell phone store to continue to operate once a hotel opens up?

by drumz on Nov 19, 2012 11:41 am • linkreport

How come we had to wait until opening day to find out how much the tolls were going to be?

by Jack Love on Nov 19, 2012 11:49 am • linkreport

Why does Eisenhower need a memorial?

by Jack Love on Nov 19, 2012 11:50 am • linkreport

@Jack Love:
The tolls are variable. They can change several times within any given rush hour.

The range of tolls has been published for quite a while. You didn't need to wait until opening day to figure the range out.

But you'll only know what the toll is on the day you want to use the HOT lanes when you get to the entrance ramp.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 19, 2012 11:53 am • linkreport

@Tysons Engineer "The problem, they will find out, is that the flow rate they will attain will end up being far less than the 'perfect flow' conditions they modeled because of the exits not the road. There are going to be big, big backups on the exits when this thing is really up and running. . ."

For the signalled exits (Braddock Rd, Little River Turnpike, etc), this might not be a problem. The ramps leading up from the highway to the intersections are rather long and can accommodate, from my untrained eye, easily 50 vehicles before they back up onto the HOT lanes. That is longer than acceptable and practical design, and in any case, if it starts happening, VDOT and Fairfax County can adjust the signal timings of the crossing roads. I expect there will be a lot of that in the first few months as actual usage of the HOT lanes spools up.

As for the end-merges, it's hard to say. The Beltway is now 5-6 lanes from Braddock to the Mixing Bowl. I have no idea what they did north of Tyson's Corner, which is arguably more problematic.

by Jack Love on Nov 19, 2012 12:04 pm • linkreport

@Matt "The range of tolls has been published for quite a while. You didn't need to wait until opening day to figure the range out."

Matt, maybe the actual ranges were published, I just don't recall, as I have been trying to push this project out of my mind for awhile. Still, it seems to me that pricing information has not been very forthcoming.

by Jack Love on Nov 19, 2012 12:11 pm • linkreport

Re: toll road pricing: how sensitive is the price to congestion? I can imagine all sorts of feedback resonances on its use.

that is, priced at $3 causes a huge plug of drivers to take advantage, which slows it down, so the price is increased to compensate, which discourages drives and then speeds it up, causing the price to be decreased again...

Does the display say something like "HOT lanes $5 save 15 min to exit XXX" so people can judge whether is it worth the money?

by goldfish on Nov 19, 2012 12:13 pm • linkreport

re Baltimore: I've never understood why policies designed to attract immigrants always focus on the poor. Sure, the poor need help, but if you are trying to attract immigrants, why are the changes designed to make like easier for poor immigrants while not advancing things for other immigrants? For example, Baltimore could decide to allow non-citizens to vote or hold certain positions in City government. All those people who come to work or study at Hopkins or Maryland would have more "ownership" of the city and be more likely to stay long term.

by SJE on Nov 19, 2012 1:11 pm • linkreport

@drumz

I didn't say the argument in this instance was reasonable, just that it was easily comprehensible. I don't think one hotel is going to make much of a difference, and the slippery slope that the neighbors obviously fear is overrated.

Having said that, one can easily take "Why should the city protect incumbent buisness/property owners if it means that other people don't get a chance to try their business ideas?" and make the logical step "Why should the city protect incumbent residents if it means that other people don't get a chance to live where they want?" And yet this site holds gentrification, mixed income housing, socio-economic diversity of neighborhoods, etc. to be valid concerns.

The 'free market' and diversity are sometimes in conflict. It becomes a question of priorities. Plenty of people do identify having a "good retail mix" as a priority, both on commercial grounds and on urbanist grounds. But the free market on its own may not get you there.

Why is a fro yo place "less neighborhood serving" than a pupuseria? Especially in Adams morgan which already has about every type of restaurant you can name? Is it really that impossible for a cell phone store to continue to operate once a hotel opens up?

Adams Morgan also has at least one froyo place already as well. The most obvious answer is that froyo, cupcakes, etc. are not staples, and the business models of these places are based on attracting outsiders visiting the commercial strip, rather than neighbors. Staple retail (the ever-present hardware store example, drugstores, shoe repair, etc.) is considered to be more neighborhood-serving.

I think here it does depend on local conditions, i.e. there's a sense that some neighborhood-serving retail is in danger of being displaced. It's not an entirely unfounded concern (see H Street), although here it is being blown out of proportion by people whose main interest seems to be in preventing development, rather than real concern over the well-being of nearby businesses.

by Dizzy on Nov 19, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport

Dizzy,

Well I think that its comprehensible as well. Just easily dismissed because A. their inherent unreasonableness and B. the fact that stuff gets built all the time and life moves on.

And whatever the hell neighborhood serving retail means. I think it generally means whatever store someone would like in their neighborhood regardless of what it would take to make it work.

by drumz on Nov 19, 2012 1:53 pm • linkreport

The transit map magnets would make a great way to sketch out fantasy transit system map ideas. Just saying.

by Payton on Nov 19, 2012 3:03 pm • linkreport

@drumz

And whatever the hell neighborhood serving retail means. I think it generally means whatever store someone would like in their neighborhood regardless of what it would take to make it work.

Think of it this way: we talk about neighborhoods being walkable, right? But what if all the things you can walk to are either out of your price range or boutique and only of use very infrequently (like a specialty chocolate store or something). Is that neighborhood still walkable, if there's nothing you actually want/need to walk to? Retail retail everywhere, but not a one to shop at. The WalkScore might still be high, but it becomes a deceptive statistic.

by Dizzy on Nov 19, 2012 5:32 pm • linkreport

@Dizzy,
I'm impressed to hear from someone who is actually against the new hotel. It is going to be a fantastic, revenue-raising addition to the neighborhood that will tastefully re-use an interesting building and revitalize the Columbia Road strip which is, honestly, full of vacant lots and really low-end retail. I don't believe there is any significant opposition to the hotel, regardless of how many blogs and fake groups Chris Otten sets up. Look at the photo, I mean, there are about 4 people in that 'protest'. All right, so the homeless guys that like to sit on the steps of the old church and drink out of brown paper bags will have to go someplace else, but for everyone else this project is going to be a win.

by renegade09 on Nov 19, 2012 6:19 pm • linkreport

But there still isn't a way to legislate for that. Outside of zoning for commercial spaces. That's a separate question of whether this hotel will be good for the neighborhood. It certainly won't have the affect that people are crowing about. Because neighborhoods are more than just any particular hotel that has been planned for and discussed.

fwiw, I live in a walkable neighborhood but would love to be closer to a book store or something. However, if they planned a hotel for my neighborhood I wouldn't protest it with the expectation that the bookstore would replace what I blocked.

by drumz on Nov 19, 2012 7:10 pm • linkreport

I waited for coverage here on the Do the Math rally yesterday, but didn't see anything. 350.org is the leading environmental movement in this country. If we don't do something now, not soon, about the carbon, Sandys will become a regular occurrence, if the temperature increases by more than 1 more degree Celsius. The two main takeaways were to stop the pipeline and to try to get your college to divest its petro stocks in their portfolios.

High stock prices are driven by how much more hydrocarbons the companies can extract from the earth. The idea is to stop them from doing more extraction.

If you are really concerned about the environment, this is where it's at.

by Jazzy on Nov 19, 2012 8:46 pm • linkreport

The Virginia HOT lanes will be about as useful as the ICC. The difference is that the lanes are visible from the free highway. This means that drivers stuck in traffic jams will just fume as they stare at the near-empty lanes just to their left. I suppose that this means the lanes might get some traffic for the longest trips, but it's still a waste of lanes that could at least have been used to relieve some congestion. It's wonderful that those who have money can get where they're going quicker. After all, the government should be working to enhance their quality of life. Everyone else can just eat cake.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Nov 19, 2012 11:53 pm • linkreport

@renegade09

You misunderstand. I have no objection to the hotel; I'm disappointed the project has been scaled back as much as it has. My objection is to the cursory and dismissive "How could a hotel full of potential customers be worse for businesses than a church?" lede, with all of its implications. There are real issues to be considered in these sorts of situations, and dismissing them out of hand does no one any good.

The objections to this specific project should not be dismissed out of hand either, but once they have been examined and found groundless - as they have been - they absolutely deserve to be dismissed.

@drumz

Yea, I don't disagree with any of that. Like I said, my objection is not to this particular project, it's to the "Hotels bad for business? Preposterous!" dismissal. Although you may want to use a better example than bookstore, which is pretty much no longer a viable business model, absent having a revenue-generating cafe attached to it.

by Dizzy on Nov 20, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

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