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Breakfast links: What's the law?


Photo by eflon on Flickr.
U-turns on Penn illegal, really: Mayor Gray will issue a regulation firmly clarifying that U-turns are illegal across the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes. The DMV had interpreted the law as not forbidding U-turns and dismissing tickets. (DCist)

CMs exempt from parking laws?: Harry Thomas, Jr. asked the DMV to void parking tickets, claiming he was exempt from parking laws. The DMV confirmed that councilmembers are exempt from parking tickets unrelated to safety. (Post)

Bike easier to GMU: Fairfax City wants to improve the bicycle connection between GMU and the Fairfax Metro station. They'll start by just adding sharrows for now, but that's a start. (Patch)

Arlington wants more CaBi: Arlington would like to expand its Capital Bikeshare stations by as many as 115, to extend coverage across the county. Arlington currently has around 50 stations, and will add 33 by next summer. (Examiner)

Tiny homes in DC?: Some residents are building tiny homes of less than 200 square feet in Northeast DC's Stronghold neighborhood, but DC zoning requires lots far wider than needed for such houses, and they can't qualify for mortgages. (Post)

DC's most unsafe playgrounds: Ahead of a major effort to refurbish playgrounds next year, DC Parks and Recreation found that 7 parks have "a high probability of injury." The locations range from the Palisades to east of the Anacostia. (Examiner)

Commutes slower for black folks: African-Americans in several cities face longer commutes than other people, because they disproportionately travel on buses. Cities can push harder for Bus Rapid Transit as one way to alleviate this. (Boston Globe)

Traffic pollution boosts autism?: Autism correlates with pollution from vehicles, a study found. The particulates can affect genes in early development. (Streetsblog)

And...: The Vietnam Veterans' Education Center will soon break ground on the Mall. (Post) ... Why are urban hotels so expensive? (Slate) ... Some Fairfax residents want a transportation impact fee on Richmond Highway. (WAMU)

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I am pretty sure when I ride the circulator it does not care that I am not white. Or maybe not. Some days it is pretty slow....

by charlie on Nov 28, 2012 8:50 am • linkreport

When I was a kid, we swung on monkey bars installed above asphalt. And we liked it.

by ksu499 on Nov 28, 2012 9:02 am • linkreport

This whole parking ticket situation is blown way out of proportion. All city owned vehicles are exempt from non-safety related parking tickets (I can tell you this from my experience driving and parking city vehicles). The only difference here is that council members' personal cars have the same exemption as long as they are on official business. This really is a non-story.

by John on Nov 28, 2012 9:08 am • linkreport

Small as it may seem, that's a major step forward for Fairfax City.

by Erik on Nov 28, 2012 9:39 am • linkreport

"Fairfax Metro station?"

by MDE on Nov 28, 2012 9:47 am • linkreport

Sharrows are not a bike plan:

http://systemicfailure.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/sharrows-are-not-a-bike-plan/

by Alex B. on Nov 28, 2012 9:52 am • linkreport

What about the news that Courtland Milloy reads a GGW post, doesn't fully understand it, and clumsily attempts to tie it into the need for more parking throughout DC?

I guess that isn't really something new.

by Gray's The Classics on Nov 28, 2012 9:52 am • linkreport

Vienna/Fairfax GMU station, under the old long naming system, I guess.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 28, 2012 9:57 am • linkreport

I like how upset some of the commenters on the tiny-houses story are by the fact that somebody else might want to live in a house smaller than the one they themselves want.

by iaom on Nov 28, 2012 9:59 am • linkreport

Sharrows are probably an appropriate treatmeant for Old Lee Highway, which is one lane in each direction, with no on street parking, and very limited shoulders.

On Lee highway itself a different treatment would make sense.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 28, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

@ John:This whole parking ticket situation is blown way out of proportion. All city owned vehicles are exempt from non-safety related parking tickets ... This really is a non-story.

Except when you wonder why city owned vehicles should be exempt from parking tickets. Why can't the drivers of city-owned vehicles just follow the law? Sure you can make some exceptions for emergency vehicles, but I see no reason, other than entitlement, why city-personnel driving city-owned vehicles should not follow the law.

The story is made worse by the fact that once again, it's CM that thinks he is entitled to exceptions from the law. It's not like DC's CMs are shining examples of law-abiding citizens.

by Jasper on Nov 28, 2012 10:15 am • linkreport

but I see no reason, other than entitlement

A job having perks? Who would've thought that? If it doesn't take money out of our pockets, I don't have an issue w/the parking exception for CM or any other city official. Some things you just expect. No, I don't like when police officers race like speed demons through residential streets. But it's not the end of the world.

by HogWash on Nov 28, 2012 10:50 am • linkreport

A job having perks? Who would've thought that? If it doesn't take money out of our pockets, I don't have an issue w/the parking exception for CM or any other city official.

Parking is a valuable commodity. So, if CMs are taking parking spots illegally, it's like money out of the pockets of DC taxpayers.

DC CM pay has increased 36% in the past six years and they are the second highest paid big city legislators in the country. They don't need any additional perks. Of course, Marion Barry doesn't think CMs get paid enough:

"We deserve more, quite frankly," Barry said. "This government is the most unique government of any government in the world. . . . We put in 40 or 50 hours a week in addition to constituent service. I think we are really underpaid."

by Falls Church on Nov 28, 2012 11:09 am • linkreport

@Jasper: Except when you wonder why city owned vehicles should be exempt from parking tickets. Why can't the drivers of city-owned vehicles just follow the law?

Well, for one, DC owned vehicles have "NO RPP" stickers, meaning that these cars would only be able to park legally in non-metered spots for more than 2 hours. Generally most work takes far less than 2 hours, but there are some occassions where providing city services can run beyond that time limit. That being said, I can understand an argument for this to be enforced.

As for metered parking, think of the logistical and accounting nightmare that it would be to process reimbursements for tens of thousands of drivers in thousands of fleet vehicles. Keep in mind that only a handful of cars are used only by one driver - most are shared. You would probably need to hire a few people just to document and process all of this paperwork, so most likley the city decided the cost wasn't worth it.

Ideally all departments would have smartcards for the meeters or some other payment method that could be reloaded and come right out of the department's budget. This would require creating new policies and would most likely be a major collaborative effort between HR, legal, and operations departments accross city agencies.

In my experience, abuse of this perk is almost non-existent on the normal employee level (most people I knew in city government were too busy to have the opportunity to abuse this), and considering the problems that the city (or at least various agencies) has creating these sort of accounting procedures and processes for departments, good luck ever seeing such a massive effort for such a small return.

by John on Nov 28, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

Sorry - the first sentence should read:

"Well, for one, DC owned vehicles have "NO RPP" stickers, meaning that these cars would only be able to park legally in non-metered spots for less than 2 hours."

by John on Nov 28, 2012 12:58 pm • linkreport

Parking is a valuable commodity. So, if CMs are taking parking spots illegally, it's like money out of the pockets of DC taxpayers.

Sorry but your logic here will likely not ring true for most area residents. Most people don't think allowing the mayor to "not" receive tickets is somehow milking the city of funds.

They don't need any additional perks.

Maybe not. But perks are what most people consider when taking a position. CM's are no different..despite how we might want to cast them as the entitlement lot.

by HogWash on Nov 28, 2012 1:11 pm • linkreport

@ John:Well, for one, DC owned vehicles have "NO RPP" stickers, meaning that these cars would only be able to park legally in non-metered spots for more than 2 hours.

Remove sticker. Problem solved.

As for metered parking, think of the logistical and accounting nightmare that it would be to process reimbursements for tens of thousands of drivers in thousands of fleet vehicles.

Let city employees park with Parkmobile. Problem solved.

Or, encourage city employees to use transit. If they can't, then improve transit until they can. Problem solved.

by Jasper on Nov 28, 2012 1:24 pm • linkreport

Considering vehicles used to belch huge quanitities of lead in the air, (which is also probably the main cause of the 70's-90's crime wave), I'm dubious of the significance of the vehicle pollution to autism correlation.

by Kolohe on Nov 28, 2012 1:35 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: Remove sticker. Problem solved.

You can't just "remove" the sticker. All cars that are registered in DC, need to have a registration sticker. Also, removing a sticker would be the same as keeping the "NO RPP" stickers on the cars. I suppose you could give them a Zone 9 sticker like car2go cars have, but you would essentially be codifiying the status quo (park in any zone; park in metered spots without paying).

Let city employees park with Parkmobile. Problem solved.

I like the parkmobile idea, but then you would need to buy iPhones for all city employees. They are moving in that direction anyway, but it's going to take some time. Also you would need to set up corporate accounts that are tied to specific departments - I'm not sure if the functionality is there yet. I suppose you could just attach an iPhone with the app installed to every vehicle, but again that's something you would need to run by legal. Also, buying a data plan for also phones may not be very cost effective.

Or, encourage city employees to use transit. If they can't, then improve transit until they can.

There are several problems with this. First, DC government (or at least my agency) does not provide smartbenefits to employees. Adding this benefit for everyone would undoubtedly cost alot of money. You could have a shared smartrip card for office use, but that would cause problems when multiple people need to leave the office.

A larger issue with this is that many sites are not very transit accessible (DPW terminal on West Virginia ave; schools throughout the city, especially those east of the river just to name a few). You would lose waaaay more money in worker time spent traveling than you would "save" by catching cheaters. It just wouldn't make any economic sense.

I generally agree with you that changing the current policies is a good idea and can be done, however I think you underestimate the work that would be required to make these changes. You would need to create a system that is easy to audit, doesn't end up costing the city a lot more money, and works across a variety of different agencies with different transportation and HR needs. It just isn't as easy as you make it out to be.

by John on Nov 28, 2012 1:58 pm • linkreport

Wish the city would hire 10,000 people to build new bike lanes. Everyone's happy!

-1,000,000 for linking to Milloy crazytalk. As usual, he identifies real issues and offers zero thoughtful analysis.

by MJ on Nov 28, 2012 2:47 pm • linkreport

The playgrounds are not what are unsafe, it is the way they have been neglected. Language is important. It's important not to convey an idea of "dangerous playgrounds." ohooo, scary playground. The things that have been done in the name of playground safety border on criminal. We've lost some really great playground equipment while simultaneously enriching many lawyers. And gotten lots of useless equipment in return.

Similarly, it's a pity that this writer has attached a stigma to riding the bus. Well, maybe I'm stretching it, yes. But BUSES ARE GOOD! When will people realize this? Why not suggest ways to make them faster?

by Jazzy on Nov 28, 2012 4:32 pm • linkreport

@ John:I like the parkmobile idea, but then you would need to buy iPhones for all city employees.

Can't you text to Parkmobile?

by Jasper on Nov 28, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: Can't you text to Parkmobile?

I'm having a little trouble seeing if that functionality is available here, but if it is, that would be great. It looks like they offer corporate accounts too, so it could solve a few of these issues.

by John on Nov 28, 2012 5:32 pm • linkreport

@ John:First, DC government (or at least my agency) does not provide smartbenefits to employees.

Yeah, cuz that would be a lot harder than maintaining a whole car system.

A larger issue with this is that many sites are not very transit accessible

That is an embarrassing issue. The city should be working on that. As they apparently do not care about their citizens, perhaps they should be forced to live it. It is totally unacceptable that any site in the small District is hard to reach by transit. BTW, transit includes CaBi, as system that is very easy to expand.

by Jasper on Nov 28, 2012 9:09 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

I can't speak to whether or not it is easier to maintain, but many agencies in DC government use the Fleet Share system (think zipcar) for the bulk of their trips. This probably makes the most economic sense, and has allowed agencies to cut down their fleet size drastically and use the fleet they have much more efficiently. The vast majority of vehicle are owned by a few agencies, specifically DPW. Any agency or department that does own their own vehicles generally needs to visit 10+ different sites throughout the city on a daily basis and/or needs to be able to respond to emergencies and transport goods accross town. As much as I would like public transit to be a comprehensive solution for all city services, it just isn't. Try meeting with people at 5 different schools on opposite sides of the city in a day via public transit and then finding time to finish the normal work that you need to get done - it's not gonna happen. And I do realize that not all meetings need to be done in person, but some of them do.

You can get to most places in this city via transit, but most of the time you won't have a direct route and will need to take a few different buses - that adds up.

As they apparently do not care about their citizens, perhaps they should be forced to live it.

I think that this is really unfair and a major misconception. City employees are (generally) not very well compensated. They don't receive transit benefits (fairly common in this city)and generally do not get paid very well for the work they do. When I worked for the city I took 2 buses and CaBi everyday just to get there. I consistently worked over 50 hrs a week, occasionally worked weekends and holidays, and had a salary in the mid 30's. This was my first job out of college, so I was willing to deal with it for a little while. I realize that some people are overpaid and don't really do their work, but in my experience there were far more people who were very underpaid considering their qualifications and who worked at least 50-60 hours a week. Add to this the hiring freeze which has left many departments unable to fill slots, and you have lots of employees doing the work of 2-3 people. Most importantly, I have found that the management really has very little respect for the people who work for them. People get burned out and realize that they aren't getting any real support, any real professional development opportunities, and aren't offered anything near adequate compensation (why do you think so many employees live in the 'burbs?), so they move on pretty quickly to new and better opportunities. There may be a few bad apples who abuse the system, but the vast majority of people who I have worked with are there are bright, honest, hard working people - they just move on quickly because of the issues that I listed above.

by John on Nov 29, 2012 10:22 am • linkreport

@ John:

In the first part of your response you nicely describe the failure of the city's transit system. You describe well how much this failure is restricting movement in DC. I still wonder why city employees are more special than regular folks in their movements, and why they should be exempt from parking tickets.

Your second point can be summarized as: 'Boohoo, don't be mean to the worker bees, they can't help it'. Well, that would be a sign of poor management. Not surprising in DC, but still. Of course, my remarks are intended for the overlords, not the worker bees. The problem is that overlords are even further removed from reality because they fancy themselves with pimped SUVs.

My point is that the solution for these problems is not to waive parking tickets for a select few, but to solve the problems.

Basically, my point is that by giving itself waivers from the problems in the city (parking, travel times), the city government is selectively avoiding the problems that residents and visitors have to deal with on a daily basis. Were these waivers not allowed, the city would experience the city as seen by its residents and visitors, and be directly aware of what problems need fixing.

by Jasper on Nov 29, 2012 10:41 am • linkreport

@Jasper: I still wonder why city employees are more special than regular folks in their movements, and why they should be exempt from parking tickets.

I guess that our viewpoints differ in the way we view the city government and it's employees. Instead of asking why city employees should be treated differently than citizens, I would ask why should city employees be treated differently than employees of private companies and NGOs in this respect? Most employees of private companies would be reimbursed for travel costs that they incur while on company business, while city government employees are not afforded this option (or at least it's not very well publicized). Hell, it's almost impossible for the city to purchase anything without a PO. This has both it's positives and its negatives - it makes it more difficult for average employees to take advantage of the system and helps cut down on waste, but it also makes it alot harder to make small purchases and to buy necessities (think toilet paper and pens).

The way I view it, the city government is a company that is accountable to the taxpayers. If the tax payers really want to change the system, then by all means we should. Certainly I think that this problem should be solved, and I am confident that the tools will eventually be developed to move in that direction, but right now I'm not entirely sure that the tools are there to fit into the accounting and legal framework required for the city government. Until then, "fixing" the system to be more accountable will most likely cost millions or tens of millions of dollars a year. I'm willing to bet the cost of not "fixing" the system is most likely not nearly as high. In the end I would wonder whether a majority of citizens would want to take on that extra cost for so little gain (especially when you can invest that money into other city services, such as transit).

Look I'm all for the goals that you are advocating if they can be acheived, and I certainly think that having the conversation is important. I just think that making these changes will probably take a lot of time to make them work into the current city accounting structure. And that the city has much larger institutional problems that need to be addressed.

On a different note, why should car2go be allowed to play by different rules than everyone else? (disclosure - I am a car2go member and really would not want it to change).

by John on Nov 29, 2012 12:24 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

Your entire point of view in this post has grown out of proportion to the original issue. It's one thing if you think that councilmembers with entitlement complexes shouldn't have their tickets waived because they are "important." It's a ridiculous stretch to drag the conversation into an argument that all DC employees should use transit to get everywhere they need to go, and the city should upgrade transit so they can do that.

It's not a "waiver from... travel times," it's about doing things more efficiently. DC Gov't has already gone to fleet share (not sure if the city owns the vehicles or not but the program is managed by zipcar I believe) which is a big step up in efficiency from having different agencies all have cars. Fleet share usage is not abused or doled out willy-nilly - DC Gov't employees are encouraged to and do take transit while working, when it is feasible to do so. Taking transit to meetings at Judiciary Square is MASSIVELY encouraged, and the reason given is the desire to avoid parking issues. If an employee needs to use a car so they can visit 10 sites in a day rather than 5, not only is that not "poor management," it's good management since it means one person can do that work rather than two. And that saves us money as taxpayers that can be put to other uses... LIKE TRANSIT SERVICE.

Try looking at things through more than one lens.

by MLD on Nov 29, 2012 12:34 pm • linkreport

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