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Breakfast links: Who's on the Council


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Committees are out: Council Chairman Phil Mendelson assigned committees for the next Council session. David Catania will head a new education committee. Tommy Wells gets judiciary, while Mendelson kept oversight of planning and zoning. Transportation stays with Mary Cheh. (Post)

Silverman runs: Former City Paper and Post writer and DCFPI policy analyst Elissa Silverman has announced her candidacy for April 23rd at-large special election, joining a crowded field of 9 10 other candidates. (DCist)

Politics for all: DC and federal government employees may be able to participate more fully in local DC politics, after revisions to the federal Hatch Act. ANC commissioners will now be allowed to run for other positions during their terms, and federal employees will be able to run in local elections. (DCist)

Windshield Washingtonian: After getting a ticket at a bike signal, Washingtonian magazine's president and publisher says DC shouldn't have the L Street bike lane. After all, William Faulkner talked of how much Americans love cars in 1948.

UDC president fired: UDC's board of trustees fired the university's president Allen Sessoms after 4 years. Mayor Gray criticized Sessom's decision to move the community college from North Capitol to the main Connecticut Ave campus. (Post)

Officer reluctant to ticket driver: A driver who hit a 9-year-old boy crossing in a Bethesda crosswalk didn't get a ticket until the family of the victim launched a campaign to get police to investigate. (Bethesda Now)

McDonnell commits to 460: Governor McDonnell signed a $1.4 billion deal to build the controversial US 460 toll highway bypass in Hampton Roads. Critics say projections show it's not needed while Northern Virginia is starved of transportation funding. (Post)

A very desirable house: A house on 4th Street NE near H Street received 168 bids before being sold for more than double the list price. The median sale price for DC homes has risen 14% in the past year. (Post)

And...: Bike commuters crossing Chain Bridge face a difficult path. (Post) ... Miami Heat basketball star Lebron James has been attracting media attention for his frequent bike commuting. (Sun Sentinel) ... Kwame Brown is opening a consulting business. (Post)

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Committees are out - The panel led by Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) will have oversight of employment and community affairs agencies.

For all the bitching about bike lanes, who thinks it is a smart idea to appoint the leader of the ward with consistently the largest unemployment and lowest education to become the employment oversight man?

After getting a ticket..., Washingtonian magazine's president and publisher

did what most people do: Blame the rules and enforcement. Never admit a mistake.

McDonnell commits to 460

Thanks, Guv. NOT.
And this for a man who campaigned on being from Fairfax.

by Jasper on Dec 21, 2012 8:44 am • linkreport

What a thoughtful, insightful and well-reasoned piece from the Washingtonian. You'd think Sally Quinn would have taught her that using your publication to air your petty, inane, personal grievances and rich-person problems never ends well.

by Joe on Dec 21, 2012 8:50 am • linkreport

Haven't people been saying that Washingtonian should just admit it and change their name to Fairfaxonian?

by Steve S. on Dec 21, 2012 8:51 am • linkreport

Ok, Washingtonian write is really confused about how bikes impact traffic (uh, they barely do). Driving your 3,000 pounds of metal alone across the city at rush hour causes traffic impacts, smarty-pants.

She does have a point about E Street though. The closure of that street in front of the white house (which a dead zone anyway) really mucks with traffic on Constitution, H, and I. and 17th/18th/19th over by the World Bank and the IMF. Lots of angry Virginia commuters trying to get to the E st expressway but have to detour and thus smash into cyclists and get tickets and write columns about it.

by Nick on Dec 21, 2012 9:09 am • linkreport

Not happy the Mendelson got to keep Planning and Zoning. Certainly would have preferred someone else in that role.

Regarding 460, my parents (who live in Fairfax, where I lived for 10 years) keep saying at some point they think my wife and I will move to Arlington or Bethesda or something. I really don't think I could live in VA right now. The only thing that makes these decisions a bit less painful is the fact my tax dollars aren't being used to fund this boondoggle.

Question: If the Silver Line is a "boondoggle" does that make 460 a boondoggle X 10? Or is the number even higher?

by Kyle-W on Dec 21, 2012 9:15 am • linkreport

That Post article about the house on 4th Street NE is crazy. 168 bids? $400,000 over the asking price? Things weren't *that* crazy even during the height of the housing bubble. Something fishy is going on, me thinks.

by Juanita de Talmas on Dec 21, 2012 9:23 am • linkreport

Pennsylvania Ave. and E Street should be reopened to support traffic flow in the city.

The silver line(6.2 billion) and 460 (55-miles - 1.4 billion) are both economic development projects.

The real "boondoggle" is expanding Route 7 (7 miles - $300 million) between Loudoun and Tysons so Loudoun County residents can drive to Tysons for free instead of taking Metro or the 28/DTR.
http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/northernvirginia/route_7_widening_-_reston_ave_to_dtr.asp

by jcp on Dec 21, 2012 9:30 am • linkreport

The Washingtonian publisher does have a point. Without the article, I would have thought that signal meant "cars can turn and bikes have a green light." Maybe if we could improve the signal or signage, he'd be less annoyed.

by JohnOfCharleston on Dec 21, 2012 9:34 am • linkreport

+1000 to the Washington Post for FINALLY pointing out the hypocrisy of the GOP in Virginia and their complete 180 on conservative values... unless it means things dealing with Womens genitals and reproduction of course.

Bob McDonnell hasn't grown a single darn job in Virginia. The jobs have grown in areas he is literally IGNORING because they are part of socialist NOVA. He continues to use VDOT as his arm of vengeance by either cutting funding, or forcing land use via plan stalling or lack of compromise of road standards. To McDonnell stalling Tysons, Arlington, and Dulles Corridor plans means more money funneling into Richmond, South East Virginia, and Western Loudoun.

It is disgusting that this administration has continued a terrible slide of robbing NOVA. We used to get 40 cents back on the dollar for what we sent the state as recently as the late 90s. Today we get only 19 cents on the dollar, we send 2 billion and get back 11 billion.

I dont know how many more Coalfields Expressways, or 460 projects we as NOVAns can watch all the while being told there is no money for our transit projects which cost 50% less and serve 10 times more.

It is time for Fairfax to follow arlingtons lead, and take control of our own infrastructure and demand control of our own revenues as well. Incorporate the whole County.

by Tysons Engineer on Dec 21, 2012 9:36 am • linkreport

I love how the Washingtonian article starts off how explaining that cycling is growing by leaps and bounds especially pointing out how CABI has been awesome. Then proceeds to complain about east/west traffic in the city when the solution (CABI) is staring her in the face.

by drumz on Dec 21, 2012 9:39 am • linkreport

Things are not really crazy over on H Street. The house finally sold for a figure that was actually in line with how homes in the area are supposed to be priced. Despite the Ebay-style bidding war, the house still sold at a price of $267/sqft - about half of what a comparable house would sell for in Dupont Circle.

by Scoot on Dec 21, 2012 9:40 am • linkreport

we send 2 billion and get back 11 billion.

And this is a bad thing??

by Justin on Dec 21, 2012 9:40 am • linkreport

In order to get a speed bump in my neighborhood, I must get a petition from 75% of the households and then have the speed and quantity of traffic measured. Are we doing that for bike lanes?

That also assumes that the speed bump process is the preferred process of doing things.

by drumz on Dec 21, 2012 9:41 am • linkreport

The Washingtonian publisher does have a point. Without the article, I would have thought that signal meant "cars can turn and bikes have a green light." Maybe if we could improve the signal or signage, he'd be less annoyed.

I assumed the driver turned left against the signal. The signal seems clear to me - green light for bikes, and cars can turn right. I see people figure out this intersection every day.

by MLD on Dec 21, 2012 9:42 am • linkreport

@Scoot - on point.

Great article on Lebron.

by H Street LL on Dec 21, 2012 9:53 am • linkreport

Ever try to go from Georgetown to Penn Quarter in rush hour?

I wouldn't have done this with a car back in 1992, let alone today. East-west rush hour travel has never been smooth in DC, regardless of what this line might imply. There appears to be a tendency by some people to romanticize car travel in DC "back in the day". Don't believe them. It was bad then; and it's bad now; it'll be bad in the future. Hence, the bike solution.

by dc denizen on Dec 21, 2012 9:54 am • linkreport

Ever try to go from Georgetown to Penn Quarter in rush hour?

No, I have not. Do you know why? Because that would be stupid. Rush hour in DC is why we have a metro.

by JustMe on Dec 21, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

@DC Denizen

I have tried to go from Georgetown to Penn Quarter during rush hour. Took me about 15 minutes on a CaBi.

by Kyle-W on Dec 21, 2012 10:02 am • linkreport

JohnOfCharleston: The signal says that you can turn right. There's very clearly a red light for left turns there, though. That red light means the same thing there as it does on every other traffic signal in the city.

The Washingtonian article argues for more "common sense"; how is it common sense to drive through a red light because you see a new, apparently unfamiliar signal with a bike on it in front of a cycle track? If you see a red light next to a lit "walk" signal, would you assume that you can ignore the red light as long as there aren't any walkers?

by Steven Harrell on Dec 21, 2012 10:02 am • linkreport

Oh great. Gatania is now the head of the education committee. His antics from the dias are sure to teach schoolkids how to act like toilet paper. I guess we can expect to see Wells back in the news...rabbling and rousing.

That's right. Join the caravan Elissa..even though you're a former lobbyist.

It was time for Sessions to go.

References to my fellow southerner aside, the Washingtonian piece wasn't "that" bad. Although I expect things to pick up at "some" point...it's reasonable to ask whether there's enough traffic along this route to warrant the installaton of the bike lane.

The signal seems clear to me - green light for bikes, and cars can turn right. I see people figure out this intersection every day.

Are you a cyclist? I ask because I looked at that looked at the sign...read the story..looked at both again and assumed that it meant watch for bikes when turning. Sure, many people do figure out. But you shouldn't have to figure out what to do at a stop sign.

by HogWash on Dec 21, 2012 10:05 am • linkreport

Catania. CATANIA.

C

Catania

by HogWash on Dec 21, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

Since when has any municipality ever installed a traffic signal that meant "watch out for xyz group"?

by MLD on Dec 21, 2012 10:12 am • linkreport

Since when has any municipality ever installed a traffic signal that meant "watch out for xyz group"?

I'm not sure if most people think along those lines. We're not talking about what you and some others might be smart enough to figure out...but whether better signage could work. I had know idea what the lanes w/the bikes with the two slashes underneath meant.

by HogWash on Dec 21, 2012 10:16 am • linkreport

References to my fellow southerner aside, the Washingtonian piece wasn't "that" bad. Although I expect things to pick up at "some" point...it's reasonable to ask whether there's enough traffic along this route to warrant the installaton of the bike lane.

I think it's bad because it assumes that somehow the bike lane is making traffic along L St worse, even though she's really just mad because she got a traffic ticket.

It also makes the hilarious statement that the city should "start" accommodating cars. LOL! Always good to have a laugh so early in the morning.

by Scoot on Dec 21, 2012 10:16 am • linkreport

The Washingtonian article states that she occasionally commutes by bike. It must be very seldom as anyone who has used the cycle tracks, signals for bikes, etc would know what an asset these have been to the City. Crossing town by car any time of day is slow. The life of the City is supported by all those traffic lights, bike lanes, crosswalks, traffic calming. Bike lanes are an amazing addition. The signal on Penn is a bit confusing and I have suggested to DDOT that a red left arrow signal be added to mix. Most folks figure it out, but I have had enough cars jump the signal that a slight modification would help. Still, shouldn't blame the enforcer for something she did wrong.

by ujavitiz on Dec 21, 2012 10:17 am • linkreport

@ Tysons Engineer

Your comments on transportation funding in Virginia are simply wrong. A while ago, a contributor to baconsrebellion.com provided a spreadsheet that showed VDOT spending per VMT. For both FY 2012 and 2013, VDOT's spending per VMT was approximately three times the state average considering Interstate highways and, excluding the Interstates, approximately 2.5 times the state average. Talk to any state legislator and they will tell you NoVA does quite well on transportation spending.

We do get screwed on many other programs, most especially in terms of state aid to K-12 education. That is largely because the Local Composite Index (LCI) that determines how much state money goes to K-12 education does not consider differences in cost of living. But the formula has remained the same irrespective of which party controlled the Governor's office. In fact, it was Democrat Tim Kaine who tried to screw Fairfax County as he was leaving office by freezing the LCI in a year where the economic downturn would have increased state aid for Fairfax County. The amount in question was $61 million, which translates to about three cents on the real estate tax. It was McDonnell who reversed Kaine's decision. Then there was Mark Warner's 2004 tax increases that cost Fairfax County residents $107 million net, while increasing state aid to education by $7 million. Meanwhile, 49 cities and counties in Virginia were able to cut local tax support for public schools the next year. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by TMT on Dec 21, 2012 10:24 am • linkreport

@Tysons Engineer
What NOVA projects cost 50% less than the 460 project? I am also against this project but all of the proposals I have seen for NOVA projects run in the multiple billions of dollars or are pocket change (like the Kings Highway / Van Dorn / Telegraph intersection being done now).

by movement on Dec 21, 2012 10:37 am • linkreport

"Ever try to go from Georgetown to Penn Quarter in rush hour?" (I wish I knew how to do italics)

I had the misofrtunte of trying to get across town last night (Farragut to Georgetown and back). Took the Circulator. It's very frustrating to be stuck in traffic caused largely by single occupancy vehicles. I'm not sure walking would have been quicker, but it sure felt that way.

by Birdie on Dec 21, 2012 10:41 am • linkreport

TMT: How much of that was skewed by both the Wilson Bridge project (rebuilding the Telegraph Rd interchange) and the 495 HOT lanes (which got $400-some million from VDOT)? Take those two items out and I'd bet the Northern Virginia numbers drop considerably.

Regarding 460, two clarifications are needed regarding the bullet Thaddeus put in (and Stephen Yates a few days ago): first, while this highway is partially within Hampton Roads (just barely), a vast majority of the mileage is outside the Hampton Roads area. A better way to describe the project is that it "connects Hampton Roads to Petersburg". Second, there will be some toll/bond financing for the project, so while the total cost is $1.4 billion, a bit $216 million of that will come from tolls. The Virginia Port Authority is putting in $250 million, so VDOT is on the hook for the rest (about $930 million).

by Froggie on Dec 21, 2012 10:41 am • linkreport

Birdie:

text you want in italics

by drumz on Dec 21, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

Dang it, that is my fault. Just do this.

http://www.tizag.com/htmlT/htmlitalic.php

by drumz on Dec 21, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

Imagine how much faster all of those single-occupancy vehicles would have been going if only it weren't for your lumbering Circulator, and the handful of bikes.

Maybe it's time for DDOT to start considering private car traffic when allocating precious resources. Maybe a "private car" lane that only single-occupancy car commuters could use?

by oboe on Dec 21, 2012 10:53 am • linkreport

About the Rt 460 parallel toll road, the FRA just approved the FEIS for future passenger train service upgrades from Richmond Main Street Station both to Norfolk and Newport News. The selected alternative for an estimated $475 million would provide 90 mph service for up to 6 daily trains from Main Street Station to Norfolk (south of the river) and 79 mph service for 3 daily trains from Main Street to Newport News. This does not include capacity and speed upgrades north of Richmond Main Street to DC that would be needed to add that many trains, but that segment is part of the SE HSR corridor. The slow segment that would have to be addressed is from Staples Mill station to Main Street with an Acca Yard bypass with rough cost projections of $300 or $400 million for that segment.

So instead of spending a total of $1.4 billion on a questionable toll road project, $1.4 billion could be used instead with $475M to re-route the Norfolk trains through Main Street & cut trip times to both Norfolk and Newport News, ~$300M for the Acca Yard bypass segment, and apply the remainder towards extending the Tide light rail to Virginia Beach. I think that would prove in the long run to be a better use of the money.

Both the HOT lane project in No VA and the 460 toll road are for toll roads that are parallel to existing free roads and are thus dependent on increased traffic congestion in the years ahead. I would not surprised if they both end up defaulting on their bonds in a few years because of insufficient toll revenue.

by AlanF on Dec 21, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

Maybe a "private car" lane that only single-occupancy car commuters could use?

If that lane is the only place they could travel, I'd be all for it. Of course people might confuse it with on-street parking.

by Juanita de Talmas on Dec 21, 2012 11:36 am • linkreport

Imagine how much faster all of those single-occupancy vehicles would have been going if only it weren't for your lumbering Circulator, and the handful of bikes.

I'm imagining. It's still very slow. Very. Removing buses from the roads is not going to magically make traffic smooth and easy. Worse, if buses were to suddenly disappear, forcing, say, the 12 of us on the 45 foot bus last night to get cars, we'd just worsen congestion.

Maybe it's time for DDOT to start considering private car traffic when allocating precious resources. Maybe a "private car" lane that only single-occupancy car commuters could use?

Fantastic. A lane for the single occupany vehicles. A lane for buses (not that people respect the dedicated bus lanes on 7th and 9th Streets NW right now). A lane for bikes. I can't wait to hear the screams of the single drivers as they are stuck in unimaginable back-ups. They'll soon be demanding the end of bike and bus lanes "to help relive congestion," I'm sure.

by Birdie on Dec 21, 2012 11:45 am • linkreport

re: Washingtonian article

I bike and drive and walk and I honestly though that light signal meant bikes can proceed, cars turning left can proceed, but cars going straight must stop. Obviously that wouldn't make sense if cross traffic was proceeding (thus striking any bikes that proceed on the light) but I'm simply basing my opinion from what the signal looks like. If the green arrow is meant for the bikes, it'd be best if the signal was removed from the one that applies to automobiles (or have both the arrow and bike signal flash).

That said, I don't see why she needed to gripe about bicyclists. It's not cyclists' fault DDOT created a confusing sign.

by 7r3y3r on Dec 21, 2012 11:58 am • linkreport

@AlanF: the flaw in your logic is that this project is primarily intended to improve access to the Port of Virginia. If it's not going to benefit the port, you can rule out the $250 million they're contributing....though track improvements between Petersburg and Norfolk would fall into this category and would indirectly benefit the Norfolk NEC trains. Furthermore, $216 million is being financed through bonds to be paid back from toll revenue, so that's DEFINITELY money you wouldn't have available for the projects you propose.

Given the regional purpose of this 460 toll road, any diversion of the $730-$930 million that VDOT's pumping in should logically go to projects here in Tidewater that are alternatives to the toll road. Namely, improvements to existing 460, also US 58 and I-64, and the aforementioned track improvements between Petersburg and Norfolk. All improvements that would benefit far more many people than the 460 toll road.

by Froggie on Dec 21, 2012 11:58 am • linkreport

Dear lord.

Why isn't the billion dollars for the 460 toll road going to improve US 301 as an alternate to I-95? Oh, because it is connected to Maryland.

We waste millions and millions of dollars of gasoline (not to mention emissions) on I-95 between Fredericksburg and the Springfield Interchange daily. Look at google maps traffic right now - its backed up going south at noon!

Branch 301 off of 95 as an interstate somewhere between Richmond and Fredericksburg and call it I-97 from there to the 32/97 interchange in MD. Re-route all of the long haul traffic out of our area.

by Nick on Dec 21, 2012 12:23 pm • linkreport

You know, on first glance, that traffic signal sure isn't great.

However, I'm not sure how or why anybody would ever interpret it as "cars can turn left now." Even if the right arrow is meant for cyclists, it seems very clear that the red is meant for everybody else.

by andrew on Dec 21, 2012 12:43 pm • linkreport

I'm a bike commuter, and the L street lane scares the hell out of me. I much preferred just riding with traffic. The mixed mode left turn arrangement requires car/bike merging mid block in a way that encourages cars to swerve at traffic speed into the lane, and for bikes to then magically merge into a segregated bike lane (within the left hand lane area) to the right of left turning cars. What a mess.

The Washingtonian article is whiny in the extreme, but the questions asked are valid. As a bike commuter, I'm not afraid of research to quantify modal usage after installation of bike capacity. Of course, the answers to many of these questions is simply, "yes."

As for the signal, it's unclear. The fact that readers of this blog are unclear of it's meaning indicates that for others, it's probably really unclear.

Being an advocate for bicycling doesn't mean we shouldn't entertain legitimate criticism.

by CJ on Dec 21, 2012 12:54 pm • linkreport

However, I'm not sure how or why anybody would ever interpret it as "cars can turn left now." Even if the right arrow is meant for cyclists, it seems very clear that the red is meant for everybody else.

I think people are mixing up their right and their left for some reason (my mom does that sometimes). I would also have thought that the right arrow was for everyone turning right, both cars and bikes, since it's not at all obvious that the bike symbol and the arrow are inextricably linked to each other.

by iaom on Dec 21, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

I guess what the Washingtonian article really needs is for her to explain what exactly she did at that signal that got her the ticket, since we're all speculating about what it means and what she got the ticket for. She says "watch for bicycles while turning" without saying which direction she was turning.

If she really meant that she was turning left because the green bicycle light was in the same column as the (unlit) left arrows, then yeah, I think she should have known better, although maybe the red left arrow should have also been illuminated (perhaps adding a green arrowhead next to the bike?) ... it's hard to say how to do this signal absolutely clearly without also having an explanatory sign like you see at some intersections.

by iaom on Dec 21, 2012 1:06 pm • linkreport

Yes, the red/yellow/green circle signals at this intersection should be left arrows, that would make it more clear. You can't really go straight since straight isn't a public ROW.

by MLD on Dec 21, 2012 1:21 pm • linkreport

@JustMe

Ever try to go from Georgetown to Penn Quarter in rush hour?

No, I have not. Do you know why? Because that would be stupid. Rush hour in DC is why we have a metro.
-----
And not only does the Metro go all the way to Georgetown, but any delivery person or trades person can get out of the truck or van and use it.

Metro goes everywhere and one size fits all.

Thanks for clearing that up.

by ceefer66 on Dec 21, 2012 1:34 pm • linkreport

Ceefer66,
That response would work if the writer was a UPS delivery person rather than the editor of a magazine.

by drumz on Dec 21, 2012 2:38 pm • linkreport

Ever try to go from Georgetown to Penn Quarter in rush hour?

Sure, I took Metro and walked. Or rode my bike. It was easy. Why does he ask? Do some people encounter a problem trying to get across town at rush hour? I'm not familiar with this problem.

by rg on Dec 21, 2012 2:44 pm • linkreport

East-West rush hour (almost any hour, in fact), has been terrible in DC for as long as I can remember. The problems predate the sudden interest in bikes.

by SJE on Dec 21, 2012 2:44 pm • linkreport

And not only does the Metro go all the way to Georgetown, but any delivery person or trades person can get out of the truck or van and use it.

It the JOB of the delivery person or van to drive. And going from Georgetown to the Foggy Bottom metro station on foot will probably take less time than driving down M Street during rush hour.

Rush hour sucks. You shouldn't be driving unless there's no alternative. And if there's no alternative, you want grapple with the slow drive down K Street in traffic. Every try taking I-270 northbound during rush hour? It's no picnic, either. Life is unpleasant if you drive during rush hour. That's the nature of it. That's why alternatives exist.

by JustMe on Dec 21, 2012 3:28 pm • linkreport

The problems predate the sudden interest in bikes.

But the interest of bikes causes resentment and jealousy, because suddenly there are people who have an easier time of it than the drivers always have had, and fewer people willing to entertain the complaints of the entitled drivers.

I really could not care less about how long it takes a driver to go cross town during rush hour any more than I could care about someone whining about who bad the traffic through the Holland Tunnel is during rush hour. It's the nature of the beast, and it's why you avoid driving during those times.

by JustMe on Dec 21, 2012 3:30 pm • linkreport

@ Froggie

Clearly, there have been some major projects in NoVA - the Wilson Bridge, the Springfield Interchange, and, most recently, the 495 HOT Lanes. The result of which has been a larger than normal expenditure of VDOT funds in NoVA. If you talked with VDOT managers or state legislators, they would probably say something like, "We had some big projects here in NoVA, so we probably will see fewer big ones here for a while." But I think you would also hear them say, excluding big projects, VDOT still spends a significant amount of money, both absolutely and proportunately, in NoVA, and that, as far as transportation is concerned, by and large NoVA does quite well in obtaining transportation money.

I'm not arguing the funds are sufficient or that the gas tax should not be indexed. But I've worked on enough transportation and budget issues and talked with enough legislators from both parties, to agree NoVA gets screwed on transportation. In fact, we do quite well. We get screwed in other areas, especially K-12 education.

Please see the included link that shows various calculations. http://www.baconsrebellion.com/PDFs/2012/10/Hokie_spreadsheet.pdf Assuming the calculations to be correct (which I do, having no reason to think to the contrary), NoVA gets considerably more money on a VMT basis.

I am a strong critic of the relationship between NoVA and Richmond, but I don't think it is right to complain about transportation to the same degree.

by TMT on Dec 21, 2012 3:46 pm • linkreport

NoVa has far fewer VMTs per person than most of the rest of the Commonwealth. Thats is to some degree a result of higher densities that create particular transportation needs. Our VMTs are not dispersed over a large network of local roads but is concentrated on a limited number of limited access highways (though we also have some quite congested arterials) that are particularly costly to expand due to our regional layout and high real estate prices. Increasingly transport investment in NoVa must take the form of transit (supplemented by bike/ped investments) to accommodate our needs and the costs of roads here.

In that context, Im not sure a simple chart, of investments in a limited subset of years, normalized by VMT, really addresses the questions fully. Especially when we are questioning specific projects whose CBA's seem questionable.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 21, 2012 4:01 pm • linkreport

Tysons has taught that intense development creates huge needs for more roads and more bus transit. The bulk of the benefits of intense development go to the landowners and developers -- as they should. But so should the bulk of the costs. The Tysons landowners and developers will pay 59.5% of the costs for $2.3 billion (2012 dollars) in road and bus transit improvements, based on the plan adopted by the Fairfax County BoS. There is no reason why similar contributions from landowners and developers cannot be obtained for re-planned and rezoned projects that create the need for more roads and transit. If this were the case throughout the state, a lot of these questionable road (and transit projects) would not be built. The landowners & developers would likely back away from "pie-in-the-sky" projects. For example, if the landowners pushing the Outer Beltway had to pay 59.5% of the costs, they would not be pushing for it. Tysons forced the affected landowners and developers to put some real skin in the game. As such, we are more likely to see both road and transit improvements that can be sustained and fewer that are designed as give-aways to well-connected land speculators. Tysons is far from perfect, but the BoS made some sound decisions.

A major take away from the Hokie spreadsheet is why so many rural senators and delegates oppose a gas tax increase. It would hit rural Virginians much hard than those in the metro areas. Indexing the gas tax inversely to the price of gasoline might be a concept that could pass the General Assembly.

by TMT on Dec 21, 2012 5:09 pm • linkreport

The let the landowner pay idea, is only going to be applicable selectively - owners of land that can be developed resent taking on costs for projects that raise the value of existing structures, including homes, and owners of existing structures (including especially homes) are quick to deny that they will benefit from new infrastructure. its a perfect illustration of the real world problems of a coase theorem like approach - its simply not that easy to internalize the externalities. That is why there is a role for govt funding.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 21, 2012 5:19 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity

There is substantial public financing in Tysons - 40.5% of the funding will come from federal, state and local taxpayers. $931 million (2012) dollars over 40 years. The original staff proposal would have had the public sector pay 58% of the $2.3 billion. Given the choice between not getting the density, the landowners agreed to the financing plan. So did most other stakeholders except for existing residents of Tysons, most of whom have objected.

by TMT on Dec 21, 2012 5:57 pm • linkreport

I love how the Washingtonian article loads a "subscribe" ad.

If thats the kind of garbage they write, who would pay money for it?

by JJJJJ on Dec 21, 2012 6:09 pm • linkreport

The traffic light requires no more than a moment's thought. There is a light with a bicycle. Anyone in a car will immediately recognize that they are not on a bike, and therefore that this can't apply to them. So it should be ignored. All that is left is a normal traffic signal that incorporates an arrow.

by Jeff R on Dec 21, 2012 8:42 pm • linkreport

@TMT: Assuming the calculations to be correct (which I do, having no reason to think to the contrary), NoVA gets considerably more money on a VMT basis.

I'm fine assuming the calculations are correct. I'm not fine assuming dollars per VMT is a valid measure of fair expenditure. The relevant measure is dollars of state transpo money per dollar of state taxes paid. On that measure, I'm sure NOVA is getting hosed because such a large share of tax revenue comes from NOVA.

VMT isn't fair because 1) distances are so short and congestion so bad that we don't drive as far and 2) a lot of people take mass transit. So, the rich lawyer who takes metro into DC isn't racking up any VMT but still needs state transpo money for his commute (and is paying a ton in state taxes). Similarly, the executive who battles traffic to go 5 miles in 30 minutes to get to Tysons isn't racking up much VMT but pays a ton of taxes and doesn't get much of it back in state transpo spending.

by Falls Church on Dec 21, 2012 11:45 pm • linkreport

This discussion is, however, a nice example of why basing policy on "how much can you drive" is counterproductive if you have any goal other than building bigger roads.

by Mike on Dec 22, 2012 7:57 am • linkreport

also VMT may not even match gas tax revenue depending on average MPG. NoVa has more Priuses, but also lots of SUVs, and congestion reduces MPG.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 22, 2012 9:04 am • linkreport

tmt

I am quite aware that there is a large private component in the Tysons infrastructure financing. I do not think that that justifies dismissing the importance of commonwealth funding.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 22, 2012 9:06 am • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity

No one is ignoring funding from the Commonwealth for Tysons roads and transit. The final County funding plan included proposed state funding ranging from $78 to $278 million. $78 million is the floor, with $209 million additional that would be expected to be split between state and federal funding. Further federal funding of $158 million is also included in the funding plan approved in October of this year. $81 million is projected to be raised from the C&I tax (the County will begin devoting all of those funds to Tysons). The County will also fund $407 million from GO bonds and the General Fund. The funding plan is quite balanced and looks to a wide number of sources for funding over the next 40 years. Again, all figures are in 2012 dollars.

@ Falls Church - What revenues (taxes, & fees) do you consider in your assumption NoVA gets screwed on state transportation funding? It sounds to me as if you are considering all state taxes and fees paid versus all transportation spending. If so, I don't think that's a valid comparison since it ignores other state spending. I am not arguing NoVA is treated well by the Commonwealth. But the story on transportation funding is much better.

On the whole, I believe NoVA should resist virtually all state tax increases, except for indexing the gas tax, because we get screwed on most everything but transportation. But few people really understand this as you will often hear someone complain about the little money we get back from Richmond and support a state tax increase in the same breath.

by TMT on Dec 22, 2012 11:48 am • linkreport

@TMT It sounds to me as if you are considering all state taxes and fees paid versus all transportation spending. If so, I don't think that's a valid comparison since it ignores other state spending.

Yes, that's what I'm comparing but think it's valid. Let's say NOVA pays half of all state taxes/fees but only gets a quarter of state transpo dollars. That's going to be unfair unless NOVA gets more than half of spending in other areas. Well, we're not getting disproportionate funding for schools and probably not for health care. Those three items comprise the majority of the budget.

So, basically the state sucks taxes out of NOVA but is unwilling to invest in the basic infrastructure that will allow the area to grow and continue laying golden eggs. This will end with the goose getting starved to death because of greed from the rest of the state.

On the whole, I believe NoVA should resist virtually all state tax increases, except for indexing the gas tax

Agreed. NOVA should fight for the right to tax itself so it has money to spend on itself. The rest of VA has killed this idea whenever it comes up because they want to make sure that the only way NOVA can get the government services it needs is by paying taxes to the state, which keeps a large share of NOVA's taxes so it can redistribute it to the rest of VA.

by Falls Church on Dec 23, 2012 11:08 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church

I think we are fairly close in how we see the relationship between NoVA and the Commonwealth. Fairfax County provided 23.4% of the Individual Income Tax revenue for FY 2011, according to the Department of Taxation. Fairfax also produced 13.5% of the State's share of the Sales Tax. We don't know about the gas tax since it's not reported on a local jurisdiction basis.

Given a multitude of factors, Fairfax County will never get any appropriation anywhere near what it produces in state Income and Sales Taxes. IMO, that fact (or assumption) should lead sensible people who live in Fairfax County or some other NoVA jurisdiction similarly situated, to oppose state tax increases with the possible exception of indexing the gas tax. As you say, we'd be better off with keeping state taxes the same or even lower, while paying higher local taxes, the proceeds of which stay here. I've seen the numbers that were prepared by the staff of the Senate Finance Committee and Fairfax County Public Schools.

But the cause of our infrastructure problems lie with local cities and counties that have continually approved more land development than the roads and transit could support and by failing to obtain sufficient proffers or other funds to pay for the needed additions to public facilities. The state supreme court has held that, when a new development would overload infrastructure, a locality can refuse to amend its Comp Plan or rezone property unless the landowner proffers sufficient money or in-kind services to address the problem. With the chief exception being Tysons, Fairfax County has generally failed to do this. Supervisors of both parties have for years blamed the Dillon Rule or VDOT while approving development after development. Our local officials have regularly failed to use the authority that they have under the Virginia Code.

I also blame our legislators and not those from outstate for failing to protect our interests. Prime example, when Mark Warner was pushing for his "tax reform" that resulted in higher taxes coming from Fairfax County resident, then-Delegates Chap Petersen and Steven Shannon were fighting to amend the legislation to provide any increase in state aid to K-12 education would occur on a per-student basis. They were refusing to vote for the tax increases without the change in the formula for allocating additional school aid. But no other Democrats supported them. They would rather please Warner than represent their constituents'
interests. Much of the blame lies with our own legislators. They haven't got the stones to protect our interests.

by TMT on Dec 24, 2012 11:28 am • linkreport

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