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Breakfast links: Don't pay more


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No Metro fare hike: WMATA will not propose a fare increase in the 2014 fiscal year, as its policy is to change fares every other year. Last year, fares rose 5%, and ridership declined. (Post)

Trump doesn't want to pay: After winning a bid to redevelop the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, Donald Trump doesn't want to have to pay taxes on the commercial space in the property. (WBJ) ... Union Station just agreed to pay the same tax, but still may challenge in court DC's right to levy it. (Post)

Nathan would block referendum: DC's attorney general Irvin Nathan called for the elections board to cancel the April referendum on budget autonomy, saying the referendum exceeds DC's legal powers. The Council unanimously supported the move, and Mayor Gray reluctantly signed the bill to authorize the vote. (Post)

Bike to walkable suburban districts?: As suburbs are retrofitted with new denser, walkable developments, will residents be able to access those neighborhoods with methods other than cars? Can bicycles solve the "last mile" problem? (WABA)

Short blocks cut small city traffic: Small block size may reduce traffic more than mixed-use development in smaller cities. These smaller mixed-use areas are unlikely to be self-sufficient and so attract traffic from other areas. (Streetsblog)

Inauguration closes bridges, stations: During this month's presidential inauguration, the 14th Street, Memorial, and Roosevelt bridges will all be closed to automobile traffic, although the Memorial bridge will be open to pedestrians. The Smithsonian, Archives, and Mount Vernon Metro stations will also be closed. (Post)

O'Malley wants more and cooler schools: Maryland's governor proposed spending $336 million to build and improve schools in the state, and to add air conditioning to the 180 of 1,400 schools without it. (Post)

One way to higher VA gas tax?: Dave Albo (R-Springfield) might suggest raising the gas tax but giving Virginia residents an income tax break to compensate, ultimately just charging visitors more. (Post)

And...: Amtrak adds nighttime Acela service between DC and New York. (Post) A developer launched another app to help locate DC's food trucks. (DCist) ... CityCenterDC will have some swanky condos, but "Central Park living," not quite. (Post, City Paper)

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@ AC in schools
The fact that there are still schools in this state without AC, especially with global warming and all shows the sad state of education spending even in a state which the best system in the country.

Some might make the argument you do not need it, trust me when temps are in the 90’s as if often does even as early as April in some years no good teaching occurs.

by Matt R on Jan 8, 2013 8:56 am • linkreport

Virginia raising its gas tax via this method seems the only plausible way with the way the legislature is set up right now. This would be a terrific move, and very much aligned with the republican "user pays" mindset.

I know my brother, who lives and works in Ballston, would be very happy with this, to no longer have to support via income tax transfers roads in southern VA. Not sure this can still pass though, the rural legistors will never vote to cut off the money flow from Northern Virginia, all the while increasing tax on their largely less gas-efficient constituents when compared to Nova. Many more F-150s/capita in Lynchburg than Fairfax.

by Kyle-W on Jan 8, 2013 9:06 am • linkreport

It's appalling that even a single school is without AC. Those classrooms must be terrible on hot, humid days in the spring and fall. I'm glad O'Malley wants to fix it, but I'm really shocked that this wasn't done twenty years ago.

by JW on Jan 8, 2013 9:21 am • linkreport

Anything Dave Albo says is wrong. Just saying.....

I mean this is the same guy, who as a drunk driver lawyers tries to increase penalties to get more business for his firm. Not to mention the great idea fo $3000 speeding tickets.

by charlie on Jan 8, 2013 9:22 am • linkreport

raising the gas tax but giving Virginia residents an income tax break to compensate

Ah! A tax break for guzzlers! The last thing we need.

charging visitors more

Yeah, that's what NoVA needs, push more visitors to DC. Considering that Fairfax has many of the 'forgotten' DC tourism gems, such at Mt Vernon, Great Falls, Udvar-Hazy, Gunston Hall, shopping at Tysons and a bunch is wineries, Fairfax should be doing everything it can to nibble at DCs tourism industry and get people to stay at least part of their visit in Fairfax (hotels). Not punish them with extra taxes.

by Jasper on Jan 8, 2013 9:25 am • linkreport

Given Del. Albo's logic, rather than seek to raise the gas tax, he should seek to reduce (if not eliminate) the sale tax exemption for gasoline, in return for the income tax reduction. That way, at least some of the transportation revenues would be roughly indexed for inflation, in addition to increasing transparency regarding the extent to which the general fund subsidizes transportation.

by JimT on Jan 8, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

@Jasper: I think your irony of your first comment is too subtle for most people to decipher.

by JimT on Jan 8, 2013 9:31 am • linkreport

Is it possible that the decline in metro ridership is due to increased bike commuting instead of the fare increase? Maybe the increase prompted more bikers to mode shift but I'm guessing most of the bike commuting increase comes at the expense of metro/bus not drivers.

by CBGB on Jan 8, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

@CBGB: Speaking for myself, a good chunk of that decrease in ridership isn't commute-related. It's incidental-related. I don't take Metro into town on weekends, if I can avoid it, and haven't for a couple of years. That's due to a combination of things, but fares are part of it; I don't like paying that kind of money for a substandard product (why yes, I WOULD love to wait twenty minutes on my transfer because of track work, thank you).

If Metro ever really wanted to parse the decline in ridership numbers - I'm not convinced that they do - they might find something similar, actually; it's not all down to commuting numbers, but is due to decreases at other times, too.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jan 8, 2013 9:59 am • linkreport

@CBGB,

Maybe, but the biggest decreases are during the weekend, so I say the extensive track work schedule is more of a suspect.

by RJ on Jan 8, 2013 10:05 am • linkreport

As others have pointed out, it seems very likely that the extensive weekend track work is responsible for a lot of the decrease in ridership. But my question is this: why does WMATA specifically avoid mentioning this possibility?

Why don't they just own the consequences of all this work, which they say is necessary and has to be done like this? I don't understand why they go to such lengths to try to say that the entire decrease in ridership is due to fare increases.

by Gray's in the Fields on Jan 8, 2013 10:18 am • linkreport

The extensive weekend track work has been going on for over two years now, so I don't see how it could be the big driver in the ridership drop if you are comparing July-Sept 2012 against 2011. July-Sept 2011 had plenty of weekend track work too.

Since WMATA doesn't release meaningful ridership statistics then it is very hard for the public to figure out for themselves what is going on.

They should be releasing something like this every month; ideally it would be even more detailed than that, like a daily or weekly dump.

by MLD on Jan 8, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

WMATA: With no (more) increases in the fares through FY14, but with the transit tax break increased to $240, if there is an increase in weekday ridership in the first 6 months of CY 2013, will that be attributed to the transit tax? A couple of busy days around the Inauguration will distort the January numbers.

As for a gas tax increase in Virginia, I would not expect a 10 cents or whatever the amount ends up as, to have any detectable effect on visitor travel to VA. We have had much larger swings in gas prices in the span of a few weeks due to changing global prices for oil. I think VA and MD should just go ahead and increase the gas tax to pay for roads and transit, but have little confidence that either will find the political will to do so.

by AlanF on Jan 8, 2013 10:34 am • linkreport

Donald Trump should stick a sock in it. The fact he (like Union Station) shouldn't be subject to the possessory tax is ludicrous. You're building a hotel on tax exempt property dude.

Sad state of affairs when we live in a city where our top legal mind has to be against something his constituents would likely approve...overwhelmingly at that.

I'm not surprised by the decline in ridership and wonder whether the largest tick down is on the weekends. Sarles does have somewhat of a point about the transit subsidy but it really only applies between peak hours..when those affected will be forced to use metro either way. Weekends? Totally different story. I've avoided weekend metro like the plague for the past couple of years now.

by HogWash on Jan 8, 2013 10:34 am • linkreport

@Gray's in the Fields ; I suspect WMATA doesn't make a big deal of it b/c they are trying to account for it in their future projections. So to some extent it is baked in.

I do think CABI is having have effect, how large or noticeable is the questions. ANd it is more on the dollar than ridership; i..e my weekly WMATA spend has dropped to about 1.60 or 3.20 since CABI came in. (one or two wmata bus rides) . Circulator is probably also having a similar effect.

by charlie on Jan 8, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

Back in my day...no, seriously, I would have LOVED to have had functional HEAT in the schools I attended, much less AC. Nearly 15 years later, kids are still attending all of the school buildings I did, which my mother and father also attended. Folks around here really don't know how lucky they are.

I've *noticed* that Metro is less crowded towards the tail-end of rush hour over the last few months. I don't doubt that much of the ridership drop is on weekends and due to track work, but I think telework is starting to have a big impact. The reduction in crowding is particularly noticeable on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (hey, the most popular days to telework in my office, too!). I have not, however, noticed a concurrent increase in traffic (living along a major commuter corridor, it would be somewhat obvious), which leads me to believe that it's part telework with a little biking thrown in, rather than people ditching transit for their cars. Bad for Metro right now, but good for all of us in the long run as the region continues to grow.

by Ms. D on Jan 8, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

Sorry...the jr. high I went to was, in fact, demolished and replaced. Built in the '30's (as the high school...my mom attended high school there until the building *I* went to high school in was opened her junior year), it was declared unfit for use in the '80's. I attended in the early '90's, and it was closed and torn down around 2005. Next time, we'll discuss how my high school history books referred to the USSR, there were 45+ people in each of my classes senior year, and that by the time my brother graduated a few years later the school was so over-crowded they taught classes in the cafeteria (I was lucky that we only had study hall there...though I did have non-music/art courses in the music and art rooms). I'm glad that people around here take education seriously, but you do have to understand how you look to people elsewhere in the country when you declare that a lack of AC in a building that is not used in most of June, July, and August is some kind of travesty. Go forth and install your AC, but maybe don't act like it's such a big deal.

by Ms. D on Jan 8, 2013 11:15 am • linkreport

What's wrong with a history book mentioning the USSR?

by TM on Jan 8, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

@TM

I think the issue would be that the textbook referred to the USSR as a current actor when the student was going to high school in the mid to late 90s.

by MLD on Jan 8, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

Go forth and install your AC, but maybe don't act like it's such a big deal.

Read: Go forth and get new books, but maybe don't act like the current torn and spine-free ones are such a big deal! :)

by HogWash on Jan 8, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

I find it hard to believe that there was no spending in previous MD education budgets that was a lower priority than installing AC.

by Falls Church on Jan 8, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

Not surprised that Trump wants to change the game after he agreed to the rules. The city and the feds should be aware that they are getting into bed with the Devil.

by Jack Love on Jan 8, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

It's time for GSA to tell that bouffant buffoon (Trump):

"You're fired!"

by Bob on Jan 8, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

David/Thaddeus: a correction to the Inauguration bridge item: the 14th Street bridge will remain open to traffic...but traffic will have to continue on to the SW/SE Freeway. Lower 14th St proper is what will be closed, not the bridge.

As for a Virginia gas tax increase, as much as it's necessary, I just don't see it passing the General Assembly for reasons cited by others earlier...namely, the rural voting bloc.

by Froggie on Jan 8, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

And on that note, Roosevelt bridge will remain open as well, with traffic diverted up to the Whitehurst and K Street.

by Froggie on Jan 8, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

Yeah, that's what NoVA needs, push more visitors to DC.

LOL. Like anybody bases their tourist plans on a jurisdiction's gas tax.

by Marian Berry on Jan 8, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

Speaking of raising the VA gas tax...

Has anyone else heard about McDonnell's plan to eliminate it in favor of increasing sales taxes? That makes sense.

by Gray's in the Fields on Jan 8, 2013 4:54 pm • linkreport

@Ms. D:

My high school had so many people in our foreign language classes, people were sitting on the floor because they didn't have enough desks. Most of our books talked about the wall coming down, which probably means they were relatively the same age as yours. Except of course for the AP books, which were brand new, but only because we had to buy them ourselves. But we still had AC. And honestly, I'd rather have AC than a desk.

Regardless, your "in my day" argument is a terrible one that gets used all the time to perpetuate bad situations. The fact that lots of people went to school in uncooled classrooms doesn't change the fact that they shouldn't have to. Kids learn better, and I assume teachers teach better, when they aren't miserable.

by JW on Jan 8, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

McDonnell's VA Gas tax proposal: this will be the topic of discussion tomorrow on GGW I'm sure, but the end result of a 0.8% increase in the total sales tax - and I assume sales tax is to apply to gasoline purchases - is to make everyone pay for roads & highways whether they drive a car or not. Steps away from the concept of a gas tax as a user fee and funds roads & highways from general revenue - if I am following the highlights of McDonnell's proposal correctly.

Is raising the gas excise tax to adjust for inflation since 1986 really that difficult to accept for the Republicans? The answer appears to be yes. Hence a far more complicated scheme.

by AlanF on Jan 8, 2013 6:34 pm • linkreport

I didn't say that air conditioning was not a good thing. I believe that schools should be excellent facilities and have excellent resources. It's just about how it's couched. It's BAD that kids attend schools without AC, but it's not a "travesty." More flies with honey, more support with rhetoric that people don't perceive as over-the-top. I was roundly decried in my junior high classes because I could not, with my poor vision, see the blackboard without SOME lights on, but the lights heated up the classroom. Having gone through that, I just am not moved by over-the-top rhetoric, even if I believe that kids deserve a good learning environment.

And, yes, the USSR issue was not that it was mentioned, but that the books, in the mid-90's, were referring to it as a current state, because they were over 10 years old. Sure, it existed, but not as a current state at the time I was speaking of. Yes, for the *2* AP classes my school offered, we had current texts, and yes, like others mentioned, we had to buy them. While my mom ponied up for it, $200 was a lot for a single mom making under $30K/year. Other parents couldn't find the money for that, and their kids missed out. That's kind of the antithesis of public education.

by Ms. D on Jan 12, 2013 3:17 am • linkreport

And, while I didn't even have the option of AC or even functional heat, I would have preferred a desk. In almost all of my classes in my junior and senior year, we either had classes in places without desks (the auditorium or music room) or had more students than desks. While, within a few weeks, they found some chairs for the extra students in most of those classes so they didn't have to sit on the floor, it was not the greatest of environments. The only reason we had our foreign language class in the auditorium my senior year was because that class was originally scheduled for a "classroom" (former office) that seated only 10 with 45 students enrolled, and we all went home and told our parents that the PRINCIPAL had shown up to the overflowing room and told us all that 30 or more of us just needed to "get over it and drop the class" so that it could be fit in and our parents were fighting mad that our school couldn't even provide appropriate space for classes.

Look, I'm GLAD that education is a priority here. Despite the awful conditions I lived through, I managed to acquire a good education (mostly in college, though I did arrive at college prepared), and that is why I have been able to succeed in my career. I DO think kids should have AC. But toning down the rhetoric will help with that. There are STILL hundreds of thousands of kids all over the US "learning" in the same environments and with the same resources I did. Saying that not having AC is SO TERRIBLE won't sit well with them or their parents. Saying that you need to "improve the learning environment" or something would probably pass. PR is often over-rated, but, in this case, a little subtlety could help.

by Ms. D on Jan 12, 2013 3:37 am • linkreport

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