Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: On the waterfront


Photo by cliff1066™ on Flickr.
Who wants the FBI?: Prince George's officialy has picked Greenbelt as its preferred site for the FBI. (Examiner) ... CFO Gandhi will study the financial effects of the FBI at Poplar Point. Jack Evans and David Catania want the FBI even if it takes prime waterfront land off the tax rolls, while Tommy Wells and Mayor Gray are more skeptical. (Post)

Gondola to Georgetown?: Someone has "not unseriously" suggested a gondola between Rosslyn and Georgetown. Overhead wire objections, not to mention cost, would likely kill any such plan. (Georgetown Metropolitan) ... How about a bus lane first?

Camera camera works: After Prince George's posted a security camera to watch for people vandalizing its speed cameras, nobody has tried to destroy the cameras. Police also say residents constantly ask for more cameras. (WTOP)

The Warren Quarter: Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has bought a condo in the Penn Quarter to live the urban life (when she's in DC). (Post) ... Though as she holds of Ted Kennedy's seat, the Kennedy-Warren would have been way more apt.

Narrow thinking on "safety": Some New Jersey commuter rail riders can walk right from home to a station, until NJ Transit puts up a fence in the name of "safety" forcing them to walk a mile on a busy highway just to go around the station. (NorthJersey)

Jury excuses killing cyclist: A Massachusetts grand jury refused to indict a truck driver who killed a cyclist, despite video, witnesses, and the truck driver fleeing the scene. This may show a continued bias against cyclists in society. (Boston Globe)

Eyes on the street, not?: Jane Jacobs taught us that "eyes on the street" make a neighborhood safer, but is that really true? Research shows adding residences to commercial areas reduces crime, but all-residential areas have even less. (Next City)

And...: Is Gray's sustainability plan part of an international conspiracy? (City Paper) ... Why raising the ICC speed limit may be a bad idea. (Patch) ... Are DC's commercial rents too high for cool stores? (RPUS) ... Want a $2.5 million treehouse? (City Paper)

And and...: Fung Wah takes most of its buses out of service after finding cracks. (Post) ... A hit-and-run driver killed a woman crossing Connecticut Avenue in Wheaton. (Post) ... VRE will make it cheaper to ride Amtrak trains. (Potomac Local)

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David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Why is a bus lane on the Key Bridge a good idea? You've got two buses -- a Circulator and the 38B. It isn't a high demand area.

A dedicated Bus lane past Wisconsin might make sense, as that area has too many buses, but at least DC has gotten to staggering the bus stops so they don't land on top of each other. That helped flow quite a bit.

by charlie on Feb 27, 2013 8:29 am • linkreport

@charlie -- you also have the Georgetown U. (GUTS) buses running between campus and Rosslyn every ten minutes. Not public buses, per se, but they keep a lot of car traffic off the roads.

I agree, though, that a bus lane is probably not the best option here, unless it was something like a rush-hour conversion of the parking lane to bus-only. But that would definitely require an increase in bus frequency to justify it.

by Jacques on Feb 27, 2013 9:08 am • linkreport

This whole pedestrians regularly dying in mid-county MoCo thing is really getting out of hand.

by Stevey Jones on Feb 27, 2013 9:17 am • linkreport

the Kennedy-Warren is urban living too!

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

I'm not so sure that a bus lane is a super serious option but rather to point out that instead of spending millions on crazier ideas you could get similar results by simple things, like bus lanes and what not.

by drumz on Feb 27, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

Also researchers did challenge the notion of Jane Jacob's eyes on the street theory but then realize that she's pretty much right with only one exception, sometimes.

by drumz on Feb 27, 2013 9:42 am • linkreport

Massively expanding Capital Bikeshare in Georgetown and Rosslyn, plus bike/bus priority lanes would move more people cheaper than a gondola would.

Here's a relaed idea my wife had, BTW. Everyone moves out of the way of ambulances, firetrucks and police cars - because they're on official business. What if, in the CBD or something, Buses turned on flashing lights and drivers were expected to move out of their way too (exactly as they would a police car). You get some of the advantages of bus priority, without having to lose a lane. It's not a bad idea in theory, but I doubt drivers would go for it.

by David C on Feb 27, 2013 9:48 am • linkreport

@David C - I also doubt the police and first responders would go for it. But points for creativity!

by Jacques on Feb 27, 2013 9:59 am • linkreport

@Jacques; again, it is about the Key Bridge. GUTS turns left, the others turn right. But the Key Bridge itself is very low bus volume.

It is worth looking at bus priorty when there are a lot of buses. But in that little part of Georgetown, there aren't that many.

by charlie on Feb 27, 2013 10:03 am • linkreport

Manhattan trending all luxury condos, no rentals because land so expensive:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/realestate/manhattan-land-scramble-amid-record-condo-sales.html?hp&_r=0

Korea develops wireless electricity transmission for their mass transit:
http://txchnologist.com/post/43160353907/wireless-electricity-transmission-being-deployed-to

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 27, 2013 10:11 am • linkreport

Thanks for linking to articles in the Boston Globe. Very interesting. Gratifying to see my own perspective reflected in an editorial of a major newspaper.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 10:15 am • linkreport

@FBI and Poplar Point

I agree that it makes sense to study moving the FBI there, but still it seems like a total waste of prime real estate.

by Nicoli on Feb 27, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

That's how I feel about it too, Nicoli. That's also why I'm not a huge fan of Greenbelt.

by selxic on Feb 27, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

Since I'm mostly ignorant of the specific utility of gondolas, are there situations where they're the right solution, from a perspective of practicality, amortized capital investment per trip, etc.? I know Portland has one, but as I recall, it's super-low-volume, to the point that it seems like a gimmick.

by Andrew Pendleton on Feb 27, 2013 10:34 am • linkreport

Pretty good and balanced article from the BGlobe. I thought it did a good job getting into people's overall attitude about cyclists including how they help contribute to the negative perceptions some may have w/them.

I do disagree that people "don't like" bikes as apparently suggested by some of the biking advocates. I don't believe that sort of approach is healthy in dealing w/the safety issue posed by mixed road used.

by HogWash on Feb 27, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

Overhead wire objections, not to mention cost, would likely kill any such plan.

Sigh. Georgetown has overhead wires. Random example:


View Larger Map

Why are these allowed, and others not?

Let's stop protesting good ideas! Also, do the protesters realize that with a nice quiet condola from Rosslyn to Georgetown, there will be less noisy buses in the neighborhood?

by Jasper on Feb 27, 2013 10:55 am • linkreport

@ charlie:Why is a bus lane on the Key Bridge a good idea? You've got two buses -- a Circulator and the 38B. It isn't a high demand area.

And the GUTS buses.

That's 6-10 GUTS buses, 6 Circulators and 3-5 38Bs each way, every hour.

by Jasper on Feb 27, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

gondolas are costly to build and operate, and have limited capacity, IIUC. They are preferred where the lay of the land makes other transit impossible, like mountain slopes. Thats not the case here. Lets put that money toward the new metrorail tunnel.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 27, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

are there situations where they're the right solution

Yes, when you're skiing in the Rockies and really want to get high. See; "The Ganjala", Keystone Ski Resort.

by thump on Feb 27, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

The proper term would be gondola lift, not gondola which refers to a boat. Took me a while to realize that the post was referring to a cable car and not boat until I thought about how stupid it would be to try to get across the potomac in one of those boats without hitting a rock or getting flipped over.

by kk on Feb 27, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

Re: Truck driver acquitted in Boston

That's so sad. I have a feeling that a lot of jurists are afraid of setting a precedent. If they're a driver, they're afraid that they'll somehow wind up in a similar incident and they don't want to go to jail. Drivers know in the back of their mind that they could kill someone in the blink of an eye because they are on a cell phone, have had a little too much to drink, or are in a hurry. It's kinda like circling the wagons and protecting their own, so the same won't happen to them.

Oh, and also we need BUS LANES DURING RUSH HOUR all over the city...we are so overdue for them. I'm tired of seeing us giving the same priority to one person in an SUV as 50 people on a bus. Move people, not cars!

by dc denizen on Feb 27, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

I'd love to see dedicated bus/transit lanes connecting Georgetown to Rosslyn. Not only would it improve the efficiency of the current buses that run thsoe routes, but it would also increase capacity for future bus expansion. Looking soley at the now and saying "nope, don't need bus lanes" ignores future needs and is incredibly short sighted, imo.

by Birdie on Feb 27, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

@Andrew Pendleton, there's also the Roosevelt Island Tramway to Manhattan, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roosevelt_Island_Tramway, which seems to be pretty heavily used.

(Aside: When I saw "gondola" between Georgetown and Rosslyn, my first thought was of ferry service by small stern-oar-propelled boats -- now, that _would_ be a crazy idea -- and of course "tramway" comes across as "streetcar" at first sight. It's too bad that type of conveyance apparently lacks a distinctive name.)

@Jasper: I think the street you found is outside the no-wires area -- but, of course, so would be the proposed whatever-it-is-to-be-called, so I'm basically agreeing with you that the "overhead wires" concern is frivolous. Objections to the general visual impact of another structure across the Potomac might be slightly less frivolous and played a role in killing a proposed freeway bridge in that area (just upstream from Key Bridge) back in the day.

by A Streeter on Feb 27, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

I am not defending NJ Transit, but, lets be honest. The family of the first person who is killed crossing those tracks will sue NJ Transit for not blocking off access and be awarded millions in a settlement. NJ Transit is dammed if they do and dammed if they don't on this one.

Of course the answer is some sort of overpass or underpass, but again, where does the money come from? Would the residents of that town agree to a tax or fare increase to pay for it? Not a chance. Its easy to want things. Paying for them is the problem.

by dcdriver on Feb 27, 2013 11:49 am • linkreport

That NJ Transit rail crossing is like any of the other probably million unsignalized/unguarded rail crossings around the country. People cross these kinds of things all the f-ing time. Put up a sign that says "cross at your own risk" if you're worried about liability.

My first thought when I read this was how long would it take for someone to make their own pathway with a pair of bolt cutters on that fence?

They basically cut off the entire walkshed of the station - everything not blocked by the fence looks to be industrial/commercial land. I would really be interested to see what the ridership numbers for this station do.

by MLD on Feb 27, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

The gondola idea is great! That would be a cool ride over the river, and a hit with tourists.

by Chris on Feb 27, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

Typical NJ, built a fence when they could have built a foot bridge...

by Alan B. on Feb 27, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

I thought it did a good job getting into people's overall attitude about cyclists including how they help contribute to the negative perceptions some may have w/them.

Umm. We must've read a different article, because the one I read didn't mention this at all.

I do disagree that people "don't like" bikes as apparently suggested by some of the biking advocates.

Really? How do you explain the driver who intentionally ran the cyclist off the road last year. Or all the comment hate that cyclists get on other sites. Maybe focusing on the minority of such drivers is counter-productive (which may or may not be true), but it's a fact that some people don't like cyclists.

by David C on Feb 27, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

What if, in the CBD or something, Buses turned on flashing lights and drivers were expected to move out of their way too (exactly as they would a police car). You get some of the advantages of bus priority, without having to lose a lane.

My idea is similar, the "virtual streetcar." Currently, all MetroBuses have GPS locators, and the traffic signals are remotely controlled by DDOT computers. What if you put those two things together to fiddle with the traffic lights so that buses never had to wait at a light? Would a bus be more attractive if it was guaranteed to be the quickest way from point to point?

by contrarian on Feb 27, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

@David C -there were two articles linked; one was an editorial -that I commented had, gratifyingly, reflected my perspective. The other was a news type article on the crash, the GJ outcome, the police investigation and quotes from several different people including those who think bikes shouldn't be allowed to ride on the road and other anti-bike perspectives and comments.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

Currently, all MetroBuses have GPS locators, and the traffic signals are remotely controlled by DDOT computers. What if you put those two things together to fiddle with the traffic lights so that buses never had to wait at a light?

The technology already exists - it's called "transit signal priority." It doesn't use GPS but uses a transponder on the bus and a detector on the traffic lights. In practice it is used to keep a signal green so the bus can get through, not to change lights completely.

And yes, multiple bus corridors in DC should have this tech installed. WMATA and DDOT have both said so, but have not implemented it.

by MLD on Feb 27, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

"What if, in the CBD or something, Buses turned on flashing lights and drivers were expected to move out of their way too (exactly as they would a police car). You get some of the advantages of bus priority, without having to lose a lane.
My idea is similar, the "virtual streetcar." Currently, all MetroBuses have GPS locators, and the traffic signals are remotely controlled by DDOT computers. What if you put those two things together to fiddle with the traffic lights so that buses never had to wait at a light? Would a bus be more attractive if it was guaranteed to be the quickest way from point to point?"

Those both sound like recipes for disaster. Everyone agreeably scoots out of the way of an ambulance because there are not very many and because it may be a matter of life and death.

But to part like the Red Sea for the endless stream of buses? Even if drivers wanted to do this (and I am sure many will not), where would they all fit? You'd have cars with annoyed drivers constantly spilling out into intersections - hello accidents.

by Chris on Feb 27, 2013 1:00 pm • linkreport

Umm. We must've read a different article, because the one I read didn't mention this at all.

Umm, that's not surprising.

Maybe focusing on the minority of such drivers is counter-productive (which may or may not be true), but it's a fact that some people don't like cyclists.

Uhm, er, of course it's counter-productive. Yes, that is absolutely true. And maybe people don't like cyclists...that seems to the argument you've decided to come up w/. However, the article posited, and I responded to, the notion that people don't like bikes...not the people who ride them.

But Alas...carry on.

*I ain't scurred of no Ghost*

by HogWash on Feb 27, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

Please don't incorrectly quote Ray Parker, Jr., even if for vernacular effect. He deserves better.

by Col. Brentwood on Feb 27, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

Ham sandwiches are breathing easier today in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

by Kolohe on Feb 27, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

yes. that bike locked to a sign post is receiving a lot of verbal insults from drivers.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

Roosevelt Island only has daily ridership of about 1500 and it was the only way to get on and off the island until the subway station was built there in 1989 (and about 4 times as many people now use the F trains instead of the tram which tells you something). I kind of doubt there are that many more commuters that travel specifically from Rosslyn to Georgetown a day. For other people a bus offering a one seat ride will be a better option. Also, I see absolutely no reason why the city should subsidize Georgetown University transportation which makes up a big chunk people bussing along that corridor. Finally, where would you put that infrastructure? A gondola would require a tall, above ground suspension system.

by Alan B. on Feb 27, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

@ Streeter: I think the street you found is outside the no-wires area

Well, it's a block where some of the wealthier Georgetowners live. And they're not affiliated to the university. So then it's ok. They are also the ones making a lot of stink about their supposed 'historic view' on the Potomac being blocked by that proposed building on the gas-station site. Hypocrisy all-around, that's all I'm saying.

There are more places where there are overhead wires in Georgetown. There are some down on M St near that gas station, but I could not find them in GoogleMaps. And there are more places.

Objections to the general visual impact of another structure across the Potomac might be slightly less frivolous and played a role in killing a proposed freeway bridge in that area (just upstream from Key Bridge) back in the day.

Yeah, fake arguments that proved to be effective. But what it boils down to is that people in DC will do anything to stop progress and new stuff. CaBi stations were opposed in Georgetown because of a fear of extra car traffic or people driving to and parking near the CaBi sites. You can't make this stuff up.

by Jasper on Feb 27, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

Umm, that's not surprising.

Umm, that's not an explanation. I'll take it as a concession that in fact no one in the article actually said what you claim they did.

of course it's counter-productive. Yes, that is absolutely true.

Well, that's your opinion. It's not a fact. So "true" may be too strong a word. What is true is usually not a matter of opinion.

However, the article posited, and I responded to, the notion that people don't like bikes...not the people who ride them.

I think you're reading it too literally. I think what they meant were cyclists. In part because it doesn't make any sense otherwise and in part because it's followed by this line "Jurors are much more likely to empathize with motorists than with bicyclists." It's just like when people use the word "car" to mean the driver. I could be wrong, but I wonder how others read that line.

Nonetheless, I suspect some people just don't like bikes either.

*I ain't scurred of no Ghost*

What about the ghost of Ted Kennedy who, according to you, was still able to vote for Obamacare?

by David C on Feb 27, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

A lot of crime is pickpocketing or walking away with stuff left unattended---that happens in commercial areas. Commercial areas also register things like shoplifting and are probably easier targets for petty theft than residences. So, yeah, all residential areas will have fewer reported crimes.

by Rich on Feb 27, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

A lot of crime is pickpocketing

Just curious...Does pickpocketing actually happen anymore? It just seems so quaint. These days criminals just snatch the iPhone right out of your hand. They don't bother being subtle about it.

by Falls Church on Feb 27, 2013 5:33 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church:Does pickpocketing actually happen anymore?

In America, shockingly little. In Europe, it is common place.

In Amsterdam, pickpockets are just waiting for tourists at the platform where the trains from Schiphol Airport arrive. If you are not aware, you will loose your wallet by the time you leave the train station. In contracts, while your wallet is being stolen, you will also have been offered every vice that is available in Amsterdam.

As a tourist in Rome, you will not leave a bus without getting a hand in your pocket that's not yours. Pickpockets work together so that even if you get one, they'll have passed on your wallet to an accomplice who get of the bus while you are arguing with the owner of the hand that was in your pocket.

The element makes it incredibly hard for the police to do anything other than warn tourists.

Maybe it really is the fact that Americans may always be carrying a gun that prevents pickpocketing. I can come up with no other reason.

by Jasper on Feb 27, 2013 8:18 pm • linkreport

Sounds like an endorsement for credit cards in Europe.

by Chris on Feb 27, 2013 9:00 pm • linkreport

Re: FBI Building

It seem like PG really doesn't understand TOD. The FBI building, by necessity, has to be isolated from its surroundings enough to provide a high level of security. Putting this at a Metro station like Greenbelt is a sure way to kill TOD there. The Suitland Federal Complex already has security, within which the FBI can build its own security perimeter, like the Naval Military Intelligence Service. Most of the land is clear. A side effect will be an increase in Beltway traffic. This can be mitigated by resurrecting the N13 and perhaps creating routes that go to where the workers at SFC live. A side effect of building at Greenbelt will be a massive increase in traffic.

One thing that underlies PG's decision and a lot of other decisions to develop prematurely is that politicians do not understand that the option to defer development itself has value. You don't want to exercise it prematurely, as you decrease the value earned. By selecting Greenbelt, PG is destroying this option by not waiting for a truly TOD project to appear. Given PG's poor governance, I'm really not surprised.

by Chuck Coleman on Feb 27, 2013 9:41 pm • linkreport

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