Greater Greater Washington


Streetcars, parks, and libraries get boost in Gray budget

Bike lanes, parks in NoMA and around the city, streetcars, libraries 7 days a week, new trash cans for free, school modernizations, and many more programs get funding under the operating and capital budgets Mayor Gray is unveiling this morning.

Photo by EnvironmentBlog on Flickr.

Streetcars: In the 6-year capital plan, streetcars get $400 million, which should fund completing the first line from Minnesota Avenue to Georgetown, engineering the Anacostia line, and studies for north-south lines such as Georgia Avenue.

The operating budget contains $6.2 million to start running the streetcar, which Gray continues to promise will roll by the end of the calendar year.

Bike infrastructure: There is a pot of $10.7 million for bike lanes and trails, which appears to be entirely new; formerly, there was no dedicated local bike money. The budget staff have promised to follow up to confirm this. Another $5.1 million will go to "bike-friendly streetscapes," which will be interesting to see in more detail.

Capital Bikeshare: The mayor is funding 10 more Capital Bikeshare stations beyond the ones that area already supposed to be going in. In December, DDOT announced 78 locations, of which it had funding for 54 and was going to install those by March. Unfortunately, it's late in installing most of those. That list also identified 24 future locations, so this budget funds 10.

Buses: The budget office's presentation did not discuss the Circulator or other bus projects. I will follow up to find out whether any Circulator expansion in that master plan have funding. Streetcars are important, but they are one of several modes we need, and for many neighborhoods, better bus service is the better way to help people get around.

Bridges: The South Capitol "racetrack" project and new Frederick Douglass Bridge gets $622.5 million, which would fully fund the project.

Taxes: The budget imposes no new taxes or fees, maintains DC's fund balance, and keeps the debt cap at 12%. The administration also wants to get rid of the tax on out-of-state bonds, which they say primarily impacts seniors and is far and away the biggest complaint they get about taxes. Gray chief of staff Chris Murphy said they "always felt it was ill-conceived."

Affordable housing: As promised, the administration is putting a one-time $100 million into affordable housing. $86.9 million goes into the Housing Production Trust Fund, ($20M in FY 2014 and the rest in FY 2013). The rest, $13.1 million, goes to other smaller initiatives that the recent Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force recommended. He is also promising to keep the 15% of the Deed Recordation and Transfer Tax, which is supposed to go to the HPTF, in there; previous budgets raided that to fund other programs.

Parks: The capital budget provides $50 million for parks (likely a few different small parks) in NoMA: $25 million to acquire land, and $25 million for development. DC made a mistake when it upzoned NoMA without any plan for parks, which is why this is going to be expensive. However, NoMA is generating a lot of tax revenue.

Other parks capital spending includes $20 million fro the Fort Dupont ice arena, $26.4 million for Barry Farm, $2M to renovate and improve athletic fields and parks, $18M for the Southeast tennis & learning center, and funding to modernize 32 play spaces in 8 wards including Fort Greble, Palisades, Macomb, and Takoma which will start in April as well as already-underway work at Noyes, Raymond, and Rosedale.

Libraries: Gray is expanding funding for DC Public Libraries so that every library can be open 7 days a week. Most will be open until 9 pm Monday to Thursday as well as afternoons on Saturday and Sunday. They also get $2 million for books and e-books.

Further, the budget provides $103 million to renovate and, as part of a public-private partnership, expand the MLK Library. There is $15.2 million to renovate the Cleveland Park library, $21.7 for the Palisades library, and $4.8 million for Woodridge's library.

Trash: Residents who want to replace their trash cans are in luck: the administration wants to replace everyone's trash cans over 5 years, for free. If there is money available, they also hope to let people replace stolen or damaged cans without the fee residents have to pay today.

Flooding: Bloomingdale residents hopefully will see some relief from their flooding problems with $1.5 million in the budget to pay for recommendations from the task force studying those problems.

Police and fire: The public safety budget pays for 4,000 sworn officers, replacing police and fire vehicles, cadet training programs and maintaining domestic violence programs that are seeing federal cuts. In general, the budget officials say, they are replacing all federal from sequestration across the board, even assuming sequestration will continue throughout the year.

Raises: DC employees will get their first pay raise in 4-7 years, spanning both union and non-union employees, and DC will fully fund its pension obligations.

We'll have more analysis and further details in upcoming posts.

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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 now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 


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Wow, this is actually pretty great. Kudos to Gray for judiciously allocating the surplus to places where it's needed (and where many citizens will see direct benefits).

Sunday library hours were particularly long-overdue.

by andrew on Mar 28, 2013 10:28 am • linkreport

I wonder if any of that $10.7 million for bike projects will go toward pushing the MBT further north. That would be a worthy goal.

Going out on a limb, I'd guess that the trail funds will be split between the MBT and Anacostia River trails, while the "bike-friendly streetscape" money will fund a few more bike lanes and/or intersection reconfigurations.

by andrew on Mar 28, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

Libraries seven days a week + $10 million for bike infrastructure seals it for me, Gray has officially moved into my plus column. Anyone running against him is going to have to present a very compelling vision/policy plan...I think Gray has shaped up to be a great mayor, way better than I expected.

by Washingtonian on Mar 28, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

Sadly, I paid for a new garbage can before this new 5 year plan came into effect. Maybe they'll let it be a tax deduction? Heh.

by Washingtonian on Mar 28, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

Yay for more library hours, especially on Sundays. And the Cleveland Park library is in desperate need of a refresh, so good to see plans for that as well.

by Jen on Mar 28, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

Well done, I'm starting to warm up to Gray.

by Alan B. on Mar 28, 2013 10:55 am • linkreport

Likewise on Gray. Good job.

by Thayer-D on Mar 28, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

Apparently there's still a ton of money being allocated to rebuild the Frederick Douglass bridge.

Personally, I think that the mayor should punt, make some short-term repairs to the bridge, and wait until we see if a big/expensive bridge will even be necessary. My money's on 'no.'

by andrew on Mar 28, 2013 11:07 am • linkreport

Looks very very good, with the exception of the fact that we are STILL spending more money on one bridge than all of the mass transit improvements.

Also, the tax on out of state bonds is ridiculous. DC is the only state that didn't (they do now) tax out of state bonds, as the point is to incentivise your residents to buy YOUR bonds, thus lowering YOUR interest costs. Why the heck are we going to subsidize Virginias highway to nowhere bonds by making the interest tax-deductible in DC?!?

by Kyle-W on Mar 28, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

Any numbers on road repair funds? The state of the roads is deplorable in the District - look at Florida Ave between 7th & Rhode Island, for an example of what I mean.

It's dangerous for car drivers, bike riders, and pedestrians alike to have your pavement looking like somehting out of the 3rd-world. Also, it could be a great jobs-training program if we were really serious about upgrading our pavement.

2nd thing - let's see a greater emphasis on getting the streetcar project moving along. At this pace, the plans for it may as well not even exist, and though there is the funding to complete the Anacostia-Georgetown line, I do not see that as even remotely sufficient investment in our transit infrastructure, and it make me think that Gray really is trying to kick this can down the road so it dies a slow death.

We ought to be full steam ahead on a streetcar up 14th, Connecticut, Wisconsin, as well as Michigan Ave/Columbia Rd. Very disappointing.

by MJB on Mar 28, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

Yeah this is good news. It also speaks to why I suggest Bowser will have a much more difficult (nearly impossible) time than Wells.

She has to prove a righted ship needs correcting. So does Wells but again, he has a natural base.

by HogWash on Mar 28, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

Lots of great news here, including the money for bike lanes and trails. But before expanding the MBT, maybe some of that trail money can be diverted to cover policing the stretch we already have.

by Brian on Mar 28, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

I just wish they'd move forward with the South Capitol Trail now that the Anacostia trail is finishing up. I live in Congress Heights and there is no safe way to ride into downtown during rush hour, that trail would like downtown with the Oxon Hill trails and beyond. It's time SouthEast gets some transporation infrastructure of our own. I also live in hope for Phase 2 of the Streetcars, which would bring them down MLK Jr. Ave SE to Congress Heights.

by Gallegoscot on Mar 28, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

It isn't clear about library funding; is that $2 million for books and ebooks the total budget for acquisitions, or on top of the current budgeted amount?
If it's the total, is that more than previous years?

by Alger on Mar 28, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

Oh, god yes. Somebody please tell DDOT that the Florida/Rhode Island intersection should be their top repair priority.

The road surface there is just plain embarrassing.

by andrew on Mar 28, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

How many years ago was the Anacostia line supposed to be operational? Quick to build because it would mostly be on disused rail line? Hah. I took a look yesterday and nothing has disturbed the dust on most of the old rail line.

by Dan Gamber on Mar 28, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

Further, the budget provides $103 million to renovate and, as part of a public-private partnership, expand the MLK Library. There is $15.2 million to renovate the Cleveland Park library, $21.7 for the Palisades library, and $4.8 million for Woodridge's library.

This makes me so frustrated. The libraries throughout NW have been getting great renovations. Woodridge is a dump and in much worse shape than either Cleveland or Palisades and it gets a pittance? Never mind that educational attainement and the need for a high functioning library is much greater in that area.

by DC Parent on Mar 28, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

@Dan: That old rail line in Anacostia was complicated, to say the least.

While the city certainly should be faulted for letting the project languish, the determination of who actually owned that rail line turned out to be absurdly complicated.

by andrew on Mar 28, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

I didn't mind paying for my garbage can, what was annoying was that I had to send in a check like it was the 19th century. Come on, you let me pay my parking tickets online, let me buy your overpriced garbage cans online too.

by TM on Mar 28, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

@DC Parent
This makes me so frustrated. The libraries throughout NW have been getting great renovations. Woodridge is a dump and in much worse shape than either Cleveland or Palisades and it gets a pittance? Never mind that educational attainement and the need for a high functioning library is much greater in that area.

I'm pretty sure Woodridge Library already has other money set aside for a rebuild.

by MLD on Mar 28, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

Do you know what has been proposed for the arts? KC, Arena, etc...?

by Jim on Mar 28, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

Libraries have been repeatedly among the public services to get the first and repeated hits in bad budget times. It also would help if acquisition budgets also were lifted.

MLK's greatest need is upgrading systems and replacing the windows. Competent incremental improvement is more needed than a 100M "expansion".

by Rich on Mar 28, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

Excellent work, Gray!

by H Street LL on Mar 28, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

Amazing what spending extra piles of other people's money can do for your political popularity, as evidenced by these comments.

by Jack Jackson on Mar 28, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

@Jack Jackson

Yes... The people in this city have decided they would like services provided by the city. D.C. citizens have also decided they are willing to pay for those services. We prefer that those services are provided in an intelligent manner, and the commenters here feel that this budget does that.

Run along to RedState, you can trash our city like the bunch of Heathens you think we are...

by Kyle-W on Mar 28, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

"Amazing what spending extra piles of other people's money can do for your political popularity, as evidenced by these comments. "

that must be why rich people are fleeing the District, leaving former wealthy neighborhoods to working class and middle class people.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 28, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

Gray has the city hitting on all cylinders and is doing a really good job as Mayor. I hope he'll be around for awhile.

by Catfish on Mar 28, 2013 3:52 pm • linkreport

I don't follow these things that closely, so I'm wondering what accounts for the surplus that is enables putting all this in the budget? It all sounds worthwhile, I just don't understand how it's possible with the increasing national and state-level austerity regimes. Is this funded by tax revenue from local growth that may slow as congress cuts more and more?

by Wilson on Mar 28, 2013 6:10 pm • linkreport

How does this town have a $10 billion budget. New York City would have to have a budget well over $100 billion to equal the per person amount DC has. Does any other city of comparable size to DC have such a large budget. While we're at renovating libraries, what about the Lamond Riggs library. I know it's not exactly in one of the hip/posh/visible parts of town, but damn that thing could have been a bunker straight out of the cold war. I actually wouldn't be surprised if it was a designated fallout shelter.

With the Bloomingdale flooding thing, will people living there have to pay some sort of extra fee, or is this coming straight from the city. Maybe I'm alone on this, but shouldn't they bear some of the cost. It's a choice to live there, isn't it. If you want to be hip and all, be hip on your dime. Can we get some sidewalks fixed in areas outside of the main districts, it would be peanuts to $10 billion.

by Nickyp on Mar 28, 2013 8:36 pm • linkreport

@Nickyp, DC has to provide the functions of both a city and a state. A quick google search turns up NYC, population 8.34 million, has a city budget of ~$68.5 billion. New York state, population 19.6 million, has a state budget of ~$135 billion. If we simplistically assume that the state budget is proportionally distributed, NYC with 42.5% of the state population gets $57.4 billion of state spending. Add that to $68.5 billion for ~$126 billion.

Interestingly, that is not much lower per person than DC, population 632K, with a budget of $10 billion. Even if $10 billion sounds like a lot for a medium sized city.

by AlanF on Mar 29, 2013 12:18 am • linkreport

Good work, Gray! He's been more steady than Fenty though sometimes the lack of urgency hurts us (see bike lanes and bikeshare foot dragging). All in all, he has my vote if he decides to run again. If I can add a candidate road for resurfacing, Columbia Rd between 14th and Connecticut is in abysmal shape and gets plenty of driver, cyclist, and pedestrian use.

by Dno on Mar 29, 2013 1:55 am • linkreport

@nickyp - I know it's a common sentiment that all the money gets poured into certain "hip" or wealthy neighborhoods, but there's no evidence to support that. Look at where so many libraries, rec centers, and schools are being rebuilt or Nannie Helen Burroughs and Pennsylvania Avenue SE east of the river getting completely rebuilt.

I just see no evidence for your claims.

by rigotoo on Mar 29, 2013 8:09 am • linkreport

"I have confidence in the policies we advocate here on Greater Greater Washington. They're not helping one group at the expense of another, but best for DC as a whole. Vince Gray will thoughtfully listen to opinions and then pick the best course of action. Because I'm confident that will fit with our ideas when we can back them up, I'm voting for Vince Gray tomorrow."

Wow. Who knew! That we should elect polticans not being being theological puritans, but for the ability to listen and pick choices. Amazing stuff here.

by charlie on Mar 29, 2013 8:14 am • linkreport

@rigotoo. Come up to where I live, and I'll show you sidewalks that are barely walkable because the tree roots have pushed them up so much. It's been like that for years. Why no money put in to fix them. We want to be all walkable and all, and like I said, peanuts to 10the bills

by Nickyp on Mar 29, 2013 8:31 am • linkreport

Come up to where I live, and I'll show you sidewalks that are barely walkable because the tree roots have pushed them up so much.

It's like that on most of Capitol Hill. Heck, it's like that in Georgetown.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2013 8:43 am • linkreport

How does this town have a $10 billion budget. New York City would have to have a budget well over $100 billion to equal the per person amount DC has.

If the New York City budget had to fund all state, county, and local functions (as DC'S does), it would be significantly larger.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2013 8:48 am • linkreport

Way to go Vince. With your strong leadership, DC continues its upward trajectory over the last two years. All the city performance indexes continue to be higher than in the failed past administration. I certainly hope you run for re-election. Now is not the time to go back by retreading the failed green team.

by Long Time DC Resident on Mar 29, 2013 10:21 am • linkreport

If the New York City budget had to fund all state, county, and local functions (as DC'S does), it would be significantly larger.

Here! Here!

LongTimeRes, unless there's an indictment, I can't imagine why he wouldn't run. And WTH is the investigation taking this long? Blago was charged in less time. HA!

by HogWash on Mar 29, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

I hate to burst anyone's bubble but there was a lot of funding for much of this under the Fenty administration but it was a combination of federal and DDOT self administered funds. The streetcar is a big boost though. At the end of the day though it's action that speaks, and none of this would happen without the action under Fenty which forced Gray's hand. Don't forget that gray called the Penn Ave bike lane "laughable" and "ridiculous ." Also it pains me to say that the other shoe still will drop on the federal investigation.

by Db2 on Mar 29, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

Get rid of the taxes on municipal bonds, now! It is the best reason seniors have for living in the District. Everything else is geared toward the Gen-Y, millennial folks.

by NewAgeBrother on Mar 29, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

Gray is to urbanism what Bill O'Reilly is to gay rights.

by Longtime Dc on Mar 29, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

"Everything else is geared toward the Gen-Y, millennial folks."

Because no senior ever found value in a solid public transit infrastructure or neighborhoods where they weren't required to drive to conduct their day-to-day business. Sure, some seniors can't walk far or well, but many others are perfectly capable of walking a block or few and using buses, trains, and streetcars beyond that, but not so sharp behind the wheel anymore. And none of those who aren't up to walking find value in services like Metro Access. Or libraries or affordable housing. Nope, that's all for people younger than me.

Having grown up in an area where "corrupt politicians" and just "politicians" meant the same thing (and still does to this day, to a slightly lesser extent), I have a very, VERY hard time "getting over" the allegations surrounding his campaign. But this is an extension of some very strong principles he's been displaying for a while. I applaud this and similar past efforts. I can't say I'd *vote* for him next time around, but he has certainly won a lot more trust and support from me over the last couple of years.

As to where the money came from, 30K new residents + serious budget-cutting over the last few years + a strong recovery. If we make DC welcoming to even more people, eventually we can probably cut taxes a bit. The city has kept growing even with fed cuts, and a focus on further diversifying the economy will pay off in continued growth.

by Ms. D on Mar 29, 2013 6:38 pm • linkreport

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