Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Meet the new boss


Photo by yashmori on Flickr.
Foxx for DOT: President Obama will nominate Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as the new Secretary of Transportation. In Charlotte, Foxx pushed for increased density and a streetcar line and supported bicycle programs. (BikePortland)

A gift to ethics: Virginia is one of the few states left that allow public officials to accept personal gifts of any value. But a company paying for Governor McDonnell's daughter's wedding might make the state reconsider its ethics laws. (Post)

Franklin School draws interest: The Franklin School is currently in rough shape and has significant preservation restrictions, but that hasn't stopped developer interest in the former school. (City Paper)

Will autonomy survive?: Now that DC voters have approved budget autonomy, will DC actually get it? It's unlikely to be killed during the Congressional review period, but it could get repealed later as part of other legislation or face a court challenge. (Post)

Concrete blame game: Who's to blame for the problems with the Silver Spring Transit Center? While the contractor obviously made mistakes, do Montgomery County or WMATA share some blame for lack of oversight? (Post)

Last stop for gas: The last gas stations on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda will soon close, reflecting a trend across the region and nation of stations disappearing in walkable, transit-oriented areas. (Post)

Transportation trends: More people in the area who didn't learn to ride a bike as a kid are doing so now as adults. Many credit Capital Bikeshare and seeing other cyclists as inspiring them to ride. More people are also riding the bus, pushing jurisdictions to add service and consider dedicated lanes. (Post)

Plant a tree: DC and the region has many more trees on the west side of the city than the east. But not all residents of tree-sparser neighborhoods are eager for green; some fear they would attract crime or drive gentrification. (Or both?) (Post)

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Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

Comments

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Any bets on who in the confirmation hearing for Foxx will bring up Agenda 21?

by RJ on Apr 29, 2013 8:32 am • linkreport

Somebody (I don't remember who) was mocking NIMBY's who want to save mature trees.

And yes, they are worth saving.

I was on K st by the new building on Farragut, and the lack of shade is quite unpleasant. In general, I think DC undervalues shade --and mature trees are excelllent at providing them.

Sure, they are renewable. It takes 30-40 years to bring it back. That is a lifetime.

by charlie on Apr 29, 2013 8:47 am • linkreport

@charlie:
Somebody (I don't remember who) was mocking NIMBY's who want to save mature trees.
That wasn't me, and it's hard to tell if I saw the comment you're referencing, but I did see one that was pointing out that NIMBYs often selectively cite the importance of saving trees when they don't like the project, while ignoring them at other times.

Trees and shade are certainly valuable, but they shouldn't trump all other considerations. And if we're going to recognize their value, we should be consistent about it--and not simply use trees as the default go-to reason to stop any new development we don't like.

by Gray on Apr 29, 2013 9:00 am • linkreport

Foxx is not the former mayor of Charlotte, he is the current mayor. He'll be former if the Senate confirms him and he resigns, but right now, he's mayor.

by Tim on Apr 29, 2013 9:14 am • linkreport

Who's to blame for the problems with the Silver Spring Transit Center?

Look, obviously EVERYONE was asleep at the wheel here and deserves to lose their jobs. What is so infuriating is that each party keeps trying to blame the other while millions of dollars of taxpayer money was wasted on an ugly POS that we can't even use. This entire debacle almost makes the DC city council look competent.

by Rebecca on Apr 29, 2013 9:16 am • linkreport

Newsflash: there are more trees in more suburban areas of the city where people also have enough leisure time to cultivate gardens. Also its harder to plant and cultivate trees in vacant lots and abandoned warehouses.

by drumz on Apr 29, 2013 9:25 am • linkreport

Washington historically was known as the "City of Trees" and they are disappearing too fast too easily.

Actually the greatest tree disappearance I've noticed around Dupont/Logan is from parking. Residents can't find street parking so they cut down rear yard trees to make concrete parking pads. Only 4 of about 25 mature trees that used to be in my back alley's rear yards are still left after 20 years.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 29, 2013 9:33 am • linkreport

I'm glad to see a steady uptick in bus ridership.

That having been said, the obtuse "pay twice" system in place currently that requires anyone who seeks to use a combination of rail and bus service to either buy both a rail and bus pass separately OR buy just one pass but pay per ride for the other mode of transportation needs to be addressed. The lack of a monthly/four-week bus pass is also a stunning oversight in the fare structuring of Metro - and one that can be fixed easily. Unlimited Metrobus should be attached to the existing 28-day rail pass and the cost of that pass raised accordingly to $265 (or the cost of four weekly bus passes and four weekly rail passes after a 10% discount for buying "in bulk" as it were.) Those who don't want or need access to both rail and bus can continue buying weekly passes for only the service they actually use - but I predict that most people would just pay the $25 "hike" instead of having to deal with weekly passes.

It should not be terribly difficult to knock the full cost of the bus ride off the cost of riding Metrorail as opposed to the 50-cent discount given today. It also should not be difficult to make the bus ride free coming off of the Metrorail system.

The end result would be less revenue per rider, yes, but with the system now more integrated and accessible, more riders would use the system to offset this revenue "drop."

by Ryan on Apr 29, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

Correction: the increase would be $35, not $25. This comment is only to preempt someone correcting my math mistake. Nobody's perfect.

by Ryan on Apr 29, 2013 9:40 am • linkreport

These post articles are great. You have two stories where you can really look at what makes a city tick. But nevermind talking to experts and figuring out ways to look at managing growth or making sure there is a balance in the urban tree canopy let's talk to some people and see how they feel about something and get their immediate reaction.

Also, when someone does give you a nuanced answer make sure you balance that with a bunch of fluff about "the changing city" and "increasing divides because of x".

by drumz on Apr 29, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

I'm certainly for the planting of as many trees as is practical, but I can see some negative symbolism in planting trees in poorer neighborhoods. Nurturing a tree takes time, effort, and money. Planting a tree now in an ungentrified neighborhood will require years of diligent watering and are before the trees start truly contributing to the canopy. I think it's fair for people living in those neighborhoods to ask "who's really going to be here to benefit from all my effort?"

It's no different than any infrastructure improvement but woth trees there's a particular sense of investing in the far future. It's a challenge to advocates to convince the residents that they will be there to reap the benefits.

by TM on Apr 29, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

Actually the greatest tree disappearance I've noticed around Dupont/Logan is from parking. Residents can't find street parking so they cut down rear yard trees to make concrete parking pads. Only 4 of about 25 mature trees that used to be in my back alley's rear yards are still left after 20 years.

Tree removal is not always so nefarious. I know that in my neighborhood at least, some small percentage of the overall tree canopy has been cut down over the last decade or so. But this is because there was essentially zero management of trees here for fifty some odd years. So you have "weed trees" like ailanthus allowed to grow to staggering heights, then dropping massive limbs every time a breeze blows. Or 150 foot tall female ginkgoes which leave the street in 4" deep in vomit berries for a month every fall.

Many of these trees should never have been allowed to grow to such heights, and their existence is just evidence of the neglect that gripped the neighborhoods for so long.

by oboe on Apr 29, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

Got an email yesterday stating they replacing approximately 60 140 Street lights on H Street. Then they're going to install the overhead cantenary system

by h st ll on Apr 29, 2013 9:49 am • linkreport

@ Tom,

The tree canopy in the District has actually increased in the past 6 years, from 35% to 37%.

by Trees on Apr 29, 2013 9:53 am • linkreport

@obe, in addition to the nuisances you have pointed out, certain weed trees -- spouting up along property boundaries and fences -- can cause a lot of damage to foundations and retaining walls. They are expensive to take out, but even more expensive to leave alone.

by goldfish on Apr 29, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

I love the concept of weed trees.

I'd hate to apply that concept to my fellow residents -- they have been neglected, growing too much, causing a lot of stink and damage. Remove them!

by charlie on Apr 29, 2013 10:11 am • linkreport

Also the mature trees, while they provide the best canopy, are most liable to limb failure and death, I would bet that those mature trees you see being removed are for reasons of infection, significant dead loss, etc. Street Trees do not have the same life span as trees in our forests.

by Doug on Apr 29, 2013 10:14 am • linkreport

I want to echo Tom Coumaris's comment - the trees we've lost in the U St area have been cut down from back yards, so people can have more alley parking.

by MV Jantzen on Apr 29, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

I'd hate to apply that concept to my fellow residents

Well until we have a new entish enlcave within a rapidly gentrifying DC neighborhood I think we can distinguish people from trees.

by drumz on Apr 29, 2013 10:34 am • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris
Same has happened in our alley but I don't think it's just from people wanting more alley parking, but also from developers taking row houses and older smaller apartment buildings and remaking them into condos. The law (which is now up for redraft) mandates parking spots so the backyard gets paved over. Sad. Hopefully, the change will happen and these smaller backyards can remain intact, with trees and a yard. It does seem that the proliferation of cars in our neighborhood is coming with a price tag of less green space.

by dc denizen on Apr 29, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

@charlie,

Good point. Rather than call them "weed trees" let's call them "invasive species". Then we can compare the gentrifiers to these awful overgrown plants, and everyone will support getting rid of them!

http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/plants/treeheaven.shtml

(Guess it's all in the framing! :P )

by oboe on Apr 29, 2013 10:41 am • linkreport

Also, DC needs to get serious, quickly, about a workable plan to put more wires underground. Not only do falling tree limbs affect wires and utility service, but then PEPCO's response is to butcher trees so that they become unbalanced and topple more readily in storms. To take even more tree covered portion of the city, Georgetown, Woodley Park, parts of Burlieth, Glover Park and Spring Valley all have underground wires. Areas like Cleveland Park, Chevy Chase and AU do not and the loss of older trees in recent years has been accelerating. Surely there are well-governed cities around the country that have developed templates for burying infrastructure, through a combination of bonds, other financing, etc. so that costs are spread over time. Also, DC should have a policy that when DDOT rebuilds a street, utilities are put underground.

by Ron on Apr 29, 2013 10:44 am • linkreport

@Trees- I'm just speaking of my neighborhood. We're on the borderline of the dense vs. sparse trees areas and we're headed the wrong way. We've lost a lot of our canopy to parking. And as MV Jantzen points out this seems to happen in renovation neighborhoods as street parking disappears.

DC needs some policy on parking/rear yards/trees/water bills. Some carrot-and-stick approach to get trees back in rear yards in critical surface-water drainage neighborhoods. and keep those that remain.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 29, 2013 10:45 am • linkreport

I was on K st by the new building on Farragut, and the lack of shade is quite unpleasant.

I don't disagree with the idea that shade is good, but aside from the infield at Nationals Park, that's probably the least appropriate or practical place in the city to have a bunch of trees.

by worthing on Apr 29, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

RE: city trees, but somewhat aside - DC runs the RiverSmart Homes program, to help reduce stormwater runoff, where they will give qualified homes up to $1200 to use on specific items like rain barrels (unless you live in Bloomingdale, Stronghold or LeDroit - then they're free), rain gardens, pervious pavers and shade trees. You can find out more through their website: http://green.dc.gov/service/riversmart-homes-overview And here's the section about the shade trees: http://green.dc.gov/service/riversmart-homes-shade-tree-planting

by Shipsa01 on Apr 29, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris
Besides the zoning law change maybe DC Water can charge more for impervious surfaces:
http://www.dcwater.com/customercare/iab.cfm
Or create an incentive program for using pervious surfaces and planting trees.

by dc denizen on Apr 29, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

re: Transit Center

It looks like MoCo was asleep in its oversight functions. That said, I still place blame on the contractor unless I see more information. The specs say put specific thickness and hardness of concrete, and the contractors didnt do that -- repeatedly. It doesnt matter whether some MoCo employee was walking around the place.

by SJE on Apr 29, 2013 11:13 am • linkreport

Impervious fees on water bills should be based on square footage of impervious surface and exempt a dwelling itself but have big fees on optional impervious surfaces like parking pads and patios. They make it sound like it's something like that but in fact it's just a set fee per user.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 29, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

@Tom

I completely agree. When we tore up our concrete parking pad, we still pay the same impervious area charge. When the house three down from us covered their entire back yard in cement during the renovation, their impervious charge didn't change.

Seems like mine should have gone down by a couple of bucks, and theirs should have gone up by about $10. They should certainly be kicking in a bigger portion to the 2 billion tunnel than I am.

by Kyle-w on Apr 29, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

@Tom

In addition, my rain barrel I got through the DC Green Roofs thing negates a HUGE portion of the run-off from my house. Again, not taken into account whatsoever.

by Kyle-w on Apr 29, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

"I don't disagree with the idea that shade is good, but aside from the infield at Nationals Park, that's probably the least appropriate or practical place in the city to have a bunch of trees."

I can't really think of any part of the city where trees would be inappropriate. Well, maybe if they obscured visibility around secure facilities. Otherwise, trees make every block better.

by Chris S. on Apr 29, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

"exempt a dwelling itself "

why? Doesnt that implicity favor lower height buildings?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 29, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

@Walker- No. It recognizes that the problem is where owners have options and shifts the cost more fairly onto those who choose impervious surfaces over pervious ones. For example a condo behind my house with a 5-car pad just changed from gravel to concrete. If there were a cost to switching to impervious material it might still be pervious.

@Kyle- I agree that this business of passing the tunnels cost to everyone equally is absurd and is becoming a huge chuck of money to most people. I have rainbarrels and completely pervious yard spaces but pay the same as people, who by their choice, have competely impervious surfaces and no rainbarrels. Of course the elephant in the room is commercial buildings being exempt from sewage charges for groundwater disposal. But even residential users aren't being charged for additional groundwater disposal they choose through impervious surfaces.

The sewage usage charge shouldn't just be based on the amount of water consumed.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 29, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

Re: MoCo transit center...

I fail to understand all this back and forth over "who's to blame?" If my understanding is correct, the contractor was given a set of specifications and did not build to spec. Seems pretty cut & dry to me.

by West Egg on Apr 29, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

http://www.dcstreetcar.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/April-May-2013-Newsletter-WEB.pdf

initial testing starting soon

by H Street LL on Apr 29, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

Kind of ridiculous that all 4 gas stations on Wisconsin in Bethesda will be eliminated. So thru trsffic has to wander off onto side streets to look for stations - as if there wasn't enough traffic on those streets already.

by Chris S. on Apr 29, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

Kind of ridiculous that it took so long for all 4 gas stations on Wisconsin in Bethesda will be eliminated to be used for a different, probably higher purpose. So thru trsffic has drivers, who don't fill up nearer their own homes, will may now chose to wander off onto side streets to look for stations - as if there wasn't enough traffic on those streets already.

Fixed it for you. YW.

by thump on Apr 29, 2013 5:18 pm • linkreport

I'm pretty sure that traffic is not going to "wander off onto side streets looking for [gas] stations", as most people would be smart enough to realize that no one would want to put a gas station on a side street.

by Frank IBC on Apr 29, 2013 9:14 pm • linkreport

"I'm pretty sure that traffic is not going to "wander off onto side streets looking for [gas] stations", as most people would be smart enough to realize that no one would want to put a gas station on a side street."

What I mean is they will have to make a detour off the main road (Wisconsin) and hunt around. If they are smart, then they will find the 3 remaining stations a few blocks to the west without too much wandering. But those stations are all old and small, so perhaps their days are numbered as well. Rather ironic considering that Bethesda was built up around auto-related businesses in the 40s and 50s.

by Chris S. on Apr 30, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

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