Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Not enough on transit


Photo by Greg Wass on Flickr.
Poor transit hinders Baltimore: In Baltimore, residents struggle to find transit options to get to work. Jobs growth continues outside the city, but MTA has not adjusted the transit system to match the shift in job location. (Patch)

Transit benefits decrease: Commuters who use transit will get a lower federal benefit or tax deduction in 2014, while drivers' monthly parking benefit increases. (Post)

LA cracks down on jaywalking: Pedestrians beware; police in Los Angeles are cracking down on jaywalkers. A ticket for jaywalking will cost you $197 while the most common parking ticket is $73. (NYTimes, Atlantic Cities)

Cycling's popularity invites taxes: As more people ride bicycles, many cities like Chicago are considering bike registration fees and taxes to fill funding gaps. Should we tax something with so many public benefits? (AP)

Utah improves traffic light efficiency: With new traffic light timing, drivers might never hit a red in Utah. UDOT hopes the technology will increase capacity without widening roads, but in reality may just increase speed. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Neighbors oppose Grosvenor townhouses: Townhouses planned for a site near Grosvenor Mansion in North Bethesda are drawing opposition from an adjacent neighborhood. Residents are concerned about additional traffic. (BethesdaNow)

DC traffic cameras will not go live: 100 new traffic cameras set to rollout today will not begin issuing tickets. The cameras were supposed to issue warnings for 30 days. AAA's John Townsend says the lack of transparency confuses drivers. (WashTimes)

And...: A cluster of offices in Foggy Bottom has been nominated for historic landmark status. (WBJ) ... Casey Trees opposes bike lanes along Broad Branch because of the loss of trees. (TheWashCycle) ... Montgomery County planners will support plans for a pedestrian tunnel under Rockville Pike at Medical Center. (BethesdaNow)

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Kayla Gail Anthony is a project analyst in DC. She has a Masters in Community Planning from the University of Maryland and a BA in Communications from The University of Alabama. She lives in Mt. Pleasant. Posts are her own viewpoint and do not represent her employer. 

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As bad an idea as bike registration is elsewhere, it's quadruply bad here. A high percentage of the cyclists in DC on any given workday are commuters from other jurisdictions, and on the weekends, are travellers from outside DC. Add to that the number of DC residents who hop on their bikes maybe a half dozen times a year and, of course, kids. There is simply no feasible way to get these kinds of people to register on any kind of annual or semi-annual basis, and a one-time tax on sales in DC would just drive people to buy outside the city.

by Crickey7 on Dec 30, 2013 9:17 am • linkreport

Well, I wouldn't be worried about one lady in chicago's proposal. Her own reasoning is pretty dumb ("what about this instead of a larger cable bill?").

Apparently when govt's here decided to study the issue they've found it would cost more than it would make.

If a local politician ever proposed it I'm sure we'd have a lot of analysis to back that up.

by drumz on Dec 30, 2013 9:18 am • linkreport

Mass Transit once again under attack by the GOP. I wonder why, could be that even in Texas that they lose in fairly large landslides in the urban cores of Dallas and Houston (you know where all the money and commerce comes from).

Another case of the GOP demagoguing urban areas that "steal" money from the rest of america despite the reality that urban areas subsidize the rest of America.

Dems will likely need to concede to a lower level in order to get the GOP to take up the vote. Lower the total number to $190 for both and forever tie them together.

by Navid Roshan on Dec 30, 2013 9:25 am • linkreport

The Bethesda townhome story is a good classic tale of people wanting to prevent any and all change.

Sad thing is, what's proposed isn't all that impressive. I get that there are lot constraints but the site/land use itself is standard sprawl architecture. I can only see one entrance (and tried to find any reference to a second one and failed) and the only transit accomodation is a bus stop on Grosvenor road which is still a decent hike for any of the closest housing. But it's hard to see how that doesn't satisfy the actual concerns of the opposing residents. Except that they have the final-straw theory about traffic in the area and the addition of one more car will ruin everything.

by drumz on Dec 30, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

Re: Grovesnor Townhouses,
It's right next to metro! The real culprit is the location hemmed in by highways and an inadequate street grid. The county should have plans in thier drawers to repair as much of this 1970's era planning, or at least recognize the importance of building up these sites. As for traffic, it's only going to get worse everywhere, unless our local economy tanks.

by Thayer-D on Dec 30, 2013 9:34 am • linkreport

@Neighbors oppose Grosvenor Mansion townhomes

NIMBYs at work again, their hatred of others is sickening, sad, and their power, whatever legal cards they hold, should be minimized.

by Bill the Wanderer on Dec 30, 2013 9:40 am • linkreport

We used to have bike registration in DC. It did allow police to stop bikes to check for stolen ones.

by Tom Coumaris on Dec 30, 2013 10:18 am • linkreport

Just what MoCo needs. Another cul de sac suburban development. There had been talk of the county adopting a connectivity ordinance. I guess they'll wait until the county is all built out and it doesn't matter anymore. Then they can institute it to great fanfare. Along with smiley face posters that say, "We love the environment." Grosvenor is the type of place that could be preserved for water and air quality if more density was allowed in already developed areas. As long as there are any surface parking lots in the county, this house and woodland should be preserved.

by Steve on Dec 30, 2013 10:24 am • linkreport

Baltimore indeed needs better transit. Higher frequencies would be nice, some additional bus and rail lines are needed. Most of all, better connections between modes, it is simply amazing that bus, subway, light rail, and commuter rail schedules are not even attempted to sync up.

by Richard on Dec 30, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

I was here when we had bike registration. I may have been the only person to do it. One of the reasons it was ended was that the police used it as a pretext to harass urban youth who, like virtually everyone else, did not have their bikes registered.

by Crickey7 on Dec 30, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

It did allow police to stop bikes to check for stolen ones.

Which, given the way MPD often interacts w/ #bikeDC, could only lead to good outcomes.*

*not really

by thump on Dec 30, 2013 10:41 am • linkreport

IN terms of bike registration, registering my bike (in Arlington) allowed it be recovered half way across the country.

Not sure how much it will stop thefts, though.

by charlie on Dec 30, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

The 2013 Census population estimates have been released for the states. DC increased to 646,449, +13,022 from 2012. MD to 5.929 million; +44K from 2012. VA to 8.26 million; +73.8K from 2012. NY is still ahead of FL in population.

by AlanF on Dec 30, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

It's kind of like helmets. There are lots of good reasons to personally register your bike. It doesn't seem to make much sense to mandate it.

by drumz on Dec 30, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

"UDOT hopes the technology will increase capacity without widening roads, but in reality may just increase speed"

Yeah, it's far better for cars to be stuck in traffic spewing out their various pollutants and wasting time for everyone involved.

Also, what analysis is behind this reality? It's not in the article. And going faster than what light timing grants you will make you stop at light eventually.

by Kolohe on Dec 30, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

@Kolohe

There's a trade off, and each corridor needs to be considered individually. Could you imagine how recklessly people would drive down Pennsylvania Ave or Constitution downtown if the lights were timed to all be green simultaneously? Actually, no need to imagine, just ride your bike on 15th St NW and watch how people speed and swerve in and out of the left turn lanes to go around cars going the limit. 12th St NW downtown can get pretty bad too when the traffic volume is light.

In areas where you have lots of pedestrians and bikes, especially where the road is 3+ lanes in each direction, you absolutely need to use signal timing to control the flow. Safety takes priority of pollution concerns here.

by dcmike on Dec 30, 2013 11:48 am • linkreport

"AAA's John Townsend says the lack of transparency confuses drivers."

Yes, what terrible confusion! Sure, as a driver I know what the speed limit is, but obviously following it isn't an option. Oh, I'm so confused.

by Paula Product on Dec 30, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

@dcmike / @Kolohe

What about instead of just flipping all of the greens on at once, they're staggered to sync up with cars going a target speed, ie. a green wave. Drivers quickly would learn that going faster just gets you to a red light quicker, but going slower keeps you continuously moving. If the speed is slow enough I wouldn't see this compromising safety.

by alex on Dec 30, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

All you need to know about the old bike registration system in DC.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/special/2005/bikereg090205.html

And I would be glad to pay a user fee for bicycling in DC once we tax all the negative externalities of driving, and then it needs to be in proportion to the user fee drivers pay.

by David C on Dec 30, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

@alex, that is exactly how upper 16th St NW (north of Arkansas) is configured. It doesn't stop people from driving like morons. If you keep your speed under ~28 and manage to not get stuck behind impatient drivers speeding and getting stopped at every light, you can actually drive all the way from Arkansas Ave NW to the MD state line without using your brakes.

by dcmike on Dec 30, 2013 12:47 pm • linkreport

Yep, they hammered a number into your bike frame and worte it down on an index card. Fine when all bikes were hi-ten steel. Now, any bike worth stealing isn't.

by Crickey7 on Dec 30, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

I actually support bike taxes, provided that they come with a clear discussion of the costs and benefits of what the taxes cover. Lets have that discussion, and it will soon be clear that bikes are by far the cheapest and least subsidized. Also, it will remove one more quiver from the a-hole driver's complaints.

by SJE on Dec 30, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

I've got no problem with taxing and registering bikes. It is must a matter of time as it, too, will be an income stream to be tapped. You use the streets, you have to pay. As fewer people drive, the money has to come from somewhere.

by ArchStanton on Dec 30, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

@ArchStanton - I agree, but money from bikes should be directed solely to bike projects, which should MOVE FORWARD already. I bet a lot of bikers would pay good money in taxes if they received a commiserate increase in facilities.

by JDC Esq on Dec 30, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

There are not fewer people using the streets. There is a modest decline in VMT - whether that will last with further economic recovery, demographic shifts, etc, is anyone's guess. And if the decline does continue, charging cyclists will not be enough to offset it.

Charging cyclists will be an annoyance that may deter some folks from riding - a smaller number of riders will be a harm to cycling advocacy that will be of more importance than a small revenue stream. Of course if your goal is fewer riders, well then ...

by AWalkerInTheCIty on Dec 30, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

There are at least three competing interests when taxing. One is the idea that it should be "fair" and that everyone should pay. Another is that it should be "progressive" and so those who can most afford to pay are the ones who pay. The third is that they correct inefficient market outcomes and so they tax activity with negative externalities.

A tax on biking appeals to the first of these, but not to the last of them. Do we really want to tax a form of transportation that reduces pollution, improves health, increases safety, requires less investment in infrastructure and results in less traffic (when usually taxing something makes it occur less often)? My answer is no.

We do need to pay for infrastructure, but for now at least we can do that by doubling the gasoline tax which would have the added benefit in resulting in less driving (something we'd like). Taxing bicycling results in more driving. And if you think that's not fair, consider that bicycling's improvement of health probably results in positive externalities which means we'd actually need a pigovian subsidy to balance it out.

In other words, if we consider externalities, we would probably find that we would need to raise taxes on gasoline use, create new taxes on miles driven and use some of that money to subsidize cycling. That would be "fair" by at least some definitions of the term. And possibly more progressive too.

by David C on Dec 30, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

I think when it comes to taxing bicycles we have to recognize that it is a last resort for a certain percentage of riders. If you are going to tax it, add a small sales tax (3%?) on new bikes and make registration free, which will still give people access to a cheaper used vehicle market.

by BTA on Dec 30, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

Drivers quickly would learn that going faster just gets you to a red light quicker

to piggyback on dcmike's comment...NO..no drivers won't do this. Try pulling a "Tortoise and Hare" number sometime and watch all the rubes sprint to the red light instead of coasting till it's green.
I watched the phenomenon this morning when 8 drivers watched a light go from green to yellow to red but continued to accelerate towards it before putting the brakes on.

by thump on Dec 30, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

In order not to discourage bike use and/or avoiding the tax by buying in another jurisdiction, the tas would need to be sufficiently low that it's unlikely you'd generate very much. And, of course, the Maryland and Virginia commuters would pay nothing.

by Crickey7 on Dec 30, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

thump,

It was a revelation when I realized this. I now get a perverse pleasure when people pass me and I pull up to them at multiple stop lights. Better still if it happens if I'm on my bike.

by drumz on Dec 30, 2013 3:11 pm • linkreport

http://envisionbaltimore.blogspot.com/2013/11/frequent-transit-grid-baltimore.html

For those who have not seen it, this is a good piece on how Baltimore could implement a frequent transit network by Marc Szarkowski

by AthensOnThePatapsco on Dec 30, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

Richard

"Baltimore indeed needs better transit. Higher frequencies would be nice, some additional bus and rail lines are needed. Most of all, better connections between modes, it is simply amazing that bus, subway, light rail, and commuter rail schedules are not even attempted to sync up."

Its not like that is done in DC even with Metrorail & Metrobus which could be done. There have been hundreds of times where I have missed trains that leave or arrive at a station at the same time and have to wait 20 minutes sometimes longer for the next one.

Metrobus and Metrorail don't sync at all just look at the first/last trains at most stations and the first/last buses that service those stations they can be 10 to 15 minutes apart. In my opinion the bus should be there before the train arrives and leave after its departed so if someone wants to transfer from bus to train or train to bus they can rather than waiting perhaps missing the last train or waiting an hour or more for a bus if there is one.

by kk on Dec 30, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

@drumz-I come from a place where it's just what you do when you're driving. See the light go red...coast. Simple. I like to do 25 down RIA and pass the same guy (it's always a guy), at each light. He blows past, stops at a red, I roll by as it turns green. Have yet to see behavior adapted though.

I agree that it's even better doing it while riding. Happens every day on my commute on Q, NW.

by thump on Dec 30, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

Baltimore does need better transit ... so why is the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Patch publishing the article?!? The Patch sites around here must really be on robo-editor mode. Sad for those of us who want local coverage.

by Greenbelt Gal on Dec 30, 2013 10:43 pm • linkreport

Regarding taxing bicycles, I like the Colorado Springs approach: a flat "tax" (more of a surcharge) on new bicycle purchases. The money then goes towards bike infrastructure. It isn't much there (~$150K), but they say it's useful as a local match to Federal funds. It also gave them good data on how many bikes a year are being purchases (25K one year!). If we're going to start taxing bicycles, this is the approach I'd like to see used, and it would give us good data on new bike sales.

by Froggie on Dec 31, 2013 10:18 am • linkreport

I recently bought a bike in the City of Falls Church (cause that is where bikenetics happens to be). I do most of my riding in Fairfax, Arlington, and DC. Should the City of Falls Church get the benefit of my bike tax?

by BikeBuyer on Dec 31, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

"Should we tax something with so many public benefits?"

This question reflects such a narrow perspective. Bicycles have so many public benefits? You mean the tiny fraction of trips made by an even tinier fraction of the population that rides them?

If you mean health benefits, of course there are some. Home swimming pools provide such benefits. too -- and yet, localities find lots of ways to tax them, including increased property tax assessments. If you mean transportation benefits, they are minimal, especially considering how few people use them regularly. Hybrid and electric cars offer much more benefit to society, and yet we're realizing we have to tax them to cover infrastructure costs that support their use.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Dec 31, 2013 5:26 pm • linkreport

@Bikebuyer -- If Falls Church collects a local sales tax, they would get the benefit of your purchase. Otherwise, it's hard to see what you mean. Bike registrations and safety classes for kids have always been handled by the locality where you live. Where, as in much of the DMV, governments and services are largely organized at the county level, I imagine that's where the registration and use fee would be collected (or at the state level) -- exactly as happens with cars. Where you buy the thing is irrelevant to where you have to register it.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Dec 31, 2013 5:37 pm • linkreport

Bicycles have so many public benefits? You mean the tiny fraction of trips made by an even tinier fraction of the population that rides them?

Yes.

Home swimming pools provide such benefits. too -- and yet, localities find lots of ways to tax them, including increased property tax assessments.

I suspect that when the home mortgage interest deduction is considered, home pools are mostly subsidized. But then, the benefits of cycling exceed the health benefits. And simply owning a pool does not improve health. You have to actually use it.

If you mean transportation benefits, they are minimal, especially considering how few people use them regularly.

The benefits, all totaled, probably are small, but per capita (which how a tax would be assessed) they are large.

Hybrid and electric cars offer much more benefit to society, and yet we're realizing we have to tax them to cover infrastructure costs that support their use.

Well, we subsidize them too through tax credits, fuel efficiency standards and HOV privileges and maybe others that I can't think of.

And we don't have to tax them to cover infrastructure costs that support their use. There is no reason that transportation has to be paid for by users. Schools aren't. Police protection is not. The military is not. Food stamps aren't. Medicaid isn't. Etc... we could pay for transportation by taxing land or pollution or consumption or wealth or drug use or any other thing that we decide is better to tax than clean, safe, healthy, congestion-reducing, parking-freeing biking.

by David C on Jan 1, 2014 1:02 am • linkreport

to hell with that. raise the taxes on cars

by NE John on Jan 1, 2014 10:53 am • linkreport

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