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Breakfast links: Questions answered


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Q&A with Sarles: WMATA General Manager Richard Sarles answered questions from Metro riders on a Dr. Gridlock chat. Riders asked about train congestion and unreliability. Sarles cited a lack of funds and said many problems will be addressed in the future.

New deal for CaBi operator: Capital Bikeshare operator Alta and 8D Technologies, the original software maker for the now-bankrupt Bixi, have formed an alliance to sell bikeshare systems. 8D's next generation system includes a new mobile app and improved docking. (Montreal Gazette, TheWashCycle)

Fraudulent parking: Drivers using fake disability parking placards from Maryland to park in DC are a problem, according to DC Councilmember Jim Graham. He wants to allow parking enforcement to run placards against a Maryland database. (WTOP)

New look for cities in movies: Los Angeles and New York are switching to LED streetlights, meaning these cities in movies will look much different (specifically, less yellow). Older films will have a distinctive look compared to newer ones. (Gizmodo)

Big plans for London housing: London's Conservative mayor wants to build far more subsidized and market-rate housing than New York's de Blasio. However, a lot of people oppose having those buildings and people added to London. (NextCity)

How our Venice succumbed to the car: The streets of Venice, California were originally wide canals. In 1924, the city decided to convert to roads, over resident objections, to accommodate the automobile. (SouthLand)

New tech to prevent vehicle deaths: USDOT will soon require vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology that will allow cars to communicate and send warnings to drivers to prevent collisions with pedestrians or other vehicles. (WAMU)

And...: Rome asks its citizens to Twitter shame illegally parking drivers. (Car Connection) … A hit-and-run driver injures 8 on Metrobus. (Post) …Take a look at bike routes to Tysons Metro stations. (FABB) … Silver Spring named #13 on the "most exciting suburb" list. (Motovo) … The DC Council will vote on an out-of-city scholarship program. (WTOP)

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Chad Maddox grew up in Atlanta, Georgia where living a car-free lifestyle is almost impossible. In 2010, he moved to the Washington area and currently lives in the vibrant DC neighborhood of NoMa.  

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He wants to allow parking enforcement to run placards against a Maryland database.

That's actually... a good idea.

by BTA on Feb 4, 2014 9:15 am • linkreport

Egads. I agree with Graham. The abuse of disability placards is nothing short of a scandal, and reform is long, long overdue.

by Crickey7 on Feb 4, 2014 9:20 am • linkreport

That's actually... a good idea.

It's an ok idea. A better idea would be to just charge the same rates for disabled parking as other metered parking. All may park, all must pay.

Once you remove the price incentive to cheat the system, the fraud will drop.

Checking the individual placards against a database is time-consuming and cumbersome and won't address the abuse of legally issued placards. Simply charging for disabled parking solves both problems by addressing the cause of the fraud (a search for free parking) at the source.

I'm glad Graham is interested in addressing the issue, but he did vote against the more reasonable proposal to charge for metered parking in late 2012:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-wire/post/how-dc-council-members-voted-on-meters-tax-cuts-ex-offenders-and-booze/2012/12/05/7dade57e-3f02-11e2-bca3-aadc9b7e29c5_blog.html

by Alex B. on Feb 4, 2014 9:22 am • linkreport

Looks like the Graham-stander is back in action. Perhaps if he hadn't voted down the Redtop meter program in 2012, we wouldn't have this.

DDOT's red top program was intelligent and fair to all, including the non-disabled who previously were locked out of street parking during the work week due to the rampant abuse. When March 1, 2012 hit, and the short lived redtop meter program went into effect, parking spaces which DDOT earlier quantified as being 40-90% occupied by cars with HC placards "miraculously" freed up.

And the red top meters? Barely anyone parked at them. So it really is about commuters scamming to park for free all day, nothing more. Taking the financial incentive for them to cheat out of the game was the only way to disincentivize the abuse.

DC could also do a couple "stings", and be waiting at 7:30 am or ~5 pm for drivers to come and go in a couple sections of the city where it is obvious HC abuse is rampant. Wait to see them park, or go to their cars and ask to see proof the HC placard is theirs, rather than grandmas. Yes, these stings would be resource intensive, but do it a couple times and make the fines memorable (500-1000 bucks) and the word would certainly get out, and the number of people (ahemm...MD drivers who work downtown) who abuse the system would likely plummet overnight.

by Redtop on Feb 4, 2014 9:34 am • linkreport

Graham is on a roll. Glad to see the old badger try before the elections.

So, does 8D build the docks -- or just the software. I saw something about key distribution at the docks, which would be nice if not vaporware.

by charlie on Feb 4, 2014 9:36 am • linkreport

DC Council votes today on whether to decriminalize marijuana.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 4, 2014 9:38 am • linkreport

I agree with Alex. It was my impression that most placards are legally issued, it's just that they aren't always being used by the person who needs it or the placard was obtained for less than serious needs. (This being the most egregiously public example: http://www.tbd.com/blogs/tbd-on-foot/2010/09/the-missing-lexus-martena-clinton-got-what-she-had-coming-2098.html)

Remove the financial benefit and the temptation to cheat goes away. We were on our way to enacting that before the council lost its nerve.

by TM on Feb 4, 2014 9:40 am • linkreport

My impression is that for the most part there isn't really much reserved parking for the disabled in DC so the main point of having a disabled placard is free parking and having longer time limits. I would agree with more dedicated street spaces that you still had a fee.

by BTA on Feb 4, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

@BTA

The red-top meter program put a lot more dedicated handicapped parking out there.

@TM
Remove the financial benefit and the temptation to cheat goes away. We were on our way to enacting that before the council lost its nerve.

Absolutely right - idiotic that they couldn't manage to get it done last time.

by MLD on Feb 4, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

Ah, I see, wasn't aware of that whole thing. Too bad it didn't pass. I had already made up my mind to vote against Graham so I guess I don't need to feel conflicted.

by BTA on Feb 4, 2014 10:02 am • linkreport

A vote against Graham is never wasted.

by Crickey7 on Feb 4, 2014 10:12 am • linkreport

There are way too many handicap and disabled placards/stickers out there. As our population grays, plumps up, and otherwise becomes more disabled we need to also raise the standards by which someone can access these placards/stickers.

It would really be nice if every disabled person could have convenient parking right by the door, everywhere they want to go; however, as the disabled rate in the population passes 10%, you simply cannot provide that kind of parking for everyone and even if you could, it shouldnt be free.

by Richard on Feb 4, 2014 10:27 am • linkreport

"New tech to prevent vehicle deaths". What nonsense. How long will it take before even a majority of the US fleet will have such devices? How many iterations will there be, rendering previous generations incompatible? A total waste of resources.

Want to reduce auto related deaths? Mandate far stricter driver licensing guidelines at the federal level. Withhold transportation funding from states that don't comply. Increase enforcement of existing laws and follow through with meaningful penalties (license revocation/suspension rather than fines).

by dcmike on Feb 4, 2014 10:55 am • linkreport

re: DC Promise program - what is the rationale behind the government having one out-of-city scholarship program, much less two (DC Tuition Assistance Grant and DC Promise), as opposed to subsidizing tuition at DCU? If DCU is so horrible that we're willing to pay students to attend other universities, then let's dismantle DCU. Seems absolutely wasteful to be funding a university and then paying people not to attend it.

by 7r3y3r on Feb 4, 2014 11:40 am • linkreport

Those sodium streetlights are more pink tint than yellow but still ugly as hell. They were a big improvement in light quantity over the old mercury lights.

But the led's are much more true color and can be adjusted to daylight or warm shades. Besides saving a tremendous amount of energy they make depth perception much better. And since they last so long there's fewer lights out.

If typical, DC will move to them 20 years after most other places do. Requiring MC Dean to start conversion would be a nice move by the Council and could help Catania's campaign if he pushed for it (he works for MC Dean).

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 4, 2014 11:45 am • linkreport

Harriet Tregoning resigned this morning: http://dcist.com/2014/02/office_of_planning_director_harriet.php

by 7r3y3r on Feb 4, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

DC Promise program - what is the rationale behind the government having one out-of-city scholarship program...

Because DC is not part of a state, DC residents do not have access to a state university system - and the benefits of in-state tuition for students.

If DCU is so horrible that we're willing to pay students to attend other universities, then let's dismantle DCU.

UDC (not DCU - that's usually used in reference to the local soccer team) has issues, but it can be a key element of the local education system. But it's not the same as a land grant public research university. UDC can serve a role in the higher education system, but it's not going to be the same as, say, UVA or UMD.

So why offer this tuition assistance to DC residents? Because without it, living in DC would be less attractive for prospective college students and parents due to a lack of choices for in-state tuition.

by Alex B. on Feb 4, 2014 12:16 pm • linkreport

UDC is essentially our community college. DC isn't really big enough to sustain a university that could rival UVA or UMD though it would be probably if you didn't pair it with the costs of being in a city and the barriers to a large low income population entering college.

by BTA on Feb 4, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

Alex,

Lets be honest shall we. DC is full of tony, private educational options and they collectively attract tens of thousands of new college students here EVERY single year. DC certainly isn't lacking in "attractiveness for prospective college students", and it certainly isn't a good enough reason to start yet another program, unless you wanted to do away with the waste that is UDC.

Of the ~5,000 students currently enrolled in UDC, only 950 will leave with a "degree". Tuition for a full time undergrad at UDC costs just over $5K a year, $7K a year for a full time grad student. DC taxpayers give (and it is in this years budget as well) 50 million a year to supplement UDC (this doesn't include the hundreds of millions of dollars we’ve given UDC in free land and facilities).
Thats a per student subsidy of $10,000 per year, when it only costs $7K for a full time grad students tuition, which the students themselves are ALREADY paying.

Look at it this way, with the 19% graduation rate, the DC taxpayers are paying $210K per graduating student, PER YEAR! Paying full price to go to Harvard would be cheap in comparison, and oh...you would be getting a degree from Harvard.

UDC is part of the problem, it isn't the solution

by UDC on Feb 4, 2014 12:58 pm • linkreport

I'd personally like to see DC take over Howard and combine it with UDC. Turn UDC into a junior college and the new state-run Howard into a four-year school. But this is kind of a poorly formed idea right now.

by David C on Feb 4, 2014 1:07 pm • linkreport

UDC, even going to college for one year is better than zero. There are plenty of studies that show that. So ignoring that places too much value on a degree. Not that a 19% graduation rate isn't sign of a problem, just arguing the methodology.

by David C on Feb 4, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

Howard might have problems but it has very deep and symbolic roots across the country. I'd say they have somewhere between 0 and nil interest in becoming a public school short of a catastrophic financial meltdown in which case DC probably shouldn't get too involved.

by BTA on Feb 4, 2014 1:14 pm • linkreport

They might not want to, but it might be in their best interest. Shouldn't change anything related to their symbolism or roots if they become the official state school of DC.

And if there were a meltdown, DC should get involved since this is a major amenity for the city (at least as much as soccer). And grafting the prestigious Howard name onto the state school would benefit DC students.

by David C on Feb 4, 2014 1:50 pm • linkreport

Would the scholarship grants program also be basically restricted to undergrad-bound teenagers like the current federal program is? There really is a lack of quality affordable options for D.C.-resident adults seeking grad school, continuing education, etc., compared to people a couple of miles away who can get in-state tuition at the University of Maryland's much more comprehensive grad school. (Considering U.Md. already holds some classes in the District at the Reagan Building, I've always thought D.C. ought to use that as leverage to cut some kind of deal with them.)

by iaom on Feb 4, 2014 2:16 pm • linkreport

(I do think that it was fair to prioritize teenaged high school students when establishing the program. But the way things are going nowadays, with the federal government in particular seeming to ratchet up the educational standards for employees all the time, post-baccalaureate study really is getting to be much less of a luxury.)

by iaom on Feb 4, 2014 2:23 pm • linkreport

DC is full of tony, private educational options and they collectively attract tens of thousands of new college students here EVERY single year. DC certainly isn't lacking in "attractiveness for prospective college students"

And the point of the DC TAG is to provide access to public universities outside of DC with similar benefits that residents of other states get via in-state tuition.

DC absolutely is lacking in the attractives for prospective college students of a public univerity. UDC needs work, but it's not going to be a land-grant flagship research university like Maryland or Michigan or any number of other schools.

If you want to get rid of UDC, then feel free to make that case. But the goals DC TAG and UDC are different.

by Alex B. on Feb 4, 2014 3:08 pm • linkreport

@Alex B. -
Because DC is not part of a state, DC residents do not have access to a state university system - and the benefits of in-state tuition for students.

Actually, as far as I understand it, with the community college split off from UDC, there is now a university system (http://usdc.edu/). In any event, UDC offers resident tuition rates that are lower than non-resident tuition rates (www.udc.edu/admissions/tuition_fee_schedule)

But it's not the same as a land grant public research university.

Not only is UDC a land grant public university (www.udc.edu/college_urban_agriculture_and_environmental_studies/land_grant_overview), but it also conducts research (www.udc.edu/research).

UDC can serve a role in the higher education system, but it's not going to be the same as, say, UVA or UMD.

If CUA, AU, Gallaudet, Georgetown, HU, and GW, among others, can build their programs to be nationally recognized, there's no reason UDC can't do the same.

What I hear from you, and others, is that UDC is essentially a community college. If so, it makes me question to purpose of having CCDC as a spinoff from UDC. And if you think UDC cannot become a proper university, why not just scrap the whole system and subsidize a portion of students' out-of-state tuition at UMD?

by 7r3y3r on Feb 4, 2014 3:22 pm • linkreport

Howard is basically a public school in that it's directly funded by Congress.

DC residents and those needy get substantial or total tuition support.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 4, 2014 3:22 pm • linkreport

In any event, UDC offers resident tuition rates that are lower than non-resident tuition rates

Yes, it does.

And I was dancing around this before, but I'll just come out and say it now: The DC TAG program exists so that DC students can attend schools that are a lot better than UDC at something approaching in-state tuition.

why not just scrap the whole system and subsidize a portion of students' out-of-state tuition at UMD?

A better question is why you think these are mutually exclusive goals?

by Alex B. on Feb 4, 2014 3:31 pm • linkreport

@Alex B. - DC TAG also pays for a portion of tuition at local private universities, although at a lower rate than the amount given for tuition at public universities.

the goals DC TAG and UDC are different.

UDC is supposed to provide affordable post-secondary education to DC residents, while DC TAG's purpose is to expand higher education choices for college-bound DC residents. I'm not so sure they're different, but in any event, it seems pretty obvious that they're at cross purposes. DC TAG, and now DC Promise, essentially undercut UDC's goal by providing an incentive NOT to go to UDC.

Now, if UDC was so popular that DC residents were getting shutout, I'd understand implementing DC TAG and DC Promise (as opposed to, say, building a second university to keep up with demand), but that's not the case.

by 7r3y3r on Feb 4, 2014 3:34 pm • linkreport

I'm not so sure they're different, but in any event, it seems pretty obvious that they're at cross purposes. DC TAG, and now DC Promise, essentially undercut UDC's goal by providing an incentive NOT to go to UDC.

They're absolutely different goals. One builds up a univeristy in the city, the other expands choice. Even in your own words, they are clearly different goals.

And given that they're different goals, I'm not sure why you think they're working at cross-purposes with one another.

It's not like this is a new concept. Would you feel better about it if DC worked out in-state tuition reciprocity agreements with other states? (Of course, DC has little to offer those states in return, and reciprocity agreements usually require an accounting at the end of the year to balance the books, so it's all the same cost anyway...)

DC TAG is an incentive for college-aged kids and their parents to live in DC, to stay in DC through the end of high school, rather than decamp for a suburban jurisdiction so they can save substantially when it comes time to pay for college tuition.

Remove DC TAG, and you're not providing an incentive to attend UDC, because UDC is not a perfect substitute for all of the universities on that list of eligible schools for TAG.

Again, the purposes of DC TAG and UDC are different. They serve different markets. They are not mutually exclusive, nor should they be.

by Alex B. on Feb 4, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

But it's not the same as a land grant public research university. UDC can serve a role in the higher education system, but it's not going to be the same as, say, UVA or UMD.

It certainly won't/can't. Not sure if DC has a location where they could put a first class research university, but UDC's campus certainly isn't it. With UMD so close and so good at sucking in research dollars, it would be very difficult for DC to set up a first class research university.

by Richard on Feb 4, 2014 5:09 pm • linkreport

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