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Breakfast links: Snowmagaindon

Photo by Colville-Andersen on Flickr.
Another winter storm is here: DC and surrounding counties have declared a snow emergency, and local and federal governments are closed. Metrobus service has been cancelled, while Amtrak is following a snow schedule. There is no parking along emergency routes. (WTOP, DCist)

Just don't call it "Silicon _____": The Gray administration has designated 7th Street and Georgia Avenue NW a "tech corridor." Will the move undermine other initiatives? More details will be revealed at an event on Wednesday. (City Paper, WBJ)

But the Post won't be a part: Jeff Bezos is hiring programmers and designers for the Washington Post, but he won't be hiring and training people in the Washington area; instead, the jobs will be in New York. (Capital New York, Ken Archer)

Re-timing DC's traffic lights: Over 200 signals in Wards 6, 7, and 8 are being adjusted to improve the experience of both pedestrians and drivers. The project will address other parts of the city through 2016. (DCist)

How can we get to "Vision Zero"?: How should agencies reorganize to implement Vision Zero? After years of incremental progress on safety, WABA will call to effectively protect vulnerable road users at an oversight hearing.

The many causes of crime: A recent study expects violent crime to rise due to higher temperatures from climate change. Meanwhile, eliminating parking can reduce some other crimes. (Atlantic Cities)

De Blasio pushes for affordable housing: The New York City mayor is demanding that a large redevelopment project include 9% more affordable housing units. But how much is too much? Even advocates are wary lest the project is delayed. (Next City)

Fewer urban highways?: Urban freeways can do great damage to the cities they're in, but which ones should we focus on getting rid of? The Congress of New Urbanism identifies 10 candidates. (NPR)

And...: Can a recently completed rail tunnel in Pittsburgh serve as a template for Virginia Ave in DC? (Railway Age) ... In DC, community helps cycling growth. (Post) ... Financiers demand less parking for a residential building in downtown San Diego. (RPUS) ... What would be on your list of best movies about urbanism? (Next City)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
Matt Malinowski is a consultant advising government clients on improving the energy efficiency of consumer electronic products, but is interested in all aspects of sustainable infrastructure and community resilience. He lives with his wife and son in the Truxton Circle/Bates neighborhood of DC. 


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Railway Age link not working for me

by aaa on Mar 3, 2014 9:46 am • linkreport

I dont get the tech corridor... too little too late at this point. Also while I see the economic development potential generally to such ideas given our over reliance on government largesse, how does that help the people on the bottom half of the spectrum in DC that are actually struggling now? Tourism, hospitality, construction, manufacturing jobs are the ones with most potential to impact poverty.

by BTA on Mar 3, 2014 9:46 am • linkreport

Not sure how I feel about the Wash Post story. I think it is good the Bezos is continuing to put money into it, and he is certainly moving the paper in the right direction (digital) but it sucks that those jobs are in NY instead of DC. Even if it is a dozen engineers and programmers, would have been nice to get them started here, especially as that team continues to grow.

Missed opportunity for the city.

by Kyle-w on Mar 3, 2014 9:48 am • linkreport

actually, I can't access Railway Age at all so it's probably me.

by aaa on Mar 3, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

Railway age doesnt work for me either, its a bad link or the site is down

by BTA on Mar 3, 2014 10:01 am • linkreport

Railway age is down for me as well.

by Drumz on Mar 3, 2014 10:03 am • linkreport

Link to cached copy of RailwayAge article.

by dcmike on Mar 3, 2014 10:12 am • linkreport


I don't think it is "too little, too late" especially coupled with the Wash Post story about the engineers being hired in NYC. We need those jobs here, and perhaps this initiative can help.

I do agree we need jobs on the bottom half, but I do believe that creating jobs on the top half (engineers), does trickle down to more jobs for hospitality (hotels and catering etc) and construction (more apartments and office buildings for those workers)*

*This is not saying I believe in voodoo trickle-down-economics. Simply saying that more upper class jobs in a city, tends to lead to more lower class jobs in a city as well.

by Kyle-w on Mar 3, 2014 10:22 am • linkreport

CSX plan call for more then just accommodating stack trains through the Virginia Avenue tunnel. They want to make it 2 tracks to eliminate single track bottleneck, improve the deficient drainage system that is there now and upgrade the support infrastructure for the signaling system.

by Sand Box John on Mar 3, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

Yeah I totally agree in general. But I don't think DC isn't producing enough higher wage jobs really. I mean we are up there for the richest metropolitan areas in the country. I'm all for diversifying I'm just worried it will involve spending money on initiatives to get "tech companies" since that's in vogue rather than something that might be more beneficial.

by BTA on Mar 3, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

It's pretty incredible that de Blasio is asking for more affordable units if 30% of the units were to be affordable anyway. Are there any precedents in DC with that kind of percentage of affordable units?

by renegade09 on Mar 3, 2014 10:46 am • linkreport


Most important to me is just to get more and more of the high wage workers to continue living in the city. There are no other cities that have such a huge discrepancy between jobs and residents as DC.

If DC didn't add another new net job for a decade, we would still be fine, as long as we can continue getting people to move into the city at a strong pace. Very few (if any) other places can say that.

All of the above notwithstanding, we should be working on both jobs and residents simultaneously, so I like the plan. We will have to see what this corridor entails.

by Kyle-w on Mar 3, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

Metro suspends all bus service for under a foot of snow...

That's pretty ridiculous, actually, given how many people depend on the service. In the old days (not that long ago, maybe 15 years) buses would continue to run on the major lines and Snow Emergency Routes. And Metro would put chains on the bus tires to keep them from getting stuck. And the Federal Government would do liberal leave instead of shutting down completely.

When did we become so weak? Is it really acceptable to shut the city down so often? What sort of lesson are we teaching our kids that you can't trudge through 6 inches of snow to get to school and work? This stuff is incredibly anti-business and just doesn't make sense given how normal it is to get significant snow in DC ...

The weakness is creeping...

by nativedc on Mar 3, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

Call it SillyCons Street

by NE John on Mar 3, 2014 11:09 am • linkreport

I am convinced that vision zero can only be achieved here by purchasing about 3000 new red light and speeding cameras (each) and fining people $300 per decade of mph over the limit. If traffic were strictly held to 20-25 mph everywhere, we would see virtually zero deaths.

by NE John on Mar 3, 2014 11:13 am • linkreport

@sandboxjohn - yeah, but CSX also wants to tear apart a residential neighborhood and run trains containing hazmats through an open trench mere feet from people's homes for up to 6 years (assuming they finish "on schedule"). Not to mention they want to run trains through the construction site, which increases the risks involved. They really need to consider re-routing, if this project is going to go through. The Pittsburgh example is not a good template for VAT (though I don't expect "Railway Age" to state otherwise), and the DEIS was so faulty and deficient in facts that it should be completely redone. There are many other issues that CSX is withholding information about, but the process will play out.

by j2342 on Mar 3, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

The new Section 8 housing behind 14th and U will come with (I assume free) garage parking spaces for Section 8 tenants.

and Gray needs to add Bezos to his memo distribution list.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 3, 2014 11:29 am • linkreport

@NE John

We would see zero deaths if pedestrians and cycles were more defensive. The amount of individuals I see daily steeping off the the curb without first looking is astonishing. As a child I was thought to look both ways before crossing the street.

by Sand Box John on Mar 3, 2014 11:29 am • linkreport

Just to note, the Section 8 housing is part of a mixed use development.

"Is this In addition, a committee member said the project "implied segregation" because the 96 units of affordable housing would face V Street on the north side of the lot, while 270 units of market-rate housing would be in a building facing U Street on the south side of the lot. "

I note WaPo says there are a large number of vacant units in NoMa due to recent construction. They suggest renters will have leverage in negotiating deals. Note, this is how the market usually reflects the impact of short terms surges of supply - by month off deals and the like, not by reduction in the published rental rates.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 3, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

@Walker- The section 8 housing will have it's own building and it's own garage.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 3, 2014 11:39 am • linkreport

@NE John

I realize I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but fines are not an effective deterrent against reckless driving. Lengthly license suspensions coupled with revocations for repeat offenders is the answer.

by dcmike on Mar 3, 2014 11:41 am • linkreport


CSX is going to do what WMATA did to G, I, 7th and 12th Streets back in the late 1960s and 70s, only differences is they are going to daylight an existing tunnel to execute the project. By the way G, I, 7th and 12th Streets were torn up from doorstep to doorstep for roughly 4 years. Small price to pay for what was accomplished.

by Sand Box John on Mar 3, 2014 11:44 am • linkreport

People who buy houses next to major active rail lines should expect that construction can happen on it at any time. The benefits after the construction is over will benefit the entire region greatly.

by NikolasM on Mar 3, 2014 11:47 am • linkreport

Two buildings on one lot.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 3, 2014 11:52 am • linkreport


I thought it was Snowdi Gras...

@ nativedc:When did we become so weak?

Since we realized that it's not the weather that causes the trouble, but the traffic. DC's road system can barely handle rush hour at normal days. In weather like this, massive congestion is a sure result, and people will get hurt. Is it weak to prevent crashes and people to get hurt?

Also, 15 years ago, when everything was still swell, we have quite a bunch less people here. Meanwhile barely have extra transportation infrastructure.

Is it really acceptable to shut the city down so often?

No. are you willing to pay extra taxes to pay for extra snow plows that are used only once every 5 years?

What sort of lesson are we teaching our kids that you can't trudge through 6 inches of snow to get to school and work?

That we need to keep investing in our infrastructure. And not only in roads, which are a pain to maintain in snow, but also in rail which is running fine today.

This stuff is incredibly anti-business

Anti-business? Please explain. Is there a mandate that businesses are closed? Is it forbidden for customers to go to stores?

and just doesn't make sense given how normal it is to get significant snow in DC ...

It is not normal. We have not had snow like this is years.

by Jasper on Mar 3, 2014 12:12 pm • linkreport

That too dcmike, fines and points and prison

by NE John on Mar 3, 2014 12:16 pm • linkreport

Sand Box John, so we should blame the dead? Let's think of people first, and thereafter vehicles maintaining high speeds through our populated areas. Better yet, no high vehicular speeds.

by NE John on Mar 3, 2014 12:18 pm • linkreport


After the disaster of 2010, and the problems of people getting home in 2011, you will likely continue to see this.

In all honesty, it is rare for DC to get significant snow. DCA averages 15 inches a year. This has been an above average year for sure. Last year we had none.

Chains on buses will do thousands of dollars of damage to city roads. You want to complain about potholes now? I do agree, underground metro should go on, but otherwise, spending a whole ton of money, and having ridiculous traffic and dangerous conditions doesn't make sense, when most often we can close for a day, and get back at it tomorrow.

by Kyle-w on Mar 3, 2014 12:32 pm • linkreport

Why'd you have to bring common sense into this, Sand Box John?

Likewise, I guess all those articles complaining about snow removal are finally going to make more people realize this isn't normal.

by selxic on Mar 3, 2014 12:40 pm • linkreport

"And the Federal Government would do liberal leave instead of shutting down completely."

Actually, the Federal Government doesn't shut down completely. The government now authorizes a lot of employees to telework, and they are required to telework when the government "closes" for snow days. So you probably have a lot more people working, but they're not clogging up the streets.

ps: as a non-native DC-er, I remember coming to visit the city in February 30 years ago and being shocked at how an inch or two of snow would close the city down, so I don't think this is anything new.

by alurin on Mar 3, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

The point with Metrobus is to develop a list of snow emergency priority routes, which DC (and other jurisdictions) would prioritize for snow clearance.

Not unlike how Montreal prioritizes a route of bicycle paths for which they commit to winter snow clearance.

That's #6 in my "Maintenance of Way Agenda":

6. The city needs to prioritize snow removal on bus routes, so that even if the aboveground transit stations are closed, WMATA could still run, safely, bus service on most of the routes. (Some routes, such as the G8, which goes up a big hill on Eastern Ave., likely would have issues.)

points 1, 2, and 3 address sidewalk and transit stops and stations.

by Richard L. Layman on Mar 3, 2014 12:42 pm • linkreport

@Sand Box John: The difference is that the WMATA construction benefitted the city as a whole and that neighborhood, by providing Metro. As far as I can tell, the CSX Virginia Avenue project benefits only CSX. I don't see what the neighborhood, or the city gets out of it.

by alurin on Mar 3, 2014 12:43 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

That is quite sad. The fact that affordable housing money has to go to build parking garages is a shame. They are building 24 spots of underground space for affordable housing at 14th and V. Does anyone think that 1.2 million wouldn't be better served by a forced contribution to the housing production trust fund?

by Kyle-w on Mar 3, 2014 12:45 pm • linkreport

The theory of surplus housing causing rents to lower in DC misses an important aspect of the Class A market, and especially NOMA: it's not a free market, it's a very tight oligopoly of closely-related huge companies with extended seemingly competing properties.

In a market such as this it's much better for a company to leave units empty than to lower the rents on all the units they have in an area that are occupied. First month free is as much as you can expect and that's rare in DC class A. Rents didn't even drop during the Great Recession like they did in NYC where's there's more of a free market than here.

Class B is much different with many smaller players and some degree of competition. But Tommy Buzzuto and JB Gildenhorn aren't going to be cutting each other's, or their own throats any time soon.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 3, 2014 1:00 pm • linkreport

and Kyle-W- Not to be a Scrooge but I cannot fanthom why taxpayer funds are used to provide parking spots worth $250/mo to section 8 housing.

But then I'm not sure of the whole policy of requiring on-site vs. many more off-site units. I get and appreciate neighborhood diversity but if there's indeed a housing crisis in DC for low-income people....

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 3, 2014 1:12 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

Tend to agree. Forcing units into for example the library in Georgetown seems a bit asinine. Makes more sense to me to capture the increased value from changing those units from affordable to market rate, and use that money (likely $500,000+/unit) in a much more economical way.

RE: Rents

I am not sure I agree completely. It seems price increases have slowed/stopped, and people ARE getting a free month etc. That just was not happening 2 years ago.

by Kyle-w on Mar 3, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

The point with Metrobus is to develop a list of snow emergency priority routes, which DC (and other jurisdictions) would prioritize for snow clearance.

They don't have to develop anything; DC has snow emergency routes that get priority for plowing. The overlap with WMATA routes is significant:

That won't help in the middle of the actual storm, however. And that alone isn't enough to sustain bus operations in conditions like this.

by Alex B. on Mar 3, 2014 1:41 pm • linkreport

Hiring techies in NYC for WaPo is no more silly than outsorucing local circulation and delivery to the Philippines. Actually people in NYC may actually know DC better than most of the people that the Post hires as local reporters. The Post's long march to irrelevance started a long time ago.

by Rich on Mar 3, 2014 2:02 pm • linkreport

@ Alurin:As far as I can tell, the CSX Virginia Avenue project benefits only CSX. I don't see what the neighborhood, or the city gets out of it.

If CSX can ride trains with higher capacity through the tunnel, then MARC and VRE can ride more commuter trains over space that becomes available on the track.

There. Done. City and neighborhood get something. More incoming commuters. Happy now?

It is very short-sighted to always demand something tangible out of everything that happens. Fact is that the tunnel (and bridge) are a choke-point in the long-distance rail network. If the rail network can not be expanded, more trucks will ride the freight, polluting the air, which leads to more code red days in DC.

To put it differently. You don't need that choke-point fixed. But people in NJ and NY like their OJ coming on those trains. And if everybody demanded tangible benefits for their immediate neighborhood, it's only time before someone else between here and Florida starts objecting to another rail project and you don't get fresh OJ either.

by Jasper on Mar 3, 2014 4:54 pm • linkreport

Along with Putin, Comrade DiBlasio likely believes that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the worst geopolitical event of the 20th century,

by Jasper on Mar 3, 2014 10:32 pm • linkreport

CSX also wants to tear apart a residential neighborhood and run trains containing hazmats through an open trench mere feet from people's homes for up to 6 years (assuming they finish "on schedule").

No, they do not want to tear apart a residential neighborhood. That is not their business plan. They want to dig some trenches where currently there is ground that no one uses. They want to close a few streets from time to time.

And, I mean they currently run trains containing hazmat through open trenches and on elevated structures and - yes - through a tunnel a few blocks long. All a mere feet from people's home. They've been doing it for dozens of years and plan to continue to do so no matter what happens. If that is so scary, why would you buy a home mere feet from such a structure?

As far as I can tell, the CSX Virginia Avenue project benefits only CSX. I don't see what the neighborhood, or the city gets out of it.

Well, they're going to rebuild the street and add trees and a bike path to it. As well as some improvements in the park. But as Del. Norton said " a railroad moving through a neighborhood provide NO benefits to that neighborhood. Railroads are part of the Nation’s transportation system and, as such, the benefits accrue to all of us." What if everyone decided not to allow railroads to modernize in their neighborhood? Would that be a good thing for you and this country?

by David C on Mar 3, 2014 11:29 pm • linkreport

Ah, but the nation does not have a transportation system. CSX has a transportation system. If you improve this particular choke point, at what sounds like substantial inconvenience ot neighborhood residents, you end up improving CSX's competitive position vis a vis the trucking companies. Maybe there's some marginal improvement in air quality, diffused over the whole East Coast. I really doubt anyone in New Jersey is going to reap any benefit in terms of cheaper orange juice (and lets just leave out the possibility of Florida deciding to cut off their own OJ exports, shall we?). The primary benefit here is to CSX's bottom line, and the primary cost is to the quality of life in the neighborhood.
Oh, and by the way, putting back the road you had to tear up in order to do the construction in the first place is not a benefit to the neighborhood, even if you throw in a bike lane. That's quite literally the least you can do.
Now, if improving the tunnel did improve the pathetic state of the local commuter rail network, that would certainly be a factor. But this is the first mention I've heard of such a thing. I am under the impression that passenger trains do not use that tunnel, and I have not seen any indication that there were any plans to do so; the region's commuter rail networks can't even provide counter-commute services or halfway decent weekend service, so the idea that they would expand via the Virginia avenue tunnel would be quite surprising.
I'm not saying "don't do it"; I'm saying I want CSX to give something back to the city and the neighborhood. Something more than a bike lane.

by alurin on Mar 4, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport

Here's a whole post on CSX proposed amenities. It's from 2010. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

And here's one, from the same year, that talks about helping commuter rail.

"The Virginia Avenue Tunnel project will also reduce congestion for commuter rail riders in the region caused by freight trains waiting for their turn to use the tunnel. In conjunction with other improvements, the tunnel project will allow Amtrak, MARC, and VRE to add more trains in the future."

As to whether or not the nation has a transportation network, it most certainly does. And yes, rail is a part of that. It's ridiculous to claim otherwise. It's why we have agencies that oversee railroads, loan them money or help pay for improvements.

The primary benefit here is to CSX's bottom line, and the primary cost is to the quality of life in the neighborhood.

True, but irrelevant. People bought houses next to a railroad line. The railroad owns the land and is able to improvements as it sees fit. This was a risk when they bought and they knew it, or they should have. They bought their house at a discount as a result, or they should have. Buyer beware. All this bellyaching is by a group of people who want their cake and to eat it to. If they didn't want to live next to a railroad construction project, they should have bought a house farther from a railroad.

by David C on Mar 4, 2014 4:26 pm • linkreport

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