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Breakfast links: Who needs a license?

Photo by Via Tsuji on Flickr.
Taxis vs. the future: DC's taxi industry came under a lot of criticism at a hearing on a bill to permanently legalize services like UberX, Sidecar, and Lyft. David Grosso accused Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton of having "a fear of the future." (Post)

License to tour: Giving tours in DC without a license can get someone potentially jailed for 90 days. Do we need to have licenses at all? Tim Krepp said almost 4 years ago that this is probably unnecessary and the test isn't very good. (Economist)

Not too high: The FAA may impose stricter height limits near airports, which could seriously impact growth in areas like Rosslyn and Crystal City. (ArlNow)

Get ready to bike to work: It's Bike to Work Day on Friday. There will be pit stops across the area to pick up t-shirts and snacks in the morning, and 4 set up for the evening commute. (DCist)

No place to park: DC has installed over 2,000 bike racks in 10 years, but it's not nearly enough, especially in busy areas like 14th Street and the Golden Triangle. (Post)

Bus flips: An Arlington Transit bus flipped over yesterday while attempting to climb a hill. The driver had let passengers off the bus after a check engine light came on, so there were no injuries. (ArlNow)

From students to Shakespeare: The former Southeastern University campus will be converted into housing for actors and the Shakespeare Theatre Company. The campus has been vacant since 2009. (STLQTC)

Solar pavement: What if we paved our roads with solar panels? There is now a working prototype that would allow us to do just that. In theory, they could generate 3 times the amount of electricity the US uses today. (Atlantic Cities)

And...: Baltimore and Washington have some of the country's least courteous drivers. (WTOP) ... Is DC going to house homeless women in a morgue? (City Paper) ... Montgomery Council candidate Tom Hucker is sorry for driving drunk in 2009. (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.  


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Note well - Rosslyn and Crystal City are the locations outside the DC CBD that have the best transit access in the region. Rosslyn has 2 metro lines, soon to be three metro lines. Crystal City has two metro lines plus VRE. Only other stop thats equivalent in Va is King Street with 2 metro stations and VRE.

To limit heights in these two locations, while height is limited in DC, means more employment and residences will end up in places with less transit access and thus lower transit mode share.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 13, 2014 9:46 am • linkreport

In other news, housing prices declined in Arlington and Alexandria. Perhaps that premium location isn't worth quite so much...

by charlie on May 13, 2014 9:52 am • linkreport

Ben Bradlee:


Ok, let's discuss. I'll start with this:

If you’re sitting around reading pro-sprawl opinion pieces by the likes of Wendell Cox and Joel Kotkin thinking, “sounds good, how can I get in on this action”, not to worry. There’s a simple template to follow, as demonstrated yesterday by an article in that venerable institution of urban research, Politico. This one was written by Robert Bruegmann, but it doesn’t really matter. Like 80s hair band power ballads, if you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all.

by Alex B. on May 13, 2014 9:58 am • linkreport

And presumably many of those rude cars in DC are from Baltimore, so...


by LowHeadways on May 13, 2014 9:59 am • linkreport


or maybe supply and demand DOES apply to housing, and allowing denser construction reduces housing costs, at the same time that BRAC induced declines in employment mean less demand.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 13, 2014 10:02 am • linkreport


I've read the author's book. It makes the same argument. His thesis contends that there isn't traffic where people don't live and prices are low in places where demand isn't present. The corollary is that the way things are is the way things should and are expected to be.

It might make sense in a world where the population growth is at 0 but is totally inadequate when it comes to planning for future growth.

by drumz on May 13, 2014 10:03 am • linkreport

How is Rosslyn affected by airport restrictions. Rosslyn is far from Reagan.

What about all the suburban towers out near dulles? They are closer to an airfield than Rosslyn

by Richard on May 13, 2014 10:04 am • linkreport

Regarding Bike to Work Day - I hope someone from WABA is reading this... If we get the flooding rains that are expected Thursday night into Friday morning, what will it take to move BTWD to Monday? Celebrating BTWD in truly hazardous (not just talking drizzle here) conditions is not the best way to advance the cause of green transportation!

by Joe in SS on May 13, 2014 10:06 am • linkreport

Another height restriction in an urban zone closer than Tysons. Yet another reason to lift any and all height restrictions here.

by Navid Roshan on May 13, 2014 10:09 am • linkreport

Licenses should not be overly burdensome, a certificate in history, pass as simple test on DC history; just to keep folks honest. Punishment should consist of removing the licenses. Keep law enforcement out of it. People don't go to jail for failing to do their jobs properly. We don't want guides spreading ridiculous stories about J St, Georgetown's Metro station, etc.

They should all be required to talk about DC not having a true democracy, voting rights, budget autonomy, etc.

by @ShawingtonTimes on May 13, 2014 10:13 am • linkreport

Rosslyn is alongside the river approach path to National Airport. An aircraft slightly off course and slightly low could lead to a very bad day.

by Jeffb on May 13, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

Richard -

One of DCA's landing approaches is southbound over the Potomac, right over Rosslyn. I'd bet height/distance separation regulations would come into play if Rosslyn expanded upward.

by JS on May 13, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

If roads get paved with solar collectors, expect the oil industry to have a cow over it.

by DaveG on May 13, 2014 10:20 am • linkreport

@AWITC; careful, I said houses, not condos.

But now that you mention it, the usual metrics aren't working there either. Roslyn condos prices are very high thanks to the Waterview. But the office space in both areas is suffering form high vacacy rates.

Again, just shows how weak a grasp of economics and its real world applications work for urbanists. What you want is not always what the market wants to give you.

by charlie on May 13, 2014 10:21 am • linkreport

@Richard, because of the flight paths. DCA has unusual noise level rules that places most aircraft approaching the main runway (19) on a route known as the "River Visual Approach" that takes them over Rosslyn. Even on GPS approaches in poor visibility, flights using alternate runway 15 pass directly over Rosslyn.

I love the convenience of DCA and I'm also an avgeek, but from a strictly practical point of view, it's a really stupid place for an airport.

by dcmike on May 13, 2014 10:22 am • linkreport

I am not sure your point. Prices rise and fall. There are many reasons prices in ArlCo could have decreased, and yes, a decline in the craving for living in a SFH close to a metro station is one possible reason, though AFAICT they still sell at a considerable premium.

Current vacany rates are high. But the office market is a funny thing, one big anchor tenant can make a building. So its not necessarily irrational for a developer to take a flyer on a big new office building. And of course sometimes they make mistakes. Again, I'm not sure of your point. What different public policy would you adopt because the office market in Rosslyn is currently weak?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 13, 2014 10:27 am • linkreport

DCA has unusual noise level rules that places most aircraft approaching the main runway (19) on a route known as the "River Visual Approach" that takes them over Rosslyn. Even on GPS approaches in poor visibility, flights using alternate runway 15 pass directly over Rosslyn.

It's not just noise rules - it's the prohibited airspace around the White House and the Naval Observatory (indicated here as 'P-56' areas):

That chart also shows the recommended altitude for the visual approach: 900 feet at Rosslyn, three miles out from runway 19.

by Alex B. on May 13, 2014 10:28 am • linkreport

I think because of the restrictions around Washington air space there are a couple of really tight flight paths basically south over Rosslyn and north up from the Potomac/Alexandria area so it's more of a linear flight zone.

by BTA on May 13, 2014 10:29 am • linkreport

BTW charlie, it would be helpful if you provided a link.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 13, 2014 10:29 am • linkreport

The solar power roads thing is obviously interesting but A) roads go through a lot of wear, theyd have to basically be as durable as concrete or replaced every year and B) roads do get dirty and who is going to clean them? I think putting them on top of buildings and surface lots makes more sense in most places, perhaps on the side of structures like bridges?

by BTA on May 13, 2014 10:30 am • linkreport

"How is Rosslyn affected by airport restrictions. Rosslyn is far from Reagan."

Apparently the writer has been asleep during any southbound landing approach, as the aircraft turn tightly and descend around Rosslyn. There's also a secondary runway at DCA that some aircraft use to fly closer to Crystal City. From a safety standpoint, reasonable height restrictions in both areas is pretty much a no-brainer.

by Alf on May 13, 2014 10:36 am • linkreport

Solar panels as cycle track or side walk buffers?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 13, 2014 10:37 am • linkreport

"Taxis vs. the future"? Really? Because anyone criticizing a particular bill around regulation of a set of car services is a backward-looking Luddite?

by Llamarama on May 13, 2014 10:40 am • linkreport

On driver courtesy -- I was doing about 75 in the left lane on I-70 coming back from Hagerstown (watching Lucas Giolito pitch), when I glanced in the rear view and I saw a sportscar racing up my rear end -- fast, and I mean right up my rear, getting close enough that I dould no longer see the front of his car. Meanwhile, as I saw him racing up, I figured I had to get out of his way to avoid an accident, but there was a car on my right that was at least pacing me, and maybe even gaining ground -- I might have lost a couple miles of hour as I had been reaching for my cell phone to hand to my girlfriend. I had to speed up to get ahead of that car so I could move over, which I did quickly. I looked over at the guy in the sportscar passing me on my left, and he flipped me the bird. Then, as he raced on ahead, just before switching to the right lane as he was weaving his way through the traffic, he reached his hand out and over his car to give me the bird again. Considering that I was going well over the speed limit -- and that I sped up to get out of his way, I kinda thought his reaction was a little overwrought.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on May 13, 2014 10:59 am • linkreport

Regarding the solar roads, I can see this as being used for both parking lots and also driveways. With driveways, there isn't the load issues from heavy trucks and they don't nearly the same amount of vehicle traffic, reducing wear on them. Also, there is a property owner who can recover the cost of the investment.

by 202_Cyclist on May 13, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

The Shakespeare housing proposal is a win-win-win. Southwest will get more residents, a vacant building will be put to use, and this also creates more space for additional retail/restaurants on Barrack's Row.

by 202_Cyclist on May 13, 2014 11:10 am • linkreport

Re: Height limit near airports:

San Diego is treacherous enough to approach - the buildings around it are shorter, but the area is no less dense than DCA. Add in DCA's restrictions on approach and takeoff and you have one of the most challenging airports to fly into and fly out of in the country.

This isn't an urban growth issue, it's an air safety issue.

@Richard: Dulles has five runways, DCA has three; all of DCA's runways are shorter than Dulles's.

by DCDuck on May 13, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

btw, license, not sure how it has lasted as a typo this long

by Navid Roshan on May 13, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

Fixed, thanks.

by David Alpert on May 13, 2014 11:24 am • linkreport

"it's an air safety issue."

IE its an issue where we will treat the value of a human life as infinite (ZERO air collisions are acceptable) when we do not do the same with other benefit cost calculations, even limiting it to transportation related ones.

Actually it would be more corect to say that we are treating the value of human lives lost to air disasters as infinite - since we won't even look at the impact on road fatalities of less centralized work places and residences, or the health impacts of limiting the number of work places and residences in some of the most bike friendly locations in the region.

It may be an air safety issue, but it is one with urban growth implications.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 13, 2014 11:28 am • linkreport

Regarding the solar roads, I can see this as being used for both parking lots and also driveways. With driveways, there isn't the load issues from heavy trucks and they don't nearly the same amount of vehicle traffic, reducing wear on them. Also, there is a property owner who can recover the cost of the investment.

I think parking lots that aren't used during the day, and peoples driveways are the only real road uses. Sidewalks and maybe cycle tracks could also see use.

Proving 1 heavy truck can go over your expensive panel pavement doesn't mean it will stand up to thousands of trucks, people with poorly maintained vehicles, and millions of regular cars.

Still, until we have people tackling the low hanging fruit of putting panels on their roof, I dont know why we are trying to put them on the road.

by Richard on May 13, 2014 11:29 am • linkreport

Dulles has five runways, DCA has three; all of DCA's runways are shorter than Dulles's.

I am well aware that Dulles has longer runways and more clearance around them, but Dulles also operates much larger aircraft which need more room, and operates aircraft on much longer distance legs which means they are more heavily laden with fuel and need additional room.

by Richard on May 13, 2014 11:31 am • linkreport

@Richard: there are no suburban towers in the dulles approach zones. The immediate approaches are scrub forests for at least a mile, with low density suburban construction beyond that. The largest buildings in the immediate area are along 28, parallel to and almost a mile away from the main runways (and even those aren't really tall, under 10 stories).

by Mike on May 13, 2014 11:54 am • linkreport

The Skyscrappers in Rosslyn are TINY compared to that of other cities around the country. And Rosslyn already has a height restriction of 400ft. The DC area in general has short buildings compared to ANY major metropolitan region you can think of off the top of your head.

by Ervin on May 13, 2014 12:22 pm • linkreport

I don't know why Moran is so shocked (apart from maybe Arlington developers paying him to be), height restrictions aren't new to Arlington County. Crystal City has long had height limits imposed by the FAA similar to DC's, which is why most buildings aren't more than 15 or so stories. Recently the FAA has relaxed this restriction and allowed Vornado to build a 300 ft., 24-story office tower (that likely won't be built any time soon).

Rosslyn also came under FAA scrutiny when JBG originally proposed their twin office/residential towers in 2007 (the residential portion of will finally break ground this year), and when Monday Properties constructed their 390 ft (originally supposed to be 484 ft) office tower over the past two years.

The proposed restriction will hardly affect development in Crystal City anyway since the submarket has the highest office vacancy in the DC Area and is a virtual ghost town. High-rise development slated for Rosslyn could shift further west to Ballston/Va. Sq. (Clarendon/Courthouse has county imposed height limits).

The restriction is definitely a safety issue since aircraft landing on runway 19 follow the "River Visual Approach" which passes within a half mile of Rosslyn at a height of ~900 ft. There's a limited margin for error.

by King Terrapin on May 13, 2014 12:24 pm • linkreport

I also know Miami has a similar issue with its downtown being close to the airport and those buildings rise up to 700 feet+. 300 ft shorter than any inhabitable building in the entire DC region furthermore they have a few planned closer to 1000ft. Its really not a safety issue. Plus its not like the buildings that are already there or under construction are going anywhere

by Ervin on May 13, 2014 12:27 pm • linkreport

King T

While the current office market in CC is weak, I do not expect that last forever. Is this just a 5 year restriction?

And moving office space from Rosslyn to Ballston means moving it to a place with one less metro station, farther from the center of the region, where transit mode share will be lower.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 13, 2014 12:56 pm • linkreport

Breaking laws and regulations by ride-sharing offshore
based cartel should be condemned, not glorified.
But some here seem to think that Wal-martization of
public transportation is the way to go... Naïve.
Ride-sharing billion-dollar corporations won't contribute
to your local economy even 0.0001% of what thousands of
small local transportation businesses are contributing
daily. Wal-martization of local transportation by the
hands of a few offshore-based billionaires must stop.

by Michael on May 13, 2014 1:00 pm • linkreport

@Michael Did you copy and paste that from the "Who's Driving You?" email list? Good show.

@King Terrapin: They have broken ground on Central Place in Rosslyn! Everything across the street from the Metro is a construction zone. It's good to see, but an incredibly tiny smidgen of me misses the McDonald's.

by LowHeadways on May 13, 2014 1:12 pm • linkreport

I love how every restriction on building heights is followed by dire predictions to the health of the market, as if the market where unable to overcome these obstacles.

by Thayer-D on May 13, 2014 1:13 pm • linkreport


The market will move more office space to places like Tysons and White Flint, which have only one metro line each (that the better case - the worse one is it moves more office space to places without any metrorail access.) The market, unfortunately, does not care about the externalities of shifting mode share from transit to SOV (we could deal with that if we could price ALL the externalities of driving into the cost, but seeing as how congress can't even swallow raising the gas tax to pay for roads, I see little hope of that.)

We could of course build miles and miles of more metro lines, at the cost of billions. We probably won't though. And building more infra, when we could better leverage existing infra, seems at least as wasteful to me as tearing down old buildings. You know building a new metro line involves GHG emissions, right?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 13, 2014 1:34 pm • linkreport

Rosslyn already has a height restriction thanks to the FAA. In 2007 they required one builder to lower the height of one of the new buildings there by 3 feet to 384 feet.

This proposal would lower that limit further. All the more reason for DC to remove theirs.

by David C on May 13, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

I think Rosslyn is allowed slighter taller buildings than Crystal City by the FAA.

by Tom Coumaris on May 13, 2014 3:54 pm • linkreport

That's the thing. Arlington was responding to an earlier rule/policy change that was going to allow taller buildings and now has to backtrack because the FAA changed its mind again. (sidenote: my dad is having a similar problem with the FAA with medical requirements that seem to constantly change back and forth meaning he's stuck in a weird limbo).

Moran's bill would basically make FAA justify why they're making these changes and why the benefits of the change outweigh the cost of preventing development in those two areas.

by drumz on May 13, 2014 4:05 pm • linkreport

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