Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Drawing the line


Image from DC DME.
New lines for schools: There's a new proposal for school boundaries in DC. "Choice zones" are gone, but 10% of seats at each school get reserved for out-of-boundary students. Most people east of Rock Creek would no longer be in boundary for Wilson High School. (City Paper)

The Tax Warrior II: Yoga studios and others are organizing to stop the broader sales tax that would no longer exempt fitness and other services. Jack Evans opposes the change; Matt Yglesias defends it. (DCist, Vox)

A better tax option?: DC's tax proposals may make the tax code a little more progressive, but also includes some bad ideas. Instead of sales taxes, how about taxing pollution or vehicle value? (Nothing More Powerful)

Too tired?: A truck crash that injured Tracy Morgan and killed another comedian has thrown a spotlight on a proposed rule change that would let long-haul truckers put in up to 82 hours a week behind the wheel, up from 60 or 70. (US News)

Was it "just an accident?": The driver of the truck says everyone should just move on and not scrutinize his driving, because it was just an "accident." This is why many argue we should stop using the word "accident." (Streetsblog)

Silver Line could get a date: Metro's board has given GM Richard Sarles the authority to set a start date for the Silver Line. There's no date yet, but train operators will begin simulating service on July 20. (WAMU)

Where the housing is affordable: Vouchers are supposed to be an alternative to public housing that let people choose where to live and dilute concentrated poverty. But in our region, voucher users live in highly concentrated areas anyway. (City Paper)

No more secret meetings: The parking garage where Bob Woodward met Deep Throat will soon be gone as its building and another get redeveloped into new office and residential with a grocery store. The developer will include a "historical interpretation" to commemorate the spot. (WBJ)

Underground railroad: The tunnel between the West Baltimore MARC and Baltimore Penn Station is a key rail bottleneck in the northeast corridor. Studies of a $1.5 billion replacement are underway and officials are seeking public input. (Baltimore Sun)

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Sam Sherwood moved to DC in 2007, and has lived on the same block of T Street NW (albeit in two different apartments) ever since. He is a commercial real estate appraiser with Integra Realty Resources, and spends his evenings playing guitar for Mittenfields

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while the DC take on housing vouchers is that it concentrates povery EOTR, the regional fact is that is spreads a lot of it to the suburbs, and not just to PG but to MoCo and NoVa. A voucher approach will tend to move recipients to places where housing is cheaper - regionally that means suburbs (at least those that have older multifamily units) but in the close in jurisdictions it means concentrating them in the areas not yet touched by rising rents. A focus on building more affordable units WOTR in DC instead will mean less concentration EOTR, but more concentration in the city vis a vis the suburbs. Not a simple problem.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 13, 2014 10:00 am • linkreport

The B&P tunnel is long overdue for replacement. Shortly after it was built 141 years ago they realized the curve midlength was too sharp and they started looking for an alternative, but they never got to building it.

Along with the Howard street tunnel that is even older and also in need of replacement you have 3 very different trains using the tracks.

If possible, either the new tunnel or the old tunnel refurbished after the new one takes most of the traffic, it would be really beneficial to have an interchange at Upton station for the Baltimore Metro and MARC. Amtrak on the other hand would want to bypass that area completely.

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

Speaking of rail tunnels, the Virginia Ave EIS is out: http://www.jdland.com/dc/index.cfm/3984/Virginia-Avenue-Tunnel-Final-EIS-Released/

by JES on Jun 13, 2014 10:08 am • linkreport

It's fascinating to me how dozens of highway collisions resulting in death and injury happen every single day, but only when a "celebrity" is involved can we begin serious discussions about safety improvements.

by dcmike on Jun 13, 2014 10:12 am • linkreport

It's unfortunate that it took a tragedy to combine two things I love: morning links and 30 rock.

http://www.hark.com/clips/gmhytxsmpm-foxy-boxing

by drumz on Jun 13, 2014 10:16 am • linkreport

One problem with taxing vehicle value is that it encourages people to hold on to older, more polluting (and potentially less safe) cars.

by ah on Jun 13, 2014 10:24 am • linkreport

@ah: and encouraging people to buy new cars every couple of years contributes to an enormous waste of resources and a culture of overextended credit. If you appropriately link the cost of pollution to the cost of fuel, then old polluting vehicles is a problem that tends to correct itself.

by Mike on Jun 13, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

We have the car (value) tax in VA. It is stupid (we should be encouraging, not discouraging, nicer cars) but it is so entrenched that the politicians can't get rid of it.

by movement on Jun 13, 2014 10:35 am • linkreport

Most cars built after 1996 are fairly non-polluting.

Granted, as they get older catalytics and other things fail but that can be tested via emission testing.

Safety is a big change, and newer cars are much safer than ones from 96 or even 04.

The "Yoga Tax" is pretty offensive. There are good reasons we don't tax services instead of goods. And given the number of chubbies in this town we need to encourge them to go to the gym.

by charlie on Jun 13, 2014 10:36 am • linkreport

"The "Yoga Tax" is pretty offensive. There are good reasons we don't tax services instead of goods."

what might those be?

" And given the number of chubbies in this town we need to encourge them to go to the gym."

A good way to do that woujld be to have minimum parking requirements at gyms. Or something.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 13, 2014 10:39 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity ; I know you don't actually like in DC, but very few people drive to the gyms here. Maybe out where you are.

by charlie on Jun 13, 2014 10:41 am • linkreport

Thats good. so maybe gyms SHOULDN'T have parking minimums. Might be a better way to encourage gyms than exempting them from sales tax.

I do find it amusing that people want to exempt gyms and yoga from sales tax. Yet people get upset that we "subsidize" bike infra and bikeshare. Despite bikes and bike accessories being fully taxed (in all local jurisdictions, AFAIK)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 13, 2014 10:53 am • linkreport

I find it kind of hard to get worked up over people being taxed for their gym memberships. It's not like this is a burned on the poor.

by RDHD on Jun 13, 2014 10:54 am • linkreport

Yoga tax is "offensive"? Really? I mean I really don't think making your yoga session cost $22 instead of 20 is going to turn people off. DC should subsidize the Y and recreation facilities so everyone has access to health, a gym or yoga studio is a private business.

by BTA on Jun 13, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

I don't quite get the flippant point of Streetblog's post, and drop the word "accident" and replace it with what? The loss of 30,000+ plus lives on roads is a ongoing catastrophe that we've stopped recognizing as one long ago. But we can fix this.

The technology is very, very close for building intelligent vehicles. Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) technology for use in vehicles and on roadways is available. These communication systems, coupled with things like warning systems in vehicles and even automatic braking, could be bridge technologies until we arrive at full automation or autonomous systems.

So, yes, if you don't want to call something an accident, well, fine then. If you think bigger fines, more jail time, and whatever, will work, then go ahead. But the only real solution here, the only hope we have for making driving as safe as flying, is through rapid technology deployment, federal investment, and more spending on infrastructure. We should use these high-profile accidents as teachable moments, and explain how automation could have prevented this accident, if we're willing to make the national investment.

by kob on Jun 13, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

Yglesias is absolutely right on the tax issue. Moreover, it is absolutely a regressive tax like he says. The less well off are more likely to engage in physical activity that is taxed(bikes, free weights, etc) than those willing to shell out $80 per month for a gym membership. Do we really want to tax everything people buy more to give the middle and upper classes a couple extra bucks per month?

by JPC on Jun 13, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

kob, the argument (which I'm agnostic on) is that accident doesnt imply fault whereas if you use a word like collision you get the idea that someone probably caused the collision or at least it wouldn't have happened without the two or more parties being actively involved. In this particular case, technology is great, but wouldn't making sure the drivers aren't working so much they fall asleep a better place to start in the meantime?

by BTA on Jun 13, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

Most cars built after 1996 are fairly non-polluting.

Tell that to the Chinese. I think in large numbers cars are very polluting, both in emissions and noise.

by dc denizen on Jun 13, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

I don't quite get the flippant point of Streetblog's post, and drop the word "accident" and replace it with what?

How about 'crash.'

The point is that we've equated 'crash' with 'accident' in terms of traffic collisions; and in fact, not all 'accidents' are accidental.

by Alex B. on Jun 13, 2014 11:04 am • linkreport

Kob,

"Collision" most likely. "Accident" can imply that a situation couldn't be helped but sites like GGW or streetsblog have spent a long time talking about how many collisions are preventable but a combo of poor infrastructure, lax law and law enforcement, and our overall car-focused culture leads to roads that aren't as safe as they could be.

/also, it's weird seeing streetsblog described as "flippant". That's hardly a word I'd use to describe Streetsblog's usual tone.

by drumz on Jun 13, 2014 11:05 am • linkreport

@ dc denizen ; Chinese emission standards very different than ours. Average age of US cars is around 11 years, which is a 2003 or 04 model year.

by charlie on Jun 13, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

thats why greater DC has zero emissions. Or its emissions are from all the coal fired power plants located here.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 13, 2014 11:13 am • linkreport


Glad to see that Virginia Ave is moving forward.

The only potential problem I can see is that some local residents are apparently unhappy with this. It isn't clear what the core issue is exactly - some of the issues that they were raising were just hyperbole, and that just serves to discredit all of their objections.

by Eric on Jun 13, 2014 11:19 am • linkreport

Most cars built after 1996 are fairly non-polluting.

I mean sure, as long as you don't consider CO, NOx, hydrocarbons, or CO2 "pollution." Never mind that 28% of GHG emissions come from the transportation sector. In DC, it's likely higher than that.

Come on, man.

by MLD on Jun 13, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

@ MLD; yes, I stand on that.

compared to cars before 1996 and the OBD system, most cars are fairly non-polluting. And with an OBD a failure is the emission system is fairly easy to see. Before that you could just remove a blocked cat.

C02 for transport isn't currently considered a "pollutant".

So in terms of whether a car tax would cause people to drive more polluting cars, I don't find that a credible argument. there are plenty of other reasons why people don't like driving 20 year old cars on a regular basis.

Emission testing once a year, instead of every two, would be a far more effective solution.

by charlie on Jun 13, 2014 11:30 am • linkreport

@ Alex B @drumz @BTA

Streetblog made a better case for itself on the use of the word "accident," when it argued for AP to update its style guide on the matter. This becomes an issue of language and how words are used and defined. I think word "accident" to describe any collision is very embedded, and its use doesn't isn't implying absence of fault. AP can sort that one out.

And I completely agree that doing more to ensure that truck drivers aren't at risk of falling asleep is a good thing. It might save a few dozen lives each years, not a trivial amount, from what I recall. But if you want to save 20K plus lives annually, push for the technology changes as well as sleep requirements.

by kob on Jun 13, 2014 11:45 am • linkreport

As far as the actual context for "accident" vs."collision" I could maybe be persuaded BUT its indicative of the way we talk about collisions overall.

It's part of the overall response against windshield perspective which reports on a collision and then hardly ever follows up (partly because the police hardly ever follow up once they realize someone wasn't drunk at the time) on what led up to the collision and the system itself is never questioned.

New tech, and regulations are welcome improvements but streetsblog push in that article in particular was mostly about how the driver's reaction was typical of how a lot of people treat traffic collisions and that includes thinking of everything as an "accident" even when its not.

by drumz on Jun 13, 2014 11:53 am • linkreport

@Charlie

What do you mean that "CO2 for transport isn't currently considered a pollutant"

I thought EPA made an endangerment finding for CO2 under the Clean Air Act and can't specifically carve out other sectors including mobile sources. That is the whole point behind the GHG tailoring rule and subsequent litigation.

by sk on Jun 13, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

@drumz
you don't know what happened, you don't know the motivations of the driver, and you certainly can't glean from some tweets what the driver is really thinking, and you certainly don't know if the driver's reaction was "typical."

by kob on Jun 13, 2014 12:01 pm • linkreport

On the school boundaries, I cannot decide if Bowser is a genius or the opposite. Just this week, she endorsed keeping DCPS Chancellor Henderson in her job if elected. And just 2 days later, we see a feeder map that cuts all of Bowser's Ward 4, east of the parks folks, out of Deal and Wilson, something Bowser has sworn to prevent.

So I wonder if Bowser knew this was coming and figured she'd be able to have more sway over Henderson to change that feeder pattern if she endorsed her to stay in her role. Or, did Bowser make a huge mistake, like with her original response on this issue supporting a lottery, and she is just a doofus?

by fongfong on Jun 13, 2014 12:11 pm • linkreport

Yes we can. He published his thoughts on Twitter.(yes, there is a caveat about proof that its really him but bear with me). I think we can make reasoned arguments on what we have.

It's a systemic problem.

The whole article/issue is how there is a persistent bias in society/media that doesn't ask tough questions about why collisions happen on the road.

It's discussed here all the time whenever a pedestrian or cyclist is killed and the same criticism you're making is brought up as well.

Or when its suggested that the driver in any collision should face consequences someone will invariably say "but I bet that person already feels really guilty!" as if that's consequence enough for being negligent.

So yeah, based on everything I see/read/hear I think what's happened is unfortunately all too typical.
It's a tough thing to reckon with, mainly because most of us drive and we don't like dealing with the thought of having more serious consequences to something we do so often but if we don't then we're less likely to make roads safer.

by drumz on Jun 13, 2014 12:14 pm • linkreport

>He published his thoughts on Twitter<

People are more quantum than binary. Meaning, they can hold two opposing thoughts at the same time. My bet is that the driver's thinking about his responsibility is more complex than the tweets reveal.

by kob on Jun 13, 2014 12:19 pm • linkreport

Ok, but as I said, his thoughts (internal or external to world) are still indicative of a larger issue that is well documented both on this website and streetsblog.

I don't think "we'll never know what really happened" is an adequate response to a systemic problem like this. We pay people to investigate things all the time, including transportation collisions, but too often when its a driver hitting someone we usually don't take more than a cursory look at what happened as long as the driver is sober and conditions are fair.

Seems to me like we could do better on that.

by drumz on Jun 13, 2014 12:26 pm • linkreport

Whether CO2 is a pollutant or not, cars built before 1996, in 2004, or yesterday do not produce more or less of it, other than their gas mileage.

by Richard on Jun 13, 2014 12:42 pm • linkreport

@BTA comment 10:56. I agree! I think there are even yoga classes offered at some DC P&R locations. The objection I can understand for the tax is from small business owners who might think the tax will deter customers.

by Tina on Jun 13, 2014 1:05 pm • linkreport

As I said, I'm agnostic about the word use of accident vs something else but it does seem to me to be a pretty good example of Sapir-Whorf. In English accident, clearly implies that it was unintentional but it's only a step away from implying lack of fault or at least diminished fault. I mean how often have we all said "It's not your fault, it was an accident." It seems pretty clear in most traffic collisions that don't involve mechanical failure or medical emergencies that the actions of one or more drivers were the main causal factors.

by BTA on Jun 13, 2014 1:05 pm • linkreport

An interesting corollary would be in South Korea, where they are vigorously pursuing the operator of the capsized ferry for operating under unsafe conditions which were the main contributing factor to the accident.

by BTA on Jun 13, 2014 1:08 pm • linkreport

And honestly it doesnt matter what the driver was thinking post accident. What matters is that pre-accident he didn't seem to be thinking about how to drive in a safer manner.

by BTA on Jun 13, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

" The less well off are more likely to engage in physical activity that is taxed(bikes, free weights, etc) than those willing to shell out $80 per month for a gym membership. Do we really want to tax everything people buy more to give the middle and upper classes a couple extra bucks per

I'm not taking a side on the yoga tax in saying this, but this observation is way off the mark. What do you think happens in a gym, or for that matter, in a yoga studio. In the gym, members are using all kinds of weights, weight machines and cardio equipment, including bikes. That stuff was taxed, just as the cheap weight set you bought as a teenager, or the bike you bought a couple of years ago. In the yoga studio, it's a little different, as most members bring their own equipment, which was taxed at the point of sale.

Services are different. They're cash transactions often. If your masseuse charges $60, you pay that, but if you have to add $3.95 for tax, it gets awkward. Gov't captures that with income tax instead. That said, it's not impossible, but why single out one kind of service? Do doctors are lawyers have to pay sales tax? Dentists?

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jun 13, 2014 1:21 pm • linkreport

"It seems pretty clear in most traffic collisions that don't involve mechanical failure or medical emergencies that the actions of one or more drivers were the main causal factors."

But at the same time, I've witnessed with my eyeballs plenty of collisions where the person that was at fault wasn't involved in the actual collision.

If someone cuts you off and in your attempt to not hit that person, you get rear ended, is that your fault? The chain of events starts with the person that cut you off and goes off merrily oblivious of their wake.

by Another Nick on Jun 13, 2014 1:24 pm • linkreport

I guess that's kind of my point. We need a culture of safety where people don't just think accidents happen, but feel personal responsibility to proactively not act dangerously.

by BTA on Jun 13, 2014 1:33 pm • linkreport

Re: Yoga tax.

The legislation that set up the tax commission had several goals, two of which are relevant here. One was to use tax policy to encourage "good" things and discourage "bad" things. And the other was to broaden the tax base in the spirit of fairness. For the yoga tax, these two goals were in contradiction and the latter won out.

According to the report, the main reason that gyms were chosen was that they were specifically looking for things that were location based and thus have to be done in DC. You can't get your haircut on the internet, for example. Of course, you can do yoga on the internet (my wife and I do that sometimes). So they're justification is off on that. If I were arguing against the yoga tax, I'd mention that.

I'd also point out that the word yoga is nowhere to be found in the commission's report.

All of this is just fodder for why an enormous tax change like this should not be sprung on people less than a day before it is to be voted on. And why Marion Barry was right (I know) when he criticized Mendelson for doing that and then limiting debate on the bill.

by David C on Jun 13, 2014 2:12 pm • linkreport

@ Richard

That is why EPA proposed new mileage standards that will go into effect in 2016 and 2025. There is no add on technology to reduce or remove CO2 emissions (aside from carbon sequestration). The name of the game for tackling global warming is improving efficiency. Electric cars achieve this by shifting the source of power to electric power plants which are generally more efficient and less carbon intensive than road engines.

by sk on Jun 13, 2014 2:20 pm • linkreport

@Fongfong,

To my understanding, DCPS isn't in charge of boundaries. OSSE is. Is that correct?

Whatever the case may be, the school boundary decisions are truly disappointing. If DC had used the lottery, it could have:

A) promoted equity within the city
B) proven that "good teaching" and not demographics (affluence) is responsible for the success of some NW schools OR shown the reciprocal
C) pulled some potential students back from charters (although surely some current students would "flee")

I think MoCo is ripe for a boundary change. It will probably propose major redistricting of catchment areas sometime within the next ten years or so, but will also stand down post angry parent input from the west...

by Glenmonster on Jun 13, 2014 7:00 pm • linkreport

Glenmonster--

With your views, I'd be curious as to whether you are a current DCPS parent or DCPS pundit.

by Jack on Jun 13, 2014 11:02 pm • linkreport

@Jack,

As my name and the previous message suggest, I'm a MoCo resident. But I am interested in urban education and equity, and before you ask, no I don't have, nor have ever had, children in DCPS.

I think your comment is strange (and a bit rude). I'm sure DCPS parents and pundits alike are a heterogenous group who have very different views about the pending boundary system. If I had a child going to School Without Walls or I was a teacher there, I'd probably have a much different opinion about the school boundaries compared to a parent or teacher across the river at a school like Ballou.

Anyway, this blog is for sharing opinions and ideas and typically people are respectful. Just reminding you in case you forgot...

by Glenmonster on Jun 14, 2014 10:55 am • linkreport

@Another Nick: no, the rear-ender would be at fault; if he'd been going slower or allowing more following distance he wouldn't have hit the other car. (this is different than the "someone came running out of nowhere and I couldn't avoid him" case--if the front car had time to react and stop, so did the back car, and the collision was avoidable and not an "accident".)

by Mike on Jun 16, 2014 8:21 am • linkreport

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