Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Development past and future


Photo by dan reed! on Flickr.
A complete Clarksburg: Clarksburg's roads, sidewalks, and other infrastructure will be completed by 2015, according to an agreement between Montgomery County and the original developer. Work stalled in 2005 after building violations and a lawsuit. (Post)

Down to two: The four alternatives for the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station have been pared down to two. Federal officials determined that two options were too expensive, leaving an alternative next to Potomac Greens and another to the east of North Potomac Yard. (WBJ)

Permits for pub crawls: Arlington pub crawls may soon need a permit and have to pay for police at their events. Event organizers argue that crawls bring in enough tax revenue for the county to cover costs. (ArlNow)

Columbia Heights development leader dies: Bob Moore, a key figure in Columbia Heights' rebirth, died on Monday. Moore helped bring the Nehemiah Shopping Center and DC USA mall to the neighborhood. (City Paper)

So long, Baier: Alexandria's director of transportation and environmental services, Richard Baier, is leaving his post at the end of August. Baier led the department since 2000, and did much for transit and active transportation in the city. (Post)

Induced demand is real: Writers from Cato and the Weekly Standard have argued that "induced demand" doesn't exist on the roads, or isn't a reason to reexamine highway construction. Here are four myths that underlie most of the pushback. (Urbanist.co)

Replace the gas tax?: Singapore pays for its excellent infrastructure by constantly tracking and taxing its drivers. Could a vehicle mileage tax be implemented here, where people are more concerned about privacy? (ThinkProgress, Thad)

And...: Is Arlington the suburb of the future? (Salon, Helen D.) ... A falcarius, narwhals, and others have appeared in Capitol Hill. (DCist) ... Can you name all the Metro stations? (Sporcle)

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David Koch is a native of Silver Spring. He first discovered his love of transportation and planning through Greater Greater Washington and Just Up The Pike. He has a planning degree from Rutgers University and is a planner with the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. You might see him on his bike around Columbia Heights. 

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I think the bigger problem with VMT isnt privacy (is it really an invasion of privacy to have to report your mileage once a year), so much as logistics.

It would be simple in theory to simply require all registered drivers to have their mileage verified by a trusted agent (the DMV, or even an auto shop, or hell, the post office). Its just that there are alot of cars that would need to be checked.

And of course it would encourage alot more tampering with the odometer.

by TomA on Jul 9, 2014 9:22 am • linkreport

RE: Pub crawls

Where exactly did it originate that suddenly our tax dollars no longer cover basic services like police, and additional fees are needed on a constant basis?

Why does the pub crawl with 50 people need to pay a fee for police coverage they do not want or need.....but 150 people showing up at the bar any other night is a ok?

Seems like extortion. I didn't realize the freedom to assemble requires a bribe or its ruled illegal.

by JJJJ on Jul 9, 2014 9:24 am • linkreport

Re: Clarksburg - "-- December 2009: Planning staff finds more than 400 discrepancies between approved plans and what Newland says is its final submission, and threatens to impose fines."

So in other words, if Newland wasn't a rich developer but person, they'd be in prison or sued. And people *want* them to keep building in Montgomery?

by asffa on Jul 9, 2014 9:26 am • linkreport

Note, even if the correct induced demand elasticity IS 1, that does not mean its never a good idea to add road capacity. Some of those increased trips/VMT will represent actual positive social value. But it does mean that the additional road capacity will not solve the congestion related externalities, such as pollution resulting from congested conditions. Ergo to address clean air, you need to either invest in non-auto modes of transport, OR, if you are going to add road capacity, you MUST price the roads.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 9, 2014 9:30 am • linkreport

re: the Potomac Yards Metro station - it's unfortunate a better-sited station appears to be impossible at this point. But, the new Metroway creates a whole host of possibilities for people to travel within this zone once they reach any Potomac Yard station, regardless of its actual location. Indeed, if North Potomac Yard really becomes a nexus of high-rise office buildings (questionable in today's commercial real estate environment), I can see MetroWay increases its rush hour frequency from a Potomac Yards station (or Crystal City) to maybe every 4-6 minutes, which is not too bad. This would be better if more dedicated BRT lanes were built, too.

by JDC on Jul 9, 2014 9:30 am • linkreport

@TomA: My car is inspected annually at the request of the state. It would not be hard to add checking the odometer to the list of things the technician needs to verify. Can Virginia tax me for miles driven in DC or Maryland?

Right now, fuel taxes are approximately one and a half to two cents per mile. Would a mileage tax of 2 cents per mile be excessive?

Would I write the new mileage number on my personal property tax notice, calculate the mileage-based tax and send the amount in to the county? Virginia could allow the localities to collect on their behalf, and reduce the amount of property tax refund sent to the localities.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 9, 2014 9:35 am • linkreport

Err, given the extremely low numbers of cars in singapore drivers aren't contributing much.

I'm sure the people here would love their idea of taxing each driver for a right to buy a car -- to the tune of 100K.

But typical of think progress they can't even address the facts and wet their pants about VMT.

by charlie on Jul 9, 2014 9:36 am • linkreport

In other news, Courtland Milloy speaks out for the oppressed old-time Ward 9 crowd again. #Twitsbikeschurchparking

by spookiness on Jul 9, 2014 9:36 am • linkreport

@JJJJ, the pub crawls need to pay because it's not a pub crawl with 50 people, it's a pub crawl with 5000-8000 people.

by bobo on Jul 9, 2014 9:40 am • linkreport

Can you name all the Metro stations?

I gave up at 53%. I could have got a bit further, but I got frustrated at some of the spelling issues. Mount Vernon. Not Mt Vernon. Fort Totten, not Ft Totten. Largo Town Center, not Largo. Sigh. Ronald Reagan Washing- yeah yeah.

by Jasper on Jul 9, 2014 9:41 am • linkreport

I saw someone ask a question, and I honestly want everyone's best opinion on the matter -- do you think the Silver Line will have lights up ready to go - or do you think next to "Wiehle Reston East" and/or "Largo" there will be no color? Hell i'd even be happier with a whie LED than no LED :c

by SilverLineHype on Jul 9, 2014 10:00 am • linkreport

@JJJJ:

I think the issue is that there have been a couple of high-profile incidents relating to the pub crawls in Clarendon. Right now, the neighborhood residents are unhappy with the current situation.

Even though pub crawls are making a lot of money for the businesses and county, the cost on the quality-of-life of the surrounding neighborhoods might not be worth it.

by bobco85 on Jul 9, 2014 10:00 am • linkreport

Mileage counting versus a gas tax is a non-starter. The sensor wireless technology is, on the face of it, easy enough. The issue won't be mechanically rolling back the odometer, but hacking the security, physical and virtual, around the mileage counter/sensor. It will be hacked. It takes the auto industry roughly six years to deploy new tech in vehicles from concept, and it will certainly take that long to deploy this as well as build and test a retrofit. Deployment will take an three-to-five year additional multi-year window. A semi-authoritarian state like Singapore has more options.

Congress is years away from agreeing on anything of consequence. So even if this idea has a chance, it's at least a dozen years away from implementation, and that's traveling at near light speed.

Privacy would be an issue, but why would you be required to provide anything other total miles traveled? The mileage reporting does not have to use GPS.

But I can't see lawmakers championing the idea of a lump sum annual or quarterly mileage bill to consumers, or an additional hit on income taxes even with generous offsets based on income.

by kob on Jul 9, 2014 10:00 am • linkreport

Potomac Yards: I thought B-CSX was the best alternative, but since we usually go with the cheaper short term alternative choice for most transit projects these days (See Silver Line), then they should settle on alternative B and get going. Open PY about the same time as Silver Line Phase 2 to save money on updating all the signs.

Having the guy doing the vehicle inspection write down the odometer mileage will open the door to slipping the guy $10 to write down a lower mileage number. Sure, the discrepancy will eventually be noticed, but many people don't think that far ahead. if we are to implement a VMT system, it needs to be automated with major security features and read mileage more often than once a year, at least every 3 months. Once a year readings will result in some being unable to pay after putting 20K miles on the junkheap or abandoning the car.

by AlanF on Jul 9, 2014 10:01 am • linkreport

Thanks for pointing that out spookiness- found the article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/bicyclist-bullies-try-to-rule-the-road-in-dc/2014/07/08/f7843560-06e3-11e4-bbf1-cc51275e7f8f_story.html

Amazing a paper like the post would publish something that seems a lot like an incitement to violence against bicyclsts.

by KingmanPark on Jul 9, 2014 10:05 am • linkreport

@KingmanPark

It does raise one interesting observation:

So far, more than 72 miles of bike lanes have been carved out of city streets. There are virtually none in Ward 8, by the way, which has the lowest income and highest number of children of any ward in the city.

by kob on Jul 9, 2014 10:12 am • linkreport

Re: Courtland Milloy

"I have to hand it to the automotorists in the D.C. area. They've got more nerve than an El Paso bandit gang. And some can be just as nasty.

They fight to have 'lanes' routed throughout the city, some in front of churches where elderly parishioners used to park their carriages. They slow-motor those four-wheeled contraptions through downtown during the day, laughing at carriagemen who want them to get out of the way.

Now, some of them are pushing to have a "traffic light" installed on 15th Street Northwest...

...Forget about all those people who have direct their steeds up and down that hill every day. What the city really needs is a control device for motor cars, so they won't have to 'collide' with horses."

by Distantantennas on Jul 9, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport

RE: Courtland

Yes I assume we'll see a gorgeous take down of Courtland's subtle racism and ageism trolling today at some point...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/bicyclist-bullies-try-to-rule-the-road-in-dc/2014/07/08/f7843560-06e3-11e4-bbf1-cc51275e7f8f_story.html

by Eric on Jul 9, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

@MichaelPerkins - why not? Gas tax you pay to Maryland doesn't mean you drove all of the miles in that tank in MD.

by TomA on Jul 9, 2014 10:20 am • linkreport

"Unrelated but: Will the silver line have Silver lights next to its name?"

@SilverLineHype

I saw someone else was provoked by my comment... I don't think people want a new line that took so long to have no color next to it's name...

but nobody here knows if it will have colors I think, or if they do they cant take the time to answer us and we have to wait till the 26th to see if the Silver Line will have Silver or White LED/Lights...

come on guys... got any clue?

by fatalransit on Jul 9, 2014 10:21 am • linkreport

Potomac Yard Metro station

It is sad that once again (Dulles), money stop a good metro station from being built the right way. Somehow, roads don't have that issue. Unfair.

by Jasper on Jul 9, 2014 10:25 am • linkreport

VMT is an effective taxation technique -- when you've hit the headroom on the gas tax.

Given that we can have $6 or more in gas taxes per gallon -- as do some European countries and singapore -- there is considerable headroom for the gas tax to increase. I don't think $10 gas would work in the US because our logistics system would collapse, but $6 gas could be tolerated.

The problem we have is while taxing gasoline is an effective system for building roads -- we dont' need new highways! we need repairs, and the highway trust fund isn't doing crap on that.

by charlie on Jul 9, 2014 10:29 am • linkreport

Regarding LED lights on the Silver Line...

I take no credit for this information. This comes from another forum posted by Sand Box John (a reliable source that also posts here on GGW)

His response to the same question regarding use of silver lighted LEDs...

"I have no idea, the existing LEDs are discrete color LEDs, set of Red, set of Blue, set of Orange, set of Green and set of Yellow. My understanding is there is an unused area for another set of LEDs. Going to the trouble to remanufacture the existing displays may not be worth the cost."

by Rob K on Jul 9, 2014 10:29 am • linkreport

@fatalransit

I think it's worthy of an article (over if the SIlver Line will have a color next to it's destination station) if nobody knows, dig deep enough and maybe you'll find proof.

by SilverLineHype on Jul 9, 2014 10:31 am • linkreport

We don't need a VMT tax. Just increase the gas tax. For once, it really is simple.

by renegade09 on Jul 9, 2014 10:39 am • linkreport

Re: Courtland Milloy

Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but I'm surprised that a random, low-key post on a blog that most people have never heard of ended up sparking a response in a major newspaper. If newspapers got involved whenever a blogger posted (to give another example) a fantasy Metro map, there would be no room in the paper for anything else.

In other words, this shows that GGW is much more influential than one may realize.

by jms on Jul 9, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

Courtland Milloy is basically a troll. Or an old school, newspaper version of a troll. He need to fill column inches and his brand of crankyness brings in readers and commentators. Heck, we're talking about it.

by Distantantennas on Jul 9, 2014 10:51 am • linkreport

Re: Milloy.

Well, now I know who to sue if I'm ever hit in DC. That Bezos guy has a lot of cash, yeah?

by Catherine on Jul 9, 2014 10:53 am • linkreport

Re Milloy, good rebuttal in Housing Complex this morning:

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2014/07/09/on-d-c-s-entitled-bike-terrorists/

by Tom on Jul 9, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

Re: VMT

Given persistent abuses and over-militarization on the part of local law enforcement, there is no way that I would allow state or local governments to track my movements with a GPS.

In contrast to the federal government's data mining which has been in the news lately, I doubt that state governments have the will or the discipline to ensure that the GPS data will only be used for its intended purpose. Is this going to end with local residents being raided by a SWAT team because they unwittingly drove past a block where drug transactions were taking place?

This is a deal-breaker for me -- if my state introduced mandatory VMT tracking using a GPS, I would move to another state. I don't understand what's wrong with the gas tax -- sure, lighter and fuel-efficient vehicles use less fuel, but isn't it in the interest of the government to reduce fuel consumption and wear-and-tear on roads??

There's still the issue with distributing the money across jurisdictions (MD and VA commuters are buying gas in their own states, depriving DC of the income), but it's not in the financial interest of any state to "solve" this problem unilaterally.

by jms on Jul 9, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

Re:VMT

I think a VMT is a bad idea for personal car use- it is an invasion of privacy. Not a major one, but it is one nonetheless, and I'm of the opinion that those should be minimized unless there's no other ways. Second, it's a big logistical ask- you'd be asking the IRS to process taxes from individuals instead of from businesses- which is much more resource intensive and prone to noncompliance. With the gas tax, it's all collected automatically at the pump. Painless for everybody, incredibly easy (read: cheap) for the government to collect, no massive verification and processing costs. That should continue to be the mechanism for taxing individual road use.

Where a VMT does need to be implemented in a big way, however, is (as many European countries are doing) on heavy commercial vehicles. Trucks already have to log and report their mileage for other reasons, so there's already a built in infrastructure for handling and processing such data. But that's not the main reason- the main reason is that road wear is a fourth order function of vehicle weight. Your standard personal car is responsible for only a spectacularly tiny proportion of wear on roads. The GAO found that the damage from one 18 wheeler is equivalent to 9600 cars. If you want users to pay in proportion to the costs they impose, that's where the disparity that we need to target lies. Make trucking companies pay a lot more for the road damage they do, and incidentally, maybe shift some of that cargo onto rail, reducing congestion and reducing climate impact. Win-win-win!

by Zeus on Jul 9, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

There does not need to be a privacy problem with a VMT tax -you just get your odometer checked periodically. You could use a special unhackable govt supplied device if hacking and inspector corruption are an issues. No GPS needed.

Yes, that creates a problem as between states - but we already have that problem with gas purchases.

The real problems is that it would be paid in big chunks. Folks hate that.

At this point we don't have enough super high MPG vehicles on the road that we need this. But if gas taxes go up, we will get a few more, and as the costs for them go down, there will be more.

At some point the gas tax/gas powered vehicle death spiral is going to become real.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 9, 2014 11:12 am • linkreport

The real problems is that it would be paid in big chunks. Folks hate that.

Exactly. That's my biggest concern with the odometer check. How much of it is due and when.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2014 11:16 am • linkreport

Yes - for the time being a gas tax is fine. But at some point we WILL reach a point where most cars are electric. Then we will reach a point where nearly all cars are electric. It might be a couple of decades away - but considering the slowness with which a new system will be implemented, its wise to start thinking about it now.

And yes, I think the GPS solution, while easier to implement, is way way to prone to government AND private abuse. The yearly odometer check is the better but harder to implement solution.

Or just pay for roads out of the general fund.

by TomA on Jul 9, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

The real problems is that it would be paid in big chunks. Folks hate that.

It also creates a compliance issue. Some drivers won't pay. They'll avoid inspection, drive illegally. This will all need to be enforced; enforcement comes at a cost.

Contrast that to the compliance costs with the gas tax: an excise tax on gasoline is far easier to administer and collect. Drivers never actually directly pay the gas tax; those costs are just passed through to end user. Collecting the tax is much easier since you are dealing with much smaller pool of users (bulk storage terminals and gasoline distributors) compared to a VMT tax (every driver or car owner).

Just think about the scale and the infrastructure required to interface with all of these different scales:

There are about 150 refineries in the US.
There are about 160,000 gas stations in the US
There are about 254,000,000 registered vehicles in the US

There's a huge difference in the ease and cost of collecting a tax from hundreds of people/places, compared to collecting it from hundreds of millions of people/places.

by Alex B. on Jul 9, 2014 11:39 am • linkreport

"maybe shift some of that cargo onto rail, reducing congestion and reducing climate impact. Win-win-win!"

Maybe? It already happened. Over the road trucking is dead. We're at the point that virtually every truck you see is last mile stuff (or last 30 miles, given that intermodal terminals can't be built everywhere).

by Another Nick on Jul 9, 2014 12:08 pm • linkreport

Automated Camera-based license plate scanning is already a proven technology.

Every time your car is spotted by the system in specific zones, you get dinged a penny. There are countless different approaches to billing you, such as adding your cumulative charges to next year's registration fee, direct billing, etc.

That would solve DC's congestion toll problem, too.

by The Truth™ on Jul 9, 2014 12:16 pm • linkreport

Maybe? It already happened. Over the road trucking is dead. We're at the point that virtually every truck you see is last mile stuff (or last 30 miles, given that intermodal terminals can't be built everywhere).

Reduced maybe, but over the road trucking is very far from dead. Drive along I-81 for a bit sometime. Besides which, there are still zillions of trucks on the road, even if they are doing less long distance stuff. The damage from trucks is why roads are so damn expensive, and we should make truckers pay vastly more.

Automated Camera-based license plate scanning is already a proven technology.
Every time your car is spotted by the system in specific zones, you get dinged a penny. There are countless different approaches to billing you, such as adding your cumulative charges to next year's registration fee, direct billing, etc.

That would solve DC's congestion toll problem, too.

If you want to talk about stupendously large invasions of privacy, that's almost as bad as GPS trackers. No way in hell is that appropriate. Also, the systems to do that may be proven, but they're also pretty expensive.

What on earth is the problem with the gas tax, anyway? The more you drive, the more you pay. More fuel efficient vehicles, which also tend to be lighter and less damaging to roads, pay less. With smaller vehicles, the gas tax naturally factors in miles traveled and how environmentally friendly your car is (which relates to how much damage you do to roads and thus the costs you impose). It's dirt simple to collect, and enforcement is a non issue. If it's not generating enough revenue, just raise it a bit. Not so hard. The linkage to environmental impact and infrastructure damage breaks down with large commercial vehicles, so impose an additional tax on them, of whatever sort.

There's no need to blow up and radically change the system when a modest tweak would accomplish exactly the same thing.

by Zeus on Jul 9, 2014 1:00 pm • linkreport

Doesn't Oregon already have a vehicle miles tax monitored by transponders in cars or something?

DC needs a congestion tax like London.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 9, 2014 1:07 pm • linkreport

The Truth(tm) - Yes that would work, but I could see reasons for resistence against the idea, because of the being tracked all the time by the government.
Some citizens are tired of strange departments of their gov finding weak new excuses to catalog everything they buy, they say (at least online or on the phone), and go in life (and they often make such travel unnecessarily difficult) - with the excuse of empowering a poorly guided paramiltary law enforcement and/or with another excuse.

by asffa on Jul 9, 2014 1:08 pm • linkreport

electric vehicles are not necessarily lighter than conventionally fueled vehicles, and do not necessarily add less wear and tear to roads.

Its fine if we want to use the gas tax as a proxy for a carbon tax, and get minimal revenue from very high MPG vehicles. Except when we don't get enough revenue to keep the HTF afloat. We are not there yet, but we do need to think about the future.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 9, 2014 1:09 pm • linkreport

License plate scanning performed at certain zones/intervals is not too invasive, IMO. First of all, it's already being done, whether we like it or not. Second, we unless you turn off every wireless device on your person and in your car, you are already being tracked. Use your credit/debit card at the pump? You're being tracked.

The great thing about this system is it can be variable rated to specific roads/zones.

There can always be an established and posted "No scan" route for drivers with tinfoil hats. They will be dirt roads with minimal support.

by The Truth™ on Jul 9, 2014 1:15 pm • linkreport

Re: Pub Crawls

The problem with pub crawls isn't the number of people attending them. It's their level of drunkenness. This happens because as the group moves from bar-to-bar, you need to buy a drink at each bar and consume it before it's time to move to the next bar. As a result, most people end up consuming more alcohol than they would on a normal night out.

Public intoxication is illegal for a reason. Drunk people do all kinds of annoying things like urinate (or worse) publicly and make a lot of noise. To be fair, pub crawls shouldn't really have to pay a fee (because taxes are supposed to cover those services) but then the police should be standing outside of each bar on the pub crawl and checking every person for signs of public intoxication or other violations (cursing loudly is also illegal in Arlington).

That would probably put an end to pub crawls, so the organizers are probably better off paying a fee for extra police presence to mitigate the public nuisance their illegally intoxicated patrons create.

by Falls Church on Jul 9, 2014 1:20 pm • linkreport

Romulan Ale should be illegal during pub crawls.

by The Truth™ on Jul 9, 2014 1:24 pm • linkreport

Less talk. More synthohol.

by Alex B. on Jul 9, 2014 1:26 pm • linkreport

TheTruth(TM) In the past 15 years, formerly small agencies have grown into monsters.
First - HSA didn't even exist that long ago.
And what was the budget and number of NSA employees during Clinton, and how much is it/are there, now?
And why aren't searches and catalogs and files done with cause and warrants from real judges and courts (not FISA fill-ins)?
I don't buy the fallacy that if someone uses the phone, internet, fly, drives, metros, get a driver's license, eat/drink/breathes, etc. they are participating in having their government intrude upon them. No, they are all simply targets of a poorly-run paramilitary police force. People really have no choice but to cooperate, or they won't be "free".
I live where I live, but that doesn't mean I support all what's happened to the former "Land of the Free, Home of the Brave".

by asffa on Jul 9, 2014 1:43 pm • linkreport

IL has a VMT on commercial

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 9, 2014 2:39 pm • linkreport

"I don't buy the fallacy that if someone ... get a driver's license ... they are participating in having their government intrude upon them."

Uh...

by Another Nick on Jul 9, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

Another Nick
No, no "uh". People are forced to either cooperate with paramilitary law enforcement agencies or they can't do what they need or want. That's not a choice.
In some states, you can't even vote without a DMV issued ID, whose issuance rules have to be compliant with the HSA. Non-drivers in this state need DMV issued IDs to be able to do things that have nothing to do with driving, too.
People stuck by force in a situation are not participants.

by asffa on Jul 9, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

Re: Potomac Yard Metro - not surprised by the decision at all. Given the proposed costs/timelines, A and B were the only options that seemed viable anyway. I'm curious if the city will be able to make any headway with NPS and Alternative B.

by billy on Jul 10, 2014 5:06 pm • linkreport

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