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Breakfast links: Better buses


Photo by Wilson Hum on Flickr.
More buses on 16th Street: Starting August 25, Metro will replace five buses serving the S line on 16th Street with articulated buses during rush hour. The buses will come from the Y line on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, which will get more frequent service to make up the difference. (DCist)

An electric Circulator?: DC's Circulator buses are reaching the end of their life span. A possible replacement is an all-electric bus that could save around $500,000 in fuel costs during each vehicle's life. (City Paper)

Less parking, more business: More construction cranes are likely coming to NoMa. The Government Printing Office, a mere two blocks from Union Station, is looking to tear up its parking lot for possible private development. (WBJ)

More bikes, fewer tickets: Even though there are more bicyclists than ever before in DC, the number of citations issued is at an all time low. Through May, only 63 citations had been issued. In 2012, there were 446 citations all year. (Post)

Housing for the homeless: DC's initiative to locate 500 apartments in 100 days for homeless families hits its deadline today. The city is expected to announce that it's fulfilled 92% of its goal. (City Paper)

Theater for Union Market?: A new proposal for the Union Market area includes a theater on top of the existing market building, and four stories of offices. Later buildings would add more retail, office, maybe residential, two plazas, and parking. (WBJ)

Look to Oregon's Trails: The Highway Trust Fund is set to run out of money in August. As Congress tries to find a short-term solution to the problem, Oregon is setting up a pay-per-mile program that could solve the fund's problems. (CityLab)

And...: DC will start ticketing cars that would impede the H Street streetcar. (District Source) ... Do Uber/Lyft type services help reduce drunk driving? (Post) ... Helsinki wants to make car ownership pointless in a decade. (Guardian)

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Russ Doubleday is a manager of content services at Connections Media on U Street. He's interested in transportation planning and hopes to get a Master's degree in the subject in the near future. He also has an unhealthy passion for all things soccer. He lives in Van Ness and can't wait to get his sidewalk back. 

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Electric buses would be amazing; half the benefits of a streetcar (noise+vibration) but still ride quality bad. Although I doubt they are factoring AC in -- although must buses seem not to want to turn it on.

Electric buses that need charging ever 40 miles would seem to be a particularly bad fit for the Circulator model. However for the alleged new buses on 16th they would work better.

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

Wait---how are the Circulator buses reaching end-of-life? Isn't bus lifetime ~20 years?

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

Had no idea they were planning all that for Union Market. Though I'm not a fan of the balconies they have proposed for the building. Looks too reminiscent of Watergate.

by drumz on Jul 11, 2014 9:18 am • linkreport

More bikes, fewer tickers: I don't think it's because so many bikers suddenly started following traffic regs. P. Dvorak has a good column in the Post today and suggests that MPD officers need to get out of their cars more often and vigorously ticket aggressive drivers and scofflaw bikers. Amen to that.

by Bob on Jul 11, 2014 9:18 am • linkreport

The WBJ link on the NoMA development story appears to be a broken link.

by Dave Murphy on Jul 11, 2014 9:23 am • linkreport

+1 Bob

I thought Dvorak nailed it as well. It's time to roll-out a Hobbesian approach to end this nasty and brutish rolling reign of recklessness.

A strong guns and butter policy is needed: Tough enforcement with aggressive safety improvements.

Now, must goose step away.

by kob on Jul 11, 2014 9:27 am • linkreport

I've seen speculation that the increase in cameras may be having an overall effect, that officers may feel that they are essentially getting out of the traffic ticket business. I suspect it may also be true that with the changes to laws regarding bikes effective on January 1, some officers may be a bit confused as to the legality of some common behavior, like jumping a light.

by Crickey7 on Jul 11, 2014 9:29 am • linkreport

I'm really curious how many traffic violation tickets MPD gives to drivers of cars that weren't involved in an accident where police were summoned. Anecdotally, I see police waiting at an interesection where a car does something illegal, like blow through the stop light 3 seconds after it turns red or right turn on red without even slowing down, and the police completely ignore the violation.

You'd think with how bad they are at solving major crimes, they'd at least take advantage of the easy wins of a traffic stop.

by PS on Jul 11, 2014 9:30 am • linkreport

Fixed the GPO link. Thanks.

by David Alpert on Jul 11, 2014 9:32 am • linkreport

I may be wrong here, but I think the police got out of the traffic enforcement business because there isn't a traffic enforcement division. During the height of the crack epidemic the traffic division was seen as not as necessary as fighting the gun violence. Since then MPD really doesn't enforce traffic laws the way they should. But I do agree that they should start again. Get officers out of cars and into intersections, especially during rush hour and in L'Enfant City. Once you start controlling heavy intersections - especially blocking the box - I think you improve safety and keep the flow of all traffic going better.

by dc denizen on Jul 11, 2014 9:37 am • linkreport

@xmal
Wait---how are the Circulator buses reaching end-of-life? Isn't bus lifetime ~20 years?

12 Years. We're almost there for a bunch of the buses - the original buses were purchased in 2004.

by MLD on Jul 11, 2014 9:40 am • linkreport

@dc denizen - I'd also like to see all MPD officers spend some time assigned to bicycle patrol, so they can also have the bicyclist's perspective. This would help by leading to fairer/better enforcement of the traffic laws.

by DaveG on Jul 11, 2014 9:46 am • linkreport

10 minute charge every 40 minutes? Is that a best case scenario? Will that be true in 2 years? Where will the buses park to charge?

Assuming 40 minutes driving and 10 to charge (and I'm not including the time it takes to park and hook into the charging system and I'm assuming the charging time does not increase or the running time does not decrease as the battery ages AND they can somehow time the routes so the buses can stop every 40 minutes. What if a route only takes 30 minutes, or takes 50 minutes because of traffic...)that's 20% of the time the bus is out of service. So that's 20% of the driver cost that's not used to drive the bus.

Maybe that cost is made up in lower maintenance and lower costs, but seems to me that's a lot of cost over 12 years. At 50K per year, per driver (assuming all the benefits and management costs of a driver and that's got to be a low number because the buses are probably driven more than 40 hours per week requiring more than one driver), or 600K over 12 years, you need to subtract 20% or 120K right off the top and its probably a bigger number than 120K.

I'm all for electric buses and hate breathing the fumes from buses when I'm on my bicycle, but it would be great to see the financials behind the electric buses. Even if they cost a bit more it might be worth it, but it would be great to see the numbers.

by Turtleshell on Jul 11, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

+1DaveG re: officers being given bike patrol for awhile. Maybe drivers given tickets for aggressive driving should also be ordered to ride a bike for a week...

by JDC on Jul 11, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

@DaveG
Unfortunately, I don't think having them on bikes will improve traffic enforcement. In MtP there are tons of cops on bikes and they watch the crazy traffic on MtP without stopping anyone. And, MtP has some crazy things going all day long. Fortunately all the craziness is slow.

by dc denizen on Jul 11, 2014 9:51 am • linkreport

Re: The Drunk Driving Survey, I think what they would have to do is compare DUI arrests in cities after they got Uber to similar cities that don't have Uber to see which had a bigger decline in DUIs.

It's an important angle to think about though when advocating for transit. For example, the streetcar on H street, even if functionally similar to the bus, will be worth it if it gets people who would have DUIed to ride the streetcar to Union Station.

by KingmanPark on Jul 11, 2014 9:54 am • linkreport

Aren't the Circulator lines supposed to morph into streetcars? Install overhead wires now, and run the electric buses with pantographs, as trackless trolleys.

by busboy on Jul 11, 2014 9:57 am • linkreport

OK I was going to say the same thing about foot patrol assignments hopefully giving cops the pedestrian safety perspective also, but perhaps more needs to be done, such as maybe have these officers be certified in their knowledge of ALL the traffic laws, spend some time ticketing drivers for failure to yield (a foot or bike officer can always take a plate #), ticketing drivers for not giving bicyclists enough room, etc. etc.

And yes I like that idea of bad drivers being forced to see things from a different perspective.

by DaveG on Jul 11, 2014 9:57 am • linkreport

I've watched cops on bike control cruise red lights. So I guess they do "get" the cyclist perspective.

by Crickey7 on Jul 11, 2014 10:04 am • linkreport

It sounds great to have electric buses, save $500-600k on fuel, and improve efficiency, but there is a lot of missing information including:

- what is the lifetime of the bus (they say the average for a city bus is 12 years but do not specify how long these will last)
- the annual maintenance cost for the buses including repairs and replacement parts
- if the buses get only 40 minutes per charge (that seems incredibly short), how long will their charges last in the heat of summer (peak tourism) or cold of winter when the a/c or heat are on full blast
- the cost of the overhead chargers that will be used for the buses along with their maintenance costs

For people who attended the ProTerra events on Wednesday, was any more information provided on the buses?

by bobco85 on Jul 11, 2014 10:08 am • linkreport

If cops do it, that's more weight for Idaho Stop laws :-)

by DaveG on Jul 11, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport

Re: Electric Circulators - I work in the Navy Yard area where one of the Circulator lines terminates, and every day there are one or two empty buses waiting at a random street corner until they can start the route. I'm guessing they do this to maintain the 10 minute headways. I don't think it'd be very hard to designate a charging space and throw up the equipment. I'd just worry about the bus getting trapped in traffic for 15 extra minutes on a 25 minute route...

Re: Traffic enforcement - My friend got pulled over in Capitol Hill for rolling a stop sign in his car, although in this case I think it was an officer sitting at the intersection waiting to catch violators. I don't know of anyone else who's been pulled over for a driving violation. I agree that it should be seriously stepped up. So much low-hanging fruit; you'd think the city would want the easy money.

by Ampersand on Jul 11, 2014 10:23 am • linkreport

A 40 minute charge sounds like a nice idea on route that is short and dense and is rarely disrupted. I just think it will not work here.

What happens when a 30 minute long route with 6 buses serving it has a significant disruption, as can easily happen in DC? Not only does the line get disrupted, but even after the disruption, the entire line goes dead, and the entire fleet then needs to be towed to a charging location. Conventional buses with a 250 mile range on a single tank work far better.

by Lord Baltimore on Jul 11, 2014 10:39 am • linkreport

MPD isn't interested enforcing traffic laws or other "minor" laws. It's an attitude that starts at the top. They consider their time too valuable to do things like write tickets that might get contested. If they're out of their vehicles doing a traffic stop, they might not be available to respond immediately to a major crime, can't have that happening. The only time I see MPD get out of their cruisers is to stop at Five Guys.

I find mPD to be incredibly frustrating when it comes to what they see as minor things, but I see (and I think most of us see) as the everyday quality of life issues.

by Birdie on Jul 11, 2014 10:41 am • linkreport

I find mPD to be incredibly frustrating when it comes to what they see as minor things,

What I find incredibly frustrating is that they view theft as a minor thing.

by Falls Church on Jul 11, 2014 11:15 am • linkreport

I'm all up for some MPD bashing. They do have the best name of a PD in the country at least.

And the homicde rate is running double last year.

But before we blame MPD too much, a huge part of the problem is the US attorney. They are the ones who don't want to bring these smaller cases into court, and are very sloppy with criminals.

And the laws are pretty weak too -- DC need an anti-loitering law, return to grand larcey for smartphone thefts, etc. However, we don't have the political will to do that.

by charlie on Jul 11, 2014 11:21 am • linkreport

Of course the electric buses are great, but when talking of alternative fuel vehicles in fleets, I am always more interested in the possibility of fuels like hydrogen for buses. I know that there are currently some cost issues with the technology, but from the evidence here, I don't see that these electric buses are going to provide that much overall savings.

by Thad on Jul 11, 2014 11:21 am • linkreport

Yeah... 40-minute run time plus 10 minutes to charge? That isn't going to do it for most urban bus routes.

by MLD on Jul 11, 2014 11:33 am • linkreport

I think MPD is writing less traffic citations to all road users, bike and cars. This stems from MPD not wanting to get out of their cars. I honestly believe that ATE is the main reason: MPD feels like ATE means they don't have to focus on traffic violations anymore. ATE in DC has essentially decriminalized traffic offenses, while making traffic enforcement a multi-million dollar private/public moneymaker in DC.

What's especially amusing is that Lanier calls drivers who use apps like PhantomAlert cowards, but considers deferring all traffic enforcement to private, for-profit companies fine police work.

by Aaron Miller on Jul 11, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

TMAC and Layne come through!!! PikeRail moves on toward realization!

http://www.arlnow.com/2014/07/11/virginia-kicks-in-addl-65-million-for-pike-streetcar/

This is why the Va 2013 election was so important. And why interjurisdiction cooperation matters so much - Fairfax's clout in Richmond pulled this through, I imagine.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 11, 2014 11:59 am • linkreport

Why is MPD not called the District Police Dept? The District contains only one city...or technically none, rather.

I am starting to think that anti-loitering laws may be unconstitutional as they are usually enacted and enforced to target some group of undesirables such as scruffy looking people of any race, minorities, "punks," etc. etc. Besides, who is to say you can't stand still in any given location without being harassed? If a "loiterer" is doing actually something illegal, then that's different.

by DaveG on Jul 11, 2014 12:03 pm • linkreport

Why is MPD not called the District Police Dept? The District contains only one city...or technically none, rather.

It didn't when the department was formed. MPD was created in 1861, and at that time, the City of Washington and the District of Columbia were not coterminus. At the time, Georgetown was still an independent city, as well - yet the new police department had jurisdiction over the entirety of DC - hence the Metropolitan Police Department.

There was also the matter of the influence of London's police force (including the Metropolitan name) on the creation of a similar body in DC.

http://civilwarwashingtondc1861-1865.blogspot.com/2011/09/establishment-of-washington.html

by Alex B. on Jul 11, 2014 12:52 pm • linkreport

Agree with Charlie. There are still a LOT of issues with all electric buses. They are best suited to further development in small systems like universities and airports.

by BTA on Jul 11, 2014 12:54 pm • linkreport

Next time you call 911 and complain about the response time (and everyone does), remember that more officers on traffic duty means less responsiveness to 911 calls.

The reality is that most 911 calls are not true emergencies and an extra few minutes (or even more) will not in any way impact public safety or crime (this has been studied extensively by the criminal justice folks). However, tell that to the person who is calling, and their member of City Council whom they complain to about the slow response times.

That is the reality of policing.

by dcer562 on Jul 11, 2014 1:40 pm • linkreport

@dc denizen--

You are right. And traffic stops aren't competing with other policing -- they're a complement to good policing. Not only does vigorous traffic enforcement enhance safety and deter aggressive driving, it yields an important corollary benefit: catching more bad guys. Serious crime warrants, weapons violations, etc. all are caught at traffic stops. Remember that Timothy McVeigh was arrested at a traffic stop. Smart police departments realize that traffic enforcement is good policy and good policing strategy.

by Alf on Jul 11, 2014 4:32 pm • linkreport

What's difficult to understand is how DC not only has the largest police department in terms of per capita, but also has more "other" departments operating within their jurisdiction than any other place, yet still completely ignores traffic violations. I realize Capitol Police, Park Police, etc don't serve the exact same function as MPD but they certainly take some of there load off and also serve as deterrents which effectively results in less crime for MPD to deal with.

by dcmike on Jul 11, 2014 4:49 pm • linkreport

@dc denizen

"Since then MPD really doesn't enforce traffic laws the way they should."

DC collects far more traffic law enforcement revenue now than it did back then.

@charlie

"And the homicde rate is running double last year."

No, not quite. Homicides are up almost 50%, but more importantly, all crime is up since Cathy Lanier took office. Under the last chief, total crime declined 40%, but under Lanier, it's up since 2007, particularly thefts.

Hopefully you'll join me in calling for her resignation for this and in addition to the many scandals under her watch.

by Brett on Jul 14, 2014 1:00 pm • linkreport

I don't think it's because so many bikers suddenly started following traffic regs.

But better behavior should be included on a list of theories. Evidence shows that as bike mode share goes up, behavior improves.

by David C on Jul 14, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

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