The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Breakfast links: No money but mo' problems

Photo by NoHoDamon.
Two externality-busting revenue sources survive: The DC budget gap-closing consensus looks to include a gas tax hike to match Maryland's and market-rate parking for city employees (but not Council employees or Councilmembers). Higher fees for extra RPP stickers beyond the first doesn't appear to have made it into the final proposal. That's too bad; that would make parking easier for many residents, while also raising twice as much as needed to restore the Access to Justice program that helps the poor get legal help when they need it. (Washington City Paper)

Safety net still to be saved: Advocates for DC's neediest residents are still working to save the safety net. It's not too late to sign the petition at; groups will also be rallying at the Wilson Building today at noon. (DCFPI)

Nightmare in two years: The military's plans to move 20,000 jobs from the Pentagon/Crystal City area to Fort Belvoir are getting closer, and Jim Moran is warning about the likely "traffic nightmare" due to the lack of public transportation around Belvoir. (WTOP, Froggie)

$0 for roads, 0 for ideas: Virginia's bankrupt transportation budget means no money for roads in 2010 for any NoVA counties. Creigh Deeds promises to change this but has no plan; McDonnell wants to move money from schools (probably a bad idea) and toll some interstates (a good idea, but probably impossible given federal law). The reporters don't mention transit at all. (Post, Cavan)

Dutch road pricing coming: The Netherlands is moving toward a comprehensive national system of road pricing, setting standards for in-vehicle units that record location and time of vehicle travel. This will replace the existing car taxes that finance roads. (Ertico, Ken Archer)

Stupid, indeed: Ryan Avent calls the I-270 widening "one of the stupidest projects I've seen in a while," arguing that it not only induces traffic, but also induces land use that will affect traffic down the line. (The Bellows, Dave Murphy)

Sidewalks on Kojo: Today's Kojo Nnamdi show will cover the sidewalk debate in some of DC's currently least walkable and most pedestrian-unsafe neighborhoods. Councilmember Mary Cheh will also participate. Will most of the calls come from sidewalk opponents?

Park easier: Lifehacker picks up on, which shows garage parking rates in cities including Washington, DC. Their commenters wasted no time in whining about the cost of DC parking. Tools like this help reduce circling and better utilization of the existing off-street parking. (Lifehacker, Ward 1 Guy)

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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The reason the reporters didn't mention transit is because McDonnell specifically mentioned highways as where the funding would be going.

by Joshua Davis on Jul 30, 2009 8:32 am • linkreport

There is an article in the Post this morning that WMATA is planning to "stiffen penalties for employers who break rules." Included in that article is the following:

"The agency also said that another driver had recently received a written reprimand for reading while operating a bus and that a train operator videotaped while apparently sleeping was suspended for 12 days without pay."

The driver who was reading while driving a bus full of passengers was punished by getting a WRITTEN REPRIMAND? I'm sorry, but that's just ridiculous, in my opinion. I'm sure Metro has a progressive discipline system, but I'm also guessing that a written reprimand (e.g., don't do it again, or else) was not the limits of that discipline. If that was the most they could do to her, then Metro's penalties most certainly need "stiffening." If, as I suspect, the powers that be in WMATA could have dished out a tougher penalty but chose not to, then it's the same old story - lack of accountability for Metro employees. All the rules in the world won't change the culture.

David, as a member of WMATA's advisory board, do you have a comment on this?

by dcd on Jul 30, 2009 8:44 am • linkreport

Penalties for misbehaving Metro drivers/operators may depend upon what is in the agency's collective bargaining agreement with the transit workers' union.

by ksu499 on Jul 30, 2009 9:00 am • linkreport

I like how Moran is throwing around the location of Fort Belvoir to maximize constituent concern. Here is the reality, 20,000 are the total relocated jobs. About 7K are going to Mark Center in Alexandria (most of the Crystal City Jobs), which is not Ft Belvoir yet but will be by 2011. Another 10K from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency which is moving from Bethesda Md closer to the Ft Belvoir at the Engineer Proving Grounds (EPG) and into their new $1.7 Billion building which is part of the Ft, but not on the main site. The EPG is located across 95 and about 2 miles from the Franconia Springfield Metro Stop and VRE stop and just got a ton of funding to have the FFX Parkway connected through the EPG because of BRAC. Another 2-3K are moving to various locations within FT Belvoir proper, I think they are mostly from the Missile Defense Agency and a handful from Walter Reed to staff the new medical center. Whatever the case the Mark Center is the real crime, since they had two locations, the GSA warehouses located ¼ mile from the Franconia Metro/VRE and the Victory Center (a turn key building) ¼ mile from Van Dorn Metro.

by RJ on Jul 30, 2009 9:06 am • linkreport

RJ - some good points. I've often thought the most cost effective extension of METRO in the entire region would be a "Y" line that:

A. ran parallel to 395 and hit Shirlington, Fairlington, Seminary/Mark Center, Landmark, and then connected to the Van Dorn Metro.

B. Split off at Seminary paralleling Route 7 thru Skyline, and Seven Corners and joining up with the Silver Line to Tysons.

Likely the highest ratio of persons-served to track length of any area not currently served by METRORAIL in the entire area - definitely more cost effective than extending METRO to Loudoun County.

It would also enable infills of the parking lots of all the Radiant City developments along 395 to potentially serve a much higher density than even is existing.

by stevek_fairfax on Jul 30, 2009 9:35 am • linkreport

The accelerating scale of fees for a second and third RPP may get a few of those cars off the street, but they might not raise much money, due to the law of unintended consequences.

First, understand that many folks who park their car in their own garage or driveway gladly shell out $15 bucks for the RPP sticker. If it's their third car (kids' car, or whatever), and the fee is $100 or more, they might just pass on the RPP, and take their chances since the car spends most of its time on their own property. In that case, the city's financial gain would be minus 15 dollars.

So, when you're crunching the numbers on RPP changes, try to take the real world into account. It's safe to assume there would be some gain in revenue, but it's easy to overestimate how much it would be, because it's an absolute certainty that some people would opt out of buying the sticker.

by Mike Silverstein on Jul 30, 2009 9:41 am • linkreport

...the point being that even though development at Mark Center is not rail accessible right now (although there are a TON of bus lines in that area...) perhaps it could be a catalyst for a much-needed, cost-effective heavy-rail route in the area.

by stevek_fairfax on Jul 30, 2009 9:44 am • linkreport

It's a damn shame that they put the project at Mark Center simply b/c of their timeline. Hopefully, it does encourage better transit on 395 in that area. I know that either way, major infrastructure upgrades would be needed, but instead of having to deal with just the area around Belvoir mainly, they'll now have Mark Center to worry about as well. Hopefully Landmark Mall is razed and that area will be redeveloped so that more attention is given to that area. I don't really put too much into Moran trying to maximize constituent concern. There's a lot of overlap in this area, even is a lot of Connolly's constituents are affected as well, it's in everyone's best interest.

Either way, it'll be interesting to see how this works out.

by Vik on Jul 30, 2009 9:59 am • linkreport

Apropos to the Dutch road pricing: Is the point of this to collect revenue based on road use or to allocate funding based on road use? It seems to me a gas tax is a much easier and simpler way to do the former.

by Anderkoo on Jul 30, 2009 10:06 am • linkreport

While rail at the Mark Center is good long-term priority, the new DOD building there gives even better justification to the proposed BRT project, which can be built in time for opening.

by цarьchitect on Jul 30, 2009 10:07 am • linkreport

I worked at Belvoir for about 3 years, and nobody I met lived anywhere near Metro. These people had homes out near Dulles or St. Marys or Prince William or Front Royal even. A mass transit trip for them would double their commute time. Hopefully the new moves live closer in, but even if they put a Metro station in the middle of Belvoir itself, I seriously doubt many would use it.

Now, a light rail line running down Route 1 to Quantico, EVERYBODY along that corridor could use that and would for years to come.

by monkeyrotica on Jul 30, 2009 10:13 am • linkreport

I don't actually think building customs booths, for lack of a better word, on I-95 and I-85 is a good idea. Virginia has a hard enough time working with North Carolina on any transportation issue without historic tensions being exacerbated by mutual hostility.

by J.D. Hammond on Jul 30, 2009 11:42 am • linkreport

Why not just restore the DC budget to 2008 or 2007 levels? Problem solved; no need to raise the sales tax.

by Monumentality on Jul 30, 2009 12:59 pm • linkreport

The gas tax will not bring in any real revenue. DC is too small and Maryland and Virginia are never more than a few miles away, with cheaper gas. Plus, everyone I know who owns a car in DC drives at least once per tank of gas, into VA or MD. Thus, the cost to them of filling up outside of DC is basically zero.

So driving the few gas customers that currently exist out of DC will only hurt the station owners, some of whom will close up shop, leaving empty parcels that, because of brownfield issues, are very difficult to redevelop. That means one of two things, either a) empty lots, or b) a revolving door of low-end unaffiliated gas stations like you see up and down Rte 1 heading into College Park (there are also some on NY Ave). Trust me, you would rather have a national brand station, with some money to put up proper signs and keep the lot clean, then one of these fly by night places.

As for the parking sticker fee. Raise it. Better yet, set up some sort of "performance" pricing scheme based on the availabiliy of parking in each neighborhood. Or, how about getting truly innovative and auctioning off the spots via the internet each year.

Right now, I have a space in a lot, but I also pay the $15 for a street permit, since, well, its only $15 and who knows when I might need it. But if there was an auction, I wouldn't go bidding for the space, since it has no real value to me.

by metronic on Jul 30, 2009 1:23 pm • linkreport

There is an old train line running right into Belvoir, why not fire that up again? Amtrak and VRE already run to Quantico, why is it that military bases MUST be so transit unfriendly? I was struck at Annapolis how close and intimate the Naval Academy was to the town, but yet they still maintain a decent amount of security. (Though I must admit the new entrances and areas are quite poor aesthetically and urbanistically)

by Boots on Jul 30, 2009 1:33 pm • linkreport

I think a lot of the transit unfriendlyness has to do with Homeland Security. I believe one of the BRAC locations that was near Eisenhower Avenue Metro was nixed because it wasn't set back far enough from the main thoroughfare. Some terrorist MIGHT drive up with a car bomb. You have a similar issue with the proposed water taxi service that was supposed to run from Quantico to the Navy Yard.

So running a huge honking TRAIN into the heart of Belvoir would be out of the question. Still, they might be able to pitch something that stopped on the outskirts of the base.

by monkeyrotica on Jul 30, 2009 2:08 pm • linkreport


According to Google maps, those tracks are long gone and it was just a spur.

by RJ on Jul 30, 2009 2:08 pm • linkreport

Some terrorist MIGHT drive up with a car bomb.

It's not a trivial issue at all. Look at the embassy bombings overseas, and also at OKC and WTC-93. All of those had the bombs delivered by cars.

by MPC on Jul 30, 2009 3:19 pm • linkreport

MPC - If the agencies being moved were prime targets, like intelligence corps, I'd say the risk of attack outweighed the benefit of locating them near mass transit. But a lot of BRAC organizations being moved are not such prime targets; you're talking about stuff like Army Logistics Commands and the acquisition corps. Not exactly the heart of the Great Satan.

by monkeyrotica on Jul 31, 2009 12:24 pm • linkreport

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