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


Breakfast links: HOT lanes, cold retail market

Photo by M.V. Jantzen.
Suicide by Metro: A man apparently committed suicide yesterday by jumping in front of a Red Line train at Gallery Place. (Post) ... This PowerPoint presentation shows how Toronto dealt with suicides on their system. ... Adam Tuss looks back at the June crash in a radio series including interviews with NTSB.

I-66 hot again in the press, on the campaign trail: Virginia Del. Bob Brink (D-48th, Arlington) has steadfastly opposed widening I-66 inside the Beltway. His Republican challenger, Aaron Ringel, supports a limited widening. (Sun Gazette, Gavin Baker) ... But VDOT can't even afford the limited widening that they planned, leading Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer to start looking at HOT lanes on I-66. (WTOP)

Tempers hot on 95 and 395: Supporters and opponents debated 95/395 HOT lanes and Arlington's recent lawsuit at a Sept. 9 Arlington Committee of 100 forum (Sun Gazette, Gavin Baker) ... Arlington Chairman Barbara Favola defends the County's decision to file suit ( ... Alexandria residents want their city to step up against the lanes (Examiner)

Correct(ing) the park(ing) story: Ruth Samuelson isn't sure of the point of Park(ing) Day. Justin Young, one of the organizers, has a few corrections to suggest.

No traffic lights in London: Researchers like Hans Monderman have discovered, somewhat counterintuitively, that removing traffic signs and lights can actually improve safety and traffic flow. Only smaller towns in Europe have tried this so far, but that may change: London will try turning off all traffic lights in a piece of the downtown, around Westminster Abbey. (NY Times, Michael P) ... The Onion has the ultimate solution to traffic: just honk. (Michael P)

Empty storefronts are increasing. Why?: Businesses are closing in Cleveland Park, along Connecticut Avenue. (Washington Post, Cavan) Why? Richard Layman thinks landowners charge too much, holding out for potential higher rents from more upscale, national chains. Felix Salmon, Matt Yglesias, Sommer Mathis, and Ruth Samuelson discuss some of the inefficiencies in the retail leasing market that lead to empty storefronts that don't make sense in an efficient market economic model.

1940s Sears didn't destroy Tenleytown: Some Wisconsin Avenue residents' opposition to the Giant is nothing new for the area. Back in the 1940s, Tenleytown residents fought the Sears just as vociferously. But in retrospect, it's been great for the neighborhood. (ЦARЬchitect)

The perfect city according to Byrne: Musician David Byrne, a bicyclist, describes his perfect city. It would combine elements of New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Glasgow, London, Florence, Buenos Aires and Japan, including public spaces, mixed-use development, not too much parking, and a good attitude. (WSJ)

The "rural until we want sprawl there" tier: Despite local opposition, the Prince George's County Council approved 62 acres sprawling development including a shopping center and housing in Accokeek, in the southern, rural part of the county. The County's plans call for keeping this section rural, but that only seems to last until a developers shows interest. (Post, Cavan)

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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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Not a fan of HOT lanes at all; but if there is a highway that is suited it is 66 inside the beltway.

What amazes me is that nobody says:

1. the traffic leaving DC gets stuck in a jam because of an inefficient merge
2. traffic going into DC gets stuck because of traffic light

Not sure how tolling is going to solve either of those problems.

by charlie on Sep 14, 2009 9:34 am • linkreport

I'd be interested to see how the London turn-off-the-traffic-lights thing goes. Seeing as everyone in downtown DC already ignores traffic signals and Don't Block the Box signs, I can't imagine it could get any more gridlockky. And how counterintuitive is it really? As soon as Detroit started rolling out passive restraint seatbelts and front/side/rear/roof impact airbags, the IQ of the average driver seemed to drop precipitously. Cars need to be made MORE dangerous. Replace all padded dashboards with row after row of razor sharp knives pointed directly at your head and see if this improves people's driving habits.

by monkeyrotica on Sep 14, 2009 9:35 am • linkreport

How do we know the traffic signal thing isn't just adding an element of unfamiliarity and strangeness that is making people do a double take?

If you keep the signals off for a very long time then what happens? Do people get used to it and engage in more and more reckless manners until the streets are like Mumbai?

by Steve on Sep 14, 2009 10:10 am • linkreport

I know for a fact that the proliferation of traffic signals has contributed to speeding and reckless driving on Capitol Hill. Folks (usually with MD tags) race from one light to the next, trying to beat the red. Of course, you'll get lots of driver-humans who argue that if only the DDOT would time the lights better, traffic would flow freely. But here's the thing: obviously it's very *difficult* to "time the lights". DDOT isn't intentionally fucking with you. Add to that the requirement that pedestrian signals have to allow them time to cross. "Timing the lights" doesn't work unless you're in exurban Kansas somewhere.

So here's the simple solution: replace all traffic signals with stop signs. Amend the traffic code so that autos must yield to pedestrians at all times.

Would lowering the speed limit to 20mph be a bridge too far?

by ibc on Sep 14, 2009 10:25 am • linkreport

From the Wired piece:

"Pedestrians and cyclists used to avoid this place, but now, as you see, the cars look out for the cyclists, the cyclists look out for the pedestrians, and everyone looks out for each other. You can't expect traffic signs and street markings to encourage that sort of behavior. You have to build it into the design of the road."

Jesus, can you imagine the response to this kind of thinking from the suburban commuter crowd? Or the Post?


by ibc on Sep 14, 2009 10:33 am • linkreport

IBC I think you're being too kind. I believe the exact headline would be something like this:

"Holocaust Times A Billion On Drivers!!1!"

by Reid on Sep 14, 2009 10:47 am • linkreport

my grandfather was a NYC motorman (i.e., he drove a subway train) for most of his adult life. He had 4 jumpers over the years and they left indelible scars on his psyche. decades later he could still describe each spot where they jumped, what they were wearing, etc. I remember him saying that he could rarely pass those suicide points each day without seeing it in his mind. I'm sure over the years it had to have taken quite a toll.

If you're going to commit suicide - do it somewhere secluded - don't be so selfish as to permantent scar whoever is around who has to deal with your mess.

by andy on Sep 14, 2009 10:51 am • linkreport

Why not make I-66 a HOT highway inside the Beltway? That is, widen it to six lanes and have all the lanes be HOT lanes all the time, in order to pay for the widening, provided that Arlington County is willing to alter their original I-66 agreement for such a thing.

by mpetrie98 on Sep 14, 2009 10:08 pm • linkreport

The Brits may have gotten the "no traffic lights" idea from Australia. I know last time I was there I was amazed at how few intersections, at least in medium-sized cities, had lights or stop signs. Evidently they know to yield the right-of-way when another car is approaching from the right. (I could never figure it out because of the different traffic direction.)

Anyway if the Aussies can do it, the "civilized" Brits should be able to.

by Tom Coumaris on Sep 14, 2009 10:25 pm • linkreport

mpetrie98: How about just making I-66 a HOT highway without widening it? According to FHWA's data, that should entice enough "discretionary trips" which could go at a different time or take another mode to switch, making the freeway no longer congested. And then we can use all that money for something better, like improving non-auto alternatives along the corridor and further easing congestion.

by David Alpert on Sep 15, 2009 12:11 am • linkreport

If you make I-66 a Hot lane, and the average Joe can't afford the toll and the price of gas together to make it to work, then what alternative route is available? Route 50? Beltway to I395? I would think that alot of people will take those same routes because of the costs and then those roads are gridlocked. So what exactly will a toll road accomplish beside more money going to the state. They say they are out of money, which is hard to believe considering the housing tax alone is triple for the overinflated housing prices really should be at. They have more money coming to them then they really should be receiving.


by dumb on Sep 15, 2009 6:56 am • linkreport

@dumb, Average Joe could get another person and use the "HO" part of "High Occupancy Toll". Just like he can today.

It's not taking any options away to start allowing people to drive on a road for a market-based fee (note: the fee MUST be high enough to avoid impacting HOV and bus drivers on the road).

by Michael Perkins on Sep 15, 2009 8:50 am • linkreport

What's capacity like on I-66 inside the Beltway in the peak direction during HOV hours? I'm not familliar with it, but from what little I've heard, there isn't a lot of capacity for toll users, unless they bump up the occupancy requirements to HOV-3.

IMO, HO/T lanes would work better on I-66 outside the Beltway, as part of a much-needed least between the Beltway and Fair Oaks.

by Froggie on Sep 15, 2009 8:56 am • linkreport

From my experience, there isn't a whole lot of extra capacity on 66 peak direction during rush hour. The HOV restriction started out at HOV-4, if you can believe that.

Off-peak direction they're starting to need HOV restrictions and/or something to manage demand.

by Michael Perkins on Sep 15, 2009 9:19 am • linkreport

From my experience, there isn't a whole lot of extra capacity on 66 peak direction during rush hour. The HOV restriction started out at HOV-4, if you can believe that.

I always find the HOV rules pretty amusing. Hilarious that in the 'burbs, a "high occupancy vehicle" is two people, one of whom could be an infant.

Atta boy!

by ibc on Sep 15, 2009 9:31 am • linkreport

Case law has pretty much stated that, while the unborn are not counted for HOV (one case I know of where a pregnant mother claimed her unborn baby was the "2nd person in the vehicle"...and lost the case), infants/toddlers/children do count towards HOV occupancy requirements.

Mike: sounds like any HO/T implementation would require a bump-up of occupancy requrements to HOV-3, and if the off-peak direction is bad enough, it could be implemented both directions during peak hours. Though I'd have to ask how the "solo drivers can use I-66 to the Dulles Access Road" would factor in. Is there a law or some other requirement that drivers be allowed to use I-66 to get to the DAR to get to Dulles (and vice versa)? If so, that could throw a monkey wrench into converting I-66 inside the Beltway to HO/T.

by Froggie on Sep 15, 2009 10:51 am • linkreport

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