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Breakfast links: Cutting back and cutting through


Photo by azza-bazoo.
Cherry blossoms without Circulation: DC might not be cutting the Wisconsin Ave Circulator, but they're still cutting the Mall loop completely for six months. Unfortunately, they forgot to check the Cherry Blossom Festival schedule: its first week overlaps with the closure. DDOT officials may look into getting the line back a week early. Now if only NPS could tell Park visitors about the line. (Examiner)

More park, less cut-through in SF: San Francisco is exploring ways to reduce traffic in the Presidio. 60% of traffic on Presidio Boulevard is cut-through, and they want drivers to take the main approach highways to the Golden Gate Bridge over cutting through the park roads themselves. Wouldn't it be nice if the Park Service ever suggested some programs like these? (Streetsblog San Francisco, Mike)

Dulles taxis unpopular: Dulles' taxis were one of the major items of dissatisfaction in a recent MWAA survey. The article doesn't specify the exact percentage that mentioned taxis or link to the survey, but 20% of people passengers generally reported unhappiness with the ground transportation and many noted taxis as a problem. Meanwhile, 95% of people were satisfied with taxis at National. One big difference between the two is the Washington Flyer monopoly, which Steve Offutt has suggested abolishing. (Examiner)

A tale of two Safeways: Safeway wasn't interested in a mixed-use structure in Tenleytown, partly or wholly because of the danger of neighbor resistance to anything over one story. But in Wheaton, they're proposing a 14-story building, with 310 apartments over a new store similar to the one in City Vista. Many are enthusiastic, but some residents worry about the height andyou guessed itparking. (Gazette)

Parking far more subsidized: Six times as much federal money goes into the commuter parking benefit than the transit benefit. Until this year, people could also deduct about twice as much for parking as for transit. (Streetsblog Capitol Hill)

San Jose rail light but not rapid: San Jose has one of the nation's longest light rail systems, but it's really slow and only lightly ridden compared to similar systems. Officials at the local VTA are looking into ways to speed up the system, including changing some single tracks to double track, running express trains, an overpass above a congested intersection, and running spur lines all the way to downtown instead of requiring transfers. (San Jose Mercury News, Mike)

Everybody wants the TIGER: State and local governments applied for $57 billion in grants in the TIGER program, which can distribute $1.5 billion. USDOT will be picking the winners between now and February. Transit grant applications totaled about $17 billion, compared to $32 billion in highway requests. (TheWashCycle)

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David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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This is just a rough guess but two hundred times as much federal money goes into the commuter parking benefit than the bicycle commuter tax credit.

by Ben on Sep 30, 2009 9:40 am • linkreport

Correction to that TIGER comment, David: transit grant applications were about $10.6 billion, while rail totaled $5.6 billion. You can't combine the two together because the rail applications included freight rail projects, like Norfolk Southern's Crescent Corridor and untangling freight rail congestion in Chicago. Sure, passenger rail would likely benefit from those rail projects along Amtrak corridors, but the main focus for the rail grants is freight rail.

by Froggie on Sep 30, 2009 9:51 am • linkreport

Ports and freight are going to get a big chunk of the TIGER money, but I suspect transit will do better than highways.

I would be shocked if at least one city didn't get a streetcar out of this deal. That won't be anyone in the DC area, but I do think we'll get something (be it freight or transit).

by BeyondDC on Sep 30, 2009 9:55 am • linkreport

... Of course, I'm just making a somewhat educated guess.

by BeyondDC on Sep 30, 2009 9:55 am • linkreport

It's scary enough taking a DC hoopty cab from National.... but I would be mortified to take some of the ones I've been in on a 70 mile per hour tear down the Dulles Access Highway and 66.

At least those gray Dulles cabs are inspected in Virginia and meet certain safety standards. DC cabs are the unsafest that money can buy - or bribe. I seem to recall something over the past week about bribes involving the DC taxicab industry, and there have been previous scandals involving DC cabbies buying safety inspection stickers for their unsafe cabs.

David, lives and limbs are at stake here. DC corruption is all too real. And so is the issue of unsafe DC cabs.

by Mike S. on Sep 30, 2009 10:07 am • linkreport

My experience is like Mike's. I've never had a problem getting a cab at Dulles (but, yes, that's me) and they're always in good shape, if not excellent shape, and comfortable. Meanwhile, the cabs at National, at least to DC, are all kinds of nasty, because they're DC cabs.

by ah on Sep 30, 2009 10:15 am • linkreport

Wouldn't it be nice if the Park Service ever suggested some programs like these?

What, close the GW Parkway for those nasty bastards that want a cut through from DC to Alexandria in stead of parking on I-395? Or the B-W Parkway for evil geniuses that want to avoid I-95? Close 14th St over the Mall? That would be as bad a closing all roads in Central Park! What? Oh wait.....

@ San Jose: In Cal, everything is worse than here on the east coast. The state is bankrupt, they live on one of the most overdue fault lines in the world, the weather never changes, their transit system is underutilized, and they have a foolish vision of upgrading it. We are so much luckier here in the DC metro with not one, but two well functioning states and a well-run District, and a courageous WMATA leader that happily cuts his budget while the system is bursting out of its seams.

@ Taxis: Let me bash Holland for once. In Amsterdam, the monopoly of cabs has been ended. Anybody can pick up a license from the city now and run a cab. The result is that the old-monopolists are fighting newcomers. Literally beating them up, burning their cars, and there has even been a murder or two. All, I am trying to say here is that while monopolies are bad, it is pretty hard to egt rid of them. Especially if, like in Amsterdam, they were run by a maffia-like organization.

by Jasper on Sep 30, 2009 10:33 am • linkreport

@ah @Mike S.-- Taxi dispatchers at National have accommodated my requests to be given a cab from a specific jurisdiction. I ask for DC cabs because they're about 30% cheaper than the Alexandria cabs that are very common at National. But I imagine you could also ask to be given a cab from a jurisdiction other than DC.

by Josh B on Sep 30, 2009 10:56 am • linkreport

I suspect the unhappiness with Dulles taxis has a lot to do with the location of the airport. Taxis to the city cost a fortune. They ought to consider doing a flat rate to DC, similar to the JFK cabs in NY.

Either that, or not build airports out in the middle of nowhere.

by jcm on Sep 30, 2009 11:40 am • linkreport

@ jcm: not build airports out in the middle of nowhere

Dulles in the middle of nowhere? I think the folks of Reston, Herndon, Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg, Chantilly, Centreville, Manassass, Gainesville, Haymarket, Fairfax City, Falls Church Vienna and Tyson's Corner would like to disagree. Not to mention the rest of Loundoun and Fairfax Counties. Perhaps even those in Arlington, be it that they have their own airport. More people live in Fairfax than in the District.

Dulles does not lie dead smack center in DC. But it is not in the middle of nowhere. Just like BWI isn't in the middle of nowhere. A lot of people underestimate the area of the Metro area here.

by Jasper on Sep 30, 2009 11:54 am • linkreport

The Wheaton Safeway project is definitely interesting in that it is radically larger than anything else currently in, or proposed for, that area. The buildings directly on top of the Metro station were zoned for higher density, but are only 4-5 stories high. This building directly across the street (both Reedie and Georgia) from the two entrances is going to be close to 200'. The 14-stories you mention in the blurb are the residential section, the store, and a parking deck between the store and the residential section will take up the bottom 4-5 floors. The total building is close to 20 stories. The Safeway in proposed to take up almost the entirety of the street floor (52K-58K sqft).

Also note, the 310 units mentioned in the blurb is the total for the Avalon Bay project, not this project. I believe the quoted amount for this project was 500 units. The Gazette article mixed up the 500 apartments at Wheaton with the City Vista Project in DC (440 Condos plus a few hundred apartments in a separate building). The builder is proposing 400 parking spots for 500 apartments in Wheaton. They gave no information as to how they determined the sufficiency (or excess) of a 0.8 unit/parking spot ratio. I suggested that they should look at the parking demand from the apartment project directly on top of the metro station next door, and the representative of that apartment building said she would provide that information. I also suggested that they consider designated zip car spots in their parking facility, and they said that they would "look into" it.

Either they were being very closed mouthed about their parking analysis and pleading ignorance, or they really had no basis for how they determined the parking demand, despite useful available proxy methods.

My other concern was that the Reedie Drive side of the project has a visual interaction with the street (glass windows into the grocery store) but no physical connection to the building outside of a parking garage entrance. The developer could wrap around the corner the patio area proposed on Georgia Avenue to create a larger cafe space, or even better, a retail bay with outdoor seating facing Reedie Drive. This would provide some direct street interaction on Reedie drive, and create a much livelier streetscape directly across from the metro entrance. This would, however, shrink the footprint of the building, since the slope op Reedie drive would require a larger offset from the street to accomadate a level patio/seating area plus a sloping sidewalk. The project has a small retail bay (2400 sf) proposed on the Georgia facing side of the project. I think the streetscape heading up Georgia from the metro station will help in establishing a good street feel and connect in well with additional projects along Georgia, but I think the Reedie side could be improved.

A quick shout out to Dan Reed at justupthepike for publicizing the meeting. Thanks.

by Brian D on Sep 30, 2009 12:13 pm • linkreport

Airports should be in the middle of nowhere.
With a train station.

Imagine having a London style taxi cab system here.

by shy on Sep 30, 2009 12:13 pm • linkreport

Dulles in the middle of nowhere? I think the folks of Reston, Herndon, Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg, Chantilly, Centreville, Manassass, Gainesville, Haymarket, Fairfax City, Falls Church Vienna and Tyson's Corner would like to disagree.

Haymarket? Touche!

by ibc on Sep 30, 2009 12:32 pm • linkreport

Of course the reason Dulles is where it is is because I'm pretty sure no one wanted to expand National to have the needed capacity or to increase the number of flights there.

As for the taxis, I don't think a flat rate gets you much. The rate seems pretty consistent regardless of where I've gone in the District. People would be just as upset with a $55 flat rate as having the meter hit $50 sometimes and $60 others.

by ah on Sep 30, 2009 1:05 pm • linkreport

Dulles was certainly in the middle of nowhere when the site was chosen in 1958 - Tysons, Reston, and Herndon didn't start developing until the 1960s (Herndon might have even been later). Much of the office development in the area is due to proximity to the airport.

And to many of us who live in the core of the metro area, it is still the middle of nowhere. It's all about perspective.

by Esmeralda on Sep 30, 2009 1:38 pm • linkreport

Dulles was originally called Chantilly Airport, until that master of brinksmanship, Cold Warrior John Foster Dulles lost his battle with the Big C before it opened. I believe it was the original Chief Ike who asked that the airport name be changed to honor his deceased Secretary of State.

by Mike S. on Sep 30, 2009 1:47 pm • linkreport

So you think Deer Run, WV is in the middle of nowhere, eh? Tell that to the folks living in Upper Tract, Brushy Run, Mozer, Klein, Landes, Pansy, Fame, Ft. Seybert, Oak Flat, and Ruddle!

by oboe on Sep 30, 2009 1:48 pm • linkreport

Re: Presidio traffic in SF. The two major roads leading to the Golden Gate Bridge (19th Ave/Park Presidio, Doyle Drive) are more often than not jampacked with traffic to and from the bridge. There is no reason why local traffic (e.g., people traveling from the Marina to the Richmond) should not use local roads, including those in the Presidio. Now they're getting their knickers in a twist to curb cutting through the Presidio because the entire Doyle Drive stretch is going to be replaced over the next 4 years. Well, expect traffic through the Presidio to quadruple.

by Mark on Sep 30, 2009 1:49 pm • linkreport

The taxi service from Dulles has gotten a whole lot worse.
Basically- when they got rid of the Dulles Flyer buses to opt for cab only service- the price skyrocketed.
Last time I took a cab from Dulles to the Metro station it cost $40.
That is way too much- but they have you by the balls out there. There is no substitute for mass transit. They need to get off of their butts and build the metro out to Dulles.

BTW- I never take cabs from National Airport. It is too easy to just get on the Metro and it is more relaxing than taking a cab.

Dulles is out in the middle of nowhere. It was built to be as far from the city as possible- and it caused a gigantic sprawl to develop between it and the city and beyond.

The tragedy of it all was that the old W&OD railroad was used to build the airoprt- and right after it was finished they closed down the rail. If they had any drop of intelligence they would have turned the old WO&D into a first class rail commuter line connecting to the city- but hey- this is Northern Viagara and who really has any brains in that place? Except for a few walkable places like Alexandria, parts of Arlington and Falls Church- and some of the old town centers along the WO&D trailroad- most of NoVa is a dump of tacky big box , tract housing, and sprawl. It is crummy and was developed by total retarded morons.

I cant wait till the oil/gas runs out to see all of those idiots moan and despair.

by w on Sep 30, 2009 1:54 pm • linkreport

w, when the oil and gas runs out there won't be too many planes landing at Dulles. Problem solved!

by ah on Sep 30, 2009 2:09 pm • linkreport

Actually, hydrogen- and Im not talking fuel cells- is a much better jet fuel and all of the leading international aircraft makers have plans to switch over to it at some point.

The airplanes will be flying for a long time to come.

by w on Sep 30, 2009 2:17 pm • linkreport

Mark, the mistake was made long ago when the city blocked construction of I-280 (or I-480) parallel to 19th street and along Park Presidio.

by ah on Sep 30, 2009 2:19 pm • linkreport

when oil/gas becomes to expensive , mass production of hydrogen will become feasable- and not hydrogen from existing oil/gas- but water that is electrolysed using wind, solar, or nukes.

It is definitely the fuel of the future- whether it be in fuel cells or burnt as a combustable in jet or rocket motors .The present day technology to contain hydrogen and to safely store it is light years in advance from the days of the Hindenburg.
We can thank the advances made by the space industry for this. We can also thank the space program for many of the advances in solar and fuel cell technology.
Anyone who thinks of space research and manned spaceflight as being superflous or un-necessary is living in a cave and is not with the program.

by w on Sep 30, 2009 2:38 pm • linkreport

Regarding the placement of Dulles Airport, keep in mind that large airports require *A LOT* of land that lacks towns/villages/hamlets, and relatively flat land to boot, so it's quite plausible that Dulles' location was chosen because it was the closest (or one of the closest) locations to the city to fit that bill.

by Froggie on Sep 30, 2009 8:17 pm • linkreport

Froggie, your post prompted me to learn more. Turns out, and this really shouldn't be a surprise, that Dulles was located on what was once a black community in Fairfax County.

http://loudounextra.washingtonpost.com/news/2002/nov/17/dulles-airport-has-its-roots-rural-black-community/

by ah on Sep 30, 2009 10:11 pm • linkreport

Dulles does not lie dead smack center in DC. But it is not in the middle of nowhere. Just like BWI isn't in the middle of nowhere. A lot of people underestimate the area of the Metro area here.

I suspect most people flying into Dulles are not here to visit random residential suburbs.

by Erica on Oct 1, 2009 8:48 am • linkreport

"Mark, the mistake was made long ago when the city blocked construction of I-280 (or I-480) parallel to 19th street and along Park Presidio."

This was not a mistake. Thankfully, the freeway revolt prevented further destruction of the city with megahighways and on/off ramps. Much of San Francisco is as dense as NYC and should have a similar mass transit system in place. In fact, it should have been in place decades ago, but this is California. Development over the past 50 years in SF has focused on the auto. MUNI is a joke. BART's only function in SF is to bring in commuters from other counties. Because of the absence of an advanced network of subway lines you have a lot of people owning cars and a lot of people clogging the streets. Building freeways wasn't the answer for SF just as the same it wasn't the cure for DC.

by Mark on Oct 1, 2009 3:57 pm • linkreport

Six times as much federal money goes into the commuter parking benefit than the transit benefit. Until this year, people could also deduct about twice as much for parking as for transit.
I don't understand your use of the word "also." Those are different ways of stating the same benefit. The deduction for commuter parking was twice as much as the deduction for a transit pass, a subsidy. More people took the individual parking deduction than the transit pass deduction, so the former cost the government considerably more than double. The per-user deduction is probably a better way to compare them for most purposes.

by John Thacker on Oct 2, 2009 10:28 am • linkreport

At least those gray Dulles cabs are inspected in Virginia and meet certain safety standards. DC cabs are the unsafest that money can buy - or bribe. I seem to recall something over the past week about bribes involving the DC taxicab industry, and there have been previous scandals involving DC cabbies buying safety inspection stickers for their unsafe cabs.
The bribery scandal was a scandal to try to convince the council to set up a medallion system, which is different from setting up a Washington Flyer monopoly only in degree, not kind.

by John Thacker on Oct 2, 2009 10:38 am • linkreport

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