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Breakfast links: You break it, you buy it

Photo by MatthewBradley.
Metro sues for Orange Line damage: Metro has sued one of Douglas Jemal's development companies. They allege that the developer dumped soil on Metro property, which made a hillside fall, which weakened the foundation for the track supports between Cheverly and Deanwood. Trains have to operate more slowly there now. Metro is seeking $11 million. (Examiner)

Not the right route: Metro's trip planner suggests a suboptimal route from the eastern Red Line to a U Street club. (DC Transportation Examiner)

No more E-Z perks: After pressure from Maryland Politics Watch, state legislators will no longer receive free E-ZPasses. Some of them are grumbling about the impact on their finances during the recession. Boo hoo. Elected officials ought to pay for all the same things that other citizens have to pay for; otherwise, it distorts their policy perspectives. (Maryland Politics Watch)

Vacuum chic not cycle chic?: At last night's "Cycle Chic" forum, the Danish cycling fashion blogger said there isn't really a Danish bicycle culture any more than a Danish vacuum cleaner culture. WashCycle also disagreed with some of his arguments about bicycle marketing. (WashCycle)

Riders would pay for bikes on Amtrak: An online survey found strong support for allowing unboxed bicycles on Amtrak's Capitol Limited, which parallels the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal towpath. Most people would be willing to spend $20-25 extra on their ticket for the privilege. (Gavin Baker)

Speed cameras working, mostly: Rockville's experience with speed cameras shows that drivers adapt, slowing down around the cameras and receiving fewer tickets. That means less revenue, but revenue should not be the purpose of speed cameras: ideally, they'll earn nothing and catch nobody because everyone drives at a safer speed. (Post) ... Many people just slow down right around the camera, which is why a good strategy other cities use is to have a bunch of dummy cameras and a few real ones, then move the real ones around randomly.

Commuters find a way around I-66: Congestion on I-66, while very annoying (I had to drive it yesterday), also leads many commuters to carpool, take transit, or spread out their trips to other times. That's not stopping advocates for widening I-66, like road booster Bob Chase, who don't seem to have heard of induced demand. (Examiner, Michael P)

Thanks, states: Stimulus finding for road repair has mainly bypassed metropolitan areas, even though most of the roads rated as bad are in the metro areas. Dallas, for example, is getting just 1% of Texas' $530 million in road money. DC's status as a pseudo-state actually means this isn't a problem for the District, though it is for Virginia and Maryland. (USA Today)

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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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Good to see someone off this site bringing up the WMATA/Google impasse. Bravo Katherine Hill!! Spread the word!!

by Jason on Oct 1, 2009 8:58 am • linkreport


Does the Maryland Transit Administration issue free pass for use by members of the State Legislature?

by Sand Box John on Oct 1, 2009 9:28 am • linkreport

More then 40 lane miles of MD US-50 on the Eastern Shore have been or will be repaved with stimulus money. Of the miles that have been paved, in my opinion, only 8 of them really need it. Somerset County got roughly 25 lane mile repaved. Most of those miles were repave because of a botched restriping job (MD US-13), the rest didn't need it.

by Sand Box John on Oct 1, 2009 9:45 am • linkreport

SBJohn-apparently yes.,0,2860978.story

I will cynically suggest that MDTA does it to curry favor.

But anyway, a big "ha, ha" to them. Perhaps they'll think about the $18 annual fee everyone else has to pay.

by ah on Oct 1, 2009 9:46 am • linkreport

In defense of the MD SHA, University Boulevard from Kensington to Four Corners is being resurfaced with stimulus money. It really needs it and is clearly in a metropolitan area.

by Cavan on Oct 1, 2009 9:53 am • linkreport

Maryland is one of the very few states in the country where urban and suburban interests basically do rule, since so much of the state is urban or suburban.

Virginia, on the other hand, has a huge problem with rural domination.

by BeyondDC on Oct 1, 2009 10:21 am • linkreport

Re the speed cameras: a much more effective way would be to have a camera snap your photo if you cross it too soon after crossing a trigger earlier on the road. Would work like a charm on commuter corridors like PA Ave SE and/or Connecticuit, where very few cars turn off for long stretches. So, like, you don't receive a ticket if you cross the first line after 8 seconds, the second after 20 seconds, the third after 31 seconds, meaning you're driving at or below the speed limit. Definitely reduces the costs of having to set up dummies every where and then move real ones around. You see this in Austria a lot, and it works quite well (as I'm sure you'd figure traffic flow is perfect as a result).

A system like this could also be synched into the speed limit so that the speed limit could change in real time to reflect usage. This, again, would significantly improve traffic flow and reduce the congestion effect caused by everyone slamming their brakes for a speed camera and slowing down the entire line of traffic.

by JTS on Oct 1, 2009 10:24 am • linkreport

I've been on bridges in Scotland where they time your journey over the bridge and ticket you if the average exceeds the limit. Does away with the need for many cameras, dummies or otherwise. I think this has been discussed in the context of toll-roads. Could be a 'feature' on EZ-Pass, no?

by HM on Oct 1, 2009 10:28 am • linkreport

also, to reduce "camera pollution," you could have one suspended trellis over the first trigger that houses a series of cameras that randomly pick a car and track it with a zoom lens for a 1/4 mile stretch, or a series of three cameras/lane, with each focused on a different optical point further up the road that snap every speeder that passes the trigger line too quickly. Not my ideas; these features are widely deployed elsewhere.

by JTS on Oct 1, 2009 10:29 am • linkreport

Exactly why I always make a point of filling up near the end of the NJ Turnpike, without fail.

by Andrew on Oct 1, 2009 10:31 am • linkreport

Could be a 'feature' on EZ-Pass, no?

And it could also lead to a bunch of cars parked at the side of the road near the toll gate, just making sure they're not a minute early.

by ah on Oct 1, 2009 11:14 am • linkreport

Yeah, I am pretty sure a lot of people would never use EZ-Pass again if anyone tried to use it for something like that. I'm one.

by Nate on Oct 1, 2009 12:03 pm • linkreport

actually, I don't know why the congestion charge people aren't jumping on this. You could give a license to speed on toll roads -- $10 for every 10 MPG over 65. Now that could bring in some revenue......

by charlie on Oct 1, 2009 12:03 pm • linkreport

I cannot figure out why there is a fuss over the speedcams in MD. They don't snap a picture unless you are 12 mph or more over the posted speed limit. Doesn't seem like something being done primarily for revenue enhancement to me.

by ksu499 on Oct 1, 2009 12:39 pm • linkreport

good speed camera detector -

by AZ on Oct 1, 2009 12:53 pm • linkreport

Okay, so speed cameras work, people slow down, no revenue. Ideal, because no one speeds.

But that's far from ideal for the vendor. The vendor wants people to speed and get caught, so that they can get a cut of it.

So assuming the market works itself out like it's supposed to the vendors will stop providing the service, so there will be no more cameras, so people will start speeding again. Not good for the government.

Either that or they'll find some illegal or borderline legal ways to increase revenue, such as shortening yellow lights.

What it comes down to is that these contracts the vendors have are designed for the vendors to profit, and that's not good for the government.

by Tim on Oct 1, 2009 1:15 pm • linkreport

@BeyondDC: What's wrong with rural interests? People live there, people work there, people go to school there, etc. Transit is very limited because it wouldn't work too well in that sort of environment. So people need to drive, and people need good roads to drive upon.

by Tim on Oct 1, 2009 1:21 pm • linkreport

All perfectly reasonable, Tim.

What's not perfectly reasonable is rural interests dominating rule-making and fund-allocating for more populous urban areas.

by BeyondDC on Oct 1, 2009 1:41 pm • linkreport

@BeyondDC: What's wrong with rural interests? People live there, people work there, people go to school there, etc. Transit is very limited because it wouldn't work too well in that sort of environment. So people need to drive, and people need good roads to drive upon

Well, given that the bulk of the money comes from NOVA, without which the rural folks would be living in the equivalent of Alabama, one could argue that properly maintaining the commercial engine of the state is in the interest of all Virginians.

Not saying that rural self-interest is necessarily a bad thing long-term; if folks want to live in ass-backwards squalor, that should be up to the democratic process.

Meanwhile, the productive folks will follow the gays to MD/DC.

by oboe on Oct 1, 2009 1:58 pm • linkreport

@BeyondDC: Fair enough. But I see this as sort of a straw-man without some sort of evidence of this domination. I maintain that rural areas need public funds, and if I understand what you're saying correctly, you say that rural areas are getting more public funds than they need/contribute/otherwise should get. If you believe that to be true, what constitutes too much money?

@oboe: First off, have you lived in or been to any of the rural areas in Virginia? I lived in southwest Virginia for a summer, and let me tell you, they're already living in the equivalent of Alabama.

Secondly, it sounds to me as if you're saying that rural Virginia makes less money than NoVa, so NoVa shouldn't be expected to give its money to rural Virginia. If so, I ask a similar question to the one I asked BeyondDC: how does one decide how much public funding an area should get? Should areas that aren't "productive" get less in public funds? If so, we'd have a lot of very poor inner-city neighborhoods that will remain very poor.

But before all that, I'd like some proof to back up your claim that NoVa is "the commercial engine of the state." Yes, it's the richest area of the state, and the most productive. So?

And no, rural people are not living in "ass-backwards squalor." I would refute that, but I don't even know where to begin, because you really didn't say much of anything in it.

Where do you think the food you eat comes from, Fairfax? Where do you think the energy that powers your computer comes from, the hydroelectric damn right below the Key Bridge?

by Tim on Oct 1, 2009 2:28 pm • linkreport

Tim, the evidence of NoVa's economic engine status within the state of Virginia is well documented and widely accepted, and has been for years and years. If you're going to claim otherwise the onus is on you to prove the conventional wisdom wrong.

As for your question of how much money the rural areas need, *that's* a straw man to the original point, which was that the bulk of stimulus funds went to non-urban areas because most state legislatures are dominated by non-urban interests. Even if we accept that rural areas need so much of it (which I don't), that isn't pertinent to the point that the urban areas aren't getting their fair share.

Also, if you really want to talk about needs, you can't legitimately ask how much it would take to fully fund all rural needs without also asking what it would take to do so for urban areas.

by BeyondDC on Oct 1, 2009 2:39 pm • linkreport

Columbia University - Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science: Overrepresentation of small states/provinces, and the USA Today effect


Wyoming has 0.2% of the U.S. population but has 0.6% of the Electoral College votes for President, and 2% of the U.S. senators; while California has 12% of the population, 10% of the electoral votes, and still only 2% of the senators. To put it another way: Wyoming has 6 electoral votes and 2 senators per million voters, while California has 1.5 electoral votes and 0.06 senators per million voters. There is also a disparity in federal funding; for example, Wyoming received $7200 and California only $5600 in direct federal spending per capita in 2001.

by JTS on Oct 1, 2009 3:28 pm • linkreport


The problem with the Columbia study is that lacks sufficient context (in other words WHY the funding is being given) to be of any real use. For example, it doesn't look at things like formula grants to states, vs. discretionary spending, vs. earmarks. It also doesn't look at the impact of which House and Senate members are on which committees or actualy have an impact on legislation. If, for example, Wyoming gets more money from program x then California, but there is no evidence that one of the three members from Wyoming played any role at all in the process of getting the legislation written or passed, then you might have other factors at play here.

One of the problems with modern political science is a total disregard for details at the expense of raw data. These types of studies that ignore the actual processes that take place within Congress are good examples of that.

by metronic on Oct 1, 2009 4:31 pm • linkreport

As much as I hate to admit it, I66 NEEDS to be widened. It is strangling Northern VA. Not because it's too congested at rush hour- but because it's too congested ANY TIME. Visitors from out of town are constantly amazed at the backups that occur on weekends on off hours. Something just isn't right with that road, period.

by SG on Oct 1, 2009 4:50 pm • linkreport

"As much as I hate to admit it, I66 NEEDS to be widened. It is strangling Northern VA."

What is strangling this region is its third world quality public transport. (Actually, that's unfair to some third world countries - I can think of several that have better public transport than DC.)

by Phil on Oct 1, 2009 8:16 pm • linkreport

@ SG

I kind of agree but also feel that we need a highway that is diagonal that travels through the middle of Virginia

Many travelers in central and southern Virginia have to go out of the way by taking 64+95 or 81+66 because there is no other way when there should be something running down the middle of virginia.

by Kk on Oct 1, 2009 8:23 pm • linkreport

Tim -- can you identify a single law, let alone a single traffic law, with which there is full and complete compliance?

There is zero chance that speeding camera companies will be put out of business by a lack of speeders. If nothing else, cities will ratchet down the threshold to increase violations. But I doubt even that will be necessary.

by ah on Oct 1, 2009 8:44 pm • linkreport

I kind of agree but also feel that we need a highway that is diagonal that travels through the middle of Virginia

Route 29? It's divided with a 55 mph speed limit most of the way to Danville.

by wmata on Oct 1, 2009 10:22 pm • linkreport

It's also pretty dangerous with several segments lacking shoulders and having private access points. And you're not going to be able to maintain 55 MPH with all the signals (especially Gainesville to Warrenton and the north side of Charlottesville)...

by Froggie on Oct 2, 2009 6:40 am • linkreport

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