Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Empty parking, screw peds and bikes


Photo from Streetsblog.
We told you so, New York: Back in 2004, Mayor Bloomberg turned over a city-owned market filled with small vendors to a big-box developer to build an auto-centric mall in the Bronx. Despite being near public transit, the developer, Related Companies, built giant parking lots, narrow and winding pedestrian access, and a design that turned its back on nearby neighborhoods. Now, they're surprised to find out that more people are arriving by transit than by car, and the tiny pedestrian ramps are busy while the garages sit empty. (Streetsblog NYC)

College Park-ing still a failure: A new $9.3 million, 288-space parking garage in College Park currently gets only about 20 cars at any one time, and has only earned $9,000 in its first two months. The city is now considering raising rates at other lots to entice people to this one. But Councilmembers who were certain the parking would bring people to downtown are disappointed. How about planning for an actual downtown instead of a motley low-density strip? (The Diamondback, Doug T.)

Mean parking lots: About 22% of car-pedestrian crashes occur in parking lots, says Montgomery County, and they're starting a campaign to educate drivers and pedestrians about the dangers. They also are thinking about pushing for some separated pedestrian paths in parking lots. That's a fine idea if the paths are convenient, but terrible if it means pushing the pedestrians along a circuitous route at the edge so cars can go fast without worrying about hitting people. (Post)

Just coal for pedestrians, bikers: Leesburg will remove all parking meter and garage charges for the holiday season. Michael Perkins notes that when they've done this in the past, many of the spaces just got filled up with cars parked for weeks without moving. (Post, Michael P)

Who needs to maintain bikeways? Not Montgomery: Ike Leggett's savings plan for the current year (large PDF) completely eliminates of bikeway maintenance ($100 million thousand) while cutting only 0.5% of road maintenance (another $100 million thousand).

NIMBY, literally: Residents of Fort Washington, Maryland are fighting extension of a bike trail, the Potomac Heritage Trail, from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to Oxon Hill to Accokeek. Longstanding easements permit building the trail, but some neighbors are saying it will cut into their backyards and bring crime. Trail advocates say trails don't cause crime. (Gazette)

Massive widenings are expensive, even in Tysons: Tysons growth could require $15 billion in new infrastructure, says Lisa "sprawl is your dream" Rein. But reading further, it looks like most of that cost comes not from the local roads and buses to make an urban area, but the new Beltway lanes, widening of major arterials, and overpasses rail projects that aren't actually in Tysons at all. Here's a more detailed analysis. (Post)

Future Amtrak: Wireless, yummier, and more annoying: Amtrak's 5-year plan to improve its service includes Wi-Fi on trains and better food, both sorely needed items. They'll also add "random and unpredictable patrols" and more baggage screening. Because clearly what passengers need is more inconvenience. Everybody's doing it! (WBJ)

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. 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 daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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On Montgomery County's budget cut:
"Ike Leggett's savings plan for the current year (large PDF) completely eliminates bikeway maintenance ($100 million) while making only very minor cuts to road maintenance (another $100 million)."

The proposed cuts are $100 thousand each, not $100 million.

Yes, $100 thousand cut from FY10 bikeways maintenance is a 100% cut.

$100 thousand cut from the planned $18+ million road maintenance budget is an approx. 0.5% cut.

If they were to cut 1% from roadway maintenance and 0% from bikeways maintenance, then they could maintain the bikeways and still have the same total budget savings.

We can see Ike Leggett's priorities very clearly here.

by Wayne Phyillaier on Oct 30, 2009 9:58 am • linkreport

@ the parking lot car-pedestrian accident rate. I am suprised its even that low. So many strip malls have poorly designed parking / walking flow. For example at the Giant near my house the only way into the parking lot is via the entrence at the front of the store. So if you want to drive to Giant you have to navigate through the complicated mess of people loading their cars, entering and exiting the store, etc then turn into a parking row. It is basicly a preestrian death trap. The front of the store should be for people that want to load their car on the curb only and cars enter and leave via the back. This seperates the car areas and the pedestrian areas

by Matt R on Oct 30, 2009 10:02 am • linkreport

Could someone send a copy of Garret Hardin's article to Leesburg? He describes that *exact* problem to set up his broader point.

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

Improving Amtrak's amenities would be great but ultimately they need to be able to provide a better service. I can take the bus from DC->NY for a fraction of the cost of the train with only about an hour's time difference, and that's presuming the train's not delayed.
I took the train regularly between DC and Albany when I was in college. It was less hassle than flying, and cheaper too at the time (before ALB-BWI Southwest service). If Amtrak wants to be able to charge a premium, they need to focus on the core of the service as well as the amenities.

by Distantantennas on Oct 30, 2009 10:19 am • linkreport

Amtrak just figured out they need WiFi? If I were them this is one of the first things I would have upgraded on the Northeast Corridor. Couple it with the outlets, space, and downtown to downtown connections this would be a great marketing tool as they try to siphon rider-share from the airlines and other modes of transit in the corridor. I sure hope they offer it as part of the ticket price like the bus companies do.

by Rob on Oct 30, 2009 10:22 am • linkreport

Bike trails bring crime? Next thing you know, people will be saying roads bring crime...

by цarьchitect on Oct 30, 2009 10:32 am • linkreport

Wayne,

I fixed the numbers from 100 million to 100K and added in your 0.5% statistic. Thanks.

by David Alpert on Oct 30, 2009 10:32 am • linkreport

Re: Tysons, most of the transportation costs I saw in the staff presentation looked to be transit projects. The road costs were a lot lower than I expected, given the size of the projects they said were needed.

by Douglas Stewart on Oct 30, 2009 10:43 am • linkreport

That parking lot number doesn't surprise me. A lot of drivers seem unable to handle the multitude of situations occurring simultaneously in a parking lot.

by Joshua Davis on Oct 30, 2009 10:43 am • linkreport

@Distantantennas--

Amtrak's service between Washington and New York is profitable and popular. The Regional shaves an hour off the bus trip when there's no traffic-- if there is traffic, it saves two hours or more. Plus, it's far more comfortable than riding a bus.

You may be unwilling to pay the premium for the train, but a great many customers are willing to do so, or even to pay a higher premium for the Acela.

That's not to say that Amtrak shouldn't offer wifi or better food (certainly, I'd like those amenities) but it's not like they are currently uncompetitive with the bus.

by Josh B on Oct 30, 2009 10:44 am • linkreport

@ Wayne P. - The article states the cuts are $100 thousand ($100K), not million.

AmTrak - Last year I took AmTrak from DC's Union Station to Toronto. The food in the snack car improved noticeably when it was restocked after we crossed the Canadian border. Of course it was fresher but not just that. less processed, more vegetarian, tasty and healthy heart fare was offered. Veggie sandwiches w/ hummus and carrots vs. hotdogs w/ french fries. In fact, as a vegetarian, there was nothing for me to eat all afternoon until the Canadians restocked the cafe. We were delayed for quite some time as the Mounties brought the sniffing dog through the cars. The dog was a very non-intimidating cute Spaniel with spots and long ears. At a stop in NJ I'd seen a cop w/ a German Shepherd on the platform. (i love all dogs but many people find a Shepherd far more intimidating then a Spaniel).

by Bianchi on Oct 30, 2009 10:45 am • linkreport

We should really settle on what NIMBY means. In this post, you basically say that you can slap that label on anything that people don't want near them because of the negative consequences of it. But in that way, you would call Arlington NIMBYs for opposing the HOT lanes.

I think of NIMBYs as people who say that they will benefit from a certain project and that it should be built, but they don't want it near them because of the negative consequences. They'd rather someone else suffer those consequences, while they just enjoy using whatever the new thing is.

Under this definition, no, Arlington isn't being NIMBY, because Arlington people would have little to no use for the HOT lanes and just plain don't want them built. I see no indication that the Fort Washington residents support the bike trails at all. In that sense, it's not "Not In My Back Yard," it's just "Not At All."

by Tim on Oct 30, 2009 10:56 am • linkreport

Tim: In that article, the property owners specifically said that they didn't want the trail in their backyards. NIMBY stands for Not In My Back Yard, so it's literally a NIMBY statement. That's all. The headlines for links are meant to be cute, not deep.

by David Alpert on Oct 30, 2009 11:08 am • linkreport

The development in New York reminds me of the perpetual snake of Metro riders you can see walking in line to Wheaton thru those rather tiny little corridors.

I guess in the sense of "nobody could anticipate pedestrians!" type nonsense, Bloomberg and Ike Leggett aren't terribly different from one another.

by J.D. Hammond on Oct 30, 2009 11:13 am • linkreport

From the article: "We're not against biker trails, we just don't want them in our backyards." = NIMBY

by David C on Oct 30, 2009 11:13 am • linkreport

@ parking:

First: It would help if parking lots could just incorporate come (faux) brick paths as a visual reminder to cars that they need to share the asphalt with pedestrians. Make them run straight behind parking rows, because that is where people walk.

Second: Just get rid of the stupid loading zones in front of stores. If you can fill up your cart with all that stuff, you can ride the cart to your car.

Third: General question: Has anybody ever thought on how to design a parking lot with the pedestrian in mind? All parking lots are designed to let drivers park their car as easily as possible. However, nobody ever thinks about how to safely get the driver, now a pedestrian, to the store or road? It can not be that hard, I would imagine. I've just never seen it.

by Jasper on Oct 30, 2009 11:16 am • linkreport

@Jasper -- I would think you could just put a sidewalk in between the cars ends of the cars where there is usually a yellow line. However, this would increase construction costs and decrease the ease of mobility for the cars...

by Rob on Oct 30, 2009 11:26 am • linkreport

Jasper -- what about walkways between the double rows of cars? This can be accomplished either through spacing the little cement blocks six feet apart, or even raised pedestrian walk areas. (If this isn't clear, instead of rows of two spaces with cars parking head to head, you'd have the same rows, but cars would pull up to some sort of divider with six or so feet of spacing between the cars pointing head to head.) I've seen this in at least a few lots. Of course, it does reduce the amount of space available for parking. But I'll bet it also reduces accidents from people pulling through spaces to the other side or cutting through the middle of a parking lot.

by ah on Oct 30, 2009 11:32 am • linkreport

Wouldn't you know that perhaps Leesburg read Hardin's article, but also read William Fischel's article: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=710065

For those who don't want to register (it's free!) the article says that holiday free parking can be rational, and can work well in smaller communities where it is easier to "police" the spots being taken by employees for a full day. The reason for doing it stems from the inability to reset meters to allow longer parking time, say 3 hours instead of 1, to accommodate longer periods of holiday shopping over the usual shorter shopping during the rest of the year. The forgone revenue may be made up by the local businesses, and may also be desirable to allow them to compete more effectively against mall shopping.

by ah on Oct 30, 2009 11:35 am • linkreport

@Josh B

To be clear, Amtrak's Acela service is popular and profitable, but not nearly as popular as the NE Regional Service, which happens to lose about 5 dollars/passenger. And considering that Acela is significantly more expensive and shaves only a few minutes off your trip, I don't see it getting any more popular in the future.

Nifty Map of Amtrak's Profit/Loss by route

by JTS on Oct 30, 2009 11:35 am • linkreport

some trees could be planted in that space between the double rows too. I guess care would need to be taken to not obstruct the ped path.

by Bianchi on Oct 30, 2009 11:38 am • linkreport

the NE Regional Service, which happens to lose about 5 dollars/passenger

That's Boston/Springfield - Newport News. I bet they make money on DC to NYC.

by Kween on Oct 30, 2009 11:51 am • linkreport

Bianchi, I suspect that trees would not help the cause. 6 feet (say) would reduce the parking area by about 15% already (figuring 16-18' per space). Adding trees will either obstruct pedestrians or require further reduction of parking areas.

by ah on Oct 30, 2009 12:05 pm • linkreport

Matt R,
I'm with you on parking lot design. Potomac Yard is your scenario x10. That place is awful on many levels, but the design of the parking lot is the worst.

I'm provincial, but one of the better designed parking lots I've seen is the Alexandria Central Library. Clear pedestrian ROW, actual "park" elements within it, landscaping, storm water management.

by spookiness on Oct 30, 2009 12:23 pm • linkreport

@ ah: It's a good idea, and some parking lots try it. The problem is that I never see people use them.

You have to find a way to get a safe mixing between pedestrians and cars.

by Jasper on Oct 30, 2009 12:36 pm • linkreport

Wi-Fi and better food are nice but what Amtrak really needs to work on is reliability and price. I like trains and used to use Amtrak on a regular basis but basically gave up on them a few years ago when I took 4 trains in 2 days and every one of them was delayed by 2 hours or more.

Also, their pricing seems completely out of whack with that of competitors. I travel between DC and New York fairly frequently and have found that more often than not I can fly for 50-60% (sometimes less) of what Amtrak is charging and even with having to arrive early, get to/from the airport, etc get there faster.

by Jacob on Oct 30, 2009 1:10 pm • linkreport

Terrorists have successfully hit mass transit systems - subways and trains - in Japan, France, England, and Spain. There have been threats against systems in the U-S, and while some of those were phony scare tactics by the Bush Administration, others appear to have been quite real.

The presence of security may convince a terrorist to go elsewhere (they DO seem to like soft targets). Why not spend a few bucks on prevention. You might get lucky. Like the border guard in Washington State who prevented a bombing at LAX in the year 2000.

I can't fathom your skepticism about the need for rail and subway security...even weak security is better than none.

by Mike on Oct 30, 2009 1:12 pm • linkreport

@JTS @Kween-- I thought I'd seen something saying the DC-NYC leg of the Regional does indeed turn a profit (which would make sense, given that it's the busiest and densest segment and the overall loss is small) but I can't find it. I'm also confused by those Amtrak stats b/c they show a profit of $0.02 per passenger mile on the Regional but a loss of $4.73 per passenger; I can't figure out how those stats can be simultaneously true.

by Josh B on Oct 30, 2009 1:53 pm • linkreport

But I'll bet it also reduces accidents from people pulling through spaces to the other side or cutting through the middle of a parking lot.
Personally... The ability to do these things increases safety(or at least, pedestrian safety) for me. It means you don't have to pull out backwards blind when sandwiched between two SUVs, or run through high-pedestrian areas repeatedly to find a spot.

Mike -
Random baggage checks are either deeply annoying, or very sparsely applied. They are also obvious stationary defenses.

If they are very sparsely applied, then you are relying on the risk-aversion sense displayed by a suicide bomber.

If they are very stationary, obvious defenses, then you are simply pushing the problem away. Most often, just as many casualties can be created in the baggage screening lines, or at another train station, or anywhere in the country that a crowd exists.

The problem is that baggage screening does not consist of a defense against terrorists. They consist of a psychological reassurance to stupid people. Visibility is counter-productive to catching anyone, and value-neutral to having the terrorism occur, but entirely positive if your goal is to perform "safety rituals" in front of an audience.

by Squalish on Oct 30, 2009 2:52 pm • linkreport

A world where security theater is universal may actually be considerably safer in a practical sense - but it's not a world you would want to live in. Market pressure could certainly make security theater into a viable good - if Union Station was competing with Chinatown, then more people would use Union Station if they felt safer there.

Fortunately, this isn't how our world works.

by Squalish on Oct 30, 2009 2:58 pm • linkreport

I thought I'd seen something saying the DC-NYC leg of the Regional does indeed turn a profit (which would make sense, given that it's the busiest and densest segment and the overall loss is small) but I can't find it. I'm also confused by those Amtrak stats b/c they show a profit of $0.02 per passenger mile on the Regional but a loss of $4.73 per passenger; I can't figure out how those stats can be simultaneously true.

The Regional does turn an operating profit, but not when capital costs are considered as well. The per passenger figure may refer to the whole annual capital/operating cost? But then again, no form of transportation does (well, except freight rail)

by AA on Oct 30, 2009 3:29 pm • linkreport

despite the examples of the Bronx development and the USA /Target development in Columbia Heights-both are failures of over-built parking-
the moronic NIMBY pro- parking fanatics around Eastern Market are still going to build a gigantic underground parking facility right next to a Metro station.

These people cannot learn from past mistakes.

They are the ones holding down progress toward a saner world and more rationally designed & built environment.

SHAME ON THEM !!!!

by w on Oct 30, 2009 4:38 pm • linkreport

w,

Once again, you're being as pompous as you can. The parking will be there because enough residents of the Hill -- who don't take the metro to eastern market because it's to commute downtown, not through the Hill -- want it. They even convinced our livable, walkable councilmember to support it.

And no, 99% of Capitol Hill residents don't want your cargo bike either. It doesn't matter how many Chinese or Germans use them. It ain't gonna happen.

Finally, your 'SHAME ON THEM !!!!' comment and referring to us as "these people" make me feel no shame. It makes me feel smug knowing that you're this pissed off.

by mch on Oct 30, 2009 8:26 pm • linkreport

As regards the NIMBY/ bike trail article: bike trails bring lots of crime such as murders, rapes, assualts, pedophile exposures, body dumping, etc. Do a Google search on "bike trail crime" or "trail crime" and you will find thousands in the past five years.

by DW on Oct 30, 2009 11:01 pm • linkreport

@ DW: Bike trails do not kill, murder, rape and assault people. Bike trails tend to be fairly quiet things actually. They're laid down, and kinda stick where they are, occasionally sinking and crumbling down a bit.

In fact, it's the users of a bike trail that kill, murder, rape and assault. Do you know why? Because, unfortunately, that's human nature. People have been killing, murdering, raping and assaulting since they figured out they could. Also, in fact, they figured that millennia before the first bike trail was put down.

Bike trails don't do a whole lot. People do things. They kill, murder, rape and assault. The funny thing is that on bike trails, most people - the vast vast vast majority - actually bikes. And a small percentage doesn't get the message and runs. They only way to prevent killing, murdering, raping and assaulting on bike paths, is to prevent humans from using them. Historically, there is plenty of proof that people will kill, murder, rape and assault regardless of the presence of a bike trail.

So, in conclusion: If you want to avoid killing, murdering, raping and assaults, avoid people. You can do so in the vast emptiness of Montana, Alaska and New Mexico. Accidentally, there are also few bike paths there.

In the mean time, it's 7h38 and I am gonna get out and take a spin on my bike...

by Jasper on Oct 31, 2009 7:38 am • linkreport

@DW, I do not believe an "Google search" qualifies as science. Perhaps you'd like to pull out some, y'know, evidence. Statistics consistently show that trails reduce crime - under the eyes on the street theory. Here's more.

by David C on Oct 31, 2009 10:49 am • linkreport

DW: Do a Google search on "anecdata" or "the plural of anecdote is not data" and you'll come up with lots of funny macros, one of which may contain your above comment.

by J.D. Hammond on Oct 31, 2009 4:13 pm • linkreport

The apparent contradiction between Amtraks per revenue-mile profit and per passenger loss in the Northeast Corridor is an artifact of subsidyscope.com's analysis. The subsidy per passenger on each line is constant, which ignores the fact that passenger trips have varying lengths. I redid the net average profit/loss analysis taking into account this fact and the contradiction disappeared. The Northeast Corridor has many trips of short length, so the average subsidy per passenger is lower than for long-distance trains, for example. Another result is that the average subsidy per passenger is usually even greater than stated in subsidyscope.com's report.

You can view my work in an Excel file at http://chuckcoleman.wikidot.com/local--files/miscellaneous-files/Amtrak%20Analysis.xls .

by Chuck Coleman on Nov 1, 2009 10:28 am • linkreport

The apparent contradiction between Amtraks per revenue-mile profit and per passenger loss in the Northeast Corridor is an artifact of subsidyscope.com's analysis. The subsidy per passenger on each line is constant, which ignores the fact that passenger trips have varying lengths. I redid the net average profit/loss analysis taking into account this fact and the contradiction disappeared. The Northeast Corridor has many trips of short length, so the average subsidy per passenger is lower than for long-distance trains, for example. Another result is that the average subsidy per passenger is usually even greater than stated in subsidyscope.com's report.

You can view my work in an Excel file at http://chuckcoleman.wikidot.com/local--files/miscellaneous-files/Amtrak%20Analysis.xls .

by Chuck Coleman on Nov 1, 2009 10:28 am • linkreport

Sorry about the double post. The first one produced an error message. :-(

by Chuck Coleman on Nov 1, 2009 10:29 am • linkreport

Chuck--

That link is generating a 404 error for me.

by Josh B on Nov 1, 2009 12:29 pm • linkreport

Just say 'NO' to warrantless searches.

Seriously, can we just be done with all this security theater, cynically designed to make the populace think government is doing "all it can" to protect them? We should call out the TSA as the purely political measure that it is: a big show, with the dangerous unintended side-effect of making us all gradually habituate to a police-state environment.


Draconian and (inevitably) ineffective government reactions are what the classical terrorist WANTS to elicit. Please, America, stop playing into their hands. Continuing to live in freedom is the best response.

by Jake T on Nov 1, 2009 4:54 pm • linkreport

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