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


Breakfast links: You and me and freeway makes three

Image from GOOD Magazine.
Interstates, Tube-style: GOOD's latest infographic shows the 2-digit Interstate system in the style of the iconic London Underground map. It really helps to illuminate the numbering system. How about a high-speed rail network looking like this?

Light rail, reversible 270 lanes win vote: As expected, the Montgomery County Council voted 6-3 for light rail on the Corridor Cities Transitway, and supported two reversible HOT lanes on I-270. Councilmember George Leventhal tells WTOP Maryland has to raise the gax tax if it wants to pay for all this stuff. (Post, WTOP)

MoCo Council: Subsidize our roads even more please: The Montgomery County Council is the latest to argue for lower ICC tolls, saying they may "drive commuters off the highway." Kytja Weir has the most thorough article on the issue, including a quote from Ben Ross pointing out that low tolls will just suck more money from other Maryland toll facilities for a longer period of time. (Examiner)

Half a Purple loaf?: Purple Line opponents worry the line might not be completed all the way to New Carrollton, if funding runs out and the state only builds the Bethesda-Silver Spring section. That would be a worthwhile line all on its own, but it is important to complete the entire thing. (Gazette)

Another elderly pedestrian killed: Just days after a driver killed a 76-year-old man on the Mall, another as-yet-unidentified man in his 70s died after being hit by a driver at 34th Street and Cleveland Avenue, NW next to the National Cathedral. Some unnamed ANC commissioner calls the intersection "very problematic." (Post)

LaPicture of LaBikeLane: Transportation for America snapped a picture of USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood studying photos of the 15th Street bike lane. Transportation groups met with USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood, and America Bikes illustrated some points with a handout depicting the lane. (Steve Davis)

Not so gracious parking violators: Rob Pitingolo observes that many parking violators refuse to admit they broke the rules, get mad at the enforcer, and often don't even recognize why parking restrictions exist. (Extraordinary Observations)

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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 links today. This should be an interesting comment thread.

Will add one more (from GOOD): The Dutch Are Implementing a GPS-based Distance Tax , which will replace sales and ownership taxes. (Debate in Germany)

by JTS on Nov 18, 2009 9:16 am • linkreport

I'm not sure why that intersection (Cleveland/34th) is "problematic" any more than other intersections. In some ways it is less so, because it is shaped like a "Y", with a separate arrow for people turning from/to Cleveland Avenue to 34th Street.

Don't know if the car or ped was in the wrong, but the only "problem" I see is that a ped might have to look more than 90 degrees to right if crossing Cleveland avenue while walking North. Of course, that should be necessary only if you want to jaywalk or if a driver is running the light.,-77.0698&sspn=0.011918,0.023346&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=34th+St+NW,+Washington,+District+of+Columbia&ll=38.930037,-77.065755&spn=0.00298,0.005836&z=18

by ah on Nov 18, 2009 9:19 am • linkreport

Light rail and reversible lanes is not the answer. Invest more in heavy rail and the need for additional lanes is eliminated. MD needs real rail service, not rush hour commuter service only.

by SS to Gaithersburg on Nov 18, 2009 9:27 am • linkreport

@ah: I agree. I've run through that intersection a hundred times, and never thought of it as an issue. But now that I think about it, I can see someone walking along 34th and seeing the green light for traffic one direction and not noticing that Cleveland has a green arrow to go right onto 34th in the other.

by Brian S. on Nov 18, 2009 9:45 am • linkreport

I find it sad that the new startup Northstar line in Minneapolis can start with weekend service and newer startups (Shore Line East, RailRunner) can easily expand, but having MARC/VRE do anything beyond the bare minimum is like pulling teeth. Heck, MARC put their hands over their ears when their riders begged for a fare increase over service cuts last year.

I think it might be time for Maryland to explore buying the rails on which MARC runs on, sort of what Massachusetts did. Of course, being in Maryland makes Massachusetts look good!

by Jason on Nov 18, 2009 9:45 am • linkreport

The Tube style map of the US Interstate System doesn't do it for me. In simplifying it, it leave out the thousands interchanges between the intersecting control points.

Nice try though.

by Sand Box John on Nov 18, 2009 9:45 am • linkreport

I don't blame people for getting upset at parking enforcers. People get mad at IRS agents as well. They have a tough job and people yell at them. However, I suspect they are on quota, and 95% of them won't give you inch, even when (as is usually the case in DC) the signs are confusing and/or misleading.

I also saw an article that Chicago or NYC won't give people a 5 minute leeway on tickets at electronic meters.

An argument for getting rid of parking tickets? I doubt it. Meter maids are never loved,, and there is no way to make these little government fees a pleasant experience....

by charlie on Nov 18, 2009 9:47 am • linkreport

@ah, I long ago learned that it's important to look in all directions when crossing a street ... irrespective of whether traffic is supposed to be coming from that direction or not. Back in college I stepped off a sidewalk into a crosswalk on a one-way road, being sure to look in the direction of traffic ... Only to be hit by a bicycle heading the wrong way on that road ... causing me to be knocked over and the bicyclist to lose her balance and dump the bike. Not only did the bicyclist not apologize but instead gave me a look and attitude that made it clear that she thought I was at fault ... Never mind the fact that she was heading the wrong way on a one-way and that I was 'safely' in a crosswalk.

Incidentally ... I just realised I said ' ... only to be hit by a bicycle ... ' (vs. a bicyclist).

by Lance on Nov 18, 2009 9:50 am • linkreport

Jason: what you missed is that there was a lot of hand-wringing between officials in Minnesota and the BNSF over how much in track improvements would be necessary to run Northstar. A very large chunk of the start-up cost went to making those track improvements.

by Froggie on Nov 18, 2009 9:54 am • linkreport

re: USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood's picture. The look on his face as he looks at the 15th Street fiasco is priceless. You can hear him thinking WTF?!

by Lance on Nov 18, 2009 9:57 am • linkreport

i like the article description -- the pedestrian just 'stopped' -- like he was committing suicide.

um, there's been a few times in my life when cars have had me 'dead to rights' and the only thing i could think to do was either a) jump up to lessen the blow, or b) stop and get a good look at death as it took me over. if a driver has you in his/her sights, and they either want to hit you, or just don't care if they hit you or are just not paying attention, sometimes there's just nothing you can do.

it's likely that the driver should be in jail.

by Peter Smith on Nov 18, 2009 9:58 am • linkreport

I second JTS's comment above about the new Dutch system. I was struck by what a perfect system when I first read about it in. EZ Pass is already pretty prevalent. We've got to charge people according to how much they use the roads, taxpayers can't keep subsidizing more and more highways and ever more expensive repairs to existing ones.

Ultimately though the strategy has to be to force US states to raise their gas tax to cover their budget shortfalls. When the feds step in with bailouts of bankrupt states it often lets them defer raising gas taxes. Politically the feds can't raise gas taxes to the level it will take to promote conservation. It's better to make states bite the bullet on that issue. Ironically most of the anti-tax, anti-transit Congress members are from exurbs that are the most greedy at making the rest of us subsidize their driving habits. Yes, poor remote areas need help, but the exurbs need a wake up call.

by Tom Coumaris on Nov 18, 2009 10:22 am • linkreport

@Brian, perhaps, but if you click to street view in the google maps link I posted you can even see that there's a green arrow and a red arrow, plus pedestrian signals. And if you're walking south, you should see the green arrow and if north, there's no green light on 34th when south-bound cars are turning left and cleveland NB cars have the green right arrow. So you'd have to be looking at the wrong green light, and ignoring the pedestrian signal straight ahead to make the mistake.

But, no, it doesn't rule out Lance's point (and mine) that if a car is blasting through a red light, all safety rules go out the window. (And I have seen a number of cars ignore the rule that a red arrow by itself prohibits a right on red, and here there's *also* a no right on red sign-belt and suspenders.)

by ah on Nov 18, 2009 10:33 am • linkreport

Anyone else have to sign in to flickr (which I don't have) to look at the larger resolution of the Intersate pic? I'd like to get a closer look

by Canaan on Nov 18, 2009 10:50 am • linkreport

"And I have seen a number of cars ignore the rule that a red arrow by itself prohibits a right on red"

I too have a seen a number of cars do that. And that number is pretty damn close to 100% of cars that approached a red arrow. This is a huge problem on traffic circles. Drivers treat red arrows as stop signs that they can roll through. There should be a red light camera at every single red arrow in the city.

by Reid on Nov 18, 2009 11:04 am • linkreport


Should not need one. A larger version is not posted. I did find a larger version that was split into to images

Eastern half

Western half

Unfortunately the legend is cut off bottom.

by Sand Box John on Nov 18, 2009 11:16 am • linkreport

Reid, the same can be said for red lights, the presence of a No Right on Red sign notwithstanding.

by ah on Nov 18, 2009 11:31 am • linkreport

@ JTS: Don't hold your breath on the km-based distance tax. This is only the 567th version of the government saying they want to solve traffic jams by taxing on certain roads, at certain times. So far, car drivers have shown enough pissed-off muscle to avoid any implementation.

First they were going to collect tolls at busy roads during rush hour. And they went through about 15 technologies that would allow doing that, but it never came through. Now, they are thinking car riders will accept a GPS in their car, so they can tax people that way. However, people tend not to like the government following them. Privacy is pretty important to many Europeans.

My guess: not gonna happen.

by Jasper on Nov 18, 2009 11:35 am • linkreport

Isn't Oregon testing a vehicle mileage tax program? Using devices at gas pumps to read the mileage off your car, as I recall. It would apply only to new vehicles. I honestly don't know the results of the testing, but I seem to recall hearing some transportation policy analysts say it was going fairly well.

by Mike B on Nov 18, 2009 12:29 pm • linkreport

A system similar to the one proposed for 2012 in the Nederlands is already in place in Singapore and is in experimental stage in Oregon. The Dutch one would lower the price of a new car by about 25%.

Of course the difference is that in Europe petrol taxes are already about as high as they can go while in the US state gas taxes are still incredibly low.

by Tom Coumaris on Nov 18, 2009 12:50 pm • linkreport

We don't need a high speed rail system to take people accross the country. We already have a very good, very safe, and very affordable high speed system called the airlines, which, as it stands now, usually beat Amtrak's prices. Travelling from DC to LA, there is never any reason NOT to fly. Ditto for DC to Chicago, etc. A high speed rail system would cost trillions and would duplicate the airline system which would still work better.

But some people think trains are cool...

by metronic on Nov 18, 2009 12:52 pm • linkreport


You make the mistake of comparing us to European countries simply because we're both countries. In fact, you don't see much transcontinental high speed rail in Europe, either.

It's all about using the most effective tool for the job. And given that some of the proposed high speed rail corridors also connect to some of the most congested airspace in the US, this isn't a coincidence.

Airplanes do not work better for intercity trips of up to 500 miles - which covers a lot of trips.

by Alex B. on Nov 18, 2009 1:26 pm • linkreport

Travelling from DC to LA, there is never any reason NOT to fly. Ditto for DC to Chicago, etc. A high speed rail system would cost trillions and would duplicate the airline system which would still work better.

But what about between Chicago and Cleveland? Or Cleveland and Pittsburgh? Pittsburgh and Philadelphia? Philadelphia and DC?

By the time you've built rail links between each of those city pairs, you've connected DC and Chicago. I'm not saying that we need to connect the East Coast with the West, but by connecting relatively close city pairs in sequence, you will end up with one long line that could have end-to-end service.

A 200 kmh, 9½-hour sleeper service between DC and Chicago, anyone?

by wmata on Nov 18, 2009 9:13 pm • linkreport

wmata: A 200 kmh, 9½-hour sleeper service between DC and Chicago, anyone?

No thanks. I think trains are cool, but I'd rather take the existing 1 1/2 hour Southwest flight from BWI to Midway for less than a hundred bucks. The train rides get me to and from the two airports. One is either AMTRAK or MARC. The other is CTA.

by Mike on Nov 19, 2009 2:16 am • linkreport

very personal opinion on rail vs. flight, but the circumstances under which i would choose to fly instead of take the train have to pretty extreme. so, DC to almost anywhere on the east coast? train. that's assuming comparable price. and, of course, assuming the train goes there, which a lot of times, it doesn't.

instead of flying, i took a train from NJ to Columbia, SC a few months ago -- it was one of the best trips of my life. the last leg of my trip, though, was by bus, from Columbia, SC to Augusta, GA (the 2nd largest city in Georgia, and no passenger rail service) -- the bus trip absolutely sucked in every conceivable way.

i'm just hoping we can stay vigilant against those who would do us train-goers harm -- the TSA. if they get their paws on rail the way they did on the airline industry, watch out. they've already started their power-grab -- i'd like to see them banned from the entire travel industry, but at least from train travel. let them run around and inspect cars and trucks and strip-search drivers if they want.

i really want to check into wifi on trains.

by Peter Smith on Nov 19, 2009 2:29 am • linkreport

by SS to Gaithersburg: Light rail and reversible lanes is not the answer. Invest more in heavy rail and the need for additional lanes is eliminated. MD needs real rail service, not rush hour commuter service only.

RE: They got a Real Rail Service called the MARC. Adding the Light Rail will add more of a local Rail Service while the MARC will continue to run as an Express Service. No can do on eliminating Additional Lanes on I-270 because as long as I-496(in VA), I-66, and I-395/95 are adding Lanes BTW of HOT Lanes then I-270 DESERVES to Follow suit with adding Additional Lanes....

by Steven on Nov 21, 2009 2:01 pm • linkreport

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