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Traffic on and around WAMU

On Wednesday, Diane Rehm talked traffic with Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt, Deputy US Secretary of Transportation John Porcari, and Brookings fellow Robert Puentes.

WAMU. Photo by Mr. T in DC.

They discussed how much of the increased congestion in recent decades comes from non-work trips, like parents driving kids to work where once they walked, and because land use became more spread out. Porcari touted big stimulus projects like freeways in Southern California, but also talked about how a "transportation system"—not just roads alone—and TOD are key to mobility. Tom Vanderbilt also added that traffic congestion isn't really that bad compared to many other nations and that 90% of roads are not congested 90% of the time.

Vanderbilt brought up the issue of congestion pricing, which Puentes said our international "competitors" are experimenting with (note the phrasing there). Porcari brought up the ICC as an example of congestion pricing, noting it's easier to do it for new facilities than existing areas like New York. The panelists also touched on the decline in carpooling, the pros and cons of roundabouts ("modern roundabouts," not the circles like Dupont), and distracted driving.

As for new infrastructure investment, Puentes noted that a lot of congestion comes from crashes blocking up the road network, and that we have to think bigger than just adding infrastructure. He said, "We have to stop thinking that we're going to be b able to build our way out of congestion." On transit, Porcari said that USDOT is encouraging new transit, streamlining the approval process, and trying to improve the cost effectiveness calculations.

Porcari arrived a few minutes late, saying that while he rode Metro to work, he "made the mistake of driving" to WAMU, two blocks from the Tenleytown Metro. When WAMU invites you to be a guest on a show, they offer a free parking pass. Not a Metro pass, just parking.

Before my last appearance on Kojo, I asked why they can't give out free Metro passes as well; the producer noted that it's easy for them to email out parking passes for their garage, but not to offer free Metro passes. Once Metro upgrades SmarTrip to allow people to check and reload their cards online, perhaps they should consider a program to let organizations email free ride coupons that people can redeem and load onto their SmarTrips via the Web site.

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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I wonder if this would look like those free song cards they have at starbucks. Those have a confirmation code that automatically downloads a song. Could be a way for businesses to attract customers by "validating" their metro ride?

by Michael Perkins on Nov 28, 2009 11:56 am • linkreport

You can just give out a paper farecard. The value can be loaded onto your smartcard if you want.

by Ben Ross on Nov 28, 2009 12:35 pm • linkreport

Except 1) people have to pay for their ride to WAMU beofre they could get the card and more importantly 2) one day they'd find that the entire stack of paper cards had mysteriously demagnetized.

by David Alpert on Nov 28, 2009 1:30 pm • linkreport

All they have to do is send an assistant to a Metro station and get a bunch of fare cards worth up to a full rush hour round trip. I'll bet it's about the same as parking and if you can generate a receipt then it's probably just as easy for accounting.

by Rich on Nov 28, 2009 1:30 pm • linkreport

Or they could give people $4 in cash to compensate them for an average Metro ride to get there.

Or people could just pay for their own damn $4 Metro fare to Tenleytown and not sweat it.

by mccxxiii on Nov 28, 2009 2:00 pm • linkreport

WAMU has their own little lot that they were probably required to provide long ago. Giving their guests free parking costs them nothing (on the margin) since the lot is already there and when I came by it was fairly empty (it's only about six spaces).

On the other hand it looks like giving away metro fare is for now kind of a pain and costs money.

(I ended up parking at a meter since I couldn't print out a pass)

by Michael Perkins on Nov 28, 2009 2:31 pm • linkreport

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