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Breakfast links: Transit, Kwame, and Prince George

Photo by Mr. T in DC.
Government now allowed to consider livability: USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced new criteria for transit funding that move beyond the narrow and widely-criticized "cost-effectiveness index," now considering livability as well as raw people-moving. It's likely to increase the Purple Line's and K Street's chances of getting funded.

Ashley Halsey does a good job getting balanced perspectives; Bob Chase naturally opposes the change, oddly advocating for projects that "move the most people at the most reasonable expense" while lobbying for expensive rural freeways. (Post, Andrew)

Softer side of Catoe: Bloggers sat down with John Catoe to talk about WMATA budgets, safety, customer service, and more. They'll be giving people stickers at the public hearing to identify their preferred budget choices. We Love DC liked Catoe more after the talk, seeing a more human side and hearing sympathy for riders' frustrations.

Circulator to River East?: The DC Council passed the Circulator extension to Rosslyn out of committee, but rejected a last-minute attempt by Kwame Brown to require it to also go east of the river along Pennsylvania Avenue. (Examiner) ... Brown isn't giving up; commenters on his site like the idea of more River East service but suggest we should plan Circulator routes more comprehensively instead of as transparent appeals to voters.

Sidewalks still not assured: The Sidewalk Assurance Act is still on hold after originally being scheduled for markup Tuesday. Jim Graham said it's because the fiscal impact statement from the administration got delayed. Kwame Brown says he's still undecided on the bill, as is Muriel Bowser after initially opposing it. (Examiner)

PG Council displeased with camera reversal: Prince George's County Council members are frustrated that County Executive Johnson has abandoned speed cameras after they pushed hard for the state legislature to authorize them. Johnson's spokesman said he's concerned that vendors would get a lot of money instead of the County, but isn't the point to improve safety, not revenue? (Post)

Sun setting on Westphalia?: The walkable yet remote and not transit-oriented Westphalia Town Center in Prince George's is facing a $47.4 million foreclosure. Cavan notes that this is one weakness of single-developer megaprojects. (Post)

The High Cost of Free Parking: the movie: Two New Zealanders have created a video discussing the problems with mandatory parking minimums and other "hidden parking subsidies." (Human Transit, Michael P)

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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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Allow me to translate the change in FTA policy.

This policy change will place a thumb on the scales in complying with the National Environmental Policy Act. It will allow state, county and municipal governments to accelerate land use policies that will exploit Kelo v. New London, Connecticut.

In other words, if you live or own a business in an area that government want to change the way the land is being used, you are going to be kicked out and replaced by someone that will pay more taxes.

by Sand Box John on Jan 14, 2010 9:40 am • linkreport

I have no sympathy for him. He needs to resign.

Any word on the rumor (Get There blog) that Metro was searching passengers bags today.

Constitutional lawsuit commence!

Just try to search me at Silver Spring.

by Redline SOS on Jan 14, 2010 9:45 am • linkreport

That's great news about the change in the administration's focus. It's been proven over and over that the stimulus from transit oriented develoment benefits us all. It's true land values will change, but they do that anyway. The issue is to get the most benefits to the most people. Building a safe and reliable transit infrastructure benefits our country in more ways than one. I hope this means that trolleys in dc come roaring back too. Not everyone can afford to own a car, and as the article pointed out, roads get much more national tax dollars than rail service projects, so it seems more progressive to favor rail transit funding over automobile transit.

by Thayer-D on Jan 14, 2010 10:03 am • linkreport

@Redline SOS: Any word on the rumor (Get There blog) that Metro was searching passengers bags today.

I believe Metro has had a policy for the last year or two (maybe longer?) that they can search bags. Maybe they are not at all stations, but I have definitely seen signs at station entrances which say so. I have personally never seen anyone get searched, but I know it is a possibility.

by Brian S. on Jan 14, 2010 10:05 am • linkreport

I'm familiar with the policy and an attorney. It's a clear 4th Amendment violation (no reasonable suspicion or probable cause) regardless of what federal courts have ruled thus far.

by Redline SOS on Jan 14, 2010 10:12 am • linkreport

I believe these searches are constitutionally permissible, since you may refuse the search. If you refuse a search, though, you may not enter the station through that entrance. If you're downtown, the solution is easy: just walk three blocks to the other station entrance or just walk to another station without a "fishing expedition" in force at that moment.

Now for the phrase of the day:

Security theater n.- security countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually improve security.

by Eric F. on Jan 14, 2010 10:19 am • linkreport

River East?

What the hell is that? I've lived in DC longer than most the people reading this board have been alive and never in my life have I heard that term.

We really have to give up all this BS trendy renaming of stuff in an effort to make it seem better, or "less bad".

North Georgetown (which somehow goes above Glover Park), NOMA,CO-HI and now River East.

You could call Anacostia or South East DC anything you want, Far Southeast Georgetown" perhaps, but it isn't going to change the fact that it is "South East" and not a great place to live.

by nookie on Jan 14, 2010 10:32 am • linkreport

I read via another blog (don't remember which at the moment) that the new FTA criteria will include future development.

I'm a little skeptical on that. On the one side, livability and people-moving absolutely should be considered. But on the flip side, including development in the criteria list will invoke the sort of thing that Sand Box John posted about.

by Froggie on Jan 14, 2010 10:52 am • linkreport

At least we know "moving most people at least cost" is a cute term for more highways.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 14, 2010 11:25 am • linkreport

@ Tom C, but it's not even true, right? Isn't the metrotrain proof that trains can move more people faster then roads? in part because if all those people were driving "LOS" would be < E-?

by Bianchi on Jan 14, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

Not to mention that it's often hard to quantify costs of highways vs transit because they're both subsidized and because much of the cost for both is 'hidden'.

There's other ways to look at it. Travel delay, for one, which is already partly accounted for in the existing cost-effectiveness criteria.

Here's another, admittedly back-of-the-napkin/envelope, method...right-of-way efficiency. Assuming fairly typical lane/track widths (12ft for roads, 14ft for rail transit), one rail track per direction, and typical congested vehicle flows/occupancy rates (2400vplph, 1.1), if the rail transit route moves at least 3,080 people per hour per direction (so 6,160 per hour bi-directional), then it's doing a better job than an equivalent freeway lane. In the case of arterial routes and buses/streetcars/LRT (typical arterials are about 1000vplph at traffic signals), then your magic number is 1,284 per direction per hour.

by Froggie on Jan 14, 2010 12:17 pm • linkreport

Random bag searches in NY subway were upheld by a federal court almost four years ago. So good luck with that constitutional challenge.

by Mike B on Jan 14, 2010 12:29 pm • linkreport


Im a Native Born Washingtonian and I totally agree with you about these newbies re-naming everything in DC.

They should just let us keep our names and go back to whatever place they came from.

In addition to this- I always foam at the mouth whenever I hear outsiders call streets or roads or highways by numbers instead of names. You can always tell someone is not from DC because they call E-W highway by a number, or Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue by a number, or even- for cripes sake- Pennsylvania Avenue.

Don't try to fix what aint broke !!!!

by w on Jan 14, 2010 12:29 pm • linkreport

I also hate the "River East" moniker. It takes something unique and distinctive-sounding, "Anacostia," and remakes it into something bland and suburban. I realize it's being done to counter the past negative connotations of Anacostia, but can't anyone come up with something better and more distinctive?

by JS on Jan 14, 2010 12:36 pm • linkreport

@mike b. - dc circuit is not the 2nd circuit. different venues can result in different decisions, which then get resolved by the supremes.

so long as janice rogers doesnt hear the case i think its got a fair chance of being unconstitutional. and im more then willing to represent myself pro se on it.

by Redline SOS on Jan 14, 2010 12:46 pm • linkreport

w: think you meant nookie and not me.

by Froggie on Jan 14, 2010 1:16 pm • linkreport

one another note, what is wrong with the current blue bus? There is a low ridership most times of the day, and I think a big circulator bus would be a waste. Having smartrip available might be nice, but I don't see the need for the change?

by charlie on Jan 14, 2010 1:27 pm • linkreport

I just saw a lady carrying all her groceries from the local Safeway in a couple of plastic produce bags (i.e., the ones that don't get the Tommy Tax.) I thought what a great idea! Sure is easier to pick those up in the produce dept of Safeway (for free none-the-less!) than to have to pick up a Current newspaper lying around on a nearby stoop ... just to get what is essentially the same kind of flimsy bag as a produce bag.

Maybe there'll be and end to the poop bag shortage afterall! And it doesn't involve paying more taxes to Councilmember Wells! ... the best part!

by Lance on Jan 14, 2010 1:50 pm • linkreport

So when someone buys their house without a sidewalk in front do they also buy it without bothering to check where the front of their lot is (as opposed to public space)?

I think the obvious answer in any neighborhood where there's disagreement as to which side of the street gets the sidewalk is to give both sides of the street the sidewalk. Or just stop paving it.

by ah on Jan 14, 2010 2:13 pm • linkreport

I think Anacostia is a beautiful name and should be said outloud at every opportunity. I guess River East includes more communities then Anacostia. In fact I suppose it includes all the communities east of the river, yes? In that sense its efficient. It's more efficient then the phrase "east of the river". However I may prefer "east bank of the Anacostia" because it uses that name I'm so fond of. southeast includes parts of the west bank of the Anacostia and so isn't as descriptive as East River.

on PGC-so glad current county exec Johnson is a lame duck. What a numbscull. He publically admits he's more concerned with revenue then the safety of school kids!-at the same time the county would get some revenue. He's just a dog-in-the-manger because the private Co. would get more! So glad he's going.

by Bianchi on Jan 14, 2010 3:19 pm • linkreport

Of course, the proposed circulator route down Pennsylvania Ave SE doesn't go into the neighborhood of Anacostia at all.,_Washington,_D.C.

Unless people want to assert that almost two entire wards of the city is one neighborhood...

by Alex B. on Jan 14, 2010 3:32 pm • linkreport

@Redline SOS - I know they are separate circuits and technically the 2nd Circuit doesn't set precedent for the DC Circuit. But the courts take note of these things when hearing cases, so that can't help. Was the 2nd Circuit decision ever appealed to the Supreme Court? I have a hard time believing the current court would overturn that decision.

by Mike B on Jan 14, 2010 4:08 pm • linkreport

@ Alex, does it go east of the anacostia? What neighborhood does it go to? I wasn't commenting on what to call the busline. just an OT comment about names.

by Bianchi on Jan 14, 2010 5:08 pm • linkreport

Oh, I agree - Anacostia is a lovely name. My point is merely that "Anacostia" alone is a very specific neighborhood. "East of the Anacostia" is a much larger geography encompassing many neighborhoods - as you noted.

Commenter 'JS' suggested that River East was bland in comparison to Anacostia. And it is, but my point is that the terms are not interchangeable. Saying "River East" is like saying "Upper Northwest" - a very broad geography that represents many neighborhoods.

Similarly, "Southeast" is not useful, as a great deal of Ward 7 (for example) is east of the river, but also in the NE quadrant. Likewise, Southeast Capitol Hill is in SE, but that's not what most people mean when they say "Southeast".

by Alex B. on Jan 14, 2010 5:45 pm • linkreport

the name "Barracks Row" always cracked me up.
This was an invention of the propmoters and realtors back in the early 80's.
My grandparents told me that it had always been called "Sailors Row" since time immemorial- as the Navy Yard was the primary employer and really the main reason for 8th street being a busy place.
Funny thing- I found this hilarious little book from the 1940's called "DC Confidential" and it calls 8th street Sailor's Row.

Too many new people have moved into DC and they do not repect the people that live here and have lived here- and this goes down to the very names that we use.

I refuse to accept numbers for highways that previously has names, and I do not understand why a perfectly good name for a place needs a glitzy suburban sounding development style moniker.

by w on Jan 15, 2010 11:03 am • linkreport

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