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


Breakfast links: Thumbs up

Photo by Caron Whitaker, America Bikes.
Bike bits: Ray LaHood gives DC/Arlington bike sharing the thumbs up (CommuterPageBlog) ... Bikes will cost $155/month to operate, but revenues could cover costs after about 5 years (Examiner) ... Ashley Halsey interviews new WABA Executive Director Shane Farthing. (Here's our interview.)

Metro morsels: Metro will soon release the first "vital signs report" tracking progress against various goals (Examiner) ... They are casting a wide net to find a great GM candidate, including great managers without a transit background (Post) ... The Kojo Politics Hour hosts WMATA Board Chair Peter Benjamin and Congressman Gerry Connolly today.

More pipes breaking in the future?: A broken water main snarled traffic on New York Ave Wednesday. And unless WASA gets more money from the feds and customers, these are likely to keep happening a lot more often. (Post, DeBonis)

Gated alleys?: Baltimore has begun fencing in alleys to provide a safe haven and a neighborhood meeting place. But is this making neighborhoods safer or just making public space private? (Post via Baltimore Brew)

SeePostFix: The Post has partnered with SeeClickFix, whose site lets people report problems and get them to government officials. The Post calls their site "The Daily Gripe" and will feature one issue each day. (We also list SeeClickFix issues on the sidebar.)

Bike and charge: Nokia has created a bike-powered phone charger. It'll initially release it in Kenya, then go worldwide later in the year. Will this help bike commuting or lead to distracted biking? (Wired)

And...: Should U Street get a liquor license moratorium? Left for LeDroit says no ... Shaw leaders reject a project for 7th and R because it's too small (Housing Complex) ... DC is one of 9 cities awarded a grant to install a network of electric vehicle charging stations. (ars technica, andrew)

Thanks, Mike!: Mike DeBonis analyzes the Gray streetcar escapade, and calls us an "influential blog ... the de facto ringleader of a group of smart, dedicated transit and planning activists." It wouldn't be possible without all of our terrific contributors and amazing community of commenters and readers. (Post)

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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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Finally a story about "use x to charge y" that actually makes some engineering sense.

Usually Y is something that requires a lot of power, but cell phones only take a few watts so it'll be a very slight increase in pedaling effort, and most people are easily capable of sustaining 50-75 watts on a bike.

Unlike those articles where some discotheque says they're powering the music or the lighting (100s of watts) from people bouncing on the dance floor (*not* 100s of watts). Or powering your computer/tv/game system by jumping on the Wii balance board or something.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 4, 2010 9:29 am • linkreport

It's funny to read the take on paying off the bike system in five years on this blog versus the Examiner text. Here the tone is "Hey, great, this will be paid off in only five years!" Meanwhile at the Examiner it's "this massive lefty government project is going to take FIVE WHOLE YEARS to pay off! The privates sector would have it profitable in a week!"

by Steven Yates on Jun 4, 2010 9:31 am • linkreport

This cell phone charging off a bicycle thing is a big win in the third world, since infrastructure for reliable electric power is spotty. Many places you pay a guy to charge your cell phone for you off a car battery he keeps charged from a small generator or solar panel.

If you could charge it yourself from the surplus power riding a bike, that's one less thing you have to pay for.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 4, 2010 9:59 am • linkreport

I think I'm okay with the gated alleys. Technically they are "public" spaces, but why would you really need to go down a residential alley on which you do not live? Perhaps limiting the times when the gates could be locked would address the issue.

by Nick J on Jun 4, 2010 10:09 am • linkreport

About the "de facto ringleader" article, let's not forget all who were involved influencing Metro's budget and the great outcome of the Fairfax Connector proposed (but cancelled) service gutting.

by Transport. on Jun 4, 2010 10:10 am • linkreport

$155/mo per bike?! That's crazy expensive. They would be better off buying cheap bikes and not locking them up. Just give it a paint job/etching so they can't be resold.

by Geori on Jun 4, 2010 10:11 am • linkreport

Re: gated alleys -- I don't really care about the public v private space issue, but I do know this-- in movies and TV, when someone is being chased down an alley they invariably come to a tall chain link fence and get eaten by the monster, deleted by the cyberman, etc. etc. Also in television, the criminals always escape by being able to easily climb the chain link fence while the police officer loses the guy because chain link fences are, in reality, very difficult to climb.

Is this the kind of thing we want to encourage? I think not.

by Lorin on Jun 4, 2010 10:20 am • linkreport

The gated alleys idea is something that could easily catch on in DC neighborhoods, particularly if they have lots of non-residents hanging out in the alleyway or have vandalism/crime issues. It's an interesting use of those spaces and can definitely help increase good neighbor relations.

But, if one is militant about all public space belonging to the public and never being able to be "privatized" (e.g., sidewalks, parking on driveways that are technically public space, etc), then I guess that person would have to oppose this idea.

by Fritz on Jun 4, 2010 10:20 am • linkreport

Geori: Seriously? Say the cheap bike costs $25. I bet it would get stolen more than 6 times per month.

And it's not just the bike cost. They also have vans and staff to reshuffle the bikes to maximize the likelihood that whichever station you want to get a bike from has one, and whichever station you want to return it to has space.

by David Alpert on Jun 4, 2010 10:23 am • linkreport

why would you really need to go down a residential alley on which you do not live?

When I was in grad school in Baltimore in the 1990s, the alleys near the Johns Hopkins university campus were a well-known informal freecycle system. We got a meaningful proportion of our (unupholstered) furniture from the alleys. Some of it went back out when we moved away, but not all of it.

by Miriam on Jun 4, 2010 10:32 am • linkreport

I'm with Geori on this one. I've had a bike 15 plus years in DC. Never gotten stolen. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but if you take reasonable precautions, you'll be good.

The potential for theft to me is not reason enough to pay so very much money a month for the privilege of riding a bicycle. $150 a month is crazy expensive. And a horrible trend.

by Jazzy on Jun 4, 2010 10:35 am • linkreport

I walk down residential alleys in which I do not live every day when I walk my dog. I prefer alleys, at least in the heat. They almost always have better shade cover then the sidewalks. They're short cuts too. I'd be bummed if some of my favorite alleys became gated. Though I understand why people would want to do it.

by Bianchi on Jun 4, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

I'm normally not one for the privatization of public spaces, except that I don't particularly consider alleyways to be particularly public.

My alley is a dump, and not necessarily because non-residents hang out there. There's no sense of ownership -- the residents don't want to take care of it, and neither does the city. If a garbage can tips over, nobody stops to pick up the debris.

However, with the right impetus, I think it could become a nice public space akin to David's post on Greenbelt's public gardens yesterday.

by andrew on Jun 4, 2010 10:51 am • linkreport

My alley is a lovely public urinal/toilet, but that's just because of its proximity to the social service hell that is North Capitol St & O st.

by m on Jun 4, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

Actually, the alleys aren't made private, but rather semi-private. They are still shared by a group of citizens, it's just a much smaller group and likely, the group that cares the most about them.
I think it's a fabulous idea. I'm usually for ideas that benefit many and inconvenience few.
Give local civic associations voting power and maybe even a formal or informal right to veto. If the neighborhood says OK, then gate away.

by Josh S on Jun 4, 2010 11:35 am • linkreport

You missed one important link on the breakfast roundup: D.C. streetcar funding maneuvers cut into debt cap - Washington Business Journal

Also, I'm pretty confused about the bike sharing program cost. If its $155 per month per bike how is this ever going to come close to covering its costs? Five years? In five years there will be a debt amounting to $9,300 per bike, minus the revenues which will never even come close to $155 per month. Hell, people complained about the cost going from $40 to $80 per year.

Seriously - how does the math work here? Something is insanely far from adding up right...

by Jamie on Jun 4, 2010 11:52 am • linkreport

"Say the cheap bike costs $25. I bet it would get stolen more than 6 times per month."

You really think that every single bike in the program would be stolen 6 times per month? That's what would have to happen to make it not cost effective to just leave them unlocked.

And exactly what resale market would support such a massive theft effort, especially considering that anyone who might be considering buying a bike for $25 (not much money for the risk and effort of reselling a stolen bike) could just, er, "steal" their own?

Geori is totally right. Sure, some of them would get "stolen" by people who just ride them home and leave them on the street by their house. But if you replaced them at a rate of 6 per month, and assuming very few of the "stolen" bikes would ever leave the metropolitan area, the entire city would quickly be flooded with enough bikes to make this not worthwhile for anyone anyway.

by Jamie on Jun 4, 2010 11:57 am • linkreport

Jamie, research first generation bike share systems from the 1970s.

Every bike was stolen. EVERY BIKE. This was tried in cities all around the world, including Amsterdam.

There's a reason nobody does it like that anymore.

(2nd generation, involving a coin deposit, also failed).

As for 3rd generation bike share, why does it cost so much?
-HEAVY use. Each bike will be ridden 6-14 times per day. That means you need MUCH better parts AND a whole lot of maintenance, including a large staff replacing tired, tuning gears etc. You cannot compare your bike with a public bike.
-Repositioning. People ride down hills, not up. The maintenance crews need to pick up bikes and take them to where they're needed.

by J on Jun 4, 2010 11:57 pm • linkreport

J, I hear your argument.

But if every bike is going to be stolen, is the program even worth it to begin with? My point is that $150 is way too much for the majority of residents in DC to afford. Save up 4 months, and buy a bike. And a lock, or locks.

by Jazzy on Jun 5, 2010 11:32 am • linkreport


$155 per month per bike is the cost to the operator to run the system, not the cost to the consumer. I believe the proposed pricing was an $80 annual membership (less than $7 a month), which gets you unlimited usage so long as your rides are less than a 1/2 hour long - there's a nominal fee for time used after that.

Remember, this is bike sharing. Hence, that $155 is being borne by many users, which keeps the per user cost low.

Out of pocket costs for riders will be in the tens of dollars, not the hundreds.

by Alex B. on Jun 5, 2010 12:08 pm • linkreport


Oops. Sorry about that!

by Jazzy on Jun 5, 2010 3:04 pm • linkreport

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