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


Breakfast links: Coming soon

SmartBike's construction. Photo by IntangibleArts on Flickr.
DC government's tech innovation: New America Foundation's Kara Hadge summarizes discussions from yesterday's panels. OCTO plans QR codes for Circulator buses and a contest to develop apps using Circulator data, including the past year's bus positions, and DDOT will launch a crowdsourcing tool for suggesting Capital Bikeshare locations.

EFC debate underway: East Falls Church plan supporters and opponents faced off last night for the first of many debates at the Arlington County Board. (Also, here's a good example of a balanced article on a development debate.) (Scott McCaffrey/Sun Gazette)

Fares too confusing?: Howard Gleckman complains about the complexity of Metro's fare system and the difficulty of knowing the cost of a ride, but also agrees with many of the reasons that the fare system got that way. (Forbes, Michael P.)

Affordable forever?: Developers, including affordable housing developers are pushing to change Inclusionary Zoning so income restrictions don't remain in perpetuity. The rules keep units affordable, but also limit unit owners from gaining substantially from real estate appreciation. (City Paper)

One teen vs. the generistocracy: Dave Murphy writes about his experiences growing up in eastern Montgomery County, and why he liked Wheaton, Bethesda and Silver Spring and not Olney, which he called the "generistocracy." (JUTP)

Howard Theater, for real?: The Howard Theatre could finally, really reopen. Tipster Bossi says he's long believed that the rehab will really speed up revitalization in Shaw. (Alex Baca/City Paper)

Followups: Some drivers are a little confused by Dave Thomas Circle, and GPS devices haven't caught up yet (Ashley Halsey/Post) ... Annys Shin delves into Maryland's prosecution of the man who recorded his own traffic stop and posted it on YouTube (Post) ... New Maryland license plates are really ugly. (BeyondDC)

Walking and biking around the nation: An FHWA report says biking and walking have increaased by over 130% from 1990 to 2009. (Fast Lane, Michael P.) ... Planetizen discusses the benefits of road diets (Michael P.) ... Cyclists are fighting a Florida law forcing them to ride in bike lanes where possible. (Orlando Sentinel, Redline SOS)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
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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Some interesting graphs in the fastlane post. If you look at the number of trips, walking far far outpaced biking. Of course, if you did it by miles probably bikes would be much higher. I don't know which would be a more accurate measure. Given that all the data is coming from surveys I think the numbers are hooey.

But what I did like was this:

"Even better, the safety data is also promising. From 1994 to 2008, the number of pedestrians killed decreased by 22.3% and the number of bicyclists killed decreased by 12%. Since the number of trips taken on foot or on bike has more than doubled in the same period, those declines are a good sign of increased safety."

So it turns out, despite the bicycle legal advocates looking for ways to keep themselves in the public eye, biking is becoming more safe DESPITE lack of laws that criminalize bike-car accidents. Who knew!

Sigh. One day those advocates will move from community building through legal advocacy to stuff that matters: more bike racks and better policing of bike thieves. Or my wet dream: free cold water.

by charlie on Jun 16, 2010 9:40 am • linkreport

So if 12% fewer U.S. soldiers were killed this year or 12% fewer people got cancer does that mean we can breathe a sigh of relief on those issues as well? It's encouraging that as drivers expect to see more bikers on the road the rate of biker fatality drops, but I'm not sure it automatically negates concerns about letting reckless drivers off the hook.

by aaa on Jun 16, 2010 10:16 am • linkreport

That new Maryland plate is hideous enough to make a new area resident move to DC or VA instead.

by Adam Lewis on Jun 16, 2010 10:35 am • linkreport

I just don't understand these frequent complaints about the complexity of metro's fare structure. This guy at least isn't complaining about how hard it is to buy a metro card for exactly the right amount, but instead seems to be arguing that it makes it hard for regular commuters like himself to calculate costs and benefits.

This is the worst argument yet. So, he's a regular metro commuter with a smartrip card and it's too confusing for him to do a one-time calculation to see what his annual commuting cost will be? Some economist!

Seriously. Go to Put in your trip time, start, and destination. Multiply by number of trips. There, you you are done.

by Jamie on Jun 16, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

Wow those MD plates are ugly! IMHO I think the problem is that people don't want a plate on their car whose colors get more attention than the car itself ... at least in most cases. Then again, I thought the same thing when DC first introduced its multi-colored plates, but I've not only gotten used to them but actually like them now. And can't explain why.

by Lance on Jun 16, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

Nobody much will be getting that new MD plate, you have to pay $20 for it when you re-regiter your car. If you don't pay the $20 - you keep the current plate.

by Q on Jun 16, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

charlie, can you please spare us your sexual fantasies. The other day you wrote about bike advocates in a "circle jerk" and today you are telling us your wet dreams. Please stop.

by Bianchi on Jun 16, 2010 10:55 am • linkreport

So, basically I can't make any sort of audio-video recording in Maryland because if I happen to be filming while someone walks by and my camera picks their voice up, I could go to jail. Or does it only apply to recording police officer misconduct? I wonder if I'd have cops knocking down my door if I was filming a Maryland cop saving a kitten from a tree or helping an old lady cross the street.

by Teyo on Jun 16, 2010 11:06 am • linkreport

Teyo, I do not know how these laws have not been found unconstitutional. While in public, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. That is how journalists are able to photograph events without the consent of the subjects. That is how I am able to photograph images of public spaces and post them on Flickr. I do not know how police, our public servants, are protected from our 1st Amendment rights.

by engrish_major on Jun 16, 2010 11:11 am • linkreport

Maryland is definitely the new Virginia.

by Jamie on Jun 16, 2010 11:12 am • linkreport

Teyo and engrish -- The important distinction is between audio and video. When it comes to video, including photography, there is pretty clear First Amendment right to record so long as you are recording from a legal vantage point. Audio is a different matter -- with some states seeking to draw a brighter line between what is private and what is public.

by aaa on Jun 16, 2010 11:24 am • linkreport

@Adam Lewis, +1, lol

by Matt Glazewski on Jun 16, 2010 11:29 am • linkreport

The whole thing is beyond disturbing. I can think of no reason that a conversation between a representative of the government, which is an official, legally binding matter and can be used against you in a legal proceeding, could ever be considered "private." So whatever you say can be used against you in a court of law, but you are prohibited from documenting that same conversation?

If a cop wants to have a private conversation with a citizen, then the cop needs to put his badge away first and act as a citizen - not as a representative of the government. I can't believe anyone would ever argue otherwise.

by Jamie on Jun 16, 2010 11:30 am • linkreport

MD plates = beyond awful.

I was back in my home state of NC last weekend and couldn't believe the number of specialized plates I saw. There are actually ~100:

Aside from the NASCAR plates, which are worse than MD's, they're targeted enough to actually generate some decent revenue. They even have shag dancing - I don't know who would want that, but there's a petition process so there must be a few people.

by SpG on Jun 16, 2010 11:31 am • linkreport

Why is there a difference, legally, between audio and video? Should the constitution state "Congress may pass no laws infringing on freedom of speech [as long as there is no audio]."

by engrish_major on Jun 16, 2010 11:31 am • linkreport

I'd be ok with being asked to ride in the bike lanes if the police would ticket cars and trucks that park in them. Since that's never gonna happen, this is a stupid law.

by Boots on Jun 16, 2010 11:50 am • linkreport

Yes, it would be far better if delivery trucks stopped in the middle of the road instead, blocking all traffic and still interfering with bicycles as they carry their stuff back and forth across the bike lane.

by Jamie on Jun 16, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

Re: Fare complexity: Couldn't Metro place an electronic "Fares from this Station" board next to the vending machines?

They could do this at the major/tourist stations at a (fairly) minimal cost, and it would be a boon to occasional riders. The *current* signage is already fairly difficult to understand, given the current "temporary" 10-cent fare hike.

(That all said, we could go to a London-style fare calculation system, which may or may not be easier to understand, depending upon your perspective.)

by andrew on Jun 16, 2010 11:57 am • linkreport

I have no objection to something providing an easier way for people to find out a far. Or they could just ask the station manager, which I hope is a service they can provide.

But I am pretty sure that everyone who's complaining online about this "problem" is not a tourist, and, more than likely, owns a smart trip card.

To be sure, hearing people complain about stuff that inconveniences tourists is a first. Usually they're complaining about all the problems those damn tourists cause.

by Jamie on Jun 16, 2010 12:08 pm • linkreport

@Q - What about new car owners? If they're registering a car for the first time, do they get that plate or does the black/white remain "standard issue"?

by ah on Jun 16, 2010 12:12 pm • linkreport

I have to confess that after having my SmartTrip card for several years now I am somewhat embarrassed when somebody (like a tourist) asks me what the bus fare is and I have no idea.

by Lou on Jun 16, 2010 12:23 pm • linkreport

Shagging (the dance) is huge on the coast in SC and NC. It's the state dance of SC. There's a tag for it in SC too. SC has mastered the art form of specialty tags. GA has gotten into it now too. A lot of the states do either a minimum number of paid applications before they make them or a cash bond/payment equal to whatever the minimum order is.

The article I read didn't mention new car tags - they might be getting stuck with it. Wasn't something I even considered.

by Q on Jun 16, 2010 12:26 pm • linkreport

@ Jamie: Seriously. Go to Put in your trip time, start, and destination. Multiply by number of trips. There, you you are done.

It may come as a surprise to you, but people do more than commute. And even commutes may vary from day to day. It is not unreasonable to demand transparent pricing. In fact, that is my entire problem with the multiple-tier pyramid pricing scheme we're having now.

@ MD tags: Wow. I guess MD wants to sell more specialty tags. I thought the old one was nice an decent.
@ SpG: VA had 180+ choices, the last time I had to get a plate.

by Jasper on Jun 16, 2010 1:07 pm • linkreport

@Jasper, I was responding directly to the argument presented in the article that was linked above. It was specifically about commuting.

His argument centers upon this: "But because most of us pay with those plastic cards, which we refill regularly with a credit card, Metro is betting we wonÂ’t fully recognize this painfully steep hike."

This is plainly absurd to me, especially coming from an economist. For most people, the primary alternative to taking Metro is driving.

So let's see how we can figure out how much our car commute costs. Every day, on a 20 mile trip, you might use between 1 and 1.5 gallons of gas depending on traffic. The price of gas varies almost daily, and varies substantially from one gas station to another. Since you only fill up every 10 or 15 gallons or so, and you also drive for lots of other reasons, the actual payment schedule can vary a lot.

So this economist thinks that calculating the cost of a commute on metro is too complicated, when you can actually just look it up and do some basic math?

If it's too confusing for people to notice that cost or be able to calculate it, how do you think he could possibly explain the fact that people drive less, and buy more efficient cars, when the price of gas goes up?

Transparent (or fixed pricing really is what you mean -- it's perfectly transparent, if slightly complicated) pricing would be easier to be sure.

But the cons are that the simpler the fare structure is, the less fair it is. I personally think that the negatives of the complexity are more than outweighed by the pros - which is that, during rush hour, Metro functions more like more-expensive commuter rail systems used by many other cities that have both.

by Jamie on Jun 16, 2010 1:19 pm • linkreport

.. oh and I almost forgot that gas is merely one component of the cost of car commuting, and doesn't other fixed and variable costs such as purchase price, maintenance, insurance and so on... and yet still people seem to be able to figure out whether it makes sense to drive or not.

by Jamie on Jun 16, 2010 1:20 pm • linkreport

I'm just confused about the need to know exactly what your fare is if you're a regular rider. I can understand being a clueless tourist, cause I've been there in other cities. But here, don't you just put some money on a Smartrip card and just know that it's more expensive during rush hour, and more expensive to go further, but no trip is going to be cheaper than about $1.50 and nothing's going to be more than $5.20 and call it a day?

by Michael Perkins on Jun 16, 2010 1:23 pm • linkreport

One last note about this guy's analysis... he says "Someone who makes my commute each day could face an annual fare increase of more than $1,000"

That's blatantly just BS. The maximum fare increase will be from $4.50 to $5.45 -- 95 cents for one trip. And that's for cash-only trips. SmartTrip, which I am sure all commuters use, is less.

So if you had the longest possible trip, and you did it at peak time, and you paid cash, you'd be looking at an increase of about $480 per year tops. His commute, also, is not the longest possible, since he says the most it could cost under the new structure is $4.20.

Pretty poor math skills in effect here. I'm thinking that his problem in doing an economic analysis of his commute has a lot less to do with the variable fare structure than it does with his inability to do basic math.

by Jamie on Jun 16, 2010 1:51 pm • linkreport

@ Michael P

I'm with you. I don't get it.

by James on Jun 16, 2010 1:56 pm • linkreport

Re: Fare calculation: I agree with Michael Perkins

Although I flirted with them both while I was younger, I've since fallen out of love with math and economics.

I don't have work or the feds pay for my SmartTrip card, or anything-- I just throw 20 to 30 bucks on there every now and again. Though I understand the rationale and math behind much of the new fare structure, I'll let the machines work out the details re: transfer costs, peak of the peak, etc. and deal. A pass would be even simpler, but for me, it would be more expensive- I know that much.

by ed on Jun 16, 2010 2:42 pm • linkreport

I'm trying to research in a bit more detail some of the scattershot from today's breakfast links, specifically the possibility of changing IZ. I know that perhaps some on here see that Manna says, "well maybe" - and boom, that's good enough for me, next topic! But I think we need to slow down, seriously analyze this and think about the possibility of losing more affordable housing. (Ed Lazere says hell no, fyi)

by Jazzy on Jun 16, 2010 7:14 pm • linkreport

Jazzy: Would you be interested in contributing an article explaining what you have read from Ed Lazere and others and giving your thoughts?

by David Alpert on Jun 16, 2010 9:21 pm • linkreport

An FHWA report says biking and walking have increased by over 130% from 1990 to 2009.

i guess it's good to have a number, but i'm not sure how this particular number is useful -- except to mislead people into thinking that US cycling policy over the past 19 years has been effective/successful -- i think that 130% number shows how badly US cycling policy has failed.

it represents about a 4.61% annual growth rate in the number of bike trips. during that time, the US population grew by about 50 million people -- representing a 1.15% annual growth rate. and during this time, i'm curious how much the number of car trips grew? faster or slower than walking and biking trips? i'm guessing the bike mode share sat at around 1% in 1990, and probably still sits at about 1% -- 19 years later.

whatever we did for 19 years -- vehicular cycling/nothing -- obviously didn't work. i'm glad we've changed tack.

by Peter Smith on Jun 16, 2010 11:05 pm • linkreport

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