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Brunch links: The road ahead

Photo by gato-gato-gato.
Traffic cameras vs... the icon of freedom?: I actually agree with AAA that a speed camera on New York Ave east of Bladens­burg may not be the most appropriate location, and the speed limit may be too low. But it seems bizarre to then segue into how driving fast without worrying about pesky safety laws is the "symbolic icon of American freedom" and quoting Thomas Hobbes. What do you think? (Ashley Halsey/Post)

What's your vision, possible Mayor?: Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray keep going after each other, but neither has articulated much of a clear plan for where they want DC to be four years from now, and it's making more and more voters nervous. (Tim Craig/Post)

Mote's successor should be less insular: Prince George's Councilmember Eric Olson hopes the next UMD President will continue the University's academic rise, and also improve interaction with the surrounding community through the Purple Line and Smart Growth along Route 1. (Post)

Things that might get built in 2011: The "CityCenter DC" project at the old convention center says it will start construction in early 2011. And the Utopia project at 14th and U is also hoping to start in 2011; they just got a zoning extension to 2012. (DCmud)

A greener block and U: Living City Block helps make cities greener by focusing on one block at a time, helping owners upgrade energy efficiency together for lower costs. Their next block of focus is the northeast corner of 14th and U NW in DC. (Housing Complex)

Need some rest?: Delaware will soon reopen its I-95 rest stop, which concession operator HMSHost has spent 10 months renovating. What about other states which can't run commercial rest stops, like Virginia? Some say that nowadays the laws against them really only help McDonald's. (Danielle Douglas/Post)

Next stop, AT&T station: SEPTA sold the naming rights to AT&T for its Pattison Avenue station, the closest station to the homes of Philly's four major sports teams. They get $3.4M and AT&T will pay for all the new signs. (, Seth T.)

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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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I canceled my AAA membership long ago because I was tired of funding exactly that kind of weird car libertarianism -- cars must always go further & faster, roads must always be more plentiful & wider.

by TheGreenMiles on Jun 27, 2010 9:41 am • linkreport

For clarification (if you don't click through and read the article), the comment about the speeding car being the symbol of American freedom came from a government professor at Cornell, not AAA.

by Nichole on Jun 27, 2010 9:51 am • linkreport

Not an open thread, but what the heck happened on the Red Line yesterday? Several disabled trains, a track circuit problem, single-tracking on multiple segments, an arcing insulator, and a (separate) fire on the tracks.

And those were just the announcements I overheard during my one trip, and the return home.

by andrew on Jun 27, 2010 10:36 am • linkreport

That liberty comment in the article was very odd.

That said, that speed camera is nothing more than an easy revenue generator for the city. As are most speed cameras since there's no points on the license. It's essentially free money.

by Fritz on Jun 27, 2010 12:30 pm • linkreport

That liberty comment in the article was very odd.

If anyone has any question why "movement conservatives" have an easier time finding positions at Cato-style "wingnut-welfare" institutions rather than tenure at actual universities, you need look no further than this Cornell professor of government.

Cause that's some good stuff right there. Guy makes Ward Churchill sound like a scholar.

by oboe on Jun 27, 2010 12:42 pm • linkreport

State-owned rest stops like those along I-95 have multiple benefits and similar stops should be allowed nationwide. Benefits include:
-Provide rental and concessionaire income to state DOTs which allows for increased highway upkeep.
-Allows for enhanced rest stop facilities that states would otherwise provide at taxpayer expense, yet having a private operator maintain such expensive facilities.
-Limit "truck stop" sprawl at exits which is unsightly and competes with local service retail in established communities/town centers that may otherwise be a few miles away from the interchange.
-Reduces traffic at interchanges by limiting it to local traffic, not some out of towners desperate for a restroom.

Because most existing rest stops are already located away from major urban areas, they are ideally suited for commercial development. Virginia in particular would stand to benefit the most, Maryland has at most 3-4 rest stops that could benefit from a change in federal law.

by Cyrus on Jun 27, 2010 12:55 pm • linkreport

The speed camera article was a bit bizzare -- and went for color instead of doing any real research. Were there more accidents or fatalities there? Any evidence of accidents as cars suddenly break for the camera? Should, as in Europe, big warning signs be put up saying "Speed camera here"

I wasn't aware of the rest-stop law. Interesting. Along the PA turnpike, which does have integrated rest stops, the various stops seem to have the usual gas station clusters.

by charlie on Jun 27, 2010 2:46 pm • linkreport

I think DC should allow bikes on New York Ave, but that's just me.

by Peter Smith on Jun 27, 2010 5:29 pm • linkreport

The article on the Deleware rest stop was ok except for the fact that it said it is opening on 6/28. I went inside on Friday, 6/25, and it was fully open. I drove by it on 6/24 and it looked open then too.

by dan on Jun 27, 2010 10:54 pm • linkreport

Well, I thought this was a fairly light-hearted article and I feel the reference to the founding fathers was intended to be good for a chuckle. I see nothing about that to get worked up about.

I do think that the location of this camera is a perfect argument for those who say our local governments are simply using cameras for a money grab. On that point, I think the article is spot on (I say that as someone who thinks speed cameras are a good thing!)

The 'free at last' phenomenon is very real for some of us, whether it is the light on NY Avenue or the beltway breakaway upon clearing the hill at GA Avenue or simply any stretch of asphalt where we suddenly find ourselves not following someone else's bumper. It's great to have a few seconds or a couple minutes to just DRIVE. (Apologies to those who never were teen drivers in flyover America where driving is fun and liberating).

by Joe on Jun 27, 2010 11:53 pm • linkreport

Were it not the Post, I would have thought the juxtaposition of Hobbes and driving something snarky that DCist (and I do *not* mean that as an insult--it just suits their publication's tone more than the Post's) would have come up with. There are probably people who honestly feel that way, and I can understand that. However, the laws are the laws. Is the speed limit artificially low considering the road design? Yes, probably. But does that entitle a driver to speed? I don't think so, as frustrating as it is.

And it seems unfair to single out NY Ave here. What about Connecticut Ave in Chevy Chase, where MD has speed cameras in a 4-lane road with a 30 MPH speed limit?

Joe--I grew up in one of the "flyover" states, and I did not find driving liberating or fun. It was a pain to HAVE to drive to get anywhere. Yes, there's rarely anything approaching traffic or congestion like we have here, but it gets boring very quickly. I think I'm probably in the minority in that camp, but when driving is realistically the only option, I fail to see the freedom there. You have no choice but to drive. In the end, though, I just didn't enjoy spending so much time in a car just getting from place to place.

by Steven on Jun 28, 2010 12:04 am • linkreport

Connecticut Avenue is a residential street in Chevy Chase, hence the 30 mph speed limit.

Considering that there is a total lack of a mass transit option to get into the city there, and outbound traffic is accelerating to get on one of two freeways, I think 40 mph is a rather inappropriate speed limit for outbound traffic (though suitable for inbound traffic).

Hopefully, this will become a moot point when the 11th Street Bridge project opens and the city can take measures to reduce automobile traffic on New York Avenue.

by Dave Murphy on Jun 28, 2010 12:57 am • linkreport


Actually, Connecticut Avenue is a 6 lane road in that stretch of Maryland, and the village of Chevy Chase makes an astounding amount of money each year from those cameras.

On the other hand, for the most part, the technology has done wonders to slow the rate of traffic.

by Andrew on Jun 28, 2010 6:41 am • linkreport

What Hobbes meant by freedom of movement was that peasants shouldn't be tied to the land, not that some d-bag could drive his automobile as fast as he damn well pleases. Sheesh.

by EdTheRed on Jun 28, 2010 9:23 am • linkreport

If DC (and anywhere) wants to maintain the legitimacy of speed cameras they simply have to avoid locating them in places where they seem mainly aimed at generating the most revenue. Is that part of NY Ave. a speedway? Sure. But is it dangerous as a result? Don't know. And if it is, why not move the camera location out a little further where speeds will have stabilized some?

Overall I think a lot of the DC camera locations are legitimate. But this one smacks of raking Marylanders as they hit the highway.

by ah on Jun 28, 2010 9:38 am • linkreport

If DC (and anywhere) wants to maintain the legitimacy of speed cameras they simply have to avoid locating them in places where they seem mainly aimed at generating the most revenue.

Could you elaborate? Seems to me, the only constituency with whom DC needs to "maintain the legitimacy of speed cameras" is DC voters. Most of the DC residents I know drive significantly slower than MD and VA residents, are aware of the location of these speed cameras, and understand that fleecing MD and VA drivers via speed cameras is a perfectly legitimate use of automated enforcement in the absence of a commuter tax.

So what's the problem?

by oboe on Jun 28, 2010 10:15 am • linkreport

The problem oboe is that we end up in a cynical "border war" of speed cameras aimed at each other. I don't see how the legitimacy of cameras is advanced simply by justifying it as a commuter tax through other means.

If DC voters think that speed cameras are a "legitimate fleecing" of out of state drivers, I am even more depressed about the electorate in the district than I already am. Statehood can suck it.

by ah on Jun 28, 2010 10:29 am • linkreport

What does statehood have to do with this? Does that mean we can vote Indiana out of the Union for their speed traps (and arbitrary speed limit changes) along their borders with both Michigan and Illinois?

by Alex B. on Jun 28, 2010 10:40 am • linkreport

@ah Protip - if you obey the speed limit, you don't have to worry about speed cameras. Whether the speed limit is set correctly is debatable, but the legitimacy of enforcing the law is not. Rule are rules, and jurisdictions have a responsibility to enforce them.

I've paid my share of speed camera tickets, but I don't think any of them are unfair. I was speeding, and I got caught.

by jcm on Jun 28, 2010 11:43 am • linkreport

I love how speed cameras are "unfair revenue generating machines"! If only your car had some kind of device that allowed you to control the speed it travels at, you could avoid those pesky camera tickets!

by MLD on Jun 28, 2010 11:46 am • linkreport

@ jcm -- You must be missing my thrust. I'm a fan of speed cameras, but not as revenue generating machines. The NY Ave. one seems to be aimed at revenue not safety.

by ah on Jun 28, 2010 12:41 pm • linkreport

Statehood can suck it.

Next you'll be telling us we're never getting a pass on Federal income tax. Or a My Pretty Pony Beauty Parlor.

In the mean time we'll exercise whatever power we have to get what we can.

by oboe on Jun 28, 2010 1:29 pm • linkreport

Put the speed camera somewhere meaningful -- like on New York Ave. in NW or Constitution Ave. near 14th Street. There area actually people walking in those areas.

by aaa on Jun 28, 2010 2:05 pm • linkreport

I have never understood the 'speed cameras as money maker' argument. The speed limit is the speed limit, and if you break it and get caught - deal with it.

To say that because there is open road one shouldn't have to obey the speed limit is like saying that one shouldn't have to stop at a red light at 3AM with no traffic in sight - sure you could run it, but if you get caught, you're caught.

If the speed limit is improper on that stretch of NY Ave, that doesn't give anyone the right to ignore the limit, but one could always agitate to change the limit.

by ZZinDC on Jun 28, 2010 4:48 pm • linkreport

Where do Americans get the idea that cars are somehow tied to American freedom?

I wonder..

by David C on Jun 29, 2010 11:03 am • linkreport

A couple of things here:

I agree that the speed camera there is a money grab, rather than to promote safety. But, the folks saying that speeding is speeding, so it doesn't matter are right here. That said, I read a statistic a few years ago (I have no idea where) that said that due to technicalities, something like 98% of speed cam tickets in DC get thrown out if you actually go to traffic court. Having been the recipient of a few of these over the years, I'd have to say that number seems about right, at least in my experience. Every time I've gone to court, it's been thrown out - not because I wasn't speeding (I was) but because of some issue with the camera, or the administrative processing of the ticket.

Had these tickets not been tossed out, I'd have gladly paid the tickets. I have no problem doing the proverbial time for the "crime." My issue is that if you're going to use these cameras for enforcement and revenue collection, then do it right. It seems that DC is employing them sloppily, with a number of the tickets not being valid. Luckily for the District, most people don't have the time or motivation to go to traffic court, so they just pay. The sloppiness worries me - and judging from the number of improper and invalid DUIs recently discovered, that worry has merit.

Also, David C, I love that commercial. And my car. And America. And freedom. That said, while I do think my car provides me with an ability to go anywhere I want on a moment's notice, on my schedule - I don't think it entitles me to drive like a jackass with impunity.

by Nichole on Jun 29, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

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