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


Breakfast links: Slow down, speed up

Photo by nj dodge on Flickr.
Suicide on Metro not involving train: A man committed suicide by jumping onto the Red Line tracks at Grosvenor, and died without being hit by a train. This created major headaches for Red Line commuters in the evening. (Kytja Weir/Examiner)

Other ideas for station retail: Capital Business surveyed retailers about other stores that could go in Metro stations besides DVD rental kiosks and trolley tickets. Top ideas include dry cleaning drop-offs, movie tickets, mall stand goods like makeup and sunglasses, and tourist T-shirt shops. (V. Dion Haynes)

WMATA's house: Did you know WMATA owns a single-family house in Vienna, which it rents out? Neither did most people until staff recommended selling it off last week as part of a broader effort to get rid of unneeded property. However, the zoning needs to change to allow single-family residential on the site. (Kytja Weir/Examiner)

Gas station proposal out of gas: The Montgomery County Council has shown no apparent desire to modify zoning so that a planned Wheaton Costco can get a gas station without the usual review process. Costco isn't willing to "wait around" for the year-long review, so they will probably build without it or find another location for the station. (Kensington Heights Citizens Association, Cavan)

ACTing through letters: ACT leaders have two good letters in the press. Ben Ross compares O'Malley and Ehrlich on toll lane plans. (Baltimore Sun) And Richard Hoye explains the problems with the Medical Center Metro underpass study, which is having a public meeting on July 20. (Post)

Church parkers speak loudly: A spokesperson for Mayor Fenty, as well as Kwame Brown and Vincent Orange (both candidates for DC Council Chair) promise to help churchgoers who park illegally on Sundays and get tickets. (Ann Marimow/DC Wire)

Shoup on DC parking pilots: Ashley Halsey is back in form with an analysis of DC's new parking pilots that quotes Donald Shoup and explains a fair amount of complex parking issues. (Post)

Destruction in Europe: Germany might be way ahead of us in transit and bicycling mode share, but they're still building big freeways, one of which could damage much of the nation's Riesling production (BBC News, Matthias) ... The creator of the Range Rover was killed by a van and driver while he was cycling (Autocar) ... The US owes $54 million in unpaid congesstion tolls in London. (AP)

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. 


Add a comment »

Well, I don't like that the Germans are expanding freeways, but I can't stand Rieslings.

by Alex B. on Jun 29, 2010 9:06 am • linkreport

I once saw a study that showed how many churches people drive by on their way to church in 1980 (between 0 and 2) and today (dozens).

by Ken Archer on Jun 29, 2010 9:10 am • linkreport

I like Rieslings *and* German highways.

by ah on Jun 29, 2010 9:15 am • linkreport

Said WMATA house: 2921 Sayre Rd, Fairfax, VA 22031-1116

by RJ on Jun 29, 2010 9:27 am • linkreport

I didn't think german highways would be topic de jour, but as a note it is the 54th anniversary of the Interstate Highway Act.

The article is a bit wrong: the Federal Highway budget is $40 million but that includes a lot of roads that aren't interstates.

I've always thought it would be better to eliminate the federal gas tax, mandate the states charge the same amount in addition to the current state tax, and get the feds out of the highway and road business. I wouldn't mind seeing a new federal gas tax then -- but with the intent to drive the retail gas price to around $5 --and then rebate that gas back to people in lower withholdings.

by charlie on Jun 29, 2010 9:45 am • linkreport

@charlie: looking through my copy of the constitution here, I don't see any federal power that can force the states to charge their citizens a tax.

I see a power that allows congress to impose excises and to regulate interstate commerce, and to promote the general welfare, and all the powers necessary and proper to carry out those powers, but nothing that allows them to pass a law requiring states to charge a specific tax.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 29, 2010 9:54 am • linkreport

ugh, do we have to go through this church parking battle all over again?

since we're actively undermining the zoned parking program by sending extra temporary parking permits to houses in many wards (3, 4, 5, and parts of 1 and 6), let's try another program:

everyone gets to choose a day to park wherever they want, however they want. full-on law flouting!

people driving in from maryland get to go to a church on 16th street and double-park without fear of getting a ticket? fine.

i get to drive to u street, park in front of the lincoln theater (in the right-hand through lane, not the curb lane) on friday nights. the saloon is my church, and belgian beers are my religion.

have a problem with that? well then, you support slavery, are racist, bigoted, anti-something-something-something...


by IMGoph on Jun 29, 2010 9:55 am • linkreport

Federal highway program is $40 billion (not million) per year

By comparison, feds spend about $10 billion per year on transit and around $1 billion per year on intercity passenger rail

by rg on Jun 29, 2010 9:58 am • linkreport

As a resident of a house within 3 blocks of 5 churches, I'm obviously not a fan of Fenty's parking promise. It's impossible for me to leave my house on a Sunday, and get a parking spot anywhere near it when I return.

by andrew on Jun 29, 2010 10:00 am • linkreport

Regarding the US owing $54M in unpaid congestion tolls, the former US ambassador to the UK under our previous president owned several auto dealerships in Southern California. I suppose you'd expect him to think he can drive anywhere without paying.

by Ben on Jun 29, 2010 10:05 am • linkreport

@Mperkins; yeah, you got me on that. But how much value does the FHWA add to the process, versus having a system of state funded highways? Having the money come from a different bucket can make a difference right now -- see the problem in NoVA where federal highways are getting road money, and VDOT has nothing for the rest of the roads -- but is that a good idea?

@RG; given that the federal highways are much larger than the interstates -- I think about 160K miles of roads -- a 4:1 ratio for federal spending on roads to transit is a very fair number for transit.

by charlie on Jun 29, 2010 10:06 am • linkreport

@ben; to provide some context, almost every country is refusing to pay the London congestion charge claiming it a tax that the Vienna convention prohibits. The US is the largest, but Germany, Russia, and Japan are up there as well.

by charlie on Jun 29, 2010 10:08 am • linkreport

Church parkers speak loudly...


Of course, these MD churchgoers must be allowed to park wherever and whenever they want, regardless of the impact on folks that actually live in the city. After all, they provide the invaluable social services of facilitating urban decay using the church tax-exemption to engage in land speculation, keeping District communities in the shitter.

As Zola said, "Civilization will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest."

by oboe on Jun 29, 2010 10:13 am • linkreport

Anybody have an idea of how much various governments with Diplomatic license plates owe DC in unpaid parking tickets and traffic violations?

by Alex B. on Jun 29, 2010 10:13 am • linkreport

I live within three blocks of four churches, and likewise echo the sentiment of andrew. It's nearly impossible to go anywhere on Sunday mornings and expect to find a spot available upon your return.

Now... Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of legal street parking. However, more often than not - they're parked in crosswalks, in front of fire hydrants, in the alleys, or anywhere else you can imagine.

Would this be acceptable for a crowd bound to Verizon Center? Do they tolerate this during Nationals games? I don't think so.

The rules are in place for a reason - they're not to be bended or amended for one certain demographic (churchgoers, in this case) just because they complain about getting tickets.

Surely these people understand if your church is located in a CITY, then the possibility of having to park several blocks away in order to attend is pretty obvious... Just like ANY OTHER building in a city.

While they may think so, the reality is going to church does not make you "special"... Nor does it entitle you to immunity from the same laws WE ALL have to follow. Churches in reality are no different from any other sort of social club or organization - nothing more than a communal gathering of like-minded individuals. If you wish to attend these social events, you need to adhere to the law. Period.

by Josh C. on Jun 29, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

Its a shame that Metro doesn't offer free parking at the suburban Metro stations on Sunday so that church goers could take the Metro and avoid all the parking problems in the District....

Oh wait...

by Erik on Jun 29, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

Finally Costco is backing down from its threat of killing the Wheaton store if it does not get its way with the gas station. Costco is getting $4 million to locate a store in an area has a enormous customer base. They are not getting any government grants to build in Germantown, where they also plan to open up a store. With that $4 million grant Montgomery County should be telling them what the can and can't build because Costco needs Wheaton Plaza more than we need Costco. There are no other suitable sites for Costco in this area, hence why Ikea originially searched for a Silver Spring location but ended up in College Park.

by Cyrus on Jun 29, 2010 11:20 am • linkreport

@Alex B.

Various governments technically "owe" nothing. That's a side effect of diplomatic immunity AFAIK. What the cash value to the city would be of those tickets if, hypothetically, there were different standards of international law is an interesting question, but really only an academic one...

If you're worried about income for the city, perhaps we could start actually enforcing laws on double parking that block bike lanes (I'm looking at you, UPS and FedEx) or back off of promises to keep churchgoers from being held responsible for breaking parking laws.

Just my $0.02.

by Blind Pilot on Jun 29, 2010 11:22 am • linkreport

charlie: generally speaking, there are no "federal highways" in the US (an argument could be made for military base roads and those specifically maintained by NPS). If you're referring the the US highway system (i.e. Route 1, Route 29, Route 50, etc), that actually isn't a Federal system but is instead was a system created to promote uniform route numbering across state lines.

Furthermore, pretty much every road that is major collector/minor arterial and up is eligible in some way or another for Federal highway funding. This includes state routes, secondary routes, county routes (in those states that have them), major city streets, etc etc.

As for Ben Ross's article, there is one glaring error he made, namely with his argument about who would use the express toll lanes. He argues that only a "wealthy minority" would use the lanes. However, experience with similar lanes elsewhere in the country shows that users of such lanes are fairly evenly split amongst economic groups.

by Froggie on Jun 29, 2010 11:23 am • linkreport

I've always thought it would be better to eliminate the federal gas tax, mandate the states charge the same amount in addition to the current state tax, and get the feds out of the highway and road business.

One could accomplish much the same thing by retaining the federal gas tax but then returning to each state the exact amount of revenue it generated.

That said, there is substantial value to having a coordinated national highway system. Granted, a lot of highway spending is for local roads, but I'd still like to make sure that roads connect with each other at state borders.

by ah on Jun 29, 2010 11:23 am • linkreport

If these pastors and churchgoers can get soooo fired up over parking instead of over cuts in social services, high unemployment rates, terrible health care access, and any number of "Christian" values I might become a one issue voter and vote against any candidate claiming to "fix" parking tickets or establish separate rules for church parking. It's not about generating revenue it is Mr. K. Brown about preserving and respecting neighborhoods since that's a mantra you tout.

by Church attending, legal parking Christian on Jun 29, 2010 11:32 am • linkreport

@Alex B

This info is from 2006, but WTOP found that there were about 1000 unpaid tickets resulting in $80k in unpaid fines... not a whole heck of a lot.

Rep. Weiner had an interesting solution for DC and NYC... let the feds pick up the tab. I'm pretty sure that didn't get anywhere because foreign governments are already required by the State Department to pay fines or they won't get their plates renewed. And since the passage of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2004, the U.S. government now withholds foreign aid to countries that don't pay their tickets.

My question is: do diplomats pay tolls? If a diplomat here is required to get an EZ Pass or otherwise pay tolls, then I don't see how American diplomats in London could get away with not paying the congestion charge.

by Adam L on Jun 29, 2010 11:35 am • linkreport

Ooops... minor correction.

Upon reading Rep. Weiner's bill, it seems to take the funds withheld in foreign aid and would apply it to pay off the parking tickets. So it's not exactly the feds picking up the tab, just redirecting the unused portion of foreign aid funds. Now, this still doesn't help countries that don't receive U.S. foreign aid, which is where not renewing the car's registration becomes more of an issue.

by Adam L on Jun 29, 2010 11:47 am • linkreport

Yes, diplomats pay tolls. That is not in dispute. Diplomats also pay for food they buy at the supermarket.

by Ben Ross on Jun 29, 2010 12:01 pm • linkreport

A bunch of godless yuppies here. It's not like you're out doing anything on Sunday morning anyway. I'm usually biking at that time, and it's just me and a bunch of silent parked cars on the street.

by aaa on Jun 29, 2010 12:01 pm • linkreport

@Froggie - The statement that all income groups use express toll lanes equally is completely false. Here's what I wrote a few years ago in this article (unfortunately now behind firewall):

>> Express toll lanes were quickly dubbed "Lexus lanes." Their promoters indignantly reject this appellation, claiming that the lanes benefit all income groups. But a 1999 survey of drivers on the first such project in the United States, SR 91 between Riverside and Orange counties in southern California, showed that drivers with incomes above $100,000 were about four times as likely than those who earn less than $40,000 to have used the toll lanes on their last trip on the highway.

>> Even more telling is the comparison with an earlier survey, taken in 1996 when the tolls were modestly lower. Rising tolls did not affect use of the toll lanes at the highest and lowest income levels, but provoked a sharp falloff among drivers with incomes between $40,000 and $60,000. This suggests the existence of an income threshold below which a toll becomes unaffordable to most people. The higher the toll, the higher the threshold; so when tolls rise, toll-lane use falls most among drivers with incomes close to the threshold. The data fall short of being definitive, but they are the best we have. More recently, tolls on SR 91 have risen sharply — the peak toll has gone from $3.50 to $8.50—but the survey has not been repeated and the income distribution of drivers willing to pay these high tolls has not been measured.

The peak toll on SR 91 has gone up more since I wrote that, but my statement about lack of new data is still unfortunately true.

by Ben Ross on Jun 29, 2010 12:06 pm • linkreport

WWJP? That's my question: Where Would Jesus Park? He wouldn't. He'd take the Metro and/or walk.

reCaptha: sport transit which sort of sounds like "support transit" if you slur it.

by rdhd on Jun 29, 2010 12:13 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.

The topic of overdue tickets for diplomats came up at a recent Council oversight hearing on the DMV; the amount was pretty de minimis for the reason Adam L brought up -- the State Department won't let them renew their plates unless they settle any outstanding amounts.

As a result, diplomats are actually better about paying parking tickets than residents of Maryland and Virginia. The State Department makes diplomats pay up all citations to renew their plates, but Maryland and Virginia only require payment for moving violations. Collection for non-moving violations is entirely left to the District, which can boot the car if they find it or farm the matter out to a collection agency but has no direct power to enforce the citation on a suburbanite who stays in the suburbs. As a result, the non-payment of parking tickets by suburbanites, particularly Marylanders, is something of an epidemic.

by cminus on Jun 29, 2010 12:22 pm • linkreport

Minor correction on the UK tolls - the TOTAL owed by diplomatic missions is $54 million; the U.S. owes $5.75 million.

From the article:

"The U.S. owes 3.8 million pounds ($5.75 million) after declining to pay a London traffic levy 35,602 times between the introduction of the charge in February 2003 and this January. "

by bryandc on Jun 29, 2010 12:35 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the replies.

I'd be curious to know what kind of similar bill diplomats in DC would run up if we had a congestion charge as well.

It's all a rather academic exercise, however. Just interesting facts to know.

by Alex B. on Jun 29, 2010 12:47 pm • linkreport

I do not understand this church parking entitlement and I attend a church in DC with a fair number of suburban members. We've made arrangements for them to park in a nearby hotel parking lot at a reduced rate.

Plus, given that most of these people do not live in DC, I don't understand why politicians cave to them.

And I don't recognize the names of any of the churches from interfaith actions trying to hold DC politicians accountable on things like jobs, affordable housing, good schools, and other social justice issues.

by Kate on Jun 29, 2010 12:49 pm • linkreport

Ben: I was referring moreso to the lanes on both I-15 in San Diego and I-394 in Minneapolis. I know of the CA 91 lanes, but am not familiar with them.

by Froggie on Jun 29, 2010 2:57 pm • linkreport

The churches don't pay taxes and white or black, the parishoners often don't live in the District. There was a time when many of these churches served the city. Now, at best, they might do something for DC's homeless or some other disadvantaged group(rather than their own unfortunates). Sixteenth Street is a mess on Sunday, it's a pain to drive around Home Depot. There are churches right near the Convention Center, but plenty of cars. Fenty quietly took pride in not pandering to the churches last time. he must be starting to run a little scared.

by Rich on Jun 29, 2010 10:18 pm • linkreport

Froggie: Do you know of any actual studies of those two roads? When I researched my article a few years ago, the only data that correlated actual road use (as opposed to surveys of whether people like or dislike the idea of express toll lanes, or might use an as-yet-nonexistent toll lane) with income were from the Sullivan study of SR-91.

You constantly see statements that toll lanes are used by all income groups, but when you trace back to the original source (which often takes several steps) it's either the Sullivan study or a survey of opinions rather than actual usage. It's really too bad that Sullivan has not been funded to repeat his study with the higher tolls. You have to be very careful to avoid biasing your sample in this kind of survey, and his work was extremely well designed and carefully done.

by Ben Ross on Jun 30, 2010 7:35 am • linkreport

There is no way the U.S. should pay the congestion tax unless the Queen refunds all that Tea and Stamp tax revenue. So there. Also, if anyone should be complaining about "crooks" it's the NYPD, who have to put up with all the UN parking nonsense. Livingston's crying on the wrong shoulder.

by D on Jun 30, 2010 2:38 pm • linkreport

I am really against Costco being part of Wheaton mall. I prefer to see a mall type of store, such as sears, kohls, or Marshals and Bed Bath and Beyond.

by MJ on Jul 4, 2010 11:45 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us