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


Afternoon links: Waterfront and beyond

Photo by Kevin H. on Flickr.
'Boat people' in DC: Gangplank Marina on the SW waterfront is one of America's largest houseboat communities. Residents are worried that a tsunami of SW redevelopment will wash them away. (Post)

Longing for a SE/SW Boulevard: The SE/SW Freeway in DC eases the drive to Virginia but severely hurts livability in the DC neighborhoods it passes through. TBD astutely notes that Congress would likely attempt to scuttle any attempt to transform the freeway into a boulevard, as was done in San Francisco.

Buses on Roadeo Drive: Metro hosted its annual bus "Roadeo" in which drivers test their driving skills and mechanics their repair skills. It's a good way to honor skilled employees and encourage excellence. Congratulations to William Morgan, Locksly McKenzie and Truck Hoang in repairs and Joseph Bazemore in driving. (Post)

The new highway lobby: The 2030 Group, run by wealthy suburban developers, is advocating for, you guessed it, more outer-suburban highways. However, they also advocate for a dedicated revenue source for Metro. (Post)

Budget creativity in New York transit: Following bus and subway service cuts, New York is allowing private transit buses to replace lost routes, but not everyone thinks this is a good idea ... NYC has also installed 10"-by-10" screens on the 42nd Street shuttle, and PATH trains already contain monitors that show ads and service updates. (NYT)

Pricing not so bad after all: Research shows that congestion pricing in Stockholm became more popular after people experienced its noticeable reduction in commute times. Perhaps DC residents will demand citywide performance parking once we see how it frees up street spaces? (The Bellows via Market Urbanism)

Obama expresses low opinion of DCPS: President Obama said DCPS doesn't measure up to Sidwell Friends, the pricey private school his daughters attend. DC's public schools "are struggling," he said. The president said this months after he let the DC school vouchers program lapse. (Post)

And...: Gov. McDonnell has restored voting rights to more felons than either of his predecessors (Post) ... Area universities are embedding professors into student dorms. Expect a slew of peer-reviewed papers on the physics of keg-stands (Post) ... Though we discourage needless sprawl, it can look quite stunning from the sky. (Streetsblog)

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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. 
Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 


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Hmm, I wonder what percent of people in Stockholm use public transport? And I wonder how the people who drive into the city feel vs. the people who live there?

But after long thought, I've decided we do need a congestion charge. Start charging DC residents $5 to cross the bridge to come to National or Dulles. It would lower traffic, encourage public transit use, we can use the money to build a streetcar on Columbia Pike.

by charlie on Sep 27, 2010 4:44 pm • linkreport

But after long thought, I've decided we do need a congestion charge. Start charging DC residents $5 to cross the bridge to come to National or Dulles. It would lower traffic, encourage public transit use, we can use the money to build a streetcar on Columbia Pike.

That's thinking outside the box!

And because DC residents have no representation in Congress, we won't have to worry about legislative push-back. Of course, burning cars with out-of-state license plates parked in the District has a similar effect without any changes to existing law.

by oboe on Sep 27, 2010 4:52 pm • linkreport

I actually like those full body ad wraps. When I've seen them in other cities, they've always looked great. (On the other hand, the small ads that WMATA puts on its cars are usually hideous, and don't seem to scrape off cleanly)

On the other hand, keep the TVs off of the subways. Helpful digital signage is one thing -- constant and intrusive advertising is another.

by andrew on Sep 27, 2010 5:42 pm • linkreport

Since the voucher program did absolutely nothing for the DCPS, we're better off without it.

On the one hand, I think the President's daughters would do fine in, for example, the DC public schools my kids (who are now in a good Midwestern state university and a good four-year Midwestern liberal arts college) attended and graduated from. On the other hand, I'd hate to see the disruption to those fine public schools the necessary Secret Service presence, etc. would cause; the private school can probably deal with _that_ aspect better.

by davidj on Sep 27, 2010 6:03 pm • linkreport

Vouchers served a small %age of DC students and the schools weren't necessarily Sidwell Friends. Voucher programs have failed to improve the academic performance of children who use them. Like charter schools, they've never lived up to their hype or promise. In general, these machanisms lead to people setting up McSchools or schools based on premises that appeal to parents but really don't offer instructional quality. We should be pushing the schools to do better, not to subsidize schlocky entrepreneurs or people with naive pipedreams.

The SE/SW Freeway is an awful experience by itself, but the suburban Congressional delegations would never let it happen. There already is a boulevard of sorts based on Maine Avenue.

by Rich on Sep 27, 2010 7:21 pm • linkreport

Regarding the SW waterfront:
Has there been any serious consideration to consolidate the military installations in this area and return some of the land to the city? Ft McNair, Navy Yard, and Bolling/Anacostia occupy prime waterfront real estate that could be much much better used. Furthermore these bases do not have operational missions; instead the primarily provide adminstrative support to the Pentagon or host other activities. These can be relocated to Ft Myer, Andrews AFB, Ft Belvior, or the Walter Reed campus.

by smoke_jaguar4 on Sep 27, 2010 8:59 pm • linkreport

The old Embarcadaro reminds me of the Whitehurst Freeway, and shows the new Embarcadaro Boulevard shows what the waterfront area in Georgetown can be (instead of the underside of a freeway). Then I looked it up and saw that there has actually been talk about demolishing it but it was put on hold by the Fenty administration in 2007. Interesting. Wish they would tear it down - not that I love giving things to Georgetown, but I do think DC needs better waterfront space. Definitely and underused asset.

by Ace in DC on Sep 27, 2010 9:27 pm • linkreport

The Arizona sprawl pictured in the very last link is actually where my grandmother spends the winter: Sun Lakes, AZ, 30-odd miles outside of Phoenix. The closest Valley Metro bus stop is a good two miles away. All I can say for Sun Lakes is that it's fairly bikeable, and many residents get around in electric-powered golf carts.

by Malcolm Kenton on Sep 27, 2010 9:38 pm • linkreport

@Charlie: Stockholm actually performed a pilot of the congestion charge system in 2006, before a local referendum. A slim majority of those living in Stockholm proper said yes, while those outside the city said no. There's your rub: the study completely overlooks the difference between Stockholm city and its close in components, and ignores that it was virulently opposed elsewhere in the province. There remains great uncertainty regarding the meaning of the referendum, especially if you have any insight into how referendums are handled in Sweden; referendums are only consultative, never binding.

by copperred on Sep 28, 2010 1:56 am • linkreport

A problem with citywide "performance parking" is that DC doesn't operate in a vacuum, it is part of a region. There are deleterious impacts on commercial districts when it comes to performance parking vis-a-vis consumer expectations and how these districts and the establishments within them compete with other commercial districts in the region that don't charge for parking.

I would think that a blog on "Market Urbanism" would identify this overall failure within the broad regional market as an impediment.

by Richard Layman on Sep 28, 2010 6:09 am • linkreport

@Richard Layman: The experience of other downtowns that charge for parking and compete with suburban destinations has been otherwise. The best example is Old Pasadena, which for years avoided charging for parking in order to compete with its neighbors. Then the meters came in and the revenue was put to good use.

If we make all the parking free, it will get taken up by the first commuter that shows up, and that car will not move all day.

by Michael Perkins on Sep 28, 2010 6:35 am • linkreport

For such a walkable community, I never see that many people walking around Southwest. Driving around looking for parking around the Waterfront Metro, sure. Waiting in a line of cars going into the Maine Avenue Fishmarket, sure. But the neighborhood seems like a little slice of car-dependent suburbia, where everyone stays inside and drives the three blocks to the Safeway.

by monkeyrotica on Sep 28, 2010 7:30 am • linkreport

Smoke Jaguar: not entirely true. Ft. McNair currently has the Coast Guard headquartes (granted, that'll change when the DHS complex is finished). Belvoir has both the White House Communications Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. One could argue whether the former is administrative or operational, but the latter is *DEFINITELY* operational.

by Froggie on Sep 28, 2010 8:08 am • linkreport


Jurisdictions already charge for street parking. Performance parking is primarily about adjusting the price to free up space. In fact, this could be marketed as an amenity: performance parking means customers will find curb-side spaces really fast. No more hunting around for 30 minutes. Considering what restaurants charge for food, I assume patrons will be willing to pay the rates (at least up to a point).

Also, if the money is plowed back into the local business district, it has the power to transform our commercial districts into physically attractive venues with routine tree box maintenance and daily municipal cleanup.

by Eric Fidler on Sep 28, 2010 9:03 am • linkreport

@Froggie: The DIA is broken, not operational. Much like all "military intelligence."

by Dave J on Sep 28, 2010 9:35 am • linkreport

@monkey The problem is a lack of places to walk *to* down here in SW. I live south of the Waterfront Metro, down 4th street, and I happily walk over to Cantina, or Jenny's, or Arena Stage, or up to the Safeway (now that self-checkout has made it tolerable to pick up just a few items every day or so). But past that, there's just not much here to go to. Yet. We will be getting more places immediately around the Metro in the near future, which should hopefully help increase foot traffic around it, but until there's more than a handful of places to go to, there's just not going to be the foot traffic which the neighborhood layout would support.

by Moose on Sep 28, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

- DIA could relocate to Ft George Meade and colocate with the NSA. Another option is move them to Ft Belvior with INSCOM.
- WHCA is on the north side of the base near the helopad, it could remain and the rest of Bolling/Anacondia returned to the city. Alternatively WHCA could relocate to Andrews and colocate with the 89AW (Air Force One).
- I think the plan for USCG HQ is to stay in place since that building was completed in 2009. They used to be on McNair, now they are their own installation.
The point is there is no real military necessity for these bases to remain where they are located. As BRAC continues to consolidate installations and improve mission effectiveness, we need to take a good look at these installations to see if it makes sense to keep them where they are or relocate them elsewhere. Redesignating these locations would greatly ease the demand for new development space. Furthermore the expanded tax base would be a huge boost for the city.

by Smoke_Jaguar4 on Sep 28, 2010 1:31 pm • linkreport

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