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


Breakfast links: In camera

Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.
Cleared for videotaping police: The motorcyclist who videotaped a plainclothes officer pull a gun on him for a traffic stop has been cleared of wiretapping charges. (Baltimore Sun) A Circuit Court judge rejected prosecutors arguments in a case that has drawn national attention. The motorcyclist will appear on today's Kojo Nnamdi show at noon.

Shots, crashes: There was a "chaotic" shooting that turned into a major car crash at 13th and U yesterday. (TBD, everyone else)

DC fairly car-lite: The American Community Survey has released some statistics, including the fact that 35.2% of DC households have no car, versus 8.9% nationally. 44.7% of households have one car. (Housing Complex)

Flashy architecture often has problems: A Chicago museum is suing its architects for a building that won two awards for excellence. That's because the flashy modern architecture that pushes the envelope both gets attention and also often has big flaws because of the untested materials or design principles. We discussed the same issues with the National Gallery's East Wing last year. (WSJ)

Crystal City a go: The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the Crystal City Plan, which calls for greater density, an improved street grid, a streetcar line, and increased building heights. A Vornado VP called it "the epitome of Smart Growth." We reviewed the plan here. (ARLnow, Eric H.)

Cyclists overpay for road space: Since gas taxes tend to pay for interstates and other limited access highways, it turns out cyclists actually subsidize drivers on local streets under most municipal funding schemes. (Grist, Vancouver Sun)

NYC unveils new intercoms: After laying off more than 400 station agents, the New York MTA has fast-tracked the introduction of new intercoms that will be spread throughout the system. The MTA hopes it will help customers get help in the system, particularly during emergencies. (Transportation Nation)

And...: The allegedly drunk driver in the Adams Morgan fatal crash has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter (Crime Scene) ... DDOT has enlisted several consultants and firms to manage the streetcar project ... Takoma Park voters approved a balllot question to allow restaurants to serve alcohol, but will still prohibit liquor stores. (TBD)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
Erik Weber has been living car-free in the District since 2009. Hailing from the home of the nation's first Urban Growth Boundary, Erik has been interested in transit since spending summers in Germany as a kid where he rode as many buses, trains and streetcars as he could find. Views expressed here are Erik's alone. 
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 »

The Vancouver article speaks to the "cyclists subsidizing drivers" piece better than the Grist article, in that it's largely property taxes that pay for local roads. But the numbers in both articles are suspect when you consider that those property owners are drivers too.

Are cyclists subsidizing drivers? Probably yes. Are they subsidizing to the level suggested in the articles? I'd say no, especially the Grist piece.

by Froggie on Sep 29, 2010 9:27 am • linkreport

To elaborate further, it'd be very difficult to clarify further the amount of property tax that goes to roads that is paid by driving property-tax payers as compared to bicycle-riding property-tax payers, especially when one considers that some of those taxpayers may be doing both (biking AND driving).

by Froggie on Sep 29, 2010 9:29 am • linkreport

I'm always confused how far the reach of VDOT reaches in Virginia, but I suspect most "local roads" would be covered by that. DC also.

And doesn't the revenue comes from sales taxes?

by charlie on Sep 29, 2010 9:30 am • linkreport

Somewhat minor point, but the ACS measures "housing units", not "households". Slight difference.

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

I hate to be arguing against an article for bike funding, but the reasoning is bullshit. Everybody uses roads, if not directly, then indirectly.

Let's take an extreme example: someone who never leaves their house. To stay alive, this person would need to have all purchases shipped to his home. And those deliveries come by ... a truck, riding over ... the road!

This argument that people should only pay taxes for things they directly use is extremely narrow-minded and short-sighted.

For instance, a direct consequence of such arguing would be that people who don't have children in school would not have to pay roughly half of their property tax, since most schools depend on those property taxes for most of their funding. Of course, this is insane, because everybody benefits from the next generation being educated well.

Infrastructure, including, roads, bike trails, airports, education, and in some sense accessible health care and the internet are essential for a modern society. They can not be fully privatized, and that's exactly why we have a government take care of them. To decide what we build for how much, we elect representatives, and pay taxes. That's how you get a functional society.

So, please, stop this insane argument 'I don't use it, so I don't want to pay for it'. You do use it, and you should be paying for it.

by Jasper on Sep 29, 2010 9:47 am • linkreport

Well said Jasper.

A correction to my correction. WCP says "housing units"; i just checked the ACS and it says households (34.9%).

by charlie on Sep 29, 2010 10:01 am • linkreport

It's a little bit ridiculous that the motorcyclist who videotaped the traffic stop is getting any sympathy. The judge is absolutely correct that he had a right to videotape a public traffic stop, but if you watch the original video (, you can see that the cop was absolutely justified in taking action against the motorcyclist. The video clearly demonstrates his reckless driving, and the motorcyclist even highlights several instances of it (including popping wheelies [0:30] and going as fast as 127 mph [0:38]). This kind of reckless driving should not be tolerated.

Had he been doing this in Virginia (where, he would have become a convicted felon, (rightfully) lost his license for years, been facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines, and gone to prison for several years (and not a measly 26 hours). He should be glad he did this in Maryland and not Virginia or another state that takes proper action against reckless lunatics like this guy. He needs to be taken off the roads and not hailed as a martyr of some police state.

The officer, after initiating the traffic stop and taking the necessary action to defend himself from someone who blatantly shows a complete disregard for public safety, identified himself as a police officer. His actions are absolutely justified.

I think it is high time to stop making him into a martyr of a police state.

by DK on Sep 29, 2010 10:02 am • linkreport

Does anyone know how the second pedestrian in the drunk driving case is doing? It seems odd that she is not mentioned much in these stories, and it sounds like they aren't trying to bring separate, additional charges based on the injuries to her.

by Eileen on Sep 29, 2010 10:13 am • linkreport

Are you suggesting that all those shut-ins' desire for garbage collection, fire and police services, and once-daily deliveries have created a gridlock of emergency and service vehicles? The infrastructure currently in place is under-utilized the majority of the time. It is the daily commuters driving the need for capacity expansion and frequent maintenance, not basic social services. As built, roads capacity exists to serve only one segment of the population for a short time in the morning and evening, yet burdens all of us with its cost 24/7.

Price the cost of construction and maintenance into road use, and the services in question will pay for the road time they use, as they should. But since car commuters use and demand the bulk of the capacity, the burden of maintenance and expansion should fall more heavily on them.

by FN on Sep 29, 2010 10:13 am • linkreport

DK: It doesn't matter if the motorcyclist did a lot of bad things. If he did, he should be prosecuted for those. Not for wiretapping, which is a ridiculous stretch of a law that clearly wasn't meant for this type of situation.

by David Alpert on Sep 29, 2010 10:14 am • linkreport

I don't quite understand the argument you are making. Because the driver was guilty of one thing, it was okay for the police to trump up a wiretapping charge? Does the Constitution only apply to the innocent?

by Nate on Sep 29, 2010 10:17 am • linkreport

DK: the motorcyclist was a reckless jerk, endangering himself and other road users. He deserves whatever punishment he will get under the traffic code.

At the same time, the prosecutor and the cop were both reckless jerks for trying to punish someone for filming in a public space,in violation of Maryland law. This is, in the big picture, more dangerous than the motorcyclist. There are literally hundreds of instances where police misconduct was only caught because of citizens videos, and where, but for the videos, innocent people would have had their lives ruined.

For example, UMD student who was charged with assaulting a police officer (which could have led to expulsion from UMD, and put a felony on his record forever)....until the video comes out showing the cops assaulting him first. Mysteriously, the police dept's own video disappeared. (Entirely coincidentally, the cop who hit the student was engaged to the person who controlled the police dept videos).

by SJE on Sep 29, 2010 10:22 am • linkreport

David beat me to it I see.

by Nate on Sep 29, 2010 10:22 am • linkreport

Watched the video, and although the motorcyclist is indeed driving like a maniac, the cop had absolutely no reason to pull his gun.

He also didn't announce himself as police, which sets a very dangerous precedent. The cop is lucky that the motorcyclist wasn't carrying a weapon himself -- his actions are more in line with a carjacking than a police stop.

by andrew on Sep 29, 2010 10:29 am • linkreport

I am not defending the charge against the video recording. He was legally allowed to videotape the incident (and the judge defends so). I completely agree with his constitutional right to do so and am not arguing against that.

I think that it is ridiculous that someone who is willing to put the lives of countless other people at risk because he wants to drive at 127mph in a 65mph zone is made into some sort of martyr.

As a motorist or otherwise, when I am on a public road I should expect that others will not take my life into their hands by driving recklessly. I can understand traveling 5-10mph over, but traveling nearly 65mph OVER the speed limit is absolutely ludicrous.

Whether he should have been prosecuted for recording a traffic stop in a public space is not what I take issue with. I take issue with the fact that he shows a complete disregard for the lives of anyone else on the road. I don't see any reason to be sympathetic to a person's cause when they treat other people's lives with such a complete disregard.

by DK on Sep 29, 2010 10:32 am • linkreport

@DK: So maybe they should use his video as evidence to convict him of the reckless driving.

Look, just as much as you're not defending the charge against the video recording, we're not defending his jackassery on the roads. But the issue at hand was the recording and that charge was ridiculous and rightfully dismissed (eventually). So from the aspect of correct interpretation of citizens' right to videotape (or photograph), it's a win. It is a shame that such a douchebag rider was the one who had to get the win.

by kidincredible on Sep 29, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

DK -- Well, he's a martyr when it comes to keeping our law enforcement accountable to its citizens, which is a very serious issue. He didn't cave and plead to a lesser charge (if it was even offered), which is what happens in many of these cases. A free speech or privacy issue suddenly becomes disorderly conduct or some other chicken sh*t charge. I don't think anyone disagrees with you on the reckless driving part of it, though.

by aaa on Sep 29, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

@ charlie: Huh what? We agree? Then I disagree!

@ DK: One crime does not make another. The guy sped and did not protest his ticket. You can argue about the penalties for speeding in MD, but that's not what the guy was protesting.

You fail to explain though why a speeder should be approached by a plain-clothes officer with a pulled gun. And why it should be illegal to film an officer of the law in a public place.

His superior defended the pulled gun with the note that the motor biker was pulling back and that was dangerous. Now, I am not a motor biker, but as far as I know, most motorbikes require a slight backwards movement to put it on a standard. So in pulling a bit backwards, the guy was following the order from a stranger that approached him with a pulled gun and had not identified himself yet as an officer of the law.

Officers of the law tend to expect and demand a lot of respect and courtesy when dealing with the public. I always wonder why they expect to be treated so when they start by barking orders and pulling guns at people. I have a very hard time respecting people when they start of by intimidating.

by Jasper on Sep 29, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

NYC did the right thing by getting rid of its station agents. In fact, they should go to a 100% unstaffed system, and WMATS should do the same. In fact, given that Metro station agents ("managers") don't even sell farecards, they are particularly useless.

Replace every station manager in the Metro system with a video camera system, a few more transit cops, and some private security guards and you still save money.

by urbaner on Sep 29, 2010 11:19 am • linkreport

Erik, the article plays fast and loose with the facts regarding the Art Insitute, the Stata Center, and what is the responsibility of the architect and the engineer.

AIC is suing the engineer for engineering failures regarding features the architect has employed on other buildings successfully.

But go ahead and sue over leaks in innovative buildings. I hear that the Corcoran has had leaks from the day it opened.

by Neil Flanagan on Sep 29, 2010 11:30 am • linkreport

I'm the one who stuck that particular one in so don't blame Erik if it's wrong.

by David Alpert on Sep 29, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

My apologies. In truth, it's Eric Felten's error, advancing a reasonable argument with completely wrong evidence.

The Stata Center's issues were resolved "amicably," but as James Russell points out, without the flamboyant aesthetic, poor detailing and flaws go unnoticed outside of the inhabitants.

"ItÂ’s really best to build labs that line up benches in regimented rows and crush spirits with long dim hallways. If they leak, as so many lazy campus eyesores do, no one will make a cause of it."

by Neil Flanagan on Sep 29, 2010 1:04 pm • linkreport

On the motorcycle issue:

1. The wiretapping charges were ridiculous and it's good that he was cleared of them.

2. I agree with DK that putting this guy up as some kind of hero is ridiculous given the moronic things he was doing.

As for the gun thing, I think the police officer was justified in drawing his gun given that when he's pulled over the guy is backing away and possibly trying to leave or who knows what. The cop didn't point his gun at the motorcyclist, which is a key distinction for me - I think that would have been out of line. But he draws the gun, points it at the ground and when the motorcyclist stops he puts it away. I think that's a perfectly justified use.

by MLD on Sep 29, 2010 2:04 pm • linkreport

While I had heard about the story of some guy videotapping a traffic stop, until today I hadn't watched the video, or even knew what happened in the video. I assume it had to be pretty embarrassing to the police for prosecutors to come after him. After watching the video, I was pretty unimpressed. Like MLD's comment above, I might feel a little differently if the officer had pointed the gun at the motorcyclist, but he didn't. And I certainly didn't think he was out of control.

That being said, I'm a little confused why he took out the gun. As far as I know, even police officers are pretty limited in the situations where the use of deadly force is allowed. From the video, it really seems like it was the motorcyclist backing up (perhaps thinking about fleeing) that caused the police officer to draw his weapon. Suppose the motorcyclist did attempt to flee. I really don't think the police officer would have been allowed to shoot at him.

In any event, I'm glad the judge through out the case. From what I understand, there are lots of instances where police have claimed that its illegal to record them. Besides the wiretapping law in Maryland (and other states), are there any other laws that arguably make recording police illegal?

by Andy on Sep 29, 2010 3:06 pm • linkreport

Andy: the police frequently claim it is illegal to record them. In a public place, this is true only in Massachusetts and, IIRC, Illinois. Even so, those laws may be (probably are) unconstitutional. Just because the police say it is so, doesn't make it so.

by SJE on Sep 29, 2010 9:11 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