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Breakfast links: Cabinet shuffling

Photo by Greg_e on Flickr.
Rheesigning: Michelle Rhee will leave at the end of October. Some are surprised she's not staying until Gray becomes mayor, but she and Gray agreed the speculation around her future was becoming a "distraction." Her deputy, Kaya Henderson, will replace her in the interim. (Post, Stacy)

Peck for City Administrator?: Suzanne Peck, WMATA's head of IT and former head of DC's OCTO, is a leading candidate for City Administrator, say sources. (Examiner)

Road rash of crashes: After a string of pedestrian deaths on our region's roads and highways, DDOT Director Gabe Klein and USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood held a press conference to highlight the danger and remind road users to always behave cautiously. "I'm not saying all this to scare people, but in one sense we sort of need to," Klein said. (TBD, Stephen Miller)

VA liquor plan gets worse: Gov. McDonnell's attempts to privatize liquor stores for one-time transportation funds suffered another setback as the latest proposal removes several extra taxes, creating up to a $70 million shortfall that will reduce the profits from the plan. (Fairfax Times)

Get yer historic DC maps: DCRA will release historical maps of DC and put them on Flickr. A handful of historic maps are there now but more will be added over the next few weeks and months. (DCist)

Ban stoplights?: An effort is underway in the UK, inspired by the Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, to remove stop lights in the interest of improving traffic flow. Designing signal-free intersections that are safe for pedestrians, however, is easier said than done. (People-Powered Arlington, Stephen Miller)

And...: One small developer has been revitalizing Anacostia one small storefront at a time (Housing Complex, Eric Fidler) ... Amtrak's ridership rose by nearly 6% in the last fiscal year, 4% in the northeast and 6.5% on Acela (Post, Gavin) ... A lighting designer finds DC's lighting adequate but not interesting. (The Dirt, Steve Offutt)

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Joshua Davis is currently a student at Northern Virginia Community College and lives in Reston. He writes about development and transportation news in the Dulles Technology Corridor and Tysons Corner areas. 
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 understand Gov. McDonnell's inclination to privatize liquor stores. However I dont' think he should do it when it would lose a significant amount of revenue for the state. Maybe during better financial times...

by Thomas on Oct 13, 2010 8:59 am • linkreport

Quote from the distracted driving event:

"So far this year the District has seen 20 traffic fatalities, 11 of them involving pedestrians. According to D.C. police assistant chief Pat Burke, who spoke at the press conference, those are some of the lowest figures the city has seen in decades. "

And let's be honest, the corruption at OCTO started under Vivek Kundra.

by charlie on Oct 13, 2010 9:08 am • linkreport

Wow, so DCRA is able to provide historical maps from the early part of the 2oth century and before, yet has lost the drawings for my condo that was finished in October 2008?

by ForTheShorties on Oct 13, 2010 9:40 am • linkreport

RE: Ban Traffic Signals

I'm an ardent fan of the late Monderman's work, but even he said that it's not applicable everywhere; a blanket ban certainly isn't in that spirit. It's nice to spot that the People Powered Arlington post seems to share such sentiment.

by Bossi on Oct 13, 2010 9:46 am • linkreport

"some of the lowest figures the city has seen in decades"? Maybe, but this year's not so great for the current decade.

MPDC lists collisions involving pedestrians deaths over the past 10 years as:
2000 - 19
2001 - 14
2002 - 9
2003 - 21
2004 - 10
2005 - 16
2006 - 17
2007 - 25
2008 - 14
2009 - 16,a,1240,q,557665,mpdcNav_GID,1552,mpdcNav,|.asp

by jj on Oct 13, 2010 9:49 am • linkreport

oops. here's a better link (i hope):,a,1240,q,557665,mpdcNav_GID,1552,mpdcNav,.asp

by jenny leeman on Oct 13, 2010 9:51 am • linkreport

Stop lights have an inherent flow, they stop traffic. Only, part of the traffic can flow, and when the lights are changing, nobody can move. If you think of it that way, you can understand why stop lights have to be a poor solution for congested intersections, especially when you have a bunch of them close together. Traffic lights cause traffic.

Roundabouts on the other hand, never stop traffic. Traffic is always moving (if present).

Monderman is pretty smart is messing with people's minds in traffic. By removing borders that supposedly create safety, he takes away blind trust and creates interaction. Of course that doesn't work everywhere, but does force another mindset.

And even without taking traffic lights are. Why is it, for instance, that the pavement of side walks is always interrupted for concrete driveways when cars need to cross? This gives cars the idea that pedestrians are in their way. Why can't the pavement just continue, making it more clear for cars that *they* are crossing the sidewalk, as opposed to the pedestrian crossing "their" driveway.

You can even do the same things at intersections. Do not interrupt the paved sidewalk for the asphalt road, but interrupt the asphalt road for the paved sidewalk, especially is combined with bulb-outs.

Such changes do not even need to cost a lot of money, but have a pretty good impact in traffic safety.

Painting bike lanes does the same.

by Jasper on Oct 13, 2010 10:15 am • linkreport

Stop lights have an inherent flow, they stop traffic.
Stop lights have an inherent flaw, they stop traffic.

by Jasper on Oct 13, 2010 10:18 am • linkreport

The narrative at that link must have been written by a high school intern?

The first sentence makes no sense, especially given the information presented in the chart. "On average, there have been 665 collisions involving pedestrians." What average? What time frame? What's the location? Who? WHat? Where? When? Huh?
Then you go on, and it says "In 2008, pedestrians accounted for 38% of the traffic fatalities in the District of Columbia, which showed a significant increase from 2002 where pedestrians accounted for 18% of the fatalities in the District of Columbia." But 2008 isn't the end of the time series and 2002 isn't the start. So why pick those years? Also, 2002 was clearly an anomaly, and I'd guess it's not because there were actually that few fatalities, but because data collection experienced a hiccup for some reason.
In any case, yes, this year's pedestrian fatality data may not be particularly low, but neither is it particularly high. What does seem to be going down is total collisions involving fatalities, pedestrian or driver. So fewer driver deaths while roughly the same number of ped deaths - maybe speed is becoming less of a factor? Fewer collisions with telephone poles for whatever reason?

by Josh S on Oct 13, 2010 10:30 am • linkreport

You bring up an interesting point about the merits of roundabouts in highly pedestrian areas. In England, roundabouts are highly preferred over traffic lights but in many areas pedestrians have a clear right-of-way - people don't think twice before walking in front of a car. Of course the culture is completely different and speeds tend to be slower.

There is an annoying 5-way intersection in Alexandria where Mt. Vernon, Commonwealth, and Hume meet.,-95.677068&sspn=58.858685,135.263672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Alexandria,+Virginia+22301&ll=38.830843,-77.059511&spn=0.001795,0.004128&t=h&z=19

I always wondered if this would work as a roundabout instead but I'm not sure it can be done because of the relatively high amount of pedestrian traffic. Two miles away near Braddock Road Metro, there are two pedestrian crossings with blinking lights indicating that stopping is mandatory but it seems like a third of cars don't stop.

by movement on Oct 13, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

Removing stop lights? That sounds completely insane unless we're talking about single-lane intersections where pedestrians can get across quickly. Otherwise, I recommend a trip to Hanoi to see how completely dangerous and crazy it is for pedestrians when there are wide roads, many vehicles, and no stop lights. Walking is basically not a physically possible option in many parts of that city.

by guest on Oct 13, 2010 11:08 am • linkreport

@ movement: pedestrians have a clear right-of-way

The rule with roundabouts is that traffic *on* the roundabout has the right of way. This makes sense because that way traffic can always exit from the roundabout, making room for new traffic onto the roundabout.

The great realization that most people have to make is that pedestrians (and bikers) who "cross" a roundabout are also *on* (the side walk of) the roundabout and therefor have the right-of-way. A few signs could make this clear to car drivers.

Another great feature of roundabouts is that they slow down traffic because everybody has to make a turn. They greatly reduce the need to separate lift and right turn lanes. They do not need power. They can't go out of order due to lack of power (after a storm). And they are a nice place to put some greenery.

Not only the UK has many roundabouts by the way. France, Spain and the Netherlands have plenty as well.

by Jasper on Oct 13, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

@movement: The Mt. Vernon/Commonwealth/Hume intersection is indeed annoying but a roundabout would be problematic there because of the geometry of the site, in particular the steep grade on Commonwealth north of the intersection. An obvious candidate for a roundabout in Alexandria would be the nightmare intersection of King, Braddock, and Quaker, although the proximity of the high school might raise some pedestrian safety issues.

Flashing crosswalk lights are, IMHO, not a great idea. They tell drivers that this is a special case where they need to yield to pedestrians when the lights are flashing, and that other crosswalks, in comparison, need not be taken so seriously. I understand the impulse behind these contraptions and I imagine they do improve safety at the specific intersections where they are installed, but overall they may send the wrong message, just like speed bumps tell drivers that slowing down is something they only need to do when it's physically necessary to preserve their cars' suspensions.

by jimble on Oct 13, 2010 11:54 am • linkreport

Even the UK with its loads of roundabouts recognizes that traffic signals play a useful role in ensuring the smooth flow of traffic. Roundabouts simply are not a cure-all.

Roundabouts are a better substitute for 4-way stop signs than for traffic lights.

by ah on Oct 13, 2010 12:54 pm • linkreport

Why is it, for instance, that the pavement of side walks is always interrupted for concrete driveways when cars need to cross?

This doesn't seem accurately to describe much of DC. The large majority of driveways/parking entrances are at the same grade as the sidewalk, and then have an apron/ramp where the curb cut is. Yes, there are exceptions, but they appear to be the minority and discouraged by DDOT.

by ah on Oct 13, 2010 12:57 pm • linkreport

Removing stop lights? That sounds completely insane unless we're talking about single-lane intersections where pedestrians can get across quickly. Otherwise, I recommend a trip to Hanoi to see how completely dangerous and crazy it is for pedestrians when there are wide roads, many vehicles, and no stop lights. Walking is basically not a physically possible option in many parts of that city.

Could be cultural factors at work here as well. DC is not Hanoi. Though I've never been to Hanoi, I have crossed Pennsylvania Ave, SE when the power to the traffic lights had failed, and DDOT simply set up a four-way stop sign. Traffic actually seemed to move *more* smoothly, and as a pedestrian I was actually able to cross the street without waiting 50 seconds for the (18 second) walk signal.

My guess is that eliminating most traffic signals in the city would calm traffic and make things flow more smoothly.

by oboe on Oct 13, 2010 1:25 pm • linkreport

The scandal at the DC Tax Office hasn't undermined the effectiveness of Mr. Ghandi. Why should it be the overriding concern with Ms. Peck given the way she turned around DC's tech. infrastructure. I remember meeting a friend for lunch at police headquarters in the 90's and they were still using ROTARY phones.

by Neve on Oct 13, 2010 2:23 pm • linkreport

People in other first world countries have mastered the roundabout, so it really ought not to be so difficult. They were far more common in the UK than elsewhere until the EU started doling out grants to convert intersections without stoplights (the fetish for stoplights is a pretty American thing) to the safer roundabout. There are rarely striped lanes of course, people know how to use a roundabout.

by copperred on Oct 13, 2010 5:32 pm • linkreport

Some are surprised she's not staying until Gray becomes mayor

I'm slightly disappointed she didn't make Gray fire her. That's what I would have done. But this is more gracious, to be sure.

by David desJardins on Oct 13, 2010 8:44 pm • linkreport

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