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Breakfast links: Good tech, bad tech

Photo by 64MM on Flickr.
Solar panels face obstacles: An UrbanTurf author's attempt to have solar panels installed on the roof of his condo revealed that despite tantalizing tax incentives to do so, homeowners' associations can represent an even bigger hurdle. (UrbanTurf)

VRE moving on Wi-Fi: VRE will soon issue a request for proposals to install wireless internet routers in some of its train cars. The agency hopes to offer free Wi-Fi by springtime. (Dr. Gridlock)

GPS use may hinder memory: A new set of studies uncovered findings that could indicate frequent use of GPS may reduce the use of spatial-orientation methods, which in turn leads to reduced hippocampus activity. (Discovery)

Reactions to C100 v. GGW: Blogs continue to debate the significance of our fight with the Committee of 100. BeyondDC calls it a generational divide, which Grist picks up. Adam Voiland criticizes the C100 letter for a "lack of rigor." And in a Palinesque argument, Gary Imhoff paints everyone who disagrees with him as not a real resident.

Arlington Trader Joe's gets dedicated parking: The Arlington County Board has approved certain site plan amendments to clear the way for Trader Joe's in Clarendon. The store will get 70 dedicated parking spaces for customers until 10 PM, despite our arguing against exclusive parking for the store. (People Powered Arlington)

Tysons Black Friday now and future: It would be pretty hard to get to Tysons for Black Friday this year any way other than by car, but in 10 and 20 years, it'll get better. (TBD)

Paris loosens height limit: Paris has vastly increased its height cap for new construction in an effort to increase density inside the city limits. Before this sparks a new round of Malouff v. Avent v. Yglesias, it's worth noting that the increase only applies to the city's outer arrondissements. (Treehugger, Bradley Soule)

NYC rolls back bike lanes: New York's DOT, which has championed sustainable transportation infrastructure over the last several years, has recently rolled back some of its plans, declining to extend one lane in Manhattan, and fully removing another from a highway on Staten Island in response to complaints from drivers. (Gothamist)

And...: Why won't the US get high speed rail like the Chinese? Because the US isn't China, says Megan McArdle. Duh. (The Atlantic) ... With a new President, will the UMD get on board the Campus Drive Purple Line? (All Opinions are Local, Joey) ... The century-old Longfellow Bridge, connecting downtown Boston across the Charles River to Cambridge, may get a major boost in bike and pedestrian capacity. (Boston Globe)

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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. 


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Gary Imhoff is playing DC post-election mad-libs, where you claim a mandate for everything you believe in. You see the election was about ____ and the real residents of DC, the one who elected ____, got him into office because of _____.

Fill in the blanks with (1) my pet issue, (2) winning candidate, and (3) my personal view.

In Imhoff's case, "neighborhood activists" and "residents" are defined as people who oppose education reform, favor height restrictions, want low density development, hold their hand out for below-market rate (subsidized) parking, and oppose any improvements that might slow down cars in any way. Everyone else is sneered as a "faddish planner."

by Ward 1 Guy on Nov 22, 2010 9:10 am • linkreport

The UrbanTurf guy has some entitlement issues. His HOA sounds pretty reasonable, there are some legitimate concerns, plus he is requesting to take up ¼ of the roof (common area) for himself. Plus the part that might of piss them off is that he went to them LAST! That should be step 1. Do they teach negation skills anymore? Throwing up facts is not negotiations, relationship building is negotiations.

by RJ on Nov 22, 2010 9:16 am • linkreport

Several states have Solar Rights/Solar Access laws which exempt solar systems from HOA rules. RJ is right though that he should have gone to the HOA first.

by CW on Nov 22, 2010 9:21 am • linkreport

The solar panels story was interesting. But I don't understand why the owner approached his condo association LAST in the process. If anything, that should have been the very first thing to do.

It also seems like the law should be revised to encourage condo associations to be able to install solar panels on the roof, rather than having each individual owner do it (which would be a nightmare to figure out the legalities and tax aspects of that). If a condo did it, then the entire condo association should see a benefit from eventually lowered electricity bills.

As for The Mail, I thought Brizill made a very good point about the total lack of transparency and openness by the Gray transition team. Imhoff himself, in my view, represents the old school activists who felt left out during the Fenty era and who are more keen on actual meetings, than social media campaigns. Yeah he's pretty cranky, predictable, and skews inconvenient facts, but his attitude is probably the same one that you'll find among a pretty significant segment of DC's population, particularly among the Gray supporters.

by Fritz on Nov 22, 2010 9:31 am • linkreport

"And in a Palinesque argument, Gary Imhoff paints everyone who disagrees with him as not a real resident."

So I guess that Obamaesque would be labeling those Americans who don't agree with you as 'enemies'?

by Cyclone on Nov 22, 2010 9:36 am • linkreport

@Cyclone So I guess that Obamaesque would be labeling those Americans who don't agree with you as 'enemies'?

On this blog at least, it's labeling them as anti's or NIMBY's.

by Lance on Nov 22, 2010 9:52 am • linkreport

Gary I has become the cranky old man in a wife beater, standing outside of his (dilapidated and crumbling) house, screaming at the kids to get off his lawn.

by John on Nov 22, 2010 10:08 am • linkreport

Who is Gary Imhoff, and why should I care what he thinks?

by jcm on Nov 22, 2010 10:19 am • linkreport

With all of the road construction, it will also be pretty hard to get to Tyson's Corner by car this year.

by ah on Nov 22, 2010 10:22 am • linkreport

McArdles' article on high speed rail is well thought out and presented, deserving more than the childish "Duh"

by SJE on Nov 22, 2010 10:39 am • linkreport


Except for some obvious factual errors.

Why does McArdle claim the "Bay Area MSA" isn't among the top ten of American cities? She notes it has 4 million inhabitants, which means she's looking only at the San Francisco-Oakland MSA, not the more useful SF-Oak-San Jose CSA, which (coincidentally) matches up nicely with the proposed CA HSR routing. The CSA has 7.4 million inhabitants, ranking 6th:

Sloppy work.

Furthemore, what makes linking the top ten areas important? Why does top ten rank matter? What about the other end of the line (LA), which ranks 2nd?

by Alex B. on Nov 22, 2010 10:55 am • linkreport

The factual errors were apparent, but it would have been better to point those out rather than "duh". I agree that the MSA for the Bay seemed odd and the top 10 metric seems inappropriate.

At the same time, she was trying to make a comparison between China and the USA, and so the arbitrary top 10 seemed just as good as any other, especially if you are thinking along the lines of HSR as a replacement for flying, without the frequent stops. Her larger point is that, compared to the USA, the largest Chinese cities are closer, the infrastructure less developed, and there is a relatively unrestricted ability to just appropriate the needed land and resources. In that context, it is less surprising that HSR will have a harder time in the USA and perhaps that reflects good things about the USA, and not just a lack of money or national will.

by SJE on Nov 22, 2010 11:29 am • linkreport

If the largest Chinese cities are closest to each other, does that mean anything for HSR?

My response would be "no."

HSR should be used in areas where it makes sense. That usually means cities up to about 500 miles apart.

McArdle notes that there aren't any other Top Ten regions near Chicago. That's nice, but it completely ignores the fact that there are dozens of worthy destinations within HSR range of Chicago, ranging from Minneapolis to St Louis to Cleveland to Detroit to Indianapolis. At the same time, Chicago has tremendously congested airspace and roadways.

Connecting the top ten is irrelevant. How about looking at potential routes where HSR's technology makes sense?

So, once you strip out the substantial errors McArdle makes about the suitability of HSR for certain routes, all that's left is the fact that a) political will is lacking in the US, while political will is largely irrelevant in a state like China, and b) the US has more restrictive environmental laws.

Both of those observations do essentially boil down to a 'duh' argument that the US isn't China.

by Alex B. on Nov 22, 2010 11:37 am • linkreport

On principle, I refuse to read anything Megan McArdle wrights. I don't want to give her the hits.

I posted a link a few months to a FT discussion on HSR in China. The basic agreement was it was never going to work. However, the positive side is if they can move passengers to HSR and turn the existing rail network over to freight it will be a huge win.

I strongly suspect the push for Chinese HSR rail is more about industry capture rather than transport policy. Turn several chinese companies into HSR champions.

In terms of US HSR, I think it is a clear case where socialism doesn't work. If you have a private venture blowing $100 billion on it people would think it is next best thing to

by charlie on Nov 22, 2010 11:43 am • linkreport

Somebody rightly points out in her comments that there are only 5 MSAs in all of Europe with populations >5 million as of the most recent data (although Berlin has almost certainly crossed the threshold in the last few years, and I can't imagine Barcelona is far behind).

by Nate on Nov 22, 2010 11:58 am • linkreport


On principle, I refuse to read anything Megan McArdle wrights. I don't want to give her the hits.

My wife's nickname for Megan is "Fegan Fuckt---"... Well, nevermind. Let's just say, she's not a fan either.

by oboe on Nov 22, 2010 12:18 pm • linkreport

An article by James Fallows in the same issue of The Atlantic notes that one of the less-mentioned reasons why China is spending so much on rail is that the existing lines are at capacity and interfering with the ability to move coal to power plants. Getting passengers out of the way solves that.

by spookiness on Nov 22, 2010 12:19 pm • linkreport


I agree with you that Megan McArdle's post is sloppy.

" That means it's very important to lay the rail in the best possible path, or near it. Trying to do this between, say, New York and Chicago would mean approximately a century of court battles with homeowners, environmental groups, local NIMBYs, and sundry others. Moreover, many desirable routes are occupied by our enormous network of highways, and only someone with a very rich fantasy life could believe that we are going to rip out the highways to put in a rail network."

This is exactly what Florida is planning to do between Tampa - Orlando: build the route in the right-of-way in the median of the interstate. Five minutes of research could have provided this information. Similarly, the CA high speed rail route between LA - SF seeks to use the right-of-way of the Union Pacific and BNSF freight rail tracks for much of the route.

by Ben on Nov 22, 2010 1:53 pm • linkreport

I also don't know how much new right-of-way would have to be purchase to provide high speed rail in the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak recently released its $117B proposal for high speed rail in the Northeast but much of it is building new tunnels and straightening out curves, not wholesale land acquisition.

by Ben on Nov 22, 2010 1:57 pm • linkreport

Ben is right, almost every HSR proposal in the US involves existing highway ROW, or existing or abandoned rail ROW.

Any property acquisition seems to be in the area needed for wider stations.

Nobody is proposing straight line rail because it's too expensive. Note the California project which goes all the way around the grapevine mountain area via palmdale instead of straight across.

by JJJJJ on Nov 22, 2010 7:23 pm • linkreport

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