Greater Greater Washington

Got any big ideas for the DDOT budget?

DC faces huge budget gaps, and every agency is being asked to make cuts, most of which take a little from everything. For DDOT, do you have any ideas for bigger cuts that should be considered, or revenue increases to look into?


Photo by Steve Rhodes on Flickr.

The DC Council held a marathon hearing yesterday to listen to feedback on closing DC's massive budget gap. Most of the witnesses just asked for specific programs not to be cut, rather than presenting ideas for different cuts in their place. Many advocates called for tax increases, which I think should be part of the final package along with many cuts.

In transportation and planning as well as many other areas, the cuts generally spread the pain out across the board rather than cutting specific programs far more or eliminating any governmental activities entirely, though a few do get completely wiped out. For DDOT, for example, these are some of the cuts:

  • $2.2 million from road, sidewalk, and alley repairs
  • $300,000 out of $1.5 million from bike-ped safety programs
  • $416,000 from traffic control officers around the ballpark and convention center
  • $244,000 from school crossing guards
  • $620,000 from street trees (see below)
  • The entire $7 million "streetscape survival fund," payments to small businesses affected by recent streetscape projects to help them weather the hit to their business from the construction.
  • $500,000 from a parking rate increase at Metrorail lots in the District, which is a nonstarter since it requires WMATA Board approval and the Board won't even have time to consider this in the brief timeframe, let alone whether outer jurisdiction members would approve a hike that some of their residents would have to pay.
This is painful but most of the smaller cuts are probably a reasonable way to spread out the pain. But here are a few ideas for areas to cut more deeply or raise some revenue to restore a few cuts:

Eliminate poorly performing staff in IPMA. IPMA is the Infrastructure and Project Management Administration, which handles the repavings and the streetscapes and all that. Almost any neighborhood activist has a host of stories of poor presentations by IPMA engineers and project managers who lacked good communication skills. There are also many people at IPMA who are locked in the old style of transportation engineering, building everything to a standard in a manual and not really listening to residents who want safer streets instead of higher speed traffic.

At the same time, there are good people at IPMA too. Sometimes it's hard in government to get rid of just the bad people, but to the extent this is possible, DDOT could use a good housecleaning in IPMA. Since fewer streets and alleys will be repaved and fewer sidewalks reconstructed, the department could probably make do with fewer people for a few years. Then, when things pick up again, they can hire high quality people in place of the bad ones they got rid of.

Reduce regular tree trimming. Some trees really need trimming, but there are also many cases where people don't actually want their trees trimmed. I was pretty dismayed to find a crew cutting whole limbs off the tree in front of my house one day, limbs which shade my windows in the summer. Since I work from home, I was able to stop them though now some limbs are oddly truncated. Meanwhile, another set of friends who just bought a house in Logan Circle came home one day to find almost half their tree lopped off, a significant aesthetic decrease.

It could be that pruning helps trees live longer, but when I spoke to the Urban Forestry Administration about my tree, mainly they simply said that this was their "standard" and they have all contractors trim all trees to the "standard." We can probably do with a little less adherence to that standard, at least for a while.

The budget takes $200,000 out of tree trimming, $300,000 out of tree planting, and $120,000 from hazardous tree removal, saying there has been low demand for removing hazardous trees. I wonder if DDOT scale back even more its payments to the contractors who do this trimming. Its in-house arborists could spend less time on trimming and more on making sure the trees that are planted get watered.

Increase the Circulator fare. The Circulator costs $1. Metrobus costs $1.70 or $1.50 with SmarTrip. Yet the Circulator is more reliable and draws more tourists and people in well-off neighborhoods, where it primarily runs. This wasn't intentional but it's totally unfair.

Raise the Circulator fare to $2 cash (which is easy for tourists to pay and is still far cheaper than a cab) and $1.50 with SmarTrip, the same amount as on any other Metrobus. If a Circulator runs on a better schedule or a better route than other buses, people should ride it, but not because it's cheaper.

Increase the off-street parking tax. Jim Graham suggested this yesterday. He suggested raising it as high as 18% from the current 12.5%, which could bring in $19 million in revenue per year.

The Post's Nikita Stewart writes that "The amount does not account for the loss of customers who could balk at an increase," though given the amount of competition for commercial garages, a tax increase here may not lead to as much of a consumer price increase. It could just cut into the profits of garage owners and the revenue that building owners get from garages. In the long run, that could create more of an incentive to redevelop large surface parking lots.

DC could also grant garage owners a full or partial exemption from the increase for implementing certain measures like automated cash collection systems to ensure the tax is being correctly reported. In addition, the new zoning code requires certain numbers of bicycle spaces and car sharing spaces, and requires surface lots to have a certain amount of landscaping. If an existing lot complied with these rules, perhaps it should get some relief from the added tax.

Close the free parking tax loophole. This is another longer-term measure that keeps getting kicked down the road and then is too long-term to implement in any budget cycle. But the off-street parking tax contains a big loophole, leaving out facilities that provide free parking to employees rather than contracting through a commercial operator. In the downtown area, these spaces should be taxed at a similar rate to commercial spaces.

This proposal has been introduced in the Council in the past as the "Clean Air Compliance Fee." It wouldn't help with the immediate budget, but it seems that the most meaningful budget measures get little attention outside budget crises, and then during every crisis it's too late to implement it.

Contract out local bus routes. This is another longer-term issue, but again worth talking about while people are seriously thinking about budgets. If DC took over its local bus routes and contracted them out, DDOT believes it could save quite a lot of money.

What else? Do you have other ideas for ways to make bigger cuts or raise revenue in transportation?

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. 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 daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Keep tree planting programs funded! A good tree canopy can have a tremendous effect on crime, property values, and general happiness in neighborhoods. Keeping the streets green is one of the most cost-effective measures that the city can take to improve the quality of life for its residents.

by andrew on Dec 1, 2010 1:57 pm • linkreport

You had me until the "closing the free parking tax" loophole.

If I own a commercial office builidng downtown, I pay the property tax and I either built the building or paid market rates for it, whatever underground parking facilities I have as a part of it are mine to do with as I please. If I own the building and I want to offer up the parking as a perk, an incentive to leasing out the space, then thats what I am going to do.

It would be like you paying your regular property tax for your home, then having to pay an additional "per spot" parking tax for however many off-street parking spaces you happen to have in your back yard.

And the Circulator fare increase has been long needed. A farebox recovery of 30% on the most used routes is pretty ridiuclous considering the demographic that rides it.

by freely on Dec 1, 2010 2:07 pm • linkreport

Why should the Circulator cost as much or more than MetroBus? Circulator's operating costs are lower, after all. However, if it's necessary to bring farebox recovery ratio close to that of MetroBus, I am for it.

And on that note, someone needs to come up with a way we can slash pay and particularly benefits for bus drivers and public sector employees in general. Pension and healthcare costs are getting out of hand.

I know the GGW crowd tends to be avidly pro-union but don't we all want more efficient public transportation, more bang for our buck?

by EJ on Dec 1, 2010 2:34 pm • linkreport

Why on earth is the city spending money on alleys? Aren't alleys the responsibility of the landowners?

by tom veil on Dec 1, 2010 3:04 pm • linkreport

This is a little disingenuous since the big $$$ are in the federal program at DDOT -- not touched by the local budget until you start talking about the local match from the DC Highway Trust Fund in the city Capital Improvement Program. (whole different bucket of money)

Most of the money you're talking about here is paid for by the rights-of-way fee that is paid on each property owners utility bill. I hope the budget is not proposing that the money is "repurposed" outside of DDOT, rather is just not being spent and carried as a balance

To Tom Veil -- alleys are public right-of-way and most are not federal-aid eligible.

To David A. -- the last person who tried to RIF low performing staff instead of terminating them for cause was Michelle Rhee. That caused ALL kinds of nashing of teeth. Better to train the managers to make disciplinary actions happen, all according to the right procedures.

Proposal - Increase the rights-of-way fee on the utility bills to include the cost of the street lighting energy costs, maintenance program and locally-funded capital projects (like converting to more energy efficient lighting fixtures). This has been proposed and denied since the Williams administration. An incrementally small cost/per kW hour say $5.00 per year across residential HHs and something for business costumers (exempting low income) would help tremenduously. You could allocate this by street frontage and charge it on the real estate tax bill. While more proximate to the property benefit, it is probably more complex to administer.

by Some Ideas on Dec 1, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

@tom Veil: No, alleys are public roadways just like the streets in front. They are constructed, maintained, policed, and used just like any other street.

Which brings me to my suggestion. Why not cut the road budget more and use that money to repair more sidewalks, alleys, and other transportation facilities used primarily by DC residents instead of rebuilding and improving major thoroughfares used primarily by commuters? As someone who lives in DC and works in the suburbs, I realize that would affect me, but being able to walk around my neighborhood without tripping on bad sidewalks and park my car in the alley without endangering my wheel rims is more important to me than being able to speed in and out of the District.

by Stanton Park on Dec 1, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

What does all this mean in regards to streetcars? I heard speculation that there isn't money there to finish H Street ... Is that true?

by Lance on Dec 1, 2010 4:21 pm • linkreport

I think that this year, streetcar supporters are going to have to endure some pretty disappointing news.

that 50 million reinstatement at the last minute earlier this year likely has Gray knashing his teeth now as he figures out how he is going to continue to support all the programs his core voters demand.

Thats dang near 1/3rd the deficit. The city simply can't afford to roll out a multibillion dollar program like that right now and that ~50 million is pretty easy to cut as it isn't like it stops existing services or results in hundreds of people losing their job.

by freely on Dec 1, 2010 4:33 pm • linkreport

@freely: No, no it isn't. You are free riding.

Let's say there is an individual who turns his basement into 3 underground parking spots for his 3 cars. He pays registration fees on his cars. He pays fees on his license,etc... In other words, he pays into the system.

You are getting in business with freebies. In doing so, unless you are exclusively offering spaces to DC residents, you are encouraging people to clog up our roads and otherwise free riding the infrastructure implicitly. Since the users of your freebies aren't paying in for said infrastructure...you get to.

Big difference.

by John on Dec 1, 2010 4:36 pm • linkreport

@John You are getting in business with freebies. In doing so, unless you are exclusively offering spaces to DC residents, you are encouraging people to clog up our roads and otherwise free riding the infrastructure implicitly.

Funny ... I always thought it was the cars that couldn't find a space to park that were clogging our roads up. I've lived and visited many places where parking wasn't a problem ... plentiful enough that no one tried to charge for it ... and those places never seemed to have a problem with clogged roads ... It's actually the places with a lack of sufficient parking, such as the District, that have clogged roads.

A lot of folks here are looking at the problem backwards. They see too many cars and instead of saying 'that's too many cars for the amount of roads we have, let's build more', they think to themselves 'if I stick my head in the sand and pretend the need for cars will magically go away if I don't give them a place to park, maybe my problem will be solved'. Well yeah ... it will be ... by making your city/street/neighborhood less attractive vis-a-vis cities/streets/neighborhoods where driving and parking cars isn't an issue.

We're in the 21st century. In the same way the Main Frame computers of yesteryear have yielded to a networked system that consists of a few mainframes and lots of personal computers and now personsal computing devices (such as smart phones), the modern transportation system consists of a few mass transit options and many many personal vehicle options such as cars, motorcycles, and bikes ... And who knows what else in the future ... Maybe a 'pod' that some Google system automatically directs around the city for you to your next destination while you sit idly by using your smart phone to chat or watch TV or buy your tickets for the theater over the weekend.

We can't be sure of what the future is bringing, but one thing we can be sure of, is that it is NOT returning us to a time when then only rapid transit was mass transit. Those days are gone.

by Lance on Dec 1, 2010 4:53 pm • linkreport

@Lance: No, not at all. Just making people pay for what they use. You apparently want to socialize the costs of your car. Have at it...but don't whine when people rightfully point out you are an upscale welfare queen.

by John on Dec 1, 2010 4:56 pm • linkreport

Targeting surface parking lots downtown -- and they aren't many -- is a good idea. Also moving the free parking spot loophole --but only for downtown. To be honest, I might be a bit confused on that although David's explanation makes sense.

Raising Circulator fares makes little sense. They were designed for 50 cent fares, already went up to $1. Look, if you take more WMATA bus routes and turn them into Circulators, then I see keeping the fares the same. The problem is we don't know what circulators are for anymore, but the original idea means they should be cheaper to both ride and run.

by charlie on Dec 1, 2010 4:56 pm • linkreport

What freebies am I getting as the owner of thie fictional office building downtown that I paid for? I decided to sacrifice FAR for an underground lot. As long as I've built the building to code, followed all applicable zoning laws and pay my taxes, fees and BID money, the that was my choice. My building, my land, my choice.

And so by your explanation, the DC residents who drive to my building and park in my garage are fine, no additional taxes on those spots, but the spots filled by non-district residents need to get taxed?

The reason this never makes the agenda is because it sounds awfully like the repeatedly failed attempts to charge a comutting tax to MD and VA workers.

And where does it end? If you are supporting this, I guess that every pedestrian on the sidewalk gets taxed individually for wear and tear on the sidewalk, and each cyclist gets taxed individually, specifically to pay for the wear and tear of the bike lanes they build and use?

by freely on Dec 1, 2010 5:00 pm • linkreport

@freely: Actually, yes. I'm a huge fan of eliminating the cross subsidies as much as is reasonably possible, under present technology. Bikes should be licensed to defray the cost of bike lanes. Roads and autos should be entirely funded out of user fees as much as possible. And yes, when that happens govt. subsidies to transit should also roll back, leaving support for low incomes and bond backing for infrastructure development to get past the stickiness of initial funding (the same is true for large scale road projects).

But presently autos are the most heavily subsidized form of transport. What Lance willfully misses is an econ 101 point...when you subsidize a good, you get overuse of a good.

by John on Dec 1, 2010 5:21 pm • linkreport

Stanton park -- one reason that the thoroughfares are repaired (well more so than local roads) is that those repairs/improvements are paid with ~83% federal money, not local money from the rights-of-way fee (the local roads program). While the federal aid program has a lot of eligible streets (and some with residential character, see Oregon Ave and Western Ave for example) it won't get the money to the places you're talking about.

It all depends on what bucket of money its coming from and all those buckets are dwindling, just some more so than others.

by Some Ideas on Dec 1, 2010 5:28 pm • linkreport

@freely

I don't really follow your analysis. Employers pay taxes on the benefits they provide for their employees - payroll taxes, salary etc. There are special exceptions for benefits that we as a society want to promote - transit, health care, retirement, etc. Offering parking that the employer owns seems to be one such benefit. Let me know if I am misunderstanding something.

by sk on Dec 1, 2010 6:34 pm • linkreport

@John, We discussed the subsidy myth on this blog a few months ago, and discovered that Lo and behold, cars were barely subsidized while transit was heavily subsidized, and that the incremental costs of getting everyone into mass transit would be astronomical .

by Lance on Dec 1, 2010 6:34 pm • linkreport

@ Lance I've seen you assert this a bunch of times, and you've never once backed it up with any actual facts. Will things be different this time?

by jcm on Dec 1, 2010 6:51 pm • linkreport

Transit cut: parallel bus routes separated by a single block should be consolidated.

by LouDC on Dec 1, 2010 8:35 pm • linkreport

@jcm I've seen you assert this a bunch of times, and you've never once backed it up with any actual facts. Will things be different this time?

I guess you missed this entire discussion ... Here are the actual facts ... written by someone who didn't believe me either ... until he started looking into the numbers:

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/6815/struck-in-dc-this-week-13-pedestrians-3-cyclists/#comment-65829

by Lance on Dec 1, 2010 9:44 pm • linkreport

Without delving into financial data, I'm not sure if this would result in any substantial savings or if it'd be rather trivial... but I often question the need for weekly street cleaning during the warmer months. There are many neighborhoods (such as my own, near Logan Circle), where I'd wager they could get by just fine with monthly street cleaning. I'd never even known a city to do weekly street cleaning up until I moved into DC... my homes back in PA and NJ were all monthly at best; some areas only 2-3 times per year.

As for the options listed in the article...

I'll stay mum on the IPMA specifically, but I will say that my experience writing to DDOT as a citizen has not yet -- after several attempts -- resulted in anyone actually responding back from any division. While I've often been impressed by their senior management at various presentations, my other dealings with staff-level engineers have often left me less than enthused.

One thing that might be relevant to the more "conventional" transportation engineering style is to consider the path to licensure. From my own experience and speaking with other engineers and other states' boards, the DC Board of Professional Engineers appears to only consider design experience (drawing in CAD & referencing standards) as the sole qualifier as experience toward licensure; there appears to be little regard for operations or planning experience.

As for parking, I'd sooner increase on-street costs before setting sights on paid off-street garages. That said, per my current understanding, I'm not a particular fan of increasing the off-street parking tax when on-street parking is still so comparatively cheap. No need to send even more people circling around the block.

And I'm undecided on the free parking tax loophole... my more free-market small-government tendancies lean toward not taxing it & letting the employer decide if it's justified to pay to maintain it without generating revenue on it ... but my urbanist tendancies are all for greater incentive to use alternate modes. Tough call... it's not easy being a right-wing urbanist :P

by Bossi on Dec 1, 2010 10:11 pm • linkreport

@Lance: Yeah, fabulous "proof". Amazingly, when one arbitrarily decides that the largest costs don't actually count, the numbers reflect that.

Next up Lance offers proof green is red by deciding light wavelengths don't apply to the discussion.

by John on Dec 2, 2010 1:43 am • linkreport

Speaking with a Donald Shoup-esque viewpoint (and similar to Bossi), it makes zero sense to increase costs to off-street parking/garage owners when those facilities are generally underutilized (DCUSA, anyone?). Adjust on-street parking rates to better reflect the market *FIRST*.

by Froggie on Dec 2, 2010 8:01 am • linkreport

First of all, DDOT is a government agency, and it is quite silly to assume that government agencies should fund themselves. That's for the city council to decide. And quite frankly, the city council should also decide what DDOTs focus points are.

Now, having said that, I think DC should start pricing parking properly. Parking permits for residents are a give-away, and street parking rates are negligible compared to other big cities and capitals around the world. Circulator rates can go up as well, whatever.

Texas apparently has this law that mandates that every government office has to show its reason of existence and its efficiency. I don't know how that works in practice, but I can see how it would help streamlining government offices. DC should look into such a law to get rid of many offices. The law could include tangible goals to be reached.

I'd recommend DDOT look into creating more traffic light free roundabouts. This would save quite some money in maintenance, and there are plenty of circles that can be converted.

To structurally lower the road budgets, DDOT also needs to look into massively lowering car use in the most congested areas of the city. They can do so by taking a couple of buckets of paint and designating more bus and bike lanes. This way buses and bikes will move much faster through the city, which will give an incentive for residents to start biking or using transit. CaBi and Zipcar need to be expanded.

BTW, I am surprised to see people howl at the parking tax. This seems a perfect way to get all non-DC residents to pay taxes to DC so that DC can maintain its road infrastructure without taxing Washingtonians for it. Let's be fair. A company that spends money on that tax, can not spend money on the salaries of all those non-DC-residents that drive in.

by Jasper on Dec 2, 2010 8:19 am • linkreport

@Jasper,

Your comments about road usage fall into the "cake and eat it too" catagory that I see so many people fall into.

Simply repainting roads to other uses isn't going to reduce congestion, it simply moves the congestion elsewhere in the city.

Realistically, truthfully... the District of Columbias road network is overbuilt if one only looks at the population of the District. If one simply only assumed the roads were, or should be built for the District residents then you could likely carve up half the street network with no ill effects.

I've seen people on this blogs and others rally with the cry that our citys transportation policy should be made irrespecetive of the suburbs needs, that we shouldn't be building roads to accomodate MD and VA traffic.

Well, that opinion is fine I guess, but if that is your opinion, then you also have to truthfully admit that we would have never built a metrorail system, nor have such a large and comprehensive bus network if all we took into consideration was the 600K District residents. Our mass transit system would be waaaaay oversized if it was just built for us.

Like it or not, ~500K people, nearly the population of the entire city comes into town every day for work, and just like transit system is sized accordingly, the roads are as well.

And as far as your last completely anti-business comment, your rationale is precisely why the District is rightfully perceived as so business unfriendly, and why businesses large and small choose NOVA or southern MD rather than the District.

The District is the "Atlantic City" of business. We have only 1 positive thing to offer and a bunch of negatives to over come. Higher personal income tax, higher crime rate, and the worst schools in the nation. Companies don't move here because their employees wouldn't be caught dead moving their families here, unless they made so much money, private schooling their kids didn't matter.

There is a reason that Tysons corner went from a large dairy farm to a city with only a 3rd less commercial office space than DC has in less than 40 years. And also why Tysons will have exceeded the District by that metric, in only another 15 or 20 year.

As a District resident I understand and agree with the notion of somehow getting MD and VA to pay for the wear and tear on DC infrastructure, but after 2 decades of lost commutting tax battles, DC needs to refocus, and finda another, easier way such as having Congress pay DC a yearly lump sum fee to make up for all the lost property tax and to compensate us for all that taxable income being taxed elsewhere. Congress had actually written a bill a few years ago and if memeory serves had settled on 700 million a year (to be indexed for inflation in the future). I haven't heard anythign about it, but getting the Feds to make up the difference is the only way. Your way only scares off more, muchly needed business in DC. We have a business history littered with the proof.

by freely on Dec 2, 2010 9:36 am • linkreport

@ freely: Simply repainting roads to other uses isn't going to reduce congestion, it simply moves the congestion elsewhere in the city.

Not if you succeed in getting people out of their car and into other modes of transportation.

On K St, 30-40% of all people moving are in buses but are slowed down by all the people in cars. Giving a bus lane to the buses will show the public that bus transportation can be a lot faster than riding a car.

During rush hour, the orange line moves more people along I-66 than I-66 does. Yet when you look at I-66, all you see is cars.

Cars simply take up a ridiculous amount of space. Whether in traffic, or being parked. To reduce congestion in a place where there is no more space, you need to get people out of their car and into other modes of transportation that are more space efficient.

by Jasper on Dec 2, 2010 8:47 pm • linkreport

I'm refocusing on David A's article on getting rid off some engineers at DDOT. I do know some of the engineers working there since I'm an engineer do some work for DDOT. Just like any government agency, inefficency exists at DDOT, but David's narrow minded comments are over reaching and may indicate he does have personal agendas with some group of people. I do notice a lot of negativity toward the specific agency (IPMA/DDOT) since he was dissed by former chief engineer Kathleen Penney. I also noticed more negativity toward the engineers based on thier presentation abiltiy. Let me deliver the bad news to you, those engineers won $1,000,000 dollar for DC residents from Highway for life program as they desiged the Eastern Ave bridge with new innovative design and completed construction on time and budget. Those engineers completed the DOWNTOWN BID Streetescape project under bugdget and with commendation from the Downtown Bid. Those engineers left thier famlies behind and worked 4 to 7 days with out going back to their house to clear the snow during the heavy storm. From personal knowlege I could give you a zillion things that the majority of the engineers are doing. Yes I do agree there are some (I repeat just some) that are bad apples. But getting rid of a few bad apples is not the solution for the huge budget shortfall, unless you have a hidden agenda use excuse to target a group of people. Getting rid of the bad apple is a job that needs to be taken care off regardless of budget, period.
Yes you always put your disclaimer at the end of your articles saying there are some good people too........ Not good enuough. Give the good engineers/ managers/ directors/ etc the same attention and effort you give to your negativity.
If you want to talk budget, ask why is DDOT planning to move to SW DC for $3.5 million/year more than what they are paying currently during this terrible economy?

by First time blogger on Dec 2, 2010 11:44 pm • linkreport

First Time -- Hear, Hear ! ! ! You hit the nail on the head with that one.

Also, for whatever reason the Fenty administration, and the Williams administration before, have been pushing DDOT into moving somewhere (first Anacostia Gateway, then SW) for 8 years. There has been a lot of money wasted with little result. Yes, I agree there is an opportunity to look critically at consolidating the agency's space, but...come on...

by Some Ideas on Dec 3, 2010 10:24 am • linkreport

It is a sad day in our nation's capitol when an agency has bent over backwards to serve its citizen. Oftentimes, making decisions that are contrary to engineering standards that would have saved the city money provide everyone with safe passages on its roads, sidewalks and through its alley ways.

If allowed to make all final decisions --- there would be cost savings now--- that could have allowed the agency to do more.

If you donÂ’t believe it -- look around our city---new signs that donÂ’t make sense and are not of standard sizes speed bumps at stop signs, cars being forced to park in the middle of the streets, sprinkler systems costing each of us 300,000 dollars a year for 4 medians in different locations throughout our city, vegetation in medians blocking motorist views..., bicycle racked full of bikes on every corner gathering dust,yes it is all there and more ...doubling the cost of doing business because the agency went with the views of the public not its engineering expertise-------and now the same individuals are the experts in reducing the agencies budget.

LetÂ’s move this forward and recognize that there are some things better left to the experts---so cost are minimized and the results are what we all truly need and want.The operative word is all......Let all agency serve their missions for which they were created. Leave engineering to engineers

Support your government-- support your city -- agencies are the vested property of all the great citizens in this city

by Good Government on Dec 3, 2010 11:39 am • linkreport

Standards are great - no one disagrees with standards in the abstract.

The question is if the standards make sense for the context. Too often, engineering design standards made more sense for freeways than for urban streets.

See this Grist piece for an example:

http://www.grist.org/article/2010-11-22-confessions-of-a-recovering-engineer

by Alex B. on Dec 3, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

Building on Alex B's comment-

Count me among the "recovering" engineers; we're out there. However, when the convention has been road-based and suburban for so long, it can be tough to break convention without some degree of public support. I'll give that discussions such as this shouldn't be out to make demands, but blogs such as GGW are the perfect forum for making suggestions.

Also, there's a decent share of GGW readers & contributors whom actually do have a professional stake here. When it's proposed to let the engineers & planners decide rather than leave it to people commenting on a blog; keep in mind that the engineers & planners are among those in the discussion: we're here- paying attention to comments & sometimes offering our own.

I've actually had meetings with a couple folk whom comment on this blog, and on a number of occasions I've taken some of the suggestions on GGW (as well as some other area blogs such as Dan's JUTP and DCist) and applied them to my own work.

The general populace are the eyes & ears of the government & are often the first to recognise problems, and many times they're more than capable of identifying different potential solutions. The engineers' role is to try and find the best one.

by Bossi on Dec 3, 2010 11:59 am • linkreport

IPMA led the Columbia Heights Streetscape project from planning to construction in just 4 years - half the national average. And yes, IPMA led the entire effort. Tangherlini had the vision to create project delivery teams of planners, arborists, engineers and constructors all led by senior IPMA engineers. These interdisciplinary teams deveolped the Georgetown Project, Columbia Heights, Thomas Circle, the E Street Road Diet, LeDroit Park Streetscape, Watts Branch Trail among other great great projects. The Fenty administration destroyed the teams, drove a wedge between planners and engineers and created the animosity between planners and engineers that contaminates the organization today. The Fenty administration can be credited with delivering a great Action Plan that should be retained and utilized by DDOT moving forward. The Director of DDOT must restore the teamwork between PPSA and IPMA.

by SL on Dec 3, 2010 9:35 pm • linkreport

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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.

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