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


Breakfast links: How to talk about mobility

Photo by Mulad on Flickr.
Transportation alternatives a social justice issue: The politics of alternative transportation modes have become divisive in DC. We need to remind ourselves and others that sustainable transportation options is a basic social justice issue. (RPUS)

Cycling with the right: A Virginia Republican cyclist offers a crash course in talking to conservative politicians about cycling. Remember, you want to ride a bike, but don't care how other people live their lives. (Commute by Bike)

Klein restored transportation balance: Dr. Gridlock defends Gabe Klein against a very whiny letter writer who laments that trips in and out of our "commuter city" are far more difficult because of Klein and his boss. (Post)

Assault on red line, train operator does nothing: After some teens assaulted a man on the Red Line, riders reported it using the emergency call box, but the operator did nothing, nor did an employee on the platform at the next station. (TBD)

Developments at Walter Reed: The GSA has relinquished its claim to 30 acres on the Walter Reed campus. Maybe now the city can fit a bus garage, or a relocated juvenile detention and rehab center, as Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin (D) has proposed, when they take over the site next year. (Post, Cavan)

The rich have it tough: After taxes, retirement & college savings, health care, and every other imaginable expense, including $5,000/year for house cleaning, an area family making $250,000 would have only $12,000 in "discretionary income." The article assumes this family owns two cars and drives them to work every day. (Post, Dave R.)

DC's parking tax a sticky political situation: Some DC residents and pols have suggested raising the parking tax to help close the city's budget gap. The city's parking lobby, though, is well organized and has a history of making its voice heard. (Post)

Alexandria's new waterfront plan: Tonight at the waterfront United Way building, Alexandria will reveal plans to build a new pier at the end of King Street, hoping to create a new public space to draw people to the riverfront from Old Town. (WAMU)

And...: Arlington rejected a request by two companies to put more cabs on the street. (Post) ... After a year-long saga, Hank's Oyster Bar in Dupont has won permission to expand. (Borderstan) ... Is it irresponsible for parents to transport their children by bike? The Ethicist says no. (NYT, Eric Fidler)

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. 


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"The rich have it tough” YEAH! class warfare! When is $250/household, in this area, considered rich? That’s only two GS-14s salaries.

by RJ on Dec 13, 2010 9:36 am • linkreport

I, for one, am neither saddened or surprised to see Gridlock Gabe leave.

The question still up in the air is whether Tregoning also leaves.

by Fritz on Dec 13, 2010 9:39 am • linkreport

Some assault victim needs to sue WMATA for failure to police the system. Any attorney can quickly point out the numerous escalating incidents, the WMATA Transit Police response times, the failure to take appropriate action and the police presence in other systems. Makes for an extremely strong case for malfeasance/negligence.

by Redline SOS on Dec 13, 2010 10:00 am • linkreport

Even for this area $250 k plus per family a year is still quite a bit. As for their extra 12 k this family clearly is living at their means if not almost beyond.
15k a year in property taxes, I pay 1500 for my town home so thats 10 times what I pay. They must have a pretty big house.

All I am saying is the rich chose to buy rich things, like big houses etc.

by Matt R on Dec 13, 2010 10:05 am • linkreport

If you google that whiney letter writer you'll find a lot of comments of the crabby-old man sort. Unsurprisingly he dabbled in a bit of birtherism. I understand that he voices some of the complaints that people have (but let's face it, they're nothing new and have little to do with anything Klein has done) but I wish Thomson had chose at least a minimally informed letter writer to highlight.

All the ways he's simply wrong:
-DC car registration is actually way down, not up
-there was plenty of debate and discussion over Capital Bikeshare
-Really? He's complaining about multispace meters?
-We had the worst snow in a century, not the worst snow removal.
-more than 50% of District residents commute without a car, so when Mr. Crabby talks about the needs of the people, he's ignoring over half the actual people when he assumes car movement should be the highest priority.

All in all, it is the letter of a bitter old man who had no idea what he's talking about.

by Reid on Dec 13, 2010 10:07 am • linkreport

@conservative cyclist

How about these:
- Bike = urban horse
- Gun racks for bikes
- Always refer to highways as “government subsidized construction projects”
- Contrast cycling conservatives with limousine liberals.
- Don’t use the phrases like “bicycle infrastructure” or even “bike lanes”. They’re “freedom trails.”

by Ward 1 Guy on Dec 13, 2010 10:12 am • linkreport

Median household income for the District of Columbia is $58,553, and including the entire metro area median household income is $72,800. So yes, even here earning $250K easily qualifies you as rich.

by Dan Miller on Dec 13, 2010 10:21 am • linkreport

@MattR- I thought RJ was being facetious. I disagree with the insinuation of the article and your comment that this 250K family is living at/beyond their means. Their budget, in addition to food-clothing-shelter, includes savings, retirement plans, education, healthcare, the dog, summer camp, etc. The 12k discretionary is for travel and expensive toys and crap no one "needs" to live a decent secure life. They could use it to pay down their mortgage or student loans. Or donate to charity. (Wouldn't that be novel?) No way are they at the limit of their means.

by Tina on Dec 13, 2010 10:23 am • linkreport

@Ward 1 - LOL. good one.

by Tina on Dec 13, 2010 10:26 am • linkreport

@MattR - oh yeah. All I am saying is the rich chose to buy rich things, like big houses etc. completely agree. $1200/yr in dry cleaning??? WTH.

by Tina on Dec 13, 2010 10:36 am • linkreport

The imaginary rich parents were also maxing out their retirement contributions (something like over $1K/mo each, no mention of an employer match). It's good to save for retirement, but after a certain point I'd think the saving could be considered 'luxury savings' more than falling into the 'just getting by' category of expenditures. Interesting to see hypothetical expenditure distributions compared across cities though.

by DCster on Dec 13, 2010 10:36 am • linkreport

Very true about DDOT's catastrophic failure at snow removal last year. One of DDOT's most basic and fundamental duties ... and we had a director spending more time figuring out how to make 'statements' such as the Penn. Ave. Bike lanes, than taking care of business. He should get the booby prize of the year for that!

by Lance on Dec 13, 2010 10:38 am • linkreport

Regarding the letter to Dr. Gridlock:

If crabbypants takes issue with DDOT's snow removal, then he obviously didn't travel to Arlington, Prince George's, or Montgomery counties during Snowpocalypse. Had he, he would've realized that DDOT, while leaving room for improvement, knocked one out of the park compared to the adjacent counties.

His screed is 400 words, and he mentions 'elite' and 'elitist' 4 times. Gee, I wonder how he voted in the primary.

by bikermark on Dec 13, 2010 10:39 am • linkreport

@bikermark, what alternative reality were you in last winter? I was stuck working from home for 2 weeks because me street was a sheet of ice (created by DDOT's seemingly not knowing that you NEVER put salt down BEFORE a snow fall unless you looking to create an ice base) while my suburban co-workers were back in the office within 2 or 3 days. The problem was here in the District, not elsewhere.

by Lance on Dec 13, 2010 10:47 am • linkreport

@Lance - Actually, putting salt down before snow makes snow removal easier because it creates a brine that does not freeze underneath the snow. Pre-treating is used quite broadly and quite successfully.

The reason there is an ice base is because (a) drivers insisted on driving on 6-8" of snow before it was cleared, packing it down significantly and (b) plow drivers not lowering the plow enough to remove the bottom couple of inches of snow.

by ah on Dec 13, 2010 10:52 am • linkreport

Is there a justification for why the parking tax, which is already double the general sales tax, should be changed to nearly triple the general sales tax rate? Does parking in private garages create some sort of massive externality that parking on the street (hello, RPP folks) or other activities (buying televisions or clothing) does not create?

by ah on Dec 13, 2010 10:53 am • linkreport

His policies ARE elitist in that they give preference to that 5% of commuters who use the District's streets are fortunate enough to be able to both work and live in the District. That's a relatively small elite. To base all your policies on that almost insignificant percentage is not good business --- or fair --- however you look at it.

by Lance on Dec 13, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

Lance, you seem to be letting your feelings about Gabe rewrite history for the snowstorm.

My in-laws' neighborhood in Montgomery County wasn't plowed for a week. Meanwhile, we could walk to the grocery store by the next day, and the street was plowed so delivery trucks could get there; our little street was plowed within a few days.

by David Alpert on Dec 13, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

I'd give my left arm for $12,000 in discretionary income!

by Wes on Dec 13, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

My own little street wasn't plowed or sanded for about a week, no matter what DDOT's nifty online truck tracker thingy said.

by Fritz on Dec 13, 2010 11:00 am • linkreport

What's really ridiculous about the WaPo/Fiscal Times article is that they make "taxes taxes taxes" out to be the horrible demon of these poor working class people, when in reality the tax portion of these calculations make up 26% of their income. According to the Tax Foundation's own craziness (I love how the article describes them as "nonprofit" in order to avoid announcing their political slant) this is completely in line with the average tax burden in the USA. These people aren't being taxed any more than anyone else is.

Let's break down some of the other insanity in this article

$6,000 on gas - @ $3.00 per gallon X 20mpg - 40,000 miles on their cars per year
The aforementioned $420 per month on household cleaning - WTF.
They spend $200 per month on cable/tel/internet and $1220 every month on gas and electric.
They add up all these things like entertainment, gifts, etc. and then ALSO tack on $3,000 for "out of pocket expenses?!" Their list is VERY comprehensive on spending so tacking more on for "extras" just seems dishonest.

Plus aren't they double-counting gas taxes, phone taxes, and sales taxes?

by MLD on Dec 13, 2010 11:01 am • linkreport

Folks, let's keep things in perspective about the bike lanes. There are about 50 miles of striped bike lanes in the District. The Penn-15th cycletrack is less than 3 miles long.

On the other hand, there are over 3,500 lane-miles for cars in the District. Good grief! We're giving priority to who?

by Just161 on Dec 13, 2010 11:04 am • linkreport


Their income is the equivalent to two GS-14’s, middle management positions. Middle management is hardly considered the top of the heap in pay; CEO’s VPs and Partners are, and should be considered the rich. Yes they are living conformably and should be considered upper middle class, but hardily living a luxurious rich lifestyle. 12k sounds like a lot, but even a mild house, medical or even legal emergency can evaporate that savings in no time. Of course basic services sound outrageous when you do yearly cost, but they are only spending $25/week for dry cleaning for two people and $104/week for a maid. My point is that their lifestyle is hardly one expects by being considered rich. Earning at, above or below the statistical median household income doesn’t establish your class, expectations determine that.

by RJ on Dec 13, 2010 11:05 am • linkreport

You know that Dr. Gridlock's correspondent is writing out of ideology, and not out of personal experience, when he says he drives to Tysons Corner to avoid traffic congestion.

And as for the folks with the $250,000 income - remember that under the Democratic tax proposal, their taxes wouldn't go up. The proposal is to increase taxes on the portion of income that exceeds $250,000.

by Ben Ross on Dec 13, 2010 11:06 am • linkreport

@MLD, intresting comment about the gas per year. Whats more intresting if you up there average mpg to say 25 then now they are driving 50,000 miles per year. Thats a lot.

Even if you drop their millage to 15 mpg we are still looing at 30,000. Thats average, but the high end of average.

by Matt R on Dec 13, 2010 11:07 am • linkreport


I was stuck working from home for 2 weeks because me street was a sheet of ice (created by DDOT's seemingly not knowing that you NEVER put salt down BEFORE a snow fall unless you looking to create an ice base) while my suburban co-workers were back in the office within 2 or 3 days. The problem was here in the District, not elsewhere.

Never? Really? On what basis are you making this assertion? Pre-treating roads for ice and snow is quite common.

It's one thing to troll the comments to get a rise out of people. It's another thing to be completely wrong.

by Alex B. on Dec 13, 2010 11:12 am • linkreport

I agree with David on this one. During the snowstorms last year I was able to go to stores, bars, wherever I needed by walking on the streets (without having to put up with car traffic :) and get to work, while my suburban counterparts couldn't go anywhere but stay at home. I remember talking about that once everyone was able to get back to work. The city ( Ward 1, at least ) has that advantage during a snowstorm simply because everything is within walking distance

by dc denizen on Dec 13, 2010 11:13 am • linkreport

Is it just me, or did WaPo gloss over the fact that that poor $250k/year family's tax burden was actually lower in the District than most other suburbs?

By moving to the middle of nowhere, they could save....$5000 in taxes. Living in DC ain't cheap, but I don't think that an extra $5k is going to make or break a family pulling in $250k a year. Complaining about housing prices, or the miserable state of DCPS would be a much more valid argument.

by andrew on Dec 13, 2010 11:17 am • linkreport

One (of many) problems with that Post article is that it seems to be evaluating only the exurban lifestyle. Thus all the vehicle miles and maids to clean their McMansions. If you're a 250k household in the district, you're not driving that much nor do you live in a large house.

Are you Richey Rich rich? No, but by making this a stupid semantics debate, it distracts you from the fact that the amount of families making that much is a very small percentage of the population. That whole article could be boiled down to the following sentence: The cost of living varies by geography and the tax brackets don't take that into account. The end.

by Reid on Dec 13, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

Remember, you want to ride a bike, but don't care how other people live their lives.

Right. The thing to understand is that most American conservatives are motivated entirely by fear, resentment, solipsism, and paranoia. So if you're riding a bike, the paranoia kicks in: "Surely the only reason that person could be riding a bicycle is as a rebuke to me!" Resentment: "Why does that guy on a bike get to ride faster than me??? I'm in a car!!!" Resentment: "That hippie chick on the bike is going to vote to take my car away!!"

Bottom line: if they come to get the sense that Jane Fonda's for it, they're going to become implacable in their opposition to it. This is known as the "F.U. Fonda Effect", and it's the primary motivating factor of modern "conservatism".

by oboe on Dec 13, 2010 11:27 am • linkreport

@ Ben Ross Thanks for pointing that out. It's amazing to me how many taxpayers don't understand marginal tax rates, and how many people with an agenda don't explain it.

The fictional Jones are saving $41K per year, and have $12K in discretionary spending. Meanwhile the median household income in the US is $50K. In other words, the Jones are saving more money per year than half of all Americans make. Cry me a river.

by jcm on Dec 13, 2010 11:29 am • linkreport

The Washington Area Median Income above is out of date. Washington's AMI for 2010-2011, for a family of four, is $103,500.

by crin on Dec 13, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

@ RJ You can define rich however you like, but the fact is the vast majority of Americans would consider $250K per year rich. I'm sure most families making that much don't feel rich, because as we earn more we spend more, and luxuries become necessities in our minds. That doesn't change the fact that families at $250K+ per year are objectively well off.

by jcm on Dec 13, 2010 11:52 am • linkreport

I love the comments about the $250k/year family. Of course that's rich!! Don't try to pretend it's not. But that doesn't mean we have a right to lay claim to their wealth. If you believe that society has a right to a higher percentage of the income of individuals, just say so. The argument should be around that, not what the travel and housing needs are for a hypothetical family earning $250k/year.

by Pat on Dec 13, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

@RJ - only spending $25/week for dry cleaning for two people and $104/week for a maid. I'm embarrassed for anyone who sees this as necessary. You want it and you got the money? Great. But don't pretend you're actual living expenses for a decent secure life are strained because expenses like these are "must haves" for you.

by Tina on Dec 13, 2010 12:05 pm • linkreport

Re: the people who propose increasing the commercial parking tax in the District, I'm curious what they think of the $2/hr meter pricing.

I think $2/hr is about right for many of the desirable areas. But some of the private lots might be $8 or $10 for the first hour, up to $20 or $25 a day.

For no reason other than my attraction to irony, I have an inkling that there might be some of the same people crying bloody murder about the meter increases while advocating for a commercial parking tax increase. I wonder how they would wrap their mind around that one?

by Joey on Dec 13, 2010 12:08 pm • linkreport

@David ... really? It sounds like you were in that alternate reality too. Maybe DDOT gave your street special treatment? I had to wait nearly 2 weeks before the feds said 'enough is enough' and they forced Fenty to bring in contractors ... who had to bring in heavy machinery capable of breaking the packed sheet of ice which DDOT had created ... and then hauling it off in trucks ... Here's a story from the Post PRIOR to the feds mandating that Fenty take some action:

by Lance on Dec 13, 2010 12:19 pm • linkreport

@ Tina:

@RJ - only spending $25/week for dry cleaning for two people and $104/week for a maid. I'm embarrassed for anyone who sees this as necessary. You want it and you got the money? Great. But don't pretend you're actual living expenses for a decent secure life are strained because expenses like these are "must haves" for you.

I'm with you on the maid - totally discretionary. However, $25 week in dry cleaning doesn't strike me as optional if both are professionals. Even if you wash and iron men's shirts, suits, sportcoats, and most women's clothes will require dry-cleaning. Three items a week will get you to $25.

by dcd on Dec 13, 2010 12:20 pm • linkreport

Lance, that story played out all up and down the East Coast. And as David pointed out, that story cites problems in MD and VA as well. What should have been done that wasn't? Where did they handle this better? Should we spend the money needed to be prepared for a once a century storm?

by David C on Dec 13, 2010 12:32 pm • linkreport


In parts of the country where the kinds of snow storms we had here last year or the 'norm' people know how to deal with snow. And a cardinal rule is that once you melt the stuff you've to keep it from re-freezing, because ice is far worse than snow. So, yes, pre-treating for a light snow dusting (like we had last night) would make sense. Or even pre-treating for a heavy snowfall makes sense if you're going to keep crews moving around the clock on all roads so that you can keep the roads sanded and de-iced. But pre-treating in DC given the fact that as a rule they ALWAYS wait for the snow to stop falling before clearing the roads, is the worse thing one can do. It's melts snow ... only to let it be covered with more cold snow which then freezes the melted snow into a sheet of ice. So, when the trucks finally show up after the storm has stopped, there's not only the snow to deal with but the ice under it. This shouldn't be rocket science. This should be something the District can plan for. We have dozens of cities throughout this country where the average snows are far worse than the storms we had last year. Just because we're not going to invest in the equipment and people it takes to clear out the 'exceptional snows' doesn't mean we can't invest in the knowledge for doing the right thing under the right circumstances. If we can't keep trucks running every half hour on roads where we've pre-treated, then we shouldn't be pre-treating in the first place. Yes, doing like they do in other cities (or even on places like the beltway) and pretreating AND plowing would be optimal. But more optimal than creating sheets of ice is just letting it stay as snow until DDOT can remove.

by Lance on Dec 13, 2010 12:33 pm • linkreport

@dcd - while dry cleaning and maid service are discretionary the demand for these services creates jobs. But I suppose you'd rather tax people to have government transfer the wealth directly. Whats that old saying about give a man a fish, teach a man to fish?

Unfortunately many of these people who treat the safety net as more than a temporary place to regain footing are on it far longer than many liberals care to admit. Do you think these TANF recipients are saving for retirement? Of course not. Many of them will be net takers from society until they die of old age.

by Jason on Dec 13, 2010 12:35 pm • linkreport

His policies ARE elitist in that they give preference to that 5% of commuters who use the District's streets are fortunate enough to be able to both work and live in the District.

There's nothing more elitist than allowing a majority of residents of a jurisdiction to set the agenda for that jurisdiction.

by oboe on Dec 13, 2010 12:39 pm • linkreport

@David C:

Too much logic for a Monday. Who cares how MD and VA performed during our multiple "Storm of the Century" incidents. We don't want to compare DDOT's performance to other real-world governments; we want to compare it to some sort of Utopian Platonic ideal of snow removal.

I don't care how much it costs to maintain! Let's get that snow melting machine working again! Dig up the streets! Why not bury warming elements in the macadam. That'll show Old Man Winter! Cost be damned!


by oboe on Dec 13, 2010 12:44 pm • linkreport

@ Lance There is no large city in the US where the kind of snow storms we had last year are normal.

by jcm on Dec 13, 2010 12:46 pm • linkreport

@Oboe: What astounds me is that anyone bothers to debate Lance at all. Anyone reading this blog for more than a month has to know his arguments are based on "what do I likie and think benefits me, and how do I flip my points to that effect". There's no consistent anything there other than that.

Last week, he managed to debate both for and against city funds for the poorer folks at the same time in two threads. When it was an opportunity to cudgel smart growth policy, his heart poured blood for how the money was better spent on the less fortunate. At the exact same time, in another thread he was lipping off like a right-wing conservative.

What was the difference? In the first thread it was a disingenuous effort to bash street cars and smart growth supporters. In the second it was a tax that _he would have to pay_.

Now it's re-writing the history of last year's blizzards.

Seriously, please stop feeding the troll.

by John on Dec 13, 2010 1:22 pm • linkreport

Don't forget his racist comment about Klein's photo!

Seriously, he should be banned--temporarily or permanently--for that crap. In the mean time, it's best just to ignore his disingenuous trolling.

by Reid on Dec 13, 2010 1:27 pm • linkreport

"There's nothing more elitist than allowing a majority of residents of a jurisdiction to set the agenda for that jurisdiction."

Really? And I thought that ol Democracy thing was the best thing since frozen pizza.

If you really feel that way I suggest you move to some place where the overwhelming minority (2% in this case) makes all the decisions. I'd recommend Somalia

by freely on Dec 13, 2010 1:28 pm • linkreport


Seriously? Turn on your sarcasm detector.

by MLD on Dec 13, 2010 1:32 pm • linkreport

Based by his posting history, he wasn't being sarcastic.

If he says he was, then I apologize.

by freely on Dec 13, 2010 1:40 pm • linkreport


I don't know where you hail from originally, but I can guarantee that my hometown is a hell of a lot snowier and colder than yours. And in my cold-weather judgment, DDOT did an excellent job during the snow storms.

The problem wasn't with DDOT, the problem was with the citizens of this city. They don't know how to deal with snow, nor do they understand what to expect. People in DC seem to assume that plowing a street will just make snow disappear - of course, it does not. Snow has to go someplace.

You should stop with the incorrect statements. DC did not wait for the snow to stop falling - they kept plowing the snow emergency routes continuously. That's because they are snow emergency routes. This is what pretty much every snow city in the US does.

The larger issue is that DC residents aren't good about snow. They don't understand that you have to shovel it regularly. They don't know how to drive in it. This isn't their fault, since it happens so infrequently. However, I heard people complaining about their street being unplowed, when it had, in fact, been plowed. Plowing does not magically turn the street into a bare-asphalt speedway.

Literally, every single thing you assert in your statements is factually wrong. There are cities in the US where the average snow event is worse than what DC got on 3 separate occasions last year? Really? Find me this city where the average snowfall event is 15+ inches. You don't even see average snow events like that in ski resort towns! Hell, Minneapolis just got 17 inches of snow and it collapsed the roof of their football stadium.

by Alex B. on Dec 13, 2010 3:13 pm • linkreport

The average total snowfalls in the US is here. Cities near the great lakes have very high amounts of snow -- e.g., Erie PA, 88.8 inches; Syracuse NY, 115.6; Marquette MI, 141.0. I believe that Marquette MI is where they film the snow tire commercials. The amounts these placed get every year with are far greater than what DC got last year, 54.9 inches.

by goldfish on Dec 13, 2010 4:29 pm • linkreport

Lance did not talk about snow totals during a season, he talked about snow totals from one storm.

Show me a city where the average snowfall per storm is more than 15 inches.

by Alex B. on Dec 13, 2010 4:37 pm • linkreport

@Alex B:

As you can see by goldfish's helpful breakdown, Lance is quite compelling to those who aren't paying attention. He just sounds *right*.


by oboe on Dec 13, 2010 4:46 pm • linkreport

@Alex -- The data is not tabulated that way; when it snows for days on end with a few breaks, what constitutes an "event" ?

In any case, check out the upper peninsula of Michigan. The lake effect snows are incredible. Herman MI averages 260 inches per year -- maybe their average event (however you define it) is less than 15 inches, but you may be assured that that amount of snow happens often enough, and that they can deal with it.

by goldfish on Dec 13, 2010 4:58 pm • linkreport

@Oboe -- I do not appreciate being told what I agree with, nor your belittlement of my contributions to this board.

by goldfish on Dec 13, 2010 5:02 pm • linkreport


The reason I asked to break it up into each individual event is because no place in the US averages 15 inches per storm. That's an insane amount of snow.

I've also spent a great deal of time in Michigan's UP. Rest assured, they deal with the snow far better than DC residents do. They get by just fine. However, I'll still bet Lance would be complaining that his street wasn't completely plowed. Here's a hint - in snowy locales, the side streets are covered in snow all winter long - the rarely get down to bare pavement. That's because people there know how to drive in it.

by Alex B. on Dec 13, 2010 5:02 pm • linkreport


Yes, places that get a lot of YEARLY snowfall have the ability to deal with it. They spend lots of money on lots of shiny snowplows because they get LOTS of snow. DC shouldn't be shelling out tons of money so we can have the equipment required to deal with a once-in-a-century snowstorm. That's just stupid.

by MLD on Dec 13, 2010 5:17 pm • linkreport

Last year MD estimated they spent some 50 million on the storms. I do not have the figures on if that is per storm of for the whole winter, but that is a lot of money, and it does not count what local governments spent.

Some people made the argument that if we get a winter like that again the state should just not plow the roads. I know that's extreme, but a fair argument.

What would it have cost to do a better job 100 million, 200 million?

by Matt R on Dec 13, 2010 5:30 pm • linkreport


You said:

"DC shouldn't be shelling out tons of money so we can have the equipment required to deal with a once-in-a-century snowstorm. That's just stupid."

DC has plenty of snow removal equipment. The trick is keeping it maintained (which takes money) and properly training equipment operators in the care, feeding and (most importantly) use of said equipment. In the latter regard, DC has improved a great deal since February 2003 (the last major, city-crippling snow event prior to December 2009), and it's simply a matter of keeping the plows in good shape and keeping the driver pool educated. In 2009-10, DC didn't have to pay New Jersey's DOT to have their plows and drivers caravan down to DC (after the NJ roads were long done) to finish the job that DDOT's drivers at the time couldn't.

It's similar to what needs to happen with many DC residents: if you get a good snow shovel and learn to use it properly (e.g. shovel early and often, pre-treat the sidewalks, don't use it to lift HUGE amounts of snow in one scoop), it'll last more than one storm. Same philosophy as with the plow equipment.

by Rudi on Dec 13, 2010 6:03 pm • linkreport

@Lance -- I'm not sure when I started biking again after the snow, but I wasn't stuck in the house for two weeks. But I will admit the second snowstorm exceeded the capability of DDOT to clear snow, even if we could still get around. I was commuting to Towson, and while I missed days, partly this was because Balt. County Government was closed as well, even on days I could have gotten there.

And Suzanne and I were fully able to walk, sure the snow was unevenly removed by various households, during and after the snowstorms.

You live in Dupont Circle right? Likely that area was much more traversable during and after the snowstorm than the relatively suburban part of the city that I live in. Even so, we could walk in the street:

My 2 year old next door neighbor Marina managed just fine:

I'm sorry you're not as mobile.

The great thing about the city is generally it is more resilient during snows than the suburbs, because you can still get around on foot and on transit, depending on how robust WMATA is/isn't.

by Richard Layman on Dec 13, 2010 6:09 pm • linkreport

@Rudi In 2009-10, DC didn't have to pay New Jersey's DOT to have their plows and drivers caravan down to DC (after the NJ roads were long done) to finish the job that DDOT's drivers at the time couldn't.

Actually ... DDOT DID do something like that last winter. At the feds' request, no make that at the feds' 'orders', it brought in tons of contractor crews to clear the roads because DDOT couldn't handke the job. It couldn't handle the job because something like 2/3rds of equipment was 'down' because it hadn't been maintained properly. So, no, while Klein was busy playing with agenda items that affect 5% of the commuters using the District's roads, the basics were going undone.

by Lance on Dec 13, 2010 7:21 pm • linkreport

@Richard, You live in Dupont Circle right? Likely that area was much more traversable during and after the snowstorm than the relatively suburban part of the city that I live in.

Richard, the Metro bus that got stuck (in the story I posted) that had to be towed out was on my street which is a very busy east/west cross street for the neighborhood. Or least normally is. It was nearly impassable for at least a week and a half because it was a sheet of ice (which is why the Metro bus got stuck on it). It took the feds ordering in contractors to clear the sheet of ice. And lo and behold, they got it done in one night! Makes you wonder why DDOT let it sit around that long. Why they couldn't have brought the contractors in on their own if they couldn't handle it. (And it took another half week after that to get the alley clear enough to drive out of it ... hence the 2 weeks I mentioned. I know DDOT doesn't do alleys ... Kinda like 'we don't windows' ... )

by Lance on Dec 13, 2010 7:32 pm • linkreport

Sorry you weren't able to get your car out of the alley, Lance. Had you the opportunity to drive around a bit, you would have noticed that DC's snow removal was far, far superior to Arlington's. While Arlington's main arteries were still covered with snow and ice, ours were already plowed down to the asphalt, and even some secondary roads were passable.

by Phil on Dec 13, 2010 8:00 pm • linkreport

You gotta love rich people not realizing that they're rich. Oh oh oh, paying the maid is so expensive. Try being the maid, and come back telling me you're not rich. You may not be Donald Trump with $250k a year, but you're certainly not middle-class, nor poor.

by Jasper on Dec 13, 2010 8:55 pm • linkreport

@Phil, Yes actually I heard that Arlington was worse than DC. Surprising given that Fairfax and other NoVa jurisdiction weren't. But then again, maybe not since Arlington is the place we keep reading about on here that we should be just like.

by Lance on Dec 13, 2010 10:40 pm • linkreport

Didn't know about the problems with that particular road, my apologies.

by Richard Layman on Dec 14, 2010 6:46 am • linkreport

I grew up in Canada and moved here from Milwaukee WI. My husband also lived in Ohio and WI. We both commented we have never in our lives (both in our 50's) seen snow like we had this past winter. We had on snow fall of almost 28 inches (according to AU, which we live near) and a few days later we got 16 inches.

No city can deal with that amount of snow in such a short period of time. I also do not want to buy equipment that sits around for years, waiting for the one time in 50 years when we might need it. Talk about a waste of money.

It would have helped if people had gotten off their duffs and shoveled their sidewalks. I am astounded at how lazy people are in this city. They want someone else to do their work for them. And don't give me the argument that old people can't do this. We had old people in Canada and Milwaukee as well. They figured out how to get their sidewalks shoveled.

So Washington, stop your whinning. Help your neighbors and get some excercise. Don't expect someone else to do it for you. We managed to go to two plays in that time and had no trouble getting around. But then we know how to drive in snow.

by SP on Dec 14, 2010 9:52 am • linkreport

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