Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Moving along


Photo by Steve Rhodes on Flickr.
DC area to start TIGER projects: MWCOG will begin work on regional bus projects as part of the first round TIGER grant from USDOT. Fairfax County will install bus signal prioritization along Leesburg Pike, PG will improve 10 bus stops on Addison Road, and the District will install real-time arrival screens at high-traffic bus stops. (Examiner)

15th St. bike lanes almost complete: The 15th Street NW cycletracks are almost done, though some parking and wayfinding signage is still lacking. Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Avenue lanes now connect all the way to the 15th street lanes. (WABA)

Long Branch starts to deal with reality of Purple Line: Long Branch has begun writing a sector plan in anticipation of the Purple Line which will have two stops in the east Montgomery County community. Residents are concerned about maintaining the community's housing affordability. (TBD)

Why PG is corrupt, McCartney version: Bob McCartney gives his own take on why Prince George's County has a corruption problem. Two county employees looked at the problem last week here. (Post)

Transit benefit preserved: The tax break that allows pretax deductions for transit of up to $230equal to the longstanding deduction for parkingwas retained in the tax bill that passed the Senate yesterday. The extension will only last a year, though, assuming the bill passes the House. (Baltimore Sun)

Montgomery launching snow map: Montgomery County is launching a new tool for residents to track snowplows. It seems to use the same technology as Howard County's. DC already has its own map as well.

I-395 project gets another face lift: After some grumblings last week that the northernmost proposed building in the I-395 air rights project was boring and outdated, the developers have released some updated renderings, which show three distinct buildings rather than two large towers joined by a sky bridge. (The Triangle)

AAA: Stop hating on bikes and peds: Rails-to-Trails delivered a petition to AAA asking the group to stop lobbying against bicycle and pedestrian funding. 51,377 people signed the petition, 2/3 of whom were AAA members. (Streetsblog Capitol Hill)

And...: Tommy Wells' controversial bill requiring proof of residency for family shelter moved forward last week. The final vote comes next Tuesday. (Post, Tim Hampton) ... Mayor-elect Gray met with District business leaders to discuss how his administration can increase employment in the city. (WAMU) ... The Nats want to add their "curly W" to Metro station signs at Navy Yard and to the system map. (JDLand)

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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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The McCartney article is the most damning thing I've seen yet on PG corruption.

It's worth pointing specifically to the economic consequences: every dollar paid to a corrupt official is a tax on the county's inhabitants and will, one way or another, be rolled into the cost of development in any realistic business plan. In particular-- because the sort of good-and-smart development that PG needs is more risky, more expensive, and less profitable than generic suburban sprawl-- it means PG will continue to fall behind its neighbors in the quality of development.

by MattF on Dec 14, 2010 8:57 am • linkreport

That's a shame about the transit subsidy. That was our only hope for improving Metro and their staff.

by Peter on Dec 14, 2010 9:00 am • linkreport

@peter Really strange comment. However, I do believe that congress should have cut the subsidy which is widely abused by the beneficiaries.

by Interested on Dec 14, 2010 9:19 am • linkreport

Cutting the benefit wouldn't have fixed any problems at Metro. It would just have meant cutting service.

by David Alpert on Dec 14, 2010 9:21 am • linkreport

For all the flack Wells takes from the law-and-order crowd, it's pretty clear his positions on these issues have been evolving to reflect his constituents evolution.

Juvenile justice? Wells introduced (and got passed) a major reform to the laws that allowed government agencies to share information about juveniles who had been convicted of crimes. That means that MPD and DCHA (and DCPS, etc...) can be informed of previous "convictions" and so forth.

Now Wells is introducing legislation that would have been *unthinkable* in DC a decade or more ago--much to the chagrin of folks in MD and VA who think it's not even controversial that DC's primary role is as the region's homeless shelter.

Whether either of these pieces of legislation are going to be perfectly effective (unlikely), or even effective at all, they're a barometer of how much the political center-of-gravity has moved in DC. Still liberal, still socially-conscious, still open-minded--just not so open-minded our brains fall out on the floor. It's a damned good sign.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2010 9:28 am • linkreport

I am glad to see the transit subsidy restored - if the government can justify having any commuting subsidy, it should evenly benefit those using transit as those using parking facilities.

by DCster on Dec 14, 2010 9:29 am • linkreport

Cutting the subsidy like what might happen would not only cut Metro ridership, but it would also reduce the average fare since it's the longest distance riders that will most likely leave. Unless Metro comes up with a way to start turning more trains around early, it will be much worse for Metro than any general ridership decrease.

by Michael Perkins on Dec 14, 2010 9:32 am • linkreport

I'd be curious to know how much the transit benefit actually helped WMATA.

It seems on the margins, the biggest users (by dollars) would have been people coming in from the outmost stations ($12/day or 230 a month). For people inside the beltway, I suspect the $130/month would be enough to cover it.

The agencies that would rely on that benefit extension the most (in this area) would be the commuter rail and long-distance commuter buses.

by charlie on Dec 14, 2010 9:37 am • linkreport

It's not that they want to just add the curly "W" to the station signs, they want the official name of the station to have the trademark in it. That is ridiculous. How do you pronounce that? It'll be like the station formerly known as Navy Yard.

Not to mention that the ANC wants the station name to also have "Capital Riverfront" in it too. Now it would be Navy Yard/Capital River Front/W.

This excessive naming crap needs to end.

by Reid on Dec 14, 2010 9:38 am • linkreport

No more station re-namings. Please make it stop.

We must draw a line in the sand.

by Alex B. on Dec 14, 2010 9:41 am • linkreport

Oh, just one more point (from the Post article):

Council members Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) voted against the bill. They said that it would contradict the city's reputation for compassion.

Seriously, just FYI guys: the city has developed quite a reputation over the last few decades, but it hasn't been for "compassion."

by oboe on Dec 14, 2010 9:45 am • linkreport

It's not that they want to just add the curly "W" to the station signs, they want the official name of the station to have the trademark in it. That is ridiculous. How do you pronounce that? It'll be like the station formerly known as Navy Yard.

Isn't it enough we've collectively shat on the name "Washington National Airport". Now we've got to give a shout-out to the worst US president in modern history, too?

Man, this is such a weird country sometimes.

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

How much money would need to raise to change back all the station names to their original, short titles? If the Nats really want their name on there, and the station maps, then they should be willing to be pay a whopping sum for all the free advertising. Wait, what is Metro's current operating budget gap?

As for the bus improvements, weren't the traffic signal devices also supposed to be part of TIGER improvements in DC? If so, when are those starting?

by Adam L on Dec 14, 2010 10:00 am • linkreport

Is it possible to cut the federal transit subsidy, but keep the maximum pre-tax amount at $230? In other words, everyone can get up to $230 in transit money per month, through a combination of pre-tax deduction and employer benefit, but federal employees only get up to $120 per month as a benefit from the government.

If that's possible, I'd like to see the parking benefit moved in that direction too: you only get $120 from the government, but you can take out another $110 pre-tax.

by Tim on Dec 14, 2010 10:03 am • linkreport

So wait, the 15th street lane is still going to stop at V and not go all the way to W to connect with the lane there? Epic fail.

by RT on Dec 14, 2010 10:08 am • linkreport

Do any federal agencies really give a parking subsidy? I thought they either simply gave them free parking (yes, a form of subsidy but not the same) or made them pay without a benefit.

by Reid on Dec 14, 2010 10:09 am • linkreport

Perhaps BDC (or someone else) knows this, but does this TIGER funding also include bus improvements I've heard about (*NOT* CCPY-related) along Route 1 in Virginia? Thought I remembered Route 1 being part of the application.

Regarding the transit subsidy and its effects on Metro, what if they dropped both the transit and parking subsidy to $120? (similar to what Tim just suggested)

by Froggie on Dec 14, 2010 10:10 am • linkreport

+1 to oboe's comments on the Metro station naming and the "compassion" of Councilmembers and welfare benefits.

by Fritz on Dec 14, 2010 10:14 am • linkreport

@Tim

The article says nothing about the transit subsidy for federal workers, it only mentions the pre-tax program that is available for any employer to set up for their employees.

by Alex B. on Dec 14, 2010 10:15 am • linkreport

I'd be in support of renaming the Navy Yard station, and removing "Navy Yard" from the name entirely -- there are more notable landmarks nearby.

I'd go with "Ballpark/Capital Riverfront"

(And, no. There's no way in hell that we're putting the Nats' name in there. Who knows how long that franchise will last?)

by andrew on Dec 14, 2010 10:17 am • linkreport

I'm not sure what's a more notable landmark in the neighborhood than one that's been there since 1799.

by JD on Dec 14, 2010 10:20 am • linkreport

@Tim; I've thought of the same thing.

and for federal workers who really use the system (over $130/month) could get up to the 230, but they would have to take it out of their pre-tax income.

by charlie on Dec 14, 2010 10:21 am • linkreport

@andrew

I'd suggest that if your station name requires a slash or a dash or a hyphen, then it automatically fails.

The Navy Yard is the Navy Yard. Leave it be.

This whole station renaming process is a giant tragedy of the commons. Everyone wants their station renamed to reflect their brand and their location, and the end result is the entire system is muddled and you get absurd names like the Adams Morgan station that isn't even close to Adams Morgan, or a random high school appended to U St.

Stop the madness. Stop it now. The only name changes allowed should be name shortenings, not additions. Make U St Station back to U St Station.

by Alex B. on Dec 14, 2010 10:22 am • linkreport

@charlie

Transit subsidy is a decision that an employer makes. If that employer wants to offer the benefit, that's great - even if that employer is the Federal government.

The pre-tax transit benefit is a tax code decision that affects the ability of an employer to even offer their employees the choice to make pre-tax deductions for the purposes of using transit.

This is a huge difference. People need to stop conflating the two. They are not the same. The first is essentially a local HR decision, the second is a major change to tax law that potentially affects every commuter in the US.

by Alex B. on Dec 14, 2010 10:26 am • linkreport

Re: station names. While we're at it, let's purge some of the outdated station names. Gallery Place? The name of a failed pedestrianization scheme in front of the Portrait Gallery. Waterfront-SEU? SEU is defunct. And the unlamented Waterfront Mall is gone. (Although the actual "waterfront" is within walking distance.)

by Paul on Dec 14, 2010 10:35 am • linkreport

@Alex B.: IIRC, the federal government, either by law or by regulation, provides up to the maximum allowed by tax code for parking and transit benefits. The story linked to above is from the Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore folk don't care about federal personnel matters quite like we do in DC, so that's probably why the subsidy part of it wasn't mentioned.

And yes, it is a decision employers make. However, since the employer is the federal government, and I'm a citizen, I'm essentially the employer. For that $110 difference between $120 and $230, there's a huge cost difference between a tax-free deduction and a straight up subsidy.

Plus, as a citizen, I'd rather not encourage employees of my government to live in the suburbs. The transit subsidy makes commuting costs the same for federal employees living in Dupont Circle and Springfield. I'd rather my employees feel the difference between urban and suburban living.

by Tim on Dec 14, 2010 10:35 am • linkreport

SEU is probably going to get removed from Waterfront station, and Arena Stage added. (SEU removal was supported with ANC 6D vote last night.) And Waterfront is now the name of the office building(s) on top of the station (the old one was Waterside Mall).

by JD on Dec 14, 2010 10:38 am • linkreport

@Alex B.: Here we are: http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=46705

by Tim on Dec 14, 2010 10:39 am • linkreport

@Tim

All I ask is that you channel your comments about Federal HR through a discussion about Federal HR.

Trying to grind that particular axe in a much broader discussion about pre-tax transit benefits is barking up the wrong tree. It also furthers the misconception that these benefits only apply to federal workers, when they do not. No one is well served by conflating these discussions, whether they do it intentionally or not.

by Alex B. on Dec 14, 2010 10:45 am • linkreport

@Alex B

Yes, people need to recognize the difference between:

- The tax provision for the transit benefit (set to drop to $120 unless it's included in the tax bill). This affects everyone who gets a subsidy from your employer or whose employer lets them take pre-tax money out of their paycheck. This is a law.

- Whether the federal government gives their employees a subsidy for transit or not and how much that subsidy is (currently they give you whatever you need up to the full amount allowed by law). This is a government HR decision.

I've seen some cost estimates for keeping the transit benefit at the higher level. I don't know if those included both the tax implications AND the direct cost to the government, but I assume that they only included the tax cost (lost IRS revenue).

by MLD on Dec 14, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

No more metro station name extensions. Navy Yard is fine. There certainly should be no registered trademarks in metro station names (yeah, that means dropping all the universities as well).

by Jasper on Dec 14, 2010 10:53 am • linkreport

@Alex B.: I think this is the perfect place to talk about this. GGW has in the past written about the subsidy (e.g.: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/5859/is-the-federal-transit-benefit-actually-bad/). Plus, the subsidy is strongly linked to the pre-tax maximum: when the pre-tax maximum changes, the subsidy changes with it.

My discussion about this topic starting with asking whether the federal government could change the pre-tax maximum without increasing the subsidy. Considering the fact that, as it currently stands, Congress will change both simultaneously, I believe this to be an extremely relevant question to ask when discussing the benefit as a whole. It's even more relevant since we're in the D.C. area.

As for furthering the misconception that these benefits only apply to federal workers, keep in minds that when Congress extends the pre-tax maxmimum, federal workers are the only employees who, by law, will be eligible for a higher subsidy than they would have without the extension. Yes, other employers may do the same, and most likely will. But the federal government is required to.

So yes, the two discussions are very much linked, and they will remain linked until and unless Congress (or OPM, if it has the power to) unlinks them by capping the federal transit subsidy at a lower rate than the maximum pre-tax allowance.

by Tim on Dec 14, 2010 10:57 am • linkreport

@AlexB; dude, chill.

What are the numbers for the number of people in the metro area using the private pre-tax benefit vs. the number of people getting the federal subsidy?

The last numbers I saw suggested about half the federal civilian work force in the area -- about 120,000 -- receive the transit subsidy.

I'm a bit confused about whether uniformed DOD employees get the subsidy.

by charlie on Dec 14, 2010 11:06 am • linkreport

"However, DC law does not require cyclists to use bike lanes, paths, cycletracks or trails where they are provided, and cyclists should feel free to ride northbound by whichever method–travel lanes or cycletrack–they prefer."

I understand that DC law does not require cyclists to bike in the new cycle track, but I cannot tell you how much it irks most Washingtonians to have something like the cycle track built, only to have cyclistsduring the middle of rush hour, which I witnessed yesterday. To most people, especially many in the 15th street neighnborhood, they would question building this infastructure at all if the cycle community is not going to encourage people to use them. This is from someone in the neighborhood who was originally against building the cycle track and who has now come around. Just a thought.

by Claude Henry Smoote on Dec 14, 2010 11:09 am • linkreport

@Tim,

As for furthering the misconception that these benefits only apply to federal workers, keep in minds that when Congress extends the pre-tax maxmimum, federal workers are the only employees who, by law, will be eligible for a higher subsidy than they would have without the extension. Yes, other employers may do the same, and most likely will. But the federal government is required to.

Is this policy of the federal government (giving employees a needed amount up to the full benefit limit) enshrined in the law? If so can you show us where?

Because the link you provided earlier says:
Each federal agency determines how much employees receive and how those benefits are distributed.

by MLD on Dec 14, 2010 11:20 am • linkreport

Sorry, I meant to say, "I cannot tell you how much it irks most Washingtonians to have something like the cycle track built, only to have cyclists casually ride northbound in one of the other lanes during the middle of rush hour, which I witnessed yesterday."

by Claude Henry Smoot on Dec 14, 2010 11:20 am • linkreport

@charlie

Calmer than you are, dude.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/26/AR2010102605955.html

This article doesn't differentiate between pre-tax and subsidy users (unfortunately), but it does offer some data from Metro:

About 170,000 federal workers and 115,000 employees at private companies in the Washington area use the transit benefit, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said. He could not say how many of those commuters were prompted to sign up since the higher transit subsidy took effect. A Transportation Department spokesman said that across the country, the increase boosted participation by 3 percent at 110 federal agencies.

The broader issue with regard to transportation is ensuring that the transit benefit is at least equal with the parking benefit. This change in the law that allowed up to $230 a month achieved that parity, if only temporarily.

For those that argue this benefit encourages long commutes, I don't disagree. I'd be willing to knock it down so long as the parking benefit were decreased as well.

by Alex B. on Dec 14, 2010 11:22 am • linkreport

I don't know anyone at any federal agencies that gets actual money for parking, they just get space in the building. (Which is a giant subsidy, but not quite the same as handing out cash.)

In theory (other than fact that SESer all get parking) its a pretty good system. Carpools and Vanpools with people who work in the buiidling get the first shot at parking spaces, carpools and vanpools with people who work in other buildings get second priority and then single drivers. There are some limited time "hardship" spots for people who might be coming or going at odd hours because of an ill family member or injured people not qualified for a "disability tag." Lots of the spots go to single drivers though. The "new staff" (anyone hired in the last decade)tend to be more transit oriented and less carpool oriented.

by Kate on Dec 14, 2010 11:23 am • linkreport

I just want to know how long it's going to be before Walgreens sues the Nats for copyright infringement.

by ksu499 on Dec 14, 2010 11:25 am • linkreport

@Claude Henry Smoote

As an only causal biker, if all bicycle lanes were like the one on 15th Street, separated from vehicle traffic, I would certainly use them more. The problem with other bicycle lanes which are little more than paint on the road... it's easy to get clipped by a turning car or slam right into an opening car door.

by Adam L on Dec 14, 2010 11:28 am • linkreport

Uniformed DoD get the subsidy.

by Thomas on Dec 14, 2010 11:35 am • linkreport

Two wrongs don't make a right. Get rid of the parking and transit subsidies. I don't know why the commentators on this aren't all over this topic. Maybe this would encourage people to live closer to work and promote urbanism. Let's stop paying people more if they drive or take the metro and encourage walking and bicycle transportation.

by Pat on Dec 14, 2010 11:35 am • linkreport

@Alex; you should see what happens when I drink coffee.

Article is interesting, and it tracks with my numbers, but only deals with WMATA:

120,000 federal civilian workers*
50,000 DOD
115,000 private workers

Out of those 115,000 private workers some percentage get Metro riding for free (another subsidy) and the rest get it out of pre-tax (I suspect the large majority)

Do WMATA workers get free Metro rides?

* The source I had said 1/2 of the federal workers in the area get the transit subsidy, but some, clearly also use MARC/VRE/commuter buses.

Tim's original idea of keeping the transit benefit, but cutting the federal subsidy is nota bad one.

Equalizing the two (parking and transit) seems a bit unfair in the sense that parking is one part of expense of driving to work, while transit should cover 100%. Giving people a larger percentage to get them off the roads, however, makes a certain amount of sense. Presumably some people are deducting the cost of driving (50 cents a mile?) as well.

I'll admit to deliberately not understanding most things related to HR, but is the $230 month for ANY parking (drive to work), or just commuter-parking (drive to a WMATA parking lot)

The cleanest thing to do is eliminate all these fringe benefits and just tax them. I wonder what we are talking about in terms of nationwide totals.

by charlie on Dec 14, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

@Claude Henry Smoote:

I understand that DC law does not require cyclists to bike in the new cycle track, but I cannot tell you how much it irks most Washingtonians to have something like the cycle track built, only to have cyclists during the middle of rush hour, which I witnessed yesterday

Are "most Washingtonians" really "irked" by this? Or just the minority that commutes by car.

Anyway, I was thinking about this the other day:

I understand that DC law does not require drivers to drive on Beach Drive on weekdays, but I cannot tell you how much it irks most Washingtonian drivers to have something like Connecticut Ave built, only to have drivers scooting around in the Park during the middle of rush hour, which I witnessed yesterday.

I guess the bottom line is that drivers (and cyclists) are going to use the public facilities that are convenient to them. I'm sure you find my suggestion that you should choose your driving route with the goal of maximizing my convenience to be completely ridiculous, and bordering on a nutty solipsism.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2010 11:51 am • linkreport

re: "irks most Washingtonian drivers"

Read "irks most Washington bicycle riders"...

by oboe on Dec 14, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

@charlie:

Out of those 115,000 private workers some percentage get Metro riding for free (another subsidy) and the rest get it out of pre-tax (I suspect the large majority)

This is a question that probably can't be answered by WMATA, because of the way the system works. Companies handle the actual collecting of the money themselves, and just send a list to WMATA that says "put $150 on card #XXXXX, $200 on card #YYYYY.

I'll admit to deliberately not understanding most things related to HR, but is the $230 month for ANY parking (drive to work), or just commuter-parking (drive to a WMATA parking lot)

It is for any parking. You can use it for WMATA parking as well as parking in your building. You can collect BOTH the transit benefit AND the parking benefit for WMATA; WMATA limits you to $105 per month for parking ($4.75X22 working days).

The cleanest thing to do is eliminate all these fringe benefits and just tax them. I wonder what we are talking about in terms of nationwide totals.

Here's the problem with this (someone correct me if I'm wrong on history):
Prior to 1984, parking was treated as a tax-free fringe benefit, regardless of the cost of parking. When the instituted the transit benefit in the 90s, they lowered the amount that could be treated as tax-free for parking.

The question is, if you stop treating $230 worth of parking as a tax-free fringe benefit, what happens to those places that provide special parking for employees that is not available to anyone else but is not charged for? What if your business/company just has a lot and any employee can park there and it's free and a free-for-all? Clearly that has a value but right now there's no value put on it (because there's no price). So what do those employers do now that this benefit is no longer tax-free?

by MLD on Dec 14, 2010 12:00 pm • linkreport

@MLD; I'd agree that is why this change won't happen. But I hate parking lots -- possibly even more than Shoup does -- and the real damage of free parking isn't it cities but in suburban office parks.

Sigh. There really are days when a VAT and a small flat tax look good.

by charlie on Dec 14, 2010 12:06 pm • linkreport

@oboe

Wow. You are witty. My point is that the cycling community needs public support for projects like the 15th street bike lane. It would go a long way if you would lose the sarcastic, righteous indignation that seems all to common within the cycling community and use the infastructure that was just built for you, rather than slowing down drivers, whose tax money helped finance your precious bike lane. It's simple PR.

You only need to look to most recent election to discover that you aren't the most beloved community. If you want projects like 15th street to continue, you are going to need public buy in. Otherwise, politicians and transportation planners will just abstain from building these things for fear of community backlash.

To your last point, the bike lane that was just built on 15th is as safe and convenient as the other northbound lanes. Wouldn't you say that true solipsism would be to occupy one of the other northbound lanes rather than the bike lane?

FYI: I don't even drive on 15th. It's an observation from someone who lives in the neighborhood. So why don't you grow-up and lose the attitude.

by Claude Henry Smoote on Dec 14, 2010 12:14 pm • linkreport

Yes. Let's remove the "Navy Yard" name entirely.

Once upon a time, it was the only notable landmark in the area. Today, it's mostly closed to the public, is fairly far from the Metro station, and has very few visitors arriving to it via Metro.

On the other hand, the neighborhood is embracing the "Riverfront" name, and the ballpark is a very obvious destination directly adjacent to the station. I'd like to remove the "slash" names, but this one seems like a reasonable compromise.

I'm a bit less gung-ho about the Arena Stage idea, but I can see where they're coming from.

by andrew on Dec 14, 2010 12:39 pm • linkreport

@Claude Henry Smoote

Thank you! So refreshing to read that!

by Pat on Dec 14, 2010 1:34 pm • linkreport

@Claude:

I'll just reiterate the two salient points you ignored. First, as a car-commuter in DC, you're in the minority.

Second, bicyclists will use the facilities that are most convenient to them. I still hold that appealing to the cyclist's sense of ensuring your convenience is a lost cause. If 100% of cyclists aren't using that facility, then it's less convenient (or safe, or recognizable, or whatever) than the alternate path.

As someone pointed out earlier, it's a cyclist's right to ride on the street. The numbers of cyclists are only increasing. Therefore, it's in *your* interest as a driver to ensure the growth of bike facilities in the city--certainly as much (or more so) than in my interest as a cyclist. I don't have any problem getting around the city now, thanks.

As far as:

You only need to look to most recent election to discover that you aren't the most beloved community. If you want projects like 15th street to continue, you are going to need public buy in. Otherwise, politicians and transportation planners will just abstain from building these things for fear of community backlash.

This only makes sense for those that see the Fenty / Gray election as a referendum on bike lanes. While that's questionable, what's not questionable at all is that every single person with an agenda is arguing that the Fenty / Gray election is a referendum on their particular pet cause.

In other words, Gray's win had nothing to do with bike lanes, it was a win for the WTU and a repudiation of reform. No, it was a win for charter school supporters over Fenty's facilities policies. Or, no wait, it was a win for the anti-Gentrifiers against the Developers. Or wait, it was a win for East of the River against West of the River. Or emailers versus Twitterers. Ad nauseum. Everyone wants the credit.

One last thing, and you see this a lot, one doesn't build a political consensus by "flattering Some Guy on the Internet." Obviously it's important to be civil, and I'm sorry you took offense at my frank language, but I think the argument that "Your preferred policy objectives will fail unless you butter me, personally, up" is a loser.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2010 3:19 pm • linkreport

@ smoote What is this unbeloved community you speak of, and when was it on the ballot? Both mayoral candidates in the last election had supportive things to say about bicycling.

by Read Scott Martin on Dec 14, 2010 3:20 pm • linkreport

I do enjoy oboe arguing that drivers are a minority of commuters. Where does that statistic come from?

Bike commuters are around 4% - and that's being very highly generous with the math.

Which means that some 96% of commuters aren't cyclists.

The Metro Washington Council of Gov'ts issued its poll results last summer finding some two-thirds of commuters drove by themselves; inside the Beltway, that number drops to about 50%.

Don't confuse this website's echo chamber with actual statistics.

And while I agree that the election was not a referendum on bike lanes, it was, for some, a referendum on what can be referred to as "things white people like." Hence all the uproar over the amount of money spent on things like bike lanes, dog parks, and streetcars; the support for Michelle Rhee and her version of education reform; and the lack of concern over gentrification and "The Plan."

However, given Gray's budget and personnel moves, I think people are fooling themselves into thinking that DDOT will be spending money on these sorts of transportation projects that benefit a very small minority of people, particularly given that they've lost their Unified Fund. DDOT will not have to battle all other agencies for the ever-shrinking pot of money, rather than just using that Fund to pay for whatever they wanted.

by Fritz on Dec 14, 2010 4:35 pm • linkreport

@Fritz

Bike lanes are really cheap compared to new roads and new auto capacity. I'm not sure why you bring up cost alone - the key concept would be cost-effectiveness.

Likewise, I don't get the focus on commute trips. Yes, that's what we have data for. We also have data that shows commute trips only account for 20% of all trips.

by Alex B. on Dec 14, 2010 4:44 pm • linkreport

I do enjoy oboe arguing that drivers are a minority of commuters. Where does that statistic come from?

Sure, I'll elaborate.

Something like 35% of DC residents commute by car. However you slice it, that's a minority. Obviously we're talking about DC residents (i.e. voters), not all commuters in the region. Residents are the salient group here, since we're talking about policies enacted by the DC government; a government elected by DC residents.

While it would be nice if MD and VA residents got to vote in local DC elections, we don't do that currently, so obviously their policy preferences get the short shrift.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2010 4:56 pm • linkreport

And while I agree that the election was not a referendum on bike lanes, it was, for some, a referendum on what can be referred to as "things white people like."

Well, now, since you went there... ;)

I would point out that, with the median household income in DC now at $80k, and all future demographic trends pointing in that direction, it would seem to me that "Things Middle-Class Urban People Like" [which, while not as catchy, is what we're really talking about with TWPL] are going to continue to gain traction in the coming years and decades.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2010 5:00 pm • linkreport

According to the 2009 ACS, 36.5% of people in DC (people who live in DC, the people DC Gov't is directly responsible to) drove to work alone.

Another 37.1% took public transportation.
Another 11.1% walked.
Another 6.7% carpooled.
etc.

Granted this isn't everyone who uses DC roads. But at least it's the people who can vote the mayor and the council in and out of office.

As to MWCOG's survey, it's not confined to people who work in DC. What percentage of that two-thirds live in one outer ring place and drive to another outer ring place? Your "actual statistics" don't reflect at all who uses DC roads on a daily basis, that study captures those people plus who knows how many other people. In their survey 46% of people in the "Inner Core" (Alexandria, Arlington, DC) drove to work alone - but that doesn't say where they work so we have no way of knowing if they drive into DC or way out to someplace else. Personally I think they should add this data to their survey as it would be extremely interesting to see the breakdowns on car/transit use for different home/work locations.

Census data for DC at least captures a portion of people traveling in/out/around the District every day - the people who live there. So next time you want to pull out some "data" and use it as the be-all and end-all of a discussion try picking some data points that make sense.

Here's the survey: http://www.mwcog.org/uploads/committee-documents/al5YW19X20100721135321.pdf

by MLD on Dec 14, 2010 5:14 pm • linkreport

@Fritz

Couldn't have said it better myself.

I guess my problem is that I don't understand why we should fund WABA's interests if they are going to continue to advocate that cyclists don't need to use the infrastructure that was just built for them, especially when it is a protected and safe bike lane. From a PR perspective, it seems like they are shooting themselves in the foot.

Dear DDOT: Please build the infrastructure for those in our community, even though once it is built, we think they should be able to do whatever they want. MKthanks. WABA

And here is the Gray campaign flyer. It's open to interpretation, but I would agree with Fritz's take that while the campaign wasn't solely on bike lanes, they were used as a wedge issue. Just my 2 cents. I guess we will see in the coming months.

http://www.thewashcycle.com/2010/09/bike-lanes-are-the-issue-of-the-day.html.

Again, for the record, I am 15th bike lane convert. I do not use it, but I like it.

by Claude Henry Smoote on Dec 14, 2010 5:17 pm • linkreport

That's not a Gray campaign flier.

by David Alpert on Dec 14, 2010 5:23 pm • linkreport

The current transit subsidy is adequate for most inside the beltway on Metro, unless one transfers from a bus, which many do on a daily basis. Keep in mind that enormous numbers of federal jobs are outside the Beltway (large chunks of FDA, much of NIH, SAMHSA, NIST, and large chunks of USDA come to mind) and may draw people who live outside the Beltway in another direction. Our heavily subsidized road system and subsidies for parking also serve long distance commuters.

I would imagine that much of the nay-saying comes from people who don't use transit and forget how generous the parking allowance is. Moreover, parking allowances are provided in places where you might expect parking to be free (but it isn't), as in the case of suburban office parks.

by Rich on Dec 14, 2010 5:45 pm • linkreport

@oboe: Well, I guess if we're limiting ourselves only to DC residents, then I would agree that the solo car commuting number would be lower.

Yet even if we take MLD's numbers, the number of people who either drove solo or carpooled is about 43%. A minority, yes. But a plurality. And, dare I say, a sizeable multiple over the number of people who bicycle as their commuting mode.

Yet would anyone argue that DDOT hasn't spent more time and resources on bike issues rather than, say, carpooling/slugs issues? If I remember correctly, DDOT wanted to make it more difficult for slugs to stop and pick up passengers, rather than trying to deal with what had become a pretty well-established tradition. Would treat cyclists with such disdain? Probably not since Gridlock Gabe loved the accolades of cyclists more than he cared about the concerns of Virginia slugs and carpoolers.

I think some of the Klein policies - and the militancy of cyclists - is going to cause a backlash against bike concerns, particularly when budgets are tight and DDOT no longer has sole access to their pot o' money. No, I don't think we're going to see Gray & Co. paint over all the bike lanes. But I also don't think we're going to be seeing any significant expansion of them either.

by Fritz on Dec 14, 2010 7:48 pm • linkreport

Claude - Paved roads were originally built for bicycles. Cars came along later. But I'm not suggesting that cars stop using them.

by Ben Ross on Dec 14, 2010 8:31 pm • linkreport

@Fritz,

Interesting... I wonder what percentage of DC voters are "slugs". Since we're "reverse-commuters", and the entire point of slugging is to take advantage of HOT lanes, wouldn't it be effectively zero?

by oboe on Dec 14, 2010 8:48 pm • linkreport

I think some of the Klein policies - and the militancy of cyclists - is going to cause a backlash against bike concerns, particularly when budgets are tight and DDOT no longer has sole access to their pot o' money. No, I don't think we're going to see Gray & Co. paint over all the bike lanes. But I also don't think we're going to be seeing any significant expansion of them either.

Or one could argue that--in a time of vanishing budgets--only things that cost nothing will get funded. "We didn't have enough money to fill any potholes, but..Look! More bike lanes!" Who knows.

But I just don't see how a backlash of angry Virginians is going to move the dial on DC government policy all that much. Obviously DC's residents (via their elected officials) shouldn't go out of their way to make the lives of folks from VA or MD miserable. But the concerns of our neighbors are certainly not going to be front and center. Especially as the population of DC trends wealthier. That just seems self-evident to me.

by oboe on Dec 14, 2010 9:06 pm • linkreport

@oboe: I think you misidentify where the backlash will come from. Yes, there will be grumbling from MD and VA commuters.

But I think much of the backlash will be from DC residents who are tired of feeling that bikes are being given priority over everything else, who hate having to feed more and more quarters, credit, or debit into parking meters, and who aren't fans of seeing traffic lanes and parking spots being eliminated for bikes (and then rarely ever see any bikes in those lanes or spaces).

Look for example at the recounting on this site of some of the community meetings where cyclists are shocked - shocked! - that some people don't want bike lanes in their neighborhoods.

And just wait until people that own multi-unit residential properties and commercial properties realize that a Wells-Graham law will soon require them to provide secure bike parking spaces or otherwise face significant fines.

That's where the backlash will occur, and I think they will get an active ear, so to speak, from the new administration.

by Fritz on Dec 15, 2010 7:00 am • linkreport

I'm with Claude Henry Smoote on this one. Bicyclists should use the facilities that are being built for us. That doesn't mean going out of your way to avoid streets without bike lanes, but when there's one painted there, please use it. If the street one block over has bike lanes, and the one you're on doesn't, consider moving one block over. And please stay off the damned sidewalk, period. Sharing the road works in both directions. Be courteous.

by jcm on Dec 15, 2010 8:59 am • linkreport

Also, I've enjoyed reading all the comments on this post and the bike boulevard one from suburbanites who think the purpose of my tax dollars is to make their commutes easier. Are any of these same people willing to pay a commuter tax?

by jcm on Dec 15, 2010 9:11 am • linkreport

@jcm,

Is there any evidence whatsoever that cyclists are doing this? I mean, other than "I occasionally see folks riding in the street outside a bike lane"?

There are plenty of reasons *not* to be riding in a bike lane: you can't take a left turn from a bike lane, for one.

To my mind, this "pig-headed cyclists should use bike lanes, but don't" argument is pure straw-man. It's especially laughable when WABA is targeted for failure to keep area cyclists in line.

The whole thing is just so silly.

by oboe on Dec 15, 2010 9:35 am • linkreport

@oboe, If you're going to exclude the evidence of my own eyes, then I'm not sure I can provide any. I ride in bike lanes every day. Nearly every day I see bicyclists on the same road not using them. Obviously, for a left turn you need to move to the middle of the road, but I'm talking about (rude) bicyclists taking the lane or sidewalk for no good reason when the bike lane exists.

For the record, i also see and disapprove of rude peds and drivers every day, too.

by jcm on Dec 15, 2010 9:55 am • linkreport

Sidewalk (above a walking pace) is inexcusable. But if a cyclist is taking the lane, there's a reason for it. But I certainly don't doubt you've seen cyclists riding outside of the bike lane.

My point was, it's not always obvious what that reason is. In any case, if the bike lane is there, then in general, cyclists should use it. If that choice is attractive enough, they will use it. If not, they won't.

But it's the cyclists choice.

(Disclaimer: Oftentimes I ride in the right-hand traffic lane on Penn Ave. It's significantly faster. Usually I do ride in the central bike lanes. There's probably nothing that WABA could do to compel me to stay in the (optional) bike lanes, though.)

by oboe on Dec 15, 2010 10:35 am • linkreport

Interesting critique of 15th Street cycletracks from a cyclist's perspective:

As a 15th Street resident I greatly appreciate the traffic calming effect the changes to a street that was treated as a speedway for far too long. As a cyclist in DC the design does not make for the convenient travel it was intended, and I worry for the safety of novice cyclists and the facility’s ability to handle the traffic volumes that such a design will attract. As a national bike advocate, I am perhaps most concerned with the poor precedent the facility sets. It is crucial that cycletrack early adopters create designs that function well and that are safe if they are to be replicated throughout the country, let alone the city. I welcome creative solutions to the problems faced in implementation, but they should not come with such compromises. New York City and others have managed to do this right, showing it can be done. If DDOT is to truly be a national leader, they must rework this design until it offers greater safety and convenience for cyclists in the city.

(http://www.thewashcycle.com/2010/12/another-opinion-on-15th-street.html)

[The attentive reader will note that "sticking it to The Man" is nowhere given as a rationale for eschewing the bike lanes.]

by oboe on Dec 15, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

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