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Breakfast links: On the search

Photo by nevermindtheend on Flickr.
Searches have begun: Metro Transit Police have begun randomly searching bags this morning. A passenger was held up for several minutes, revealing that gunshot residue as well as household cleaners will trigger the scanners. (Dr. Gridlock, Adam Tuss) ... Two local groups have started a petition opposing WMATA's bag "screenings," arguing they are ineffective (as David has said) and an invasion of privacy. (TBD)

Metro no dirtier than the rest of the world: WUSA9 went searching for germs, swabbing high traffic areas around the Metrorail system like escalator handrails, and ticket machines. Nearly all the bacteria collected were common bacteria found in dirt, and virtually everywhere else.

DC Congressional overseer still up in the air: It turns out Brian Bilbray is on his way to another subcommittee, so the identity of the new GOP chair of the DC oversight sight committee in the House remains a mystery. There's a good chance it will be a freshman representative. (Post)

Federal DC homebuyer tax credit extended: Tucked away in the tax bill the President signed last week is an extension of the $5000 first-time DC homebuyer's tax credit. Since the nationwide $8000 credit expired this year and DC has few sprawling developments in its borders, this may actually turn the tables on the sprawl subsidy for a year. (DCmud)

Bethesda water has slight contamination: Traces of Hexavalent Chromium, the carcinogen made famous by the movie Erin Brockovich, have been found in Bethesda's water supply. Water officials say the contaminant levels extremely low, but it's unclear what the effects of such low levels are. (WAMU)

Big money instead of preservation: The DC Preservation League has settled its lawsuit aiming to preserve the Brutalist Third Church of Christ, Scientist at 16th and I. Instead of preserving it, DCPL gets $450,000, which many find unseemly. (Housing Complex)

Small MoCo suburbs planning ahead: The towns of Kensington and Gaithersburg are thinking about their future as Montgomery County updates their zoning to allow slightly more density and more proximate mix of uses to encourage walkability. Some residents are concerned extra density will look out of place and will overwhelm the already congested streets. (Post)

Gas demand in decline: A group of economic experts are predicting that America's petroleum consumption will not rebound after the recession, saying the last four years of decline show strong signs that the country's oil use peaked for good in 2006. (Post)

And...: Maryland is considering a 5% across-the-board cut to public education aid. (WTOP) ... The historic Central Liquor sign in downtown may be on the move, as the current tenants and the HPRB couldn't reach a compromise on changes. (TDB) ... A new Web diversion lets you create songs by building cities. Cars drive on roads and each tree, house, or lamppost it passes generates a different note. (TechCrunch)

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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Great pic, I'm sure that advertiser loves having a "random" bag search done on their media buy...

by S.A.M. on Dec 21, 2010 8:58 am • linkreport

Metro should extend itself past Shady Grove to Gaithersburg. TOD at Shady Grove and in downtown Gaithersburg could accommodate 5-10K more people, given MARC and Metro. And having lived in Gaithersburg, it would make it much more livable.

by Redline SOS on Dec 21, 2010 9:24 am • linkreport

So these bag searches are pretty useless, I get (and believe) that, but the civil rights case against bag searches has already been fought and the government won. Wouldn't it be much more effective to fight these bag searches on economic and usefulness grounds?

On the other hand, if UnsuckMetroDC is against the searches, then I suppose I should be supportive of them.

by Max D. on Dec 21, 2010 9:25 am • linkreport

The government did not win. They won in the second circuit. WMATA is in the 4th and DC Circuits. This needs to go to the SCOTUS. This is clearly unconstitutional.

And did anyone else notice that this was the TSA conducting these searches?

by Peter on Dec 21, 2010 9:32 am • linkreport

I like the Orwellian doublespeak on the table banner:


Are they still using that banner? I notice the photo was taken in 2008.

by Angela on Dec 21, 2010 9:38 am • linkreport

Okay, yes, it was second circuit. Still, someone needs to define what an unreasonable search and seizure is. Granted, the most I know about civil rights is from a course I took in college, so I'm not up to going head to head with someone about this, but as long as Metro can claim that there's a credible threat, then they will get away with it. If they can demonstrate that they are truly random, the more likely they'll get away with the searches. I don't think it's clearly unconstitutional.

I'm simply arguing that it would probably be more effective to fight the bag searches on other charges - point out to Metro that they're losing money by performing the searches, and that they really aren't accomplishing anything anyway. Just use David Alpert's column from a few weeks ago to battle WMATA.

Don't get me wrong - I don't support the bag searches. I just think using civil rights to argue against the searches is futile because you will lose.

by Max D. on Dec 21, 2010 9:46 am • linkreport

There is a trail next to the Braddock road metro station that leads to the king street metro station- It's a 10 minute walk.

by Mike on Dec 21, 2010 9:57 am • linkreport

@Redline SOS Before you try adding 5-10k more riders, metro had better fix the redline's crowding. Its wrong that at 7:30 in Tenleytown, I am repeatedly unable to board a train to to crowding.

Anyways, doesn't it give the point away even more when numerous news outlets have said which station(s) the screening(s) (is/are) in?

by arm on Dec 21, 2010 10:00 am • linkreport

I have one question for all the folks that are conducting these searches, and for that matter what the TSA is subjecting air passengers to. How many bad guys have you caught that had the capability of killing or hurting people?

by Sand Box John on Dec 21, 2010 10:24 am • linkreport

Was it the TSA? So this bag search is more about exploring partnerships than a real security threat.

Rant mode: KIll the TSA, Mr. President. Rename it a Airline Security Agency and make the FAA buy the screening equipment. And privatize those mall cops so they don't get any federal worker rights.

The CERA folks have a small point: We wont be seeing many increases in US gasoline usage soon. Major dip right now. But I'd just like to point out how imaginary those VMT numbers are, and probably a larger point is the increasing use of ethanol.

by charlie on Dec 21, 2010 10:27 am • linkreport

Just in practical terms, how, exactly, are searches inside the Metro system supposed to avert attacks against the Metro system?

Checkpoints might work for controlling movement, finding wanted persons, stopping smuggling, or protecting a high-value target, but surely the number of checkpoint bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, and Israel should give pause.

by David R. on Dec 21, 2010 10:47 am • linkreport

Funny how gasoline demand is weak yet prices are strong. So much for supply and demand.


by Kaleel on Dec 21, 2010 11:26 am • linkreport

@Kaleel; US gasoline demand is weak; worldwide demand is strong. The US market in distillates (diesel) is looking much stronger. And the entire price spike more about financial engineering than demand.

There is also a large amount of stockpiling going on for some reason.

by charlie on Dec 21, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

@arm - I catch the Metro in at 7:30 at Van Ness, and I have not noticed the same crowding as you, except during the recent track repair emergency and other mechanical difficulties.

As for the article, the fact that TSA is doing this also caught my eye. And I'm sure they will be just as effective in catching bad guys there as they have been on the airport security front. Like when I flew with a giant pair of metal sewing scissors in my purse. That definitely could have been classified as a lethal weapon, being a sharp and steel and stuff. That sailed through security.

Security theater at its finest.

by TJ on Dec 21, 2010 12:14 pm • linkreport

TSA screens everyone entering the airports and still misses about 68% of bombs/weapons ( If they screen 1 in 3 people, entering 2 of 86 Metro stations (approximately 0.7% of passengers not including those already in the system when they start doing the searches) even if we assume the searches are just as effective as those at the airport (they aren't since Metro isn't using metal detectors, x-rays, etc) and that any possible terrorist is too stupid to see the screeners and go to another station, wait till they leave or blow up the line of people at the checkpoint someone trying to sneak a bomb or weapon into the Metro system has a better than 99.7% chance of succeeding. These searches are a good use of Metro's money and staff and passenger's time why exactly?

by Jacob on Dec 21, 2010 12:45 pm • linkreport

I agree with TJ, the metro usually starts reaching capacity in Cleveland Park. The other NW DC stations are pretty easy to manage.

by William on Dec 21, 2010 1:11 pm • linkreport

Gas prices -

I would think the natural conclusion upon seeing demand fall yet prices remain strong or go up is that supply is also falling. If you wanted to just stick to basic supply and demand analysis. Clearly, oil prices are much more complicated than that, but it should be forgotten. "Stockpiling for some reason" - uh, because supply is falling while worldwide demand remains high and getting higher?

by Josh S on Dec 21, 2010 2:22 pm • linkreport

Stockpiling crude oil for some reason --
If I owned some oil wells that are diminishing, and the oil I pumped today is worth $90/bbl but in a short time will be worth $120/bbl, I would store it so I can reap the higher prices.

You stockpile when you think the price will go up.

Because it removes some supply, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, until the storage is maxed out. Then the price crashes.

by goldfish on Dec 22, 2010 10:11 am • linkreport

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