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


Lang/Trachtenberg economic development transition pushes archaic transportation approach

I'm working on analyzing the transportation claims in Mayor Gray's transportation transition document. Meanwhile, the economic development document contains some terrible transportation policy recommendations that need no further research.

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr.

That transition team, headed by Chamber of Commerce head Barbara Lang and former GW president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, recommends that DC focus its transportation policy on making it easier for people to drive in and out of the District in order to bring in more jobs.

The transportation section, starting at the bottom of page 6, suggests retiming signals primarily around moving cars in and out, adding reversible lanes, and paying for traffic officers to direct traffic on major routes to Maryland and Virginia. These all represent the wrong approach. Basically, this is a traffic plan that comes from people who don't know much about transportation.

The following words appear nowhere in the document: Metro, bus, transit, bicycle, walk, carpool. There is one sensible recommendation, to better enforce no parking and double parking rules.

Roads in and out and downtown are already very busy, despite a century of public policy around moving vehicles in and out. Parking is scarce and expensive. To grow, DC doesn't need to move more vehicles. It needs to find ways to transport more people without adding more vehicles.

Bus and HOV lanes, for example, would let the same number of vehicles carry more people and provide faster ways in and out of DC for transit riders and sluggers. It would also do so without making dangerous roads, like Connecticut Avenue, even more dangerous for pedestrians.

It's also odd that this transition team thinks that the best way to bring jobs to DC is to move more suburban residents in and out in single passenger vehicles. Maryland and Virginia residents don't pay taxes to DC, and most of the jobs in the District now are government or nonprofit jobs that don't pay taxes either. Why should DC prioritize continuing this status quo?

DC needs more jobs in technology and other intellectual, "creative class" sectors which will attract people who want to live near their jobs. It also needs more jobs which can employ those who live in DC today but haven't been able to find jobs. This plan helps with neither.

This isn't such a surprise from Barbara Lang. She testified at a Council hearing in 2008 that it's not safe for her female employees to take Metro because they occasionally work until 10 or 11 at night. She also didn't know if she provides any SmartBenefits to employees.

It's too bad the DC Chamber of Commerce is instead acting like the Maryland and Virginia Chamber of Commerce. DC needs a business community that believes in the city and in growing the city's strengths, including its relatively low car dependence. The Chamber of Commerce needs a leader who recognizes that, and in the meantime, Gray should put little stock in Lang's ideas fresh from the 1950s.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


Add a comment »

To anyone in DC who has been around long enough to see Gray's mode of operation over the years this is not at all any kind of surprise.

by w on Feb 23, 2011 12:00 pm • linkreport

Given that Barbara Lang's former chief lobbyist now heads up Gray's policy and legislative affairs office, I think it's unrealistic to think her ideas won't get lots of attention.

by Fritz on Feb 23, 2011 12:02 pm • linkreport

I was going to make a comment about the consequences of supporting Gray's nebulous promises over Fenty.

But I think the juxtaposition of this article with the "Related Posts," like "Gray promises transit and bicycle funding at first town hall" and "Gray transition: bold innovators or a return to Barry?" does a better job than I could have done.

by EJ on Feb 23, 2011 12:03 pm • linkreport

I'm very curious to see when we get to the point that any article that has the word "Gray" near the top no longer just triggers the same cookie-cutter comments about Gray that have nothing to do with the substance of the issue.

by David Alpert on Feb 23, 2011 12:05 pm • linkreport

I have no problem with the re-timing of traffic lights, which have become comically mis-timed on just about every major road in the city. It'll hopefully make my bus commute within the city better.

by anon on Feb 23, 2011 12:05 pm • linkreport

Also, too, this:

MAYOR VINCENT C. GRAY (D) and Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) both took office in the District soberly warning of the need for fiscal restraint. Apparently, though, neither thinks this message applies to him. How else to explain decisions to acquire luxurious vehicles or bump up the salaries of top staff? These dubious expenditures by the city's highest elected officials raise questions about their judgment as well as their credibility in managing the city's money.

The mayor, as reported by The Post's Nikita Stewart, has engaged in a hiring spree, bringing in more senior staffers than his predecessor and paying them tens of thousands more a year than the people they replaced. Former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) was generally seen as running a pretty efficient government, so it's curious that Mr. Gray sees the need to double, for example, the number of deputy mayors.

Among those getting city jobs are the son of Mr. Gray's chief of staff and the daughter of an adviser close to Mr. Gray. Particularly troubling was the revelation of a $110,000 "special assistant" job given to a minor mayoral candidate who was so lacking in credibility that he became something of a laughingstock during the campaign with his patented attacks on Mr. Fenty and effusive praise of Mr. Gray. Mr. Gray defended the decisions during an appearance on WTOP radio, arguing that he will save money by consolidating positions and that all those hired are fully qualified. We've asked for, but have yet to receive, information detailing those savings.


I just thank God that our resident advocates of Good Government fought so hard to get Gray elected. It's starting to look like the handful of minor incidents of borderline cronyism Fenty was accused of are finally a thing of the past.

No need to panic: "Bureaucratic competence is baked into the cake!"

by oboe on Feb 23, 2011 12:06 pm • linkreport

That transition team, headed by Chamber of Commerce head Barbara Lang and former GW president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, recommends that DC focus its transportation policy on making it easier for people to drive in and out of the District in order to bring in more jobs.

The transportation section, starting at the bottom of page 6, suggests retiming signals primarily around moving cars in and out, adding reversible lanes, and paying for traffic officers to direct traffic on major routes to Maryland and Virginia.

Um, pardon my French and all, but how in the *fuck* does making it easier to move out of the city strengthen DC? Retiming signals? Reversible lanes? Nothing like shitting on the existing residents' quality of life, and making it easier for them to turn into an out-of-state commuter to make for a stronger community.

Party like it's 1989!

by oboe on Feb 23, 2011 12:11 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert-

Sorry for not being more specific. What some people were saying back during the election was that Fenty had shown a clear, substantive commitment to a lot of the goals GGW advocates for. And that Gray was making a lot of nebulous promises that would never be fulfilled, and that supporting Gray was making a leap of faith.

So now we are seeing the specific, substantive consequences of Gray's election in transportation policy. Any politician ultimately has to commit to certain substantive policies- even a do-nothing politician commits to the status quo, which has real consequences.

So now we are seeing real, substantive consequences of Gray's transportation policy.

(all of this is water under the bridge, so the real issue to focus on is what can be done to preserve gains made under Fenty during a Gray administration)

by EJ on Feb 23, 2011 12:15 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert - maybe you could bury the hatchet by retracting your politically motivated endorsement. You are a smart kid, but you are definitely new to DC.

by anonymous on Feb 23, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

You would thing that if Lang was really concerned about her employee's safety on the metro late at night, she would testify that we need to increase funds for late night security on the metro, strengthening the transit system, not that we need to make it easier for people to drive into the district.

by Ethan on Feb 23, 2011 12:25 pm • linkreport

Remember that scene from "Animal House" where Otter gives Flounder the classic response of "You f'd up! You trusted us!"?

Keep that scene in mind for the next 4 years.

by Fritz on Feb 23, 2011 12:30 pm • linkreport

Also highly relevant to transportation policy, is the cost that commuters impose on DC. The city has to provide services to them (wear-and-tear on roads, emergency response, and hundreds more) but can't tax them due to the congressional prohibition on commuting taxes in our fair city. For this reason, giving people a greater incentive to live in DC would help it's fiscal situation a great deal. As a result, pursuing a commuting-oriented transportation policy is a great deal worse of an idea in DC than in other major cities, problematic as it is even elsewhere. Not only is it bad for the environment, and wastes a lot of people's times, it is debilitating to the DC budget too.

by zt on Feb 23, 2011 12:32 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert:

I voted for Fenty. I'm willing to give Gray the benefit of the doubt. I really, really hope I'm wrong about him. Having said that, there's increasing evidence that the absolute worst-case scenario might come true with both Gray and Brown.

The slam on Brown was that he was a fiscally irresponsible overgrown child. His first high-profile act? Lease an incredibly overpriced shiny bauble for himself in a fiscally irresponsible manner.

Gray? Let's go back to the policy of favoring MD and VA commuters over DC residents. That will create *jobs*! Of course, commuters don't pay income tax on those jobs. Andn, of course, it'll also make the city a less attractive place for middle class folks who've been driving the city's renaissance the last two decades.

Turning neighborhood two-way streets into one-way traffic sewers has very real consequences to the residents who live near them. "Timing the lights" is fairy dust, pure and simple. This ain't Reston Town Center. The city's system of streets is too complext to just wave your hand and say, "Now the lights are timed! Traffic will flow freely now."

by oboe on Feb 23, 2011 12:34 pm • linkreport

DC tossed out the devil they knew for the devil they didn't. Fenty was at least a progressive devil. I am glad I decided not to move into the city when we were looking for a new home last year.

by NikolasM on Feb 23, 2011 12:35 pm • linkreport

Smoothing traffic flow by looking at the timing of lights is appropriate, but can only go so far: there is no more room for additional roads.

She has people who work until 10 or 11 at night? Well, there are these things called taxis.

by SJE on Feb 23, 2011 12:38 pm • linkreport

Has anyone found anything in any of the transition reports that can be described as innovative, new thinking, creative, etc?

The ones that I've read are either pie-in-the-sky or a rehashing of known problems.

And for that matter, can anyone name any Gray accomplishments in his first months in office? Or at least his introduction of any keystone legislation?

by Fritz on Feb 23, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

@DAlpert I'm very curious to see when we get to the point that any article that has the word "Gray" near the top no longer just triggers the same cookie-cutter comments about Gray that have nothing to do with the substance of the issue.

Hey, it will happen as long as this blog exists and the same people comment. It's more cyclical than not. Gray critics will continue to use your endorsement to prove that you were wrong about voting for him.

They're right = You're wrong. It's really nothing more than that.

@Oboe, if you're willing to give Gray the B.o.d, it's at least a good idea to show that in your posts. I can't recall any instance where you haven't criticized Gray. Your b.o.d. seems a bit lost in translation.

by HogWash on Feb 23, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

Do the Fenty supporters and apologists understand how woeful the management (or lack-there-of) of the financial resources of the city was over the past 4 years?

by William on Feb 23, 2011 12:58 pm • linkreport

@William - and the story about the SUVs is an indication of what? Improvement?

by parent of little one on Feb 23, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport


He's a big boy, he can take it. In any case, I didn't say I wasn't extremely skeptical. Or even alarmist at times. But I have told my neighbors and other folks that it remains to be seen what sort of Mayor Gray will be.

Stuff like this ain't exactly reassuring, though, and I reserve the right to call out stupid ideas that will damage the city.

by oboe on Feb 23, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

@ Fritz The reports have been just awful, and not because they have things I disagree with in them. What exactly have these people been doing for months? Take this current report, for example. It was written by 25 members and three co-chairs. The goal was to

"develop a long-term, citywide economic-development plan that focuses on job creation and growth, business attraction and retention, workforce development and training, and improving the District’s position as an economic engine in the region"

Here's everything they came up with and listed in the Findings/Recommendations section:

1. District agencies should each have a “Counterpart Matrix” that lists the names, titles, and contact information from their respective agencies in the neighboring jurisdictions.

2. Create common applications for business licenses, permits, and inspections for use throughout the region.

3. Change the name of DMPED to Deputy Mayor for Planning, Economic and Workforce Development (“DMPEWD”)

4. Create a quasi-governmental corporation or authority to undertake and coordinate the largest projects

5. Appoint dedicated staff or create a special projects office to devote full-time attention to St. Elizabeths.

6. Create a Special Projects Authority that will focus solely on the St. Elizabeths project.

7. The traffic stuff David covered

8. Create a taskforce to do a 60-day drill-down study of the WIC. The taskforce should determine which agency or Cabinet member the WIC should directly report to, determine the merits of making the entity a quasi-independent entity,

9. Provide workforce training expanding and investing in the District’s Community College

10. Develop the District’s relationship with the Federal government through partnerships and collaboration

4,5,6 and 8 are literally the same thing listed 4 different ways. This is the work product of a team of 28 people. What an astonishingly bad report.

by jcm on Feb 23, 2011 1:04 pm • linkreport

Whats unclear to me is the connection between increased driving accessibility into the downtown and the creation of jobs. The city loses jobs to the suburbs primarily because of lower rents available where land value is lower. Those driving themselves (as opposed to using transit) into the city for employment are coming predominantly for white collar professional jobs, jobs which are drawn to the city because of their location rather than their accessibility.

The DC government needs to focus on bring more residents into the city. More residents will create jobs of a more diverse nature: more white collar professional jobs AND lower paying retail and service jobs accessible to everyone (which has taken the brunt of the recession).

DC's traffic policy should focus on increasing the quality of life for residents of the District. Clearly clogged traffic does detract from quality of life, and needs to be addressed. Any steps to fix the very real traffic problems should have residents in mind first, and commuters second.

by dave on Feb 23, 2011 1:09 pm • linkreport

" This ain't Reston Town Center. " kind of hits the nail on the head. This Gray Ghould fellow is a Barry accomplice and he doesn't care a whit about the changes that have happened in DC over the last 15 or so years- he is basically a typical lord of the manor ruling from on high up in the hills of Anacostia over the lowly DC taxpayers. This guy does not care about the average Joe & Jane and after he's done with his term of office he will move away from DC and go out to PG or back down south to retire.

by w on Feb 23, 2011 1:16 pm • linkreport

I'll dodge the whole ped/bike/transit element since that's already well-covered in the article & I expect by commenters, so I'll instead say that I do support ITS treatments... it may be car-centric, but I'm fine with making as great of use out of existing capacity as we can.

So to concentrate on putting officers at intersections... does that refer to officers controlling traffic; or officers simply reinforcing/enforcing the existing signals?

The latter could be good for enforcing intersection blockages at select locations -- good for all users; not just motorists. I've seen the DDOT traffic officers at Dave Thomas Circle chastising many motorists for intruding into the crosswalks.

However, if the former...

Having worked both sides, I'd wager a large proportion of transportation engineers and even a modest amount of police officers would question the logic of how an officers' presence would improve traffic flow... though I wouldn't expect the police to object given it means more jobs for them (I don't intend this as a complaint; if I were still working with police agencies: I'd love the additional work).

To us transportation folk, though: a police officer is really just an uncoordinated signal. They control traffic without any regard for the system, which can seem well & good at any specific intersection; but at a system level they can wreak havoc. Different officers also have different takes on how to handle traffic: some attempt to push the mainling; some give more preferance to the side-street; some try to balance... albeit with varying definitions of what it means to balance.

I'm alright with signal timing, but a more intelligent signal system would be far more effective (and in the long-run: more cost-effective) than paying for officers to be in traffic.

by Bossi on Feb 23, 2011 1:17 pm • linkreport

Nothing wrong with retiming traffic signals for the benefit of all modes of travel. Moving people in/out and around the city in SOVs / HOVs and buses is not contrary to better signal timing to improve the allocation of a scare resources -- the intersection right-of-way (and that includes crosswalks, especially around Metro stations). The point is to be smart about it on communter corridors -- advantage buses using bus priority in the signals, establish express/limited stop services (think 16th St and GA Ave.), and being a little more radical make all the reversible lanes BUS/HOV only (though that would entail MPD actually enforcing it).

Besides, better allocation of time at traffic signals that reduces stops and delays can have beneficial effect on air quality. Biggest issue in DC with signal timing is that the traffic control infrastructure is at least one generation old, very few detectors and there is some but not much deployment of advanced intelligent transportation systems (ITS). They do have some staff hidden down in DDOT who understand these things, but will leadership listen?

by Some Ideas on Feb 23, 2011 1:23 pm • linkreport

where are the police officers for Metro?
You can tell who the Gray Ghoul talks for- those car driving soon to be PG county residnets, and those who drop their kids off at DC schools and use grandma's address so that they can get free day care at our expense.
Meanwhile- our schools are falling apart and the Metro has become a den of chaos for the out of control "youth" that get out of their charter schools and run rampant beating on people and sending cell phone clips of all of it out on the web for their own amusement.
This Gray Ghoul is a Barry Clone and he is a typical Imperial Mayor and will hopefully get canned in the next election cycle.

by w on Feb 23, 2011 1:26 pm • linkreport


I think, as more becomes known, we will discover the depth of the cronyism issues associated with the Fenty administration; we will learn more about the lack of fiduciary care over the city finances, and even smoke and mirrors related to the Fenty linchpin, education reform.

Am I down with Navi-gate? Not really. However, what I do know is that this city could not afford another 4 years of Fenty. Time will tell what Gray will do. Obviously the start isn't great.

by William on Feb 23, 2011 2:00 pm • linkreport

I think, as more becomes known, we will discover the depth of the cronyism issues associated with the Fenty administration; we will learn more about the lack of fiduciary care over the city finances, and even smoke and mirrors related to the Fenty linchpin, education reform.

Yes, hopefully at some point in the future, evidence we're not privy to now will come forward to support our unsupported notions of corruption. Heck, someone from the transition team is probably typing up an innuendo-filled whitepaper as we speak. Heh.

by oboe on Feb 23, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

Time will tell what Gray will do. ...And the present dosn't count as "time"? What about all those new FTE's and existing FTE's with gigantic pay raises Gray gave out? "Start isn't great" is an almost absurd understatement.

by Tina on Feb 23, 2011 2:17 pm • linkreport

I'm with some others on this: retooling traffic signals and smoothing traffic flow is not a bad idea. I remember a rant on WAMU from about a year ago that described the snail's pace of a drive to downtown, which is exacerbated when on a bus.

However, the presence of this recommendation in an economic development document is silly, as it has little to do with economic development. Good transportation policy in DC, from a strictly economic-growth standpoint, brings the VA and MD employees into contact with the streetscape and local retail. It also creates activity centers that can attract those suburbanites to visit and, hopefully, move.

This doesn't quite touch the "large-scale projects" the report recommends emphasizing, which is contrary to good economic sense and good development (locally speaking), but my comments are already long enough.

by OctaviusIII on Feb 23, 2011 2:20 pm • linkreport

Congestion management is a great idea. However, the notion that we need to do this in order to make it easier to drive in and out of DC from the suburbs is not.

by Alex B. on Feb 23, 2011 2:23 pm • linkreport

Look, I'm all for making the most efficient use of our city's roads, too. I don't think anyone disagrees with that. But in the context of the report, where the focus is on "getting commuters in and out of the city as efficiently as possible", it's insupportable. While I'm extremely skeptical of the efficacy of "light-timing" in what is essentially an 18th century city, if it doesn't cost much, let's do it. Same with traffic enforcement officers helping move traffic through intersections. They can ticket drivers who block the box and encroach in pedestrian spaces while they're at it.

But over on the east side of the city, we've made some incredibly hard-fought gains to rollback the mistakes of the 80s and 90s. Specifically ending the experiment of streets like C Street, Independence, and Constitution as high-speed cross-town commuter raceways.

Our new administration which has already shown a bit of a penchant for wanting to go "Back to the Future" starts talking about a new DDOT focus on serving MD and VA commuters--with some of the same appointees who made these atrocious decisions back in the dark days in the driver seat--I think a certain amount of skepticism is called for.

by oboe on Feb 23, 2011 2:29 pm • linkreport

I'd say alarm (not skepticism)

by Tina on Feb 23, 2011 2:33 pm • linkreport


I really do love the flagrant cognitive dissonance of some Gray supporters here.

Test Question 1: Who, in his position of Council Chairman had MORE fiscal authority over hte Districts finances than did the Mayor? Answer? Gray

The Mayor produced a budget. It was the Chairman's responsibility (after vetting through the council) to approve or deny said budget. It is really hard to soley blame Fenty for the DC's budget problems, when the signature right under his was Gray's who was complicit in every dollar spent.

The best part is, Council Chairman has the authority to move money around completely outside the oversight of the Mayor, without oversight and without debate, hence the after hours "streetcar debacle" last year.

People who are upset at the current (but will continue to ballon) budget defict of ~150 million, need to admit that Vince Gray, in a last second bid to keep the hipster vote, reversed his mind and recomitted the city to 1/3rd of that debt (50 million).

by freely on Feb 23, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

Reading the commentary about this/Gray (usually negative on this blog) compelled me to read the article again.

Based on the article, the group that headed Gray's transition team has made several suggestions - many of which seem to raise the ire of those here.

Since I don't know much, does the transitions' suggestions supersede those of the policy experts who will work in the respective departments?

I think of Obama's Fiscal Commission who made several recommendations - many of which have not been implemented - others not likely at all.

Again admitting ignorance here, but it seems odd that an administration will rely solely on his/her transition team to guide what policy decisions will be made throughout their tenure.

But that's just me.

by HogWash on Feb 23, 2011 2:48 pm • linkreport

So, uh...David. About that endorsement...?

(When will it end? About when you say "Uh...yeah. Maybe I goofed on that one.")

by John on Feb 23, 2011 2:57 pm • linkreport

Mm. I'm also not hugely opposed to examining signal timing. There are a few cases where it is indeed comically bad, without a real underlying reason.

Typically, pedestrian traffic wouldn't be hugely endangered or inconvenienced by fixing these few instances.

Also, have you noticed that MPD seems to have simply stopped enforcing turn restrictions and traffic-calming measures implemented under the Fenty administration (ie. the Chinatown Barnes Dance) since Gray took office? I counted about dozen cars illegally turning, while a police cruiser sat idling right next to the intersection, evidently waiting for a "real" crime to take place.

by andrew on Feb 23, 2011 3:25 pm • linkreport

""can anyone name any Gray accomplishments in his first months in office? Or at least his introduction of any keystone legislation?""

It's February 23, chill.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 23, 2011 7:30 pm • linkreport

""can anyone name any Gray accomplishments in his first months in office? Or at least his introduction of any keystone legislation?""

The transition team reports are one such accomplishment. Anyone who's ever accomplished anything of substance knows that one must first evaluate the current environment, then plan, then sell the plan, then work on implementing the plan.

You're too used to the half-baked solutions of the Fenty administration ... which managed to bankrupt our savings and send us in a million unplanned and poorly managed directions getting us nothing to show for the efforts after 4 years ... except for debt and lots of problems to work to resolve.

by Lance on Feb 23, 2011 7:43 pm • linkreport


The points you made about the budget are nothing more than cheap talking points. In case you hadn't noticed, we just went through the worst recession in a generation and came out better than most localities. You probably welcome the proposal to create more opportunities for auto traffic. The Committee of 100's strategy is to slow things down until nothing happens or things go their way, just like the Tenley town library. Unfortunately for you, the Committee's paradigm worked better when the city was losing population. You might get the clock turned back on some of Fenty's accomplishments over the next few years, but demographics are not on your side here. Slowly but surely your numbers are slipping, and the new urbanites who demand progressive leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit are increasing. TOD is the future. Height limits and auto traffic are slowly becoming the past.

by Jeff on Feb 23, 2011 9:16 pm • linkreport

So, I was inclined to agree with DA on this one. His anti-car hysteria aside, I do think he has made many valid points regarding the need for more balanced transportation plan.

But reading the section made me change my mind.

First, this is a economic development plan -- not the transport plan.

Second the recommendations are not bad:

1. better signals
2. Streamline getting in and out of the District
3. And what DA doesn't do a good job of summarizing:

"Removal of parking meters should be considered if the transportation artery should be clear throughout the day. Strict enforcement of double and no parking violations must be carried out in a consistent and timely manner. The District should begin to identify the major intersections that provide access and egress from surrounding jurisdictions. These intersections should be staffed with trained traffic professionals to immediately enhance traffic flow. Consideration should be given to securing cost recovery from appropriate neighboring jurisdictions."

Getting in and out of DC is pretty close to the breaking point during rush hour.

What we need is both: more transit --which really isn't controlled by the Mayor -- and better ability to use the existing roads.

All of this makes a lot of sense. I hope the Mayor's people realize the damage that evening and weekend parking meters are doing to the retail sector.

by charlie on Feb 23, 2011 10:01 pm • linkreport

SJE wrote " but can only go so far: there is no more room for additional roads. "

Actually the routes exist, e.g. I-66 K Street Tunnel (beneath the existing right of way), and I-95 (PEPCO right of way is 250 feet wide+ B&O corridor connected by 3200 feet of the New Hampshire Avenue corridor northern (southbound) side; but the political dynamics of going through Masonic Eastern Star at 6000 New Hampshire Ave, as well as that B&O corridor going right by CUA (which even opposes covering the RR), so in such a Masonic-Vatican dictated city, people will come up with all sorts of excuses for doing nothing.

As another example of this hidden hand on planning, does the new ICC segment turn north through Winters Run, away from the Kights of Columbus- a factoid I recall NOT seeing mentioned in the ICC related writing I have seen)

by Douglas Willinger on Feb 23, 2011 10:14 pm • linkreport

@Charlie "All of this makes a lot of sense. I hope the Mayor's people realize the damage that evening and weekend parking meters are doing to the retail sector."

The point of making parking meters operational on weekends and evenings is to create turnover -- ins and outs. That is good for retail and restaurants.

Now we can discuss what the time limits are... the city has been a little tone deaf on how long a retail/restaurant establishment needs a customer in place to generate their turnover from an economic perspective.

by Some Ideas on Feb 23, 2011 11:42 pm • linkreport

Charlie, the problem is what the report leaves out, not the milquetoast suggestions it leaves in. This stuff is all 1980s ghost-of-Geddes stuff.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 23, 2011 11:42 pm • linkreport

Here's one way to help visualize the road scenario. We have 32 parkways and highways (state, US and interstate) leading directly into DC. (Some are counted twice because they run through DC.) They are the following (going clockwise along the DC border):

Maryland Side (25): Clara Barton Parkway, MD-396, MD-190, MD-355, MD-185, MD-186, MD-390, MD-384, US-29, MD-650, MD-212, MD-500, US-1, US-50, MD-201, MD-704, MD-214, MD-332, MD-4, MD-218, MD-5, Suitland Parkway, MD-637, MD-210 and I-295.

Virginia Side (7): US-1, I-395, US-50, I-66, US-29, VA-120 and VA-123.

Other notable highways are I-270, MD-97, I-95, VA-244, the GW Parkway, VA-7 and VA-267, which bring a lot of traffic towards and into DC.

A number of highways listed act as streets or run for relatively short distances (a few miles or less). But the point is that we have many roads running toward DC -- a relatively confined area that is, on the whole, not car oriented. For comparison, we have 5 metro lines (hopefully to be 7 by the end of the decade), with 9 entries into DC.

by DAK4Blizzard on Feb 24, 2011 1:41 am • linkreport

USNCPC got away with that sort of oversimplification in 1968 by confusing super arterials as arterials.

But such could be expected where so many failed to get much past the political sloganeering, to thereby let WMATA be built wihout extra capacity generally then a single track per direction.

by Douglas Willinger on Feb 24, 2011 1:50 am • linkreport

@Douglass Willinger:
The headquarters for the Order of the Eastern Star is 1618 New Hampshire Avenue, not 6000 NH Ave.
On your argument that the Masons have impeded highway construction in DC, let me just say that the Masons are property rich and membership-dues poor; they are accordingly very businesslike with how they managing their property. Like any property owner, if they received a good offer, one that made an allowance for the expense of establishing a new headquarters, I am sure they would consider it.

And I am sure the Masons appreciate your plug -- keep it up!

by goldfish on Feb 24, 2011 9:43 am • linkreport

Where did I say that Masonic Eastern Star at 6000 NHA NE is the 'headquarters'?

Yes the headquarters are at that Perry Belmont Mansion near DuPont Circle, where the Committee of 100 has had Christmas Parties.

The property at 6000 is a 'home' not headquarters.

Considering the years of shananigans (before even getting around to proposing the LOGICAL PEPCO route, rather then that detour to Prince Georges County Plaza shopping center to cut the capstone line on the map as proposed from about 1959 through 1972), one must ask- what is buried beneath that open field at 6000 NHA NE.

Something was behind the City Council of Alexandria's lying through its teeth about the Washington Street Urban Deck atop the Beltway, with the drones all unanimously 'voting' to take away most of the deck next to Freedmans' Cemetery WITHOUT any debate- something involved with planning and I dare say having the highest structure in that city, complete with a logo featuring architectural tools.

by Douglas Willinger on Feb 24, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport




by oboe on Feb 24, 2011 11:51 am • linkreport

Oboe's right. Besides, GGW already proved that the Masons didn't fight freeways, they supported them:

by Matt Johnson on Feb 24, 2011 11:57 am • linkreport

I just love it whenever something is blamed on the Masons. Throw in the Vatican and the illuminati, which as we all know might as well be the Committee of 100 and you have a conspiratrialsts' (is that a word?) dream.

by goldfish on Feb 24, 2011 12:20 pm • linkreport

"Proved" (?!) by an April Fools joke- exactly 13 months after Imagine DC's tip of hand.

And here we have The Washington Post's freudian slip:

What is buried under that field at 6000 New Hampshire Ave NE?

by Douglas Willinger on Feb 24, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport

DC may not be Reston Town Center (see above), but its opportunities to control congestion are about the same:
--Balance residential & business growth downtown
--Invest heavily in public transit
--Use comprehensive transportation demand management (TDM) techniques to DISCOURAGE driving there (including "to there). This would include bettering bike/pedestrian access, restricting parking, charging an arm & a leg for parking (not just "an arm" as is done currently). For an excellent TDM plan, take a look at Arlington's Metro corridors effort.

Fairfax County doesn't come close; WDC has really tried.

by Terry on Feb 24, 2011 12:58 pm • linkreport

Oh my, what a disappointing strategy.

1. The report still completely misses the ball when it comes to even making noises about supporting small businesses, or improving regional cooperation in economic development. This region needs to continue to diversify its economy away from the feds; one-horse towns rarely succeed in the long run. Fostering entrepreneurship could also help to fill market opportunities (in, oh, let's say, nightlife) that would also improve the region's competitiveness.

2. Regional cooperation aside, "increasing friction" traffic-wise increases property values at the core and lowers them at the fringe. Right now, depressed property markets have created a "flight to quality" scenario with prices actually increasing in the core while still flatlining at the fringe. You'd think that business leaders in the region's core jurisdiction would be in favor of consolidating these gains, but apparently not.

3. Even worse, one-way traffic sewers lower local property values, and property taxes are DC's largest source of income. Memorable streets set within walkable communities are not only worth more, but their value is more durable in the long run.

4. All that aside, a transportation system centered around transit & feet spins off more local jobs. 84% of what people spend on their cars leaks outside the local economy, whereas transit operations returns almost all of its spending locally via local labor.

by Payton on Feb 24, 2011 3:19 pm • linkreport

It would actually be in DC's interest to make it more DIFFICULT to drive into the city to work. The harder the commute is, the more people will decide it isn't worth it to live in the far flung suburbs and actually move closer in, and maybe even into the city itself. Obviously, not everyone would make this decision, and some would look for jobs elsewhere, but there really should be NO DC MONEY spent on trying to make life easier for VA and MD commuters. If timing the lights helps DC residents, too, then fine. Reversing lanes and all that should be absolutely a no go for the city, though, unless they want to help residents make their reverse commute to the suburbs.

by dcbrewer on Feb 24, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

re: Reston Town Center

My comment was just relevant to the timing of lights:

Downtown DC:

Reston Town Center:

Obviously, "timing the lights" makes sense in the latter. And I suppose it's possible to wring some efficiency improvements out of the former with "light timing", but really at some point, one would imagine the complexity would spiral out of control. Just saying "time the lights" is a bit like asking us to figure out whether the proverbial butterfly wing is going to result in a hurricane by "just modeling the vortices." :)

by oboe on Feb 24, 2011 4:11 pm • linkreport

@dcbrewer 'If timing the lights helps DC residents, too, then fine.'

And what about the more those DC residents who work out in the suburbs? or in another part of DC (e.g. live near MacArthur Blvd and work near the Capitol)? ... I'd bet they make up the bulk of all DC residents. We all need to be able to get in and out for work too. And what about just the folks who need to go shopping? It's not like the retail in DC is sufficient to fill all needs like the retail in the suburbs (at least not yet)? I think you have a non-starter because you're thinking only helps maybe 10% of the population. The priviledged group that both lives in the fairly expensive neighborhoods of DC and has a job with a law firm or a downtown government agency. I..e., not that many people.

by Lance on Feb 24, 2011 8:07 pm • linkreport

@ Jeff-

You said "TOD is the future. Height limits and auto traffic are slowly becoming the past."

Only partially correct, in my view. TOD may be the future wave, but height limits are likely not going to be relaxed any time soon, because the Feds are insistent on keeping the limits as safety precaution; auto traffic will continue to get worse, continue to increase, in fact, as Metro continues it's downward spiral.

Traffic signals in DC are so screwed up right now- I can't see how anybody could be opposed to getting that straightened out, so that traffic flows more smoothly for DC citizens and for suburban commuters. Fenty and Gabe Klein really left the situation a mess, and I certainly hope the new leaders figure things out in short order, although they are off to a lame start, for sure.

by KMM on Feb 25, 2011 7:50 am • linkreport


Traffic signals in DC are so screwed up right now- I can't see how anybody could be opposed to getting that straightened out, so that traffic flows more smoothly for DC citizens and for suburban commuters.

Since no one's addressed it, I'll say it again: "screwed up" is the natural state of traffic signal timing in historic cities. The only way you "fix it" is by taking pedestrians and side-street traffic out of the equation.

As an example, the intersection at Penn and 12th Street in SE. Pedestrians are given 17 seconds to cross 8 lanes of traffic and a twenty-yard wide median. I'm sure if we wanted to "optimize" traffic signal timing, we could just make that 5 seconds, and put it on a 5 minute cycle.

Out in the far-flung burbs, there are practically no pedestrians, and far, far fewer intersections. So timing the lights there is a useful strategy. No one has presented any evidence that this would help in DC, much less without completely debasing the pedestrian experience.

Talk of "timing the lights" in DC is still just hand-waving.

by oboe on Feb 25, 2011 9:41 am • linkreport


And what about the more those DC residents who work out in the suburbs? or in another part of DC (e.g. live near MacArthur Blvd and work near the Capitol)? ... I'd bet they make up the bulk of all DC residents.

Great, let's talk about how we can privilege outbound traffic in the morning, and inbound traffic in the evenings then.

Oh, wait. That's not what the authors of the report were talking about when they said "moving commuters in and out of the city"?

The talk of "going shopping" is just a diversion. Who goes shopping during weekday rush hour? No one.

by oboe on Feb 25, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

Oboe is right on regarding other priorities for traffic signals, such as sufficient pedestrian crossing time.

Also, despite the fact that we think of traffic as just inbound and outbound, the reality of how it moves through a grid is far more complicated. When you have balanced flows through an intersection in more than one direction, prioritizing one over the other only kicks the can down the road.

This doesn't mean the timing can't be improved. I'm sure it can. That's not the point, however. Focusing on signal timing as the problem for DC traffic congestion is like the folks who think that cutting foreign aid will solve the US budget deficit. It's simply not true - the math just doesn't add up.

by Alex B. on Feb 25, 2011 10:12 am • linkreport

Reston Town Center:

That's not Reston Town Center. This is Reston Town Center.

That aside, I agree that "timing the lights" is basically meaningless in DC. In case folks hadn't noticed, DC has an extremely complex grid with both large and small streets in both the N-S and E-W directions, and huge diagonal avenues criscrossing in all sorts of unusual ways. "Timing the lights" is basically impossible in that environment.

by BeyondDC on Feb 25, 2011 10:13 am • linkreport

"@William - and the story about the SUVs is an indication of what? Improvement?"

First and foremost: Brown was elected. Gray did not appoint him.

Second, people have an incredibly short memory in this town. After a week of outrage over the Ford Expedition fiasco, everyone seems to forget that your beloved, departed, Adrian Fenty, while a city councilmember, was most often seen driving through red lights in a caravan of not one but two Lincoln Navigators.

Here's a refresher:

Interview with Adrian Fenty from 2006:

"Car I drive: Ford Expedition. Best car I've ever had: Ford Expedition."

Here's fenty pimping for

Here's fenty sporting he new navigator at a ribbon cutting in 2008:

Fenty abusing police lights/sirens in his entourage:

Oh yeah Fenty got a Smart Car. Nice window dressing, so he could let his buddy Keith Lomax use his city-issued Navigator, too.

Do I think the Brown Navigator thing is outragous?


Is it any more outrageous than the BS perpetrated by Fenty when he was a councilmember and mayor?

No, you just weren't paying attention then.

So could we stop acting as if what's happening is some indication of the world going to hell? It's business as usual. I'm disappointed that Gray hasn't been able to run a super-tight ship so far, but to look back fondly on those wonderful days of accountability under the last administration is nothing more than an indication of rapid-onset alzheimer's disease.

by Jamie on Feb 25, 2011 10:34 am • linkreport

The signal timing is an opportunity to re-balance the needs of pedestrians and those of commuters. Take the 12th & PA Ave intersection oboe mentioned: for every light on PA Ave in SE, the time given to pedestrians to cross is too short. OTOH, the traffic speeds on PA Ave is too fast given the density (I believe 42 mph is the 85th percentile). Pa Ave and 7th St, next to the Eastern Market Metro, is one of the more dangerous pedestrian intersection in the city. So the lights could be re-timed so slow traffic and give pedestrians more time to cross, but also improve the flow along PA Ave when the lights are green.

Improving mobility makes the city more efficient and more attractive to business. To decrease mobility will only encourage places to relocate to the suburbs, where more people live.

Signal timing should be tweeked continually. As one part of town is improved it will 'kick the can' to some other part of town. To do this every once in a while (such as when blue ribbon panel is called together) will probably only make things worse because the unforeseen secondary effects are not fixed.

by goldfish on Feb 25, 2011 10:35 am • linkreport

I'm still in shock that this blog endorsed Gray. WOW! Definitely says something about writers of this blog. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

by Jim on Feb 25, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

Actually, the blog did not endorse candidate Gray. The contributors could not come to a consensus, so different contributors endorsed different candidates.

GGW ran endorsements for both Mayor Fenty and Chairman Gray.


by Matt Johnson on Feb 25, 2011 11:24 am • linkreport

For DC to continue to grow and leverage our best assets (location, location, location) to compete, we need to continue to prioritize making it a place people actually want to be, even if that's at the expense of people getting in to and out of the city.
If you just prioritize that one simple thing- making DC a place you'd want to be- all else will follow.

by Mark on Mar 2, 2011 4:14 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us