Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: New ways of thinking


Photo by Mark Vitullo on Flickr.
Target willing to go without huge garage?: By thinking about opening a store in Georgetown, Target is breaking with its usual policy of requiring lots of parking, like the 1,000-space garage at DC USA which is never more than half used. (Housing Complex)

Wyman will update Metro map: WMATA has hired Lance Wyman, the original designer of the Metro map, to update his iconic work. The new version will need to accommodate the Dulles rail extension as well as some new route modifications. (TBD)

Baker has plans for PG: Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker wants to quickly pass ethics reform measures in the county and Annapolis, so that he can move on attracting business investment in the county. He will freeze public salaries but funnel significant one-time money into the school system. (Post)

Where are the new MoCo residents?: Montgomery Planning Director Rollin Stanley looks deeper at Census data showing the county becoming majority-minority and where new residents are living. People moving to infill condos cost less in infrastructure and schoolchildren than single-family houses. (The Director's Blog)

DC might withhold $50M in face of cuts: If Metro cuts weekend late-night service, the District may withhold its $50 million in capital matching funds. The funding compact is also threatened by Congress' reluctance to contribute its $150 million. (WTOP)

Undisciplined school discipline: A Fairfax County middle school suspended a student for 7 weeks for taking a prescription acne medication at school. The student transferred to another school but has performed worse and still experiences taunting and rumors. (Post) ... Meanwhile, an elementary school in King George is being accused of doing little to punish an 11-year-old who threatened another student with a knife. (WUSA)

Biddle wasting BOEE & opponent resources?: A hearing for Patrick Mara was postponed yesterday without notice. Sekou Biddle, who is challenging Mara's candidacy, didn't show up, perhaps because he never planned to seriously contest Mara. (Four26)

Gray's hiring misses mark: A draft report from Council member Mary Cheh shows numerous Gray appointees are receiving salaries above the Council-mandated cap. David Catania called the report "white wash." (City Paper) ... Robert McCartney says the whole saga is an indication that Gray needs some new advisors. (Post)

Metro needs longer track work planning: A year ago, Metro only planned major track work a month or two in advance. They now plan 6 months ahead but Sarles recognizes the need to increase long-range planning of major maintenance work. (Post)

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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 more I read about metro the more I feel its a lost cause. I am not sure how they are going to surive without the feds 150 million and if DC plans to pull its 50 mill there going to have to bite the bullet on late night service (a good decision by DC I think, they stand to lose the most by late night service cuts).

At this point is the answer to file for chapter 14 and restructure? Can they even do that.

by Matt R on Mar 11, 2011 9:08 am • linkreport

I disagree with Matt. I don't see how DC's threat to withhold their $50M is going to help anything. It's nothing more than political posturing, and IMO the witholding will hurt WMATA (and DC too) more in the long run than the late night service cuts will.

by Froggie on Mar 11, 2011 9:36 am • linkreport

I agree with Froggie. Threatening to withhold funds is childish and puts D.C. on the same footing as McConnell and Congress. In fact, such threats make it easier for Congress to deny its $150 million.

D.C. always has the power to veto service changes. If that's a line in the sand the District wants to draw, then fine, but don't withhold funds.

by Adam L on Mar 11, 2011 9:41 am • linkreport

@ Matt,

Metro's financial woes would almost disappear overnight if they took a chapter out of Wisconsin's book and

I get it, Union's in theory are a worthwhile idea. My grandfather was an early example of the "then" benefit of a unionized workforce. They got reduced work hours (to 8 from 10 per day) and safety measures implemented into steel plant he worked in where prior they would lose a person a week to accidents.

Bu the mantra of unions today is nothing like that of the earlier part of last century.

One can look at the significantly smaller operating expenses of the Circulator versus metro bus to see the difference.

Metro's union costs are, and have been killing it. It needs to stop.

by freely on Mar 11, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

Metro's union costs are, and have been killing it. It needs to stop.

Again, again, and again. Do you have any substantial proof of this?

by andrew on Mar 11, 2011 10:10 am • linkreport

(Also, as a sidenote, Union-busting in Wisconsin is unlikely to save the state any money. This is how the bill passed as a non-budgetary measure.)

by andrew on Mar 11, 2011 10:11 am • linkreport

@Andrew,

You are kidding right? It's been discussed here way beyond the tiring point. Feel free to search GGW.

by freely on Mar 11, 2011 10:23 am • linkreport

I am shocked, shocked, that politicians are being politicians and threatening to put in false holds.

the problem with WMTAA is primarily governance. ATU is part of that; I think the damage has been done with pension payments over the last two years rather than wages.

by charlie on Mar 11, 2011 10:27 am • linkreport

Props to whoever included the shot of Copenhagen Kastrup Airport on top. It has nothing to do with the post, but it is without question the nicest, cleanest, and most efficient airport with the most helpful staff that I have ever been to.

by not so fast on Mar 11, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

Re: Suspended student:

And this is why zero tolerance policies are bad. While sounding "tough" on drugs, they are just an excuse not to think.

by Steven Yates on Mar 11, 2011 10:56 am • linkreport

@ not so fast; perhaps it is a subtle dig that we should privatize WMATA?

(I do find it interesting the privatized utilities work in nordic countries, but not elsewhere. I think we are too corrupt and greedy)

by charlie on Mar 11, 2011 11:05 am • linkreport

In the TBD article on hiring Lance Wyman to update the Metro map, there is this: A new line running through the system, she added, was seen by focus groups as "overcomplicating things," although most people seemed fine with the Dulles line getting its own, new color. (It's informally referred to as the Silver Line, but that designation is by no means final -- it's just the color used on planning maps.)"

Calling the new line to Tysons, Reston, and Dulles the Silver Line has already become the common name for it in my experience. Does anyone seriously think that they will call it something else at this point?

by AlanF on Mar 11, 2011 11:23 am • linkreport

@charlie

Could be. I'm not familiar with traditional utility operation over there, but I have been on a lot of trains in Denmark, and they are generally without exception on time and frequent. They commuter/intercity trains happen to be rather expensive which I imagine would rankle people here, plus their Copenhagen commuter trains and their countrywide system are operated by the same bunch. Not sure about the CPH metro system.

Things might just work better there because on the whole it's a more civil and society oriented place than here.

by not so fast on Mar 11, 2011 11:29 am • linkreport

+1 Kastrup. How many airports are actually a please to spend time in?

by spookiness on Mar 11, 2011 11:35 am • linkreport

I think we should view school bans on all "controlled substances" as a Constitutional issue. What right does the school have to interfere with private medical treatment? There should be strict scrutiny, the state should have to demonstrate some actual public benefit from controlling access to medication, which obviously doesn't exist for antibiotics.

by David desJardins on Mar 11, 2011 11:48 am • linkreport

Rollin Stanley seems to me to be saying this:

1. There will be more people in Montgomery County,
2. Including families with school-age children.
3. The county must and will accommodate this population growth with in-fill condos!
4. -- one benefit of which is that families with school-age children do not live in them.

Is that logically consistent?

by Miriam on Mar 11, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

@Miriam

It's consistent because in-fill condo development doesn't only serve new residents, it serves those people who already live in Montgomery County but want something other than a single-family home, see his example of older residents looking to cycle out of their single-family homes.

If you build a mix of housing those people will be attracted to and stay within your community.

by MLD on Mar 11, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

@freely

Sure. You and the other conservatives here have been claiming that unionization is killing WMATA since the dawn of time. There is absolutely zero dispute of that.

I want proof. Numbers, and analysis from an unbiased source that shows that Metro would save a significant amount of money by stripping its workers of their rights. (Also, how can you reconcile Metro's chronic labor shortage with their supposedly "extravagant" compensation packages?)

by andrew on Mar 11, 2011 12:47 pm • linkreport

@MLD -- I think that in-fill condo development near transit is a good idea. I just wish that the Planning Department wouldn't sell it as a free lunch.

Families With School-Age Children Live In Single-Family Houses is not Newton's fourth law of motion.

I am not persuaded that the current effect of in-fill condo development on school enrollment in the area is negligible, although I admit that I don't have any systematic data.

And I definitely believe that in-fill condo development will have a meaningful effect on school enrollment in the future, especially given the prices of single-family houses in areas with good transit access and schools with good reputations.

by Miriam on Mar 11, 2011 1:01 pm • linkreport

@Andrew

I agree, show me the data, and if it turns out I am wrong so be it but I do not think we should attack the union just because we think it is too expensive.

Plus if a real study was done and it showed the union cost too much that data could be used to negotiate with them.

by Matt R on Mar 11, 2011 1:06 pm • linkreport

I personally like the map created in 2003 and available on the Silver Line wikipedia page:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b3/WMATA_Thin_Silver_Line_Map.jpg

by Aaron on Mar 11, 2011 1:21 pm • linkreport

I don't see how DC's threat to withhold their $50M is going to help anything. It's nothing more than political posturing, and IMO the witholding will hurt WMATA (and DC too) more in the long run than the late night service cuts will.

If the various stakeholders are intent on turning Metro Rail into a suburban commuter service, let the suburban commuters pay for it. DC should withold the money--maybe let the system shut down for a week or so--and let the folks out in the exurbs enjoy life in suburban congestion gridlock Hell. In the meantime, DC residents will get around just fine, thanks very much.

by oboe on Mar 11, 2011 3:09 pm • linkreport

Transit systems should be moving people.

Maintenance is necessary, yes. The onus is on Metro to stay open and close portions of the system as needed for maintenance.

If they cut late night hours, I can guarantee that they will not suddenly perform maintenance on the entire system during those extra three hours. Claiming that they need the time in order to perform maintenance is a cop-out, and WMATA deserves to be called out for it.

If more time is needed for track work, then just say so and close those segments of track accordingly. However, diminishing the core function of the system in order to do track work is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

by Alex B. on Mar 11, 2011 4:27 pm • linkreport

The late night track maintenance excuse is a canard.

Late night service is infrequent, and single tracking is not a problem given the frequency of trains.

There's no reason WMATA can't charge more for late night service, but never forget that late night service helps keep drunks off the road. The service should stay.

Why should we pay for the Bethesda People to come into town during the day to work (and pay no taxes here), but not have Metro operate so that they can come down here at night and dine and drink (and PAY taxes).

by Mike Silverstein on Mar 12, 2011 2:20 am • linkreport

WMATA is one of the most incompetent organizations anywhere in the United States. Its annual increases in costs exceed those of Fairfax County and even its school system. The Agency lacks sound management and financial controls. Many employees are grossly overpaid when compared to others in both the public and private sectors. The Agency does not know how to manage third-party contractors. WMATA was not even permitted to oversee the building of Dulles Rail because everyone knew the Agency was incapable of the task.

Transit is important to the metro area. But it needs to refocus itself to serve riders and taxpayers, rather than employees and real estate developers. Transit supporters also need to be honest as to how few people actually take transit. For example, Fairfax County estimates that only 17% of trips to and from Tysons Corner will be by transit by 2030. That is not even as high as Bethesda and way behind Rosslyn-Ballston and Downtown D.C. Moreover, VDOT found this mode split estimate to be quite optimistic.

Dulles Rail will sour Virginia on rail because of the costs. More effort will be put into HOT Lanes and Bus Rapid Transit. We will see that the use of HOT Lanes for bus service will be a tremendous shot in the arm for effective transit in Fairfax County.

by tmtfairfax on Mar 13, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

@ tmtfairfax: WMATA is one of the most incompetent organizations anywhere in the United States.

Hohoho. Now don't honor them too much. ENRON, AIG, California and Congress do not need more competition.

Many employees are grossly overpaid when compared to others in both the public and private sectors.

Back that up please. You can't. Not so broadly. So, I must conclude you're your parroting talking points. Like many complex contracts, there are certainly ridiculous clauses in the union contract, and unions should be willing to get those out. But just like cleaning up tax code, these things are hard, mostly, because ego's are involved.

Also, since the union contract is pretty much under permanent mandatory arbitration, you can't really blame WMATA for the contract anymore. That is, except for the fact that they once agreed to the mandatory arbitration. That was stupid.

by Jasper on Mar 13, 2011 4:05 pm • linkreport

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