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Posts by Steven Yates

Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  


Breakfast links: Is Metro getting better?

Photo by Peter Roome on Flickr.
Any progress yet?: Even after months of SafeTrack work, Metro officials say it will still be months more before we can clearly see progress. Meanwhile, only some things, like rail ties, are being fixed at a faster rate. (WTOP)

Not enough for affordable housing: While Mayor Bowser plans on spending $100 million a year to preserve affordable housing, it's probably not enough as solving the problem will likely cost billions of dollars. (WAMU)

Metro wants to enforce: Metro is suing its union over penalizing workers for violating policies. Metro would like to be able to punish workers without the union's approval. (Post)

Staying really late at work: Metro's shorter hours are forcing some service workers to sleep at their jobs overnight until Metro reopens in the morning. (WAMU)

Union Station back up to snuff: Union Station's Main Hall is back to its 1907 splendor after five years of renovation and repair following the 2011 earthquake. (Post)

And...: Arlington County is moving toward regulating short-term rentals like Airbnb. (Post) ... A new apartment building coming to Shaw will include shared living spaces and kitchens. (Washingtonian) ... Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett won't seek a fourth term. (BethesdaBeat)

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Should Metro change its rules to allow bikes during rush hour?

Today, Metro does not allow standard bikes on its trains during rush hour. But one of the ideas that came through MetroGreater was to reverse that policy and allow bikes at all times of day. Some of our contributors (as well as some well-known members of the local media...) think it's a good idea, while others don't.

Photo by anokarina on Flickr.

According to WMATA spokesman Richard Jordan, Metro doesn't allow bikes on trains during weekday morning and afternoon rush (defined as the hours between 7-10 am and 4-7 pm) "for the safety of all riders... allowing for unobstructed entries on and exits off the train." He also added that "bicycles are not allowed inside railcars on July 4th or Inauguration Day."

David Cranor thinks the arguments for the ban don't hold much water:

There's no evidence that taking bikes on Metro is dangerous. The argument about space is valid but a folding bike doesn't really take up that much less space than a full-size bike, and how often are passengers really left on the platform because they can't get anyone else on?

[Also,] there is excess capacity in the reverse direction, why not monetize that and create better service at the same time? I've always done a reverse commute and when I used a folding bike it felt silly taking it on an empty train.

There is already a rule against bikes on crowded trains and platforms outside of rush hour, and definitely times when trains are crowded outside of rush hour. Is there any evidence that the system isn't working at those times?

Chris Slatt agrees:
There are clear mobility benefits to allowing bikes on MetroRail all the time, and as Metro has been pointing out - ridership is down, so there must be some "excess" capacity that could be used by people with their bikes. At a time when MetroRail is hurting for money and ridership, we shouldn't be turning people away without a clear and compelling reason to do so. I really think this is one of those problems that doesn't require a regulatory solution. People will naturally balance their need to take their bike on Metro vs. social pressure against doing so in a crowded direction at a crowded time. In general, people don't want to be "that idiot" who is getting in everyone else's way. Will it happen sometimes? Yes. Frequently enough to be more of a problem than tourists in general? I doubt it.
Jacob Mason says they are able to figure this out in New York:
The NYC subway does not ban bikes at any time, and there is certainly greater crowding there than in DC. It is often not physically possible to bring a bike on board a packed train, and you risk a LOT of people being very angry at you if you try. Same goes for strollers and any other large piece of equipment. There are some lines and some directions that are lightly used during rush hour, and this policy allows people to use bikes for these trips.
But Graham Jenkins, a MetroGreater jury member can see why it'd be hard to safely allow bikes on the Metro during rush hour:
It's impossible for personnel to tell whether a cyclist entering a station intends to ride in an off-peak direction.
1. Regardless of which direction the cyclist intends to travel, it's still difficult to maneuver with/around a bike during peak hours in almost any station (and if it's not bad at the origin, what about the destination?).
2. Even if under normal circumstances there is technically room for bikes, if anything goes wrong and results in crush loading, so much the worse.
3.Travel through the core is typically crowded in either direction, particularly during peak hours, leaving no room for bicycles on trains or in stations.
Lessie Henderson, another jury member, agrees with Graham that "if a dedicated car isn't available, then the bikes could get in the way; especially with rush and other events combined." She thinks a reasonable alternative would be to "encourage use of the bike lockers at the stations," maybe even connecting the bike lockers to a discounted Metro fare.

And when this conversation first came up, WAMU transportation reporter and Metropocalypse host Martin DiCaro is pretty against the idea:

So did NBC transportation reporter Adam Tuss and WMATA Board Member Corbett Price, as well as WAMU reporter and Metropocalypse host Martin Di Caro.

Tom Sherwood, another media icon in our region, is a fan:

Kelli Raboy points out that there are compelling reasons people want to bring bikes on:

It's not so much about the merits of the proposal (I don't really have an opinion on that), but more about the perception of WHY people would want to bring bikes on Metro during rush hour. It seems like all the arguments against this are entrenched in the idea that people who want to bring bikes on Metro want to do it out of convenience, or for a "fun" alternative. In reality, people will opt to navigate busy platforms and trains with a bike if it's their only reasonable option.
Alex Baca looks to California to give us some guidance:
BART in San Francisco has designated areas for bikes. BART is slammed regularly and people move around the bikes, which can really only be stacked about five deep before they seriously block the aisle between the seats. It's super-annoying as a rider without a bike and as a rider with a bike to navigate this, but it's far less annoying than not being able to bring your bike on the train for a few hours. Keep in mind that it is not possible to bike across the Bay Bridge, so putting your bike on BART (or an AC Transit bus) is the only way to get it between San Francisco and Oakland.
Svet Neov thinks even without a ban, there should probably be some restrictions:
Does it make sense for Metro to ban bikes at particular times of the day or in particular stations? Yes, it probably does.

It's just a matter of bicyclists not boarding a crowded train. Trains become crowded at some point during their journey. So a cyclist bound for, say, Woodley Park, may board a perfectly empty train at Forest Glen, and then suddenly find himself unable to get out of the way when a horde of passengers board at Union Station or when the train becomes even more crowded at Gallery Place.

On the other hand, does it make sense for Metro to completely ban bikes? Probably not.

If someone is reverse commuting on a Red Line train outbound towards Grosvenor in the morning, chances are there's plenty of room on the train. A similar situation could occur on any line in the middle of the day when ridership is low.

So, some trains may be perfectly able to accept bikes. Especially those that are outside of the core and headed away from it.

Before BART relaxed its ban on bicycles, they actually noted in the schedule (and on the digital signs on station platforms) specific trains that bikes were allowed on. And that works much better than a blanket ban based on time.

For example, let's imagine a Green Line train that is scheduled to depart Greenbelt at 9:58 am. Since the bike ban goes until 10:00 am, bicyclists are not allowed to be on that train. However, when that same train arrives at College Park at 10:03 am, where it becomes more crowded, bicycles are allowed. What is the point of banning cyclists from that train between Greenbelt and College Park? There is none and the goal of the ban becomes obsolete.

What do you think? Should the ban go or should Metro keep it?


Breakfast links: Waterfall

Photo by @JordanUhl
Metro chasing waterfalls: Flooding from intense rain temporarily closed the Cleveland Park Metro station. Metro says the water did not damage the tracks or third rail, however. (Christin Fernandez, Post)

Battle in the sidewalks: Neighbors in the DC neighborhood of Hawthorne are battling over sidewalks. This happened in 2009, and those on a street which got a sidewalk say it didn't destroy the neighborhood. (Washingtonian)

FBI will not come cheap: Maryland and Virginia are both committed to shelling out millions of dollars to bring the new FBI headquarters to their state. The money would pay for transportation and infrastructure improvements at each site. (WBJ)

Garvey on the Pike: Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey says she wants to "fix the transportation" and "slow down a bit" on the pace of building of affordable housing along Columbia Pike in her State of the County address. (ArlNow)

Wanting more in NoMa: A proposed NoMa development doesn't include enough benefits to the community, say zoning commissioners. Offered so far: streetscape upgrades, affordable units, and partial funding of a new Metro entrance. (WBJ)

Where the bikes go: DDOT put GPS trackers on some Capital Bikshare bikes and found regular members tended to take much more direct routes than casual users who tended to take meandering routes and stayed near the Mall. (Mobility Lab)

Where the trains go: VRE is looking to build additional train storage along New York Ave. But could this facility stymie development in the area? (Gateway to the City)

Desegregating deductions: Black middle class homes have not appreciated as quickly as their white counterparts. Could restricting the mortgage interest deduction to only houses in integrated neighborhoods reverse that inequality? (Post)

For all the infrastructure in China: In 20 years, China has spent almost 9% of its GDP on building infrastructure to move people and products vs. 5% of Western Europe, the US, and Canada. (BBC)

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Breakfast links: Grocery stories

Photo by Mr.TinDC on Flickr.
Waiting for groceries: Muriel Bowser called a high-level Walmart exec to try to convince the retailer to still open two planned stores east of the Anacostia. Without them, residents face a continued dearth of grocery options. (Post)

Next stop: groceries: Metro is working with Peapod, a grocery delivery service, to test a pickup service at three Metro stations. If the six month pilot is successful they hope to roll out the program throughout much of the system. (Post)

Tiny Orange houses: Vincent Orange wants to build small houses for low-wage earners, seniors, and millennials. But critics question if it will actually help as well as how it will be paid for. (City Paper)

Bail for Baltimore?: A Baltimore ad campaign aims to attract residents who want a city lifestyle but are being increasingly priced out of DC. (Baltimore Sun, MarkusT)

You think it's hard to walk?: People in wheelchairs had some of the toughest experiences with the snow, as ramps to most crosswalks remained impassable long after the storm. (WAMU)

Hotel or studio: An art space on New York Avenue NE near Union Market will become a boutique hotel. The owners hope to keep some arts, including studios, a gallery, and sculpture garden, but it will fit about 20 artists versus 70-100 today. (City Paper)

Bright lights of Loudoun: Business leaders in Loudoun are looking to increase nightlife and walkability of the county in hopes of attracting young workers. The planned Silver Line stations could present an opportunity to do so. (Post)

The rent is slightly lower!: After a sustained run of increases, apartment rents are declining in some US cities, following a boom in construction. (City Observatory)

The tracks beneath: DC has many miles of streetcar track from its former system. The rails are difficult to remove so they were just paved over in many places. (Post)

Bikeless in Seattle: Many bike sharing systems across the country have been successful, but Seattle's Pronto system has struggled. Helmet laws, a hilly terrain, and weather all present challenges to the system. (KING 5, Aaron W)

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Breakfast links: What's in store?

Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.
No more Walmarts: Walmart won't build locations at Skyland or Capitol Gateway as originally promised. DC leaders are not happy. (City Paper, Post)

Harris teetering?: A conservative Republican who supports looser marijuana rules, Michael Smigiel, is leading incumbent Andy Harris in a poll. Harris led the fight to block DC's marijuana decriminalization in Congress, which made 59% of constituents less likely to vote for him. (Washingtonian)

Where's the bridge?: The company that damaged the Berwyn Heights pedestrian bridge has delayed its replacement. The bridge will likely be replaced in the spring, meaning pedestrians will have to deal with a 20-minute detour for several more months. (Post)

Waiting on Purple: The Maryland MTA initially said it was going to announce a firm to build the Purple Line last Friday. But now it looks like a winner won't be announced until February. (Bethesda Magazine)

Hail drunk driving declines: The head of Virginia's DMV thinks ride hailing apps are part of the reason for a decline in drunk driving deaths last year. (WTOP, KC)

Map the crashes: Major routes saw a number of bicycle crashes in Northern Virginia. The Northern Virginia Regional Commission compiled a map of bike and pedestrian crashes from 2012 to 2015. (FABB)

Stand on the left?: Could walking on the left on escalators actually lower escalator capacity? The London Underground is experimenting with asking passengers to stand on the both sides of the escalator to find out. (Guardian, James S.)

And...: What if a station manager took it upon himself to dig the tunnel between the Farragut stations? (Rock Creek Snark) ... Check out the progress on the Silver Line, Phase II. (Sand Box John) ... DDOT outlines the options for linking Fort Lincoln to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. (WashCycle)

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Breakfast links: Not so grand

Photo by takomabibelot on Flickr.
Vision 1000?: Mayor Bowser doesn't think we will see $1000 speeding tickets, despite DDOT's proposal to raise penalties as part of Vision Zero. The $1000 ticket would be the consequence for going 25 MPH over the speed limit. (Post)

Housing heats up: The housing market in Prince George's County was hot in 2015, while prices stayed the same in Montgomery County. Houses in Prince George's also sold faster this year than last year. (Post)

Where Lyft takes you: Lyft released its most popular drop-off spots for 2015. Among the top locations in DC were the Verizon Center, Union Station, and three college campuses. (Technically, KC)

The eggcellent Echo: Make a visit to Glen Echo Park. Initially built with an egg beater-funded fortune and set up for adult education, Glen Echo eventually became an amusement park aimed at trolley passengers. (DC Focused, Mike)

Winter riding: While it has been spring-like lately, you might review some tips from a Tour de France winner on winter cycling as cold creeps back into the area. (BBC, KC)

Math fail: A truck driver in Indiana tried to drive a 30 ton truck over a bridge with a weight limit of six tons. The bridge collapsed and the driver said she ended up on the bridge because she didn't know how to turn the rig around. (Post)

Forget shiny noses: To help reduce collisions with cars, Finnish reindeer herders apply reflective paint to their herds' antlers. (BBC, KC)

And...: Ride hailing company Sidecar calls it quits. (Washingtonian) ... A ban on polystyrene food containers starts Friday in DC and Montgomery County. (DCist) ... How much of the past year do you remember? (Post)

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Breakfast links: Who's the boss?

Photo by Peter Roome on Flickr.
GM officially: WMATA officially swore in Paul Wiedefeld as its new general manager. In his first public remarks, he acknowledged the agency's loss of credibility, said he's opposed to raising fares until the system has better reliability, and plans on riding all rail and bus lines to hear from riders. (WAMU)

Bowser is...just OK: A majority of people think Mayor Bowser is doing a good job, but most only "somewhat" approve of her performance. She also gets low marks in affordable housing and fighting the spike in homicides. (Post)

5A lives to fight another day: The WMATA board opted to keep the 5A bus route to Dulles, but will eliminate or modify dozens of other routes. (Post)

Not all for redevelopment: A majority of DC residents think redevelopment is good. However, a majority of black residents, who may be concerned about rising rents and property taxes, think it's bad for them. (Post)

Govies underground: While WMATA is sometimes thought of as a commuter service for federal workers, they only make up about a third of WMATA's riders. They tend to ride disproportionately at peak times and on rail. (PlanItMetro)

Living at school: When DC was short on funds, they sold 18 former schoolhouses. Now, these schoolhouses are used as housing. Here's how they've changed. (Curbed)

Expensive house, short commute: Why are high-income, well-educated people paying big bucks to move back to the city? One study says longer workdays are driving people to pay for the extra leisure time that comes with a short commute. (The Atlantic)

And...: Getting access to MPD body camera footage will be easier than initially proposed. (WAMU) ... A couple of the buildings at the Maine Avenue Fish Market will get historic designation. (City Paper) ... Here's an amusing take on whether Union Station is more mall than train station. (Rock Creek Snark)

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Breakfast links: Visions

Photo by Ted Eytan on Flickr.
Vision to reality: Is Vision Zero going to be more than just a vision? DC has committed to eliminating deaths on the road and agencies are taking steps to achieve it, but are they willing to really do what it takes? (City Paper)

Visualizing crashes: The City Paper gathered data on all the crashes in DC involving people walking or biking, and created fascinating maps and graphs to better understand where and when crashes are happening.

More eights are great: Metro will start using more 8-car trains this week after taking advantage of the lower number of riders in the summer to perform maintenance on the train cars. (Post)

Words with Wyman: Metro map designer Lance Wyman discusses wayfinding, squeezing in the Silver Line to the map, and unique icons for each Metro station which so far have never been used. (CityLab)

Fix Fairfax's funding: Think you can fix the $50 million budget hole in the Fairfax County schools budget? Now you can try with an online tool. (Post)

Avoid delays with math: A mathematician in Sweden thinks an algorithm can predict train delays up to two hours before they happen. This could help transit agencies to adjust the number of trains in service to avoid delays. (Post)

Lucky NY and Portland: It was a big weekend for US transit, as major new rail extensions opened in New York and Portland. Portland also opened a car-free bridge. (NYT, Catch the Orange, CityLab)

Smart Growth chat: Today at noon you can chat with the Post's Dr. Gridlock and Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth to talk about Metro, traffic, and Potomac River crossings.

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Breakfast links: Paying and placing transit

Image from the State of Maryland via BeyondDC on Flickr.
Green for Purple: Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn breaks down where the money is coming from for the Purple Line. While Montgomery and Prince George's will pay more and Maryland less, it's still not final how large those amount will be. (WAMU)

Silver at bat: Follow a team as they search for a threatened bat in the path of the future Silver Line rail yard. If they find it, it could mean increased costs and delays. (Post)

No bus parking: Ivy City's Crummell School will not serve as bus parking for buses serving Union Station. But will the site be developed, preserved, or converted to some community use? (Post)

Housing paying for transit: San Francisco officials are considering charging larger, market-rate housing buildings a fee that would help fund public transit. Even developers are for the plan, but does that mean the proposed fees are too low? (CityLab)

The housing burden: Nearly half of DC-area renters are cost burdened, meaning they pay at least 30% of their income on rent. The problem is particularly bad for low earners, where 93% are cost burdened. (City Paper)

Worse before it gets better: Fairfax County will replace an aging bike and pedestrian bridge along Van Dorn Street. But that will close the current route for two weeks leaving pedestrians a shuttle bus and bikers to fend for themselves. (FABB)

Tokyo drifts toward zero deaths: How did Tokyo nearly eliminate traffic deaths? Like many of the safest cities, it was built compactly and made space for public transportation, bikes, and pedestrians. (Tech Insider, Leo)

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Two downtown parking spots just became a new public park

What if we used the space we currently devote to parked cars for something else? DC's first seasonal parklet, a mini park that takes the place of street parking spaces, opened on Tuesday.

The parKIT at its ribbon cutting ceremony. All photos by the author.

Called parKIT, the parklet is at 2020 K Street NW. While DC has had many temporary parklets to celebrate Park(ing) Day, the ParKIT will be semi-permanent, staying around until October.

ParKIT is a joint venture between DDOT, the District Department of the Environment, architecture firm Gensler, and the Golden Triangle BID. Its yellow triangles are a nod to the BID.

At the ribbon cutting, DDOE Director Tommy Wells commended all those involved for their willingness to consider a different use for space traditionally reserved for parking—removing parking spaces is undoubtedly the most controversial part of creating parklets. If parKIT is successful, it might become easier to create other parklets around the region.

The Golden Triangle BID will hold events at the parKIT every Tuesday from noon until 2:00 pm, with the theme of "making the city."

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