Greater Greater Washington

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: All the colors


Photo by @Doug88888 on Flickr.
Finance buildings for green cards: A lot of the financing behind DC's biggest new developments, like the Marriott Marquis, comes from foreign investors who get green cards in exchange for their investments. (City Paper)

Purple Line draws suit: Some Chevy Chase groups will bring a lawsuit to try to block the Purple Line, ostensibly over some endangered shrimp. Even if they lose, they might be able to delay the project and make it cost more. (Post)

Yellow cabs vs. black sedans: Hundreds of taxi drivers tangled up traffic in DC yesterday by effectively shutting down Pennsylvania Ave. The cabbies were protesting services like Uber and Lyft. (WAMU)

Riders needn't be blue over Silver: People who ride the Blue Line between Pentagon and Rosslyn will have fewer trains once the Silver Line opens, but new bus service should ease some of the pain. (PlanItMetro)

(Not) seeing red: A signal problem at Silver Spring and a train malfunction at NoMA snarled the Red Line yesterday. (Post)

Dulles losing out?: Dulles' domestic traffic has dropped as more people use DCA. Officials in Loudoun worry this activity moving east will hurt their economy, but MWAA wants to keep Dulles growing. (WBJ)

Riemer defends Met Branch: Among all the elected officials who weighed in on the EYA project at Takoma Metro, Hans Riemer is the only one who mentioned making sure the Metropolitan Branch Trail can continue through the site. (TheWashCycle)

Harris legalized marijuana?: The House voted to block funding for DC to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. But if it's no longer a crime, and DC can't write regulations for a lesser offense, did Andy Harris accidentally legalize it entirely? (Post)

Detroit loses its grid: In 1949, Detroit had a nice street grid. But a series of photographs shows how over time it got hollowed out for expressways, stadiums, and parking. (Streetsblog)

And...: Baltimore is using a trash-skimming machine powered by runoff to clean the Inner Harbor. (NPR) ... Eleanor Holmes Norton stops her driverless car ride before it even starts. (Post) ... Why did so few voters turn out in Montgomery County for Tuesday's primary election? (Post)

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Breakfast links: Cross safely


Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.
75 years of pedestrian signals: DC got its first pedestrian signal 75 years ago at 13th and Pennsylvania NW. Since then, pedestrian signals have seen innovations like countdown timers, leading pedestrian intervals, and HAWK signals. (Express)

Mostly pedestrian's fault?: Baltimore County police say that pedestrians are at fault 80% of the time when they get hit. Police are now running an awareness campaign after a high number of pedestrian fatalities, but will the county reexamine its road designs? (WBAL)

Fast track for Bi-County?: Governor McAuliffe is apparently likely to push forward with the Bi-County Parkway from Prince William to Loudoun. McAuliffe says it's important to boost demand at Dulles, but is cargo at Dulles really the top priority for transportation? Is McAuliffe making a big mistake? (Leesburg Today, Post, Bacon's Rebellion)

More roads not the answer: Why do building bigger roads just make traffic worse? Induced demand, where as more roads get built, more people want to drive on them. But congestion pricing could be the solution to packed roads. (Wired, JK)

Preservation threatens deal: A plan by the GSA to swap a building at 7th and C SW for work at St. Elizabeths hit a roadblock: the DC Preservation League nominated the building for landmark status. Is it worth protecting? What if that imperils St. E's? (WBJ)

More transit to museum: Ever wanted to visit the Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles but don't have a car (or don't want to pay to park)? Once the Silver Line opens, Fairfax Connector Route 983 will run there from Wiehle. (Post)

And...: Bars and restaurants in DC are getting bigger. (WBJ) ... 14 new speed cameras will start giving out tickets in DC today. (Post) ... Jet Blue will start offering service to West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in December from DCA. (WBJ)

Help us with the links!: Our new link curators Kelli Lafferty, David Koch, and Melissa Lindsjo have been putting together great sets once a week, but we need one more curator to replace Sam Sherwood on Fridays. Can it be you? Email info@ggwash.org!

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The MIT solution to small-space living

One way to increase density in our cities is to make living units smaller. But this can present problems when you have to fit bathroom, kitchen, sleeping, and living areas in a small space. But a group at MIT has come up with an innovative solution:

The CityHome puts sleeping, bathing, cooking, and living facilities all in one cube that you use gestures to operate. The set up allows you to condense all these in one compact area, freeing up precious floor space in a small apartment.

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Compare the area's rail and bus systems

Washington area is lucky to have so many transit options. But how they differ? Metro created an infographic that compares the area's current (and some future) rail systems as well as several levels of bus service:

Click on the image for a full-size version. What surprises you about this information?

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Breakfast links: Who needs a license?


Photo by Via Tsuji on Flickr.
Taxis vs. the future: DC's taxi industry came under a lot of criticism at a hearing on a bill to permanently legalize services like UberX, Sidecar, and Lyft. David Grosso accused Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton of having "a fear of the future." (Post)

License to tour: Giving tours in DC without a license can get someone potentially jailed for 90 days. Do we need to have licenses at all? Tim Krepp said almost 4 years ago that this is probably unnecessary and the test isn't very good. (Economist)

Not too high: The FAA may impose stricter height limits near airports, which could seriously impact growth in areas like Rosslyn and Crystal City. (ArlNow)

Get ready to bike to work: It's Bike to Work Day on Friday. There will be pit stops across the area to pick up t-shirts and snacks in the morning, and 4 set up for the evening commute. (DCist)

No place to park: DC has installed over 2,000 bike racks in 10 years, but it's not nearly enough, especially in busy areas like 14th Street and the Golden Triangle. (Post)

Bus flips: An Arlington Transit bus flipped over yesterday while attempting to climb a hill. The driver had let passengers off the bus after a check engine light came on, so there were no injuries. (ArlNow)

From students to Shakespeare: The former Southeastern University campus will be converted into housing for actors and the Shakespeare Theatre Company. The campus has been vacant since 2009. (STLQTC)

Solar pavement: What if we paved our roads with solar panels? There is now a working prototype that would allow us to do just that. In theory, they could generate 3 times the amount of electricity the US uses today. (Atlantic Cities)

And...: Baltimore and Washington have some of the country's least courteous drivers. (WTOP) ... Is DC going to house homeless women in a morgue? (City Paper) ... Montgomery Council candidate Tom Hucker is sorry for driving drunk in 2009. (Post)

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Ask GGW: Why is there no Silver Line station at Wolf Trap?

Contributor Jason Levinn posed this question:

Has anyone else wondered why WMATA/MWAA/DTP chose not to put in a Wolf Trap stop on the Silver Line? There's such a large gap between Spring Hill and Reston, one would think it might make sense for several reasons.


Photo by A.Currell on Flickr.

Indeed, the distance between the Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East stations is about 6 miles. That would make it the longest gap between stations once Phase 1 of the Silver Line opens. And being able to get off the Metro and take a short walk to see an event at Wolf Trap would be much more convenient compared to what exists today. But some of our other contributors had some great explanations as to why there is no station currently planned there:

Michael Perkins: It would be a total waste of money. An inline stop would cost somewhere between $100-200 million, maybe more, and there is essentially no development potential around the site. There's a national park and single-family homes.

No one is going to agree to rezone that area to allow anything like transit-oriented development, and the road access isn't appropriate for a commuter lot. Wolf Trap has several dozen events a year, but it's not enough by itself to drive much transit use.

Matt Johnson: Originally, the Silver Line plans included a provision for a future station at Wolf Trap, but in the deal struck (by Ray LaHood) to make it cost effective, the planned provision was deleted.

Tony Goodman: The agreement between Fairfax County and MWAA includes a "Concurrent Non-Project Activity" (or CPNA) to allow for a future possible station. These CNPAs are items that MWAA is providing that are outside the scope of the FTA project agreement.

Although currently there are no plans to build a Wolf Trap station, the current project includes accommodations necessary to allow the addition of a future passenger station, including a vertical tangency (flat spot).

Breakfast links: Bridge and tunnel crowd


Image from Wikipedia.
Darkness at end of the tunnel: Amtrak might have to shut down one of the two rail tunnels from New Jersey to Manhattan within 20 years, and maybe much sooner. That would cut train capacity across the Hudson River by 75%. (Capital New York)

Build your own bridge: Developers want to build a multimodal bridge to connect to the nearby Van Dorn Street Metro and shorten what would be a 1.2 mile walk. (WBJ)

Rework track work: Metro track work will look different starting in July with weekend shutdowns starting midnight on Friday night with fewer major disruptions. Track work during the day may also make a comeback. (Post)

Metro for cars?: Many of the outer Metro stations have large parking lots that attract cars but encourage people to ride Metro. Is this a good strategy or can we do more to encourage alternative transportation to Metro? (Post)

Turn it on: 5 pedestrians were hit by drivers on Route 1 in College Park recently. There are speed cameras, but they don't operate at night. Should they? (Diamondback)

Lots of benefits: If it builds an 8-story building at 13th and U, JBG will rehab the fields at Garrison Elementary, Harrison Rec, and Westminster park; add a CaBi station at Garrison and bike racks on 13th Street; and more. (WBJ)

Don't tread on my transit: Should there be an urbanist version of the Tea Party, to push for local tax dollars to stay local and less federal meddling in planning and transportation? Some say yes, but would it help or hurt inequality? (Human Transit)

Not a bike mecca any more?: Portland was a leader in bicycling and got the moniker "America's bicycle capital," but has the city been "resting on its laurels" too much? It has no cycletracks and no bikeshare. (Spacing)

And...: DDOT will try for federal streetcar funding for the 3rd time. (WBJ) ... Maryland rose from #11 to #7 on the list of most bike-friendly states, but Virginia dropped from #16 to #18. (WashCycle) ... You can sign up for TSA PreCheck at DCA. (Post)

Do you enjoy the links?: Chad Maddox, our regular Tuesday link curator, has to step down, and we need someone to put together a set of links once a week. If you can help keep the links going and contribute to one of Greater Greater Washington's most popular elements, please let us know at info@ggwash.org. Thanks!

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Make cycling safer with protected intersections

Protected bike lanes, or cycletracks, are great for encouraging bicycling, but intersections often don't offer much protection for cyclists. Enter the protected intersection:

The design is based on Dutch designs that gives all parties more time to react to conflicts and makes intersections much safer for cyclists. The design is not standard in the US, but neither were protected bike lanes up until a few years ago. Which intersections around here do you think should get this treatment?

Thanks to reader Jeremy Frisch for the tip.

Breakfast links: Fast and reliable


Photo by Matt' Johnson on Flickr.
Silver Line soon?: A summer Silver Line opening is looking more likely as WMATA and MWAA agree to let MWAA finish work even after WMATA has taken over the project. There's still no firm opening date, though. (Post, City Paper)

MoCo sees red over Red Line: The Montgomery County Council is not happy with Metrorail reliability. In fact, Red Line problems may have deterred at least one "major tenant" from locating in Silver Spring. (Gazette)

InKLEINed to listen: Former DDOT head Gabe Klein describes how a carrot and stick approach can encourage alternative transportation and discourage single-occupancy-car use. He also talked about Capital Bikeshare with Kojo Nnamdi. (Atlantic Cities, WAMU)

REALity can wait: After some confusion, it turns out DC residents can wait for their driver licenses to expire before getting a new, REAL ID-compliant version. Initially, the DMV said all licenses had to be replaced by October. (WAMU)

A costly Crescent: Cost estimates for rebuilding the Capital Crescent Trail along the Purple Line have nearly doubled to $95 million. But Montgomery County officials have promised to build it and may seek funding from the state. (Post)

Park(ing) year?: Los Angeles is allowing community groups to convert street space to public space for a year without permits, sort of like a long Park(ing) Day. The initiative also lays out preapproved designs the groups can choose from. (Atlantic Cities)

Are you a gentrifier?: If you have higher income than most, you are contributing to gentrification whether you live in an expensive area or a cheap one. Daniel Hertz argues, instead of angsting about where to live, affluent people should lobby for more affordable housing and more housing, period. (Atlantic Cities)

And...: DDOT has started work on a trail that will connect DC to Prince George's County. (TheWashCycle) ... The Old Post Office clock tower will close for 2 years starting May 1. (WBJ) ... Prosecutors want to send Michael Brown to jail for 43 months. (City Paper)

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Topic of the week: Is the Metro fare hike fair?

The WMATA Board yesterday approved a fare increase, which will be effective July 1. Are the fare hikes fair?


Photo by Oran Viriyincy on Flickr.

Metrorail fares will increase 3%, on average, and most Metrobus routes will now cost $1.75, no matter if you pay with cash or SmarTrip. Today, the buses cost $1.60 with SmarTrip, $1.80 cash. Parking rates at Metro lots will go up 10¢, except at some Prince George's County lots, which will cost 60¢ more.

Are the fare increases too great? Did WMATA make the right call with the specifics of the fare hike? Our contributors weigh in below. What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments.

Michael Perkins: WMATA missed another opportunity to make their parking pricing make sense. They raise the rates universally by only 10¢, and put an additional 50¢ on most lots in Prince George's County, even though there's already a large east/west divide in ridership, and the PG County lots are less crowded than other parking lots.

For the 2016 fare update, WMATA staff should do their homework and get ready to implement something similar to BART. BART staff are allowed to periodically review and adjust the parking rates in their parking lots based on demand.

For the cash fare on bus business, I think WMATA made the right call. The cash discount was causing a lot of people to load one trip's worth on a SmarTrip card and then use it immediately just to get the SmarTrip discount.

Dan Malouff: Just to keep up with inflation since WMATA's last fare hike in 2012, fares should rise between 2-3%. The Metrobus hike is a lot, but the Metrorail hike of 3% is not much more than inflation. But even buses are matching inflation over the long term. A DC Metrobus fare in 1975 was 40¢. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $1.75 today.

Ben Ross: I find it very disappointing that WMATA has paid for lesser fare increases by cutting funding for bus priority corridors. It is very hard to take long-range plans for expensive "bus rapid transit" seriously if the area isn't willing to make modest investments in making its buses move more rapidly now.

Malcolm Johnstone: People are being priced out of using the subway and, now, the bus. Metro is too expensive—nowhere else in North America can you pay $10 round trip just for subway ride.

Malcolm Kenton: WMATA still needs to institute some form of daily, weekly and monthly pass that covers both bus and Metrorail. Nearly every other big city transit agency that operates both bus and rail offers passes that cover both. If a 7-day "short trip" rail pass is $36 and a 7-day bus pass is $17.50, perhaps a 7-day "short-trip" rail pass that also includes unlimited bus travel could be $50.00. Similarly, a 28-day rail-plus-bus pass could be $260.00.

It's interesting to note that the deal remains in place that allows those with current weekly or monthly MARC train tickets to ride local buses in both the DC and Baltimore regions, as well as the Baltimore subway and light rail, at no additional cost. At $175.00, a MARC monthly ticket between Baltimore and DC is a great bargain for those who also travel extensively within either metro area: the only other form of transit it doesn't cover is Metrorail.

Can WMATA's rationale for these hikes be tied directly to any change in federal funding, or to a change in any particular jurisdiction's share of funding? Or simply to declining ridership and/or increasing costs?

Michael Perkins: Even better than that, the MTA sells a zone 1 bus pass that's good on all WMATA services as well as service in Baltimore. The Transit Link Card is just a hair under $200 and is good for everything. It covers rail and bus. Unlimited everything, including zone one MTA commuter bus and all the MTA service in Baltimore too. I don't know that there are any restrictions. Someone should try it.

The thing is on autopilot. I don't think Metro staff or the board really look at it so it just goes up with inflation every year, even though the peak long distance rail fare has outpaced inflation for a decade.

Metro has some of the highest fares in North America. I think only the London Tube has higher fares in the world. On the other hand, the trains are bursting with people. The London Tube also has reasonable passes, unlike Metro, and a congestion charge.

Myles Smith: I was surprised how close Metrorail was to the actual per-rider cost, with taxpayers subsidizing the fares by only about 20%, was it? Metrobus was more heavily subsidized, something like 60% by taxpayers. And any discussion of it should compare these subsidies to those of public streets for private vehicles (a 100% subsidy).

Jim Titus: We should not have to revisit every policy question related to equitable burden sharing, simply to make annual adjustments to account for inflation. And for the most part, they didn't.

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