Posts about Ask GGW
Do you have long hair and bicycle, especially to work? Do you have any tricks for keeping your hair looking good while wearing a helmet? Reader Jon asks:
My wife has recently started biking to work, but I've noticed that on hot days or when she has a meeting in the morning, she is very reluctant to wear her helmet because of the effect it has on her hair (and how uncomfortable it can be with long hair when it's 100 degrees).Do you have any suggestions for Jon and his wife?
I know helmets aren't a panacea for all bike-related safety risks, but it could save her life and I want to help find a way for her to be comfortable while she rides.
Reader Andrew wonders what will become of Metro's 1000-series railcars, the oldest in the system, once they are replaced with new 7000-series:
What's going to happen to the 1000 series Metro cars when the 7000 series finally arrives? I can't imagine Metro plans to store all of them in a railyard. I suppose it's most likely that they will sell them for scrap, but it might be cool if you could do a post about potential uses for the cars. Ideas such as:The new 7000-series railcars will start coming in 2013. The first 64 of them will allow Metro to expand its fleet to run the first phase of the Silver Line, to Wiehle Avenue (though the cars themselves won't necessarily all run on the Silver Line). The rest of the current 364-car order will replace the 300 1000-series, which are very old and not as safe as the newer cars (though still safer than driving).
- A cool low income housing project
- Art projects
- Turn a train into some unique restaurant or something
Dan Stessel, WMATA spokesperson, said the 364th 7000-series car, which will replace the last 1000-series, is scheduled for 2016. That assumes nothing changes; he notes, "While we have not adjusted the delivery schedule due to this year's events in Japan, we are closely monitoring supply chains and will be in a better position late this year to know what, if any, impact there may be to the production timeline."
So what will happen with the 1000s? Kurt Raschke has some thoughts:
They'll almost certainly be scrapped, like PATH is doing now with the PA1-4 cars now that all of the PA-5s have been delivered. It would be excellent if at least one married pair were to be preserved (preferably 1000/1001 at minimum), but today's WMATA is not a terribly nostalgic agency.But what if some organizations could buy entire cars? What ideas do you have for interesting ways to use them?
Then there's the issue of what to do with the preserved cars; you could send them to the National Capital Trolley Museum, but I don't know if they have appropriate facilities for them (considering that they are a trolley museum), and I doubt WMATA would just leave them on the property indefinitely.
As far as using the scrapped cars for various projects, that may or may not happen. As an example, London Underground is in the process of scrapping the 1967 Tube Stock fleet, and the company doing the scrapping has been instructed by Transport for London to not permit any "sizable pieces" off the property (to include whole train cars). It's not clear why this is, but it may have to do with liability, or accounting or tax issues.
It's the weekend, and there's track work taking place on the Metrorail system. Trains are running on reduced headways, and after an extended wait, a train finally rolls in
"SPECIAL" trains show up most often when there's track work going on somewhere on the line, but, the fact is, they can appear at any time. To understand how the problematic signs come to be, it's important to first understand how the side destination signs on Metrorail trains are set.
The train operator doesn't actually set the destination station, even though this is what riders see from the platform. Rather, he or she sets a destination code, which indicates the train's destination station and the route it will take. Destination codes are two digits long, so there are only 99 destination codes available. This means that not all possible combinations of stations and routes can be displayed; there are some stations where trains can terminate that don't have a destination code assigned.
One of these stations is East Falls Church, where all westbound Orange Line trains from downtown terminated this past weekend due to the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. Thus, Orange Line trains bound for East Falls Church display "SPECIAL" all the way from New Carrollton to East Falls Church. This work has been going on throughout 2011, and will continue in 2012, based on Metro's track work schedule.
Because the PIDS (the in-station "next train" display boards) are also driven by trains' destination codes, more often than not they only display "Train".
Regardless of the destination code set, the train operator can manually override a train's side destination signs, forcing them to "SPECIAL" or "NO PASSENGERS" with the use of a switch in the cab. In certain circumstances (especially when there's no track work going on), it may be the case that the train operator has the right destination code entered but has failed to set the train identity control switch appropriately. In those cases, a kind word on the intercom or through the cab window will often get the problem resolved.
The situation is an accessibility and wayfinding nightmare. While operators of "SPECIAL" trains are supposed to make frequent public address announcements with regard to the train's route, they're often inaudible to the majority of passengers, and at their best, they still do nothing for hearing-impaired riders.
Where a station without a destination code is a frequent terminal due to work (like East Falls Church), the best solution would be for WMATA to revise the destination code table plugged into each railcar's display system. Unfortunately, that requires bringing every railcar into the shop, an expensive and time-consuming proposition.
In the meantime, riders may find it helpful to know that if, for example, there's track work on the Orange Line, but not the Blue Line, then westbound trains at downtown stations that display "SPECIAL" are almost certainly operating on the Orange Line and terminating at East Falls Church.
Even if Metro can reduce the use of "SPECIAL" destination signs for frequent work, these trains will always exist. Not every station can have a destination code; there simply aren't enough codes.
Sometimes trains will need to terminate at a certain station due to work very infrequently, and for them it's probably not worth it to reset the codes for a one-time event. That was the case this past weekend, when Green Line trains from Greenbelt terminated at Georgia Avenue. Their destination signs displayed "SPECIAL" while going southbound, but the switch replacement work on the Green Line at U Street was a one-weekend event.
In any circumstance, since they're going to continue to exist, Metro should make more of an effort to communicate the route and destination of "SPECIAL" trains to customers.
What will the fare be on the Silver Line, such as from downtown to Dulles Airport? Metro has not announced fares for the line yet, but we can offer some estimates based on today's fares.
In short, unless the current fare caps are changed, the answer would be $5 peak, $2.75 off-peak, with Fairfax and Loudoun paying big extra subsidies. More likely, the fare would be something like $6.20 peak, $3.50 off-peak.
First, it's important to understand the current Metro fare structure.
There are two formulas used to determine the fare between two stations. One is used for off-peak periods (the "reduced fare"), the other is used for peak periods (the "regular fare"). Peak-of-the-peak just adds 20¢ to the regular fare, and the paper farecard surcharge adds 25¢ to the reduced, regular, or peak-of-the-peak fare.
During off-peak periods, fares fall into one of three buckets. Trips equal to or less than 7 miles cost $1.60
$1.95. If your trip is between 7 and 10 miles, the cost is $2.15. Any trips over 10 miles in length cost $2.75.
If you travel during peak periods, the formula is a bit more complex. The first 3 miles cost $1.95. For each mile between 3 and 6, riders are charged 29.9 cents per mile, in addition to the $1.95 base. For any mile beyond 6 miles, the per mile rate is 26.5 cents. Fares stop increasing at $5. The $5 cap does not include the peak-of-the-peak or paper farecard surcharges.
Under the current fare structure, after 14 miles, fares stop increasing. That means that if we added the Silver Line without changing the fare structure, the fare cap would keep fares at a maximum of $5. That probably won't be the case, however.
Currently, the suburban jurisdictions pay half the difference of what the actual fare would be without the cap. With the Silver Line being so long, that arrangement may not continue to be feasible.
Many riders are probably unaware of the cap, and therefore assume that longer lines will automatically result in higher fares. Without the cap, Metro fares would hit a maximum of $9.05 for a trip from Franconia to Shady Grove without peak-of-the-peak or farecard surcharges.
If the Silver Line was added into a fare structure without the $5 cap, the maximum fare would rise to $11.80. That would be the cost of a trip from Route 772 at the end of the Silver Line to Largo Town Center at the end of the Blue Line.
Under that scenario, the fare from Dulles to Metro Center would be $7.80.
But it's unlikely Metro will have uncapped fares. What is a far more likely scenario would be for Metro to raise the cap, and perhaps add a fourth tier to both peak and off-peak trips. The chart below shows one potential scenario.
In this scenario, fares are capped at $6.20 during peak periods. Above 14 miles, riders are charged 20 cents per mile. Additionally, off-peak fares receive a fourth tier of fares. For trips longer than 15 miles, riders are charged $3.50.
Let's look at a few potential fare possibilities.
Under the current fare structure, fares would have 3 buckets for off-peak, and would be capped at $5. In that case, trips from selected stations on the Silver Line would look like this:
|E. Falls Church||$1.60||$2.50||$2.75||$4.35||$2.75||$5.00||$2.75||$5.00|
|Silver Spring||$2.75||$5.00||$2.75||$5.00||$2.75||$5.00||$2.75||$5.00||Union Station||$2.75||$4.70||$2.75||$5.00||$2.75||$5.00||$2.75||$5.00|
Under the scenario with giving off-peak and peak fares a fourth tier and a peak cap of $6.20, fares would look like this:
|E. Falls Church||$1.60||$2.50||$2.75||$4.35||$3.50||$5.65||$3.50||$6.20|
|Silver Spring||$3.50||$5.50||$3.50||$6.20||$3.50||$6.20||$3.50||$6.20||Union Station||$2.75||$4.70||$3.50||$6.15||$3.50||$6.20||$3.50||$6.20|
Finally, what would fares look like under the current structure, if they were not capped at $5?
|East Falls Church||$2.50||$4.35||$5.90||$7.05|
|Silver Spring||$5.65||$7.35||$8.85||$9.85||Union Station||$4.70||$6.55||$8.10||$9.20|
You can see possible fares between all stations and each Silver Line station on the full spreadsheet (XLS).
Reader M asks why an Arlington County road has a very strange curve that looks like a part of an interchange that was never completed:
I drive on this section of Glebe Road often, near the Chain Bridge and wonder why the curve was designed this way. I tried researching for some sort of unbuilt interchange, but had no luck. Do you know any GGWers who are good at sniffing this stuff out? It's not even on Wikimapia.To answer this question, we found a wealth of resources from Arlington County, which provides electronic copies of its historic General Land Use Plans.
As can be seen in the 1961 Plan, This section of Glebe Road was designed to be part of a wye (or 'Y') interchange with the George Washington Memorial Parkway and also with a new bridge proposed to connect with Arizona Avenue across the river in the District.
This interchange remained on the books until 1975, when the County removed the proposed bridge and a number of other road projects (including, for a period of four years, I-66) from its Plans.
On a related note that may become a later post on Greater Greater Washington, and as recounted by Zachary Schrag, Arlington County at the time was in a war with the state and the Federal Highway Administration over Interstate and Metro plans. In 1979, I-66 was restored in a compromise with the two other parties to run Metro underground in Arlington. However, the two other proposed bridges (the I-266 Three Sisters Bridge near Spout Run Parkway, and the Arizona Avenue Bridge suggested above) never made it back in after various battles.
If you think free markets never work, you need to take an economics class. If you think free markets always work, you need to take another economics class.
A lot of the articles we have here deal with using economic incentives to deal with various market failures, like congestion, overuse of common space, or pollution.
For example, the argument for performance parking, congestion charging or HOT lanes is essentially an argument that allocating scarce resources using price is preferable to having congestion dictate who can use them, which is an argument you would get in a basic economics class.
Similarly, the imposition of taxes on economic bads like disposable plastic bags, carbon emissions, or sugary soda consumption could be argued from the standpoint that the socially optimal level of consumption is lower than the free market level, or equivalently that the marginal societal cost is higher than the personal cost. This is also an argument you'd hear in an introductory economics treatment.
So here's a basic question: Were you required in either high school or college to take an economics course? How did that course affect your thinking? I took economics in high school, loved it, then I took two more courses in college. Now I keep up by reading papers in public finance and tax policy, as well as economics-related subjects in planning, urban development and environmental policy.
From time to time, readers write in with questions. What's going on with this project? What do you think about a particular area?
I've sometimes been able to reply, or used the question for a post, and at other times haven't been able to get back to everyone. However, we want to be able to answer your questions.
Therefore, the contributor team is going to try to spend some more time answering reader questions. What would you like to hear our opinions about, or opinions of your fellow readers?
Post your questions in the comments. We'll try to answer them in posts, or possibly post them for other readers to weigh in on. We definitely can't promise to get to all of them, depending how many there are, but we'll try.
Reader Mark and his family are moving to the Greater Washington area. They are, in many ways, a typical area family: the parents are in their 30s, own dogs, want good schools and a safe area for their kids, and can spend about $500-800,000 for a house.
Like many families moving to the area, they'd really like a walkable neighborhood and public transit access. But to Mark and his family, this is a definite priority. Where should they live?
They do have one car and need to be able to park it, but would rather not be dependent on it to get everywhere (and want to stick with only one car, not two). They want a single-family home or a semi-detached or end unit townhouse (i.e. windows on at least three sides) with three bedrooms. They like bungalow and ranch styles and perfer a liberal-leaning community.
Mark has already heard suggestions from others of Kensington, Takoma Park, Clarendon, and (but this doesn't have transit access) Eastport, Annapolis. How would you advise Mark and the many other families like his?
For those of us who support walkable living, having many options to serve the Marks of the world is very important. I chose to live in a row house in a dense neighborhood, but many people don't want to live in rowhouses and, at the moment, the schools in DC are not good enough for most families. Clearly, a top priority is improving DC's schools so Mark could pick Tenleytown, Friendship Heights, Brightwood, Shepherd Park, or one of the many other nice, lower density, but transit-accessible neighborhoods in the District.
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