Posts about Video
We don't know yet if the DC Zoning Commission will go along with proposals to reduce parking minimum requirements, but some commissioners certainly seemed skeptical about a few arguments to keep the old rules from AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Many residents testified on the proposal at a hearing on Tuesday. So many people had signed up that there's an overflow hearing this coming Tuesday (and you can still sign up to speak!) 33 residents spoke in favor of reducing minimums, while only 7 opposed the reduction.
Many supporters echoed a theme about housing affordability. Since underground parking can add $30,000-50,000 per space to the cost of construction, that forces buildings that would provide more affordable market-rate or below-market units to charge more and/or create fewer units.
AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson John Townsend was one of the opponents, and he took issue with this approach. Earlier in the night, outside the hearing room, he personally apologized to me for the insulting remarks he made about me to Aaron Wiener of the Washington City Paper, which I accepted. He also said he wasn't going to be testifying, which is odd since he very quickly thereafter did.
Townsend argued that reducing parking minimums would have "a deleterious impact, not only on the District and its residents and its businesses and its houses of worship, but its restaurants and its citizens." He said that parking is a problem, and we know it is because DC wrote more than 1.8 million parking tickets last year, Townsend said, a practice he called "a hidden tax on people who only want to do one thing: to enjoy the nation's capital."
He also claimed that the affordability argument was a "myth," and asked for empirical studies proving that reducing this cost actually cuts down on the cost of housing. Instead, he said, there is not enough parking and it's too expensive. "It drives people out of this city. It makes housing more unaffordable," he said, especially "the one-third of the population below the poverty line that has been edged out and edged out of the social fabric" of the city, as well as tourists.
Later, in response to questions, he also brought up the Washington area's heavy traffic as another reason to believe there is a problem and mandate more parking in zoning.
Some members of the Zoning Commission, who will actually decide the zoning code, weren't buying Townsend's arguments. Dupont resident and Zoning Commission vice-chair Marcie Cohen talked about her own experience with housing finance.
Cohen: I almost thought you were arguing two sides of the coin. Basically, if we suffer the greatest gridlock in the country, then it seems to me you would want to encourage people to use alternative transits, and that the more parking you have, the more you are encouraging people to park in those spaces within buildings. ... You seem to be saying that we have a problem and the way to solve that problem is to add parking spaces. ...
I do believe, strongly, because I did finance for 20 years, housing throughout the country, that parking, especially underground parking, does contribute to the cost of housing.
Townsend: What I said was, where are the real world empirical studies that say that the developers will pass on the cost, the savings if you were to jettison the parking minimums? Where is the real-world, economically-based, research-based empirical studies that they will pass on these costs to homeowners? That, in our worldview, is not a reality.
Cohen: Yeah, we've heard from witnesses who are expert in this area, and my own experience, which I mentioned is over 20 years of financing housing, is it does happen. It's passed along. I can't cite a particular study except the testimony we've heard tonight plus my own experience in financing housing. And, in affordable housing, we attempt to reduce the requirements so that they won't be burdened by these costs.
Peter May, the representative from the National Park Service and a Capitol Hill resident, grilled Townsend on some of his points. May also challenged Townsend on the argument that since we have a lot of traffic, we need more parking. "We have the worst gridlock in the country," said Townsend. May replied, "So, if there are more parking spaces available, and theoretically it's cheaper and easier to get parking, wouldn't that increase gridlock?"
Ultimately, that led to an entertainingly barbed exchange. After Townsend cited a number of statistics on DC's growth, May said, "So, uh, can you answer my question?"
Townsend: "I did answer your question."
May: "No, you didn't. I asked whether the availability of parking has an effect on gridlock, and you told me that there's an increase in the number of people living in the District and the number of jobs."
May also probed Townsend's claim that DC's high number of tickets relates to parking policy. People probably get tickets, May suggested, because they're trying to avoid paying a higher garage rate, not necessarily because there's no garage at all. It quickly became clear May wasn't buying Townsend's argument.
May: So, the people who are getting parking tickets here are all doing it because they can't find another place to park? It's not because they're not willing to pay $25 to park?
Townsend: Yes, that's what I'm saying. It's symptomatic of the fact that you have a pernicious parking problem in the city already. That's what it means.
May: I think you can look at the same set of facts and come to a different conclusion about why people are getting parking tickets. A lot of times people are getting parking tickets because they're not willing to walk an extra block, or not willing to pay 25 bucks.
Townsend: "It comes down to whether we perceive that parking is a public good or a private good. And by that I mean, the city has a role to play in this and to make parking part of the social and economic fabric of the city.
This exchange actually illuminates a great deal about why AAA is advocating so hard on this issue. By one argument, why should it matter to them? They provide services to drivers (including at least 3 members of the Zoning Commission, as those members themselves noted at the hearing). However much parking there might be, those people who want or have to drive will probably want to sign up with some kind of towing and lockout protection service like AAA. Why alienate so many residents with their divisiveness?
But if you view parking as part of a culture clash, where car-owner culture is fighting for dominance within the city with non-car-owner culture (walking, biking, taking transit, using Zipcar and car2go and taxis and Uber), then the very idea of allowing more car-free residents doesn't fit into that vision or might even seem like a threat.
For most of us, drivers and non-drivers alike, parking is a necessary evil. Cars will be a part of the transportation mix, and (until they become self-driving and need not park) there has to be space to store them near many of the homes and the jobs and the stores. But parking spaces drive up the cost of housing, create pedestrian dead zones, and otherwise interrupt the city's historic, walkable character.
Lower car dependence isn't really a serious business risk for AAA, since cars won't be going away. But it's certainly possible that, as the city grows, more and more residents have many available choices for transportation, and cars and parking become just one in the crowd. Alternately, AAA would like cars to be more than just a tool, but a part of our very soul, the "social and economic fabric" of the city.
Changes to our urban landscape can seem daunting at times. But reader thm points us to this TED talk in which New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan shows how New York quickly and cheaply changed its streets, sometimes with only some paint, to improve the experience for all users.
Some of these changes we already have here, such as bike sharing and parking-protected bike lanes. Others, like BRT, are in the planning stages. But are there places in the DC area that could benefit from conversion into a pedestrian plaza?
When NPR moved its headquarters in April, the music division had little fun with the trip. They called up the band OK Go to make an episode of the Tiny Desk Concert series. The results are pretty cute:
Being a Greater Greater Washington contributor, I couldn't help but notice all of the recent construction and development! You get a great look at the variety of the city as they move from Mt. Vernon Square to North Capitol Street.
NPR's real estate history matches Washington's economic changes over the past 40 years. When it was founded in 1971, its offices were at 16th & I Streets, next to the brutalist First Church, which was the core of DC's declining downtown.
It's first purpose-built offices were on M Street in the West End, which lasted until NPR moved to the then-dilapidated Mt. Vernon Square in 1994. Now that downtown real estate prices spread north and east, they've relocated to a building in NoMa, designed by DC-based firm Hickock Cole.
Metro's new 7000 series railcars are making progress at their factory in Japan. On Wednesday, WMATA posted this video of a new train moving under its own power.
7000 series cars will begin arriving in 2014.
While some of us can't imagine living without Metro, at one point in time not all that long ago it was brand new. This 1976 promotional video, via PlanItMetro, shows the system's earliest days:
Some areas have drastically changed since Metro arrived, like Rhode Island Avenue, which was surrpunded by parking lots and is now the site of mixed-use, transit-oriented development.
The video also features 2-car trains, which seems unimaginable in our era of 6- to 8-car trains.
What do you notice?
New technologies continue to make it possible to see things in creative, new ways. A group of people at Teehan+Lax created a program to allow users to create videos animating Google's Street View. This demo video shows an awesome "hyperlapse" across various settings.
You can make your own videos, too using their software. What areas would you be interested in animating to create an awesome video?
Right now the system doesn't let you link to an animation or export it to video, nor can you select a specific route, but if you could do these things then something like Hyperlapse could be a great way to graphically show people driving, biking, or walking directions, or create video tours, or otherwise show people about places online.
Starting at 12:06, Greater Greater Washington contributor Veronica Davis, WABA head Shane Farthing, and Arlington bike planner Chris Eatough will talk about bicycling in DC on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. Listen live or catch the archived audio once it's posted this afternoon.
They also posted this video which visualizes a few days of Capital Bikeshare trips:
This is yet another consequence of Capital Bikeshare's excellent decision to provide anonymous trip data. People have done all kinds of useful things with the data, like MV Jantzen's similar video and interactive visualization tool.
WMATA planners helped STLTransit create an animation of transit across the entire Washington region. That's possible because WMATA has a single data file with all regional agencies' schedules. They hope to make that file public; that would fuel even more tools that aid the entire region.
Click full screen and HD to see the most detail.
One of the obstacles for people who want to build trip planners, analyze what areas are accessible by transit, design visualizations, or create mobile apps is that our region has a great many transit agencies, each with their own separate data files.
Want to build a tool that integrates Metrobus, Fairfax Connector, and Ride On? You have to chase down a number of separate files from different agencies in a number of different places, and not all agencies offer open data at all.
The effect is that many tool builders, especially those outside the region, don't bother to include all of our regional systems. For example, the fun tool Mapnificent, which shows you everywhere you can reach in a set time from one point by transit, only includes WMATA, DC Circulator, and ART services. That means it just won't know about some places you can reach in Fairfax, Alexandria, Montgomery, or Prince George's.
Sites like this can show data for many cities all across the world without the site's author having to do a bunch of custom work in every city, because many transit agencies release their schedules in an open file format called the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). Software developer Matt Caywood has been maintaining a list of which local agencies offer GTFS files as well as open real-time data.
We've made some progress. Fairfax Connector, for example, recently started offering its own GTFS feed. But while DASH has one, you have to email them for it, and there's none for Prince George's The Bus.
The best way to foster more neat tools and apps would be to have a single GTFS file that includes all systems. As it turns out, there is such a beast. WMATA already has all of the schedules for all regional systems for its own trip planner. It even creates a single GTFS file now.
Michael Eichler wrote on PlanItMetro that they give this file to the regional Transportation Planning Board for its modeling, and offered it to STLTransit, who have been making animations showing all transit in a region across a single day.
This is one of many useful ways people could use the file. How about letting others get it? Eichler writes, "We are working to make this file publicly available."
Based on the STLTransit video, WMATA's file apparently includes 5 agencies that Caywood's list says have no public GTFS files: PG's TheBus, PRTC OmniLink and OmniRide, Fairfax CUE, Frederick TransIT, and Loudoun County Transit. It also covers Laurel Connect-a-Ride, Reston LINK, Howard Transit, the UM Shuttle, and Annapolis Transit, which aren't even on that list and which most software developers might not even think to look for even if they did have available files.
Last I heard, the obstacles to the file being public included WMATA getting permission from the regional transit agencies, and some trepidation by folks inside the agency about whether they should take on the extra work to do this or would get criticized if the file has any errors.
Let's hope they can make this file public as soon as possible. Since it already exists, it should be a no-brainer. If any regional agencies or folks at WMATA don't understand why this is good for transit, a look at this video should bring it into clear focus.
Thanks to video posted on YouTube, we can take a historic ride on the DC Transit 82 streetcar line from 5th & G (near what is now WMATA headquarters) all the way to the Branchville neighborhood of College Park.
Between downtown and the northern end of the line at Branchville, the streetcar passes through Eckington, Mount Rainier, Hyattsville, Riverdale, and College Park.
It's difficult to determine the exact date of this film because it was posted without a source cited. However, the streetcars are all sporting DC Transit livery. Before July 1956, the system was known as Capital Transit. It also has to be before January 1962, because that's when the streetcar system closed in DC.
We can actually narrow the dates a little more because the 80 (North Capitol Street) and 82 (Rhode Island Avenue) lines were discontinued on September 7, 1958.
Here is a map of the route the streetcar takes in this film:
There are a few interesting things along the route visible in the video.
At 0:48, the streetcar takes a "private right-of-way" between New York Avenue and Eckington Place. Today, this is the Wendy's in "Dave Thomas Circle," at New York and Florida Avenues.
A little farther up the route, at 1:58, you see the T Street "plow pit," where the car changed from using underground conduit to overhead wire. The bridge in the background is the T Street bridge over what is now the WMATA Brentwood Yard.
Starting at 10:18, the line begins to cross the Cafritz property in Riverdale Park. This section of the line will be converted into an extension of the College Park Trolley Trail whenever the site is developed.
At 11:20, the streetcar begins running on what is now the College Park Trolley Trail, and it continues on what is now the trail until the end of the film.
At 12:15, the trolley comes to a grade crossing of a spur of the B&O Railroad which was used to deliver coal to the University of Maryland. That right-of-way is now used for Paint Branch Parkway. Just north of that crossing (at 12:25), the streetcar crosses a tributary of Paint Branch Creek on a bridge that is is still used to carry the Trolley Trail.
At 14:18, the trolley arrives at the Branchville Loop, where Greenbelt Road, Rhode Island Avenue, and University Boulevard intersect. The narrator mentions that the line used to run further north along what is now Rhode Island Avenue. As late as 1948, the 82 line was still running as far north as Beltsville. However, the line used to run all the way to Main Street in Laurel, at the far northern end of Prince George's County.
What else do you notice in the film?
I'm on a panel at this morning's Washington Post "Conquering the Commute" symposium to talk about how people get around on foot and by bike, along with DC planning director Harriet Tregoning and chief DDOT bike planner Jim Sebastian.
You can watch the panel live here:
Immediately afterward, Stewart Schwartz from the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the most influential smart growth group in the Washington region and a small charity I hope you will support financially, will debate lifelong Outer Beltway booster Bob Chase on a panel with Transportation Planning Board head Ron Kirby. It should be exciting so stick around!
After the event, I will replace this live stream with embedded videos as soon as the Post gets them up.
- Brookland neighbors ask Metro for development with a side of green
- Topic of the week: You don't have to put on the red light (cameras)
- Could transit over the American Legion Bridge work?
- How would Metro's loop work with an Arlington express line?
- Potomac Yard Metro station hits a snag
- Streetcar arrives on H Street
- DDOT removes traffic calming on Wisconsin Avenue