Posted: June 27th, 2008 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: District of Columbia, Zoning | 8 Comments »
Just because the D.C. handgun ban has been overturned doesn’t mean you will ever be able to buy one in Washington. The reason? Zoning. This from the Wall Street Journal:
Washington has no federally licensed gun stores, so nowhere in the city can residents buy a handgun legally. Under federal law, buying one in neighboring Maryland or Virginia isn’t an option either. If gun dealers sell a firearm to a nonresident, they have to ship it to a licensed dealer in the purchaser’s home state, which then conducts the relevant background checks. “Without a dealer, there’s no place to ship the gun to,” said Mike Campbell, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
It is unlikely that Washington will get any new dealers, either. Federal licensing requirements mandate that would-be dealers meet local guidelines and zoning ordinances. Representatives of each of the district’s eight council wards said they would vigorously oppose a gun shop in their area. They also said discussions had already begun over which regulations they might use to keep one from opening.
This approach has been used successfully elsewhere – as of 2005 Minneapolis only had one store, and Washington has already largely eradicated nude strip clubs through onerous zoning requirements:
While the license allows an owner to open a club with nude dancing anywhere in the city that has commercial zoning, a club must sit at least 600 feet away from any schools, community centers and housing. Community members can protest the opening of such a club, and it must get approval from the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
The only problem? As of now, D.C. Zoning Code says nothing about gun shops. Another issue to throw into the mix over in the D.C. zoning update …
Posted: June 16th, 2008 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: Congestion Pricing, District of Columbia, Parking, Transportation | 5 Comments »
Maybe it was during a 20-minute, 2-mile taxi ride from Georgetown to downtown D.C., where my average speed was 6 miles per hour. Or maybe it was during a lurching bus ride across K Street that took perhaps half an hour to traverse the same distance. During both trips, city street were jammed with large, single-occupancy vehicles, while buses, delivery trucks, and business vehicles were slowed to a crawl.
Washington, D.C. needs to get serious about downtown congestion. London congestion pricing has been a smashing success, with the Times reporting today on an unexpected benefit: drastically reduced parking costs downtown. Not the mention the significant revenue for public transportation investment. Now officials in Manchester are contemplating a two-ring system that would charge motorists £1-3 to enter the city, depending on the time of day and location. While business types are skeptical (as they usually are) the only evidence they can marshal are opinion polls. That takes us to Paris, a city that has cut auto use by 20 percent in seven years — without London-style congestion pricing. When parking spaces were converted to a dedicated bus route, the residents of the Left Bank neighborhood of Montparnasse held a funeral, predicting the death of the neighborhood. Now the owner of a famous cafe admits “We’ve come to love it,” noting the bus brings workers and customers with improved efficiency. Elsewhere in the city, programs initiated by mayor Bertrand DelanoŽ are raising the cost of parking, creating dedicated bus and bicycle lanes, making tens of thousands of bikes available for rent, and “civilizing” the city’s most car-friendly streets by cutting lanes and expanding pedestrian space.
D.C.’s attempts are meager in comparison. Increased parking meter prices are only in effect in several neighborhoods. The tiny and highly-hyped bike sharing program still hasn’t launched despite media reports it would start in May. The networking of bicycle lanes and trails is fragmented and far shorter than other U.S. cities. DDOT’s experimental bus and bicycle lane on 9th Street downtown is too short and poorly marked and enforced to make much of a difference.
The solutions to congestion are at hand, all that’s lacking is the resources and political will to do them.
Posted: May 29th, 2008 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: District of Columbia, Pedestrian Space | 2 Comments »
Last week the Post had a big story on the District’s new pedestrian plan. The only problem, as DCist pointed out, was that the actual plan was not yet available online. This week the actual plan was posted to the project website. The website also includes detailed maps of their pedestrian crash analysis, the sidewalk gap analysis, and maps and recommendations for the plan’s priority corridors. The crash map is particularly interesting – this detail of the full map shows police-reported pedestrian crashes between 2000 and 2005, with blue icons indicating one accident to red indicating over 10. Although they seem dangerous, according to this map there were no reported accidents on either Dupont or Logan Circles, underscoring the difference between perceived and actual danger.
The Draft Pedestrian Master Plan found that 18% of D.C. blocks have incomplete or missing sidewalks on one or both sides of the street. It also included these statistics regarding accidents: An average of 670 pedestrians were injured each year from 2000 to 2006, and in 2004 pedestrian fatalities accounted for 22% of all traffic fatalities in the city.
Reviewing the report, the following recommendations caught my eye:
- Complete the sidewalk network
- Locate bus stops at the far side of intersections (after the bus crosses through the intersection) to improve safety
- Increase ticket fine for motorists who refuse to yield to a pedestrian (It’s $50 now in D.C., Arlington charges $500)
- Expand the photo radar speeding reduction program
- Develop walking information on DDOT and Washington.org tourist website
- Reduce the minimum driveway width for residential uses from 12-feet to 10-feet, and establish a 14-foot maximum width … For commercial uses, the District should reduce the minimum width for two-way traffic from 24-foot to 22-foot to reflect best practices. (Appendix C)
- Leading Pedestrian Intervals: “A large proportion of vehicle/pedestrian collisions at signalized intersections involve left- and right-turning vehicles. One phasing strategy to improve pedestrian safety in locations with heavy volumes of turning traffic and frequent pedestrian crossings is to provide an LPI. During the leading interval, all motor vehicle flows are stopped for 2-4 seconds while pedestrians are given the WALK signal.”
- Develop guidelines and standard details for utilizing advanced stop lines at all multi-lane uncontrolled crossings.
- Adopt policies that encouraging medians, minimum width of 6 ft (currently 4 ft)
The consultants preparing the report, Toole Design Group, will accept comments until June 20th before revising it to issue their final plan.
> W. Post: D.C. Pedestrian Safety Strategy to Target High-Crash Intersections
> District of Columbia Pedestrian Master Plan
Posted: May 3rd, 2008 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: District of Columbia, Maryland, Transportation, WMATA | 4 Comments »
WMATA recently released the 2008 Metrorail Station Access & Capacity Study (PDF) which analyzes how the system can accommodate future growth in detail. David has a good summary of the report’s major recommendations for improvement and expansion. A table in the report caught my eye that showed the estimated number of jobs and households around a number of Metrorail stations from the year 2005. Metro’s Office of Long-Range Planning was kind enough to provide me the complete spreadsheet of the number of households and jobs within half a mile of each station, distilled from the Washington Council of Government’s transportation planning data. (I assume the numbers were calculated by summing the jobs for each traffic analysis zone whose center was half a mile from a Metro station.)
I’m using the data for a larger ridership study that should appear here sometime in the future, but in the meantime I realized it allows us to evaluate the level of transit oriented development in each jurisdiction. For Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, because the stations are spaced sufficiently far apart, we can also estimate the percentage of total jobs within half a mile of a Metro station. This relative measure takes into account the many more jobs in Montgomery County. Because the half mile radii overlap significantly in Arlington, Alexandria, and D.C. I can’t easily say what proportion of all jobs are accessible by transit for those jurisdictions.
Here’s the results after averaging the development for each station in the various jurisdictions.
The analysis confirms what we might expect: D.C. and Arlington have the most jobs near their stations, and the Prince George’s County stations have the fewest in absolute terms. The pattern holds in relative terms for the Maryland counties — according to the WMCOG data, roughly 50% of Montgomery County’s 500,293 jobs were within 1/2 mile of a Metro station, versus only 38.4% of Prince George’s County’s 358,450 jobs. While I agree there’s much Prince George’s should be doing to boost development around their stations, there are a couple important caveats. The county has seen much less real estate investment than other parts of the region, and the Metro stations are much newer. Metro made it all they way out to Shady Grove in 1984 and Glenmont in 1998, versus Greenbelt in 1993, Branch Avenue in 2001, and Largo Town Center in 2004.
For households, on average Arlington County’s stations have slightly more than D.C. stations, likely a reflection of Arlington’s aggressive development of high density housing along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and the low-density residential neighborhoods surrounding many D.C. stations.
Not surprisingly, some of the least-used stations I identified in my popular post on station ridership also have the least development around them. My next step is to use a regression to evaluate the relative role of jobs, housing, parking, bus lines, multi-modal access, and a variety of other variables to explain ridership.
Posted: April 30th, 2008 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: Biking, District of Columbia, Transportation | 6 Comments »
Ever wanted to rent a bike in downtown D.C. to run a quick errand or see the town? Starting next month the city’s SmartBike rental program kicks off with 120 bikes at 10 locations, where the racks have already been installed. Membership will cost $40 annually and work something like Zipcar, with rentals limited to 3 hours and users charged $200 for bikes unreturned in 48 hours. Registration is not yet activated on the program website. Renting will be free to start. Clear Channel’s international program website has more data on the bikes and how the system works. The program is run through the city’s bicycle program, where you can find bike maps and other information. Of course WashCycle has the latest news and all the background on the program. Unfortunately there seems to have been a delay in the Bike Station at Union Station — maybe Arlington will beat D.C. in that one.
Posted: April 4th, 2008 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: District of Columbia, History | 2 Comments »
I thought I would post a short note commemorating two anniversaries, one significant to the nation and the other the city of Washington. Forty years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. That event sparked civic disturbances in over 100 cities including Washington, D.C.
This map, published in the book Ten Blocks from the White House shows the extent of fires and looting. The event lay the groundwork for both the large number of subsidized housing projects along these corridors and new private developments like U Street’s Ellington and DCUSA in Columbia Heights.
The late 1960s events are also usually said to be related population decline. Like most cities, its population peaked around 1950 — 18 years before the civil disorder. Population decline should be understood as an interplay not only of urban problems causing middle class “flight,” but also the draw of the suburbs in the form of superior public services and inexpensive housing subsidized by government highways and mortgage programs.
Here are just a few links, please feel free to contribute more in the comments.
> Previous post: Understanding the 1960s’s ‘Civil Disorders’
> History News Network: April 4th, 1968
> W. Post: 40 Years After King, Legacies of the Riot
Posted: March 26th, 2008 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: District of Columbia, Transit, WMATA | 33 Comments »
The Washington, D.C. Metrorail system is a massive investment in regional infrastructure. It’s construction and maintenance requires billions dollars of tax money, but few would question it’s importance to the region. It has shaped growth and kept hundreds of thousands of cars off the road daily, improving the quality of our air and city.
Although the system is famously congested along busy lines at rush hour, many stations operate well below their capacity. Of the system’s 86 stations, 32 (or 37%) had fewer than 5,000 average weekday riders (boardings) in 2007. If the entire system is subsidized by taxes, these stations are the most deeply subsidized. Given the huge expense of the station construction, maintenance, and staff, is it acceptable to let these stations remain underutilized?
The 32 stations with fewer than 5,000 daily riders in 2007 are as follows: Morgan Boulevard, Cheverly, Deanwood, Arlington Cemetery, Eisenhower Ave., Capitol Heights, Forest Glen, Congress Heights, Landover, Waterfront, Benning Road, Naylor Road, Minnesota Ave., New York Avenue, Potomac Ave., Mt Vernon Sq-UDC, Shaw-Howard Univ, Van Dorn Street, West Hyattsville, Virginia Square-GMU, Addison Road, White Flint, Clarendon, Navy Yard, East Falls Church, Braddock Road, College Park, Rockville, Twinbrook, Georgia Avenue, Wheaton, Prince George’s Plaza, Cleveland Park.
A comparison to the system’s busiest stations helps clarify the factors involved:
Clearly, the busiest stations are located in high density areas with transit oriented development, served by multiple lines, connected to other modes (like buses and trains). However density alone is not enough: both Prince George’s Plaza and Crystal City are adjacent malls, but one among the least-used and the other among the busiest.
In addition to the much-needed reforms of WMATA’s development program and always-needed reform of local government plans and processes to require good design and high density, there is much that could be done. A ridership SWAT team could analyze each station, and provide recommendations for how ridership could be increased in the short, medium, and long terms. Suggestions may range from better wayfinding, improved usability of feeder bus service, increased police patrols or lighting to address safety, reforms to encourage new TOD, better bus shelters, recruiting local employers to encourage transit use, bike racks, or a host of other changes. Perhaps as a incentive WMATA could begin charging the home jurisdictions fines if they are unable to improve ridership at their stations.
While much of the discrepancy may lie with the region’s unequal distribution of development or poor land-use planning, there are practical ways to boost ridership at every station. The region would do well to take a close look at how to get the most return from our existing investments.