CNU blogs

Tommy Wells will head DC's environmental agency

Greater Greater Washington - 2 hours 21 min ago
by David Alpert

Councilmember Tommy Wells will run the District Department of the Environment in Muriel Bowser's administration. The mayor-elect is expected to announce the pick at an event this morning.


Photo by Tommy Wells on Flickr.

The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) is responsible for monitoring air, water, and soil quality in DC, running programs to encourage energy conservation, and much more. Wells had a strong track record on the environment while in office, most notably winning support for DC's 5¢ disposable bag fee.

Wells has recently spoken about his interest in programs to "green" DC's fleets, both the government-owned ones like trash trucks and, through incentives, private ones like FedEx and UPS's delivery trucks.

He also has talked about cleaning up the Anacostia River and encouraging people to enjoy DC's natural resources like the parkland on its banks. He has been a champion of programs at Kingman Island, in the river near the National Arboretum and RFK stadium. Its annual Bluegrass Festival brings many residents to a part of DC's natural environment they rarely experience on a daily basis; Wells hopes that unfamiliarity will change.

Wells ran against Bowser in the mayoral primary, but then endorsed her and energetically campaigned for her in the general election. He will be leaving the council at the end of this year, and there was widespread speculation that he was seeking a role in the administration.

Will Wells and DDOE be able to lead, or be stuck on the back bench?

One open question is how influential DDOE will be in under Bowser. While Mayor Gray had a very far-reaching sustainability plan, his administration largely relegated DDOE to a narrow role. The DC Office of Planning and director Harriet Tregoning led the sustainability plan process much more than DDOE.

In 2012, City Administrator Allen Lew fired Director Christophe Tolou and, soon after, gave DDOE staff a harsh talk including references to "Attila the Hun." Lew's beef with the agency, apparently, was what he felt to be a too-close relationship with the EPA.

Only time will tell if Wells and DDOE are able to play a broader role in helping DC become a leader against climate change. The agency could work across the government to help implement the sustainability plan. It could participate in shaping economic development, transportation, and other city initiatives in a more sustainable direction.

By appointing a high-profile, well-known figure to this post and doing so before choosing most other agency heads, Bowser could be signaling that she will take the environment very seriously and make river cleanup and carbon emissions a priority.

Alternately, by giving Wells the post of DDOE rather than a more policymaking agency like transportation or planning, she could be paying back a strong supporter without actually giving him much real influence over the city's future direction—or committing to the "livable, walkable" policies he has championed.

Bowser is not expected to make any announcements about other agencies today, and has thus far revealed no plans about transportation, planning, economic development, or most other cabinet positions.

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Breakfast links: Happy new streetcar!?

Greater Greater Washington - 3 hours 8 min ago
by Nick Finio


Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.New year's streetcar?: The H Street streetcar has passed yet another final test, and could potentially run service on New Year's Eve. Mayor Gray has pledged to have service open before he leaves office New Year's Day. (WAMU)

Safety still lacking: Fewer motorists are dying on DC roads, but bikes and pedestrians didn't see similar progress. There is a definite racial disparity in pedestrian injuries: Hispanics are three times more likely to be hospitalized. (DCist)

Bus arrivals posted: WMATA is installing four arrival time screens, all updated live, at bus stops around the region. If this beta program is successful, WMATA will install 150 more. (City Paper)

Please take our road: Condo Association members in Laurel want the city to take ownership of their privately owned road. The road serves as a cut-through for growing regional traffic, but the city can't pay for improvements. (Gazette)

Expensive offices: DC has been slowly climbing the ranks of the world's most expensive office markets, and downtown DC now ranks 25th globally in cost per square foot. DC is behind only Boston, San Francisco, and New York in the US. (WBJ)

Veteran Metro riders: With the Concert for Valor but with many workers having the day off, how did Veterans Day ridership stack up for Metro? There were fewer riders overall from a typical weekday, but 40% more riders than last Veterans Day. (PlanItMetro)

And...: What's the relationship between total miles driven and GDP? (Streetsblog) ... Without a streetcar, what's next for Columbia Pike? (NextCity) ... Two out of five people will be leaving the region over the holidays, the most ever. (Post)

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Live in Westminster in this Well-Kept Home in Great Neighborhood

Denver Real Estate - 3 hours 15 min ago
nbsp;Move in and enjoy this well-kept home. Located in a great Westminster neighborhood close to three parks, schools, the Westminster College Hill Library, open space trails and shopping. The home features vaulted ceilings in the formal living area with lots of windows that fill the room with natural light. The lovely master bedroom is spacious and also includes a vaulted ceiling with an attached five piece master bath and a walk in closet. You will enjoy cooking in the nice size kitchen that has a center island for that extra needed counter space . There are two more spacious bedrooms located on the upper level and 3 bathrooms in this home. A main floor laundry area and a open basement that is insulated and ready to finish as you please. This home has plenty of living space and is ready to move in. You will love living here 11355 Xavier Court Westminster CO 80031. 3 Bedrooms. 3 Bathrooms. 2611 Square Feet. $358,000. Listed by Janet Befort for Live Urban Real Estate. Please contact Janet for current pricing and availability. nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;
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$5 Billion. So You Say We’re Flush…

Empire State Future - Thu, 2014-12-18 13:00
Whether you live in Buffalo, Rome, Albany, Brooklyn or Long Island your toilet, your view, your favorite beach, your water supply are all part of our shared water and sewer systems. Our favorite places and most pressing needs interconnect and interrelate and they are among the most under-funded parts of our generally under-funded infrastructure statewide. […]
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Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 33

Greater Greater Washington - Thu, 2014-12-18 13:00
by Matt Johnson

On Tuesday, we featured the thirty-third issue of our "whichWMATA" series. This week, all five photos were guest submissions from reader thisisjamesj.

This week we got 44 guesses. Three people got all five correct. Great work, Mr. Johnson, Skierbum, and Peter K!


Image 1: Dupont Circle

The first image shows the escalators at the Q Street entrance to Dupont Circle. This entrance is very distinctive because of the large bowl surrounding the escalator shaft. Several of you recognized the PNC Bank building in the background as well. All but one person knew this one. Great work.


Image 2: Gallery Place

The second picture shows the interlaced escalators at Gallery Place. This is the only place in the entire system where you can get a view like this, though Tysons Corner station also has interlaced escalators. The reason that Gallery Place has this arrangement is because the mezzanine is directly above the point where the lines cross. At Metro Center and L'Enfant Plaza, the mezzanines above the upper level are at either end, and the lower level isn't beneath them. Forty of you got this one right.


Image 3: L'Enfant Plaza

This one was a little trickier. There were two primary clues to help you identify L'Enfant Plaza. The first is the construction. The hanging lights are in place because WMATA is renovating the underside of the mezzanine above, and it's been this way for quite a while. The other clue is the shape of the vault wall. It's almost vertical here, which is only the case at L'Enfant. At the other vaulted stations, the wall is sloped (being farther away from the top of the train than the bottom of the train). A little less than half—20—of you guessed correctly.


Image 4: Van Ness

This week, image 4 was the hardest. This picture depicts the pedestrian connection under Connecticut Avenue at Van Ness. While tunnels with similar design elements are common throughout Metro, this one is unique in its arrangement. The escalators from the mezzanine arrive at this level directly under Connecticut Avenue, ending at a T-junction. The corridor seen here allows people to exit to either the east or west side of Connecticut. It can't be Cleveland Park because at Cleveland Park, the escalator shaft to the mezzanine and the escalator shaft to the east side of Connecticut face the same direction. Only 9 people got this one.


Image 5: Metro Center

The final image shows the lower level platform at Metro Center. The clues here are the shape of the vault (which is different from other vaults in the system) and the slight change in height of the ceiling (the dark line running parallel to the tracks). The other clue that should've helped you narrow it down is the mezzanine being flush with the wall at the end of the trainroom and also being almost full-width there.

At most stations, the mezzanine floats above the platform, but where it meets the wall at the end of the station, it narrows, like the top of an inflated balloon. At many of the stations that people guessed on this one, the mezzanine is also in the center of the station, not one end. Several people also guessed Farragut North, which surprised me since the Blue Line doesn't call there. Still, 21 of you figured this one out.

As always, great work! Thanks for playing.

I'd again like to give a special thanks to thisisjamesj for submitting his great photos this week!

We're always looking for reader submissions, so while you're riding Metro keep your eyes (and cameraphones) peeled for unique stations and architectural features. You can submit your photos to whichwmata@ggwash.org.

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New info about who rides a bike in DC will let us make the city even greater for cyclists

Greater Greater Washington - Thu, 2014-12-18 11:15
by Canaan Merchant

There's new data on who rides a bike or walks to work in DC, and it will likely guide future decisions on how to accommodate and encourage bicycle use.


Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

The data comes from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG)'s just-released draft report of all the planned bike and pedestrian improvements coming to the region.

The most striking piece of information from the study is that people who either make a whole lot of money or not much at all are more both more likely to bike or to work than those whose income falls somewhere in the middle.

Rich and poor people are both biking more than average, but it's probably for different reasons


Average incomes of bike commuters. Image from MWCOG.

MWCOG says its income-related findings are consistent with national data.

As the report also has data on what has (and hasn't) changed about cyclist and pedestrian demographics in the DC region, it also tells us that the numbers of people biking or walking to work at the highest and lowest income levels has at least doubled since 2004 in most cases. Meanwhile, numbers have fallen in some of the middle brackets.

The report doesn't speculate that much on why people specifically choose to ride or walk, but it does look at existing barriers, which allows us to do some back of the envelope analysis.

One big factor for most people is the distance they'd have to bike or walk to work. The large number of high-income riders could suggest that people are choosing to live closer to work, while those at the bottom of the spectrum may be biking because of the rising costs of transportation modes.

There's a difference in how often people of different races ride bikes, too


Demographics of bike commuters in the DC region. Image from MWCOG.

In terms of race, the number of white bicycle riders or walkers has held steady while the number of Asian riders and walkers has grown and the number of black and hispanic riders and walkers has declined. This confirms that there's a racial disparity in DC among bicycle riders.

The report doesn't try to explain the cycling and walking rates among different races, or even say if race is a factor. Targeted studies in predominantly black and hispanic neighborhoods could give insight on how to get more people back on to bikes or choosing to walk to work. We know that adding bike infrastructure tends to increase overall usage for bike riding, so it's possible that those neighborhoods simply need more bike lanes or protected bikeways.

Data like this can show us who needs help getting on bikes in the first place, as well as who would benefit from more infrastructure. The more we know, the more focused our future bicycle infrastructure projects will be.

Correction: The original version of this post described the MWCOG data as applying just to bicycling. In fact, the report combines bicycle and walking trips. We have corrected the article.

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NEW YORK BANS FRACKING

Empire State Future - Thu, 2014-12-18 10:22
At long last, the Cuomo administration has rendered its internationally-awaited decision on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the Empire State–and the decision is to prohibit the controversial process from Montauk to Niagara Falls, from Jamestown to Plattsburgh, and everywhere in between. Below are links to some stories about this landmark land use decision. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/17/us-energy-fracking-newyork-idUSKBN0JV29Z20141217 […]
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Amsterdam plays Spot the Christmas Streetcar

Greater Greater Washington - Thu, 2014-12-18 09:30
by Dan Malouff

Remember #bikeinbloom, when Capital Bikeshare dressed one of its bikes up in cherry blossom regalia? Every Christmas, Amsterdam does the same thing with one of its famous streetcars.

Amsterdamers call it the "kersttram", or "Christmas tram."


Photo from Alexander Meijer on Flickr.

Amsterdam isn't alone. Other cities around the world partake in the same fun with their own trams. Among them: Budapest, Zurich, and San Francisco.

How about it, DDOT? Maybe next year, when H Street is fully up and running?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Breakfast links: Done deal

Greater Greater Washington - Thu, 2014-12-18 08:11
by Nick Finio


Photo by Connor Turner on Flickr.Soccer deal done: After months of debate, the DC council unanimously passed a law that will provide land for a new DC United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point. The deal will cost the city $193 million and the facility will open in 2017. (Post)

CaBi workers unite!: Yesterday, employees of Capital Bikeshare, operated by Alta, voted to join the Transport Workers Union. The workers want union protection to address concerns about employment instability. Their counterparts in New York, Boston, and Chicago also voted to unionize. (NextCity, TWU)

Florida Ave to change: DDOT plans to completely rebuild two blocks of Florida Avenue near U Street next year. The plans include bike lanes, sharrows, and bike boxes on the intersecting streets. (TheWashCycle)

Metro goes green: WMATA opened a new stormwater management facility in Largo. The facility pumps stormwater from tunnels with energy-efficient technologies, which helps WMATA meet Maryland's strict requirements while saving money. (PlanItMetro)

Woodmont Ave safety efforts: Montgomery County is auditing pedestrian safety on Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda. Drivers are not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks. The county would like to improve pedestrian safety in the area. (BethesdaNow)

New road for Tysons: Fairfax County plans to extend a bridge over I-495 in Tysons corner. The "Jones Branch Connector" will provide a better road connection to the McLean metro stop. (Fairfax Times)

And...: Mayor Gray gave his farewell speech last night. (City Paper) ... Don't dump your grease down the drain, unless you want to create a "fatberg" in the sewers. (WAMU) ... Can a construction project be used to predict the effects of a road diet? (Streetsblog) ... Why does a widely used planning manual recommend building more roads than necessary? (Citylab)

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Study Validates Central Subway Extension to North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf

By Julienne ChristensenDecember 17, 2014

With 7,400 workers and as many as 80,000 tourists per day, Fisherman’s Wharf could benefit from the proposed extension of the Central Subway. Photo by Sergio Ruiz.

The case for extending San Francisco’s Central Subway project to North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf got a boost in late November with the release of a costs-and-benefits study by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco Planning Department. Supporters hailed the report’s findings as the proposed extension’s SATs, the data that will allow it to be ranked relative to other transit projects — a necessary step if the extension is to be approved as an addition to the city’s transit system.

The report found many benefits resulting from the extension:

  • A subway trip from Caltrain to Fisherman’s Wharf would take half the time or less compared to existing bus and streetcar service.
  • The addition of the North Beach and Wharf stops would boost T Line ridership by 50 percent, from 74,000 trips a day to 115,000.
  • A quarter of the added riders —10,000 a day — would likely be new passengers who do not currently ride mass transit.
  • The extension would reduce overcrowding on the 30 Stockton, the F Line and other swamped northeast routes.
  • Using current Federal Transportation Administration New Starts guidelines, an extension is likely to receive the highest cost-effectiveness rating, making it competitive for federal funding.

The study presumes a station at or near Washington Square and then considers 14 different ways to connect from there to Fisherman’s Wharf and back, with stations at Conrad Square (at the foot of Columbus Avenue) and/or at Kirkland bus yard (at Powell and Beach streets). The alternatives under consideration include both subway and surface options down Columbus to Conrad Square, or down Powell to the Kirkland Yard.

Subway options, though more expensive, were deemed preferable for their speed and reliability of travel, ease of operation and reduced negative impacts on the residential areas along the routes. One intruiging plan is a one-way loop: down Powell to a Kirkland station, across Beach Street to a Conrad station, then south on Columbus to the Pagoda Palace, providing stations at both the east and west sides of the northeast waterfront. This option would improve train flow, facilitating train frequencies that might actually allow the T Line to accommodate its number of anticipated riders.

The appraisal of the extension will be incorporated into at least two transit evaluations: the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Rail Capacity Strategy (begun this year and scheduled for completion in 2015) and the San Francisco Bay Area Core Capacity Transit Study (to be done in 2015). In the meantime, a study released by the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefits District underscored the damaging effects of inadequate and unreliable transit to the city’s No. 1 tourist destination. The survey of Wharf businesses showed 168 unfilled jobs and troublesome turnover rates blamed squarely on the difficulties employees face in getting to work each day.

As for the fate of the Pagoda Palace site leased by the city for the extraction of the Phase 2 boring machines — and often mentioned as a potential North Beach station location — the city’s report comes out squarely for its acquisition. Especially in light of the limited available right of way in the Washington Square area, the report says, the Pagoda could be instrumental during construction and in housing permanent station facilities such as ventilation shafts and emergency egress.

Currently the Pagoda site is scheduled to be returned to its owner in May 2015 for the construction of 19 luxury condos, precluding future staging on the site. The planned condo project calls for underground parking that would conflict with the connections between an incorporated station entrance and a station below Columbus Avenue. So far, the city has not initiated the extraordinary steps that would be needed to acquire the site. Advocates continue to work toward its acquisition, trying to ensure a clear path to build the extension once it is approved and financed.

Read the report >>

About the Author: Julienne Christensen is a leader of SF NexTStop.

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A Day in the Life: Office of Issuer Portfolio Management – Single-Family, Ginnie Mae

HUD blog - Wed, 2014-12-17 13:25

Welcome to another edition of our series, A Day in the Life, which introduces you to HUD employees and highlights the important work they do.

Today we meet Harlan Jones, Senior Account Executive, Team Lead in the Office of Issuer Portfolio Management – Single-Family at Ginnie Mae.

What is your typical day like?

My role as a Senior Account Executive is to serve as team lead for three Account Executives and the portfolio manager for a number of Ginnie Mae’s issuers in the Western United States. This could include anything from answering complicated questions on mortgage backed securities, helping issuers through new guide changes, or conducting troubleshooting calls. My team and I also manage a number of transactions for our issuers. One example is approving Mortgage Servicing Rights (MSR) transfers, where we need to make sure a buyer is in good standing and has the financial and operational capacity to purchase the MSR and properly service the pool before we can approve the transfer.

How did you come to join HUD?

You might not believe this, but I always wanted to be in the fixed income business. I grew up in West Baltimore, and was the first person in my family to go to college. After graduating from Morehouse College, I started my career in corporate banking in Chicago. I was able to move back to the DC area when I took a job at Fannie Mae in 1995. This is when I really got into the mortgage backed securities business. In November of last year I heard about an opening at Ginnie Mae that could really utilize my background. The rest is history.

What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned in your career to get you where you are today?

Always be open to new ideas, and be a good listener. This has come in especially handy in my management roles. I have found that the people closest to doing the actual work tend to have a lot of insight into creating better, faster and smarter processes.

Tell us something interesting about you that most people don’t know.

One of my favorite vacations was spending a week on a Dude Ranch in Arizona where I learned to be a cowboy by doing all the activities you would expect at a working ranch, including rounding cattle and lots of riding.

What’s your biggest accomplishment over the past 12 months?

I am still pretty new to the organization, so I have to say my biggest accomplishment over the past year was gaining a full understanding of the Ginnie Mae program. The way we do business here is actually much different from the GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The mortgage finance market moves very fast and we constantly have to keep up with policy and regulation changes, as well as improvements to our processes so we can remain responsive to our customers’ needs.

What’s next on the radar?

As I mentioned earlier, I am always looking for ways to help my group improve so that we can be more efficient and flexible to the changes in today’s market. Ginnie Mae is a rapidly expanding company and with a growing $1.5 trillion portfolio and we need to make sure that we are able to continue to support that growth with new systems and technology, while at the same time keeping the trains running.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back next month for a new edition of A Day in the Life!

Danielle Walton is a Communications Specialist at Ginnie Mae.

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Farragut Square's virtual tunnel saves Metro riders time and eases crowding. Should downtown get another one?

Greater Greater Washington - Wed, 2014-12-17 12:50
by Canaan Merchant

Metro lets riders transfer between Farragut West and Farragut North without paying because while the stations are on separate lines, they're only a block apart. New data on who uses the "virtual tunnel" gives us perspective on how useful additional free transfers could be.


Usage of the Virtual Tunnel.

Between 15,000 and 18,000 people use the "tunnel" each month, which alleviates crowding at the Metro Center station. According to PlanItMetro, the crossing's higher use comes in the warmer months of the year.

WMATA advertises the "tunnel," but after PlanItMetro asked about ways to make even more people aware of the unusual but time-saving transfer, commenters suggested adding an actual note to Metro maps. New York City does this with its Subway maps.

Commenters also suggested another potential site for a similar crossing: between Metro Center and Gallery Place. Like Farragut West and Farragut North, these two stations are only a few blocks apart and could save Orange, Blue, and Silver who want to reach the Yellow and Green lines (and vice versa) from having to either transfer twice or ride all the way to L'Enfant Plaza.

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Your gift can help us recruit new bloggers

Greater Greater Washington - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:55
by Abigail Zenner

Imagine a Greater Greater Washington with even more diverse voices writing even more diverse stories. We want to make that happen in 2015, with blogger workshops to help new contributors publish with us.
Photo by J. Lim on Flickr.

Making it easier for more people (like you!) to blog with us will mean new ideas and perspectives, which we need to keep Greater Greater Washington relevant as our region changes and grows.

We're hoping to accomplish a lot with this reader drive. Our goal is to raise $18,000 to keep going strong in 2015 (paying our wonderful part-time editor and keeping our servers running) and add new projects like the blogging workshops.

Many people don't realize how many ways they can contribute to the Greater Greater Washington community. It can be overwhelming to even know where to begin. Blogging workshops will help us spread that information far and wide, expanding our community by broadening our contributor pool and deepening their skills.

Can you help with a contribution now? Otherwise, our ideas for 2015 will stay just ideas, not a reality. If you believe in what Greater Greater Washington is doing, please give $50 or whatever you can to make blogging workshops (and so much more!) happen. Thank you, and here's to a greater greater 2015!

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San Francisco street lights will animate subway trains below

Greater Greater Washington - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:08
by Dan Malouff

A public art installation on San Francisco's Market Street will add animated lights following the movement of subway trains running directly below.


Image from Illuminate The Arts.

The project is called "LightRail," and according to its sponsors it will be the world's first "subway-responsive light sculpture."

Two LED strings will stretch above Market Street for two miles through downtown San Francisco. Using real-time arrival data, the strings will visualize movement of BART and Muni trains directly underneath the street.

Sponsors hope LightRail will open in 2015, and will remain in place until at least 2018. If it proves popular, officials may decide to keep it up longer.

Without a doubt, this is one of the coolest public art projects I've ever seen.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Breakfast links: Underground preparation

Greater Greater Washington - Wed, 2014-12-17 08:00
by David Koch


Photo by Jaime Fearer on Flickr.Art underground: The Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground finally signed a lease to use the former trolley tunnel under Dupont Circle. It has launched a crowdfunding effort to renovate part of the space and hold arts events there. (City Paper)

Year-late indignation: After discovering the year-old Georgia Avenue BRT study, the Greater Olney Civic Association is now worried that BRT will bring high-density development to the area. (Gazette)

Arlington Cemetery swamped: When 8,000 riders descended on Arlington Cemetery Metro on Saturday for the Wreaths Across America Project, the station, with limited faregate capacity, couldn't handle the volume. (Post)

Record bike lanes: DC added nine miles of bike lanes this year, setting a new one-year record. However, that still falls slightly short of the 10 mile per year goal in the 2005 Bicycle Master Plan. (City Paper, WABA)

Andy Harris banned: Capitol Hill Bikes has blacklisted Rep. Andy Harris from visiting the store because the Maryland Republican added a provision in the latest federal spending bill overriding the will of District voters on marijuana. (Post)

Get in line: There are 13 candidates vying to replace Marion Barry, including outgoing shadow representative Nate Bennett-Fleming. Will Muriel Bowser's campaign help her Ward 8 coordinator, LaRuby May? Will Barry's son Christopher run? (City Paper)

May your nights be merry and bright: Satellite imagery from NASA shows how Christmas lights make cities 20% to 50% brighter during the holidays.

And...: A drunk driver in Columbus, Ohio injured the leader of the local complete streets program and killed his intern. (Streetsblog) ... What's it like to be an Uber driver? (WNYC) ... What's the chance of a white Christmas in cities nationwide?. (CityLab)

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Renters need to make $35 an hour to rent in Denver. Wait, what?

Denver Real Estate - Tue, 2014-12-16 17:42
Yes, you read that right. Renters in Denver need to make $35 an hour to afford a median priced rental. $35 an hour is 4 times the minimum wage in Denver and is no small amount, especially for those just out of college and new to the area so it definitely caught me a little off guard. nbsp;When you think about how many apartments are being built in Denver you would think that this number would be coming down soon. But even with the influx of new rentals to the market, vacancy rates continue to fall and rental rates continue to climb.nbsp; According to a recent article by the Denver Post, click here, the median rent in the Denver Metro area is $1,772 per month which means you would need to earn $70K a year tonbsp;to abide by the rule of thumb that annual housing costs should not exceed 30 percent of a persons net income. If you were to rent in Centennial, you would need to earn $44 an hour and in Lone Tree, $59 an hour.nbsp; This is just another great example why it is such a great time to buy a home in Denver instead of rent. It is significantly cheaper to own verse rent in Denver right now, interest rates are still near an all time low and early next year we expect more inventory to become available for buyers.nbsp;Home growth is expected to grow by 14 in 2015 making Denver the third fastest growing market in the country, just another good reason to own. If you are tired of throwing away your hard earned money on rising rents every month, lets talk and see if buying might be a better option for you.nbsp;
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The Economist and Suburbia: A Fistful of Myths

Planetizen blogs - Tue, 2014-12-16 14:00
A recent set of articles in the Economist argued that the continued spread of suburbia was inevitable and perhaps desirable. But the article's arguments are not always applicable to North America.
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How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 33

Greater Greater Washington - Tue, 2014-12-16 13:50
by Matt Johnson

It's time for the thirty-third issue of our "whichWMATA" series. This week, all five photos are guest submissions from reader thisisjamesj. Can you identify the station shown in each picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

I'd like to give a special thanks to thisisjamesj for submitting his photos!

We're always looking for reader submissions, so while you're riding Metro keep your eyes (and cameraphones) peeled for unique stations and architectural features. You can submit your photos to whichwmata@ggwash.org.

We'll hide the comments so that the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

The answers will appear on Thursday. Good luck!

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Metro's flooded stations, in pictures

Greater Greater Washington - Tue, 2014-12-16 12:50
by Dan Malouff

The water main break that temporarily flooded parts of Metrorail this morning was painful for commuters. These photos from Metro's Twitter account show just how serious the flood became.


All photos from WMATA.

Metro's third rail is eight inches high. It was fully covered by water.

The flood drained after DC Water shut off water flow. As the water receded, the tracks slowly became visible once more.

Hopefully that's not an experience we'll have to go through again any time soon.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Maryland's rural economy depends on its urban and suburban areas

Greater Greater Washington - Tue, 2014-12-16 11:45
by Dan Reed

Maryland's incoming Republican governor, Larry Hogan, says he wants to boost the state's economy by building roads instead of transit and focusing on the state's rural areas over urban ones. But starving urban areas of their needs will only bring the entire state down.
Rural Maryland depends on this, too. Photo by the author.

Ever since his election last month, Hogan has been noncommittal about the state's two biggest transit projects, the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and the Red Line in Baltimore. Maryland's transportation priorities are "out of whack," he told Post columnist Robert McCartney, adding, "Less than 10 percent of the people use mass transit. Most people in the state want the roads to be fixed."

That's an appeal to rural voters who elected Hogan based on a claim from him and his supporters that there's a "war on rural Maryland." But with the majority of Maryland's population and jobs, urban areas drive the state's economy, and public money spent there goes a lot farther than it does elsewhere.

The "war on rural Maryland"

Hogan's comments reflect the conflicting views rural Marylanders have of the state's urban and suburban areas, especially Montgomery, Prince George's, and Baltimore City, the three jurisdictions that voted for his opponent, Democrat Anthony Brown. On the one hand, rural counties depend on them. They go shopping at malls in Montgomery, send their kids to big state schools like College Park, or attend athletic events in Baltimore.

And it shows. Montgomery County alone had one out of every five jobs in Maryland in 2011, according to the Census Bureau. Add Prince George's and Baltimore City and you have 45% of the state's jobs. Add Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Howard counties, which voted for Hogan but are also urbanizing, and together they hold three-fourths of the state's jobs.

These areas are also leading the state's job growth. Of the 213,000 jobs added in Maryland between 2002 and 2011, 60% went to one of those six jurisdictions, and 28% went to Montgomery County. Montgomery County sends more in tax revenue to the state than it gets back because it's distributed to rural counties.

Yet rural lawmakers claim they're under attack from urban and suburban counties, with their liberal politics and diverse populations. Five counties in Western Maryland even tried to secede last year. Meanwhile, Carroll County won't allow its transit service to leave the county to keep out "criminals" from Montgomery.

Urban areas drive Maryland's economy

Larry Hogan is right about Maryland's transit use: statewide, just 8.8% of commuters use public transit, according to the 2012 American Community Survey. But that's because the state has built so many roads and so little rail transit. Just as you can't judge the demand for a bridge based on how many people are swimming across the river, you can't say we don't need transit because few people are using it.

Besides, 80% of Maryland's transit riders, or over 200,000 people, live in just three jurisdictions: Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George's counties. That's where most of the state's transit is, but they're also three of the state's biggest job centers.

There's a strong link between investing in transit and economic development. A study of over 300 metropolitan areas in the US found that expanding transit resulted in more employment and higher wages. It saves businesses and households money due to lower transportation costs, time savings, and increased access to jobs and employees. Overall, transit generates about $4 in economic returns for every $1 invested.


Low-density development costs more in taxes than it makes in revenue. Image from the Hogan Companies.

Meanwhile, low-density development, like the strip malls and subdivisions Larry Hogan's development firm builds, requires lots of new roads and utility lines that serve a relatively small number of people. The taxes it generates can't even cover the cost of building the infrastructure, let alone maintaining it. A Florida study found that even small buildings in urban neighborhoods can generate 10 times as much tax revenue per acre as a typical Walmart.

More importantly, there's a demonstrated demand for transit and urban places. That's why most office space in the DC area is going in next to Metro stations and rents are at a premium. It's why areas around Montgomery County's Metro stations are growing faster than the rest of the county. And it's why Virginia Republicans fought to build the Silver Line through Tysons Corner, which is attracting a ton of private investment.

It's not about urban vs. rural, but what's best for our economy

Improving Maryland's economic competitiveness is something everyone can agree on, regardless of political party or location. But if Larry Hogan says we need to spend public money more wisely, shouldn't our limited resources go to the places where we can get the most in return?

Over breakfast last week, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett reminded Hogan that the county was the state's economic engine and that he should respect their priorities, including transit. That's a message rural Maryland should hear. As long as it depends on urban and suburban counties for its economy, the only "war on rural Maryland" is when Republican lawmakers shoot the entire statewide economy in the foot by starving metropolitan areas.

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