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DC Region’s New Long-Range Plan Fails to Meet Its Own Climate Goals

Image: ##https://www.mwcog.org/uploads/committee-documents/YV1aVlhZ20131218092900.pdf##MWCOG 2013 Constrained Long-Range Plan##

While the Washington, DC region has set of a goal of reducing carbon emissions to 10 million tons by 2040, current transportation plans show emissions increasing to 26.5 million tons by then. Image: MWCOG 2013 Constrained Long-Range Plan

If sea levels rise just one foot in the Washington, DC, area, nearly 1,700 homes could be lost. Is the region’s transportation planning agency doing enough to stop that from happening? Several environmental and smart-growth organizations in the region are saying no. Seventeen groups have signed on to a letter, being delivered today, urging the agency to take action. The comment period on the agency’s latest long-range transportation plan closes tomorrow.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments committed in 2008 to an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions below a 2005 baseline by 2050. Two years later, the agency added a goal of 20 percent reductions by 2020. But according to its own analysis, the agency’s current transportation plan doesn’t get the job done.

The chart above is from last year’s long-range plan, but the picture hasn’t changed much with this year’s additions. While three of the 11 projects MWCOG has added for 2014 are streetcars and another two are commuter rail, the list also includes a new highway to Dulles airport, an interchange, two road widenings, and the removal of bus-only lanes.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth has asked MWCOG to reopen the plan and shift “significantly more funds to key transit projects,” said CSG Director Stewart Schwartz. He says MWCOG’s long range plans have an “artificial transit constraint,” since the plan can only include projects that have reasonably identified financial resources. However, existing funds could be shifted to transit projects. Schwartz would like to see more money go toward Metro’s Momentum 2025 plan to increase capacity.

MWCOG's ##http://www.mwcog.org/clrp/projects/highway.asp##2013 long-range plan## calls for spending significant resources on road expansions.

Major highway improvements in MWCOG’s 2013 long-range plan

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DC Bike Counts Show Continuing Surge in Protected Lane Use

Pennsylvania Avenue uses a combination of buffered and protected bike lanes. Photo credit: PeopleforBikes

Michael Andersen is a staff writer for the Green Lane Project. This story was crossposted from the PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project.

The older DC’s first two protected bike lanes get, the more spectacular their results seem to become.

Freshly compiled bike counts from June 2013 show that the number of people biking in the 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue lanes during peak hours has grown seven times faster than the citywide average since April 2010.

Peak-hour bike count on Pennsylvania between 6th and 7th streets. Source: DDOT

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Our Cities Can’t Afford So Many Rooftop Spas

Rooftop pool with a view of the Washington Monument? All this could be yours if you have insane amounts of disposable income. And I do mean "disposable." Photo: ##http://www.rentalsgonewild.com/propertydetail/183/i-street-nw-washington-dc-20037##Rentals Gone Wild##

Rooftop pool with a view of the Washington Monument? All this could be yours if you have insane amounts of disposable income. And I do mean “disposable.” Photo: Rentals Gone Wild

First, let me be clear: Tomorrow is April Fools, not today. This is real.

There are luxury apartment buildings in Washington, DC, trying to lure renters with communal puppies.

That sounds like the makings of a tiny tombstone engraved with “Tragedy of the Commons,” if you ask me. Who’s going to take responsibility for a dog that lives in the hallway?

In any case, the shared dog is just one of many tricks and teases DC developers are using to entice renters, according to Jonathan O’Connell of the Washington Post.

“When the boom started a few years ago, a nicely finished kitchen or a landscaped courtyard made a project stand out,” O’Connell writes. “Now those are considered baseline essentials if a building is going to compete.”

The new must-have amenities include rooftop pools, pet salons, soundproof music “practice jam-rooms,” 24-hour resident concierge services, dry-cleaning valet, a calendar full of activities for residents, customized cupcakes and a signature cocktail at a nearby bar. Oh yes, and “a six-month-old miniature English bulldog named Emmy will take up residence in the sleek new lobby of 2M, one of dozens of apartment buildings being completed in the region this year.”

This is in a city where the average rent for a two-bedroom is over $2,000.

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DC Police Ticketed Deceased Victim of City’s Negligent Snow Removal

Joseph Brown might be alive today if the District of Columbia had cleared the snow from the sidewalks on the John Phillip Sousa Bridge across the Anacostia River last week. Instead, Brown celebrated his 61st birthday in the hospital after being struck by a pickup truck driver, then succumbed to his injuries on Monday. How did DC police respond? They gave Brown a ticket for walking in the street, reports Greater Greater Washington.

Joseph Brown, 61, was on his way to a doctor's appointment when we was killed. He had been walking in the street to avoid snowy sidewalks. Image: NBC Washington

Joseph Brown, 61, was on his way to a doctor’s appointment when we was fatally struck. He had been walking in the street to avoid snowy sidewalks. Image: NBC Washington

Brown was on his way to the Potomac Avenue Metro station, bound for a doctor’s appointment, when he was struck.

Instead of ticketing Brown after his death for walking in the street, Matt Johnson at Greater Greater Washington says it might have been more appropriate to pursue action against the party that failed to maintain the sidewalks along the bridge where Brown was struck. DC law requires property owners to clear snow from the sidewalks, and as Johnson notes, there are no adjacent property owners on a bridge:

In this case, the responsibility for clearing this sidewalk rests with the District government, and the Department of Public Works does actually work to clear bridges. But at the time of Mr. Brown’s death, less than 24 hours after the snow ended, they hadn’t yet cleared the Sousa Bridge sidewalks.

Laws regarding sidewalk clearance aren’t generally enforced in the DC region, according to Johnson. “When tragedy strikes, it’s far easier to simply blame the victim,” he says. “After all, he’s the one who walked in the roadway.”

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WSJ Invites More Ignorant Anti-Bike Zealots to Sully Its Pages

Law professor Frank H. Buckley seems to want to be the next Dororthy Rabinowitz. That is, he wants to gain notoriety by clinging to old and unsafe street designs while, simultaneously, shoring up the Wall Street Journal’s reputation as a bastion of change-averse curmudgeons. Done and done.

Buckley wrote an op-ed in Friday’s Journal about the controversy on Alexandria, Virginia’s King Street — the bustling main street through charming Old Town Alexandria, densely packed with upscale bistros and boutiques — which he prefers to think of as a “main artery, State Highway 7,” neglecting all that makes King Street vibrant and unique. West of Old Town, the city wants to put in a short stretch of bike lane. The plan already makes huge compromises in the name of car supremacy, refusing to post No Standing signs and replacing the lanes with sharrows for short segments.

But this timid step toward designing a safer street isn’t nearly timid enough for Buckley, who argues against the lanes — which will eliminate 37 parking spaces — with this ironclad logic:

As for the residents, we’re really attached to our parking spots. We like to tell our friends to drop by anytime. We don’t want to send our plumbers to park a few blocks over, on streets that are already congested. Not a problem, the city tells us. Just get a special parking permit from city hall for visitors. And what about the occasional party? What do we tell our guests? Ah, the city’s street coordinator said, channeling her inner Marie Antoinette, let them get valet parking.

“Let them die on streets designed exclusively for most dangerous and least efficient mode of transportation,” is Buckley’s far more compassionate credo, then.

So sorry your expensive, urban neighborhood — a classic of colonial design — was built with skinny streets and dense development, Mr. Buckley. Why didn’t the founders have the forethought to set aside enough space for everyone on your street to comfortably accommodate the cars of a dinner party’s worth of people, all at the same time, within blocks of one of the country’s best metro systems?

I don’t have to pick apart every ignorant statement Buckley makes in his story, because The Wash Cycle already did that, with great aplomb. (David Cranor, The Wash Cycle’s low-profile author, also mentions the cringe-worthy tactlessness of calling the loss of 37 parking spaces a battle in “the bike wars,” especially on Veterans Day weekend.)

Buckley isn’t the only writer complaining about the “war on cars” these days. Writing in the right-wing rag The Weekly Standard, Christopher Caldwell argues this week that cyclists are an unruly and antagonistic bunch of self-righteous road hogs. Caldwell even refers to cyclists as an “ever more powerful lobby,” a reckless and self-righteous group that has “tested the public’s willingness for compromise.” Buckley says the same: “When you see the bike activists in your neighborhood, be warned that they tend not to play nice.” They don’t cling to the potholed and uneven edge of the road! They sometimes ride next to each other! And they’ll yell at you if you almost kill them! (As Daniel Duane noted in the New York Times Saturday, that’s about all that will happen to you if you almost kill — or even if you do kill — a bicyclist.)

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DC’s New Parents Aren’t Fleeing to the Burbs

Reading this sentence in a mainstream publication just validated everything I feel about the kind of parent I want to be: “It doesn’t mean millennials put parenthood second, but their definition of what makes a good parent is Mom and Dad being happy, and exposing their child to all the things that they have enjoyed.”

DC's central city playgrounds and libraries are getting more crowded. Photo: Matt McClain/Washington Post

That’s what MaryLeigh Bliss, trend editor of New York-based marketing firm Ypulse told the Washington Post in an article about DC’s baby boom.

Post writer Carol Morello reports:

In the past three years, the number of children younger than 5 has grown by almost 20 percent, from 33,000 to 39,000, according to census figures. The number of babies is expected to soar as more millennials, who tend to marry and start families later than previous generations did, reach their early and mid-30s.

It’s encouraging to see the model of parenthood changing. And as Bliss said, these attitudes toward urban parenting aren’t about Mommy and Daddy wanting to party, and to hell with the kids. They — we — are raising kids in cities precisely because we believe the diversity of experiences and interactions make cities an enriching place to grow up.

Still, naysayers like Joel Kotkin, booster of all things suburban, maintain that cities are playgrounds of rich singles and hostile to the needs of families with children.

But the current baby boom in DC tells a different story. It also may signal the final demise of white flight. The ranks of white infants and toddlers grew by 34 percent in the District “even as white children younger than 5 declined by 3 percent nationwide.” Not only are whites coming back to central cities, they’re putting down roots.

How deep are these roots? It’s hard to say. While there are almost 20 percent more babies being born in DC now than three years ago, the number of children ages 5 to 13 rose just 7 percent, and the number of kids 14 and up actually fell. That means city parents are still giving up on urban living — and, perhaps more to the point, urban schools — by the time their kids hit high school.

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Gridlock Everywhere: Congressional Impasse Shuts Down DC’s Trails

Some cyclists are ignoring the barriers erected by the National Park Service and using the Capital Crescent Trail despite the shutdown. Photo by someone named Ricky, who is friends with DC Bike Ambassador Pete Beers.

Washington, DC’s bicycle commuters woke up this morning to find that one popular rail-trail was closed due to the government shutdown, which took effect at midnight.

The Capital Crescent Trail is the most heavily-used rail-trail in the United States, with more than a million users a year. Not just a weekend pleasure-ride spot, the CCT is thick with bicycles during morning rush hour as people use it as a safer and more pleasant bike-commuting alternative to DC’s congested streets. Now, the government would give them no choice — though the Washington Area Bicyclist Association reports that there’s little enforcement and intrepid bike commuters are using the trail despite the barriers.

Since this important bike route is managed by the National Park Service, it is part of the vast collateral damage of the embarrassing scenario unfolding on Capitol Hill. WABA warned yesterday that “all or part of the heavily-commuted Rock Creek Trail, Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and George Washington Memorial Trail are on NPS property” and could also be shut down, but early reports seem to indicate that they’re still open.

The 185-mile C&O Canal trail, which runs from DC’s Georgetown neighborhood to Cumberland, Maryland, is also closed.

The 185-mile C&O Canal Trail, which begins in Washington, DC, is closed. Photo tweeted by Bike Arlington

All roads are open during the government shutdown, except some leading into national parks, which are closed. In DC, this would include Rock Creek Parkway and other roads through the largest urban national park in the country — but, curiously, that key car-commuter route is still open. However, Rock Creek Park’s Beach Drive is closed to car traffic during the shutdown, so people who enjoy riding their bikes there on weekends, when drivers are normally kept out, will enjoy riding it today. That’s one nice trade-off for losing the CCT.

WABA was alerted to the possible Capital Crescent Trail shutdown yesterday, and bollards were put in place at the entrances to prepare to block trail traffic. The sections of the CCT within Montgomery County remain open, since they are owned by the county, not NPS.

DC has a disproportionate number of city parks under NPS, but certainly the shutdown will prevent people from using other popular off-road trails around the country, like this one in the Philly area. Where else are cyclists and pedestrian commuters being impacted?

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Park(ing) Day 2013: DC Edition

There’s only one reason to be inside on a beautiful day like today, and that is to upload pictures of this beautiful day. More to the point, it’s Park(ing) Day, a celebration of better uses for on-street parking spaces. All over this city, and in cities around the country, temporary parklets have sprung up in spaces normally reserved for car storage. They’re a real-life illustration of how much more vibrant our cities could be if we let people take up street space instead of cars.

Here are a few scenes from DC’s Park(ing) Day this morning. Send in pictures from your own Park(ing) Day!

At the Washington Area Bicyclist Association Park(ing) Day installation, Bike Ambassadors provided a little education to drivers.

WABA's "photo booth" for bike portraits.

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ULI Survey: DC Real Estate Pros Think Bike-Friendly Buildings Are the Future

This summer, the Urban Land Institute’s Washington, DC, chapter held a forum on bicycle-friendly design. As a follow-up, they focused their first member survey on biking and walking.

The questions are general, and it wasn’t a survey of the entire real estate industry. While most of ULI’s membership is made up of people involved in real estate and development, the 118 people who responded to the survey may represent a certain subset of the industry. Still, it’s an interesting look at where these real estate pros see their industry heading when it comes to walkability and bike-friendliness.

When asked if “the region would benefit from more people walking and biking to work,” only four people said no, and 114 said yes. And of those who said yes, more than 70 percent said that more bike lanes and sidewalks — and public and private money to fund them — were necessary.

ULI-Washington Director Lisa Rother says she views the overwhelming survey response in favor of bike infrastructure as an indication that people are interested in living in urban and suburban town-center locations. “There are still going to be car/biker conflicts,” she said, “but with education and increased spending on things like sidewalks and bike lanes, we can learn to coexist.”

Rother notes that the quality of the bike infrastructure matters. As one survey respondent commented, “The bike lanes and paths need more connectivity. Too many of the bike lanes and paths are not continuous.” More than half the respondents think DC and other local governments aren’t doing enough to support biking and walking as transportation options.

A big majority — 80 percent — say they’re noticing more bike amenities like showers and bike parking in office buildings, and 87 percent think the trend will “grow significantly in coming years.” Still, 80 percent don’t think the region’s employers are doing enough to encourage biking and walking for transportation.

Of course, people won’t walk or bike to work if their office is in a far-flung location. “Nothing is more important than allowing dense development and mixed uses,” commented one survey respondent.

“A lot of people will walk for recreation and health purposes,” said Rother, “but to bring it into everyday living, it has to be in places where you can walk to get your basic needs met.”

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In DC, the Danger of Enraged Driving Is on the Rise

Road rage is boiling over. Twelve percent of people surveyed in the Washington, DC, metro area said they often feel “uncontrollable anger toward another driver.” The number of people reporting such feelings has doubled since 2005, according to the Washington Post, which conducted the survey.

Cyclist Susanna Schick was chased down and hit by an aggressive driver in a green bike lane in Los Angeles last year. She suffered a broken collarbone, six broken ribs and three breaks in her pelvis. Photo: LAT

Rage can be an impairment like intoxication or distraction, according to Leon James, author of “Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare,” told the Post.

About 85 percent of the drivers James tests say they see aggressive driving around them, but only 30 percent admit to being aggressive themselves. “The anger triggers are built in and just about the same for everybody,” James said. “So when people say, ‘Who has road rage?’ I say, ‘Everybody.’”

Some people who feel empowered by the gas pedal flash to anger when another driver impinges on that sense of entitlement. Others who are intimidated by driving are upset when misbehavior by other drivers feels threatening. And drivers who aren’t feeling particularly powerful or frightened already are dealing with the stress of interaction at high speed with a group of unpredictable strangers.

Heavy traffic, especially, can make drivers feel powerless to do anything but inch along, late for work. It can be maddening. This study could be pointing to another possible reason why Americans are less jazzed about spending a ton of time behind the wheel these days. It’s just not that much fun.

Still, across the DC metro region, 59 percent of people say they drive “nearly all the time” when they need to go somewhere, while just 8 percent say they “hardly ever” drive, and 3 percent “never” do. For DC proper, those numbers are much less lopsided: 23 percent almost always drive, 27 percent hardly ever do, and 10 percent never do. The Maryland and (especially) Virginia suburbs skew the results with much more auto-centric travel habits, not surprisingly. Also unsurprisingly, younger folks, aged 18-39, are somewhat more likely to “hardly ever” or “never” drive (9 and 3 percent) than those 40-64, of whom only 6 percent “hardly ever” drive and 2 percent “never” do.

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