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Posts from the "Washington DC" Category

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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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Eleanor Holmes Norton Takes Top Dem Slot on Highways and Transit Panel

Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts was elected to the Senate last month, setting off a chain of events that has led to the appointment of a new ranking member of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee in the House. That new ranking member is DC Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, pictured here with a DC flag tattooed on her arm, is the new top Democrat on the Highways and Transit Subcommittee. Photo: We Love DC via thisisbossi

The path from Markey’s victory to Norton’s ascension is a circuitous one. (Larry Ehl did a great job laying it all out a few months ago on Transportation Issues Daily.)

Markey’s move to the Senate opened up the ranking member position on the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon was number two there and jumped on the top slot when it opened up. (His departure from the Democratic leadership on transportation is a loss for reformers, as he was a tireless advocate for transit, active transportation, and a strong federal role in transportation funding.)

House Democrats don’t allow members to hold the top position on more than one committee, so DeFazio had to drop his ranking membership on Highways and Transit. Ehl speculated in May that Norton was “very unlikely” to jump on the vacancy, even though she was next in line in terms of seniority, since she would have to drop her ranking membership on the Economic Development and Public Buildings Subcommittee to take it. But she went ahead and did it, and it’s a good thing she did. Eleanor Holmes Norton will be an excellent Highways and Transit ranking member. Here’s why.

On the Highways and Transit panel, Norton is way more Transit than Highways. While DeFazio had a serious soft spot for sustainable transportation, the fact is that his large and mostly rural district relies primarily on roads. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s district — the entire District of Columbia — is entirely urban. DC is home to the second-busiest transit system in the nation, after New York’s subway. Thirty-eight percent of DC residents commute to work on public transportation. Plus, the DC area comes up for public scorn every year when its roads are ranked the most congested by the Texas Transportation Institute. The economic vitality of Norton’s district relies in no small measure on high-quality transportation options.

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Capital Bikeshare Members Reduced Their Driving 4.4 Million Miles Per Year

According to a survey of CaBi members, the average subscriber drove 198 fewer miles per year after joining the bike-share system. Photo: Capital Bikeshare

We’ve noted before that it can be challenging to figure out exactly how much driving is avoided when someone rides a bike. But here we have it straight from the horse’s mouth – nearly 7,000 horses, in fact. According to a November 2012 survey of Capital Bikeshare members, released today, the average subscriber drove 198 miles less per year after joining the system. Multiply that by 22,200 members and that’s 3.7 million pounds of CO2 that won’t get belched into the atmosphere. Nice work, CaBistas!

Some other takeaways from the member survey:

Capital Bikeshare both enhances access to transit and shifts trips away from transit. Almost a quarter of CaBi users had used bike-share to get to the bus in the past month, and 17 percent had used it six or more times to access the metro system. At the same time, transit is the mode most likely to get replaced with bike-share trips: 61 percent of respondents say they ride Metrorail less often and 52 percent ride a bus less often. On the plus side, though, 50 percent drive less often.

For any given trip, if bike-share hadn’t been available, 44 percent would have taken a bus or train, 38 percent would have walked, 5 percent would have ridden their own bike, and 4 percent would have driven.

Bike-share members drive less. According to the survey report, “a quarter (26 percent) reduced their driving miles since joining Capital Bikeshare; 11 percent reduced driving by more than 1,000 miles. Two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents who reported their mileage made no change in driving miles; only 9 percent increased their driving miles.” CaBi members were never big drivers, but they reported driving an average 1,805 miles per year before joining Capital Bikeshare and 1,607 miles per year since joining, “for a reduction of about 198 miles annually” per person – or a cumulative 4.4 million miles.

Of the 4.4 million miles not driven… more than half are commuting miles, which often occur at peak hours. That’s a significant amount of car traffic taken off Washington’s streets by these snazzy red bikes. In total, 58 percent of members use it to go to and from work, and 40 percent commute via bike-share “often.” All together, about half of bike-share trips are work-related.

CaBi saves members money. An average of $15.39 per week, in fact – or about $800 annually, per person.

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Solo Driving Drops in DC as Transit and Biking Soar

Transit's mode share in the DC region grew 30 percent between 2000 and 2011, with growth in every jurisdiction. Image: National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board

We’ve been writing a lot this week about the national shift away from car travel and toward transit, biking, and walking. Yesterday, Washington area officials released new data that indicates the DC region is at the forefront of that trend.

The region added half a million new workers between 2000 and 2011, according to a report by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board [PDF]. During that period, transit was the fastest-growing mode of travel for commuters, soaring from an 11.8 percent mode share to 15.4 percent, nearly a one-third increase. That’s an additional 162,000 regular transit commuters across the greater DC area.

More than half of that increase has occurred since 2007, probably spurred in part by the recession, though undoubtedly helped along by many other factors.

Puzzlingly, the major exception to that rule was among federal government workers: All of their increased transit ridership happened between 2000 and 2007, when mode share jumped from 19 percent to 28 percent, where it remained in 2011. That means transit ridership among federal employees wasn’t affected by the transition from a Republican to a Democratic administration or by the recession.

Region-wide, 65.8 percent of commuters drive alone, a slight drop from 67.2 percent in 2000. Driving alone decreased or stayed the same in every jurisdiction but Prince William County, where admittedly unreliable data shows it rose from 74 percent to 77 percent.

The changes in the region are happening even more intensely in the city of Washington alone. In DC, 40.2 percent of workers commute via transit, compared to 32.3 percent in 2000. Meanwhile, the share of DC workers driving alone shrank from 39 percent to 33.6 percent.

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After Years of Unchecked Sprawl, Employment Inches Closer to the City

To hear some urbanists talk, you’d think the outer suburbs have been abandoned wholesale, lawn-mowers still running with no one to drive them, picket fences left open in the owners’ haste to beat it to the city.

A new Brookings report puts the re-urbanization of America in perspective. During the economic crisis, from 2007 to 2010, job sprawl receded ever so slightly. And not everywhere. Actually, in more than half of the 100 biggest metro areas, job sprawl actually increased — it just increased less than it decreased in the other ones.

All in all, the economy shed jobs virtually everywhere between 2007 and 2010. So the rush to create new jobs in the outer reaches of suburbia halted, because there were no new jobs, period. As it happened, though, urban cores lost a slightly smaller share of their jobs than outer-ring areas.

Report author Elizabeth Kneebone has been tracking job sprawl trends for years, and she says that although there are still more jobs outside cities than in them, the recession has had a notable impact.

“After dropping two percentage points from 2000 to 2007, the share of metropolitan jobs within three miles of downtown stabilized from 2007 to 2010,” she wrote. “However, by 2010 nearly twice the share of jobs was located at least 10 miles away from downtown (43 percent) as within three miles of downtown (23 percent).”

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AAA Still Up to Its Old Tricks Fighting Progressive Transport Policy

A representative of the American Automobile Association was a keynote speaker at this week’s National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., the annual gathering of bicycle advocates. There the organization debuted a heartwarming new video reminding drivers to share the road with cyclists.

A spokesman for AAA says not forcing developers to build an arbitrary amount of parking is "dangerous for D.C." Image: DDOTDC Flickr

Meanwhile, also in D.C., AAA representatives are fighting a series of smart parking reforms. AAA spokesman Lon Anderson told members of the media that a proposal to allow developers to decide how much parking to build, instead of being compelled by law to build a minimum amount, is “a dangerous proposal” that “threatens the future of Washington, D.C.”

Matt Yglesias at Slate annihilates this argument:

Almost 100 percent of Washington-area residents like to sleep on a soft comfortable surface at night. But there’s no regulatory requirement that residential buildings contain mattresses. The lack of mattress mandates doesn’t mean people are forced to sleep on the floor. It means that if people want to sleep on a mattress—and they generally do—they need to go buy one. That’s why there are mattress stores. Insofar as people want to park cars—and lets make no mistake, lots of people want to park cars—they will pay for the privilege, and property developers will provide parking spaces.

What’s at issue here is whether non-parkers should be forced to offer a cross-subsidy to parkers. The case against such a subsidy seems strong. It encourages extra traffic congestion and extra pollution, as well as inducing some kind of deadweight loss in the form of stifled real estate development.

Yglesias also points out that AAA’s assertion that “roughly 70 percent of Washington-area commuters drive” is very misleading, since fewer than half of residents of D.C. proper commute by car.