Your government at work – 16th and U to get a makeover

You may recall that I was nearly killed in a crosswalk not too long ago. No, not that time, this was another time when I was nearly killed in a crosswalk. Before my foot surgery (And again as soon as it’s healed enough, which should be soon), I walked to work with the wife every day. We had a few “incidents” at 16th and U, where cars like to turn onto New Hampshire without yielding to pedestrians. I understand that the traffic pattern is a little confusing, but it’s still a problem. So I emailed my councilmember, the often-helpful Jim Graham, and asked him to do something about it. I didn’t hear much for a while, until yesterday when I got an email from a member of his staff.

I apologize for the delay. I misfiled your email. I am forwarding this to the pedestrian safety coordinator so that he can evaluate options for increased enforcement here. Councilmember Graham reported a new law out of his committee that will increase fines to $250 for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians. The bill also requires that signs be posted to warn motorists. This law will come before the Council for final vote on September 16. Obviously, increased enforcement is also necessary as part of this effort. Councilmember Graham has been working to get the Department of Transportation involved in issuing moving violations to improve pedestrian safety. Finally, in a few years, DDOT plans to redesign this intersection to make it much safer. I’ve attached an image of the proposed changes. Jonathon Kass Committee on Public Works and the Environment Office of Councilmember Jim Graham

So that’s pretty awesome. Below is the picture he sent me. I’ve never used Photobucket before, and it has a very “We built this site for AOLers in 1997 and just slapped a Web 2.0 facelift on it” feel to it, but theoretically if you click the picture you can see a bigger version.


And that’s your DC government at work. They may be slow sometimes, but they do listen when you voice your concerns. The plans look pretty decent to my untrained eye. It looks like they’re widening the sidewalk on the northwest corner, which is good. And the goofy traffic pattern on the northeast corner will be gone. Of course, it will be a few years before this happens. And I imagine that intersection will be a bit of a disaster during construction. But in the end, it’ll be safer and better. I hope.

A congestion tax alone is not enough

I’ve long thought that a large congestion tax on cars entering DC would be great. Charge $10 to enter the city. Take most of that cash and spend it on expanding Metro and putting giant parking garages out at the end of the Metro lines. Make those garages FREE. It would make public transportation a heck of a lot more attractive. They’ve tried it in London with mixed results:

At first, the new fees did seem to ease the traffic moving through the congestion zone. Now, studies are finding that the measure has actually managed to somehow slow down the pace of traffic through central London.

The problem here is the reason it hasn’t helped – construction and new pedestrian walkways have caused more traffic jams than before. It got rid of 100,000 cars each day, so it sounds like it made a huge difference. I don’t think it’s fair to blame London’s mismanagement of construction and pedestrians on the congestion tax.

People aren’t dumb, just bad at judging actual cost

High gas prices driving small car sales

The trend proves again what we already knew – that people respond to events that hit their wallet, not their conscience.

High gas prices driving small car sales Shocker – with gas getting more and more expensive, people are buying more small cars. While I agree with the above-quoted statement, I think what it really gets at is that people are inherently rational. We just aren’t always good at judging value. It goes well beyond over-valuing brand new Lincoln Navigators with 22″ chrome wheels and heated massage chairs while under-valuing small, efficient, reliable cars. Now, I know that I tend to over-value that feeling of smug self-satisfaction when I walk to work or take the bus home, laughing at the schmucks who drive two hours into Nowhereville, VA. But I also know that a lot of them over-value the sixth bedroom and second acre their house is on as they give up twenty hours a week commuting. Anyway, I hope GM an Ford can figure things out before the European and Japanese and Korean car manufacturers swoop in and totally wipe out the American manufacturers, who seem to have mortgaged their future on the mistaken idea that people would continue to buy high-profit SUVs forever. I hope that GM and Ford can quickly change with the gas prices, and perhaps bring some of the cars they make for overseas markets to the States as the demand changes. But I have to say I’m not that optimistic.

Alternative means of transportation

As some of you may know, I drive out to Falls Church for work every day. As I go down 14th Street NW in the morning, I look fondly at the bike path, trying to ignore the frequently double-parked cars, right turners, and other obstacles, and imagine biking to work. How smug I would be, getting some exercise, some fresh air, shrinking my carbon footprint. I mean, in terms of yuppie street cred, commutes go something like this, in increasing order of smugness:

  1. Drive
  2. Carpool
  3. Metro
  4. Long bus ride
  5. Metro from a “sketchy” stop like Brookland or Navy Yard
  6. Telework
  7. Full time grad student (Only if you’re at least 4 years older than most of your classmates)
  8. Short bus ride
  9. Walk
  10. Bike
    I was thinking, though, how much longer it would take to bike than drive. And then I passed a guy on a bike. I passed him around P St, or maybe T. I thought to myself how it must take him forever to get to work. I wondered if I had that kind of dedication. And then, I got stuck at the light at N St. And he passed me. The light changed, and I nearly caught him, but then he was off as I waited at the light at the circle. I lost track of him after that.

My first speeding ticket since high school

First, let me say it is truly a joy to pay a ticket at the DC DMV website. Of all the things the DC government does, extorting collecting money through the DMV website is something it actually gets right. I got a speed camera ticket on Michigan Avenue near Catholic University a few weeks ago. There were all of two cars on the road, and I was doing 37 in a 25. It’s pretty annoying, because I really don’t speed much these days. It’s a $50 fine and no points, so I guess it isn’t too terrible in the grand scheme of things. It just bugs me because I’m mostly a law-abiding (though aggressive) driver. Every day, I see people doing things in a car that are unsafe and illegal with no consequences, and I get a ticket for speeding on an empty road. What about the cabbie who zipped around me to run the red light at 15th and Mass NW yesterday? Or the four cars that turned right on H from the middle lane of 18th because they didn’t feel like waiting in line? Anyway, I hope you enjoy my $50, DC. I hope it makes you very happy.

drive right, pass left

i am thoroughly enjoying the complaint submission feature.&nbsp_place_holder; that said,

as per code of virginia, title 46.2 regarding motor vehicles:

whenever any roadway has been divided into clearly marked lanes for traffic [say, THE GW PARKWAY], drivers of vehicles shall obey the following:

any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions existing, shall be driven in the lane nearest the right edge or right curb of the highway when such lane is available for travel except when overtaking and passing another vehicle or in preparation for a left turn or where right lanes are reserved for slow-moving traffic as permitted in this section.

&nbsp_place_holder;people, why is this so hard to understand?!?!?!?!

Smart traffic lights

There is a traffic light about 100 yards from my apartment complex.&nbsp_place_holder; Heading to work (east), the traffic light is “smart.” I define “smart” as follows:&nbsp_place_holder; if there are no cars intending to turn left coming from the opposite direction (i.e. west), then our light turns green.&nbsp_place_holder; However, on the way home (heading west), the light becomes “f*ing stupid.”&nbsp_place_holder; The light turns green for the left turn lane heading east (despite the fact that there are no cars intending to turn left).&nbsp_place_holder; I sit there idly wondering why both directions can’t be “smart.”&nbsp_place_holder; I guess that would defy the laws of traffic intelligence (which is a similar oxymoron as military intelligence).

Left turn on red

Here in Iowa, it is legal to make a left turn on red ONLY if you are in the left-most lane of a one-way street, turning into the left-most lane of another one-way street. Turning left on red is never legal when you are in the right-most lane of a two-way street. So you dumbasses at Sixth and High, and the MLK exit off 235 – Cut it out!

2 driving violations

On my way to work, I travel about 10 miles on a strech of highway.&nbsp_place_holder; From 5 am – 9 am and again from 3 pm – 7 pm, the outside lane is designated as a carpool lane.&nbsp_place_holder; Allowed vehicles:&nbsp_place_holder; hybrids, motorcycles, and cars with more than one occupant.&nbsp_place_holder; I’m fine with the first two and would only modify that the 3rd condition to allow for cars with 2 licensed drivers (sorry soccer moms).&nbsp_place_holder;

  1. &nbsp_place_holder; On my way to work (around 11 am), I was travelling along in the outer lane.&nbsp_place_holder; Outside of the commuter hours listed above, this lane should then be assumed to be the fast lane.&nbsp_place_holder; If you are driving slowly, move over to the middle lane or the far right lane.&nbsp_place_holder; You are driving slowly if someone is tailgating you and/or your speed is anywhere near 65 mph.&nbsp_place_holder; I come upon an OLD VW BEETLE putzing along at 60 mph in this outside lane.&nbsp_place_holder; Seriously, folks, buy a clue.

2.&nbsp_place_holder; On my way home (around 6:15 pm), a yellow Lotus passed me in that outer lane during the commuter time.&nbsp_place_holder; There was no way there was a passenger.&nbsp_place_holder; I say fine him $1000 / (fuel economy in mpg).&nbsp_place_holder; This makes violators with gas guzzlers pay more for flaunting the law.


And my next car will be . . .

Volkswagen to Introduce 70 mpg Diesel-Electric Hybrid Golf

Channel 4 writes: “The technology will be used in a number of Volkswagen Group models, including the Jetta saloon [sedan] – which sells in greater numbers in the US than the ‘Rabbit’ – and the Audi A3.”

Okay, I don’t care about the Jetta and the Rabbit, but a 70 MPG Audi A3 is really, really hot. I’ve loved the A3 ever since I first saw one, walking from the train station in London to the house where my sister-in-law and her family were living. We passed an Audi dealer, and every time we went by, there were a couple of A3s sitting out front (Sexy right-hand-drive models, of course). I was thrilled when they decided to bring them over to the States, and now am even more thrilled at the prospect of 70 MPG. Especially if we can get some nice biodiesel stations in the area (I know, fat chance, but I’m dreaming here). Now I just have to convince the wife that 1) We need a new car 2) We can afford an Audi and 3) We can’t afford NOT to get a biodiesel hybrid Audi. Any suggestions?