Thursday, May 29, 2014
The D.C. Council voted to cut spending for a planned 22-mile network of streetcars — and use the money to pay for tax cuts. But Mayor Vincent Gray says that puts the entire program in jeopardy.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
WAMU - Washington —
A controversy over the design of a protected cycle track in the heart of Washington, D.C. is forcing District transportation planners to balance competing interests in the use of public streets.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
D.C. is officially welcoming its new set of streetcars this week -- marking the first time the vehicles have been seen in the District since 1962. And to drum up ridership, Mayor Vincent Gray said fares could be free -- at first.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
D.C. could eventually have one cab color to rule them all. Or stripes.
Mayor Vincent Gray unveiled four new color schemes on Monday, one of which will be chosen next year as the new paint job for the district’s 6,500 taxicabs, a process that will take years to fully implement. The multicolored striped patterns are one piece of a larger modernization effort that is coming together slowly -- too slowly for D.C.’s top taxi regulator.
“I’m a very impatient person and I would like to speed it up,” said Ron Linton, the head of the Taxicab Commission.
Although district lawmakers passed a taxicab modernization bill this year, the most important changes have yet to come to fruition: GPS smart meters, credit card payment machines and touch screen monitors for customers in the back seat.
The new paint jobs will be introduced when taxi drivers replace their aging vehicles; by 2018 no cab on Washington’s streets will be older than 7 years, as per a new regulation, Linton said.
“The people who ride in the cabs were pushing and pushing for a modernization program,” said Linton, referring to a survey undertaken by the office of D.C. Council member Mary Cheh that found widespread dissatisfaction with the current conditions of taxicabs. That survey also found the public’s preferred color to be yellow (38%). Red was second (15%).
Linton’s office will choose the winning color scheme next year, taking into consideration public opinion. The public may vote for their favorite inside Verizon Center through January 7 where two sample future taxicabs are on display, or choose designs online.
(UPDATE, 12/11/12 1:30pm: Two D.C. city council members -- one of whom said he was "appalled" by the color choices - say they will consider legislation to end the public vote so a new color scheme can be chosen.)
Last month a panel of administrative law judges killed the district’s plan to install credit card machines in cabs because of problems with the contract awarded to VeriFone, which beat out seven other tech firms. Linton says the matter is still being resolved by the District Office of Contracting and Procurement.
“We selected Verifone on the basis of what was, in my judgment, an honest evaluation and a cost analysis,” he said.
At a news conference to unveil the proposed color schemes and encourage the public to vote on their favorite, Mayor Gray said changes to the district’s taxis are necessary not only to improve the hospitality industry but for the cabbies, too.
“The changes have to come,” Gray said. “This industry has got to change to be competitive. I actually think the cab drivers will make more money as a result of this.”
Gray said touch screen monitors that offer riders the option of tipping 15, 20, or 25 percent will induce larger tips.
“As opposed to what you have now where people in a cash business sometimes give nothing or give a meager sum, I think the cab drivers will ultimately do better as a result of the changes we’re proposing.”
When those changes ultimately arrive is unclear, although Gray and Linton said it will take years to fully implement the new color scheme. Roughly one-third of taxicabs have installed credit card machines on their own, Linton said.
As for D.C.’s cabbies, some have been reluctant to accept changes that are commonplace in other cities. A common complaint is credit card processing fees will bite into a day’s pay. Others say GPS smart meters are an invasion of privacy. As for the proposed color patterns, one cabbie waiting for customers outside Union Station on Monday was not impressed.
“It looks ugly. It’s no good for the city color,” said B.K. Anthony, who drives a light blue SUV. “It looks junky.”
For the record, Mayor Gray called the colors “funky.”
: The multi-colored patterns of yellow and green OR red and white are – in the words of some D.C. councilmembers – appalling! And now two lawmakers say they will consider legislation to end the public vote so a new color scheme can be chosen. Councilmembers prefer a solid color like yellow or red to the striped patterns unveiled by the D.C. Taxicab Commission yesterday, which would have the final say on a color regardless of what the public picks. A survey conducted by Councilmember Mary Cheh on the state of the district’s cab industry found that 38 percent of respondents want all-yellow cabs, 15 percent want red.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
Almost 80% of bike crashes on Pennsylvania Avenue -- home to the city's only center bike lane -- are caused by cars making U-turns. But until recently, there was some confusion over whether the maneuver was illegal or not.
Earlier this month, DCist reported there were apparent inconsistencies in D.C. law regarding when and where U-turns are permissible.
On Wednesday, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray ordered an "emergency rulemaking" to leave no doubt: cars can't drive across a bike lane to turn around.
"This is an effort to ensure the safety of our increasing numbers of cyclists in the District by closing a regulatory gap,” Gray said. “This action is in line with my efforts not only to protect public safety, but also to encourage a greener, healthier, more sustainable District through my Sustainable DC plan.”
(As he put it in a tweet, "U-turns across bike lanes are illegal. Fine=$100.")
Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Gray, said "in 2010 and 2011, 11 of the 14 bike crashes on Pennsylvania Avenue involved vehicles making those U-turns."
Mid-block U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue are one of the biggest safety concerns in the District. Dave Salovash bikes on the street every morning with his ten year old daughter. When he noticed the frequency of the mid-block U-turns, he decided to bring his camera one day.
"So I picked one spot and just stood there for half an hour and counted U-turns made across the bike lanes. I saw about 25 people doing it and managed to get pictures of about 20 of them," Salovash says.
The bike lanes have been in Pennsylvania Avenue's center median since 2010.
TN MOVING STORIES: NJ Town Battles Light Rail, London's New Bus Design, and DC Pilots 'Live Near Work' Program
Thursday, December 22, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
Romney: We Have to Invest In Infrastructure: Video (Link)
Actual Debate Breaks Out At NY MTA Board Meeting (Link)
Maryland To Offer Preferential Funding For Smart Growth (Link)
FAA Unveils New Pilot Fatigue Rules (Link)
What it Takes to Keep San Francisco's BART Rolling (Link)
Your TN Transportation and Infrastructure Holiday Gift Guide: California Edition (Link)
WNYC's Kathleen Horan will explain the recent NYC taxi legislation on today's Brian Lehrer Show -- tune in at 10am. (Link)
Tenafly residents say 'not in our backyard' to NJ Transit plans to bring light rail to Bergen County. (NJ.com)
DC is piloting a program that incentivizes living near work. (WAMU)
Is DC's mayor slacking off on his commitment to building new bike lanes? (Washington Post)
Inductive charging for electric vehicles will get a trial run in Berlin. (GizMag)
Nissan gained some insight into the durability of its electric car, the Leaf, when about two dozen of them were destroyed in the tsunami that ravaged Japan in March -- their batteries were intact, and none caught fire. (New York Times)
A new GPS device uses green routing to send drivers on the most fuel-efficient route. (FastCompany)
The rise in obesity in the U.S. means that the Coast Guard has had to reduce the passenger capacity of Washington State's ferry system, the nation's largest. (AP via New York Daily News)
New York's Bridge and Thruway authorities would be folded into the Department of Transportation if the state acts on preliminary suggestions from a government efficiency task force. (Albany Times Union)
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
By Kate Hinds
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) DC mayor Vincent Gray today officially appointed Terry Bellamy the director of the District Department of Transportation. Bellamy, who has been with the agency since 2008, had been acting as DDOT's interim director since Gabe Klein departed the office a few months ago. WAMU's David Shultz reports that Bellamy says his priorities will be roughly the same as his predecessor's. "Many of the programs and activities that we've been doing have been planned for over 20 years and we'll continue to carry that forward," Bellamy says.
From the mayor's official press release (which also covers another mayoral appointment):
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
By Kate Hinds
(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) DC's Department of Transportation has not had a permanent director since Gabe Klein resigned five months ago. (Klein is now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Director of Transportation.) And as we reported last week, other top officials have also recently left the agency. But a change may be on the horizon: the mayor's spokesperson, Doxie McCoy, says in an email that Mayor Vincent Gray will announce a new director for the DDOT tomorrow. Stay tuned!
Friday, May 13, 2011
(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) It's five months into his first term, and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray still hasn't selected a permanent head to his Department of Transportation. Now, two of the Department's top deputies are resigning and one says this leadership vacuum was a factor in her departure.
Deputy Director for Resource Management Leah Treat and Associate Director for Policy Karina Ricks are leaving DDOT, the organization for which they've worked for a combined 22 years. Ricks says she will be leaving later this summer. According to sources within DDOT, Treat is already gone.
Friday, February 18, 2011
(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) A scathing report has just been released by the transition team of incoming D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. The report is something of an indictment against the city's Department of Transportation, as led by Gray's mayoral predecessor, Adrian Fenty, and his young, charismatic transportation director, Gabe Klein.
Among its grievances:
Thursday, December 23, 2010
(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) So let's say you're a city. You want to build a big public works project, like a school or a fire house - or let's say a $1.5 billion, 37-mile streetcar network.
First you formulate a design for the project, then you find the money to pay for it and then you get local politicians to sign off. (Not necessarily in that order) In most cities, with most projects, that's how it works.
Not in the District of Columbia. In Washington D.C., you also have to make sure the project you're working on doesn't impinge on any of the august, historic symbols that populate the Nation's Capital.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
(Washington, D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) Just a few moments ago, Gabe Klein, the director of Washington D.C.'s Transportation Department and a strong advocate of transit and pedestrian-oriented policies, announced his resignation.
Klein was appointed to the post two years ago by Mayor Adrian Fenty, who, earlier this year, was resoundingly defeated in his reelection bid by City Council Chairman Vincent Gray. Klein and Gray had clashed earlier this year over funding for the city's urban streetcar program, so Klein's departure just a few months before the new mayor takes office is not a huge surprise.
Still, Klein enjoyed a fair amount of support for his agenda, which, along with the streetcar project, included the installation of more bike lanes on roads, beefing up the city's local short-trip bus service and, perhaps most successfully, launching a city-wide bike sharing service.
Vehicle sharing seems to be Klein's M.O. Before joining the local government in D.C., Klein was a regional vice president of Zipcar, the pioneering car-sharing company that has taken off in many urban areas.
For more on Klein's resignation, check back in with WAMU throughout the day.
Friday, December 03, 2010
(Washington, D.C. -- David Schultz, WAMU) The D.C. City Council, convening in a lame duck session next week, will cast a crucial vote on funding for an urban street car project.
The project was the darling of outgoing Mayor Adrian Fenty and his Director of Transportation Gabe Klein. Building a streetcar as a supplement to the city's already-existing bus and subway service was a huge part of their overall goal to make D.C. more walkable and to spur economic development in blighted neighborhoods.
But the project's costs have been climbing steadily upward, and there are still questions about how the streetcars will be powered (i.e. whether there will be overhead wires blocking D.C.'s monumental views).
His soon-to-be successor, current Council Chairman Vincent Gray, has been much more cool to the streetcar. In a late night budget session earlier this year, Gray eliminated funding for the streetcar project — only to reinstate it later that day after an outcry from the local transit backers.
Gray later blamed the elimination of streetcar funding on a "staff error," and said he is a full supporter of the project. But the upcoming vote, which could be one of his last on the City Council, will be a true test of that support.