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"Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm." -John F. Kennedy"Go fuck yourself." -Dick Cheney



Updated: 2018-02-07T17:20:21.988-05:00

 



From hate to love...

2010-05-28T10:50:03.302-04:00

Just to make things completely hilarious, I'm letting you all know I've taken on a gig over at We Love DC. Feel free to drop by and read my posts about DC government and politics.

You can also follow me on Twitter and all of that.

I've received a fair number of complaints/requests that the site be revived as a repository for hating on DC. I had made it mostly clear I wasn't interested in passing this along to someone else, despite the tradition of previous writers. I know many have been sorry to see this go and to a certain extent I understand.

That being said, the only actual requests I've received have been less than stellar and have done nothing to make me think it would be worthwhile. I haven't heard one person give me a compelling reason for handing over the keys to the site. In fact, all of the requests I've gotten have been from the types of people this site traditionally 'hated.'

If you hate the city so much that you need a site that is dedicated to expressing it, then make your own. There are roughly 152 million publishing services out there, it's super easy. Stop whining and just do it!

Catch you later,

Dave(image)



Moving along...

2010-03-30T21:49:52.087-04:00

In case you missed it, I haven't been updating as much here lately. This hasn't been because everything in DC suddenly became wonderful, but rather because spending your days looking for things to hate is tiring. I've been told countless times, "if you hate it so much, why don't you move away." Truth be told, I don't hate it, and you can't make much of a life for yourself in a city if you constantly focus on the negativity.I started writing here back in November 2008, and I think this site has provided readers with some good stories about some important issues. At the end of the day, though, it stopped being fun. Since this is a labor of love for me, I find little reason to continue working on something that is no longer enjoyable.I still believe there are important stories to be told about our city, and I will continue to write about them, but just not here. This site has, I believe, run its course. Rusty and James and the others who came before me had their own stories about DC, and ultimately they left the city. I realize now, the entire concept of this site is based on something that many of us who live here dislike--the whiny complaints of people who don't care to stay. There will be no essay contest to determine the next person who can complain the loudest. Instead, I will do the Internet a favor and be done with it.I leave with no hard feelings towards anyone, and I'm left humbled that I could, in my own way play a small part in the DC media world. I'm proud of the stories about Metro and Alice Swanson. I'm glad I could make a few people think about important things. I'm also glad I could make some people laugh. I have no regrets, other than any amount of time I ever spent worrying about "internet drama" and having "beefs" with other bloggers. It's very easy to get caught up in the blog echo chamber and forget exactly why you ever felt the need to sit down and write. Before you know it, you're forgetting about how the city's social safety net is falling apart, and instead refreshing your RSS to stay ahead of the curve on what the newest wine bar or tapas restaurant is.All of that said, there are some good people doing some good writing about DC. I urge you to support these people in whatever way you can, even if it's just through a thoughtful comment or email. Most of us do this for free, and it is generally a thankless task.As for me, I've decided to spend my spare time doing things that make me happy. This seems like quite a novel concept here in the District. I still want to make a difference in my community, but I realize I can do more elsewhere than by writing on this particular blog.If you're curious to read what I'm up to, feel free to visit my blog. If you're a Tumblr user, you can do the whole 'follow' dealie.Thanks for (most of) the memories,Dave [...]



Spotting a near-mugging

2010-03-22T22:36:51.285-04:00

This evening I had stepped outside of my apartment building to enjoy the nice post-storm weather. As some readers know, I live along the border of Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights. I've lived in this place for a little over two years, and I've written about how I've witnessed a few things that have led me to call the police. I've heard gunshots, I've seen car accidents, the usual city stuff. Tonight was a first, though, as I saw two men getting ready to rob someone.

I had stepped outside and was on the phone, when I saw two men standing around near the street corner. I thought it was a little odd, as there's nothing at this corner and they didn't seem to be talking to one another. The corner in question is between a side street and a major street. There's a lot of foot traffic on the major street, but very little on the side street. As soon as you turn the corner onto the side street, it's dark, and there's no building entrances or storefronts or houses for the whole block.

I saw the two men step back from the corner, maybe 10-15 feet down the street. There are bushes along the side street, so anyone walking up the major street wouldn't really see the men. Then they put masks on their faces and put up their hoods. I could only see them through the bushes while in the driveway of my building. I could see them watching the people on the major street, I assume, waiting for someone to turn onto the side street. At this point I called 911, and was promptly greeted with the bilingual hold message. I'm unsure if they spotted me, but I went back inside the lobby where I could still see them through a window. I was on hold for roughly 3 minutes or so, at which point the started walking further down the side street.

Once I got through to an operator, I gave the location and left a call back number, and the police were on scene probably within another 5 minutes or so. They called me back and asked if I could still see them, the answer of course being no at this point. They walked up and down the side street and then left.

Of course I don't blame the police for not finding them, by the time they arrived I'm sure they were blocks away. I wasn't able to provide a very detailed description, mostly because I wasn't too keen on walking up to them to see better. It's what, maybe 65 degrees out, so clearly there's no good reason for them to have bandanas or whatever they had over their faces and their hoods up. I have no idea if that's enough probable cause to search someone for weapons, but maybe it should be.

The point here isn't to criticize the police response, though the hold time was a bit frustrating. Instead, it's only to say again what is obvious to most people in a city--it's extremely easy for someone to mug you. They could have easily robbed someone right there, mere feet from an intersection. I've lived in the city for a while now, so I know what suspicious behavior looks like, but I saw people jogging with their iPods and walking their dogs while on their phones, and otherwise being very distracted. This happened around 9:45pm, which I think a lot of people might not be on their guard.

So yeah, everyone, always be aware of your surroundings.(image)



Greetings from Texas, and the non-election election

2010-03-16T14:12:49.469-04:00

I'm writing this from the lovely city of Dallas, Texas. I'll use the word 'interesting' for now. I'm not talking interesting in "I can't think of anything else to say," but actually of interest. This is a city with a downtown completely built around cars, with huge parking lots and parking structures the size of skyscrapers. However, there is also a very rapidly growing light rail system. I don't have a car for my trip, so it's been interesting trying to navigate using the light rail and buses. Times like this make me join the chorus of be thankful for Metro. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the DART light rail, it goes a few places and seems moderately useful--but it's more expensive than Metro. Metro has it's problems, many of which are serious, but keep in mind that DC is one of just a few cities in the United States where it's actually practical to live without a car.MOVING ALONGHey, let's talk about Election 2010. Last year, it was sounding like Decision DC 2K10 would be something interesting. Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham's office was mired in an alleged bribery scandal, Mayor Fenty's administration was the source of all sorts of graft and corruption, and even Council Chair Vincent Gray had his share of scandals. Remember all of that? Ted Loza, anyone? Remember how he was accused of nearly forcing a mistress to have an abortion, and how Jim Graham's credit card paid for an abortion? Remember well... pretty much everything Fenty did? Parks and recreations contracts? The school firings? More contracts? Well, it's now halfway through March in an election year and there's essentially nothing going on. Vincent Gray is humming and hawing about running for mayor. Rumors continue to persist, and some media reported yesterday he would announce a run this week. Color me completely underwhelmed. Gray isn't exactly fired-up to run, and has said he's got concerns about "what happens if I lose." That's called politics, Mr. Gray. Honestly if you're too afraid of losing the election to become the Mayor, I can't imagine you'd have the wherewithal to actually govern as mayor. Meanwhile, Fenty has enough campaign money to put a significant dent in the city's epic budget gap. Let's be real here: it's very unlikely there will be a real race for mayor this time around, and Fenty will sail to re-election. He'll be super-lame duck, knowing he's got all sorts of career prospects in development and construction after his term ends. I'll be honest, I like some of the things his administration has done, but we still have a mayor who governs with little sense of responsibility or transparency.What about in Ward 1? This could prove interesting, I just got an email blast from Jeff Smith. He's rocking the Fenty colors a bit, and has a working web site. He's in favor of what anyone pondering a bid for CM would be... safer, cleaner streets... less vacant properties, "better parking enforcement," all of that. Also in the running is Bryan Weaver, who also sports the Fenty colors. In fact, Fenty, Weaver and Smith's logos look a heck of a lot the same. Though, to be fair, Smith's green selection is a bit lighter in shade.There's probably room for one strong challenger against Graham, but who knows if there's room for two. Ted Loza's trial isn't going to happen until well after the primary. It's unclear what/if anything new will come out from the Loza trial, but any news from that won't break until just before or after the general election. I don't see how two challengers can possibly unseat Graham in the primary, and there's be little time to run any sort of independent campaign with the news of the Loza trial. For now I'm likely counting this race out, too. I'd love to be wrong about this, though.So yeah, Election 2010 is shaping up to a whole lot of boring. If Gray steps in, then we might see some sort of interesting jockeying for Council chair, which might free up the Ward 2 CM spot, if Evans ran for chair. That would be some sort of news.The interesting campaig[...]



Why do you tease us, Metro?

2010-03-11T16:50:23.222-05:00


Spotted at the South entrance to the Dupont Circle station: a sign advertising the ability to add value to Smartrip via the Internet. This has been promised to us by WMATA for years, but has not yet been implemented. They have, apparently, printed banners advertising the service. When will we get it? Who knows, for now I'm awaiting comment from Metro.

UPDATE: From Ron Holzer at WMATA:
The banner in the pictures has been up for a couple of years. It was installed to notify customers that our fare vendors now (then) accepted credit cards and you could purchase fare cards and SmarTrip cards from our website using a credit card, which you still can do at http://www.wmata.com/fares/purchase/.

To avoid confusion with future online/credit card programs, the banner will be taken down.
(image)



On the 'blogosphere' and such

2010-03-10T21:13:42.217-05:00

A few weeks ago I decided I was sort of over the whole 'blogosphere' thing. It's not so much that I don't find some writing on some blogs to be worth reading, it was more that I was completely overwhelmed with the whole thing. I had fallen into the whole trap of trying to post everyday to increase pageviews, scouring RSS and Twitter to break stories, and all of that other nonsensical stuff that doesn't actually result in any sort of interesting reading.

I've also been extremely busy, and when the pace of life picks up, something that causes stupid 'stress' will be the first thing to hit the backburner.

So yes, I have not been as voraciously consuming news about DC as I used to. I realized that I had, in fact, become something that I sort of hate about DC. I had become the self-important blogging blowhard, who at times took himself too seriously and spent far too much time writing about things everyone else had already written about.

I haven't opened by RSS reader for three weeks. I'm doing this to try and find a better balance between 'staying up on things' and 'obsessing over things.' There's a place for bloggers in the world of media and the world of writing, however I think most of the time we write for the wrong reasons. We imagine there is some sort of pressing demand for our pieces--we see readership numbers and feel a compulsion to write something. We feel like we need to keep the 'momentum' going, so we copy and paste links and press releases. But that's not quality writing, and unless those news stories are accompanied by some sort of thoughtful commentary or insight, it's generally wasted effort.

It's easy to take yourself too seriously when you begin to think your writing is popular. It's easy to think our blogs are all that and that our comments will make some sort of difference in the world. In reality, though, we should write about what we think is important, and write what we feel. As such, I'm writing a bit less. I write when something strikes me as important, or when I happen to see something amusing (e.g. photos).

At the end of the day a blog isn't going to make you into a rockstar. In most cases it won't ever earn you a dime, and certainly not a living. In this town we have a lot of bloggers, and a lot of them hope it will lead to their big break. Not to crush anyone's dreams here, but it's extremely unlikely your food blog is going to get you a book deal. It's very unlikely that your neighborhood blog is going to turn a profit. Blogs are wonderful because they give us a medium to express our own voices. It's a shame when we distort that in order to get more pageviews.

tl;dr: I've ignored the DC blogosphere for three weeks now. I feel like I haven't missed much at all. The blog echo-chamber is hard to escape, but I'm glad I'm no longer just regurgitating the same things everyone else has already talked about. Bloggers should write from the heart, and spend some time thinking about what they want to say. There's rarely a prize for posting X number of posts in a day.(image)



Immediately I feel less pity for West Elm

2010-03-06T20:24:45.253-05:00


Say hi to Mr. Clean for me.
(image)



Why do we have such a lack of inspiring candidates for DC offices?

2010-03-06T15:28:52.760-05:00

I was reading a bit about the whole Eric Massa resignation hubub, and noticed all of the local government officials that might be running for the open seat. This got me thinking about how elected officials in the District government have little to aspire to. For those on the Council, the only higher elected office would be mayor. For the mayor, that's the end of the line. Now, of course, not everyone in a city government wants to run for statewide office or Congress, but at least the potential is there. I have to wonder how that complete lack of potential affects things here in the District.Just to be clear, of course,  DC is not the only big city in the United States with corruption problems. Chicago, Detroit and others face scandals on par with or above what we have here. However, what we also have in DC seems to be a complete lack of a field of qualified and enthusiastic candidates for political office. We have a mayor who has been implicated in all sorts of unethical and possibly illegal contracting scandals, we have a Councilmember who admits to funneling city money to his girlfriends, we have other Councilmembers who are out of touch and do nothing. We have all of this, and we are in an election year, yet we've barely got a campaign for any of these offices going. The "best" hope for unseating the mayor is the Council chair, who has his own ethics problems and isn't at all excited about running.So here's where the question comes up, is it difficult to attract people interested in public office because of the barriers to entry and the lack of higher office? All campaigns are expensive, but for someone serious about starting a political life, running for the DC Council wouldn't necessarily be impossible. But, it's sort of the end of the line. If you dream of eventually serving in Congress, you absolutely would never live in DC or run for a DC elected office. What would you do? Serve on the DC Council for a few years and then move across the river to Virginia or out to Maryland? Yeah, I'm sure your political resume will get you far over there. What we end up with is a situation where the best you can hope for is making connections to the business world for when you eventually leave office. If you are a lawyer, you can probably get a job with a law firm. Maybe you can consult.Maybe I'm on the wrong track here, but I think this does have a non-trivial chilling effect on the pool of potential candidates. I don't like to say that I want more ambition out of politicians, but sometimes it might not be the worst thing. Aspiring to higher office means more drive to get things done, and more reason to be squeaky clean while doing it. The scandals we see coming from Barry and Fenty are the sorts that can sink a gubernatorial or senatorial campaign. I could definitely see in some other city, a young upstart sweeping in to Ward 8 trying to turn things around, aiming to then run for state legislature or Congress. With ambition, a candidate might be willing to take more risks, and challenge the status quo more. Instead, we have nothing. We have a "why bother" attitude. We've got one "federal" office, a non-elected representative. Not exactly a blockbuster position.So what sort of options do we have here, short of throwing our hands up and abolishing the idea of elected office for the DC government? Well, of course, giving the delegate to Congress a vote might help. We'd at least have something a bit more important to aspire to.All of this, of course, is just speculation. What do you think? Do you think there's anything to this? Do you think we could attract better candidates for political office if there was somewhere to go after the Council? [...]



No, really, some good news for WMATA

2010-03-03T10:44:34.332-05:00

It's too early to say for sure, but Metro's choice of Richard Sarles for interim General Manager may be a very good one. There's a whole lot of analysis up already about Sarles, but the big bullet points are that he's a rail guy and will not be a mere caretaker during the search for a permanent GM. I'm going to refer you to Greater Greater Washington and We Love DC for some more detailed information on Sarles.This year has been big for Metro news, sadly with more accidents and deaths, but also with a bit of optimism for the future. When John Catoe announced his resignation back in January, it became clear the choice for the next General Manager could be "make or break." We've got huge budget problems, as well as infrastructure issues, all on top of the lingering and serious questions of safety. Personally, I believed that the next GM (interim or permanent) needed to be an outsider would have the ability to shake things up. Now, I'll admit, the term "shake things up" is vague and often just means "do something! anything!" and often results in a lot of talk, some layoffs, and a lot of arms waving around.Sarles has five years of experience running NJ Transit, and had previously worked for 20 years at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He has degrees in both engineering and business. He's handled budget problems, often without having to raise fares. He recently retired from his job at NJ Transit, so his future career doesn't so much depend on what happens at WMATA.I don't want to say Sarles is the perfect choice, he fits the bill. He has experience handling some of the same issues plaguing Metro, and he's an outsider. While he doesn't have much to gain career-wise at Metro, he also has nothing to lose. If the Metro Board is willing to stand behind him and the decisions he makes, he could work to implement the sorts of long-lasting change the agency needs. "Creative destruction" is a term I like to use when discussing what needs to happen--a vast reworking of the organization chart as well as a complete overhaul of management style. Sarles has an opportunity to come in and lay a true groundwork for the future.Of course, as is almost always the case in life, and especially with anything political, change can be very difficult. Sarles will face pushback from the Metro employees union, and may face some pushback by the Board. If the Board knows what's good for them--and for their own political lives--they should let Sarles do the work and not attempt to sell him down the river if his ideas prove unpopular. The sort of change needed at WMATA will not be popular.Along those lines, I'd also like to tell everyone to stop complaining about the $0.10 fare hike. The fare hike is, sadly, necessary in order to provide service. We'll be facing a bigger fare hike down the road, and no, these generally don't come with better service. Prices increase over time, and while this fare hike will be hard for some people, for many (especially Metrorail riders) it will have a small impact on personal budgets. While it's easy to grip that you have to pay more for the same (often poor) service, these are the facts of life. When the price of gas goes up, we generally don't whine that the gas isn't better quality.Metro needs a new management style, and it needs money. Sarles is the first step. We'll dedicated funding and we'll probably need a big fare increase. However, if we can target the fare increase to make the least impact on people, and if we can improve agency-wide efficiency, there is plenty of room to be optimistic.Yes, you read that correctly, there's reason to be optimistic for Metro's future. Who would have thought that sentence would be typed on a grey Wednesday morning in March. [...]



Metro should end its "Safety Theatre"

2010-04-28T09:49:12.678-04:00

Following the 6/22 crash, Metro management took some steps to help restore confidence in the safety of the rail system. These included switching train operation to manual mode, and placing Series 1000 railcars in the center of trains. As the NTSB hearings on Capitol Hill wrap-up, it's becoming clearer that both of these measures amount to little more than safety theatre.First, let's discuss the sandwiching of the Series 1000 railcars. This seemed like a good idea at the time, logic tells you that placing the weaker cars farther away from a point of impact could be safer. In the days after the 6/22 crash, I wondered why Metro had not considered this option before. As it turns out, though, placing the Series 1000 cars in the middle of trains likely provides little benefit. Back in September, the Washington Post wrote that Metro officials admitted the action was little more than a public relations effort. At the time, WMATA fired back, citing an old scientific study (based on different train equipment) that sort of backed up their claim that it improved safety. Well, at the NTSB hearings we hear from a Metro engineer who admits that in high speed collisions (such as the 6/22 crash), the 'bellying' of the cars would do little. Metro spokesperson Lisa Farbstein has now retracted the agency's rebuttal to the Post's story. So, it's official, everyone agrees--bellying the cars does not improve safety.One thing is for certain though, running mixed consist trainsets causes performance problems. Not only do you have issues with things such as the electronic displays in newer series cars, but you have braking and door problems. Communication between differing series railcars can be 'buggy,' so to speak, and does result in trains being taken out of service. Additionally, mixed consist cars make it more difficult for maintenance. Previously, it was possible to specialize maintenance based on the consist of trains on various lines (e.g. Series 1000 at Red Line yards, so on and so forth). Not so anymore. John Catoe made a point about the downside of mixed consist cars at the blogger roundtable in January. Bottom line, it's inefficient, causes service problems, and does nothing for safety. Now that Metro has admitted, under oath, that it does nothing for safety, they should end the program.Now, the matter of manual operation. Under "manual mode," the train operator controls speed and acceleration of the train. Despite the name "manual mode," the train's operation is still governed by the Automatic Train Protection system. The ATP system does not permit a train from getting too close to another train, nor from exceeding the speed limit on a given part of the track. What's turned off is the Automatic Train Operation mode, which controls the speed and acceleration of the train. In ATO mode, the ride is smoother and schedules are easier to keep, as stopping and starting are computer controlled. For a good breakdown of Metro's safety systems, please refer to this post over at Greater Greater Washington.The NTSB's line of sight tests at the site of the 6/22 crash show that it would have been difficult for the operator of the striking train to see the stopped train and stop in time. The train did not slow down because the ATP system failed to detect the stopped train. Had the train been operating in manual mode, it's unlikely the accident would have been prevented. It could be argued that the operator may be more "alert" in manual mode, however along most stretches of track, it's simply impossible for an operator to see a stopped train with enough time to stop (if the ATP system fails). Unfortunately, as it stands, the ATP system fails in an unsafe way. That will happen regardless of the train operating in manual or automatic mode.As much as I want to say "do everything you can to improve safety," I don[...]



City Paper Blotter updates us on the Chinatown beating

2010-02-24T10:12:23.221-05:00

Last week I ran a letter from a reader about a brutal beating in Chinatown. Rend Smith over at the Washington City Paper did a little digging for The Blotter on City Desk, and yesterday we learned a bit more.
Chinatown Beatdown: A Why I Hate DC reader identified only as Meagan reported a seemingly random beatdown via the blog site on Feb. 16. Meagan says she "was walking into the gallery place/Chinatown movie theater and a group of teenagers ran out and started beating a random man in the street. They beat him unconscious and left him face down on the concrete."

"I do not know if the man received medical attention, but he was unconscious and his face was bleeding. The kids easily got away and no one chased them or stopped them," she wrote. "They headed down into the metro and disappeared."

First District Commander David Kamperin of the Metropolitan Police Department confirms the brutal pummeling took place: "We took a report for the assault and our detectives have reached out to several subjects (maybe even this writer) who may have witnessed it," he emails. "We are following up to see if there are cameras in the area and with Metro."

Again, I can't stress the importance of sticking around to talk to the police.(image)



NTSB's Metro hearings begin: no real surprises

2010-02-24T09:49:37.628-05:00

Since this is a relatively big story, I wanted to take a second to briefly discuss this week's National Transportation Safety Board hearings. The Washington Post is running the big headline in today's paper about the two previous near-misses and how that indicated a problem with Metro's Automatic Train Control system.

The only difference between what is being published today, and what's been published for the last eight months is that this occurred at a federal hearing. Hearing about these incidents is no surprise to people who have been following the topic of Metro safety following the 6/22 crash. So far, these hearings are only serving one purpose: to put all of this on the record (again), and to demonstrate that Metro has failed to establish any sort of emphasis on safety.

It's good that we have senior Metro officials going on the record about the near-miss in 2005, which nearly resulted in a three train collision under the Potomac. We do learn that contrary to previous comments by Metro, no one was 100% sure the issue had been completely resolved. This fact itself is extremely disturbing--a near catastrophe (which would have resulted in possibly hundreds of deaths) was not enough for Metro to do everything it could to identify and solve the problem.

However, this is all incredibly frustrating. Yes, government moves slowly, I suppose, but we are talking about incidents that occurred 5 years ago, and a deadly crash that occurred more than 8 months ago. We've had months and months and months of coverage, seemingly always uncovering some new safety flaw. I'm not even the NTSB or the Washington Post, and yet I have had Metro employees contact me to vent their frustrations and concerns about safety. Track workers have been killed, again, despite numerous safety recommendations by the NTSB.

So yes, to anyone who has the ability to read, it's been obvious that Metro's culture of safety has been lacking. Time and time and time again this has been said, and now it'll be said once again. The only difference, now, is that there is some discussion of a federal Metro Control Board or some such. It's being presented as a threat, if Metro does not improve then the feds will have to take away your toys and send you to your room.

Is there really any reason to wait on this? At this point, I don't see how federalizing the Metro Board could be any worse than the status quo? Sure, there are a few "good" members of the Metro Board, but the system is facing all sorts of serious problems. The General Manager is leaving, which does provide an opportunity to completely reshape the organization's management structure and style. However, Metro has had a hard time finding a new general manager, and without serious change; including reworking of the Board; it's unlikely we'll see the kind of management changes that are really needed.(image)



Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night...

2010-02-22T08:00:13.752-05:00

It seems I may have underestimated the dedication some people have to the Washington Post Express. I received an email from reader Stan, who sent in this video of him and his buddy making sure an Express box in Northwest remained clear during the great Snowpocalypse.

(object) (embed)

Perhaps not too surprisingly, this was shot in upper NW, near American University.

So how about that proposed $20-$30/mo subscription fee to read the New York Times on an iPad?(image)



Overheard on the Metro

2010-02-20T16:07:03.575-05:00

Good thing we don't yet have 20 min Saturday headways...


Two Metro Transit police riding on a Yellow Line train to Fort Totten. Train is about to arrive at the Columbia Heights station.

Radio call comes in
Officer #1: What was that?
Officer #2: Shaw-Howard. We just passed through there!
Officer #1: Alright, alright let's roll.
Train pulls into station, officers are right by the door. #2 is checking what looks like a Google phone
Officer #1: Let's roll!
Officer #2: Looks at phone, Damn! 8 minutes 'till the next train.
Officers exit train, no longer in a hurry, and wait for the next southbound train.

Photo from flickr user lakewentworth(image)



Elderly woman in wheelchair shovels out bus stop

2010-02-19T16:42:20.143-05:00

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Reader Steve writes in:
The New Snow Removal Plan for the Nation's Capital:

Legions of elderly women in wheelchairs will be deployed during the next major snowfall to hit the Nation's Capital. Here is a quick look at a beta version of this new snow removal system. Armed with their two-foot long shovels and orange safety vests, these intrepid ladies will clear out your neighborhood in no time!

Just took this today - two weeks after the snow began to fall. Wouldn't it be nice if a wheelchair-bound elderly woman wouldn't have to shovel through two feet of snow to get on a bus? I know the Washington, DC Government and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority had their hands full with the past blizzard, but this is ridiculous. I filmed her for six seconds then put the camera down to go help her out...but her bus came seconds later. She had to wheel herself out through a driveway.
Related note: I have to give some credit to Greater Greater Washington for organizing a bus stop shoving brigade this past weekend.(image)



Barry might be "censured," does it even matter?

2010-02-18T09:59:21.399-05:00

So yes, if you haven't heard, the Bennett report came out and concludes that Councilmember Marion Barry acted improperly and breached the public trust. Again. This time it was a fairly complex scheme involving siphoning public funds to fake non-profits run by a fomer girlfriend. The results of the independent probe will likely be passed to the U.S. Attorney's office--who so far have been mum on possible charges.Marion Barry's defense attorney begins arguments Let's face it, it's probably not going to happen. Sure, it might, but it'll take a while and in the meantime we've still got Marion Barry on the Council. What I find hilarious about all of this is how there's absolutely nothing that can be done. Sure, the Council is giving lip-service to the idea that Barry should get a rebuttal--they've even given him a deadline of next week. It's mostly impossible for him to rebut any of this, no matter how much he tries to channel Perry Mason and Matlock. The Bennett report isn't just "allegations," we're dealing with findings and conclusions of a thorough investigation.So what say the DC Council?Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) said that absent a criminal probe, it will most likely be up the council to determine any potential punishment. "These are very serious allegations. The conclusions -- they are not allegations, they are conclusions -- by our special counsel amount to the fact that Marion took kickbacks" from a former girlfriend, Catania said. "The council does not have the authority to remove Mr. Barry from office. That responsibility rests with the voters of Ward 8. But we do have the authority to determine which committee he sits on and whether or not he chairs a committee." Yep, that's about right. It is up to the voters of Ward 8. Who thinks we'll see a recall effort? Who thinks we'll see a primary challenge. People might accuse me of being hopelessly optimistic at times, but I'm going to say that there's absolutely zero chance of that. Barry is a complete joke at this point, he still serves on the Finance and Revenue Committee, even though he has been convicted of failing to file federal taxes. I suppose the Council has to talk some sort of talk about this, but in reality they should be considering adopting the 2010 No Marion Barry on the D.C. Council legislation.  Working with the Board of Elections and Ethics, DC election law should be revised to include the following qualifications for the offices of Ward and At-Large Member of the Council--you can't be Marion Barry.Also, remember since Marion Barry is the example of why we can't have the vote in DC, see also all those other states that don't deserve a vote because they elect idiots. [...]



On the subject of print media

2010-02-17T09:06:47.088-05:00

The people have spoken
(image)



Metro's pedestrian alert light program left to wither

2010-02-17T07:29:58.798-05:00

Three years ago, on Valentines' Day in 2007, Sally McGee and Martha Schoenborn, both of Alexandria, were struck and killed by a Metrobus at the corner of 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. The bus driver, Victor Kolako, struck the women as they crossed with a walk signal in the crosswalk. Kolako was charged with negligent homicide and later sentenced to a year in prison. Metro had seen a rash of bus fatalities that year, and newly-minted General Manager John Catoe vowed to improve safety.Safety at Metro has gotten a lot of attention in the past year, with the June 22 Red Line crash, the subsequent worker deaths, so on and so forth. Metrobus safety has also been back in the spotlight, highlighted by a Metrobus striking a pedestrian in Dupont Circle last summer. That incident was also followed closely by another pedestrian death in Trinidad.How good of a job has Metro been doing at keeping up safety on Metrobus? One of the safety campaigns touted by WMATA and Catoe after the Valentines' Day accident involved high visibility lights on Metrobuses. These lights were placed on the front of the bus and flashed back and forth. The lights were a good step, they did make buses more visible, especially in a pedestrian's peripheral vision. You've probably seen these lights on some buses.What happened with this seemingly good idea? Well, like all good things, it came to an end. Prompted by seeing a bus with the light bar installed but not active, I asked Metro about the status of the project. According to Metro spokesperson Ron Holzer, the program was a pilot that involved 100 buses in the District of Columbia. Holzer said that jurisdictions in Virginia and Maryland never approved usage of the lights. In some cases buses outfitted with the pedestrian alert lights have been transferred out of the District, and the light bars were deactivated. The program was never expanded beyond the 100 initial buses. I also asked if the bus that struck Amanda Mahnke was outfitted with the lights. Due to ongoing litigation, Holzer declined to answer the question. I've dug up a few photos from the day of the crash, and it looks as though that bus was not outfitted with the lights.While it's difficult to know how many accidents might have been prevented with the usage of these alert lights, it's disappointing to see the program left to wither. As the lights break, or the buses get transferred out of the District, the lights will go away. Given the high price tag of accidents, both in human lives and dollars spent in litigation, it seems a project like this would be well worth the initial investment.Is this just another case of Metro talking the talk after an accident, but failing to follow through? Reading through a press release after a deadly crash in 2007 feels like reading the same press releases from 2009.Photo originally by flickr user taftbasket. Modified for emphasis. [...]



This one is for all you Orange Line riders

2010-02-16T10:01:55.207-05:00

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REM - ORANGE CRUSH(image)



Reader report of brutal beating in Chinatown

2010-02-16T09:26:51.226-05:00

It's been a while since I've published a reader report, but this one caught my eye. I browsed around the MPD listserves to find any further information, but so far I haven't turned up anything. Stories of incidents such as this float around the blogs every now and again. From reader Meagan:I hope your blog will help me to disseminate some critical information:Last night I was walking into the gallery place/Chinatown movie theater and a group of teenagers ran out and started beating a random man in the street. They beat him unconscious and left him face down on the concrete. Horrified, I ran to get help, only no help could be found. There was an empty patrol car parked on the street, and no police anywhere in sight. The teens laughed loudly about their crime and ran off into the night.Today I contacted city council and the metro police department who informed me that there are supposed to be 10 police officers dedicated to this area as a "task force". This was obviously not the case on this busy holiday weekend. This is also not the first time I have witnessed heinous crime at this movie theater.What can be done, my fellow citizens? Well, I'm glad you asked. Several things can be done. 1.) contact your city council members. Demand a few things. Demand the city council consider lowering the teen curfew in DC, which has been upheld as constitutional since 1999. Demand more police presence in gallery place/chinatown. And since we all know that people behave better when they know they're being watched, demand cameras in chinatown. Big obvious cameras. Unless, of course, you like violent crime. In which case, do nothing. To contact your city council members, click here. http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/contactuscouncil2.) Contact mayor Fenty with the same concerns. Remind him that elections are near and DC needs something to take their minds off the snowpacolypse. Making the city safer should do the trick. Contact the mayor here. http://app.dc.gov/apps/about.asp?page=atd&type=dsf&agency_id=10753.) Since we know the real driver of change is business owners, contact regal cinema. Remind them that crime drives away business, and they have the opportunity to take a proactive stance and provide a safe enjoyable experience for their patrons. When Lucky Strike bowling alley instituted a dress code, and changed their policy to admit adults only at late hours, their problems drastically decreased. Not only does regal cinema have the option of hiring extra security, and enforcing zero tolerance of disruptive behavior, they also have the option of designating the theater as 18+ at night. Remind them that you are the consumer, and you will not tolerate violence and crime in your local movie theater. Contact regal cinema here. http://www.regmovies.com/corporate/contactus.aspx4.) Lastly, be proactive. Take a stand. If you see a disturbance, report it. Report crimes you witness to the police, report bad behavior to management, and blog blog blog. I asked the reader for a bit more information about the incident, such as if the police responded, if a report was filed, that sort of thing. Here was the response:After witnessing the event I went running to look for a police officer while my boyfriend helped to turn the man over. I couldn't find police anywhere. When I came back out my boyfriend said that someone had called 911 and the police were on their way. I went back into the theater and eventually found a female security guard. I told her of the event and she didn't seem too urgen[...]



Was a destination error the cause of Friday's derailment?

2010-02-13T18:19:03.614-05:00

Matt Johnson over at Greater Greater Washington has done some good research into how derailers (or  "Derail switches") operate, and how the situation on Friday may have unfolded. At this point it looks like there may not have been a failure of the Automatic Train Control system. Instead, it appears this incident may have been caused by operator and/or controller error.How do we reach this conclusion? Well, what we know is that the train pulled into the pocket track outside of Farragut North, and attempted to continue on it's way towards Shady Grove. When the train reached the interlocking at the north end of the pocket, it was derailed. This was because there was a red signal in that direction. A logical explanation for this would be that the system was expecting the train to turn around in the pocket track, and head south towards Glenmont.A commenter at Greater Greater Washington claims he was on the derailed train, and that when he boarded at Union Station the destination of the train showed "Farragut." This would be consistent with the theory that the ATC system believed the train was supposed to go out of service at Farragut North. If this is true, it's unclear how or why the incorrect destination was keyed in. The train operator should have realized that something was wrong when the train entered the pocket track, as this does not occur during normal operation. It was only when the operator attempted to exit the pocket track in the wrong direction that the derail switch kicked in.What does this mean? This would indicate that this accident was caused by human error, and this was not a system failure. Had the derail switch failed to activate, it's unclear if the train would have been put onto the Glenmont side or the Shady Grove side. This is all supposition, but I believe that trains traveling towards Glenmont at the time would have had a red signal at the interlocking, and would have been stopped. It's likely the Automatic Train Protection system would have prevented a train continuing once it had exited the pocket track in the wrong direction.The derailment itself was a large inconvenience for customers and first responders, and of course for Metro. However, it does not appear (at this time) to be rooted in any sort of systemic failure of automatic train control. It does indicate an error was made by the operator (attempting to pass through a red signal) and likely a train controller (for not catching the incorrect destination). It will be important for the NTSB and TOC to learn how this miscommunication happened, however at this time it does not appear to be a narrowly averted disaster. In this case, the safety systems kicked in and worked to correct for human error. [...]



BREAKING: Red Line train derailed to avoid collision

2010-02-12T15:51:51.223-05:00

DEVELOPING STORY: RED LINE TRAIN DERAILED TO AVOID COLLISION

Sources tell the Washington Post that today's derailment was caused when derailer equipment kicked in to prevent a collision with another train. The Red Line train, headed towards Shady Grove, derailed onto a "pocket track" between the Farragut North and Dupont Circle stations. The Metro source tells WaPo that the derailer kicked in when the train was attempting to pass through a red signal.

Note: Metro's crash-avoidance system does not work using typical signals. Signals on Metro are placed near interlockings (switches). More information as this develops... The NTSB has been dispatched to investigate this morning's accident.

Several questions arise, and remain unanswered at this point: Why would a train attempt to pass through a red signal at an interlocking. Why was the signal red? Was there single-tracking happening in the area? Was there another train in the vicinity (e.g. how close of a call was this?). What parts of Metro's safety system broke down in this instance? I'll be doing complete coverage of this event, and tying it into all of the previous Metro coverage from the past. If anything, this is yet again another example of why Metro needs serious safety reform. It appears at this point that several things went wrong this morning on the Red Line.

What does this mean?
Metro's Automatic Train Protection system should govern all train operations during revenue hours. This system, in theory, prevents a train from entering a block of track that is occupied by another train, or from passing through a red signal at an interlocking. It appears that the Automatic Train Protection system failed, allowing the train to pass through a red signal at an interlocking outside of Farragut North. Equipment present at the interlocking (derailer) kicked in and derailed the train to prevent it from entering a (presumably) occupied section of track, or worse, traveling onto the wrong-way track.(image)



BREAKING: Derailment on Red Line near Farragut North

2010-02-12T11:54:26.263-05:00

Reports are coming in of a possible train derailment at Farragut North. No official information at this time. DC Fire and EMS tweeted of an incident; Twitter reports have trains holding at Metro Center and Dupont Circle. Multiple fire trucks and ambulances have responded to the scene.Some reports have included some sort of indication of a switch problem near the station. Possible a train has derailed due to malfunction of an interlocking. More info will be posted as it comes available.From WMATA:A six-car Red Line train headed in the direction of Shady Grove Metrorail station has reportedly derailed near the Farragut North Metrorail station. There are no reported injuries. Metro officials and local first responders are at the scene to investigate and to safely get customers off of the train and to the station. The preliminary report is that the front wheels of lead car is the one that came off the tracks. The incident took place at 10:13 a.m. Updates will be provided as more information becomes available. From the scene, via Twitter user beaz83:Here's a CBS news photo from Christina Ruffini:From WaPo: 11:10 a.m. Update: Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein on Channel 4 news.Metro confirmed that the front wheels of the first car of a Red Line train derailed at 10:13 a.m. as it was approaching the Farragut North Metro station."Fortunately our reports are that there have been no injuries," Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. "The front wheels of the front car came off the tracks. We do not know how it happened."Farbstein said the six-car train was likely filled with passengers, given the late start of the workday for federal workers after the region was hit by a blizzard on Wednesday. She said Metro was evacuating passengers after electricity was cut to the line and that they would be escorted by walking on the tracks to the station platform."It's too early for us to know what exactly happened," she told the television station.11:40 AM, via We Love DC via WJLA-TV:Passenger on cell phone (Dana Mozie) with WJLA saying passengers are being allowed off the train. Reporting that a few passengers need medical attention, not for traumatic injuries but for conditions related to shock.11:43 AM, photo from inside Farragut North, via Twitter user andrewkneale: [...]



Is it over yet? Maybe?

2010-02-10T22:52:24.448-05:00

So the blizzard warning has expired, but we've still got strong winds and a little bit of snow lingering. It's been a messy day, to say the least. We've got a fresh foot or so of snow on top of the nearly 20 inches that was still sitting here from the weekend. Last night also gave us a nice layer of ice mixed in there, so shoveling will be no easy task.

Thursday is looking like a nasty day, the Federal government is closed again and Metro will be on limited service. This is going to take a while to clean up. At this point I'm only vaguely aware of what day it is, or what time it is. Oh, it's 10:45 PM? Whatever, I had breakfast for dinner and am slowly running out of food and sanity. I haven't been to work since last Friday at around 1 PM. I haven't gotten mail since last Friday! I know, right? No mail since last Friday. I'm guessing the rent check I mailed last week is still en route to a PO box in downtown DC. This week in DC has been a combination of The Road and The Day After Tomorrow. It has not been like Kevin Costner's The Postman, because at least in that film the mail got delivered.

Anyhoo, there's all sorts of important stuff to be writing about, like Mayor Fenty's political career, cops arresting a yuppie near Wonderland for throwing snow, that sort of thing. But, like many of you, I've completely checked out. I've watched all of the Homicide: Life on the Streets DVDs I got at the library a week ago, and I'm suffering from extreme cabin fever. I ventured out to take a picture of a fire truck in the snow, and my hand was completely numb after about 3 minutes. I didn't even bother to try to take more photos.

Oh, and what's that? "HEAVY SNOW" projected for Monday by the National Weather Service.

Whaaaa?? Yeah. It's too soon to really know anything but the Hydrometeorlogical Prediction Center is saying we could get it again on Monday. No specifics, other than the fact that an agency with an extremely official and smart-sounding name has informed us that we'll be getting screwed again next week.

Maybe we'll dodge that bullet. In the meantime, stay warm and good luck trying to get anywhere tomorrow.(image)



Liveblogging the storm: Show some compassion

2010-02-09T21:51:23.633-05:00

Now don't get me wrong, I don't ask a whole lot from the DC Police. I know they are busy with crime, I get that. However, I also know that the job of a police officer is 90% dealing with day-to-day issues that don't ever make the front page, and generally don't even result in an arrest. Just about 15 minutes ago, outside my window I saw a man stumble and fall into a snowdrift in the middle of the street. He tried to get up a few times, and was staggering. I'm going to guess he may have been drunk, that isn't all that uncommon in these parts. He'd get up, and fall down again into the snow. He then got up, and stumbled out into 16th street. He continued to walk up 16th street, in a lane of traffic, stumbling. I went outside, and saw him walk and fall down a few more times. With poor visibility and the snow piling up, this could result in a dangerous situation. I'd venture to guess most people driving up 16th right now aren't watching for passed out pedestrians.As he continued to make his way up the street, I saw a MPD cruiser. I flagged it down and told the officers that there was a guy stumbling up the street, falling down in the snow. All I asked was if they could turn around and see if he was OK. My concerns were two-fold, one that he might get hit by a car, and two that he might pass out in the snow and get buried. I was met with total and complete disregard. They said "oh, so he's up and walking now, right?" to my response of "well, sort of, he keeps falling down in the street." I'm not asking for them to buy the guy a cup of coffee and make sure he gets home, just simply to go get him out of the street. Eventually the officer said, "well, we don't want traffic backing up the hill." He made U-turn, drove up the street a little bit, and then made another U-turn and drove away.I don't want to gripe here, but this whole experience was very disappointing. To them, maybe someone stumbling in the street and falling down in a snowstorm isn't a big deal. It probably isn't. I wasn't asking for much. I would have been happy with a simple "Thanks for letting us know, we'll check it out." Instead, it was exactly what I feared, the whole, "you are wasting our time" attitude. I'm sure it's been a long couple of days. I'm not going to name names or file complaints, but I'm just saddened. I've reported my share of things to MPD before, and have generally always had a positive experience. Hopefully this was just an anomaly. [...]