Trading Living Space for Cheaper Commutes

Elvert Barnes / Flickr

Housing in the D.C. suburbs costs a lot less than in the city, particularly with rising housing costs, but higher transportation costs could outweigh the savings.

That’s according to a new report [PDF] by the D.C. Office of Planning, which shows residents in dense neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights spend an average of $840 a month on transportation, whereas those living in suburbs in Montgomery County could spend $1,177 a month. DCist reports:

The numbers bear out what many people know from experience — higher residential density and more transit options make it cheaper for people to get around. Sure, you might be paying more for less space in that new house or condo, but alternatives further asunder may well spike your costs for getting to and from work.

Living in a smaller apartment or house in order to be closer to buses and Metro stations may not be feasible for everyone. Having less space isn’t as big an issue if you’re single or are living with one partner. But if you have three kids and a spouse, your quality of life could be significantly reduced by living in together in a small place. Perhaps the decision to move from D.C. and into the suburbs isn’t the best bottom-dollar choice for single folks. But some families may make the move because they can’t justify living in such cramped quarters so that one or two adults have cheaper and quicker commutes.

Metro Sells Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Passes


Courtesy of Metro

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the first to honor an African American man on the National Mall,  will be dedicated Aug. 28. So why not remember the historic occasion with a commemorative Metro fare card?

The one-day pass, which includes an image of the statue, costs $9 and can be purchased online or at a Metro sales facility.

This isn’t the first time Metro has issued a commemorative pass to mark an historic occasion; the system sold permanent, $10 SmarTrip cards in the lead up to the inauguration of President Barack Obama.



Who is Tagging the Red Line?

Red Line D.C. Project/Katrina Paz

Saaret Yoseph has been riding the Red Line since she was a kid, and for years she casually observed the graffiti scrawled along the route from Silver Spring to Union Station. But then she became curious about it. Who was doing this?

“Around last spring or last summer, I kept seeing this one name, Ju,” she says. “He would always have images next to his tags, like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Kanye West bears, and I just got really, really curious about this one tag. It became kind of a personal hunt but at the same time I became very curious as to what other people thought about it.”

She started talking with a variety of folks: graffiti writers, artists, community organizers, D.C. officials and others, and the conversations weren’t just about art. Discussions about public space, access, revitalization versus blight and D.C.’s changing neighborhoods were all intertwined with the graffiti seen on the Red Line. Thus began The Red Line D.C. Project, Yoseph’s documentary project and associated blog that proclaims “in Washington, D.C., the most accessible art form isn’t in the museums. it’s on the Metro.”

“I’m hoping I’m representative of other commuters who want to have a talk back. The way graffiti is, it’s kind of this one-way conversation,” Yoseph says.

She is now using the project as a way to launch a dialogue (it’s partially funded by nonprofit Words Beats & Life) and she has even folded it into her master’s coursework at Georgetown University, where she is earning a degree in communication, culture and technology.

Yoseph sees graffiti “almost in the same way I look at street signs. For me, it’s what’s the difference between this and looking at Ben Ali Way? It’s really just a marker of the people who have been there and existing in that space.”

One of the things that has most surprised Yoseph is the demographic profile of many — but not all — of the Red Line’s most prominent graffiti writers: white teens or young adults living in Maryland suburbs.

As for why that’s the case, Yoseph isn’t so sure.

“There’s plenty more people to talk to, and more graffiti writers I want to chat with. I’m kind of an outsider coming into it,” she says. “For me, it’s almost about asking ‘why?’ to everything.”

How a federal government shutdown could affect D.C.’s most vulnerable

Flickr: Paul Simpson

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library will close during a federal government shutdown.

A federal government shutdown will do more than impact federal employees (and their BlackBerrys) — many D.C. residents, including the District’s most vulnerable residents, will feel the pain.

Residents lacking a computer or access to high-speed Internet won’t be able to rely upon their local library to cross the digital divide. Public and charter schools will remain open, so students should probably take advantage of the Internet access they can get at their schools — unless you attend the University of the District of Columbia, which will be closed.

Folks who rely on the Circulator buses to get to work will have to hop on a Metrobus instead (bright side: Metro cars could be a lot less crowded!).

But many basic services would continue, including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, food stamps and Medicaid. United Medical Center and St. Elizabeth’s hospitals will remain open, and firefighters and police officers will continue to work. Other services will be limited, including unemployment benefits. Mayor Vincent Gray announced that non-essential employees likely won’t be working: about 14,000 of the District’s 35,000 municipal employees would be furloughed under the D.C. plan [PDF].

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Spike in Youth Crime on Metro


Teens on the Green line.

Teens + Metro = Trouble? Many people assume that “equation” is true, and this story, One-Quarter Of Those Arrested On Metro Are Younger Than 20, from WAMU’s Kavitha Cardoza substantiates the link between young transit users and crime.

Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn says there’s been a spike in crime committed by youth on Metrorail and Metrobuses; last year they made up a little more than 500 of the approximately 2,000 arrests.

And Taborn says many of the 90 assaults on bus operators involved youth.

When Taborn says “assault” he means that metrobus drivers have been on the receiving end of punches, flung objects or saliva. Taborn also confirms that the trend of recording altercations and uploading them to sites like YouTube inspires copycat crimes.

Here’s something I was unaware of, which explains a lot– as in, why a lot of students are using public transportation:

Taborn says over the past five years, more students attend schools that aren’t in their neighborhood, whether it’s to attend charter schools or because their neighborhood school has closed down. And that increases the opportunities for students to meet others from rival schools and crews.

Twenty thousand students use the Metro system every day.

I’ve only witnessed one incident where rowdy teens were confronted by a Metro employee, but it was memorable.

Guardian Angel, Woman Assaulted in Racially-Motivated Metro Fight

Twitpic: @dcguardianangel

Guardian Angels handcuffing five assailants who attacked one of their members on an Anacostia-bound train, Saturday night.

Earlier today, I storified tweets about the Guardian Angels voluntarily patrolling D.C.’s Metro system. This weekend, one Angel on an Anacostia-bound train tried to break up a fight between a black youth and a white woman; that man was violently assaulted by five people (including the youth from the original altercation) for trying to intervene. Other nearby Angels rushed to the train and detained all five assailants until police could arrive and arrest them. That’s the bare outline of what went down. But there’s more:

Alex Kaufer, an Angel in training, stepped in when a black male youth allegedly assaulted a white woman on a train as it pulled into the Anacostia Station on the Green Line about 11 p.m. Saturday. The youth and his friends apparently were making racial comments to the woman and her friend.

“The youths were harassing the girls. They were making fun of them because they were white and because of the way they were dressed,” John Ayala, East Coast director of the Guardian Angels, tells WTOP. “The girl got up and told the youths, ‘We are not afraid of you.’”

That’s when the fight started…

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Cut Metro Hours? Lose $50 Million from D.C.


Save $3 to 5 million by cutting service? Lose $7 million in revenue. Or $50 million in matching funds from D.C.

Metro’s proposal to cut late-night service on Fridays and Saturdays in order to save money and create more opportunities for maintenance may hit a financial roadblock (via WTOP):

A Metro source tells WTOP city officials are less inclined to kick in their share of dedicated funding if they know they are going to lose millions in revenue from the rollback of late night weekend hours.

If D.C. were to hold back its share of dedicated funding, it could set off a troubling chain reaction. The move would essentially break an agreement with the federal government, which sends $150 million in funds per year to Metro. That money is to be matched year after year by D.C., Maryland and Virginia — all putting in $50 million each.

We’ve already covered how this issue doesn’t just inconvenience privileged drunk people who’ve been out partying– it also means pain for members of the working class who depend on Metro to get home from their jobs at odd hours. Another issue? How much money will be saved by the service cuts vs. how much could be lost:
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Metro Really DOES Need Maintenance, ASAP

Flickr: James Calder

Riders wait at Foggy Bottom Metro

Some serious, scary trouble at Foggy Bottom this morning (via Unsuck DC Metro):

After unloading from a train, people were exiting the gates, and a Metro employee was telling everyone leaving the station to take the left hand escalator…So everyone starts trudging up the left, until…

The bottom two or three steps of the escalator literally collapsed! They fell through leaving a gaping hole at the bottom of the stairs. Two or three people fell in. I would say it was about a three foot drop into jagged steel from the overturned stairs, not to mention whatever else is underneath the escalator. The people managed to pull themselves out and didn’t look seriously injured, but one woman was pretty shaken up.

Metro’s response was also less than encouraging. When the stairs first fell through, people started yelling, and one employee (the same one who had told us to take the left hand escalator in the first place) began walking toward the commotion. But then he stopped, turned around, and ran back yelling for someone else to do something.

Miss Metro? Hire a Taxi or Sleep on the Street.

Flickr: Chris Dag

Fisheye view of the red line.

Last week, I posted about the debate surrounding Metro’s proposal to close earlier on the weekends for maintenance and monetary reasons– “Metro: It’s not just for drunks.“. This weekend, the Washington Post dispatched four reporters to spend “the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings riding the trains to gauge reaction.” Most of the piece focused on party people, but one anecdote stood out:

After midnight, Metro is the domain of the young and intoxicated. In this atmosphere, it’s easy to pick out the night commuters, who stand out of the way like hungover club kids might in the morning rush.

On the Green Line, Aloh Che, 63, quietly reads a newspaper. His eyes look tired. A patch on his jacket explains why he is out at 1 a.m.: security. His job often ends at midnight.

“Once you miss the bus, then you miss the train, then your only alternative is hiring a taxi or sleeping on the street,” he says. He’s done that – slept on the street until Metro started up again. “Three or four times,” he says.

Che, a native of Cameroon, works in Bethesda and has worked two shifts this day. By the time he gets home to New Carrollton, the buses will have stopped running, so he will pay a taxi driver $10 to take him the rest of the way.