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So Long, Farewell

A few months ago Andrew Sullivan closed his long running blog, which prompted a discussion with another blogger friend about whether the platform has peaked. I think it has. In fact I think it did quite a while ago. If I had to put an exact date on it, I'd say it happened about two years ago when Google Reader shuttered. Since then it's been dominoes.

Honestly, if Sullivan can't make it work, that's a pretty powerful force to consider.

This blog has been vacant for quite a while. I resisted writing this post because I always thought maybe I'd come back to it; but now it's clear that it's not going to happen.

So farewell everyone. I really enjoyed writing this blog. It's been in operation since 2004 but the glory days definitely were between 2008 and 2010 when I thought I produced some of my best stuff. It's all here in the archive, so take a look if you'd like.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for your feedback. It's been fun.
Recent posts

The Problem with "Surge Pricing"

Lisa Chow did a story for Morning Edition about Uber's "surge pricing". Similar articles have been written recently. They all raise the question about whether it's fair to charge people a fare for a ride that's higher than the originally advertised price.

(Adam Fagen on Flickr)
Now, "surge pricing" is ubiquitous. It costs me more to ride the DC Metro during rush hour than during the middle of the day. It costs me more money to drink a beer at the bar after 7pm than it does during Happy Hour. It costs me more to see a movie in the evening than it does in the morning. If I wanted to go to Las Vegas for New Year's, my hotel room would cost significantly more for the holiday than it would for the week following.

All of these are examples of adjusting prices to put supply and demand in equilibrium. Metro wants me to ride at off-hours to avoid overcrowding on their trains. The bar wants me to get there earlier and fill barstools rather than not go at all. …

What's the Purpose of Regulation?

Aaron Wiener has a post in which he writes about the newly coined term "Ubertarian" and reading through his five points, actually describes me pretty well. But that's not the point of this post. What I really want to dig into is the idea of regulation versus "free market" which seems to be the cornerstone of this ideology.

He describes:
They support government regulation—except when it inconveniences them. Clamping down on the big banks? Yes, please. Tighter safety standards? Love 'em. Restrictions on app-based taxi competitors, or on the number of bars or restaurants in their neighborhood? An outrageous imposition on the free market! The DC Taxi Commission is a perfect example of regulatory capture, a failure of government where the agency that's supposed to be the regulator becomes a lobbyist for the very group it's supposed to be regulating. The DCTC often seems more concerned with the livelihood of cab drives than they do about protecting the con…

Done with Professional Football

Until recently, if someone asked what I thought about professional football, I'd have said that I wasn't interested in watching or participating in it. This season my opinion has changed, subtlety at least. I've gone from not caring much about professional football to really starting to dislike it.

(from Clinton Crumpler on Flickr)
I read about the concussion scandal several years ago when the article first appeared in GQ. Even after Malcolm Gladwell wrote about it about the same time, I filed the story away in my brain and forgot about it for a while. It wasn't until Frontline produced a two-hour documentary on the topic that it really started to become clear just how shady the NFL has been acting throughout all of this.

But let's say I could get past the concussion scandal, or the fact that the "nonprofit" NFL swindles taxpayers out of millions, or the childishness of far too many adult men (players). What I can't get past is the fact that my hometow…

Slow Down and Enjoy the Ride

If there's one street in Washington that's caused much consternation among commuters, it's Pennsylvania Avenue, between the Capitol and the White House. Back in 2010 the city experimented with a new transportation approach: putting the bike lanes in the middle of the street, rather than on the far right, as had been typical. The design is actually quite well-done. The problem is that the quality of the design relies on users following the rules; and far too often that doesn't happen.

This sign at 13th and Pennsylvania sums it all up. On the top, instructions for bicyclists to obey the traffic light; on the bottom, a sign explicitly banning U-turns.

I ride this stretch nearly every day, and almost always see drivers (especially taxi drivers) making U-turns. I also see bicyclists going through red lights. I've never witnessed enforcement for either violation.

The problem with illegal U-turns is that they're dangerous. Drivers have to cut through two bicycle lanes…

Can An App Fix a Broken Industry?

David Alpert has a good overview of three taxi hailing apps that you can now use in DC. I've only used one (Uber) but did recently create an account for MyTaxi. Since I almost never hire rides, I haven't used the latter yet. For the purpose of this post, everything I say about Uber refers only to its taxi service, not its Towncar/SUV service.

In my opinion, the DC taxi industry isn't just bad, it's downright terrible. The economist in me sees the obvious problems: cabbies don't have any incentive to provide good service because people don't really get a choice in which cab they hail, nor can they usually hire the same drivers more than once.

Adding to that, the taxi regulator (DCTC) is extremely weak and cab drivers know they can get away with a lot of abusive behavior (refusing destinations, inefficient routes, discrimination, etc.). And traffic enforcement is weak, so cab drivers also know they can drive like dangerous maniacs and pick up more fares as a resu…

Parking Illegality

Ashley Halsey III has an article about the millions of dollars that were generated in DC last year via parking tickets. Here's the money quote:
Not counting Sundays and holidays, AAA calculated that the District issues an average of about 7.3 parking tickets each minute.This is incredible, not because of how many tickets are being issued, but because it shows just how rampant illegal parking is. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that for every one person who gets a ticket for illegal parking, dozens more get away with it. 

(fromthisisbossi on Flickr) 
A lot of the violations are from people who simply don't pay their meter (which is what it is), but another chunk come from people who park illegally because there isn't a legal space on the street at their destination. So instead of finding a legal space, they double park, park in bike lanes, loading zones, handicap spaces, tow-away zones, or wherever else they can squeeze their car, regardless of whether it's legal. Somet…