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Showing posts from August, 2012

A Defense of Schlepping

Tess Wilson has a great article at Apartment Therapy that points out the benefits of schlepping stuff around the city. Her post focuses mostly on the fact that schlepping is good exercise, which it is; but I'd argue that it's even more than that. It's a seeming inconvenience that has plenty of unintended benefits.

Take grocery shopping for example. There are plenty of people who will argue until they're blue in the face that grocery shopping without a car is an unacceptable burden in life. I wouldn't take it that far, but I would agree that it's less convenient and more challenging to do than if you have access to a car.

(from william couch on Flickr)
I don't have a car, so when I do it, it means I have to make strategic shopping choices. I don't buy whole watermelons or 12-packs of Pepsi because those things are really heavy and bulky and difficult to transport without a car. To some people this is a great tragedy.

What would life be without sugary soda…

"Devil Wagons"

The transportation exhibit at the Smithsonian's American History museum is one of my favorites. It's as much about the evolution of transportation technology as it is about the history of suburban sprawl. It's a pretty balanced approach to the issue too.

(from gGraphy on Flickr)
Last weekend I stumbled across this little nugget in the exhibit:
Americans Adopt the Auto

Cars Everywhere?

For automobiles to become a permanent fixture on the American landscape - rather than simply a toy for the rich - people needed to be convinced that they were reliable, useful, appropriate, and even necessary. In the early years of motoring, not all Americans were convinced that the new "devil wagons" were here to stay. But as people came to value the convenience of the car, and as they adapted it to their own needs, cars became a significant part of everyday life. This statement is enlightening because today we take for granted that cars rule the urban landscape, and in fact, the &qu…

Legal Gray Areas

There's a rant over at the Washington Post about towing companies in the DC area. You can click through and read the article, but it sums up like this: Person can't find a legal parking space in a busy neighborhood. Person decides to park illegally instead. Person leaves the car unattended for ten minutes and car gets towed for being parked illegally. Person gets very upset. Person calls the situation "predatory". The end.

(from roujo on Flickr)
The article makes every indication that the author knew that parking in the space was illegal. There's also nothing to lead the reader to believe the towing company acted in violation of the government's regulations. If there were evidence that the towing company acted illegally, I think it would be more than fair to call this "predatory", but let's examine the situation for how it's described.

This point in particular caught my eye.
So we pulled into one of about four empty spaces outside a dry clean…

Tourists Are Major Capital Bikeshare Funders

The Washington DC economy benefits heavily from tourism. Some businesses benefit directly while others take advantage of tourism spillovers. Is Capital Bikeshare in the same boat? I took a look at membership and trip data for one year from April 1, 2011 through March 31, 2012 to get to the answer.

Capital Bikeshare offers a variety of products, from one-day memberships up to annual memberships. Annual and monthly members (registered users) have plastic red keys that allow them to access the system. Everyone else (casual users) use their credit card to access the system for short-term periods. Though not perfect, this makes a nice proxy for locals (registered users) and tourists (casual users).

More short-term memberships were sold during the 12 month study period than for full-memberships. But since full-memberships cost more they ultimately generated more estimated revenue*.

Click to Enlarge
*This is a good time to mention that these are not actual revenue figures. These are estimates…

Taxing Olympians

I stumbled across this article yesterday on the Americans for Tax Reform website. It's about how the IRS can (in theory) tax Olympics athletes who win medals, on the basis that those medals are taxable as income. The conclusion of the post is: isn't it outrageous?!

(from Shazz Mack on Flickr)
The problem with the simple analysis is that it assumes an absolute worst-case scenario. In other words, they present a chart that shows the tax costs for gold, silver and bronze medals, assuming that the winner falls into the 35% tax bracket ($388,000 per year and above).

Now, some athletes certainly fall into this bracket. The NBA players on the men's basketball team are filthy rich, so it's hard to feel bad that the tax falls on them. A few other high profile athletes, like Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps get big bonuses from their sponsors and aren't hard-up for money. But I suspect that many American Olympians are of modest means and probably don't pay a 35% marginal ta…

The Most Important Project You Don't Know About

Earlier in the month a series of floods wreaked havoc on the Bloomingdale neighborhood in DC. It was the result of a variety of factors, including weather, geography and out-of-date infrastructure. In short, when it rains really hard and really quickly, water flows downhill into Bloomingdale but there's not enough sewer capacity to carry it away.

(from bhrome on Flickr)
The solution? A multi-billion (with a B) dollar project by the water utility to install a sewer tunnel from Bloomingdale to the water-treatment plant on the other side of town (among a handful of other things).

This is not the kind of "sexy" infrastructure project that typically gets a lot of attention. The Silver Line to Dulles is an expensive project  that a lot of people have an opinion on. Capital Bikeshare is a much less expensive project that gets a lot of attention. But a storm sewer?.. it's hard to get people excited about that.

It's probably nonetheless one of the most important infrastruc…