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Showing posts from 2013

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…

Getting Serious About Parking

The other day I posted a silly thought experiment about using a van for personal storage and keeping it parked on the street. The analogy was flimsy and people pointed out problems with it (I ignored the costs of registration and insurance, I ignored the fact that the van might get targeted by thieves, and generally speaking, it's kind of a pain for just storing a bunch of junk).

For all those reasons, I was never actually considering doing it; but from the comments it sounds like some people already are (in DC and elsewhere). In any case, now that the conversation is going, I can get a little more serious about the issue.

(from thisisbossi on Flickr) 
We know what the market price for parking is in DC, and it's not the same in every neighborhood. In some areas, like around Dupont Circle, a monthly pass for a garage might cost as much as $250 per month. At $35 per year, street parking is offered at roughly a 99% discount to the market price for that area. It seems obvious why s…

Storing Private Stuff in Public Space

Occasionally I joke on Twitter about my  plan to buy an old, beat-up Chevy Astro Van, park it on the street near my house, and use it exclusively as storage space. It sounds ridiculous, but it's actually an interesting thought experiment.

(from analog photo fun on Flickr)
People typically react by saying that doing this would be an abuse of the public parking system. Street parking is supposed to be for parking cars, not storing stuff they say. But in essence, street parking (public space) is used to store automobiles (privately owned things) for little to no cost (it would cost me $35 per year for a residential permit in my neighborhood). Using a van for storage would cost significantly less money than renting a space at one of those self storage warehouses, and it would be a lot more convenient.

Using an Astro Van as a storage locker would cause some pain for drivers in my neighborhood. Since I'd never move the van (except when legally necessary for street sweeping or an emer…