Columbus Weekend Links

I really like these Federal holidays when I actually get them off…

On airport transit service:

GGW had a point/counterpoint on how best to serve Dulles International Airport.  Spencer Lepler argued for using commuter rail along the Washington and Old Dominion right of way, while Matt Johnson argued in favor of the current plan, noting the greatly improved benefits, including access to Tysons Corner and other development along the toll road.   Johnson also noted the technical hurdles to reusing the old railroad right of way.

The entire idea of offering faster service between the airport and downtown DC motivates these discussions, and this isn’t limited only to DC.  Yonah Freemark notes the perils of Chicago’s Block 37 and the express airport service that doesn’t really exist.

In the end, express service to and from Dulles shouldn’t be a top priority.  The existing infrastructure certainly doesn’t make it easy to do so.

So what about the W&OD?  Matt’s post on the challenges to re-use the right of way also raise some potential uses – perhaps using the corridor, in addition to the Silver Line, as a light rail/interurban corridor might be a good use.  This allows at-grade operations in congested areas, as well as simplifying the terminal connection in Alexandria, either as a loop into Crystal City or as a connection to the new Potomac Ave infill Metro station.

With or without the Silver Line, however, I’ll still be looking first and foremost at DCA for flights.

First, convince the Bankers…

The Salt Lake City Tribune has a great article noting the biggest hurdle to transit-oriented development – the banks.

Transit-oriented development isn’t stymied by outdated zoning, unwilling developers or a lack of space. It turns out, banks, wedded to old-fashioned lending standards that stress parking, may pose the biggest blockade by denying financing.

The reason: Lenders operate from a tried-and-true principle that maintains more parking means less risk and a higher return on their investment. But ditching cars is the whole point of urban developers looking to create 24-hour live, work and play environments that hug light-rail hubs.

Take the capital’s gateway district, which soon could be further revived by a North Temple TRAX train, a new viaduct and millions in streetscape upgrades. City leaders envision a walkable, vibrant mix of housing, retail, restaurants and offices that one day will bridge the FrontRunner hub and a new North Temple transit station along downtown’s western rim.

But commercial investors, including one with a $100 million blueprint, complain banks cannot grasp the concept and instead slam their doors.

The first paragraph might be a little over the top, as outdated zoning, unwilling developers, and a lack of space are still huge hurdles, though I might change their language a bit.

Last week, there was plenty of discussion (BDC, RPUS, GGW) of the Post‘s article on DC USA’s woefully underutilized parking garage.  Valerie Santos, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, noted the parking was necessary to convince any number of parties to build the thing – tenants, landlords, financiers:

The District has lost nearly $2 million — or $100,000 a month — since the garage opened in March 2008, numbers that make Valerie Santos groan when she considers the city’s decision to build the structure.

“I don’t want to say it’s a quote, unquote, mistake. At the time the District did what it had to do to attract a retailer it sorely wanted,” said Santos, deputy mayor for planning and economic development. “Am I happy about the operating deficit? Of course not.”

Obviously, there are lots of moving parts in any urban development equation, but overall education of all parties involved is a crucial element.

When speaking of performance parking, Dr. Shoup likes to advocate for removing parking restrictions from zoning ordinances and letting the market decide.  The challenge, however, is that this particular market is not acting with perfect information.  Rectifying that information gap is a huge challenge.  DC USA might have some use as an example of what not to do in the future, but that’s an awfully expensive lesson to learn.

Miscellany:

Some of the ugliest buildings in the world?

So says this list.  (h/t Yglesias)

Amtrak ridership is down…

…but still up over the longer tiemframe (Housing Complex)

Exit, stage left

DC Metrocentric takes a look inside the new Arena Stage.

The data wants to be free

Rob Goodspeed looks at municipal data sharing programs, and wonders what differences they make.

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