Revel's Electric 🛵 & "Zoom-Bombing" with Sexually Explicit Material

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 2, Edition 46 (3/29/2020)

— — — — This the free, weekly edition of Street Justice. — — — —

More Metro Areas Should Try Out Shared, Electric Mopeds. DC Should Expand Its Program. Service Should Go to Northern Virginia & Suburban Maryland.

This week, in my DC Line column, I give a raving review Revel’s shared, electric mopeds currently operating in DC, NYC, Austin, Miami, and Oakland, CA.

“Revel’s fleet — sometimes called motor scooters or mopeds — offers a means to actually reduce car trips, potentially yielding a higher percentage of journeys fueled by electrons instead of gasoline. Piloting the seated mopeds is comparatively easy, and Revel’s fleet features plum cushions, so trips in excess of 5 miles don’t faze your rear end. In contrast, the standing electric scooters ubiquitous in the District work for only the most physically able and confident urban dwellers able to afford housing close to work.”

“Shared, electric mopeds serve an important environmental benefit. Their greater capabilities mean that more people may be willing to forego cars for trips where the shared, standing scooters prove unappealing. This increased value is partly about distance. Mopeds work well for 3- to 10-mile trips, while standing scooter trips tend to exhaust riders’ knees and elbows after 1 to 2 miles. A first-time moped rider can more easily gain confidence and command of handling after five to 10 minutes, and the underlying vehicle is more stable.”

“…for traffic congestion and other negative effects of car dependence, my reporting points to shared electric mopeds as a powerful positive force. More American cities should try this out and DC should expand its program, eliminating Revel’s fleet size limit and inviting applications from other operators.”

Read the full column here. Revel is offering free rides to health care workers in DC and its other markets during this coronavirus mitigation period.


Sexually Explicit Material Attacks Community Group, Zoom Bombing Highlights Need for Technical Support

Thursday night, attackers disrupted the virtual meeting of ANC 7B (Fort Dupont/Hillcrest) — inserting sexually explicit audio and forcing the Commission’s leadership to close the meeting. The “zoom-bombing” attack came from online bullies taking advantage of coronavirus-related growth in video conferencing activity. The bushwhackers highlight the tough position of DC’s ANCs and other DC-area local government bodies: they don’t have budgets for A/V services and are not supported by technical experts, so they’re scrambling to figure out audio/video platforms while they try to conduct business and represent citizens on matters like the current public health emergency.

So far during coronavirus mitigation, several DC-area government groups and civic organizations have met virtually. However, because these groups aren’t supported with A/V funding or support, it’s been a mishmash of volunteers figuring out patchwork solutions. Street Justice reporter Gordon Chaffin wrote two weeks ago that DC Council should support DC’s neighborhood commissions with greater administrative support. Thursday’s video conference attack further proves the point. 

[Read the Full Story for Free]


DC App Adds Features to Track Availability to Toilet Paper, Hand Sanitizer, & Other Coronavirus Supplies

OurStreets will launch a new feature set within their existing app — OurStreets Supplies — to create “a community-driven platform for consumers, retailers, and policymakers that helps minimize the spread of COVID-19.” The company launched in January as a public space problem-reporting app, after beta-testing as Hows My Driving?. “OurStreets Supplies will go live in the OurStreets app very soon. The app is simple: an intuitive reporting interface for shoppers and retailers to record inventory of supplies and a map of available supply levels for shoppers and regulators to better understand the supply level of essential goods in their city.” 

Here’s how to help the company get the supply tracking feature running asap.


Bus Cuts, Bike Shops, and Who/What is "Essential" during Coronavirus?

State and local public officials— and Federal leaders in Congress — are making quick decisions now that reveal the underlying biases of society and the (mis-)perceptions they have about public space. There’s an important debate going on about what and who of the public environments we share in the street, in public buildings, on the train or bus — and the privately-owned-but-publically-focused “third places” like bars, restaurants, and gyms.

Yesterday, in the process of escalating coronavirus mitigation, Governors of Maryland and Virginia — plus DC Mayor Muriel Bowser — determined that bike shops are essential businesses allowed to stay open despite each leaders’ closure orders. This follows or coincides with similar determinations in New YorkBaltimore, and LA. It seemed to many frustratingly dissonant for politicians to order bike shops closed but list auto repair ships as essential when the figures promote bikes are alternatives to cars for necessary trips/commuting. Moreover, in the DC-area, the population of transit-dependent, service economy workers is enduring significant bus cuts. Those people are also more likely to be dependent on bikes as low-cost commuting options.

[Read the Full Story for Free]

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Sexually Explicit Material Attacks Community Group, Zoom Bombing Highlights Need for Technical Support

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 2, Edition 45 (3/27/2020)

This a special, free-for-all edition of Street Justice. Please support our small, local news operation by subscribing or donating. Our 1-person operation depends on that support.

ICYMI: Wednesday’s Street Justice was free-to-read; it explained the meaning and importance of the debate about what and who are “essential” when coronavirus mitigation involves closing down businesses and determining who’s travel matters. Whose transit trip is essential? What kind of person and kind of business? WMATA keeps harming bus riders who seem to need the bus. Of course, we all agree trash collection is essential? Also, on Wednesday, I explained transit support coming from Congressional coronavirus legislation and summarized my review of Revel’s shared, electric mopeds.

Help with my Job Search: Coronavirus is pausing hiring at many workplaces, but I continue my search for a part-time or full-time job. I need to find a position in the next few months that forms a consistent base of pay, if not a living wage. Are you looking for a writer, communications person, a part-time reporter, or a public policy analyst? Are you hiring? Do you know someone who might be hiring? Here are my resume and lots of writing samples in PDF Form. Please email me, DM me on Twitter, or otherwise get in touch if you have ideas for my job search.

Image

DC Neighborhood Commission Attacked with Sexually Explicit Material in "Zoom-Bombing"

Last night, attackers disrupted the virtual meeting of ANC 7B (Fort Dupont/Hillcrest) — inserting sexually explicit audio and forcing the Commission’s leadership to close the meeting. The “zoom-bombing” attack came from online bullies taking advantage of coronavirus-related growth in video conferencing activity. The bushwhackers highlight the tough position of DC’s ANCs and other DC-area local government bodies: they don’t have budgets for A/V services and are not supported by technical experts, so they’re scrambling to figure out audio/video platforms while they try to conduct business and represent citizens on matters like the current public health emergency.

The Ward 7 neighborhood commission was holding its regular March meeting on the Zoom video conferencing platform. The meeting was a standard conference call where each participant joined with full capabilities: speaking via a microphone, broadcasting from their webcam, and sharing their computer screen. Many joined via telephone as well. 15 minutes into the meeting, Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray announced his presence via phone line. Gray spoke up to say a drive-through coronavirus testing facility would soon be operating east of the Anacostia River. CM Gray hung up to double-check that information, and within seconds, attackers joined the meeting.

These attackers — “zoom-bombers” — find publically advertised video conference calls and jump in by broadcasting video and audio to every other participant. That imposition often includes the sharing of a screen displaying porn images and videos. The intent is to create mayhem that’s hard to stop. The invaders team up, one jumping in with more disruption in the place of their crony, once the first is muted or blocked by the moderator. It’s like Whack-a-mole and halting the attack usually requires closing the meeting for all participants.

On Wednesday, ANC 2A (Foggy Bottom/West End) conducted a well organized, high-quality virtual meeting via Zoom as well. However, 2A was much better prepared than 7B. The Foggy Bottom ANC purchased Zoom Webinar — which gives far greater moderation power to the “panelists” granted administrative privileges to the meeting. 2A Commissioners Patrick Kennedy and James Harnett, with the ANC’s Executive Director Peter Sacco, also set robust defenses in Zoom’s advanced settings. The only way for public attendees to participate was to request to speak (“Raise their hand”) and be granted that privilege temporarily from the Commissioners leading the meeting.

ANC 7B was borrowing the Zoom account of Children’s Hospital, where 7B Commissioner Patricia Howard-Chittams works. Because of that borrowed use, Cmmsr. Howard-Chittams told meeting attendees she couldn’t record the meeting. Presumably, ANC 7B also wasn’t able to dial in the settings to protect the meting from attackers. Street Justice was the only press attending and our audio recording is linked below.

So far during coronavirus mitigation, several DC-area government groups and civic organizations have met virtually. However, because these groups aren’t supported with A/V funding or support, it’s been a mishmash of volunteers figuring out patchwork solutions. ANC 2A, along with 2B and 2E, employ Peter Sacco for administrative support and leadership, so those commissions are usually very well organized and prepared. ANC 2A and ANC 2E purchased their own, separate Zoom Webinar subscriptions ($550/yr to start).

On Monday, DC’s Pedestrian Advisory Council borrowed the Zoom account of Toole Design, where Co-Chair Jim Elliot works. ANC 7B borrowed Zoom from Children’s National. Yesterday, DC’s Bike Advisory Council announced that their April 1st meeting will go on as planned, via Zoom. Chair Rachel Maisler told Street Justice that they’re still figuring out the details. On March 18th, EVADC — the DC-area chapter of the Electric Vehicle Association — held their regular meeting via Zoom. President Ron Kaltenbaugh used his personal account.

Street Justice reporter Gordon Chaffin wrote two weeks ago that DC Council should support DC’s neighborhood commissions with greater administrative support. Last night’s video conference attack further proves the point. Should DC’s elected-but-volunteer ANC commissioners be left to scramble for many months with little-to-no financial or technical support from DC’s Office of ANCs?

What about the dozens of DC’s citizen and expert advisory committees and councils? Many of those are formally appointed volunteer positions with 10 hr/month commitments — ANC is 5-10 hours per week. What about the vast majority of resident stakeholders who can’t make in-person meetings and deserve transparent, accessible public meetings? What about Virginia and Maryland residents with their own local and state government bodies?

Street Justice prepared a best practices document for live-streaming civic organization meetings to include participation from virtual attendees via computer, mobile app, and telephone call. That’s a good starting place for the future, where these via-internet participation options should continue and expand. While coronavirus requires all of us to stay in separate rooms, Zoom Webinar is a best-in-class product. However, it requires financial and technical support.

Street Justice is happy to offer affordable A/V equipment and technical support. But, governments need to step up with funding and regulatory changes. DC Council changed the ANC rules in an emergency bill to allow for virtual voting from the elected Commissioners. Maybe Council will soon add virtual voting as an option for themselves? The legislative body has 2-3 months’ worth of hearings on a budget for the next fiscal year, which normally occurs March through May. Council may also need to come back into session to administer regulatory and financial support to businesses and residents after Federal rescue monies arrive. Will Virginia and Maryland localities let their Executives divvy up those funds without oversight?

While DC waived public meeting rules for ANCs, Virginia has not waived public meeting rules. A source from one of the Virginia transportation organizations told Street Justice that “there are some state-level folks looking into this because this impacts all sorts of government organizations across the state.”

DC’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) contracts with Cisco WebEx and has left ANCs out of that enterprise contract. OCTO has thus far not even provided a professional conference call line for ANCs to use. The Office of ANC and At-Large DC Councilmember Robert White — Chair of ANC oversight — recently sent out a list of free conference call services. It was shabby, at best — as if they’d copy-pasted from a Google search.

ANC 6B Commissioner Corey Holman said ANCs were recently given free access to WebEx Teams with Audio-Conferencing. Cisco WebEx is an older, more confusing and long-in-the-tooth platform. However, WebEx offers privacy and cybersecurity safeguards — important for many enterprise environments — while Zoom has serious privacy flaws. Zoom has recently taken the lead from WebEx on enterprise contracts with companies like Vox Media. Zoom dominates when comparing the two companies’ relative stock performance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus Updates

Help Folks Out

DC

  • On Wednesday evening, DC sent an emergency mobile alert explaining the closure of non-essential businesses starting that night at 10 PM. Here’s the full text of the message with explanations of the alert system run by FEMA. This was not a shelter/stay-in-place order.

  • “The DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA has full reserves of $1.43 billion and additional surplus funds at its disposal for coronavirus response. Even so, the Chief Financial Officer has indicated that DC may need to cut $500 million out of its 2020 spending if the crisis goes through June.” ~ Meg Wiehe, writing in the weekly newsletter from the Institute for Taxation & Economic Policy

  • The Senate coronavirus bill that passed Wednesday evening would send the DC government only $500M unless the House amends it to classify DC as a state, so the District could receive $1.25B. Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million citizens and residents of America’s other territories were similarly treated to the District of Columbia. However, it’s important to note that DC deserves statehood treatment not because Puerto Ricans deserve it any less.

  • According to WaPost reporting, it seems like Senate Republicans intentionally shifted DC from state category to territory category. For important funding matters, DC is “almost always treated like a full-fledged state by the federal government when it comes to grants, highway funding, education dollars and food assistance.” Jenna Portnoy and Fenit Nirappil go on to write that House Democrats

  • The House is set to vote today (though on that rescue legislation via voice (aka “acclimation”) or with mass proxy voting, as the Chamber is out of session and probably should remain so since many Members have had direct contact with COVID-19 carriers. The House, much like local governments in the DC area, does not permit remote voting — through this crisis may require adding it or at least rethinking its prohibition. Speaking as a former Hill staffer, there are a lot of benefits to tele-legislating from District offices: most of the work of a Congressional office is constituent services and casework advocacy (e.g., helping a resident with their SSDI claim).

  • List: Mount Vernon Triangle Retail Open for Order/Takeout During COVID-19

MD

VA

  • Three of Arlington County’s Citizen Advisories were set to meet on April 28th — the Bike, Pedestrian, and Parks/Recreation Commission — however that meeting was postponed. The Arlington Pedestrian Advisory Committee will not meet in April and is looking at May 13th as their potential next meeting. The Bike Advisory also canceled its April meeting, with the next scheduled meeting set for Monday, May 4th. The next Parks/Rec Commission meeting is set for Tuesday, May 26th.

  • **POSTPONED TBD** Wed 4/1: Development Tour with the Arlington County Community Development Citizens Advisory Committee [Details]

  • **CANCELED** Wed 4/1: Northern Virginia Transportation Commission [Details]

  • **CANCELED** Th 4/2: Arlington Transportation Commission [Details]

Region-Wide/Generally of Note

  • “In this Rapid Response webinar, Eno’s Jeff Davis explain[ed] and analyze[d] the billions of dollars in emergency assistance that will be provided to the transportation sector by the massive coronavirus relief package that Congress hopes to finalize this week.” ~ Eno Center for Transportation

  • The Washington Post built a simple calculator to estimate what you(r family) will receive in cash government assistance if the Senate bill passes the House and is signed into law. The model and written story produced by Ashlyn Still, Heather Long, and Kevin Uhrmacher.

  • In a fantastic, interactive visual, NYT reporters Nick Kristoff and Stuart A. Thompson explained how stopping the coronavirus closures will raise significantly the portion of Americans infected. I encourage you to read the article and try shifting the quarantine period, using the model built by academics Gabriel Goh, Steven De Keninck, Ashleigh Tuite and David N. Fisman. 39M infected & 290K dead, when I selected approximately DC’s mandated closures through Friday, April 24th. If America “re-opened” on Easter, the NYT model estimates 98 million Americans would contract COVID-19 — 960K of them would die.

News Tidbits

DDOT installed left-turn hardening safety facilities and replaced broken flexposts on all four corners at the intersection of 11th and G Streets SE.

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“Scooter rental startup Lime, one of the hottest startups in tech two years ago, is trying to raise emergency funds at a valuation slashed by 80% from last year, two people familiar with the matter said. The company is seeking funds from new investors at a valuation of just $400 million, compared with the $2.4 billion level at which it last raised money, the people said.”

“The discussions, which one person said are in the early stages, foreshadow the pain to come for startups looking to raise cash as the financial markets and the economy are reeling from the impact of the coronavirus. Lime, which has shut down its scooter-rental operations in all but one market, has between $50 million and $70 million of cash left, The Information reported Saturday. At the startup’s current rate of spending, that cash will only last a few months, said one of the people. Lime is expected to lay off staff, however.”

That’s reporting by Cory Weinberg in The Information.

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“While some shared mobility providers are pulling back service in certain markets to respond to the novel coronavirus crisis, others are expanding. Revel, operator of shared electric moped-like devices, has pulled its service from Miami and reduced service in Oakland, Calif. At the same time, the company has expanded service in Brooklyn and Queens in New York City to accommodate workers needing transportation to major health centers. Other micromobility operators like Uber-owned JUMP bikes and scooters have suspended service in a number of markets like Sacramento, Calif. Scooters have also been pulled from the streets of San Francisco and other cities.”

That’s Skip Descant, reporting in GovTech.

New 📷 🎥🎙️ 📊

Items Open for Public Comment

  • [VA] I-495/Beltway Northern Extension Project, extending Express/Toll Lanes from the Dulles Toll Road eastward to the GW Parkway, and add a shared-use path for bikes and pedestrians -> Project Info | Comments via Email | Form | asap

Events Calendar

⚠️ The full calendar is in a separate document linked below. ⚠️

[DC] Wed 4/1: ANC 1C (Adams Morgan) held in-person with essential personnel; community input via livestream produced by Gordon Chaffin [Details]

[Region-Wide] Thurs 4/2: [Webinar] COVID-19 Bike Industry Update [Details]

[VA] Thurs 5/5: Arlington Vision Zero Stakeholder Working Group [Details]

[DC] Sat 5/16: Ward 7 Economic Vision Debate, hosted by the Marshall Heights Civic Association [Details]

Transit Wins $25B, WMATA Cuts Busses Suddenly, and Who/What is "Essential" during Coronavirus?

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 2, Edition 44 (3/25/2020)

This a special, free-for-all edition of Street Justice. Please support our small, local news operation by subscribing or donating. Our 1-person operation depends on that support.

ICYMI: Monday’s Street Justice included a short explanation of the design for a 3rd, Southwest entrance that’s coming to the Potomac Yard Metrorail station opening up in 2022.

Are You Hiring?: I’m looking for a part-time or full-time job that would allow me to continue Street Justice during early mornings, at night, and weekends. Are you looking for a writer, communications person, a part-time reporter, or a public policy analyst?Are you hiring? Do you know someone who might be hiring? Here are my resume and four clips from my Street Justice reporting in PDF Form. Please email me, DM me on Twitter, or otherwise get in touch if you have ideas for my job search.

Trips and Businesses: Which are Essential, Which Deserve Bailouts -- and for Whomst?

State and local public officials— and Federal leaders in Congress — are making quick decisions now that reveal the underlying biases of society and the (mis-)perceptions they have about public space. There’s an important debate going on about what and who of the public environments we share in the street, in public buildings, on the train or bus — and the privately-owned-but-publically-focused “third places” like bars, restaurants, and gyms.

There’s a debate about what services and whose jobs are “essential” in a time of coronavirus mitigation. There has been and will continue to be a cultural, political, and geographic debate not only about which of those are essential (i.e. should be allowed to stay open) — but also which of those deserve financial support. I wanted to note this conversation and examine it shortly.

Yesterday, in the process of escalating coronavirus mitigation, Governors of Maryland and Virginia — plus DC Mayor Muriel Bowser — determined that bike shops are essential businesses allowed to stay open despite each leaders’ closure orders. This follows or coincides with similar determinations in New York, Baltimore, and LA. It seemed to many frustratingly dissonant for politicians to order bike shops closed but list auto repair ships as essential when the figures promote bikes are alternatives to cars for necessary trips/commuting. Moreover, in the DC-area, the population of transit-dependent, service economy workers is enduring significant bus cuts. Those people are also more likely to be dependent on bikes as low-cost commuting options.

Cuts to transit service in DC and other places is due in large part to dramatic, sudden shortfalls in fare revenue. Though, other U.S. cities (e.g, SF) have kept transit service normal or with minimal/last resort service cuts while hemorrhaging money, as an explicit statement of frequent public transit as a public necessity regardless of ridership. DC’s WMATA has instead carved repeated cuts to rail, bus, and paratransit services — celebrating reduced ridership with animated bar graphs and scolding words for the people who continue to ride the bus. WMATA and other transit agencies have all discussed reducing service as a means to survive financially and to do their part for the public health effort of coronavirus mitigation.

A national lobbying effort was successful early this morning in winning $25B for Federal grants to transit agencies in the Congressional Coronavirus Stimulus. That’s in the context of $26B-$38B in losses thanks to COVID-19. The current Congressional draft includes also $150B to states and localities. The legislation is likely to pass the Senate this week and the House soon thereafter with one-time, asap $1,200 payments to adults and other support. The DC-area will get at least $1B in assistance, assuming this bill follows formulas used to divvy-up money in previous, annual funding from the Feds. This is all-purpose money and will likely go to operational budget support.

There was such a giant push for federal funds — led by Transportation for America and signed on to by approximately 200 transit agencies — because these agencies and the governments that fund them are cash-strapped in good times, let alone economic pauses like the present coronavirus shutdown. Included in that list of agencies lobbying was NoVA Transit and its partner agency further downstate.

State governments — local governments especially — don’t have a lot of money as a systemic matter. Localities and states get a high percentage of their annual revenue from inter-government fund transfers. The Federal government gives a lot of money to states — some formulaically and some appropriated — and those states direct a lot of that money further down to their constituent counties, cities, towns, villages, parishes, etc.

State and local tax revenue is kept low as a matter of small-government conservatism, local/small business economic development, and because taxes levied to fewer people in smaller areas get problematic/inefficient. Most people pay most of their taxes to the federal government and most people have liked it that way. If you’re interested in more info or have questions about that, shoot an email to David Brunori of GWU — who is one of my biggest inspirations and mentors on these matters. It’s important to understand because Governors and Mayors are doing most of the coronavirus response in terms of public space and agency regulation and decision-making, but they need the Federal Government to back up a money truck of support for that mitigation to work.

Connecting the bike shop decisions with the transit decisions is the societal question of what and who are “essential?” Whose transit trip is essential? What kind of person and kind of business? WMATA keeps harming bus riders who seem to need the bus. Of course, we all agree trash collection is essential?

More Metro Areas Should Try Out Shared, Electric Mopeds. DC Should Expand Its Program. Service Should Extend Into Northern Virginia & Suburban Maryland.

This week, in my DC Line column, I give a raving review Revel’s shared, electric mopeds currently operating in DC, NYC, Austin, Miami, and Oakland, CA.

“Revel’s fleet — sometimes called motor scooters or mopeds — offers a means to actually reduce car trips, potentially yielding a higher percentage of journeys fueled by electrons instead of gasoline. Piloting the seated mopeds is comparatively easy, and Revel’s fleet features plum cushions, so trips in excess of 5 miles don’t faze your rear end. In contrast, the standing electric scooters ubiquitous in the District work for only the most physically able and confident urban dwellers able to afford housing close to work.”

“Shared, electric mopeds serve an important environmental benefit. Their greater capabilities mean that more people may be willing to forego cars for trips where the shared, standing scooters prove unappealing. This increased value is partly about distance. Mopeds work well for 3- to 10-mile trips, while standing scooter trips tend to exhaust riders’ knees and elbows after 1 to 2 miles. A first-time moped rider can more easily gain confidence and command of handling after five to 10 minutes, and the underlying vehicle is more stable.”

“…for traffic congestion and other negative effects of car dependence, my reporting points to shared electric mopeds as a powerful positive force. More American cities should try this out and DC should expand its program, eliminating Revel’s fleet size limit and inviting applications from other operators.”

Read the full column here. Revel is offering free rides to health care workers in DC and its other markets during this coronavirus mitigation period.

Coronavirus Updates

Help Folks Out

DC

  • The National Arboretum closed yesterday until further notice. The greenspace owned and operated by the US Department of Agriculture was very busy last weekend and the closure is “to help protect the public from the spread of COVID-19.”

  • Yesterday, DC opened applications up for a $25M fund offering Small Business Recovery Grants. Here are more details and the application.

  • Yesterday, Capital Bikeshare turned off several stations near the Tidal Basin and the West portion of the National Mall. Here’s the full list. The service degradation seems to be aimed at further discouraging travel to see the cherry blossoms and recreation there. CaBi’s move follows road closures, then closures to all pedestrians and cyclists.

  • CANCELLED - Th 3/26: Randle Highlands Civic Association (ANC 7B) [Details]

  • List: Mount Vernon Triangle Retail Open for Order/Takeout During COVID-19

MD

VA

  • Mid-morning today, WMATA canceled ten Northern Virginia bus routes with no notice, cutting service below their announced plan from Sunday night. Metro made the announcement four hours after service on those routes was supposed to have started and after its rapid-response social media was assuring riders the routes were operational. Those buses are part of Metro’s modified Sunday schedule, which was supposed to be running this week. The change was made “due to operational challenges.”

  • POSTPONED - Th 4/23: “Makers’ Ball”, a fundraiser for Phoenix Bikes of Arlington [Phoenix Bikes is asking you to donate here to help make up this fundraising loss and their revenue shortfall from closing their business during coronavirus mitigation.]

Region-Wide/Generally of Note

  • Effective tomorrow morning, WMATA will close 17 of its 91 Metrorail stations. Some will close due to having only a few hundred daily riders and others due to the geographic proximity to another station. In addition, WMATA is closing second entrances to 9 other stations. Notably, WMATA kept open many Metrorail stations in DC, east of the Anacostia River, and in Prince George’s County — where rail ridership numbers were still relatively high compared to NW DC and Northern Virginia. That equity analysis and this rail closure news were first reported by Stephen Repetksi/Metro Reasons on Monday evening. Several of my DC transportation reporter colleagues reported it last night before this morning’s news release from the transit agency.

  • OurStreets will launch a new feature set within their existing app — OurStreets Supplies — to create “a community-driven platform for consumers, retailers, and policymakers that helps minimize the spread of COVID-19.” The company launched in January as a public space problem-reporting app, after beta-testing as Hows My Driving?. “OurStreets Supplies will go live in the OurStreets app very soon. The app is simple: an intuitive reporting interface for shoppers and retailers to record inventory of supplies and a map of available supply levels for shoppers and regulators to better understand the supply level of essential goods in their city.” Here’s how to help the company get the feature running asap.

  • Ford Motor Company plans to build respirators, ventilators & face shields in Michigan in partnership with the UAW, GE Healthcare & 3M. ~ Michael Martinez/Auto News

  • “Food and supply trucks in congested cities across the U.S. have doubled their driving speed, according to [the] American Transportation Research [Institute]. In Atlanta, trucks that typically crawl at less than 15 mph are now driving avg of 53 mph.” ~ Courtney Rozen/Bloomberg Government

News Tidbits

“I work for a midsize student tour operator out of Charlottesville. It’s nothing too fancy; we deliver a quality tour for what I, and I guess our many repeat customers, feel is a reasonable price. Our customers are schools from across the nation, and we’re responsible for those eighth-graders everyone else loves to hate every spring. We take these kids, your children, to Washington, D.C.; the national parks out west; the Florida Keys; and really anywhere across the nation and even the world.”

“It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment it all came crashing down. We thought we were ahead of things: preparing our staff, warning customers and most of all, urging all concerned to listen to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Time after time during February and early March, our account managers reassured clients that the government was not placing any travel advisories in place. In good faith, I continued to hire guides and contract with bus companies.”

“Then it started to crumble,” writes Capitol Hill resident Tim Krepp in the WaPost. “Outside of newly passed legislation in Washington, D.C., and a few other localities, most guides aren’t even eligible for unemployment insurance.”

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Jiggy Puzzles was suggested by many on Twitter yesterday as a small business selling and shipping puzzles and family-friendly time-passers during the time of coronavirus shelter-in-place orders.

Social Media Activity

Items Open for Public Comment

  • [VA] I-495/Beltway Northern Extension Project, extending Express/Toll Lanes from the Dulles Toll Road eastward to the GW Parkway, and add a shared-use path for bikes and pedestrians -> Project Info | Comments via Email | Form | asap

Events Calendar

⚠️ The full calendar is in a separate document linked below. ⚠️

[DC] Wed 3/25: ANC 2A (Foggy Bottom/West End) ft. livestream via Zoom & discussion of DDOT’s East/West protected bike lane project on G St NW that could go in this year connecting Virginia Ave NW/KenCen vicinity to 17th St NW. Helping VA bike commuters ahead of a proposed expansion of TR Bridge sidepath improvement. [Agenda]

[DC] Thurs 3/26: ANC 7B (Hillcrest/Fort Dupont) ft. livestream via Zoom (929) 205-6099 + 805792911# or (312) 626-6799 + 805792911#) [Details]

[DC] Sat 5/16: Ward 7 Economic Vision Debate, hosted by the Marshall Heights Civic Association [Details]

Coronavirus Bus Cuts Hurting the Most Vulnerable, Focus on Cherry Blossom Crackdowns

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 2, Edition 42 (3/22/2020)

— — — — This the free, weekly edition of Street Justice. — — — —


WMATA Services Cuts Place Cost-Benefits into Focus: Public Health, Economic and Racial Injustice

Since our summary last week of DC-area transit service levels, many of those transit agencies have cut back further — none more so than the Washington Area Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. WMATA’s coronavirus-reduced service only began on Monday, March 16th. Throughout the past week, the agency has further reduced service — including two cutbacks on Friday effective that evening and another reduction to bus routes last night announced via Twitter.

WMATA Cuts Service Repeatedly This Week

On Friday, March 13th, Metro announced 12-minute rail headways and bus cuts effective 3/16. Then, on Tuesday, WMATA cut rail headways down to 15-minutes and bus service further, while canceling all subscription/recurring MetroAccess rides. The agency said the bus changes “reduce the number of Metro employees and buses required to maintain service by more than 60 percent.”

On Friday at about 2:30 PM, the agency announced the closure Smithsonian and Arlington Cemetary Metrorail stations — effective only a few hours later at 5 PM. The closures were “to discourage the use of Metrorail for recreational visits to view the Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin.” Echoing messages from several other press releases this week, WMATA wrote that  “Metro is open for ESSENTIAL TRIPS ONLY to maintain regional mobility for hospital staff, government officials, and emergency responders.”

Later on Friday night, WMATA cut rail headways back from 15 to 30 minutes and reduced bus services again to a Sunday schedule with no supplemental routes. According to the press release, the cuts were only effective this weekend. Last night, via Twitter and website message WMATA cut bus routes again — down to only 20 routes along the “highest-ridership corridors”: 32, 33, 36, 52, 70, 90, 16A, 16E, 28A, A6, A8, C4, D12, F4, K6, P12, Q2, S4, V4, X2, Y2, and Z8. Metro operates 269 bus routes total. It’s not clear whether WMATA will push service back up to the 15-minute headways and bus schedule they used through last week.

WMATA has justified the cutbacks by citing significantly reduced ridership — which hurts the transit agency’s financial capability to operate at full service — and the health of its staff, one of whomplus a Metro Police Officer — has the novel coronavirus. Also, the sudden, immediate service cuts this weekend were “due to workforce availability challenges.” On Friday, WMATA said rail ridership was down 85% YoY. On Tuesday, the agency said total ridership was down 70% — but didn’t give the comparison: down from the previous week’s Tuesday, down from 2019’s third Tuesday in March, etc.

Bus Ridership Down Less than Rail & WMATA Scolds The Poorer, Higher-% Minority Riders

WMATA only broke bus and rail ridership out separately on Wednesday: rail down 84% YoY and bus down 63%, compared to the third Wednesday of March 2019. Also on Thursday, bus ridership was down less than the rail passenger count.

The agency is telling people to stop riding public transit: “[Thumbs Down"] Work to do. ESSENTIAL trips only, please.” However, social media posts and news stories throughout the week showed crowded WMATA buses did not seem to show people taking transit for the fun of it. Metro’s answer to overcrowded buses during the reduce service periods has been to empower bus drivers to bypass bus stops even if passengers are waiting there.

As WAMU-FM reporter Margaret Barthel wrote, “it's less that bus riders are taking frivolous non-essential trips, and more that a lot of people who ride the bus have no other option.” Barthel continues, citing WMATA’s 2019 Bus Report Card, “More than half of Metrobus riders make less than $30,000 per year, and a majority of them are people of color. Not sure that's a population that's going to have tons of WFH options or alternate transportation means.”

Yesterday afternoon and then this morning, anecdotal reports put Metrobus riders waiting for buses put suddenly out of service. Bus routes to DC’s hospitals — the D6 and D8 — went offline. The real-time bus tracking went offline, so the displays at Metro’s bus shelters would not have useful information and the buses aren’t arriving as per the set schedule.

Cherry Blossom Crowds Draw More Focus than Bus Cuts

As much as DC leaders have shown solidarity and mobilized to support service workers at bars and restaurants, they don’t seem to focus on the transit cuts affecting those service economy workers. There are lots and lots of hourly, service economy jobs where work from home isn’t possible and there isn’t high cultural capital powering quick support from residents and DC-area governments.

If St. Patrick’s Day revelers were last weekend’s social media villains, this weekend’s antagonists were Tidal Basin cherry blossom visitors. WMATA and DC government leaders spent much of the past week focused on dissuading visitors and limiting transit access, saying the cherry blossoms will be there next year.

Today, ANC 2A Commissioners James Harnett and Patrick Kennedy — also a Ward 2 Council candidate — urged the National Park Service to close down the Tidal Basin completely to discourage Cherry Blossom visitors. Their letter, cosigned by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, comes after US Park Police actions yesterday with DC Police to close roads around the Tidal Basin and SW National Mall.

It’s not unworthy a public policy goal to limit the number of people visiting the Mall and Potomac Park cherry blossoms, however, it’s surprising how outsized a share of attention that issue is receiving. It seems like there’s a feedback loop between social media outrage and policymaker action. The bar limits came Sunday and Monday after the online shaming on Friday and Saturday. This weekend, it’s a prominent festival for which the entire country recognizes DC where pictures attract calls for restrictions.

The National Arboretum in Ward 5 — which sits isolated in an area unsafe for walking and biking — was also very crowded and DC’s most vulnerable waited at bus stops on a route that wasn’t coming because the edges of society don’t necessarily move at the speed of Twitter, of email, or even have access to the internet now that the libraries are closed. Mayor Bowser said this week that she agrees with WMATA’s service cuts. Her transportation agency cut bus routes also this week, though it waived fares on its small number of routes that don’t serve DC’s poorest and less-dense neighborhoods. It seems Bowser and DC leaders are doing more to restrict tourist access than improve the public health and safety hazard — the social justice issue — of overcrowded WMATA buses for essential trips that get less positive press. DC’s Circulator could expand service as WMATA cuts back to levels that make social distancing a privilege many in our region don’t have.


Best Practices for Virtual Meetings of ANCs, Civic Associations, and other Civic Organizations

On Monday, I produced a best practices document for virtual meetings of civic organizations like DC’s ANCs, civic associations, citizen advisory groups, and others. The document is available to all here; I hope you find it useful and share it as widely as possible to your professional and personal networks who are struggling to figure out livestreams, video conference calls, etc in the time of coronavirus. I outlined low-, medium-, and high-cost options — with my implementation at ANC 1C (Adams Morgan) as a medium-cost option.

In an email to DC ANC commissioners, I asked that they stress to Office of ANC (OANC) and CM Robert White (who oversees the commissions) that it is not sustainable -- nor reasonable -- that each ANC is expected to figure out these virtual meetings by themselves. OANC with DC’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer should procure 2-3 livestream kits, hire 3-4 contractors, and send those trained A/V people to ANC meetings for producing broadcasts — thereafter editing and uploading recordings of each ANC meeting.

I've been an A/V producer in many contexts. I built out live stream operations for Arizona State University when I was there. I'm an expert now in how poorly supported ANCs are by Council and an understaffed OANC. I'm aware that OCTO/OANC has done the minimum: sent out a list of free conference call services. I know that ANC 4D records their meetings with the iPhone voice memos app. An unpaid resident in ANC 3C puts their smartphone in a tripod each month and broadcasts meetings via Facebook Live over Cleveland Park Library WiFi. These are laughable patchwork solutions residents may reasonably consider unacceptable from elected bodies.

I'm happy to speak with anyone who is interested in improving this situation for DC-area civic organizations wishing to do more than scramble for a few months during the coronavirus mitigation.


The Golden Handcuffs of American Capitalism in a Time of Coronavirus

On Monday, I examined the bind that American’s are pushing into by this country’s Swiss cheese patchwork of a safety net. Young people at bars and beaches may not be making the right choice on cost-benefit terms but patronizing service workers is damn near the only way we as a society will help them. Emergency legal action making it temporarily illegal to cut off your utilities and prohibition evictions — for now, and with big limitations — is not the same thing as paying for your April rent and utilities.

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