washington dc

It’s a Feature, Not a Bug: Inequality in Liberal Cities

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Republican Presidential DebatersAt the November 10, 2015 Republican presidential debate, candidate Rand Paul said that inequality in cities — the gap between the rich and poor — “seems to be worst in cities run by Democrats.” His comment received rousing applause from the audience, and much media attention.

To be fair, Paul got the data right (for the most part). Liberal cities do have worse inequality than the national average, and the largest, most dynamic cities are the most unequal. But not for the reasons Paul thinks.

Inequality is a feature of liberal cities, not a bug, Emily Badger explains for the Washington Post’s Wonk Blog. Big cities, those most often run by Democrats, simultaneously welcome the poor and attract the wealthy, leading to inequality. Badger writes that, on the other hand, “Exclusionary suburbs that keep out the poor and working class appear, on paper, awfully egalitarian (everyone makes $100,000!).”

Simply Put, Paul’s implication — that Republican policies are better suited to address inequality or bring people out of poverty than Democratic ones — are hogwash. Thankfully, his comment is receiving the attention it deserves, and a myth about cities that Paul sought to perpetuate is being dispelled instead.

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Embassy Row in Dupont Circle

Washington D.C.’s recent renaissance probably doesn’t include the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Dupont has been an attractive place to live since the 1970s, when the neighborhood (in decline after World War II and the 1968 riots) was revitalized by gay and lesbian urban pioneers. Along with other neighborhoods like West Hollywood, Chicago’s Boystown, and Greenwich Village, Dupont Circle became nationally known as a gay neighborhood, in large part defining gay identity and culture in America. Today, gentrification has made the neighborhood more mainstream, and you’re more likely to find a pour-over coffee shop or yoga studio in Dupont Circle than a gay bar.

According to Zillow, rents in Dupont are slightly over the median for the city, and housing values, while high, lag those of hotter neighborhoods like U Street and Logan Circle. MWCOG’s Activity Centers project determined that Dupont Circle is the most walkable neighborhood in D.C. (and WalkScore concurs). Dupont’s terrific walkability is not only because the neighborhood is mixed-use, but also because the numerous transportation options — Metro, Capital Bikeshare, and Circulator, among them — make owning a car unnecessary.

Photo of the Dupont Circle neighborhood by Paul Goddin.

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Union Station

Washington D.C.’s Union Station, in addition to being a major train hub and leisure destination, is the busiest Metrorail station in Washington’s system. Customers may exit directly to the Amtrak and MARC train platforms, or, as pictured here, onto street level in front of the station’s entrance. Trivia: This shot of Union Station can be seen at the beginning of Alfred Hitchcock’s film Strangers on a Train (1951), when the Metro entrance was utilized as a passenger drop-off point for automobiles and taxicabs.

D.C. Housing May be Less Expensive than the Suburbs

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

Dupont Circle

The conventional wisdom is that living in the city is much more expensive than living outside of it.

Taxes, entertainment, and groceries all add up to a slightly higher cost of living in the city. Housing, though, is the expense that tips the scales decidedly in favor of the suburbs. Or does it?

With car payments and car costs at their highest levels ever, transportation costs can rebalance the scales in favor of the city. Unfortunately, most people don’t consider the cost of transportation when deciding where to live.

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The Good and the Bad of the Capital Bikeshare Member Survey

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Capital Bikeshare

Capital Bikeshare’s 2014 Member Survey indicates that even as Washington D.C.’s bikeshare service has grown by leaps and bounds, its users have become older, whiter, and wealthier.

Most company executives would be happy enough with these demographics. Wealthy customers? Yes please.

Washington’s business community, in fact, was a tough sell on this new transit option. Many businesses were initially leery of bikeshare stations located near their retail establishments. Their fears were: What kind of customers — if any — would bikeshare provide? Would they scare away my “real customers,” who drive cars?

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Unlimited Bikeshare Parking? Yeah, We Got That.

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

Kimberly Martin expresses gratitude to Grace Moran and Nate Graham

We already know that an overwhelming amount of Capital Bikeshare members are really happy to have this cost-saving, healthy, non-polluting, and auto-traffic-alleviating transportation option available in the Washington D.C. region. Now there’s yet another reason for them to love the system.

“You’re corralled,” Nate Graham tells a Capital Bikeshare rider pulling up into a roped-off section of sidewalk at the corner of New York Avenue and 13th Street NW.

Graham, a Capital Bikeshare spokesperson employed by goDCGo, welcomed bicycle commuters to the opening of one of two Capital Bikeshare Corrals. The service began May 14 in downtown D.C., offering morning bikeshare commuters guaranteed bike docking.

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