Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Assessing MoCo's snow response + Bethesda snow/transit/plow update

A Montgomery County voter
is asked if he remembers voting
for the County Council and Executive
who presided over the blizzard fiasco
Here's an update on the current status of transit services, snow plowing, and pedestrian/cycling facilities in Montgomery County. Before scrolling down, let's assess the County's blizzard fiasco and what can be changed to avoid another one. The experience of the last few days has shown there are several areas in which the County needs to improve its storm response capabilities.

One telling sign is that DC had over 600 pieces of equipment to move and clear snow. Montgomery began with over 700, and was up to 800 pieces in the last couple of days. Should a jurisdiction as large as MoCo have not much more equipment than the smaller District of Columbia? That's a clear indication, along with the results and many complaints, that MoCo did not have sufficient assets and personnel in place. Snow operations personnel have been working hard around the clock; there simply weren't enough of them.

Second, we've been told 311 will "get it done". Several residents around the County told me they could not get an answer from that County service line yesterday. Later, the County acknowledged that a record number of calls to 311 were received, and that many did not go through. 311 had more calls in one half-hour period Tuesday than it usually receives in an entire day. This was largely due to the number of unplowed streets residents were calling to complain about.

Third, despite Councilmember Hans Riemer's claims of being an open data guru, the storm fiasco helped bring to light that - five years after Riemer took office - the County's online Plow Tracker map isn't actually a real-time app, and isn't being instantly updated from GPS systems on trucks as we were led to believe. The map should be updated to provide that. Of course, a fancy map won't mean much if the County doesn't have enough personnel and trucks on hand to get the job done.

Fourth, Riemer's sidewalk-clearing law has been a complete bust. It's not being enforced, and we're getting the same dangerous results this time as pedestrians are forced to enter the roadway into oncoming traffic. Riemer took an unwarranted election year victory lap after passage of his law, as local media sycophants cheered him on. According to a Gazette (much missed - not!) report at the time, "the legislation seeks to ensure sidewalks are passable after storms and should improve how the county fulfills the intent of its law requiring snow removal, bill sponsor Councilman Hans Riemer said. 'The goal of this bill is to make our county more walkable in every season,' Riemer (D-At Large) of Takoma Park said."

Are you finding sidewalks around the County "walkable" today? I thought he said "every season." Cost of Riemer's law, the public education component that would magically move property owners to obey it, and the County implementation of it? $6,458,000, according to the Gazette.

We are being governed by some very incompetent people, folks.

UPDATES

Metro has announced that the Silver Line is back in service as of this morning, meaning the entire Metrorail system is now operational 82 hours after the snow stopped falling in the DC-area. Metrobus is operating under a Moderate Snow Schedule. The T2 is back in service today (Friendship Heights-Rockville via River Road). Many of the J routes remain out of service.

MetroAccess will operate on regular hours today.

All Ride On routes will have service on the S-Plan schedule.

Free parking in County public garages and lots has been extended through 9:00 AM tomorrow, January 28.

The Capital Crescent Trail has been plowed, is open, and still slick in spots; caution is advised.

The Bethesda Circulator bus will not operate again today.

A tractor-trailer jacknifed in the southbound lanes of I-270, leaving the local lanes temporarily blocked as rush hour got underway this morning.

Montgomery County's plow tracker map indicates that all streets that hadn't been reached yesterday in Springfield, Green Acres, Wood Acres, Spring Hill, Mohican Hills, Randolph Hills, Rock Creek Palisades, Stoneybrook Estates, and Aspen Hill have now been completed.

Most residents' assessment of Montgomery County's response to the storm is decidedly less positive than that expressed by County Executive Ike Leggett yesterday at a press conference. Leggett was not pressed to apologize by media, unlike DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who did issue an apology.

Leggett promised every street in the County would have at least one lane cleared by 7:00 AM this morning. I've located only one complaint so far after the deadline passed, from a service road resident on Connecticut Avenue in Silver Spring. If your street has not been plowed yet, send me an email at robert [at] robertdyer [dot] net and call 311 to report it.

Bobcat loaders and plows worked all through the night to remove and move snow in downtown Bethesda and in neighborhoods along the River Road corridor.

In the Springfield neighborhood, one resident with an unplowed street flagged down a passing pickup truck with a snowplow attached to the front. After some negotiations, the pickup's driver began to plow part of the street for a cash payment. The private sector had provided service before the taxpayer-funded public sector in a classic free-market exchange.

Sidewalks remain snowdrifts in many places, including along River Road in Bethesda, and in front of the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase. Leggett acknowledged the widespread problem for pedestrians at his news conference, but has not yet produced a plan of action to address it.

70 comments:

Anonymous said...

that gif is a funny way to boost voter support for a candidate who has never come close

Robert Dyer said...

5:04: A disastrous winter storm response is a not-so-funny way to boost voter support for the incumbents on the Council.

Anonymous said...

I was able to drive around as soon as Saturday morning, thanks Hans!

Anonymous said...

MoCo has both County and State roads, whereas DC has only has one set of roads. Including the number of plows operated by the MD SHA within the borders of MoCo would make it a more apples to apples comparison.

Anonymous said...

I got out Monday afternoon. Awesome under the circumstances. Thanks Hans!

Anonymous said...

And yet the people seem to like the incumbents more.

Anonymous said...

Do I want the county investing in expensive snow-removal equipment for a storm that comes around every five years? So it can rot the other four? Nope.

MoCo Highway has done a very good job during a storm that was, by all accounts, historic (I don't work for them and am not generally a fan, but they have). Bethesda and surrounds could use a dose of patience. First-world problems, people. Nobody is going to be snowed-in until May, and the trade-off for living in a quiet cul-de-sac instead of on a busier road is that once every five years, you get plowed after streets that go other places.

To my understanding, we have never seen this much snow during a single storm. I understand cabin fever and frustration, but really. This post is out of line.

Robert Dyer said...

5:57: If an article doesn't say "Everything is Awesome" about Montgomery County Government, it is "out of line"?

Meanwhile, the vast majority of residents hold the opinions expressed in this article. Just check social media over the last few days.

Robert Dyer said...

5:56: 9 out of 10 people you ask on the street couldn't even tell you who the incumbents are.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Hans, I was out Sunday morning after a plow came down our street.
I guess Dyer is still stuck in his mother's basement, besides where do you have to go? CVS?

The funny thing is Han's is going to work today because he won the election.

Robert Dyer said...

5:36, 5:55: Riemer staff members. Get back to work, guys.

Anonymous said...

Has Dyer shoveled his sidewalk yet?

Anonymous said...

"Meanwhile, the vast majority of residents hold the opinions expressed in this article. Just check social media over the last few days."

Just check the election results.

Elrich, Marc DEM 125516 16.86%
Floreen, Nancy M. DEM 124080 16.66%
Leventhal, George L. DEM 117269 15.75%
Riemer, Hans DEM 110237 14.80%
Dyer, Robert REP 66563 8.94%
Fiotes Jr., Chris P. REP 60116 8.07%
Owen-Williams, Adol REP 54869 7.37%
Skolnick, Shelly REP 67621 9.08%
Willard, Tim GRN 17727 2.38%

Anonymous said...

Some helpful tips that we learned during this storm that I think all Bethesda residents can benefit from:

- Arrange your cars intelligently in the garages. Our four garages wrap around the side of the house with the further garages requiring more turns to get onto the main straight section of the driveway. In order of ease of access we arranged the cars as follows: LR4, Land Rover, Tesla, Porsche.

- Put a big food order in before the storm starts. Some dishes from restaurants like Cafe Deluxe, Silver and Mon Ami provide good leftovers. Pick up 2-3x the normal food order you normally would.

- Load up those Kindles. You may have to switch to satellite internet when the cable goes down, so make sure you have plenty of progressive lit to read before the flakes start falling.

- Shop online. Even if all you have is satellite internet, you can still shop online during the storm. Lulu's, Kit and Ace and even North Face all have great shopping websites, so even though I couldn't get to Bethesda row, I was still able to scratch the shopping itch and know that some stylish new clothes were on the way.

- Use that wine cellar. You're not going to be out at Jaleo during the storm, so it is time to send the domestic downstairs to bring up some bottles from the wine cellar. We particularly enjoyed a 1991 Opus One that had been down in there since the first Obama Inauguration.

I hope these tips help all Bethesdians survive the next big storm.

Anonymous said...

I've got to say, considering the massive snow storm (and the length of the storm, preventing full clean up efforts from starting until Sunday) the County (and area overall) has done a phenomenal job. I agree, not enforcing the sidewalk rule is a terrible mistake, especially during a storm like this. With that said I think the county should be commended. Yes there are more streets to be fully cleared but this is a 1 in 50 year storm and we're back to work with essentially normal operations today. Lets cut Mo-Co some slack

Anonymous said...

Dyer reports that a lot of residents weren't pleased with the speed of snow removal.
Maybe the positive folks here were lucky and got their streets plowed early. That doesn't change the facts for everyone else.

Anonymous said...

To the jacka$$ spouting "entitled" fiction (the first 6:21 AM). It's gotten old and tedious.

Anonymous said...

Yay, Dyer took my advice and tried to use some facts to support an argument! Now, granted, he misused said facts (e.g. the county's 800 plows aren't the only 800 plows working on roads in MoCo; we have this thing called a "state," as well, so the 800 plow figure isn't comparable to DC's figure), but at least he's trying!

P.S. where do people who complained about snow plows live? Everything around me was plowed within 12 hours of the storm's end, but I live just outside a CBD so that's to be expected. Don't most people out in SFH neighborhoods have a realistic expectation of what to expect? It's 3 feet of snow and you chose to live in a very low density area...it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it's going to take quite awhile to get to you. It always has and it always will. I very much doubt the county is ever going to carry the staff and equipment necessary to cut a blizzard response time for all roads down to 2-3 days. That'd be a total waste of money for an event that happens so rarely.

G. Money said...

Dyer, it may not have occurred to you since you love to complain about everything, but people only take to social media to complain about things. Who is going to bother going on Twitter to announce that their street has been plowed? You're obviously in the Trump political camp with your frequent "low energy" attacks, but citing Twitter opinion as a reflection of reality is not going to convince anyone around here.

Anonymous said...

What's the point of the plow maps if they aren't accurate? I don't understand why media was directing us to the website only to find out it was useless. Another problem I noticed in my area was people immediately trying to use a street as soon as a front loader had cleared a one way path to allow the plow to come through. Having then to back up down the street because they were impeding the work being done. How dumb is that? That really slows things down.

Anonymous said...

You're killing it 6:21. You need your own blog

Robert Dyer said...

6:19: And then refer to the animated GIF above the article for further enlightenment and context.

Anonymous said...

6:21 AM sounds like most of my Bethesda neighbors!

Anonymous said...

Next story? the tax increases to help cover the costs of this snowstorm which I'm sure wasn't addressed in their budget. SMDH

Anonymous said...

I hope that 6:21 the First runs for the Republican nomination for MoCo Council at-large, so Dyer will be faced with a competitive primary in 2018.

Anonymous said...

On this topic Dyer, you loose Hans down. ROTFLMAO

Peter said...

I live on one of the main drags near Churchill (it's a bus route), so my street was totally plowed and down to pavement Sunday morning when I went out to move the ~28" of snow that I would estimate we had.

I too would like to know where His Moribundness gets that number of plows he cites for MoCo. Does that number include ALL of the county plows, contractors, AND the ones that are attached to MCPS?

Personally I think the response was about on par with the last blizzard we had in 2010, although I would recall that that time, we had 2 separate storms within a period of 4-5 days, and not one big dump. I mean, I have seen far worse, such as 1996 in DC when they had like 4 pieces of equipment that worked, and was the impetus for the feds taking financial control of DC and the rise of Anthony Williams and pretty much everything that has happened since then to improve the city.

I will agree that MoCo will need to take a serious look at improving the plow map and how it interfaces with GPS units in the trucks (do contractors carry around assigned devices too?).

And one other thing that I will bitch out His Moribundness on: THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF THESE DRIVERS IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT TO ME THAN GETTING A STREET PLOWED OUT. Why don't you go drive a 20-ton dump truck with a plow attached for 12-hour shifts, for days on end, before opening your fool mouth up, OK???? These guys have to deal with fools like you that leave their cars on the streets, not pulling them into their driveways, slowing crap down since now they can't make the streets as wide as possible since they have to do the tango to avoid wrecking car after car.

Anonymous said...

Once again, Dyer assembled some good information and then buried it under a rant about Hans Riemer.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the snow will be long gone by the time Dyer gets around to posting any new pictures here.

Anonymous said...

Yup

Anonymous said...

And event fewer voted for you.

Anonymous said...

And all the pro dyer comments are your people? Be consistent here. And realistic.

Anonymous said...

I just learned why Dyer hates Riemer so much. That's who he lost to!!

Anonymous said...

Whoever is doing these sarcastic posts - keep it up!

Anonymous said...

6:21 please we would love to see a blog with this style of writing dealing with MoCo issues. Do it!!

Anonymous said...

Or the cuts to other services. Don't forget that option also. Or increasing non tax based revenue.

Anonymous said...

@ 6:21 AM is getting way too much (positive) attention from Dyer's readers. These comments, more delightful than a plateful of black currant macaroons at Paul's, will gauche-ly be labeled "spam" and disappear just as quickly as said macaroons.

Enjoy them while you still can, intelligent Bethesdians! After that, it's back to the literary equivalent of Hungry Man TV dinners.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this summary.
The Plow map was a big fail last time and still is. It starts out day 1 saying all streets not started. Day 3 all streets in progres and Day 5 all streets compleate. Totally useless.
Here is what a real time tracker looks like.
http://vdotplows.org/

How can the County know where their trucks and contractors are if they are not using GPS. The contractors...over 600 of them, definitely are not using GPS.

Anonymous said...

The map worked OK actually. It showed which neighborhoods were in progress. I watched it show this for adjacent neighborhoods, then finally my neighborhood. We got plowed at 4pm on Tuesday afternoon. County plow and he did a great job. I have friends in Fairfax County that weren't plowed out until Weds morning.

I think one thing the county can try is to hire contractors with regular pickups and a plow on front to make a first pass at neighborhood streets. I'm assuming the constraint here is lack of enough heavy-duty equipment, but there are plenty of pick-ups with plow attachments ready to make a buck.

Robert said...

Nice. Let's sink more taxpayer money into a snow plow tracker versus just waiting a few days patiently! Let's hire more contractors from further away than they are coming now - exorbitant costs or cost analysis be damned. Let's pretreat when it'll be useless. Let's plow when people demand it and then suck it up when people get mad the plows create walls of snow.

People and taxes are awesome.

Anonymous said...

@ 12:59 PM - How do problems with the plow map suggest that the County does not use GPS at all on its plows?

Robert said...

There was an article somewhere showing that pretty much every usable and willing vehicle was deployed along the snowstorm's path (not just MD and Montgomery County).

Certainly pickups with plows can do light loads, but plows really need heavy duty trucks that are specially adapted for the purpose. Light duty regular pickup trucks can't really handle the weight of the plows and the strain and stress of the workload.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Dyer's street has been plowed. Why no mention of that? What an ingrate.

Anonymous said...

1:28 PM Interesting point.
I saw a pickup with a plow yesterday...did a very effective job moving snow out of the way.
Now, it can't lift snow as well as the heavy equipment, but the "real" plows mainly just pushed the snow anyway.

Why not equip more such pickups with plow attachments?

Anonymous said...

Why not show where the plows are with GPS on the maps? Can't be that hard.

Anonymous said...

It appears that 6:21 AM cannot afford a car elevator. She would have been better off keeping her big mouth shut. Instead, she foolishly had to make her poverty so painfully clear. Oh, and that dressage horse of hers? A refugee from the glue factory, snatched for pennies.

Anonymous said...

Are we sure 6:21am is being sarcastic?
Sounds like a typical Bethesda resident.

Peter said...

re: Robert @1:25 PM -- no I don't think it would actually be too hard to do this relatively inexpensively. Google Maps + ESRI ArcGIS (a commercial product that a lot of governments uses already) + GPS units that can relay a positional signal every minute either via 4G or satellite, should not really be too hard to do.

Anonymous said...

The reason it's difficult to GPS-equip each unit is taht most of them are not county vehicles.

I guess they could develop an app, and tell all the drivers of the contracted vehicles to install it on their personal phones.

Anonymous said...

Can our MoCo Chief Innovation Officer get to work on that?

Anonymous said...

Is that the most effective thing to do? If a driver has to stop at each block to enter data - it's a lot of needless process. The streets will be plowed when they get plowed.

NOWthis said...

Is the failed bethesdanow loser still posting anonymously here? Go back to ARLington! Big, big loser. Failed guy, failed site. But is frittering away his career trolling here.

"I can see Bethesda from my front porch in Arlington"

Peter said...

re: Anon @ 2:35 PM -- my assumption would be that for some of the larger companies, they probably assign a company phone. So yeah installing an app would work too, as long as the location tracking is turned on.

re: Anon @3:10 PM -- enter the data after the area is done, to me would be fine. Or for that matter, the app can be configured to send/receive alerts that can be used for the tracking. No need to stop at every block.

It's not hard to do I think....just try hard not to overthink it!

Anonymous said...

Why does this guy keep harping about arlingtonnow and bethesdanow? And about anonymous commenters as he she does the same?

Anonymous said...

I agree peter. An over engineered solution would be a pain in the butt for everyone. I've seen those Bethesda biker security guards click a key fob now and again to a wall plate and it marks their location and time. But is it worth the development cost and effort?

Seems it's a good thing we do have an innovation officer. Maybe we can pose this challenge to his office?

Anonymous said...

DC's snowplow tracking website had problems, too.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/01/27/d-c-s-plow-tracker-site-cant-trusted-and-the-city-is-sorry/

Robert Dyer said...

6:04: One difference is that the Mayor apologized. I haven't heard an apology from any County elected official yet, nor any reporter ask for one.

Anonymous said...

Did you apologize after your report that Smashburger was closing, was shown to be completely wrong?

Peter said...

re: Anon @ 4:58 AM -- I work in the IT industry, have worked with people that develop mapping solutions using Google Maps and/or the ESRI products, so IMHO it is definitely worth the development cost/effort to do it.

Here's the other thing also -- are the county fire department, police, MCPS, etc. already doing something similar that can be easily modified? If so then the problem is getting these guys to sit down and say "hey here's what we did and how we did it." Unfortunately that's a big problem in the IT world, lots of people trying to do the same sorts of things, no one talks to each other to find out what the elegant solution to the problem was.

Obviously, I'm not a developer or write code, but I'm familiar enough with what's going on in this area that there is more than like some open-source code available, and ESRI works very extensive with all levels of government that use their products. I don't see how a pilot effort would cost even $100K.

See, this is the sort of discussion that The Moribundly Sloth-Level Energy Dyer does not engage in, because of the sloth-level energy status (either that or he is just a vampire).

Anonymous said...

What babies want apologies? Let's ist constructively work to do better next time around. Apologies. What self-entitled babies.

Robert Dyer said...

7:40: That wasn't my report, you seem to forget. Did your favorite site apologize for the Pizza Pass "new concept", which "was shown to be completely wrong? Did Frank ever get his pizza?

8:43: You're calling Abigail Hauslohner, Tom Sherwood and Mark Plotkin babies? I'd love to hear their response to your attack.

Robert Dyer said...

Peter, I am disappointed - you are usually more intelligent in your criticism. Now you're starting to sound like that unhinged stalker-troll, talking about "vampires". It's not too late to dial back the crazy and read today's Washington Post. The Post finally got on the ground in MoCo 5 days later. Their coverage and letters to the editor completely backs up what I've been writing for days. People are furious, and MoCo leaders look REALLY BAD in the Post articles today.

My favorite quote was that elected officials get fired for this kind of fiasco in other parts of the country.

Anonymous said...

What was the fiasco again? Big snow storm. Schools and government closed. Lots of days to plow out. Life resumes. Spouses normal.

Anonymous said...

Oh and of course dyer deletes criticism or bashes it. It's ok when he insults others. Just don't do it to him. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed in Peter as well.
He kind of jumped the shark when he started in on the vampire talk.

Anonymous said...

11:15am you can always start your own Bethesda site...just don't try running it from Arlington. Been there, done that.

Anonymous said...

Dyer, you are not going to increase your readership if you're going to call your readers "crazy" every time one of them disagrees with them.

And I think that "sloths vs. vampires" is a cute meme. (But I don't understand how sharks came up. We have some really funny folks commenting here.

Anonymous said...

Lol at 12:33. How did you make a correlation there?

Steve Hell said...

Why is snow white and what does it taste like?

Peter said...

The Moribundly Sloth-Energy-Level Dyer quoth about vampires.

I make the observation since the large proportion of photos I ever see here are taken at night. Therefore the notation of "sloth OR vampire," since I have no verification that His Moribundness takes many photos in the daytime (maybe he does but it would require motorcycle leathers and a helmet like the vamps in one of the Wesley Snipes "Blade" Movies).

Thank you! :-)