Politics & Media
Feb 23, 2024, 06:28AM

The Demise of DC

It’s all over but the tickets.

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I got popped. The traffic camera that monitors if cars come to a full stop on Whitehaven Parkway in Georgetown snapped my jeep—while it was resting at a full stop. Fine? $100.

Even though the camera was wrong—there have been segments in the local news about the misfiring camera—I decided not to fight it. That would take all day. Besides, with the taxes, bad roads and exploding crime, DC is fucked anyway. It’s time to leave the city to the car jackers. I’ll just stay in Maryland.

Washington’s now like one of those lost cities in the George Miller Mad Max movies. Those films are equal parts vehicular mayhem and quiet moments of sadness over the world blowing itself up. DC now elicits similar feelings. I was born in Washington and have lived in all parts of the city. Although I now live in Maryland, I still keep a mailbox in Georgetown. As a journalist I get a lot of deliveries. Also, the box is an attachment to the past, a reminder of the 1980s when Georgetown and DC were thriving. Bars, shops, theaters, everybody making money and having a good time.

No more. Crime’s rampant and even the streets in rich neighborhoods aren’t safe. The answer? More speed and stop sign cameras to dissuade visitors with money. The Washington Post did a profile of the camera that got me: “This stop sign, it turns out, has proved lucrative for the District. Public records obtained by The Washington Post show a traffic camera posted there generated more than $1.3 million in the past two years. The camera—loathed by some residents who say it is overly sensitive though praised by others who say it promotes safe driving—is one of more than 130 traffic cameras that officials expect to generate around $100 million this fiscal year. Ninety of those cameras are speed cameras, 38 are at traffic lights and only eight are at stop signs, according to May data from the District Department of Transportation”

The camera posted at 37th St. and Whitehaven Parkway has issued more than 17,000 photo tickets since March 2020, according to the Post. More than 1600 tickets were contested; more than 1,400 were deemed “liable dispositions” that must be paid.

DC is run by an incompetent and corrupt government. The schools don’t work, the politicians are illiterate, taxes are high, and the plan for snow removal is  “spring.” Being liberals, the politicians’ response to this is to bilk money out of drivers. The city was once one of the country’s coolest and most beautiful places, from the U St. jazz clubs to the National Mall, from the quiet beauty of Rock Creek Park to the fun of Adams Morgan and the lovely brick streets of Georgetown.

It was once was a great place to drive. There have always been traffic nightmares. But get up at dawn or take a drive on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and moving through D.C. can be a soulful, refreshing experience. Washington’s a city of wide boulevards and long open roads, yet on most of these roads the speed limit is either 25 or 35 mph. There’s one stretch, Canal Rd., that’s long and lean and runs for several miles, with almost no traffic lights, parallel to the Potomac River. If it was in Germany, the speed limit would be 80. In D.C., it’s 35. You have to struggle to not “speed” on Canal Rd.

It was only a matter of time before the tax-and-spend D.C. government would see this as a cash cow. Big, beautiful, wide open roads, a ridiculously low speed limit, wealthy suburbanites driving in—setting up speed traps was lucrative. The millions—a commuter tax—can then be burned on bureaucracies, which in turn create more speed cameras, which raise money for more worthless government jobs and failed schools. Oh, and let’s raise the fines from $40 to $100. In just the last few years, DC  has gone from having a handful of speed cameras to more than a hundred.

A few years ago I drove through the city and counted the cops and speed cameras. The first cop car I passed was on MacArthur Blvd., not far from Georgetown University, where I was going to take some pictures. Then I went over to Florida Ave. on my way to the National Shrine. Another cop car, followed by one of those stationary speed-trap boxes. Then North Capitol St., with two of those overhead cameras at intersections. On to Michigan Ave., where one of those three-pole setups was waiting. Then, after leaving the National Shrine and driving to the Whole Foods store near American University, I came across four speed traps. One was a cop in a car. The second was a speed box on Missouri Ave. The third was overhead at an intersection. And the fourth was on Military Rd., near Rock Creek Park. You can probably add a couple more I might’ve missed at various intersections.

That’s at least 10 speed traps in one afternoon drive, and through a small city—a town, really—that’s only a few miles from end to end. I was angry at the time, but now, like Mad Max, I just feel sad. My city is gone.


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