Greater Greater Washington

Posts in category Roads

To create safer bike routes, Alexandria can learn from other cities

Bike boulevards are an excellent way to keep roads safe for everyone. It's possible they'll come to Alexandria, but before that happens, planners should take note of what's worked and what hasn't elsewhere.

Photo by Payton Chung on Flickr.

A bike boulevard by any other name

Bike boulevards are streets that keep car volumes and speeds low, giving priority to people on bikes. They're sometimes known by other names: Portland, Oregon calls them "neighborhood greenways," and in Alexandria, planners call them "neighborhood bikeways." Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) Chair Jim Durham prefers the term "neighborhood greenway" because he says a greenway is safer for all people, not just those on bicycles.

While terminology can vary, the basic design elements stay the same. On a bike boulevard, cars are slowed by way of speed bumps, narrowed streets with big curb extensions, and by breaking up long straightaways, where drivers tend to speed. Sometimes bike boulevards block cars from using parts of the road, allowing only bicycles and pedestrians to pass through.

Bike boulevards are an example of a modern approach to street planning, where cutting down on speeds and conflicts is the job of design elements rather than law enforcement. A well-designed bike boulevard has fewer stop signs to avoid slowing down bicycles, instead using roundabouts that make people slow down but don't force them to stop. The result is that everyone on the road can expect to move at a reasonable 15 mph.

Because modifications are limited to the roadway and the intersections, bike boulevards don't mean less parking space. "It really is a win for everybody," says Durham.

Can Alexandria's Royal Street neighborhood bikeway be revived?

Alexandria's Royal Street is an ideal candidate for a bike boulevard treatment. It is a popular bicycling route with low traffic volumes and parallel streets for drivers who prefer to avoid people on bicycles, and it connects to the popular Mount Vernon Trail at the both ends of the street.

Also, a bikeway on Royal Street would mean fewer bicycles on parallel streets, meaning fewer bike-car conflicts overall.

In January 2014, as the King Street Bike Lane public process was nearing a conclusion, city staff told cyclists that Royal Street was the next big project. But that June, citing local opposition, Alexandria city staff shelved the idea.

Both my sources and comments from City Council meetings indicate that residents of Old Town opposed the project on the basis of safety concerns and expected loss of parking places. I personally assumed that these issues would be discussed as soon as the public process got underway.

Instead, city staff tabled the project without input from BPAC. They informed both City Council and the public of their decision at a City Council meeting in June 2104.

There's hope, though: earlier this month, when I shared a draft of this article with colleagues, an Alexandria bicycle and pedestrian planner let me know that city staff prefer the term "neighborhood bikeway." That Alexandria planners have any preference at all suggests that neighborhood bikeways have not been entirely abandoned.

How do Arlington's bike boulevards stack up against the nation's best?

Last year, I had the pleasure of riding bike boulevards in Portland. This month, I took a spin on Arlington's 9th and 12th Street bikeways. As much as I appreciate the progress embodied in the new, local bicycle routes, Portand currently has Arlington outclassed.

Right now, Arlington's bikeways don't connect to major destinations. On the east end, 9th Street stops at Wayne and 12th stops at Cleveland, both well-short of either the Pentagon or Pentagon City. In the west, they stop short of either the W&OD Trail or Bailey's Crossroads. The 9th Street route ends at Quincy Street, in a residential area, and the 12th Street bikeway ends at George Mason Drive, which isn't ideal for new cyclists.

Because neither 9th nor 12th Streets extend to reach major destinations, a realistic plan would be to connect these to other bike routes, creating a much-needed east-west route between the Pentagon area and Bailey's Crossroads.

Another thing Portland's bikeways do well is guide users through turns with signs and on-street markings. In Arlington, it's only signs, and at one point on 9th Street, I was worried I had lost the route.

Traffic diverters on Portland's bikeways designate separate space for bikes and pedestrians while stopping cars. Arlington's 12th Street, on the other hand, routes the bikeway and the sidewalk onto a multi-user path. People walking do not want to share a trail with people on bicycles, and for good reasons. Slightly wider trails with separate lanes for walking and biking would go a long way in Arlington.

Finally, Arlington's bikeways need safer crossings at major streets. At Walter Reed (both 9th and 12th Streets) and Glebe (9th Street only), I was left facing busy traffic with only a crosswalk to encourage me forward. Admittedly, I found myself in a similar pickle on Portland's Going Street bikeway, but in Portland I learned that drivers halt at the slightest sign that a pedestrian wishes to cross. No such luck in Arlington.

Moving forward

In recent years Alexandria has created numerous "shared streets" by adding sharrow markings and traffic calming to selected roadways like Mount Vernon and Commonwealth Avenues. But it has yet to build a bike boulevard.

"Sharing" a street is difficult because drivers can easily accelerate past bicycles. Some drivers get impatient behind bicycles and pass aggressively, even when it isn't safe to do so. Personally, I felt safer on Arlington's low-volume bikeways than on Alexandria's shared streets.

The practical reality is that sharrows and traffic calming cannot tame an arterial street. Shared streets need to be low-traffic, neighborhood streets.

It is not difficult to imagine a Royal Street bike boulevard in Alexandria. The collective use of sharrows, speed bumps, and traffic diverters in Portland's tried and true designs don't remove parking, and they improve pedestrian safety.

Safer streets are not exotic and not expensive, but we won't get them unless we ask for them.

A version of this post ran at Alexandria News.

Beyond Metro, there's no big idea for transit in DC anymore

The excellent Housing Complex writer Aaron Wiener is leaving the local reporting scene for a position at Mother Jones. For his valedictory column, he proposes 15 "not-so-modest proposals for how to make DC better." The first three cover transit. So what's the big pie-in-the-sky for transit?

Pie in the sky image from Shutterstock.

First: "Build new Metro lines."

Second: "At the very least, add some infill stations."

Third: "Stop building streetcar lines in mixed traffic."

Unfortunately, building new Metro lines is not really going to happen. Beyond that, this list doesn't give much to be excited about. And that's not Wiener's fault; it's exactly the problem with transit planning and advocacy in the Washington region right now.

More Metro is best

It's absolutely true that, if we're not "constrained by the limits of reality," putting more Metro lines everywhere is indeed the key. (If you're really unconstrained by reality, you just invent teleportation, but if we're suspending fiscal reality but not the laws of physics, Metro is the way to go).

Even despite disinvestment and mismanagement in WMATA, the Metro is a fast way to travel. If it's working, it's often faster than any other mode—when there's a station near where you want to go. More lines and more stations would undoubtedly offer better transportation than nearly any other system.

Unfortunately, Metro lines cost billions of dollars. Many cities and nations in other parts of the world are willing and able to keep building more tunnels for more trains, but not the United States.

What's the next best idea? Surely there is another, somewhat cheaper, somewhat less speedy, but still eminently worthwhile idea ready for an alternative weekly blogger to tout?

There isn't a second-best idea

Well, not really. And Wiener's list demonstrates this. Not because he's not coming up with it—he's a reporter and blogger, not a transportation planner. Rather, there's nothing on the shelf.

(In DC, anyway. In Maryland, the Purple Line continues to be a slam dunk, and will only not happen if the governor is more intent on punishing a part of the state that mostly didn't vote for him instead of making the state more attractive to businesses and workers.)

Infill stations, sure, and there are a few good spots. Besides Potomac Yard in Alexandria, a station already in the planning stages, Wiener points out an opportunity to build a station east of Stadium-Armory next to the former Pepco plant, if and when all of the toxic chemicals under that plant can get cleaned up.

But there aren't many good places where there's much or even any new development potential. So what else?

All there is for us is an exhortation NOT to build something. Don't build a mixed-traffic streetcar.

DC planners and leaders have not teed up any better solutions. Bus lanes and dedicated streetcar lanes (Wiener mentions the possibility of a dedicated lane on Georgia Avenue) could offer a way to move people quickly and smoothly around the city, but we're very far from being able to make that a reality, and we're moving at a snail's pace.

A study of lanes on H and I Streets foundered amid interagency squabbling between DDOT and WMATA. A study for 16th Street is actually underway, but only after multiple earlier studies in prior years. At best, it seems we can hope DDOT could design something this year, build it a couple of years from now, test it, then maybe slowly start studying some more lanes by Muriel Bowser's second term or the next mayor's first.

There are existing plans for dedicated transit lanes on K Street, but there's no longer enough money in the latest budget to actually build them. These dedicated K Street lanes, by the way, have been rarely mentioned in news stories criticizing streetcars (Wiener's list included).

The MoveDC plan lays out a network of 47 miles of "high-capacity transit" including 25 miles of dedicated lanes, but little idea of how to build those, when, or how to pay for it.

Arlington has canceled its transit vision, which grew out of years of public processes and compromise. Maryland may as well. Beyond finishing the Silver Line, the region may soon be left with no big transit ideas. And as the political climates have shifted in all of these jurisdictions, there also seems to be little appetite right now to make any new big plans.

Wiener brings up many of other excellent ideas as well. Foster some creative architecture in the District. Spread homeless shelters out around the city so every area can be a part of the solution. Buy vacant or blighted property now, when it's cheap, to build affordable housing later. Don't build football stadiums. Get rid of parking minimum requirements in new buildings.

The next Housing Complex writer will surely continue talking about all of these issues. DC leaders need to give him or her, and residents across the city and region, something to get excited about instead of a choice between the practically impossible and the undesirable.

Ask GGW: What's the point of bike sharrows?

People traveling by both bike and automobile have to share the road, but it's not always clear how they should do that. Some streets have marked, dedicated bike lanes or protected bikeways and others have shared-lane markings, or "sharrows".

Photo by NATCO.

Reader Mike Forster wants to know what bike sharrows are supposed to do and if they are effective:

Do sharrows actually do anything? As a regular cyclist, I don't see how they're an improvement, but I'm curious if I'm missing something about their effectiveness. Can someone explain the thinking behind sharrows? Are there studies showing to back that thinking up?

Bike sharrows are road markings used to say that the space is for both bicycles and automobiles. The markings reinforce the legitimacy of bicycle traffic on the street as well as tell bicyclists where in the road they should ride. Sharrows can also be set up to point riders in the right direction along a particular route.

Chris Slatt points toward a great resource on sharrows from the National Association of City Transportation Officials that gives a thorough breakdown of the benefits and typical applications.

3D concept of sharrows. Photo by NATCO.

Sharrows tell everyone that the road they're on is a bike route. They don't require additional street space and they cut down on sidewalk riding and bicycling in the wrong direction.

3D concept of sharrows on an urban street. Photo by NATCO.

Sharrows increase the distance between cyclists and parked cars, keeping cyclists out of the "door zone." Generally, they don't work as well on streets that have a speed limit of 35 mph or higher.

Matt Johnson adds that sharrows sometimes serve the purpose of guiding cyclists across hazards like streetcar tracks or explicitly denoting bike routes.

Sharrows guiding cyclists across the South Lake Union Streetcar tracks on Westlake Avenue in Seattle. Photo by Matt Johnson.

Sharrows marking "The Wiggle," a bike route in San Francisco which avoids steep streets by weaving through the street grid. Photo by Matt Johnson.

Sharrows accompanied by bike route signage above the stop sign. Photo by Matt Johnson.

Dan Reed wrote a post last year about the types of roads sharrows work well on.

David Cranor noted research that says sharrows work: there's an FHWA study showing that they give people on bikes more space both from parked cars and passing drivers, and another another showing that on roads with sharrows, the ratio of of severe injuries to total injuries was lower than on one with no markings.

Do you have a question? Each week, we'll pose a question to the Greater Greater Washington contributors and post appropriate parts of the discussion. You can suggest questions by emailing Questions about factual topics are most likely to be chosen. Thanks!

Mary Cheh's annual joke budget memo mocks the streetcar, endless transportation studies, and more

Each year, as the DC Council considers the District's budget, Councilmember Mary Cheh and her staff issue fake recommendations that satirize recent news. This year's poke even sharper fun than usual at a number of issues around transportation, Eleanor Holmes Norton's parking, the Vince Gray prosecution, and many others.

Bookshelf image from Shutterstock.

On the streetcar, for instance, they "suggest,"

Transfer $500,000 million from the District Department of Transportation to the Commission on Arts and Humanities. This transfer will be used for an innovative, progressive, and transformative production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire.
That wasn't even the harshest cut at DDOT, though. As we prepared to talk to DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo, a lot of you suggested questions about DDOT's apparent habit of conducting a study, then conducting another one a couple of years later, and so on.

This has been a particular source of ire for Capitol Hill residents who have been waiting years for traffic calming on Maryland Avenue, or supporters of a bus lane who wonder why there has to be another study this year to implement a bus lane that was the subject of at least two earlier studies. Commenter Jimmy, for instance, wrote:

Some of us actually refer to his agency as DDOTS (District Department of Transportation Studies). While some study is necessary to avoid ready-fire-aim debacles like the streetcar, use of "further study" (on bike lanes, bus lanes, bus signal priority, and pretty much everything else that doesn't move more cars faster or provide more parking for private automobiles) has clearly become a delaying tactic. What can be done about this? How can we move forward on things that have already been studied to death?
Cheh and her staff feel your pain. Their budget "recommendation":
Transfer $1.5 million from the Department of General Services—what's another million and a half, anyway—to the District Department of Transportation to conduct a study. It has recently come to the Committee's attention that DDOT has had issues in implementing previously conducted studies. Despite extensive work being done to study traffic calming measures on Maryland Avenue, the agency is about to initiate another study. Additionally, despite conducting a study in 2013 on a 16th Street Bus Lane, DDOT will shortly begin a new study on the topic.

To assist in reducing redundant redundancies, the Committee recommends that the funds be used for DDOT to study these studies. This endeavor will help keep the agency busy because the Committee has no doubt that two years from now they will scrap the study on studies and conduct a new study that studies the study on studies in a rather studious manner.


Eleanor Holmes Norton does not get off lightly. A video surfaced in March showing the Congresswoman trying to park between two other cars and somehow managing to end up diagonally in her space. Cheh and her staff "propose" a new Eleanor Holmes Norton Office of Parking and Driving to provide free taxi service for elected officials.

And speaking of federal activities, remember how US Attorney Ron Machen was looking into alleged campaign finance misdeeds from the 2010 Vincent Gray mayoral campaign? Machen charged a number of Gray staffers, but never seemed to find any evidence linking the mayor himself. Yet Machen, in an unusual step for a prosecutor, publicly said "there's there there," saying in essence that he was sure Gray was involved.

Gray lost the primary election, in large part because many people believed Machen, but nothing has happened since. Cheh and her staff caustically "suggest" funding a dictionary and a map for the US Attorney's Office so it can "determine where exactly is the there."

Other biting critiques in the memo include:

  • A recommendation about the DC Board of Elections printed entirely upside-down, a reference to the upside-down DC flag on the 2014 voter guide which BOE first pretended was intentional, then admitted had been a mistake.
  • That upside-down proposal suggests a primary date based on the lunar calendar to "enhance voter turnout and continue to make elections a part of the news cycle." DC had shifted its primary from September to April due to federal laws about getting absentee ballots to servicemembers overseas. But the turnout in 2014 hit record lows, so the council moved it back.
  • A budget allocation to make space for "all of Mayor Bowser's former staff and campaign aides" on the council. Bowser staffers Brandon Todd and LaRuby May won the two recent special elections, in Wards 4 and 8 respectively. Todd said he would be independent of Bowser and even, while campaigning, opposed her controversial DC Jail healthcare contract which Bowser had been pushing; days after winning, he decided he would support his former boss after all.
  • A new job training program for councilmembers forced out of office due to corruption.
  • Body cameras for councilmembers whose footage will be televised on a reality show, "Keeping Up with the Kouncilmembers."
  • A staffer to submit "all office supply orders" to Congress, given that Congress is so eager to get involved in DC's local affairs.
Cheh and her staff conclude with a suggestion that if you don't find her memo funny, you "participate in some recently-legalized activities" (i.e. smoke marijuana) and then you will "find it to be, like, totally the funniest thing ever."

CaBi's phone app could enlist riders to rebalance bikes

One of Capital Bikeshare's basic challenges is keeping some bikes and docks available at each station all the time. CaBi has staff that keeps that balance by moving bikes from one station to another, but if the Spotcycle app had a rebalance option, users could opt to help with the effort.

Photo by Supermac1961 on Flickr.

A few years ago, CaBi tried a Reverse Riders Rewards program, which rewarded CaBi members for moving bikes from typically full stations to typically empty ones during the weekday morning rush hours as a way to supplement their normal rebalancing efforts. The program didn't last long because, as I recall, it mostly rewarded members for doing things they were already doing.

To get a similar benefit at a lower cost, CaBi could add a "rebalance" button. When you push the button, the app would use your location to identify any nearby stations that are full/nearly-full or empty/ nearly-empty and identify close-by stations that need rebalancing.

That'd be it.

I'm sure some people would rebalance bikes out of general altruism just like people create data visualizations and hack apps for free. It'd only take a few helpers to make the effort worthwhile. It might not cost anything extra to add the button, and any additional rebalancing would lower costs.

To get greater participation, CaBi could even make a game out of it. The top "citizen rebalancer" every quarter could get a gold member key and public recognition. Or a cupcake. Or socks. Or a free membership. Or maybe rebalancers could earn "points" redeemable for rewards.

Regardless, by giving individual rebalancing assignments, CaBi would encourage actual additional rebalancing. You could even tax people 1/10th of a rebalance if they ask for an assignment and refuse it, so as to keep people from just being opportunistic about it ("Let's see if the trip I'm going to do anyway will earn me a rebalance").

There is a lot of opportunity to include CaBi members in rebalancing efforts. The more the service tinkers with how to do that, the better.

A version of this post originally appeared on The Wash Cycle.

Fairfax is getting 22 new bike lanes in 2015

When Fairfax County repaves roads this summer as part of routine maintenance, it's going to add bike lanes and other features to some of them.

Here's the complete list of Fairfax streets that will get new bike facilities in 2015:

Image from VDOT.

Among all the roads due for repaving this summer, 22 will get bike lanes or sharrows. Some of the additions are coming as part of road diets.

Adding bike infrastructure to roads that are going to get a new coat of paint either way is a very cheap way to make Fairfax more bike-friendly. Of course, if this were the only way the county added new bike lanes, it'd take quite a while for them to show up on recently repaved roads.

The projects are spread throughout the county, but Tysons is getting some special attention as the county takes another step in its planned transformation of the area.

VDOT's website says residents will begin seeing the new paint—and lanes—in June.

It's our live chat with DC transportation head Leif Dormsjo

Today we talked with Leif Dormsjo, director of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). Here is a transcript of our conversation.

Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

David Alpert: Welcome to our live chat with DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo! I'm here at DDOT HQ with Greater Greater Washington volunteers Eric Fidler, Tracey Johnstone, Payton Chung, and Abigail Zenner.

David Alpert: Our guest will be joining us at noon. Meanwhile, if you have questions you'd like to suggest, you can tweet them with hashtag #ggwchat.

David Alpert: The way the chat will work is I will ask questions verbally, including some of the many great questions you all submitted. Eric, Tracey, and Payton will be frantically typing in his answers. We'll correct any typos later; if you see some, it's definitely our fault and not anything to do with Leif.

David Alpert: Leif Dormsjo is now here. Welcome! Thank you so much for joining us.

Leif Dormsjo: Great to be here, David

Leif Dormsjo: It is my office, of course.

David Alpert: To get started, can you tell me what top three(ish) things you hope will be different about the way DDOT operates and/or about transportation in our city after four years of your leadership?

Leif Dormsjo: Sure, Well, the mayor has been very clear with me from the get-go what her expectations are, and it's real exciting to be part of the Bowser administration.

Leif Dormsjo: So even as early as my interviews, she was focused on Vision Zero, which extends beyond my department. The second area she wanted me to focus on was how DDOT performs on quality of life issues and how we engage with people outside the walls of our departments.

Leif Dormsjo: And the third area that the mayor is keeping a focus on and is a topic of every conversation I have with her is our capacity and ability to deliver projects small, medium and large. Vision zero, customer service and a focus on project delivery I have my hands full.

Vision Zero

David Alpert: Let's talk about Vision Zero first. JR asks, What is the most ambitious thing you are planning to do as part of Vision Zero? Would you support lowering the city speed limit? Eliminating right turns on red?

Leif Dormsjo: Well, those are two good issues to bring some clarity to, and then I can talk about some things that we're focused on. Most people don't appreciate that the citywide default speed limit is 25 MPH. It's only in rare exceptions that it would be higher or lower. One thing that many cities are looking at is slow zones. Lower speeds will help us drive fatalities and life threatening injuries to zero.

Leif Dormsjo: Regarding rights on red, the biggest factor in intersection crashes is during green. It is green permissive rights when there are pedestrians in the crosswalks. There are red light cameras and those can be configured to ensure there is a stop before a right on red. But the issue of intersection safety requires more attention that just right on red.

Leif Dormsjo: The soft right is a part of the L'Enfant plan, means that a driver's visibility is very limited. We have to think about the total view of intersections to make sure we do everything we can about safety.

David Alpert: And just for people who might not know, could you clarify what a "soft right" is?

Leif Dormsjo: It's a diagonal right turn. So what that means is that we have a lot of turning movements where vehicles are not really required to come to a stop to make a hard right turn. And so we're doing some things right now to extend the curbs, and make those turns more linear—a hard linear turn—so that will avoid and mitigate some of the issues that we've had with people moving through intersections too quickly, and not being aware that there's pedestrians in the crosswalk, which is a very dangerous circumstance.

David Alpert: Thanks. And I know you wanted to talk about the broader Vision Zero, well, vision.

Leif Dormsjo: I think we have some great ideas in traffic engineering, but strengthening our alliances with stakeholders in education and enforcement is a smart thing to do. I have already had conversation with agency counterparts to improve our efforts in the safety front. I am talking to the attorney general about impaired driving.

Leif Dormsjo: Impaired driving is a huge contributor to crashes, fatalities and injuries. We have some laws on the books that are solid, but we can make some improvements there to focus on habitual impaired driving. I'm told there are a very limited number of ignition lock participants in Maryland and that was a big push on drunk driving and impaired driving and I know there were issues on access to work. Whether that's red light runners or speeders, those should be top priorities.

Leif Dormsjo: With regard to education, I think younger folks are one place where we can get some benefits. For one, younger drivers tend to get in more crashes. I think we need to spend more time preparing people for the privilege of driving. I've been talking with the head of the motor vehicle administration about that, and she's been a huge supporter. That education can come in the form of reaching out to college students who are pedestrians.

Leif Dormsjo: We have some issues around American University in particular. There's a concern, one I think is valid, that many of those students are not paying attention while crossing the street. That's something I spent some time on around the University of Maryland in College Park; there were many incidents along Route 1 in College Park.

Leif Dormsjo: Enforcement and education are certainly important and we will do everything we can on the engineering side for new roads and redesigned roads.

Bus lane studies

David Alpert: In our comment thread from last week asking for question submissions, one question stood out above all others that was asked by at least ten commenters. They all wanted to know about the 16th Street bus lane study. There have been multiple studies about this in the past.

David Alpert: As RDHD asked: How will the new 16th St. bus study differ from or otherwise provide new information that the already completed studies did not offer? What was lacking in those studies?

Leif Dormsjo: I've run into a number of instances where we had multiple studies of the same issue and I find that as frustrating as the rest of the city. With 16th Street, we had a lot of high level analysis of travel demand and the make up of traffic along that corridor and the time components of traffic congestion and delay. There wasn't treatment of operation al issues that are the root causes of issues and delays.

Leif Dormsjo: The next study is to take our work to the ground level so we have a better sense of bus bunching delays that are occurring at bus stops, traffic signal issues, and whether or not we can create some priority or preemption with traffic signalization. I think it's a refinement of the work that's been done before.

Leif Dormsjo: I certainly agree that we need to a better job of moving from study, to technical feasibility, into environmental review, into a design solution, so we have tangible results. That pattern of having study after study—I'm talking to our team about that, because I don't think it's helpful when we have so many.

David Alpert: Many readers hope you can achieve that and commented or tweeted about their frustration with endless studies.

Bicycle infrastructure

David Alpert: Here's a question from Councilmember David Grosso's staff.

Leif Dormsjo: We've got a solid work plan for 2015 in terms of the construction of more bike lanes, be they fully protected or simply shared lanes, and we've got a lot of work in the pipeline with the trail projects. There's been some really terrific success in both the bike lane program and the trail program and we are coming to a phase of our work that will require more consensus building and technical work to achieve high quality results. I agree that a lot of the low hanging fruit has already been plucked, but we need to maintain an aggressive approach to bike maintenance and safety.

Leif Dormsjo: But many of the areas where we have that final block or next connection to make involved stakeholders whether they be the federal government or businesses or third parties that own property. It will require a different skill set with regard to how the department conducts itself. We're not lowering our target in terms of increasing the bikeable mileage within the city limits, but the more simple, easier-to-implement solutions are not available to us any longer.

David Alpert: To tie together those two last points, how do you reconcile the fact that it's now going to be even more difficult to do some things, with what you were talking about before that it takes so many studies to get anything done already?

Leif Dormsjo: Studies typically take about 12 months, but if we're talking about a federally designated roadway—as many of the roads in Washington are—the environmental process of going through an inventory of impacts to air, other environmental resources, community and safety concerns, that process can last from 12-24 months. And then design of improvements can take 12-24 months, and then you're in the actual implementation and construction phase. One of the imbalances is that we have a lot of study work. You can perform five studies in one year, but you can't deliver five projects in one year.

Leif Dormsjo: In the course of some really good planning, whether MoveDC or small area plans or other plans, we have raised expectations that we can deliver solutions—and that's good—but the timeframe to bring those improvements online can be extended based on the type of project we're talking about. A transportation project lifecycle is five to seven years.

Leif Dormsjo: And then we'll see a lot of improvement once those projects are brought to fruition. The key is to get our team and program set up so we can be more predictable in the delivery process. That's an area ripe for improvement. Ideally, we can move seamlessly from one project to the next. Then we can shorten the phases of these projects to the period of time that allows us to responsibly look at everything that's required but no dwell too long on it.

Leif Dormsjo: Getting the whole program aligned so that we're getting repeatable successes—as we take projects all the way from concept to completion—is a re-engineering effort that is underway here, and I'm excited because I think that's what people have been looking for.

David Alpert: Thanks. On another specific bicycling-related topic, Andrew Schmadel asked: 1) When can we expect Capital Bikeshare to resume adding new bikes and stations? Have the supply issues been resolved, and are there any plans to prevent a similar issue from occurring in the future?

Leif Dormsjo: In the bikeshare program, we have a relationship with a contractor and so one of the challenges recently is the financial difficulties that contractor has run into. There was a bankruptcy that impacted Capital Bikeshare. As they worked through that, we will have more clarity about how they expand and improve their program in the District. We don't have a timeline for that.

Leif Dormsjo: We continue to have one of the strongest programs in the country and we are able to—I think because of the structure—we're able to do some things that keep the rates affordable and work with memberships that you couldn't do if it were a franchisee model.


David Alpert: One other travel mode I know everyone wants to hear about: The streetcar.

Leif Dormsjo: We're in the process of developing a master schedule for the launch of the project. We had the benefit of the APTA peer review, and they issued some preliminary recommendations several weeks ago and they're finalizing their report now, which I expect shortly.

Leif Dormsjo: I want to compare their report to the work that we've done internally, in terms of a risk adjusted schedule. At that time, I think it would be appropriate to commit to a public opening date. I want to get the full benefit of the APTA peer review before we set expectations with regard to the project.

Leif Dormsjo: We have been working diligently to correct some of the operational and technical issues that were highlighted in the APTA peer review and I'm very pleased with the progress that we're making and we have done a lot to strengthen our team and make sure we have the right group to bring the project into passenger service.

David Alpert: Someone else asked about communication around the streetcar (some of which I know took place before you were here). JR asked, "Why didn't DDOT tell the public what was and is holding up the streetcar? I learned a lot from Martin Di Caro's reports on WAMU, which all seemed like information DDOT could have given to the public themselves." Will there be more communication going forward?

Leif Dormsjo: Well, first of all, the information that Martin Di Caro reported on was public information and he just did a better job of reporting than his competitors. He's a good reporter. Peer review is something we've disclosed as will the final report that they're working on right now.

Leif Dormsjo: I completely agree with the suggestion that we be open and informative and transparent as information is brought forward. I've been very clear about some of the issues about the legacy program we've inherited. I've spent hours in front of the city council testifying before the city council and it's there in transcripts. Looking forward, there will be legislative oversight and robust disclosure and availability to the press so people know what's going on.

David Alpert: August 4 asked: "And if the streetcar ever starts running, will it be extended to Gerogetown and become really useful?"

Leif Dormsjo: As the mayor stated in her State of the District address, our commitment is to take the necessary steps to expand the streetcar service from Benning Road Metro in Ward 7, all the way across the east-west corridor of the District, to Georgetown in Ward 2.

David Alpert: It doesn't have funding in the 6-year capital budget, however. What will it take to make that extended line possible?

Leif Dormsjo: There is funding in the six-year capital budget. There's $335 million for the streetcar project along with the bulk of the funding for the H Street bridge replacement so we have a very significant funding commitment in the mayor's funding proposal to Council. So right now we're in the process of bringing the relevant components of the extension to 30% design.

Leif Dormsjo: When we move into the more detailed design work that will allow us to refine the budget and the schedule. We will work with Amtrak and Union Station Redevelopment Corporation to get the connection with the railyard there on the H Street bridge.

Leif Dormsjob We have some environmental work to get to the point where we can further refine the scope should and budget for the overall project but I would say that there's a very strong commitment reflected in the mayor's budget for this type of transit initiative.

David Alpert: Let's talk a bit more about safety and Vision Zero. A few people on Twitter were nervous about the way you focused on impaired driving. I wanted to give you a chance to follow up.

Leif Dormsjo: Well first of all, maybe I was a little bit mistaken in assuming most people knew how strong the District's commitment to speed enforcement and road geometry have been. The District's speed enforcement has been one of the most aggressive in the country and there's no retreat in that.

Leif Dormsjo: Speed enforcement has to be at the top of your list in terms of safety focus. I believe, based on the plans that we have within our design capital program, that we're doing a tremendous amount in improving corridors from an engineering perspective.

Leif Dormsjo: Maryland Avenue is a good example. It's been perceived as perpetual study, but we're moving into a block-by-block design process to reduce the travel lanes along Maryland Avenue and improve the intersection characteristics and safety features of that corridor.

Leif Dormsjo: So I agree with the questioner: Speed enforcement, highway geometry are key tools in the tool box. I was just saying that with my experience in Maryland on an annual basis, the department was working with the safety committee to expand relevant laws and statutes to cover impaired driving and I think that needs to be part of the continuing dialogue in the District.

Leif Dormsjo: In many jurisdictions, the trial attorneys have a very robust lobby and will quiet those conversations. And being the son of two trial attorneys, I'm not afraid to push back on trial attorneys.

David Alpert: Thanks very much. I know some readers had wanted to hear about Maryland Avenue (like the below tweet), so thanks for touching on that.

David Alpert: A few people asked about other neighborhood-specific safety challenges: Ward Circle, Florida Ave NE, and South Dakota Avenue.

Leif Dormsjo: Ward Circle: I had spoken to that indirectly earlier in the chat when I was talking about American University. So we're in the process now of trying to achieve some consensus with the community to improve the crosswalks, the signage, signals. There's particular concern on nighttime conditions and visibility through that area with so many students walking to and from campus facilities.

Leif Dormsjo: So that is an area where we want to try to do as much as we can on the traffic engineering side. We work with school officials to make sure students are paying attention to motorists and people aren't looking at their smartphones or have their earbuds in and don't understand what's going on around them.

Leif Dormsjo: Florida Avenue is an area where we've done some study and we need to move into the more formal environmental review process because it's designated as a federal highway. We need to go through the steps of taking account of what impacts would be caused by a roadway project there so that when we work on projects that have federal funding in them.

Leif Dormsjo: We have to study an area as exhaustively as we do, but he who has the gold makes the rules, and in this case the federal government has the gold that we're looking for, so we're going to make sure that we get through that environmental process responsibly. Maryland Avenue is ahead of that—it got a categorical exclusion from a much longer environmental process.

Leif Dormsjo: That might be the result for Florida Avenue, but you can't predict what the federal interest and triggers might be. It has to be neutral from the beginning. It's clear that you have issues with narrow sidewalks, challenging slopes, heavy traffic demand through that corridor, important community stakeholders like Gallaudet University, a growing number of residents and retail shoppers at Union Market, layered on top of some busy bike lanes in that area.

Leif Dormsjo: So you've got an intersection of a lot of important transportation issues along Florida Avenue and we have to methodically move through that process if we're slow to make improvements. A lot of the development and travel demands through that corridor is going to be way far ahead of anything we're able to do to the physical infrastructure.

Leif Dormsjo: I think that's a great example of where we'll have to make some down-payments on time and money to build something of permanent benefit.

David Alpert: Let's talk about the Circulator. 3 people asked about expansions—and different ones, which perhaps illustrates the challenge.

charlie: Where is DDOT getting the new hybrid Circulator buses? When is the expansion to U st?
drumz: When can we expect circulator service on the mall?
GP Steve: When will the Circulator expand to the Cathedral?

Can you talk about the Circulator vision and plan?

Leif Dormsjo: Sure. The Circulator program has been very successful over its decade of existence and we want to make sure we continue to invest in it and it's a high quality service that has a clear brand recognition and maintaining the 10 minute service headways is important to that.

Leif Dormsjo: We've run into some issues because the fleet has aged. We have replacement vehicles that are in the pipeleine. Right now our fleet is 49 vehicles—29 are beyond their useful life—so the next priority is taking the new flyer vehicles, which are manufactured in Minnesota, and accomplish some replacements so we don't have as many replacement issues with the fleet and traffic conditions and development, and making sure that we can really stabilize the performance, the next call on the vehicles is to selectively introduce vehicles into a route to make sure that the quality of service is really of a high standard.

Leif Dormsjo: We do have an expansion planned for the National Mall, and that's something that you should stay tuned for. We're going to be making some news on that in the coming days. We have the vehicles for that, and have the operators hired, in the process of going through their training to be ready to launch that this summer.

Leif Dormsjo: In the order of priority, we're replacing the aged vehicles that have done their service. We'll look to stabilize some of those routes—we want to arrest that schedule deterioration. Then, expand the Nationall Mall service—we think that will have great ridership and that's going to provide a really great service to institutions that get so many visitors.

Leif Dormsjo: And we'll look at some route extensions: the Cathedral connection and the extension from Navy Yard to Waterfront. That's the hierarchy of how we're thinking of the new vehicles.

David Alpert: Ask you talk about all of the things that have to be done to essentially ensure you are doing service better, what comes to mind is that this sounds great, but also, at the same time, continues to mean more steps before service can start. Is this a short-term situation, in that you have to clean up some messes but the future, leaner, DDOT will be able to launch service more numbly and quickly, or has DDOT (and maybe residents) just been unrealistic in the past about how long it takes to start up a new bus or Circulator or streetcar line?

Leif Dormsjo: I think it's probably a bit of both. I think the department has a responsibility to address both issues. There are things we can do to improve how we function as a business. I'm seeing opportunities across the board. But in transit, we've been overly reliant on consultants and outside contractors. I'm purposefully trying to improve our in-house expertise so we can benefit from outside professionals—but in a way that protects our financial investments, responsibility to the public and the mission to our efforts.

Leif Dormsjo: I agree with the comment that DDOT needs to do more to improve how we tee up these projects for delivery. That's getting better, I think. It's growing a team and strengthening our team. I'm excited about that.

Leif Dormsjo: I think the public has had expectations that need to be informed by facts, and by good reliable information form the government, and that is at the end of the day our responsibility as public servants. So, I think that being candid, being clear, being informative about what can be done, what can't be done, what needs to be corrected before you move forward may not be as emotionally satisfying as a hollow pledge to do something, but an earnest, sincere, realistic pledge is what the public ultimately is looking for, and that's really the attribute I want our team to embrace—to be more open, to be more clear, but to be realistic about what we're able to accomplish.

Leif Dormsjo: I don't think that it's a lack of ambition or achievement that will affect our work. I think it's a matter of not trying to say popular things so that people will applaud our press releases. We want people to applaud our results.

David Alpert: As we wrap up, I wanted to ask one other question that several people brought up: MoveDC.

Chris Slatt asked, "Will DDOT be implementing MoveDC or will all of that extensive community engagement be tossed out the window?"

Or Randall M: "We have something called MoveDC. We've spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours developing it. Will the current DDOT Director and Mayor implement all, some or none of it?"

What's the future of MoveDC?

Leif Dormsjo: I think the direct answer is that we're going to implement some of it. That plan was the product of great community engagement and there's no doubt that it established a blueprint for the city in terms of planning for the future growth and travel needs for the population and its community and its businesses. It was a plan. It's not funded. It was not constrained by any budget and therefore it's not going to self-actualize.

Leif Dormsjo: We need to be very thoughtful about which elements of the plan can be prioritize and put in the right sequence. There are billions of dollars of investments called for in the plan, but the last time I checked, I didn't see billions of dollars flowing into the DDOT budget or the WMATA budget. I think that's a classic example of needing to be very clear and direct about what factors contribute to the feasibility or practicality of getting things done.

Leif Dormsjo: I think there are some great elements to the MoveDC plan. It shouldn't be abandoned. We should be thinking about how we strategically achieve as much of the program as we can—and think about how that process worked and think about future community engagement. There is a need to continue to refresh that planning but we need to have a relevant period of time to compare our future planning efforts. That is something that as we look at projects or issues that come up in our day to day work.

Leif Dormsjo: As we reorganize our capital program, we ask, "how does this fit into MoveDC? Is this helping us advance some of the priorities spelled out in MoveDC?" As a blueprint and reference point, it's a great, great product.

David Alpert: Thanks. Just wanted to hit a few more specifics people asked about.

Corey H and tondo wanted to hear about the Southeast Boulevard. DC just reopened a freeway segment while a study is or was underway to put in a boulevard (and maybe some development) instead. Is that going to happen? How are DDOT and the Office of Planning interacting on this?

Leif Dormsjo: That's a great question and a great issue. OP has been doing some good work in terms of alternatives analysis for that stretch of the freeway. I think the work that DDOT had done previously was more limited in its scope. It was simply looking at that highway from a transportation perspective and I'm glad OP has gotten engaged because their charge is to broaden the view to access to the river, potential development within that area, and ways to address the CSX right-of-way, which is a real barrier to the community.

Leif Dormsjo: I think we'll work with them in partnership to complete conceptual planning and move that project into the more technically driven federal process. The work that's being done now is really a movement away from the more transportation specific work that our department had done in the context of the 11th Street Bridge project. It's a good sign that our agency has studied it and is open to a different way of thinking about it. I think this will be one of many examples of our agency working with OP to look at a more holistic approach.

David Alpert: Final question, from Jasper: "When will the Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola open?"

Leif Dormsjo: I think this is a project that right now is under consideration for some feasibility funding with the Council. I know there is an effort to pool some resources with Virginia to get through the basic tests of whether something like this could be done. I think I'll have to wait and see how the Council reacts to this proposal. But in the spirit of being multi-modal I would say that we should always be open to decent ideas as long as they effectively move people at the right cost. I've not worked on a gondola project but that's not to say that I won't in the future.

David Alpert: And that's all the time we have. Thanks so much for spending the time to talk to us!

Leif Dormsjo: Thank you, thanks for coming.

David Alpert: Thank also to all of the readers who submitted questions in comments and on Twitter; to our hardworking team of typists, Eric, Tracey, Payton, and Abigail, and everyone for reading!

David Alpert: Please post your thoughts and reactions on the comment thread for this post. And stay tuned for more live chats in the future!

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