Posts in category roads
The federal government hands states about $40 billion a year for transportation, money they can basically spend however they want. The result in many places is a lot of expensive, traffic-inducing highways that get clogged with cars soon after they're finished. Can measuring the effect of all this spending lead to better decisions?
Image from Transportation for America.
US DOT is developing a metric to assess how well states address congestion. This is a minefield— Reformers have been pushing the agency to revise the rule so it takes a broader, multi-modal view of congestion. Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America reports 19 senators and 48 US representatives have written a letter to US DOT [PDF] demanding a healthier approach.
The Congress members write: The excessive congestion performance measure should be amended to assess people hours of delay and not just vehicles. This change is critical to account for the many non-single occupancy vehicle users, including transit bus riders and bicyclists and pedestrians traveling along the corridor, which provide critical congestion relief and could be undercounted or even penalized under this measure. US DOT is currently accepting comments about the rule change. You can weigh in and help promote a better policy.
Crossposted from Streetsblog.
If we focus, as this proposed rule does, on keeping traffic moving at high speeds at all times of day on all types of roads and streets, then the result is easy to predict: states and MPOs will prioritize investments to increase average speeds for cars, at the expense of goals to provide safe, reliable, environmentally sensitive, multi-modal transportation options for all users of the transportation system, despite those goals being stated in federal statute. This singular focus on moving vehicles undermines the progress this Administration has made on multi-modal planning and investments through the TIGER program. Encouraging faster speeds on roadways undermines the safety of roads for all users, as well as the economic vitality of our communities.
The letter also insists that U.S. DOT require state and regional transportation agencies to assess the impact of projects on greenhouse gas emissions.
Reformers have been pushing the agency to revise the rule so it takes a broader, multi-modal view of congestion. Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America reports 19 senators and 48 US representatives have written a letter to US DOT [PDF] demanding a healthier approach.
The Congress members write:
The excessive congestion performance measure should be amended to assess people hours of delay and not just vehicles. This change is critical to account for the many non-single occupancy vehicle users, including transit bus riders and bicyclists and pedestrians traveling along the corridor, which provide critical congestion relief and could be undercounted or even penalized under this measure.
US DOT is currently accepting comments about the rule change. You can weigh in and help promote a better policy.
Crossposted from Streetsblog.
Columbia Pike is one of Arlington's least bike-friendly corridors—
The transportation planning for Columbia Pike largely grew out of 2004's Columbia Pike Streetscape Task Force Report. This report set the ultimate vision for what each block of the Pike will look like in the future, once the corridor redevelops.
With that ultimate vision expected to take 30 years or more, Arlington is undertaking a short-term solution, the Columbia Pike Multimodal Project. This project includes plans to create a way to bike down Columbia Pike, or on 9th Street or 12th Street, which parallel the Pike.
The bike-related infrastructure that's planned for Columba Pike. Map by the author, base map from Google Maps.
Below are the details of the project's plans for bike infrastructure, from the western end of Columbia Pike to the east:
The west end sidepath
Starting in the west, at the Fairfax County line, Columbia Pike will get a 10-foot wide shared-use path on the north side. The path will stretch from the county line to the bridge over Four Mile Run just east of Arlington Mill Community Center.
This portion of the Pike Multimodal project is slated to being begin construction fairly soon. Fans of such a facility would likely describe it as a "trail," detractors would probably say it's "just a wide sidewalk." Having a curb to protect you from traffic is certainly a plus, but mixing with pedestrians is a negative, and having a bike route that runs in two directions cross driveways and side streets is certainly a safety concern.
The Four Mile Run bridge is one of the gaps in planning for biking Columbia Pike. The 10-foot sidepath suddenly becomes a narrow and busy sidewalk that sits immediately adjacent to traffic. Right now, the only alternatives to biking in traffic over the bridge are sharing that sidewalk with pedestrians and other cyclists or detouring north past the community center, down into the stream valley via a number of switchbacks, across a fair weather ford over Four Mile Run, and then back up a steep hill to 9th Street.
Ideally, the county would either renovate the bridge to widen the sidewalk to 10 feet to match the sidepath to the west, or add a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian bridge either immediately to the north of the bridge, or further upstream to connect to 9th Street.
A bike boulevard for the central core
Moving east across the stream, the county's planned bike infrastructure transitions to a bike boulevard along 9th Street, which runs parallel to Columbia Pike. Bike boulevards are easy to bike on because while they're open to cars, they keep speeds and volumes low.
This quiet neighborhood street will get you approximately two blocks before arriving at the second potential gap in the planned bike network along Columbia Pike: crossing George Mason Drive. Most cyclists right now head another block to the north where they can safely cross George Mason Drive with a light at 8th Street.
While the additional two block detour is relatively negligible for someone on a long-distance ride, it could potentially double the length of a trip for anyone trying to go just a couple blocks. A better long-term solution would be a bridge across George Mason, from where it dead ends at Taylor Street to where it picks back up at Quincy Street.
From Quincy, the 9th Street bike boulevard continues, to Glebe Road, where engineers evaluated the intersection for a HAWK signal to make crossing there easier and safer. Unfortunately, because the traffic control manual that Virginia's engineers defer to says a signal there isn't "warranted" because not enough people use the route, there won't be one.
This is a common chicken-and-egg problem for bike and pedestrian crossings: Nobody crosses there because it's difficult and feels unsafe, and it's remaining difficult and unsafe because nobody crosses there. Common sense says that many cyclists and pedestrians are likely going out of there way to cross at Columbia Pike or at 8th Street so that they can do so at a light, but would prefer to cross at 9th if a signal were there.
East of Glebe, cyclists are directed to detour up to 7th Street for one block at Ivy Street because of a one block stretch of one-way street between Ivy and Irving Street. The county proposed making this stretch of road two-way as part of the initial bike boulevard roll-out, but ran into fierce neighborhood opposition.
Nearby residents were very concerned about opening the street up to two-way traffic around a narrow curve with bad sight-lines and contended that while the curb-to-curb width may appear to be wide enough, the mature oak trees that line the street mean that nobody is actually able to park adjacent to the curb which leaves less room for driving than you might think at first glance.
The 9th Street bike boulevard continues east to the intersection with Walter Reed Drive. Here, Arlington engineers decided the intersection needs a full traffic signal. It will be installed as part of the long-delayed Walter Reed Drive Complete Streets Project sometime in the next few years. That project will also rebuild the intersection into a more traditional and understandable layout.
A sidepath for the east end
At Wayne Street, the 9th Street Bike Boulevard ends and the planned bike facility transitions back to a 10-foot shared use path on Columba Pike. That path is planned to stretch all the way from Wayne Street, down the hill, underneath the Washington Boulevard bridge, back up the hill past the Sheraton and all the way down past the Air Force Memorial to at least Joyce Street and potentially all the way to the Pentagon.
A stretch of the 10-foot path already runs under the new Washington Boulevard bridge. The remainder of the sidepath will be built as part of future phases of the Columbia Pike Multimodal Project, but probably not until 2018 or 2019.
Again, the choice of a sidepath here is less than ideal. The sidepath would cross a number of side streets and driveways, not to mention the off-ramps from the Washington Boulevard bridge. Cyclists going downhill will pick up a fair amount of speed, and drivers rarely expect high-speed cyclists on what looks like a sidewalk, especially when they are coming from the "wrong direction" (because the sidepath is on the north side of Columbia Pike, cyclists headed east would be on the left side of the street).
From the east end of Columbia Pike, cyclists could continue along to the Route 27 trail past the Pentagon Memorial, or head along the Joyce Street sidepath to the future protected bike lane on Army Navy Drive into Pentagon City. Plans for this end of Columba Pike are somewhat in flux because of the land swap that is still being negotiated between Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington County and VDOT.
The land swap would potentially re-align Columbia Pike and reconfigure the Columbia Pike / Route 27 interchange near the Pentagon, changing it from its current cloverleaf configuration into a more compact signalized setup.
What about 12th Street?
There is also a bicycle boulevard on 12th Street, but given that it's on the opposite side of Columbia Pike from the sidepaths, I've focused on 9th Street in the context of a cyclist trying to travel the full length of Columbia Pike. People are unlikely to want to cross Columbia Pike multiple times just to continue on their way.
Why bike boulevards and sidepaths? Why not bike lanes or protected bike lanes?
If this plans seems a bit old-fashioned, building parallel boulevards and sidepaths instead of protected bike lanes, remember that they all grew out of that 2004 Streetscape Task Force Report. The biggest driver however, is space: there isn't that much of it, and there are a lot of competing demands for it.
In many places, the space available across Columbia Pike from building to building is less than 80 feet. In some places, the land the county currently owns is as narrow as 60 feet.
In that space, the county has been trying to accommodate wide sidewalks with street trees for a pleasant pedestrian experience, 24,000 vehicles a day with heavy transit traffic, and safe accommodation for cyclists. They don't all fit, and what has been compromised the most is the bicycle facilities.
In this cross section of Columbia Pike, there are 56 feet just for cars. The remaining space has to juggle bike lanes, pedestrian space, and trees. Image from Arlington County.
Converting some or all of the bike facilities on Columbia Pike to bike lanes or protected bike lanes would require identifying significant width to be taken away from some other use on the Pike. Turning a standard five-foot sidewalk into a ten-foot shared use path requires five feet of space beyond a typical Arlington Cross-section. Standard bike lanes would require an additional five feet, buffered or protected bike lanes additional width equal to the width of the buffer or the protection.
Does that space come out of the sidewalk? The street trees? The left turn lanes? The travel lanes?
Arlington County is set to spend over $100 million rebuilding Columbia Pike, and yet the "Complete Streets" project will not result in a bike facility that runs the entire length of the corridor. Is that really a complete street? Columbia Pike is the most affordable area of Arlington, and would be the ideal place to have top-notch facilities for one of the most affordable means of transportation: the bicycle.
Right now that isn't going to happen. Should it?
The District of Columbia spans over 68 square miles. About half its land area goes to buildings, 20% is open space, and over a quarter is "road infrastructure." Among residential land, half is single family detached houses while high-rise apartments occupy less than 2% of DC's total.
I created the above chart using data in DC's Comprehensive Plan. That plan divides land into more categories, but for simplicity, I grouped many of them.
It's important to note that "roads" includes a lot of land that's not paved roads. That's because in many neighborhoods, the official public right-of-way includes much or all of people's front yards; the actual property line is at the building or between it and the sidewalk. This "roadway" space covers yards, sidewalks, tree boxes, some grassy areas, and more. Still, it's a big percentage.
The "jobs" category combines any sort of land use relating to where people work (commercial, industrial, public facilities, federal facilities, and institutional land). The "housing" category groups together of all of the housing categories.
The chart below breaks down the housing category:
Out of the almost 30% of DC's land which was used for housing in 2006, nearly half of that was occupied by single family detached homes— This data is from 2006. I would expect some things have changed in ten years, but not everything. The large amount of "permanent open space"— How do these land use patterns affect our growing city? What changes should we expect, or should we advocate for?
This data is from 2006. I would expect some things have changed in ten years, but not everything. The large amount of "permanent open space"— How do these land use patterns affect our growing city? What changes should we expect, or should we advocate for?
How do these land use patterns affect our growing city? What changes should we expect, or should we advocate for?
Between June 22 and July 15, people across the region and beyond shared nearly 1,400 ideas for small, quick fixes to make riding Metro better. Below is a summary of the most popular ideas and a rundown of where they came from. We'll announce the finalists on August 8!
Most ideas focused on Metrorail
Ideas for Metrorail topped the list with 1,042 suggestions. These ranged from small ideas like more "train ends here" stickers on platforms to huge investments in infrastructure like building a new "beltway" rail line that loops around the perimeter of the city.
Next, were 176 ideas related to multiple modes of transportation, such as improvements to transfers between bus and rail or integration with non-Metro modes like Capital Bikeshare.
More than 80 ideas focused on bus service, ranging from specific route recommendations to suggestions for making ingress and egress smoother to speed up service.
There was only one entry that specifically addressed MetroAccess. The idea: use technology similar to uberPOOL so MetroAccess can provide more efficient service by picking up people traveling in the same direction. However, there were several ideas that proposed small changes to Metrorail to make it more accessible to riders with disabilities.
Lastly, there was one idea for enhancing the streetcar: Megan recommended removing parking and replacing it with a bike lane along the streetcar route on H Street. Got that, DDOT?
Top 10 categories
There were A LOT of similar ideas for improving Metro. More than half of all ideas submitted fell into these ten categories.
Where did the ideas come from?
1,061 people proposed small changes to make Metrorail, Metrobus, MetroAccess and the WMATA organization better through MetroGreater.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of people who submitted ideas (97%) live in the region. Regional participation was quite evenly distributed across DC, Maryland, and Virginia, with roughly one third of all submitted ideas coming from each.
Check out the heat map below to see which places across the region generated the most ideas. This map was created using the zip codes people entered when submitting their idea.
There were also 42 ideas from people outside the region from places like California, New York, and North and South Carolina. One idea, from Rachel, came all the way from Tokyo. Tyrion Lannister also snuck in an idea in from Meereen on the continent of Essos. Well played, sir.
This week, WMATA will review de-duplicated ideas and eliminate those that can't be implemented in under six months for less than $100,000. We hope they'll be able to give us insights into why some ideas, which seem simple and easy to carry out, actually fall outside the scope of these criteria. We'll share these in subsequent posts.
Once we have a list of feasible ideas, a jury of transportation leaders from across the region will meet to identify up to 10 finalist ideas. Starting on August 9, each finalist idea will be featured on the blog and you will be able to vote on your favorite.
The finalist idea with the most votes when voting ends on August 19th is the winner. The winner will not only have their idea implemented by WMATA, they will walk away with some great prizes.
Although the submission period has ended, you can still comment on ideas at metrogreater.org.
Walk through the heart of the GW campus, just a block from the Foggy Bottom Metro, and you might suddenly, bizarrely, run into an intersection where you aren't supposed to cross the street:
By DC law, any place where a street interrupts a sidewalk, there is a legal crosswalk. Even if there aren't any stripes marking it, there's still a crosswalk there. And the District Department of Transportation's official design manual requires marked crosswalks at all intersections. But that doesn't stop DDOT from sometimes designing intersections without crosswalks.
Often, the road's designers are putting the fast speed of traffic as their top priority and trading away the needs of people on foot. At Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue NE, for instance, engineers wanted a double left turn lane, and that's incompatible with a crosswalk. Then-director Gabe Klein intervened to insist on a crosswalk. That example turned out well, but many intersections get built without all of their crosswalks.
It's not right to force people to cross three times just to keep going straight. It adds a lot of time to each walker's trip and sends a clear message that people on foot are second-class citizens. Most often, this happens in complex intersections or in areas with low numbers of people walking, though even there that's not right (it just perpetuates the situation).
Here, though, this is a regular corner of two typical DC grid streets (22nd and I NW), and it's in a heavily-walked area on a college campus near Metro. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A chair Patrick Kennedy explained in a series of tweets:
This intersection was controlled by a 4-way stop until about ¾ years ago, when a light was installed to handle increased traffic relating to the new development at Square 54. All crossings were possible with the 4-way stop.Pedestrian Advisory Council member Eileen McCarthy said, "It's not the intent of the ADA to make crossings more difficult." She further argues that DDOT doesn't even have the legal authority to close this crosswalk.
When the light was installed, DDOT updated the ADA ramps but determined that they couldn't them at this crossing because of the WMATA emergency access grates positioned at the curb on either side of the street. My suggestion was that they install a bulb-out here to extend the sidewalk into the curb lane and give them the additional space needed to add a ramp since there's no rush-hour lane here and no parking near the intersection.
As of yet, that suggestion has not been taken. Meanwhile, as you can probably imagine, people cross here all the time anyways.
DDOT Pedestrian Program Coordinator George Branyan said that DDOT is working internally and with WMATA to devise a solution. While that's great, DDOT should have either waited on the signal until the solution was ready or put in crosswalks anyway (as McCarthy suggests is legal) in the interim instead of putting up this sign banning walkers.
After all, DDOT's own manual says:
29.7 Pedestrian CrossingsThat doesn't say "except if it will inconvenience drivers too much," though in practice, DDOT often abrogates this in the name of traffic flow, and then often without public notice or discussion.
Marked Crosswalks will be required at all signalized intersections, school areas, and high pedestrian areas.
In the ensuing Twitter discussion, people pointed out similar missing crosswalks at 9th and D NW and at the "Starburst" intersection where H Street NE meets Benning Road, Bladensburg Road, 15th Street, Florida Avenue, and Maryland Avenue.
What other missing crosswalks are near you?
How does a street change in 70 years? In some ways a lot, and in others, not at all, as this video of Los Angeles from the New Yorker shows.
Beyond the increased build-out along the streets, in some places the older streets seem more welcoming to people walking; in others today's streets seem friendlier. While this video is of LA, one can imagine a similar then-and-now for DC.
Would you be willing to create something like this, but for DC? For example, you could grab a Go-Pro and follow the route of the 82 streetcar today.
What else do you notice about the video? Tell us in the comments.
On August 1st, a long-closed gate at an Arlington military base will re-open for pedestrians and cyclists. The change will make it so you no longer have to take a huge detour to leave that part of the base, meaning travel by walking or riding a bike will be much more appealing.
Located at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBMHH) and known as Henry Gate because the road it sits on becomes Henry Place once it enters the base, the gate is where Arlington Boulevard (US-50) meets North Pershing Drive. The change comes as a result of recommendations from a study by Mobility Lab and Arlington
Transit Transportation Partners.
Pershing is popular amongst both drivers and cyclists, running east-west through the quiet neighborhoods of Lyon Park, Ashton Heights, and Buckingham. Pershing is scheduled to receive bike improvements in the near future, and the stretch near the intersection with Arlington Boulevard already features bike lanes and a recently-completed mixed-use development called The Shops at Pershing.
On the other side of the fence, the barracks located just behind Henry Gate house hundreds of young soldiers, many of whom do not have easy access to cars and could really put transit, bike, and pedestrian networks to use. Nearby, there's a CaBi station, a Metrobus stop, Zipcars, and the Arlington Boulevard Trail.
However, because Henry Gate has been closed since 9/11 as part of a wave of increased security, the soldiers in these barracks have to live within yards of these amenities without being able to easily reach by any way other than driving. A base resident would have to walk 33 minutes and 1.6 miles out of their way to reach them without a car, utilizing the main gate at 2nd Street South.
Detour that pedestrians and cyclists would have to take to reach The Shops at Pershing due to Henry Gate's closure. Image from Google Maps.
However, that's all about to change thanks to Mobility Lab and Arlington
Transit Transportation. After surveying 467 residents and people who work at JBMHH, ATP found that 88 percent of the commuting population drives to work alone. Once the surveyors solicited ideas from participants on how to combat this issue, the idea to reopen Henry Gate to pedestrians and cyclists caught on with base officials.
After numerous meetings between Mobility Lab/ATP and JBMHH staff, Henry Gate is finally scheduled to reopen on August 1st. The new access point will only be open to pedestrians and cyclists, giving them a convenient way to access the amenities located directly outside the gate and connecting them to the wider transit network via the Metrobus stop and bike trail.
Additionally, keeping the gate closed to cars will ensure that there won't be any new congestion along Arlington Boulevard or Pershing as a result of this decision. It's an incredibly welcome improvement for bike and pedestrian access to one of the county's most expansive military installations.
The Henry Gate pedestrian entrance, the adjacent Metrobus stop, and newly-improved Arlington Boulevard Trail. Image from Google Maps.
A few other recommendations for improving access to Fort Myer for people who don't drive came of Mobility Lab and ATP's survey. For instance, because the vast majority of work trips to JBMHH are made at the same time, the study recommended making employees more aware of carpooling and vanpooling through a service like Commuter Connections.
Also, in conjunction with the reopening of Henry Gate, the base hopes to create a "geofence"— Improving pedestrian and bike access for the soldiers that live at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is certainly a noble goal. But reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips to JBMHH (and thereby reducing congestion) will not only benefit the base's residents and workers, but also Arlington County as a whole. See Mobility Lab and ATP's full presentation on their JBMHH Transportation Survey here.
Improving pedestrian and bike access for the soldiers that live at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is certainly a noble goal. But reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips to JBMHH (and thereby reducing congestion) will not only benefit the base's residents and workers, but also Arlington County as a whole. See Mobility Lab and ATP's full presentation on their JBMHH Transportation Survey here.
Central Prince George's County is not a bicycle or pedestrian friendly area, but the county's planning department is designing a new trail that will run from Capitol Heights to Largo Town Center.
The trail, which could have its own bridge crossing over the Beltway, would connect the Marvin Gaye Park Trail in DC, four Metro stations, Fed Ex Field, Largo Town Center, and all of the neighborhoods, employment centers, shopping areas, and entertainment venues in between. In the future, it might extend to Anne Arundel County.
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission completed a feasibility study late last year, mapping out a proposed trail alignment and estimating the cost of preliminary planning for the 8.5-mile long trail at over $630,000.
The proposed trail would start at DC's eastern corner and follow the old Chesapeake Beach Railway right of way to Central Avenue.
The Central Avenue Connector Trail would run from DC's eastern corner to Largo Town Center. Click for a larger, clearer version. Images from M-NCPPC unless otherwise noted.
It would then follow Central Avenue until the road splits away from Metro's Blue Line, at which point the trail would continue running along the Blue Line en route to Largo. This part would all be 12-foot wide multi-use trail.
A southern alignment from DC's eastern corner would go south to the Capital Heights Metro on the way to Old Central Avenue at Capital Heights Boulevard. It would then follow Old Central all the way to the Chesapeake Beach Railway ROW. This alignment would be a combination of bike lanes and shared streets.
Though the bulk of the land is owned by Metro, M-NCPPC or the Maryland State Highway Administration, some parts do pass over private property. Also, the trail is supposed to run over the Capital Beltway. The feasibility study shows some alternative routes if Prince George's can't acquire that property, or if it can't build a bridge over the Beltway.
In the latter case, the result is a 1.5 mile detour to Brightseat Road. It's unfortunate that a trail bridge wasn't built in 2004 in conjunction with Metro's Trotter Memorial Bridge over the Beltway.
Another challenge will be building the half dozen stream crossings that'd be necessary. But if these challenges can be overcome or mitigated it would greatly enhancing biking and walking in the area, and make it easier to get to Metro without a car.
Update: Just today, the Transportation Planning Board approved a $109,400 Transportation Alternatives Program grant to pay for the 30% Design for the easternmost 0.32 miles of this project between Morgan Boulevard Metro Station and Largo Town Center Metro Station. This includes he trail, pedestrian/bicycle bridge structures, and two trail crossings.
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