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When bikeshare stations are near Metro, more people use them... especially if they're outside of DC

Bikeshare can help get people to a Metro station when they live or work too far away to walk there. As a result, the region's busiest Bikeshare stations are next to Metro, especially outside of DC.

The CaBi station at the Pentagon City Metro. Photo by mariordo59 on Flickr.

Although some people do use bikeshare as their primary mode of getting around the same way others use bus and rail transit, one of bikeshare's most important functions is to act as a first and last mile connection, meaning people take it to and from home and wherever they board another service. That's where bikeshare has the most benefit when it comes to increasing transit access and use.

The graph below takes a look at how many of our region's Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) stations are located near Metrorail and how many trips begin and end at those stations. As you can see, CaBi stations near Metro are more active than those that are not:

All charts by the author.

Nearly a third of our region's CaBi stations are within a quarter-mile of a Metro station, but nearly half of all trips begin or end at them. Also, 8% of CaBi stations are located at the Metro (I determined by counting the stations whose names include a Metro station name), and 9% of all trips begin and end at them.

To dig deeper into different parts of the region, I divided the region into geographic clusters: In Montgomery County, there's Rockville, Silver Spring/Takoma Park, and Bethesda/Chevy Chase/Friendship Heights; In Arlington County, there's North and South Arlington (with Arlington Boulevard being the dividing line); there's also Alexandria, and of course DC. Prince George's doesn't have any CaBi stations yet.

The CaBi stations near Metro in DC see slightly more use than the stations that aren't near Metro. But in the clusters outside of DC, CaBi stations near Metro see much more use than ones that aren't. In fact, while 26% of CaBi stations in these clusters are within a quarter mile of Metro stations, 45% of all trips start or end there, and while only 10% of CaBi stations in these clusters are at the Metro, they account for 21% of all trips.

Since so many people outside of DC use Metro to commute, we would expect CaBi stations near Metro to capture both local users and commuters and for their overall use to be proportionately higher than the stations farther from Metro. That's the case just about everywhere—for instance, in South Arlington, 18% of CaBi stations are within a quarter mile of a Metro station, however these stations account for 39% of all the trips in that cluster.

Similarly, 5% of the CaBi stations in South Arlington are at Metro stations, but they account for 20% of the total trips. Curiously, the CaBi stations a quarter mile from Metro stations in Alexandria have proportionally fewer trips, but those at the Metro station have proportionally more trips.

Bikeshare at transit stations provides another mode for people to travel to and from the transit station, introducing another opportunity to increase the level of activity in a specific area.

It's likely that CaBi stations at Metro stations outside of DC have higher levels of use because they serve not only people in specific neighborhoods, but also people who use the Metro system. Although it seems intuitive that people using bikeshare at a Metro station would also use Metro, the available the CaBi data do not include the exact reasons why people are using specific CaBi stations.

As other jurisdictions in the region look to start their own bikeshare systems, it would be wise to not only place stations at and within a quarter mile of Metrorail stations, but also to use a bikeshare system that is compatible with CaBi. Doing so would open up the number of potential bikeshare users to not only people in the neighborhood, but to everyone with access to the Metro system.


This is a strange (and dangerous) traffic circle. Check out DC's ideas for making it safer.

Ward Circle is a rather uniquely designed roundabout at the intersection of Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues NW, near American University. Traffic there is heavy and there are a lot of crashes, so DC wants to make it safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. The agency is considering four options for doing so.

The intersection of Nebraska and Massachusetts.

Ward Circle serves vehicles traveling to and from the District as well as pedestrians from American University and a nearby Department of Homeland Security office.

A previous District Department of Transportation (DDOT) study, called the Rock Creek West II Livability Study, found that Ward Circle had the most crashes of any intersection near Tenleytown, Van Ness, and Friendship Heights. There have been 60 in the last three years, with 18 resulting in injuries.

While many circles in the District are roundabouts, Ward Circle has a cat's eye shape thanks to two interior lanes that cut through the center as a continuation of Nebraska Avenue. One cause for all the crashes, as well as traffic delays, is that drivers often illegally turn left from these lanes into the roundabout (on to Massachusetts).

Ward Circle's current setup. Images from of DDOT.

Another cause for concern are the crosswalks located where Massachusetts Avenue intersects the circle. While the crosswalks on the Nebraska Avenue entrances are protected by lights, pedestrians on Massachusetts are protected from traffic only by "yield to pedestrians" signs.

This leaves pedestrians vulnerable to distracted drivers—when DDOT studied Ward Circle, it found that drivers rarely yield to pedestrians in these crosswalks. Also, not having lights at the crosswalks slows traffic when drivers do stop.

Any attempt to fix all of this would have to account for another factor: the green space in the middle of the circle, which the National Park Service owns. While people cannot currently access the space, it houses the eponymous statue of Artemis Ward at the center, and it offers environmental benefits as well, like absorbing rainwater.

At a recent community meeting, DDOT proposed four ways to change Ward Circle's design. The goal is to make the circle safer, make traffic flow more smoothly, and minimize the impact the changes have on the green space. The details are below:

Option 1: A classic roundabout

The first design option would convert Ward Circle into a full roundabout by removing the two interior lanes that carry Nebraska Avenue. It would also place signals at the Massachusetts entrances to the circle, making the crosswalks at these entrances safer for pedestrians and cyclists using the sidewalk to navigate the circle. This design doesn't include crosswalks for getting to the green space.

According to DDOT Western Area Planner Theodore van Houten, who led the community meeting, this design would increase pedestrian safety thanks to the signalized entrances on Massachusetts. With this option, there wouldn't be much effect on the green space, and the statue would stay where it is.

When it did its analysis, DDOT concluded that this design would negatively affect traffic because it would require more cars to stop for longer at the newly signalized crosswalks at the Massachusetts Avenue entrances.

Option 2: The cat's eye, but with legal turns from Nebraska onto Massachusetts

This option would remove the possibility of illegal turns from the interior lanes by simply making the turns legal. It would also remove the roundabout, making the interior turn lanes the only options for turning off of Massachusetts Avenue onto Nebraska or vice versa.

This option would still leave pedestrians with minimal access to the green space. And according to DDOT, it would also have a negative impact on traffic flow because it would force all traffic turning left onto Nebraska or Massachusetts to use the interior lanes, rather than going around a full roundabout as they currently do.

However, this option would make the circle safer for pedestrians by installing signals at the Massachusetts Avenue entrances.

Option 3: Run roads straight through the circle

The third option would make left turns onto Massachusetts Avenue from the interior lanes legal by turning the center of the circle into a four-way intersection. Dedicated right turn lanes would let cars branch off onto Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues. Two lane streets would also be preserved on the outermost part of the rotary; they'd primarily be for Metro buses and AU shuttles, but also for cars picking up and dropping off passengers.

Unlike the other options, this one significantly reduces the number of crosswalks available to pedestrians trying to navigate the circle. According to DDOT's analysis, it's the only one that would have a negative effect on safety for pedestrians and motorists.

This option would also reduce the amount of green space in the intersection and leave the Artemis Ward statue without a home.

Option 4: Keep the circle as it is now, but add more traffic signals

The final option would make the fewest physical changes to the circle as it is now. Instead, it would simply add traffic signals to the Massachusetts Avenue entrances to the circle and improve signs and paint in the interior lanes to make it more clear that it is is illegal to make a left turn from them.

While this option would make the circle safer for pedestrians and cyclists crossing Massachusetts Avenue, it might not stop drivers from making illegal turns into the roundabout from the two interior lanes.

Could the green space get more attention here?

While some of these redesigns move in the right direction, it would be great to see DDOT work with the National Park Service to make the green space in Ward Circle usable for residents, students, and employees in the area.

Dupont Circle and DDOT's redesign of Thomas Circle in 2006 are great examples to look at. While the area surrounding Ward Circle is more suburban than Dupont and Thomas Circles, long-term developments at the old Superfresh site and the Spring Valley Shopping Centre up the street are aiming to make it denser and more walkable. An accessible and useable green space in Ward Circle could serve these future communities and make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to navigate the intersection.

Until then, making Ward Circle easy and safe to traverse for pedestrians and cyclists is critical. In that regard, options one and four would be an improvement from the current set up and leave room for further development in the future.

Residents can submit comments on the proposed designs at DDOT's Ward Circle project website or by emailing Ted van Houten, DDOT transportation planner, at DDOT is scheduled to begin taking the next steps on designing and building this coming spring.


Weekend links: Montreal's attempt to slow growth

Montreal's city council is limiting the number of new restaurants in one neighborhood in hopes that the move will slow rising prices. The buildings we live and work in shape how we think, and designers are hoping that's just the tip of the iceberg. Some argue that our urban policies of the last two decades drove down city voter turnout earlier this month. Read about this, and more, from world of transportation, land use, and other related areas!

Photo by La Belle Province on Flickr.

Of Montreal: In an effort to fight gentrification, the city of Montreal has determined that a street in a booming neighborhood will not open any new high-end restaurants. The law passed by city council states that a new restaurant cannot open within 25 meters of an existing one, while other stores are more than welcome. This has drawn complaints from merchants but has pleased residents that think the move will keep rents in the city lower than in contemporaries like Vancouver and Toronto. (Guardian)

Messing with your mind: Stop for a second and look around. The place where you are reading this could be controlling your mind. Interiors and exteriors of buildings have a strong influence on how humans feel. Designers are working to learn more so they can do things like build hospitals that heal people more quickly or prisons that do a better job of rehabilitating. (Curbed)

Blame urban policy: Is our country's urban policy of the last 25 years the reason fewer urban voters turned out this year than in 2008? Commentator James DeFilippis thinks so, saying that policies that are too market focused, help people that already have capital, and outsource community action have failed to make a noticeable positive difference in the lives of many city dwellers. (Metropolitics)

Car, car revolution?: Ford's CEO Mark Fields believes that cars aren't the future of his company. At the recent Automobility LA conference, Fields said he wants to focus on moving people rather than moving vehicles. A focus on urban transportation modes and partnerships with cities would be a welcome shift for anyone hoping we'll cut back on our car dependence. (Los Angeles Times).

Three paths for self-driving cars: Some people see three different scenarios coming to pass once electric autonomous vehicles are really a feasible option: dense, high-income places where people share self-driving cars the way we do with ride hailing services now, sprawling places where most people buy their own, and places where the technology just doesn't work because the infrastructure isn't good enough or there are too many unpredictable pedestrians. (Fast Company Co-Exist)

The psychology behind why we're OK with sitting in traffic

Most people hate traffic, yet we are willing to sit in it for long periods of time to get to where we are going. Have you ever wondered why you put up with it? In this episode of Transit Trends, Dr. Bob Duke and Dr. Art Markman, the hosts of the podcast Two Guys on Your Head and recent authors of a book called Brain Briefs, sit down with host Erica Brennes to discuss the psychology behind sitting in traffic.


Three ideas to make it easier to bike to and from the Mosaic District in Fairfax

Merrifield is a growing part of Fairfax County with a number of bike routes. I've got three ideas for making them easier to use.

Merrifield is getting better for walking, but it's still not very easy to bike around. Photo by Dan Reed.

Merrifield is an area of Fairfax County located between the independent cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. Older residential neighborhoods, suburban strip malls, and light industry are still prevalent in the area, but newer mixed-use development has sprung up close to its Dunn Loring Metro station on the Orange Line. This includes the Mosaic District, one of the region's newest town centers outside of the urban core, similar to Reston Town Center or Kentlands in Gaithersburg.

Gallows Road and Lee Highway, the main "local" roads, are both very wide and can be intimidating to cross or bike along, even on the sidewalk. Both roads were also widened to make room for new exits along I-495's HOT lanes, which can mean long waits to cross the road on foot.

Merrifield. Photo from Google Maps.

But the area also has some great bike infrastructure. Two very popular trails, the W&OD and the Cross County Trail (CCT), run close to or through Merrifield. There are also existing low stress and bike-friendly options, which are routes and streets that cyclists tend to use because they feel safer or calmer riding on those streets compared to others.

The issue is that riding a bike to those trails and other routes is not all that easy. Not many people know the most direct routes, some of the streets are more dangerous than they need to be, and there are places that don't connect to trails that they could easily could connect to.

Signs, road diets, and some new connections would easily stitch the area's pedestrian and bike network without the need for huge capital projects.

One easy way to make biking in Merrifield easier: signs

Merrifeld has a number of great bike routes, but unless you study a map, there's really not a way to know about them. For riding a bike to be a viable option, people need good signs, and signs that make sense for people traveling by car aren't necessarily sufficient.

The Cross County Trail, which runs north to south across Fairfax County, passes through Merrifield. The Mosaic District is less than two miles from the trail at its closest point, and from there it is only a little farther to the Dunn Loring Metro or the W&OD Trail's intersection at Gallows Road. It's far easier to get to those places from the CCT by cutting across an easy-to-miss side trail through a parking lot and then going through a few neighborhoods, but a lot of people simply don't know that.

A few signs pointing pointing people from the CCT toward the Mosaic District or the Metro (or a number of other destinations, like the hospital on Gallows Road) would instantly make biking a reliable way to travel.

Simple and direct signs can be a big help for cyclists looking for the best routes. Photo by Dan Malouff.

When SafeTrack began on the Blue and Orange Lines, a lot of new signs went up around Fairfax and Arlington telling new bike commuters where to go for the best routes around town and across the Potomac. The same should be done wherever we can to help people easily bike without having to rely on maps or trial and error to find the best routes.

Some roads could be a lot more bike-friendly

Another thing Fairfax could do with no new infrastructure is look at where existing roads could be resized to encourage more cycling in the area.

Merrilee Drive/Eskridge Road parallels Gallows Road through the area, but fewer people drive on them since the two roads do not actually leave the area. That makes them ripe for more cyclists, especially people who are "interested but concerned" when it comes to riding a bike.

Below is a shot of what Merrilee Drive looks like today. Parking is actually allowed along the street but it is never very busy, and the lack of lane markings can confuse drivers and encourage speeding.

Merrilee Drive today.

There's more than enough room for bike lanes and parking, or a turn lane. Adding these in would create a bike connection between Mosaic and Dunn Loring that's nearly arrow-straight. Paint can make a big difference in how people use a road; in this case, it could help people know that there are actually two lanes. Also, painting bike lanes themselves can really help cyclists without totally reconfiguring the road's layout.

The current road is around 40 feet wide. That's plenty of room for two driving lanes, two bike lanes, and a parking lane. The sidewalks along the curb would not even need to be touched.

What Merrilee Drive could look like. Image/design from Streetmix

New trail connections

Some new connections between Merrifield's current bike routes and its nearby trails would make biking easier as well. These would require some capital spending and other steps like acquiring permission to use certain rights of way for these connections, so they're the hardest of the options I'm putting forward.
But even then, the key word here is "connections". These are not brand new trails that go on for miles and miles. These would be localized improvements aimed at improving the existing network first.

One big connection would be a proper pedestrian bridge across I-66 at the Dunn Loring Metro. There are sidewalks across the Gallows Road bridge but there are no bike lanes until you are farther down the road. A pedestrian bridge would make it easier for people to get from the Metro to the neighborhoods north of I-66, and existing trails could be extended to link up with a new bridge.

The maroon line is a potential place for a pedestrian bridge across I-66, near one of Merrifield's low-stress bike route (the blue line). Image from Google Maps.

Another bridge might be explored for crossing Arlington Boulevard near Gallows. There, you have existing park space that is close to the road, but the road itself is hard to cross. Plus if the Arlington Boulevard Trail is completed between Washington and the City of Fairfax then a bridge would be a great addition to a third major trail in the area along with the W&OD and the Cross County Trail.

The maroon line is a potential place for a crossing over Arlington Boulevard. Image from Google Maps.

Finally, there could be a connection between the Cross County Trail and Highland Lane which leads to Williams Drive and Eskridge Road, both of which travels through the Mosaic District. That would be a much straighter shortcut than the existing route via Beverly Drive which twists and turns.

The maroon line is a potential connection from the Cross County Trail (in green) to Highland Lane. Image from Google Maps.

Together, these kinds of changes could have a big impact on helping knit together neighborhoods and destinations throughout Merrifield. That would help people identify with the area and discover that there are options to getting around that do not always require getting in a car.


16th Street's traffic lights are now optimized for buses

While planning for a 16th Street bus lane continues, DDOT has quietly made another important but nearly invisible improvement there: The traffic signals are now optimized for buses.

16th and U queue jump signal. Photo by the author.

33 traffic signals along 16th Street NW now have Transit Signal Priority, or TSP. TSP holds a green light a few seconds longer, or switches a red to green a few seconds sooner, if a bus is ready to pass through.

Stopping at fewer red lights speeds buses along a line. In particular, DC is using TSP on 16th Street to keep S9 buses on schedule. When one falls behind, the signal priority kicks in so that bus can catch up.

16th Street has so many buses that DDOT can't give each one priority all the time, or it would gum up every perpendicular street along the line. But keeping buses on schedule is a nice improvement for riders.

16th & U queue jumper

In addition to TSP, at 16th and U there's now a dedicated signal just for buses, called a queue jumper. It gives buses their own "go" signal a few seconds before cars get their green, allowing buses to jump ahead of a line of waiting cars. By the time cars get their green and start moving forward, the bus is in front of them rather than behind.

The bus signal looks different than a normal light, so car drivers don't mistake it for one they're supposed to follow. A horizontal bar means stop, and a vertical bar mean go. It's the same as the dedicated streetcar signal at 3rd and H, and the same as bus signals along the Crystal City Potomac Yard transitway.

Traffic lights may not be as exciting as bus lanes, but these details matter. Thanks DDOT for making this progress.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


Gas stations were much better looking in 1924

Most gas stations these days are pretty garish, but gas stations weren't always so. Check out this vintage 1924 station, from Connecticut Avenue in Woodley Park.

Lord Baltimore Filling Station. Photo by the National Photo Company, via the Library of Congress.

This is the Lord Baltimore Filling Station, at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Ordway Street NW. It may not be truly typical of the era, but it's hard to imagine seeing as sharp-looking a gas station today.

It's not only the nice architecture that make this notable. It's also the urban design. This isn't as great for sidewalk life as a row of main street-style shops, but it's a building that fronts on the sidewalk. It could be a lot worse.

Do you know of any unusually good-looking gas stations? What makes them interesting?

We originally ran this post last year, but since the history hasn't changed we wanted to share it again!

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


Maryland shouldn't outlaw this type of pedestrian crossing signal, says a Montgomery County Councilmember

Proponents of a new type of walk signal that's gaining popularity in DC and Virginia say that the technology makes walking safer. In Maryland, though, the State Highway Authority (SHA) prohibits their use. That shouldn't be the case, according to Montgomery County Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Berliner.

A HAWK signal in DC's Cleveland Park. Photo by Eric Fischer on Flickr.

HAWK (High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacon) signals tell drivers to stop at pedestrian crossings that are in the middle of a block or where there isn't a traditional traffic light. People who want to cross press a button, which activates a yellow light that tells drivers to slow down and then a double red light telling them to stop.

One reason engineers like HAWK signals is that they have a low "warrant threshold," meaning there are generally fewer barriers to putting them up than a normal traffic light. Another is that they allow drivers to proceed after the people who pushed the button have crossed.

But while HAWK signals can be an effective means of improving safety at crosswalks, they aren't without criticism. They don't look or light up like normal traffic lights, which can confuse drivers. And because they remain completely dark until activated by a pedestrian, some drivers may think the HAWK signal is not working and treat the intersection as a stop sign.

The fact that HAWK signals stay dark until activated is the primary reason Maryland's SHA does not permit their use on state or local roads. Under the Maryland Motor Vehicle Code, a dark signal should be treated as a stop sign. It appears SHA has determined that HAWK signals are applicable to this section of the code.

A HAWK signal in Pentagon City. Image from Google Maps.

In a letter to the Montgomery County Delegation to the 2017 General Assembly, Roger Berliner questioned the logic of Maryland's restrictive amendments on "pedestrian hybrid beacons," especially in light of what he sees as clear federal guidelines on how to install and use them. He asked the delegation to consider introducing legislation that would allow HAWK signals in Maryland:

"The reasons for this change from the federal guidelines are not clear to me. What is clear to me, however, is that HAWK signals can improve pedestrian safety on SHA-administered roads. I am asking that you give serious consideration to introducing legislation during the 2017 General Assembly that would require the state to adopt either 1) the Federal Highway Administration Manual or 2) the specific language of Chapter 4F in the Federal Highway Administration Manual."
Noting that multiple Federal Highway Administration studies have shown that HAWK signals improve safety and compliance at pedestrian crossings, Berliner continued:
"I was the lead sponsor of legislation requiring Montgomery County to establish a framework and deadline for a Vision Zero campaign to achieve zero traffic deaths. The work of the County's Vision Zero Working Group is ongoing, with a recommended action plan expected early next year. We have already seen too many tragedies occur in crosswalks, making improved crosswalk safety critical in the Vision Zero effort. HAWK signals are a proven solution in this regard that I believe we must embrace."
Read the whole letter here.


Under Donald Trump, federal funding for transit projects is likely to dwindle

We're almost a week into the transition to a new presidential administration, and there's still a lot we don't know—for example, President-elect Trump has not selected a transportation secretary. But if you look at statements he made during and after his campaign, there's reason to think the coming years may bring more money for roads in our region and less for public transit.

We could be in for much more of what's on the left and a lot less of what's on the right. Images by and Mega Anorak on Flickr, respectively.

One program likely to be be affected is the one giving federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. Created in 2009 to invest in regional transit projects around the country, TIGER grants have helped fund a number of projects in our region.

For example, $58 million in TIGER money went toward bus improvements in the region in 2010, including $8.5 million for the Metroway BRT in Alexandria and Arlington; $20 million went toward HOT lanes in Virginia in 2011; $10 million helped extend the Anacostia Riverwalk in 2012. The most recent beneficiary was Montgomery County, which received $10 million to build BRT from Silver Spring to Burtonsville.

This is what TIGER grants have gone to around the country in that same timeframe:

Image from the USDOT.

Under Trump, transportation is likely to mean "cars"

The TIGER program has been under fire ever since it was created. In 2013, House Republicans put forth a budget bill that would have eliminated TIGER completely (as well as cut 21% of Amtrak's funding); In 2014, Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, tried to steer TIGER toward only funding roads and freight rail; in 2015, Republicans proposed extreme funding cuts to TIGER that would have made the program nearly useless.

Trump's administration, with the support of a Republican-controlled House and Senate, could finally drive a nail in the coffin. Here are a few quotes from Trump's stated infrastructure plan, along with thoughts on what they might actually mean:

  • "Leverage new revenues and work with financing authorities, public-private partnerships, and other prudent funding opportunities."

    On the face of it, this isn't bad. Public-private partnerships are regular government practice. But with Trump's business focus, this could give more leverage to private companies over government, especially if implementing his plan would require hiring more government workers, which could prove to be unpopular with members of Congress.

  • "Harness market forces to help attract new private infrastructure investments through a deficit-neutral system of infrastructure tax credits."

    Deficit-neutral is a popular phrase with Republicans and Democrats. In this case, Trump intends to make up the cost of infrastructure with tax revenue from the companies that build the infrastructure and the workers who would be employed to do the work. But this assumes that he's creating jobs rather than just giving the work to construction workers who have already been paying taxes, and it also assumes that people will use the roads to the level necessary to raise enough revenue to offset the cost.

  • "Implement a bold, visionary plan for a cost-effective system of roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, railroads, ports and waterways, and pipelines in the proud tradition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who championed the interstate highway system."

    More airports could definitely be a positive, and bridges do need to be repaired. But the "tradition of Eisenhower" is the highway system and single occupancy vehicles and not public transit, which would be able to move people around for cheaper and reduce gas consumption.

What's all this mean for our region?

An administration that prefers road infrastructure projects over rail and bus projects could pose big challenges for the region for several reasons.

If the administration gave private companies more power to build and maintain roads and bridges, it would create even more roadways with costly, controlled access—HOT lanes, HOV fees, toll roads, you name it. Expensive projects like these would most likely go up in areas where most people can afford to pay more for access. But for those who can't, and who still need to travel in these places, there could be real problems.

Also, if Republicans also take TIGER funds away from transit projects, local jurisdictions may find it harder to improve public transportation for residents to compensate for the new, more expensive roads.

Finally, any projects to conserve lands for walking or jogging will very likely be off the table, and it would be harder to build new bikeshare stations or bike lanes.


Having pets doesn't mean having a car

If you don't have a car or don't want to drive all the time, taking care of a pet can seem cumbersome. But transporting a small or medium pet without a car is easier than it sounds. As the proud servant to an 18-pound dog, I've learned how to take him around DC without a car.

Photo by Toby Bradbury on Flickr.

Of course, you can walk or bike to your destination with your furry friend in tow. But dogs, cats, and other small animals are also permitted in most taxis, Metro trains and buses, and Zipcars. Most of them require that you take your pet in a secure carrier.

I have a soft-sided airline on-board carrier for my dog, since I can use the carrier for anything and it has a shoulder strap for easy carrying. A hard-sided carrier would be difficult to manage with anything but very small pets, but is also a great multi-tasking option for very small dogs, kitties, lizards, snakes, and the like. There are even wheeled carriers now, some of which have backpack-like straps, that would be ideal for medium-size dogs that may be hard to lift or transport otherwise.

Metro may have the simplest rules for pets. WMATA allows animals on all trains and buses so long as they are contained in a secure carrier, except service animals. I take my dog in his carrier on the bus or train with some regularity. Some passengers object that I'm not allowed to bring my dog on board, but bus drivers and station managers always know that he is welcome and let others know the rules.

Zipcar rules are also straightforward: pets are fine so long as they're in a secure carrier. I know it's tempting to ignore this rule and just load your pet up without a carrier, but those of us with allergies thank you for following the rules. I am very allergic to most dogs and all cats, and spending time in a car with lingering pet dander would be a miserable experience for me.

Despite my dog being low-allergy, I still crate him if I'm using Zipcar to take him to the groomer, vet, or somewhere else. There's an off-chance that someone who uses the car after me might be so sensitive to pet dander that even my dog would bother them, and that is the spirit of the rule. Zipcar is also a decent option for transporting larger pets. Given a large enough vehicle to accommodate an appropriate crate, larger dogs are free to cruise.

Taxis are a bit more complicated. Of course, service animals are still permitted, but taxi drivers can refuse to take non-service animals. Title 31, Section 801.10(b) of the DC Municipal Regulations say that passengers can bring pets, but they need to be in a secure carrier unless the operator has a medical exemption certificate; the regulations also specify that a for-hire operator may, at their discretion, allow companion animals outside of carriers

When requesting a taxi, I always let the dispatcher know I will have a dog in a carrier with me. I've only once had a problem with this, at National Airport, which is not subject to DC regulations. A driver told me that I'd have to put my dog in the trunk or take another cab, but rather than objecting, I opted to just take a different taxi. Thankfully, the staff member handling the taxi line was able to get me a taxi driver happy to transport my crated dog promptly.

In some situations, you may need to street hail a cab with your pet. In order to refuse you, the cab drive must have a placard in the taxi saying they have an exemption. I sometimes take my dog in Uber sedans, and I've always followed their advice and called the driver as soon as he accepts the fare and let him know I have a dog in a carrier. I've never had an Uber driver refuse service on that basis, though the drivers do sometimes ask how big he is, so you may encounter problems with larger dogs.

There are also several pet taxi services in DC that can take your pet (with or without you) to vet or groomer's appointments or wherever else they need to go. These are the best option for folks with larger animals, as the vehicles are designed for pets and often don't require a crate. They are more expensive than regular cabs, but likely cheaper than owning a car, particularly if you don't need to regularly transport your pet by vehicle or your pet is small enough to take on the Metro.

Managing a pet without a car does present some challenges, but DC has resources to take your pet by public transportation, carshare, or hired vehicles. With the right equipment and knowledge, you can take great care of your pet without driving everywhere.

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