Greater Greater Washington

Cleveland Park's shops can thrive without the service lane

Cleveland Park businesses say they need a service lane on Connecticut Avenue. But a new study says that most people walk, bike, or take transit to their shops, suggesting they need a bigger sidewalk instead.


The service lane today. Photo from Google Street View.

The District Department of Transportation recently outlined four options for reconfiguring the service lane along Connecticut Avenue between Macomb and Ordway streets, built in 1962. The service lane has just 25 parking spots, but takes up most of the 24.5-foot wide space between the curb and the buildings, leaving just a narrow sliver of sidewalk.

The agency has now released a 330-page study of how people use this block, which found that 80% of Cleveland Park residents walk or bike to shops there, while 61% of all visitors arrive on foot, bike, or transit. The lane's awkward five-way intersections at Macomb and Ordway are unsafe too; a driver crossing there is 6 times as likely to have a collision than one at the bigger intersection of Connecticut and Porter one block away.

Let's talk about merchants, parking, and rush hour

The debate over the service lane is often seen as a conflict between local businesses and the neighborhood. Neighbors say they want more pleasant public spaces, pedestrian amenities, and gathering places, while the merchants say they can't survive without the service lane, ugly and hostile as it is.


Issues with the service lane today. Image from DDOT.

But at the end of the day, we all want this commercial strip to thrive. Most days, I personally eat lunch somewhere on this stretch of Connecticut Avenue. My family depends on Brookville Supermarket for groceries and on CVS and Walgreens for convenience goods. We buy gifts at Wake Up Little Suzy and Transcendence, bread at Firehook, and beer and wine at CP Liquors. And we visit the Uptown Theater as well.

How can we deliver the most customers to our beloved neighborhood stores to make sure we continue to enjoy a vibrant commercial strip?

Image of pedestrian traffic on Connecticut Avenue from DDOT.

Just 12% of Cleveland Park residents and 31% of all visitors come by car. And the service lane doesn't bring that many customers overall. According to the study, average turnover for parking spaces ranges from 75 minutes on weekends to 87 minutes on weekdays. Assuming these spaces are full all the time (and they often aren't), the spaces serve a maximum of around 250 customers each day. Meanwhile, between 200 and 700 pedestrians pass through each hour.


Number of people arriving in Cleveland Park during a weekday evening rush hour.
Graphic by author using DDOT data.

And during an average weekday rush hour (from 4:30 to 7:30pm), the service lane delivers an estimated maximum of 85 people to the neighborhood. During the same three hours, 2,273 people exit the Cleveland Park Metro station and 215 people arrive by bus.

There are better ways to manage parking demand

Cleveland Park's commercial area has about 545 parking spots. Without the service lane, it would have 520. We could destroy the remaining sidewalks in the neighborhood to create parking lots, and then maybe we'd have 570 spaces. Either way, we can't make significant changes to overall parking inventory.



The service lane makes up a small fraction of Cleveland Park's supply of parking spaces.
Image from DDOT.

So it doesn't make sense to focus on the supply of parking, but rather demand management: encouraging turnover and improving the overall parking experience.

DC is one of many cities experimenting with performance parking, which uses variable pricing to ensure that on every block no more than 85% of parking capacity is used at any time. This means that when you need to park somewhere, there's always a spot for you. It also increases turnover, so that any given parking spot delivers more customers per hour.

What Connecticut Avenue would look like without rush hour parking restrictions.
Image from DDOT; annotations by the author.

We can also better manage the supply of parking by ending rush hour restrictions. This would reduce the number of northbound lanes on Connecticut Avenue at rush hour from three lanes to two, but it would give merchants the parking they say they want and help justify restoring the historic sidewalk. It would also improve safety; according to the study, 25% of collisions occur just during the two hours when there are reversible lanes on Connecticut Avenue.

Other major commuter routes in Northwest DC, like Massachusetts Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue, and 16th Street, function just fine with two lanes. "Road diets" of this sort are shown to have a negligible effect on throughput and drive times while vastly improving the pedestrian experience.

A question of neighborhood character

A few years back, when DDOT suggested eliminating 150 curbside spots on 18th Street to make room for wider sidewalks, local business owners were initially taken aback. But they eventually got behind the project, realizing that they had much more to gain by making space for pedestrians. The neighborhood is now much more pleasant as a result, and the commercial corridor is as lively and diverse as ever.

Ultimately this comes down to the kind of neighborhood Cleveland Park wants to be. To some, Cleveland Park is a strip mall where people stop, run an errand or two, and then keep driving. An alternative vision of Cleveland Park's future is one where people come and linger because it's a nice place to be.

Will some customers choose to go where parking is abundant? Perhaps. But Cleveland Park's competitive edge is never going to be that it's easy to park here. It's never been easy to park here, and it never will be. If we're going to talk about competing with other neighborhoods for customers, we should be thinking not of areas where it's easy to drive, but areas like Woodley Park or Dupont Circle, which are more welcoming to pedestrians and have more vibrant public spaces.

How to get involved

To express your support for restoring the historic sidewalk in Cleveland Park, write to ideas@CPtransportationstudy.com. You can also sign this petition and participate in this informal survey. DDOT will hold its third and final open house on this study Wednesday, November 6 from 5:30 to 8pm at the Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library, located at 3310 Connecticut Avenue NW.

Herb Caudill lives in Cleveland Park with his wife, Lynne, and two young boys. He has lived in DC since 1995; he taught math as a Peace Corps volunteer in West and Central Africa, and currently runs DevResults, a web-based mapping and data management tool for foreign aid projects.  

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I DON'T go shopping there because of the service lane. I also don't really frequent any restaurants because the service lane is a hassle and uncomfortable. It seems like the service lane doesn't enable more business. In fact, in my view, it does just the opposite.

by Ben on Nov 1, 2013 10:30 am • linkreport

I wholeheartedly support removing the service lane so I hate to bring this up but a large portion of 16th St (that north of Irving) functions as 3 lanes during rush hour and the portion that is 2 lanes (south of Irving) crawls during rush hour so I wouldn't say it functions just fine with 2 lanes.

That said, this debate shouldn't be about whether to remove the service lane. That's a no brainer. The real debate is going to be whether to restore the sidewalk completely or have cutouts (cut-ins?) for parking.

by 7r3y3r on Nov 1, 2013 10:30 am • linkreport

Your last point sums it up best. What is the competitive advantage Cleveland Park enjoys and how can the retail mix optimize that advantage?

While I don' doubt the collective savvy and wisdom of the Cleveland Park merchants, in this case, I think they are being very myopic by supporting the service lane. They are really embracing a failed experiment, rather than truly returning the commercial strip to its historic roots.

by Andrew on Nov 1, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

As has been pointed out to DDOT many times, they inexplicably did their traffic study in the summer when nearly all of the schools are closed. What is this significant? Cleveland Park has only 1 DCPS school near the study area, yet about a dozen independent schools in the neighborhood. Together, these schools account for about 6,000-7,000 students, faculty and staff who come into or through study area daily, many of them by vehicle. They also presumably may stop/shop on Connecticut Ave. When it was pointed out that the DDOT study was done when all of the schools had recessed for summer vacation, they got defensive, then said, OK we goofed, but have no more money to update the study when the large school population is in session.

by Jasper2 on Nov 1, 2013 10:45 am • linkreport

The agency has now released a 330-page study of how people use this block, which found that 80% of Cleveland Park residents walk or bike to shops there, while 61% of all visitors arrive on foot, bike, or transit.

THIS THIS THIS. Hammer on this - put it in a flyer and paste it up all over. Give it to the business owners. Combine this information with your last point: what DC neighborhoods are already super-successful? The ones that have great transit access and pleasant walking spaces like CP should have!

by MLD on Nov 1, 2013 10:45 am • linkreport

If the planning objective is to change the commercial composition of the Cleveland Park strip, so that small stores are replaced by more restaurants, bars and cafes, then removing the service lane is probably a good idea.

by Sally on Nov 1, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

For many of these merchants, the reason they support the service lane (myopically, as noted) is because they don't want business to get any worse than it is. Aside from some of the pricier restaurants, I suspect many of these merchants are just holding on. I have no empirical knowledge of this fact, but would note the vast turnover of businesses over the past several years suggests something ain't right about the current configuration.

Any business, and the one I work in is no exception, has a very difficult time thinking outside the box they've always lived in. Changing what you always have done, even in the face of decreasing sales, requires a huge leap of faith that only the best businesses are willing to undertake. There are about a million business school books written on this topic.

For me, the signs in the window ought to be expected - who would want to take a risk when not taking one is easier. So it is unremarkable that these businesses would rather stay on the downward slope of revenue despite the clear logic of making this change.

by fongfong on Nov 1, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

@ Sally

There is a zoning overlay that limits the bar and restaurant composition.

by fongfong on Nov 1, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

@Jasper2

While there are many independent schools in the neighborhood, most have their orientation to Wisconsin Avenue, and except for the cross-town students (many of whom take Metro to Tenleytown) there is very little of this activity that stops in Cleveland Park or uses the service lane.

Burke students go to Van Ness.
Maret, NCS and St. Albans would likely go to Woodley Park and take the 90's bus up the hill.
Sidwell students go to Tenleytown.
Beauvoir students are being driven.

Field has a bus pick up at the Park n Shop, but they are waiting their for the bus every morning, not using the service lane or most of the merchants, who are closed at that early hour.

While that does punch a little hole in the DDOT study, it is disingenuous to suggest that the independent school cohort would have contributed significantly to these numbers.

by Andrew on Nov 1, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

Although I live here, I still can be amazed by Washington spin. I love that a blog that routinely derides historic preservation restrictions in general, and the Cleveland Park historic district in particular, as somehow outmoded and too restrictive of large development, dresses up its argument on this issue as one of restoring the "historic" sidewalk.

Historical? No, I'd say hysterical.

by Alf on Nov 1, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

Jasper2,

That's a lot of assumptions that rely on a huge portion of people involved with those schools are driving. But I that's the case then those 25 spots aren't really making a differene one way or the other.

Again, it's not just here, but when they measure the impact of parking loss vs increased pedestrian/sidewalk amenities it always comes back in favor of the sidewalks.

by Drumz on Nov 1, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

"That's a lot of assumptions that rely on a huge portion of people involved with those schools are driving."

I think if you asked anyone who lived in the vicinity of any of those independent schools, they would not say it is an assumption. It is the reality.

by Jasper2 on Nov 1, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

I look at projects like these across the country as part of my job. One thing always holds true no matter what - retailers ALWAYS grossly overestimate the number of their customers that arrive by car, and grossly underestimate the numbers that arrive by transit, walking or bike. I have tons of studies on road diets, streetscape projects, ped/bike projects, etc from the USA and Canada that all say the same thing

by Craig on Nov 1, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

Alf,

I know its crazy. It's as if commenters/authors here rely on context and specificity to base their opinions even when someone thinks they're pointing out some sort of hypocrisy.

by Drumz on Nov 1, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

Restaurants will do fine. Shops will not.

by charlie on Nov 1, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

So we have "what's apparent to residents" to DDOTs own studies (flawed as it's claimed to be). I think I'm fine sticking with DDOTs numbers.

And apparently the business owners themselves aren't good judges of how customers arrive (and that's ok, they just need to be good at figuring out what customers want when they're in te store) so why hold to that in the future?

by Drumz on Nov 1, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

Herb, fellow CP resident here. I'm afraid many residents are actually intent on keeping the strip as a place for errands and not much else. It's unfortunate, but this simply isn't the type of community that embraces the way forward. I'm also disappointed by the business community, but as many have noted, not surprised.

by SSinCP on Nov 1, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

I think if you asked anyone who lived in the vicinity of any of those independent schools, they would not say it is an assumption. It is the reality.

That's fine, but none of those school are within a half-mile of the service lane, so it is hard to understand the point you are trying to make given the lack of proximity.

by Andrew on Nov 1, 2013 11:13 am • linkreport

I don't think biz owners are wrong about how many people arrive via transit - this isn't a strip mall in suburbia with a light rail a half mile away, it's a neighborhood on three major bus lines that has a stop on the country's second-largest mass transit system.

I'd be willing to bet that some of the smaller merchants on the strip - the vacuum repair shop, all fired up, etc. - wouldn't survive the six months of construction directly outside their doors.

The service lane and the relatively narrow width of the sidewalks in CP are ridiculously tiny barriers to pedestrian life in the area. Surely there are bigger fights to pick.

by Corey on Nov 1, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

Out of curiosity, it is just customer parking that the merchants are worried about? Do trucks not park there to deliver goods? I'm usually in CP in the evening, so I'm not sure I would see deliveries being made.

by RDHD on Nov 1, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

SSinCP nailed it:

I'm afraid many residents are actually intent on keeping the strip as a place for errands and not much else.

This is my sense of many locals' attitudes (I live up the road a bit at Van Ness). They like driving to their 'neighborhood-serving retail' and don't want the status quo to change any.

by Dizzy on Nov 1, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

@ Andrew--

I count at least three independent schools within a half mile: WIS, Maret and the Adas Israel pre-school. John Eaton PS (where 70% of the students arrive from outside the school boundaries) is within a half-mile, so is NCRC, and Beauvoir is pretty close. Just a little farther are NCS, Saint Albans, Sidwell's upper and middle schools.

by Jasper2 on Nov 1, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

One problem is that the option that would fully restore the sidewalk (option 4) has been arrayed with others such that it's perceived as the most aggressive, rather than a middle way, even though it simply restores the pre-1960s condition. This hurts its chances for selection as we all know that in these types of studies, the middle way is usually the most likely to be chosen, especially with some fairly strong resistance to change from the neighborhood.

by Jonathan P on Nov 1, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

"I'm afraid many residents are actually intent on keeping the strip as a place for errands and not much else. It's unfortunate, but this simply isn't the type of community that embraces the way forward."

I'm trying to figure out exactly what the "way forward" and real agenda is here. Is it that neighborhood residents should have to drive east of the Park or drive to north Bethesda to run their errands? That Cleveland Park become pretty much a wine, dine and entertainment destination? Please elaborate.

by Sally on Nov 1, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

@Jasper2
I count at least three independent schools within a half mile: WIS, Maret and the Adas Israel pre-school. John Eaton PS (where 70% of the students arrive from outside the school boundaries) is within a half-mile, so is NCRC, and Beauvoir is pretty close. Just a little farther are NCS, Saint Albans, Sidwell's upper and middle schools.

And the point is? Are people bringing their kids to these schools parking the service lane and then walking the half-mile to the school?

I guess the assumption used to criticize the DDOT report is that lots of these parents then drive to Cleveland Park and shop? Seems like a stretch to me.

by MLD on Nov 1, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

@ Sally

To imply there is an agenda here that is anything other than making Cleveland Park a more walkable neighborhood is just plain silly. The proponents, and DDOT, are seeking a better quality of life.

Oh that, and Herb owns a few stores in downtown Bethesda.

by fongfong on Nov 1, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

@Sally

i>I'm trying to figure out exactly what the "way forward" and real agenda is here. Is it that neighborhood residents should have to drive east of the Park or drive to north Bethesda to run their errands? That Cleveland Park become pretty much a wine, dine and entertainment destination? Please elaborate.

I can only speak for myself, but my real agenda would be to stop having to dodge persons, objects, and cars when walking along the east side of Connecticut Avenue because the sidewalk is barely wide enough for two people walking side by side. The western side of the street has good, person-focused sidewalks that encourage pedestrian and retail activity. The eastern side of the street has a narrow strip of pedestrian space that encourages getting hit by cars.

by Dizzy on Nov 1, 2013 12:46 pm • linkreport

Another thing worth noting is that restaurants in Cleveland Park with outdoor seating do very well. Dinos, Palena, Alero, Medium Rare, Sorriso, Indique, Uptown, hell, even Subway, all have outdoor seating that is well utilized.

by SSinCP on Nov 1, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

Here's a potential "out-of-the-box" solution.

Since the merchants in the 3400 block of Conn. Ave that have the most to lose are the stores that are likeliest to have customers who travel by car such as a dry cleaner, vacuum repair store, etc. (dunno about you but I hate carrying a ton of dry cleaning or a vacuum) lets have them swap spaces with the businesses on the 3500 block which has off-street parking and would benefit most from sidewalk space. As far as I can see, the 3500 block of Connecticut Ave has three restaurants (Thai, California Tortilla and a cafe) that could be moved into the 3400 block and would benefit from the wider sidewalks. They could swap with the dry cleaner, the bank, and the vacuum repair shop which could benefit from the off-street parking. Yes, it would require a change in the zoning overlay and some creative finagling with leases, but it would make everybody happy. Merchants who benefit from car drivers get their parking, and the service lane is eliminated, and a new restaurant strip with outdoor seating is born. Win-win as I see it.

by 17BobTreyO on Nov 1, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

DDOT did a 330-page study just for this one block? Wow.

But to general discussion:

1. Would this "service lane" be installed today if it weren't already there? I don't think the answer is yes, but if so, shouldn't we replicate the same thing on the other side of the street? Seems like the stores on that side are at a competitive disadvantage, right?

2. I don't see it as being all that convenient to park there as it is; it's always a mess. If I'm driving, then there are other stores to go just a short driving distance away that have actual parking. The reason those stores are still in business is because they're conveniently located within walking distance to the folks who patronize them, not because they have a parking lane.

by Adam L on Nov 1, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

I used to live near there. The service lane was horrible. Every time someone parked, traffic in the lane would stop. Cars were always circling there. If for some reason we were in the car and going to a shop or restaurant on the strip I'd park elsewhere.

by Weiwen on Nov 1, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

Yea, it goes without saying that actually parking on either side of the service lane is a huge pain, involving either parallel parking out of a Connecticut Avenue travel lane (fun!) or driving down the service lane at 3 mph to avoid hitting pedestrians and then parallel parking while hoping you don't hit anything or anyone. Available spaces are generally few and far between.

On the few occasions when I find myself with car in that area, I always just park somewhere on Ordway.

by Dizzy on Nov 1, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

17BobTreyO -- good idea, but there is probably a significant difference in rents, especially given the fact that the park and shop is owned by Federal Realty. Those uses like the vacuum shop are able to stay in business as a function of the rents they make right now. If there were two floors to that shopping block, the pottery shop especially but probably the vacuum store and even the dry cleaners would probably do ok on a second floor.

There aren't many places where a second floor retail section works generally, because of the availability of spaces on the ground floor.

Shadyside in PGH is a rare example of such a situation. Because of the high income demographics of the area, and the constrained availability of retail space.

It's too bad these strips weren't built as two stories back when they were built. The ability to add a second floor is pretty minimal, given the historic designation.

But that's really what needs to happen in order to strengthen the retail mix (as opposed to the restaurant mix).

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-its-hard-to-holiday-shop-in-dcs.html

2. Great piece.

by Richard Layman on Nov 1, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

I walk along the service lane through Cleveland Park a lot. The width of the sidewalk is no narrower than some of the sidewalks along Connecticut Ave. by Dupont Circle. I don't get what all the fuss about the service lane is. If you look at the photo above, the sidewalk appears wide enough and the service lane seems to provide a more sheltered oasis for both parking and pedestrians alike, more removed from the fast traffic of the avenue.

by Alicia on Nov 1, 2013 3:08 pm • linkreport

@Alicia

The fuss is about whether our public space should be used for people or car storage. I, for one, think the Connecticut Avenue sidewalks near Dupont Circle are far too narrow and should be expanded (though I realize that may not be practical given the underpass). The Cleveland Park sidewalk is about the same width as the south side of U Street before the streetscape project, which has since been much better and safer after they removed parking to expand the sidewalk.

by Adam L on Nov 1, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

Jasper2: Think about this - is a parent in one of the Volvos that queue endlessly outside of St. Albans or Sidwell going to put a vacuum in their trunk, go to work, pick up their kid, and drop off the vacuum later? Wouldn't you just wait until Saturday?

This seems very obfuscatory of real issues that might be affecting use of the parking spaces. Parking at higher prices or with shorter limits should take care of quick trips to Wake Up Little Suzie, Brookville Market, and Brother.

by Neil Flanagan on Nov 1, 2013 5:14 pm • linkreport

The absence of Metro Rail on Wisconsin Ave south of Tenleytown, plays a major long term factor here for many residents of the Cleveland Park Area, 1 mile or more (20 minutes walk or more) from the nearest Red line Metro stop at Cleveland Park. This forces cars for most basic lugging chores, and heat and rain avoidance, making parking essential, for even the most basic tasks, saving people like me 30 minutes or more per chore trip compared with walking.

Short term, the Giant grocery store on Newark St and Wisconsin Ave is currently demolished, hopefully being rebuilt, along with most stores such as pharmacy and coffee shops, so we are without the walking distance (e.g. 10 minutes or 0.5 miles) non-Metro stop service area, so we in the neighborhood are forced to either walk 20 minutes each way, while carrying stuff, or forced to drive and park. There is no easy transit solution in place.

Combined this puts intense pressure on the service lane, for 10 minute trips to the ATM, pharmacy, pick up take out food, and similar.

I am going to draw a sharp distinction between local last mile driving, and people who drive massive distances, and use Cleveland Metro stop area for dining and drinking. The long haul drivers should be better served by Metro parking structures and use Metro to visit anywhere in downtown DC, such as Cleveland Park. Short haul local drivers have a much more difficult problem, needing parking for short trips to the nearest Metro and service strip.

The long term solution for local transportation may be a tiny feeder shuttle bus, (priced like parking meters?), using the Macomb Street corridor, from Connecticut to Wisconsin Ave, and perhaps as far as Massachusetts Ave tower blocks, and/or Idaho Ave/Cathedral Ave tower blocks, using the Macomb Street spoke in a bee line, but doing clockwise loops of this Metro stop area's service lane block using the alley from Macomb Street to Ordway Street, behind these service lane shops. The Cleveland Park Metro is on the Ordway/Porter block of Connecticut. This tiny feeder bus would greatly help move people of all ages, from the Connecticut Ave and even Mass Ave apartments to the nearest Metro stop and services "hip strip".

(Perhaps a school bus route, moving just older children 7 grade and up, from Cleveland Park Metro, to WIS, NCS, and St. Albans, might be another way to slash car trips to the neighborhood. This shuttle bus would have to be just for these kids, and metered and shared, for parents piece of mind and child safety. Maret is closer to Woodley Park Metro, and Sidwell Friends to Tenleytown Metro. When I was in the 7th Grade, I commuted by London Underground to School.)

The alley behind the shops on this block with the service lane, might be cleaned up for faster circulation by feeder bus and car, and perhaps shortest term parking added, such as for an ATM, but it is extremely narrow, and restaurant trash bins are not always carefully stowed, therefore often blocking the alley.

As minor technical matter, there is a major service lane redesign problem which is that the Metro platform fire exit is in the curbed area between the service lane parking and the Connecticut Ave parking, near the Public Library on Macomb Street. This facility can not be easily relocated, using hydrolic rams to open the grates and lift exit stares into place, at the top of a stair case at least 4 stories deep.

A public parking structure on Ordway (north side), east of Connecticut Ave, behind the Tortilla place, much like Bethesda's public parking structures, might minimize the parking strain, and permit local people driving, to shop, leave the load with the store for a few minutes, collect their car, and quickly load their shopping while idling in the alley behind this row of shops.

Improving the alleys west of Connecticut, such as behind the Wallgreens, between Porter and Ordway, could also remove considerable local cars from Connecticut Ave, and simplify pick ups and drop offs for chores, or if it is raining, or over 90 degrees (plus humidity). Connecting the alley from Ordway St to Newark St, and building a new alley from Newark St to Macomb St, would greatly simplify commercial loading and unloading, as well as many minor individual car pick ups and drop offs, and reduce cars on Connecticut Ave, an area that should be largely desirable pedestrian/walk-ability focused, and Metro focused.

Given the value of the Metro stop, many of the buildings in the one block east and west of Connecticut in back of the commercial low rise solar access directly on the Avenue, should be drastically taller, 14 story residential and some commercial, and rezoning and requiring developers to build these improved alley streets, and in some case build off street pay parking structures, hidden from Connecticut Ave, would sharply increase walking and opportunity density, while not preventing cars for minor short trips, and perhaps keeping the ratio of cars per strip customer constant, at least for longer events such as premium meals and extended shopping.

These several solutions would greatly reduce local car traffic for the larger catchment of this shopping area.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 1, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

One point to consider here is that extended/enhanced RPP is being considered for Cleveland Park. This would essentially fewer street parking spots available on Ordway or Macomb for people going to restaurants and stores who do not have the appropriate RPP decal.

by Jack on Nov 2, 2013 8:15 am • linkreport

@ Nathaneil,

A thoughtful post, but 14 story buildings on Connecticut are most unlikely. A proposal some years back to raze buildings on the east side of Connecticut and build taller was the catalyst for the historic district, to stop what was termed the "Van Nessification" of Cleveland Park.

by Sally on Nov 2, 2013 8:31 am • linkreport

@Sally, not "on" Connecticut, not replacing the single story commercial, but rather on the rear side of the blocks facing Connecticut, typically across the alley from any business you have heard of, creating tall buildings and walkable urban density overlooking the commercial service zone.

@Jack
The big flaw with Residential Parking Permits is that they cover massive area but not one or more streets in a one block radius around DC public schools. This means anyone living on a street designated public parking for DC public school teachers is denied an RPP sticker for their car. So you can "zone 3" Cleveland Park all you want, but it excludes people like me, near a DCPS, who need to get stuff done, such as quick chores and lugging, therefore denied zone 3 sticker unlike everyone in a 1 mile radius, until you find the next DCPS. The RPP solution is to force the city to give RPP passes to anyone living on the unzoned parking next to DCPS schools, so they can shop and park with the sticker, but not have zoned parking in front of their homes next to a DC Public School, so teachers can keep parking.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 2, 2013 8:51 am • linkreport

I do own a business on the street by the service lane. As much as a parking lot would be great to have in Cleveland Park, a more beautiful strip would be even more important. All over the city, neighborhoods thrive when revamped. It is a simple fact.
So, by adding a large sidewalk instead of an ugly service lane, making it an eye catcher, businesses will thrive as well... Just imagine: planters, benches and more... Wouldn't it be better looking and more enjoyable than to see cars and run down curbs?

by Florence D on Nov 2, 2013 9:32 am • linkreport

Glad to see Florence's post, by supporting this her business and her neighborhood will thrive.

Be interesting to do a quick survey of concerned business owners - I bet you'll find that a lot of them drive to work and often park their cars out front, and this is really first and foremost their concern. They'll feel better once this change is made and their business improves - just as it does in every other instances where car-oriented urban retail is converted to walkable retail.

If the community is concerned about being able to stop in by car and pick up something quickly from retail, switch the remaining parking on the block right out front to 15 minute meters, the adjoining blocks to 30 or 60 minute meters - then enforce the rules against feeding the meter, If Cleveland Park is anything like my neighborhood, 14th Street, you have lots of people parking for long stretches at 2-hour meters, often feeding the meters, making it almost impossible to do something like quickly park to run into the dry cleaner or the wine store.

That way you can both restore the historic sidewalk widths AND increase short drop-in accessibility to shops.

by Paul H on Nov 2, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

"hopefully being rebuilt"

If the Giant isn't being rebuilt, I am not sure what the major construction project on Wisconsin Avenue might be.

Good post.

by William on Nov 2, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

@ Florence D--

Can you tell us which business you own, or at least describe the type of business. I suspect that some businesses may be more dependent on the service than others. Thanks.

PS - I certainly agree that, even if the present configuration is left in place, curb and sidewalk repairs and more tree planting and streetscape improvements should take place there.

by Sally on Nov 2, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

"Other major commuter routes in Northwest DC, like Massachusetts Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue, and 16th Street, function just fine with two lanes."

Ahhhhahhahhahhhhahhhhaaaahhhhhaaahahhahahhahhhhaaa,

Whew! That was funny.

I guess you never took a bus back up Mass Ave. during rush hour, or tried to navigate Wisconsin at that hour.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Nov 3, 2013 10:34 am • linkreport

I have to say I'm a little confused by the numbers presented.

"80% of Cleveland Park residents walk or bike to shops there, while 61% of all visitors arrive on foot, bike, or transit"
"12% of Cleveland Park residents and 31% of all visitors come by car"

I suppose the other 8% of Cleveland Park residents and the other 8% of visitors arrive by other conveyance. Perhaps, hang-gliders, parachutes or skateboards.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Nov 3, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

Not that I'm saying the service lane is a vital thing -- but, you have to use the right numbers -- and arguments about restricting traffic on Connecticut at rush hour are, I hope, non-starters..unless you're prepared to invest in transit options that will get 33% of those commuters out of their cars (and, that's simplistic, because not all the traffic is commuting cars (trucks and even buses are a big part).

DDOT can't consider just the needs of the residents of Cleveland Park in designing the streetscape. Those roads serve tens of thousands of commuters to businesses in DC, and only a fraction of that total will stop in that area. Taking away a travel lane will disadvantage a lot of people, and might adversely affect more businesses than might be helped. Even arranging it to back-up traffic while parking is attempted could be an idea that creates all sorts of unintended downstream consequences.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Nov 3, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

I can't understand the diagrams in this article. I think the "around the clock" parking in the current 6th flex street lane, ending the rush hour "no parking" policy, creates an intentional car constriction, to create delay and to ummm... encourage Metro use.

(If the Cleveland Park "bottle neck" is an intentional strategy for this service lane removal, the city should be building massive parking structures to capture Maryland cars and convert them into Metro and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses at Friendship Heights Metro stop on Wisconsin Ave on the Maryland border, Tenleytown Metro where River Road from Maryland touches the Red line, and Van Ness Metro stop, where Red line and Connecticut Ave first cross. Correctly implemented this would carefully convert car commuters to downtown, into Metro rail and BRT users. To fund a network of capture parking structures suggests an integrated gas station concession to easily refuel inside the parking structures, like the New Jersey and Maryland I-95 rest stops, to earn income from such commuters, and a tax on downtown long term parking to fund the removal of cars from downtown roads. These are the only way to partially implement road metering.)

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 4, 2013 1:17 am • linkreport

Assuming no rush hour disruption to commuting in Cleveland Park, continuing no parking on 6 lanes during rush hour, means either no parking at all on this block during rush hour, or widening the street by one lane (a 7th lane) for around the clock parallel street parking, by converting (almost all of) the service lane island (by length) into street parking, while converting the service lane and service parking lane parking into much wider sidewalk for pedestrians.

Converting the bulk of the service lane area into larger pedestrian space, (equal to the current sidewalk, the service lane, and most of the service lane parking) and widening Connecticut Ave by one lane (7th lane) for around the clock street parking, to prevent disruption to rush hour by using the service island and perhaps a smidgen of the service parking lane width, as a compromise, and reduce total car parking slightly, to this Metro stop focused neighborhood, to enhance pedestrian space, but not remove as much parking as much as this plan might have done for these businesses and the much larger neighborhood.

If a new 7th lane is added for "around the clock" parking, with street parallel parking layout, the curbs at all legal sidewalks should never be removed, remaining bumped out to through the 7th parking lane idea, so the street for pedestrians is only as wide as the current street, only 6 lanes, so that it is as safe to walk across the street in the future as it is today, at the 3 legal stop light crossing, at Macomb St, Ordway St, and the newest crossing in the middle of the block.

During non-rush hour parking, creates several opportunities for maximizing parking under the current reorganization proposal.

Assuming the new "around the clock" 7th lane parallel street parking, especially during rush hour, the non-rush hour parking maximization opportunities are:

1) Nose in parking like 18th Street in Adams Morgan during non rush hour, but single lane parallel parking during rush hour, (I don't like this idea, because the gap between the cars to open doors is much wider than people realize, and backing out safely is too difficult. Parking at an angle for longer cars suggests wasting even more space, with the two triangles of dead space, in front and behind the car.)

OR Double Parking strategies during non-rush times using both lanes,
2) Expanding valet parking, (in front of Ardeo/Bardeo near Macomb Street, on the right side southern end of the maps above) double parked in two parallel lanes (if both lanes can be legally used, such as legal use of parking meter spaces by the valet) where the valet controls both the lanes of parking for a relevant chunk of parking, this is well west of the Metro Station,

3) For the second parallel lane "parking" use the outer parking lane as Taxi stand during non-rush hour, next to the car street parking, especially from Ordway Street, near the Metro station, and back toward Macomb. This would make a clean line of taxis, using the 6th lane during non rush for multimodal transportation. This is the north end of the Connecticut Ave between Ordway St to Macomb St,

I don't like option "1" nose-in, but think options "2" combined with "3", would use much of the 6th lane, elegantly using most of the blocks 6th lane during non-rush hour.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 4, 2013 2:09 am • linkreport

@Richard. Thanks for your well-thought out response. Here's my take on the merchants who say they can't afford to move because they're barely getting by as it is. I would turn that on its head, and say "you have to move because you're barely getting by as it is..." The narrow sidewalk, not the service lane is the reason why. As the DDOT study has noted, many folks walk there, but are turned off by the narrow access. Wonder how many folks have said "I really need to fix my vacuum, but I can't ever find a place to park" or "I hate using the stores there, its too crowded."

If you move those businesses across the street to the 3500 block, I would almost guarantee that their business (both by car and by walker) would pick up and they could afford the higher rent. Same for the restaurants in the 3500 block. With outdoor seating now available for those restaurants, they have higher sales per square foot, allowing them to afford the higher rent.

Also, given that the city is likely to have to compensate the merchants when construction (in whatever form) eventually takes place, it would seem just as easy to help pay for those merchants move one block up. True, you'd have to compensate the restauranteurs who'd be impacted by the move down a block and construction, but you'd still have a win-win. They get a bigger, renovated space, with outdoor seating, and their likely improved sales per square foot would offset any increase in rent.

I'd be interested to run some numbers on how much this might cost the city. I freely stipulate it would probably cost more initially, but it would result in an ideal solution for merchants, restauranteurs, and the Cleveland Park neighborhood and the higher sales would likely be returned to the city in the form of increased tax revenue to boot in later years.

by 17BobTreyO on Nov 4, 2013 10:32 am • linkreport

Also, perhaps as an incentive for the restaurants currently in the 3500 block to move down into the 3400 block, the city could suspend the outdoor cafe permitting fees and the per-square foot sidewalk rental tax (currently $5 a square foot for unenclosed cafes and $10 a square foot for enclosed cafes) for a period of one year, while naturally compensating the existing restaurants in that block who would be impacted by lower sales due to the construction. (perhaps also giving them a one-year tax break on permitting and rental tax fees to encourage them to build outside seating as well)

by 17BobTreyO on Nov 4, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

I have lived in Cleveland park for 30 years and have probably driven in the service lane twice I believe and disliked it both times (I usually walk because I have legs). It's a mess with tight parking, confusing signs and dogs and pedestrians constantly running in the road. I don't believe removing the service lane will significantly impair parking but WILL make shopping and eating on conecticut avenue much more pleasant for all.

by John on Nov 4, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

Mr. Pendleton hinted at this (and I admit having not read the report), but I think an effective compromise solution here would be to eliminate the service lane and add a permanent parking lane (i.e. the "7th lane" as Pendleton put it) on that side of Connecticut Ave. If I'm reading things right, there's 25ft between the curb edge along Connecticut Ave proper and the sidewalk edge. With an 8ft parking lane plus 6ft for some sort of bicycle facility (even if it's only a block long and on one side of the street), the remaining 11ft would be for sidewalk expansion. Bulb-outs can be added at the crosswalks.

Though this requires removing the existing trees/shrubs along the service lane (I count 12 in Google Earth), replacement trees/shrubs can be added to tree-boxes in the expanded sidewalk.

by Froggie on Nov 4, 2013 8:48 pm • linkreport

And now it's being reported that DDOT has dropped the idea of removing the service lane due to "business opposition"...

by Froggie on Nov 4, 2013 8:54 pm • linkreport

http://www.popville.com/2013/11/dino-closing-in-cleveland-park-reopening-in-a-new-location/

"We have had a great run, and we go out being Washingtonian’s Best Restaurant and City Paper’s Best Italian in their Readers Poll. We simply are not doing the kind of business necessary to justify keeping our doors open."

They plan to reopen in a new location. Hmm I wonder if its somewhere where there is more foot traffic?

by BTA on Nov 19, 2013 6:22 pm • linkreport

@BTA, your Dino logic is backwards. Dino is closest to the Metro, and the first restaurant on the service lane from the Metro, therefore this restaurant address is most likely to benefit from people not wanting to walking down the narrow service lane sidewalk. If Ardeo and Bardeo at the far end of the service lane from the Metro, had moved with this artilces style of notice, you might have a point. Please try again.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 19, 2013 6:55 pm • linkreport

Yup that's why they're relocating to Shaw because they don't need foot traffic or anything. People aren't going to go to a neighborhood to hang out if its not a fun place to hang out.

by BTA on Nov 19, 2013 8:47 pm • linkreport

Sounds like Dino is moving for lower rents per square foot, because Cleveland Park remains such a desirable destination, surrounded by such a large number of wealthy restaurant customers, rent in Cleveland Park has typically been higher than Shaw, and the Red line from Union Station to Bethesda MD, the most affluent section of Metro rail in the city. The controversial business of gentrification also suggests that Shaw may eventually become as valuable as Cleveland Park, but for the time being might be a sensible economic move to decrease fixed costs. Unfortunately the Yellow and Green Metro lines have typically had sharply lower income customers and home owners, discouraging restaurant use. With even less parking than Cleveland Park, Shaw is not a desirable destination for random suburban customers. The strength of Shaw is a higher foot traffic from higher density than many neighborhoods in the city, but not as likely as high as Cleveland Park's Connecticut Ave apartment buildings.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 19, 2013 9:58 pm • linkreport

That's some tortured logic there. Who are you trying to convince exactly?

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

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