Greater Greater Washington

Besides Metro and a gondola, plan lays out many ways to burnish Georgetown

Georgetown used to be DC's premier shopping district, but development downtown and in other neighborhoods, coupled with the lack of a Metro station, have made it lose some of its luster. A new "Georgetown 2028" plan lays out strategies to spruce up the neighborhood's commercial areas.


All images from Georgetown 2028 plan unless otherwise noted.

The Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID) worked with community groups, residents, the university, and the city to reach consensus on proposals. That gives the plan a lot more chance of becoming reality, but it does also mean that in several key areas it just calls for more studies where there wasn't consensus.

The neighborhood stands solidly behind getting a Metro station, if it can. The plan also suggests studies for an aerial gondola to Rosslyn, an idea that initially seems kind of far-fetched, but is also intriguing. Supporters like BID Executive Director Joe Sternlieb are confident it is a more cost-effective way to move a lot of people; it'll be interesting to see a more detailed analysis when one is ready.

There's also a suggestion to build a pedestrian and bicycle bridge from the waterfront to Roosevelt Island, and then on to Virginia.

Most of the proposals in the plan are smaller aesthetic improvements that can polish up what's already there. If and when a streetcar comes to K Street, that street will need a lot of facelift elements to make it feel more like a gateway to the neighborhood as opposed to a back alley.

To better connect K to the main strip on M, the plan suggests studying a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the C&O Canal west of 33rd Street, and redesigning the one at 33rd, as well as improving other connections. The idea is to integrate K and M and the blocks in between as an integrated district, says Topher Mathews, a Greater Greater Washington contributor and board member of the Citizens' Association of Georgetown who participated in developing the plan.

More buildings south of M could have ground-floor retail, especially once there will be much more foot traffic along those streets between M and the streetcar on K. Where retail isn't possible, maybe there can be public art and seating:

Improve connections west, east, and south

The plan talks about ways to better connect Georgetown University to the neighborhood. One is a simpler pedestrian connection to M Street, perhaps passing through buildings like the Car Barn or new buildings like one that could replace the gas station at the foot of the Key Bridge.

In the longer term, it calls for a study about how to connect the streetcar to the university. But if the streetcar is down on K/Water Street, that probably means some kind of tunnel under the mountain. If there's a way to get the money for it, that could then bring the streetcar even across the university and up to neighborhoods to the north, but tunnels are not cheap.

On the eastern side of the neighborhood, Rock Creek Parkway and the ramps to and from the Whitehurst create a formidable barrier for anyone not in a car (and sometimes even in one) between Georgetown and Foggy Bottom.

Suggestions in the plan include a clear and comfortable pedestrian route to and from the Foggy Bottom Metro station, and a better bicycle connection between the Capital Crescent Trail and Rock Creek Parkway trail. For drivers, there's a suggestion to let the off-ramp from southbound Rock Creek become a reversible ramp for northbound traffic in the afternoon peak, when Rock Creek Parkway is one-way.

And lots more

The C&O Canal is a real jewel, but limited NPS resources and restrictive rules mean people don't have many chances to enjoy it. One section of the plan talks about enlivening the canal, but at this point there aren't many details. Rather, it calls for a "multi-stakeholder" process to figure out how to better use the canal.

And how about real-time information? The Georgetown BID is working with TransitScreen, the company Matt Caywood founded to commercialize the open source screens Eric Fidler built on a fellowship for Arlington's Mobility Lab. (Disclosure: I was involved in managing the Mobility Lab project as well.)

The plan suggests piloting and then expanding screens in shop windows, as well as real-time signs or screens to give information about parking availability. (That's assuming, of course, the BID can work out something acceptable to the historic review boards.)


Concept for Georgetown transit screen from TransitScreen.

What's not in the plan: better parking management and wider sidewalks

However, also notable is the absence of some of the more significant ways to improve Georgetown, but which are also controversial. As is often the case, it mostly comes down in some way to parking.

The sidewalks on M Street are far too narrow for the volume of pedestrians along there. Yet a lane on each side serves as parking, even though only a very small number of cars can park along M and bring only a very tiny minority of shoppers.


Photo by Christopher Chan on Flickr.

Working groups for the plan explored widening sidewalks, but there wasn't enough consensus among people in the neighborhood to reallocate the tight space among pedestrians, rush hour driving, parking, and more. Some argued that the narrow sidewalks were even a historic feature of the neighborhood that had to be preserved as is.

The plan alludes to this dissent, with statements like, "Proposals for permanent sidewalk widening on principal corridors have raised concerns over the potential impact on Georgetown's already heavy traffic congestion. Any sidewalk widening efforts should focus on creating space where, and when, it is most needed."

Instead of recommending any widenings, the plan more vaguely suggests trying some pilot projects on weekends to temporarily widen sidewalks when traffic is low, and to put "parklets" on some side streets. Perhaps if those succeed and residents see the sky doesn't fall, they can become permanent on weekends, or even permanent at all times.


Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

One reason some fear losing the parking on M is that shoppers headed for M often circle nearby streets to look for free 2-hour (or, on Sundays, all-day) parking. The private lots are fairly expensive, while the streets are free. However, a few spaces on M won't really change this dynamic: the simple fact is that all of those meter spaces are almost always full, and free parking is really appealing compared to pay garages.

I personally have spent 15 minutes or more driving around the blocks near M to find a free space when none of the meters was available and my wife and I needed to do some quick shopping. The problem is that most of the garages, like many around the city, are something like $9 for the first hour and $15 for 2 hours or all day; it's one thing if you're going to stay a long time, but for a 1½ hour shopping trip it seems exorbitant.

Plus, there's always the chance of getting a free space just around the corner. When you first arrive, you might as well drive around to see if there's a space. Once you've been at it a while, it psychologically seems even more silly to give up on spending all that time and go pay the same amount you'd have paid from the start in a garage. Any minute you might find something (and, eventually, you do!)

A simple solution to this is to require drivers who aren't Georgetown residents to pay for curbside parking on residential blocks using the pay-by-phone system. The rate can be lower than the garages for short term parking but high enough to push longer-term parkers to the garages. At the very least it would generate money that could help pay for some of the elements of this plan.

DDOT parking manager Angelo Rao convened some meetings last year to talk about this possibility, which had support from advocates and some ANC commissioners, but they encountered significant opposition from a number of residents. Rao is now no longer at the agency, and many neighborhood leaders have now abandoned efforts to allow paying for parking on residential streets, according to contributor Ken Archer, who participated in the working groups. Mathews notes, however, that other parking ideas might still gain consensus.

A Metro station would be great, but it's a long way off and may never happen. In the meantime, there are ways Georgetown can better use its street space that balance the needs of all road users, but that will mean making some changes that aren't popular with everybody.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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I agree with the article, and am happy to see Georgetown is thinking about its future. Honestly, the first focus should be on better options for pedestrians.

However, forcing people to pay by phone is ridiculous. A lot of people do not have a smart phone. Even more people do not have a mobile app for parking.

by Jasper on Jan 30, 2014 3:14 pm • linkreport

Really hope this plan dosen't change the character of Georgetown. Hope it never becomes Columbia Heights.

by Arlington Bob on Jan 30, 2014 3:19 pm • linkreport

The Alternatives Analysis for the K Street Transitway looked at bringing the streetcar up from the waterfront by way of Thomas Jefferson Street, since the grade of that street is relatively flat as compared to other streets on that hill.

What they settled on, dead-ending the streetcar at K and Wisconsin/Water, seems to have very little upside. There is virtually no expansion possibility from that location; if we're going to spend money tunneling in Georgetown, it's going to be for a Metro line. What's more, by having the streetcar use the Washington Circle underpass, it will also fail to connect Georgetown to the Foggy Bottom Metro.

If the streetcar had run up Penn Ave onto M Street from Washington Circle, it would have connected the activity center around Metro to the West End and onto Georgetown. That stretch is and always will be the premier commercial corridor, and it would have captured a lot of the traffic that utilizes the 30s presently to reach Metro.

As it stands, pedestrian connections to the east and west need work. Hopefully the Canal Road study will result in an improved pedestrian/cycling experience from Georgetown to points west, but connections to Foggy Bottom -- particularly by way of the waterfront -- are similarly underwhelming.

Walking via Washington Harbour through parking lots to cross over the Rock Creek freeway onto the Virginia Avenue speedstrip isn't a pedestrian-friendly experience, and neither is climbing out from the burrows under the Whitehurst Freeway onto K Street. There should be sidewalks on both sides of K coming up to the intersection with 27th, and the ridiculously narrow sidewalks along K through Foggy Bottom's historic district to Metro are clearly ADA-deficient.

The gist of the plan and this post are pretty solid: The main thing limiting Georgetown's potential to improve are its poor transportation connections to surrounding neighborhoods and the region generally. Solve some of those issues, and it can probably reclaim a lot of its luster as a regional destination.

by Patrick Kennedy on Jan 30, 2014 3:19 pm • linkreport

I like Patrick Kennedy's post, especially the end re: connections. This might have been an exclusive area and you needed to knock to enter to gain access to its great shops and restaurants. But now all of that is easily accessible in numerous other areas that are easy to reach and are pleasant to walk around in. So Georgetown is losing, absent changes.

by JDC on Jan 30, 2014 3:27 pm • linkreport

@ArlingtonBob, I think that existence of the Old Georgetown Board makes changing the character of the neighborhood impossible, even if you wanted to.

While I'm in a stream-of-consciousness mode, I have to confess two ideas I've always thought would be cool for Georgetown:

1. Closing the Whitehurst to traffic one Sunday morning a month and opening it up to bicycles and pedestrians. Closing Wisconsin has been floated before; I don't think that would work, given the lack of an obvious reliever and the heavy use it gets from bus traffic, but the Whitehurst isn't needed as a traffic reliever on Sunday mornings -- and closing it would allow non-motorized users to enjoy what cars do every day: some of the most beautiful views in D.C.

2. Transform the Georgetown portion of the C&O into a "Riverwalk"-type experience, ala San Antonio. Probably not substantially possible given NPS protections and the existing building stock, but the Georgetown stretch of the C&O is the closest thing that D.C. will ever have to an urban waterway that can be substantially engaged with retail and outdoor dining. It would be cool to see it paired with the upper, recreationally-used portion of the C&O towpath as a multi-use corridor.

by Patrick Kennedy on Jan 30, 2014 3:30 pm • linkreport

The article was an interesting and entertaining read. It sounds like there are two camps: the status quo and the progressives. I laughed when I read some justified the narrow sidewalks on the grounds of historic preservation. I guess the traffic choked streets deserve preservation too. The status quo camp must look at G'town as a gated community for residents and university students. The progressives want to connect it to the rest of the world. I biked over there months ago to find that anything to which I could have locked my bike at Wisc & M had been removed. I made a mental note to not return.

by likedrypavement on Jan 30, 2014 3:36 pm • linkreport

Shop Downtown: next stop - Metro Center!

by Districter on Jan 30, 2014 3:45 pm • linkreport

That damn gondola!

The thought of parking on M frightens me. All that traffic backing up behind you, honking if you're not a quick paralell parker. I prefer the side streets simply because they're quieter.

Anyway, wider sidewalks are a critical need. Even if that's the way it was back in the day (probably not).

But, remove the whitehurst. Turn Water street into K street and make it a nice boulevard with a nice turn lane to get onto Wisconsin. Then close off M Street to cars and reserve it for transit and carve out some spots for delivery vehicles. Voila.

by drumz on Jan 30, 2014 3:54 pm • linkreport

I put this together a while ago thinking about how traffic would work with the Whitehurst Freeway removed. Seems relevant to todays topic. http://goo.gl/maps/Ms9m5

by NikolasM on Jan 30, 2014 4:06 pm • linkreport

@drumz, I don't support removing the Whitehurst for a variety of reasons, but namely I think that its presence makes for a very pedestrian-friendly environment on K/Water. Traffic is slow, pedestrians have the right-of-way, the intersections all have crosswalks and/or stop signs, and the freeway provides great shade during the summer and when it rains.

I also don't think that the Whitehurst has proven to inhibit development along the Georgetown waterfront; the waterfront is better in 2014 with the movie theater, a rejuvenated Harbour, and a completed waterfront park than ever before.

Also, I suppose aesthetics are inherently a matter of taste, but I kind of like the gritty, industrial feel it gives to its area. Totally unique in D.C., and a throwback to the history of Georgetown's industrial waterfront. Very much like the Loop in Chicago.

Those reasons aside, however, there just isn't a workable solution for the traffic quagmire that would result from the Georgetown bypass being eliminated.

by Patrick Kennedy on Jan 30, 2014 4:08 pm • linkreport

The argument that the M St. sidewalk would lose its historic feel by being widened came from someone I highly respect who normally takes a progressive view on things (and fwiw bikes and walks everywhere because he doesn't have a car). He's wrong about this, of course. The historic provenance of the streets is somewhat complicated by the fact that decades ago they were concrete. To at least understand where he's coming, though, the point he makes is that superwide sidewalks like there are on Penn Ave downtown have a lifeless feel. Of course the reason they feel lifeless is that there aren't many people on it, which wouldn't happen in Georgetown. Moreover, there are examples of very historic and quaint sidewalks in Georgetown that are quite wide (eg P St west of 30th).

Regardless, the point is that this is not a strong argument against widening sidewalks. But it was hardly the decisive one (what to do with rush hour lanes is far more of a concern). Ultimately the decision to explore pilot lane closures on weekends is much more likely to both offer immediate dividends and build support for a more permanent fix.

(Also, getting rid of excessive street lamps will help on space issues. Although bike parking is lacking and needs immediate attention in the form of bike corrals right off of M)

by Topher Mathews on Jan 30, 2014 4:13 pm • linkreport

For anyone who has never spent more than a few hours at a time in Georgetown, let me sum up the general feel of the neighborhood.

You have four camps: the residents, the business owners, the University, and the students. All other players are 2ndary to them

The neighbors have been, over the past 20 years, so quick to shout Not in my over-priced and non-existent backyard that development in the actual residential portion of the neighborhood has fallen well behind the rest of the city. The university put up with their demands to a fault, and the detriment of the student body, for quite some time. As did the business owners. Things started to move out of the neighborhood not only because there were areas more accessible, but because it is so much easier to do business in other neighborhoods... seriously.. would an ANC in Columbia heights or adams morgan refuse to let a cvs replace its existing sign with an identical one, as the GU ANC tried to? Would the Cap Hill ANC fight to close three restaurants because they were too geared towards student-age populaces?

Now look at all that NIMBY-ing did to Georgetown: the mall is closed and half of M st is either vacant or filled with "going out of business" signs (which, incidentally, have been going out since I took a college tour in '07). Meanwhile, Wisconsin is filled with the same run-down suit shops and purse holes.

Georgetown fought progress and got left behind. Now their running to catch up

by allhailgeorgetown on Jan 30, 2014 4:13 pm • linkreport

In the near-term, the park that is proposed as part of the Georgtown heating plant redevelopment should help enliven the area below M Street.

I think some temporary food stalls and weekend retail vendors outside would also be good for some of the spaces next to the buildings immediately below the C&O Canal. These are the types of places where there would be small outdoor cafes if this was Madrid instead of Washington.

Long-term, did the report look at Georgetown serving as a hub for ferry service? This seems perhaps more likely than getting a metro station. I know some people here are skeptical of ferries being a viable transportation mode but the waterfronts of the Anacostia and Potomac are developing throughout the region.

by 202_cyclist on Jan 30, 2014 4:15 pm • linkreport

Well what I'd like would provide a net positive overall for pedestrians. What could ("could" only because the boulevardization of K street would keep all users in mind compared to the cars only mode on the Whitehurst) be lost on K street would more than be made up for on vastly more calm M street in my mind.

The whitehurst may not have inhibited development but as it gets older I'd like to replace it with a more multi-modal option rather than rebuilding an elevated highway.

by drumz on Jan 30, 2014 4:19 pm • linkreport

Patrick Kennedy:
"As it stands, pedestrian connections to the east and west need work. Hopefully the Canal Road study will result in an improved pedestrian/cycling experience from Georgetown to points west, but connections to Foggy Bottom -- particularly by way of the waterfront -- are similarly underwhelming."

I agree and I think this should be a bigger priority with the proposed Safeway mixed-use development on MacAurther Blvd.

by 202_cyclist on Jan 30, 2014 4:20 pm • linkreport

Can we just give Georgetown to VA, where it belongs?

by Trolly Trollerson on Jan 30, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

That's a good troll, Trolly. 8/10!

by Cavan on Jan 30, 2014 4:52 pm • linkreport

When I first read the title, I was thinking of gondolas of the Venetian variety, and it struck me as absurd. But then again you could put them on the C&O canal (not that it would do much good).

by Eric on Jan 30, 2014 4:57 pm • linkreport

When I think about Georgetown, I immediately think of navigating 4 feet of sidewalk in a crowd. It must be horrible if you have a stroller or wheelchair.

Also, it is a shame that the mall there could not survive. I know that urban malls are difficult to pull off, but this one was especially beautiful in my opinion, with the cast iron elements, skylights, and Victorian(?) details. I just think that they need better connections to the street and integration with the existing pedestrian traffic flow, as they do not serve as destinations in and of themselves like successful suburban malls do. The one in Silver Spring has the same issue.

by engrish_major on Jan 30, 2014 5:45 pm • linkreport

If we can't have an aerial gondola, how about Venetian ones?

by Crickey7 on Jan 30, 2014 6:04 pm • linkreport

@Crickey7

If we can't have an aerial gondola, how about Venetian ones?

There is a proposal to have NPS deploy a floating dock so people could launch their own canoes and such on the canal.

by Dizzy on Jan 30, 2014 6:36 pm • linkreport

Good writeup, David. I'll probably have some more thoughts later, but for now:

(Full disclosure again, since I don't post here under my real name the way Topher does - I was on the Transportation Working Group):

The plan talks about ways to better connect Georgetown University to the neighborhood. One is a simpler pedestrian connection to M Street, perhaps passing through buildings like the Car Barn or new buildings like one that could replace the gas station at the foot of the Key Bridge.

The pedestrian connection between the University and M Street is already plenty 'simple' and students can already pass through the Car Barn, or go down the Exorcist stairs, or use any number of other routes. This entire notion of a different or more direct pedestrian connection to move students from campus to M Street comes from a small group of residents who don't like students walking through their streets on the way to M or Wisconsin. They want them routed elsewhere, so they don't have to look at them or hear them. That's really all it is. CAG is working on this on their own. It's in the report because hey, who doesn't want more pedestrian connections!

In the longer term, it calls for a study about how the streetcar to the university. But if the streetcar is down on K/Water Street, that probably means some kind of tunnel under the mountain. If there's a way to get the money for it, that could then bring the streetcar even across the university and up to neighborhoods to the north, but tunnels are not cheap.

If you removed the Whitehurst, you actually could bring the streetcar up on a ramp, rising from K/Water Street and joining M/Canal roughly where the Whitehurst ends now. The Whitehurst dips to its lowest point to get under the Key Bridge, so the grade change is indeed doable. The streetcar could then go down Canal and enter the University through that entrance, with part of the existing Southwest Garage serving as the terminus and a car storage/maintenance facility. This isn't in the report, but it has been thrown out as an idea that is, at the very least, technically feasible.

by Dizzy on Jan 30, 2014 6:59 pm • linkreport

Who visits Georgetown? Where are those people coming from?

by selxic on Jan 30, 2014 7:26 pm • linkreport

Occasionally I will walk there during lunch from my office in the West End. I imagine people from Rosslyn can easily do the same.

by engrish_major on Jan 30, 2014 7:56 pm • linkreport

A aerial gondola is not a viable transportation option. The Portland Aerial Tram cost $57 million to build but has a daily ridership of 3,700. Also, if people panic and freak out in the Green Line tunnel underneath the Anacostia, how do you think people are going to act when the gondola stalls and is stuck above the Potomac for hours on end?

by richie on Jan 30, 2014 8:11 pm • linkreport

@richie
Also, if people panic and freak out in the Green Line tunnel underneath the Anacostia, how do you think people are going to act when the gondola stalls and is stuck above the Potomac for hours on end?
Well, the trapped gondola passengers probably aren't going to self-evacuate.

by David R. on Jan 30, 2014 8:19 pm • linkreport

Unless they do self-evacuate (either intentionally or unintentionally):

"March 2, 2008: A man fell out of a gondola in Chamonix and died, perhaps after he and one of his friends leaned on and broke the plexiglass window." -under "List of accidents" at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gondola_lift

But I agree. Very sensational, but highly unlikely.

by richie on Jan 30, 2014 8:27 pm • linkreport

@richie

I'm ambivalent about the gondola at best, but a true gondola system of the sort Joe Sternlieb has in mind (pictured in the post) should cost far less than an aerial tram system.

There's also the fact that the Portland Aerial has a hospital/university at one end and a relatively non-descript streetcar/light rail stop at the other. A fine commuter corridor, but not much of a draw otherwise. Despite that fact, when I went to go ride the Tram this past summer, 50% or more of the dozen or so people on it were tourists. You can bet that the views over the Potomac, on the way to Georgetown, would draw exponentially more riders.

by Dizzy on Jan 30, 2014 8:37 pm • linkreport

This is a great effort. Personally, I love the idea of a bridge to Roosevelt Island. Winner winner, chicken dinner. As for parking, a metro and streetcar would solve that in allowing more people to visit without having to drive.

by Thayer-D on Jan 30, 2014 8:49 pm • linkreport

That curved seating will be taken over by skateboarders in 15 minutes.

by Steve on Jan 30, 2014 9:29 pm • linkreport

I commute by car on the Whitehurst and by bike via the Crescent Trail to Water/K Street and have these observations. The new parks along the river and K Street are truly delightful and very busy. The addition of a few outdoor cafes/ kiosks and even food trucks would enhance it as a destination. Adding a kayak rental site like the one near the Baseball Stadium would open up River use too.
K Street itself is a great place to bike ride. It is empty in the mornings and on weekends, so there is no need to close the Whitehurst. Extending bike lanes from K street along the Swedish Embassy, across Rock Creek and then down Virginia Avenue (which does not really get a lot of traffic) would enhance bike access as well at very little cost.
Absent other mass transit via metro, it is important to provide better access from the streetcar to the Foggy Bottom metro and better pedestrian access to Virginia Avenue. There simply is not enough parking. Maybe the mall could become an expensive parking lot or bike parking with access from the canal. When i go to Georgetown, I always bike.

by BicycleBob on Jan 30, 2014 9:51 pm • linkreport

@Steve:
"That curved seating will be taken over by skateboarders in 15 minutes."

Skateboarding is not a crime.

by 202_cyclist on Jan 30, 2014 9:57 pm • linkreport

Yay, to all these ideas except the aerial gondolas. K Street GT is one of the few places a street car would really work in this region. Yay to keeping the urban fabric WH freeway. Riverfront GT could have a better than Seattle feel to it and that means fun and tourist dollars for the GT BID and DC! Yay!

by AndrewJ on Jan 31, 2014 7:32 am • linkreport

@AndrewJ

Yay to keeping the urban fabric WH freeway. Riverfront GT could have a better than Seattle feel to it and that means fun and tourist dollars for the GT BID and DC! Yay!

Given your comparison, I feel compelled to point out that Seattle is presently spending billions of dollars to remove its waterfront elevated freeway.

by Dizzy on Jan 31, 2014 8:29 am • linkreport

While I'm generally in favor of urban freeway removal wherever possible, I must admit that the Whitehurst Freeway gives K/Water Streets real character you don't see elsewhere in DC. The whole "street under an elevated structure" thing. Now, if the Whitehurst should deterioriate to the point of consideration for removal, that's another thing.

by DaveG on Jan 31, 2014 8:37 am • linkreport

Hah and I hope Columbia Heights never becomes Georgetown. As an aside I really hope the pedestrian bridges happen.

by BTA on Jan 31, 2014 9:06 am • linkreport

@DaveG:

Well, the pot shops need look no further after cannabis is legalized.

by Crickey7 on Jan 31, 2014 9:08 am • linkreport

What M Street needs, at least, is more room for bikes. Elimination of on-street parking ought to be considered.

M Street may be one of the most dangerous streets to bike on. There's little clearance between the traffic and parked cars. It's an obstacle course. Some bikers ride in traffic, others try to squeeze through danger zone between parked cars and moving vehicles. Horns blow, frustrations are apparent, and flashes of aggressive driving are evident.

M Street often moves at crawl, and Wisconsin is a mess.

I'm sure any loss of parking on M Street will be strongly opposed by neighboring residents (I totally I get that), but if Georgetown were more bike-friendly, it may encourage more riders to shop there, which might offset the loss of parking. There are few bike racks about.

As far as the sidewalks being widened. I like what they did on upper 18th in Adams Morgan, but I wonder if the same approach might hurt the aesthetics of Georgetown.

I do like Georgetown's shopping area. There's a great mix of places. Other than the Mall problem, the shops along the street seem to be doing well. But the Georgetown Metropolitan recently noticed that dining along M Street is in decline: http://georgetownmetropolitan.com/2014/01/27/is-m-st-dining-in-trouble/

by kob on Jan 31, 2014 9:34 am • linkreport

Public money definitely should not be spend on a kitschy gondola. The pedestrian bridge to Roosevelt Island is a welcome idea, though.

by 7r3y3r on Jan 31, 2014 9:56 am • linkreport

Improving access to Georgetown is all well and good-- but the reason I don't go there anymore is that the unique local movie theaters, bookstores, and retail are all gone. If I want to go to national brand retail stores (which I generally don't), I can go to Montgomery Mall or Tysons. There's a need to think more about what Georgetown now offers, and what it doesn't.

by MattF on Jan 31, 2014 10:03 am • linkreport

@202_cyclist who wrote:''Skateboarding is not a crime."

Yes, it is in certain places and rightly so, Skate-vandals have done perhaps millions of dollars in damage to Freedom Plaza, Indiana Plaza and other areasa of Pennsylvania Ave, Where are the public funds to renediate all of this danage? Not to mention that flying boarders and the rifle shot echos created by boards hitting marble or concrete detract from the experience of pedestrians, residents and workers in the area. I would like to see the Park Police get even more aggressive with the scofflaw skatboarders.

by Alf on Jan 31, 2014 10:20 am • linkreport

@Alf - the rifle shot echos created by boards hitting marble or concrete detract from the experience of pedestrians, residents and workers in the area.

You mean the experience of listening to the sound of cars drive by and horns honking? Yeah, I'd hate to miss that, too.

by 7r3y3r on Jan 31, 2014 10:25 am • linkreport

The heavy-set "federal marshals" can't be bothered to enforce the law outside the Prettyman federal courthouse, where, yes, skateboarding is against the law -- as it is around the Archives Metro station stop, and should be anywhere with fragile stone work.

by Sydney on Jan 31, 2014 10:26 am • linkreport

The skaters are the only people using Freedom Plaza and Pennsylvania Avenue most of the time.

If you want to make them serve another purpose, then program the space. They won't ride on the Penn. sidewalks if there are sidewalk cafes there. But I'm glad these empty spaces are getting some use and having some people there.

The capital should not be a bunch of etched marble plazas devoid of life but meticulously protected against any human wear that comes from human activity.

by David Alpert on Jan 31, 2014 10:28 am • linkreport

I mean, the problem is obviously a total lack of connection. Buses are far too slow in M Street traffic. It's too far to walk to from anywhere. I don't have a car but I'd never zipcar there, either.

With the rest of this city available, why bother? Georgetown is a PITA to get to.

by LowHeadways on Jan 31, 2014 10:32 am • linkreport

The premise that Georgetown is somehow in trouble (losing luster) just detracts from the case for most of what follows. Georgetown is filled with pedestrian traffic, esp. on weekends and people have no trouble finding/using the waterfront areas. The idea that development in the downtown areas are adversely effecting Georgetown is questionable at best. The F Street corridor continues to struggle, although it has more retail than has been the case in years and it's not clear that new City Center development will provide serious competition for Georgetown (I tend to think not--it's not close to the 14th/U corridor and its retail uses aren't likely to overlap with the emerging 7th/9th corridor.

The gandola seems like a gimmick that would cheapen the area and the time needed to wait for/take a gandola would be longer than the more healthy approach of walking across key Bridge. M Street will continue in gridlock regardless of what happens to K and the Whitehurst. The freeway seems to function only for part of the day, but the traffic it would add to peak travel times on M Street needs to be considered. K Street has limited utility at this point and making it a pedestrian way or one shared with buses might work, although I doubt that it would turn into a lively retail strip.

Georgetown's long-term problem is the crowding out of things that have given it life over the years. the nightlife except for a few places like Blues Alley has been disappearing for years and the heyday of this area for that probably was 40-50 years ago. Still, the lose of the movie theatres and the last few bar/restaurants was probably not a good thing. The quirky retail with antique shops, map stores and the like, as well as the lest expensive restaurants seem to be endangered. It wouldn't be a bad thing if property values dipped a bit to allow rents to still accommodate tehse plates. there is a limit to the number of upper and upper middle brow retailers who can locate in georgetown, esp. as online retail erodes brick and mortar.

by Rich on Jan 31, 2014 10:39 am • linkreport

There's a need to think more about what Georgetown now offers, and what it doesn't.

What Georgetown offers is nature, views, history, and architecture with better retail/restaurants than what's available at/near the other place in DC offering that -- the National Mall. Build on that.

According to a Brookings study (which is far more scientific than Walkscore), Georgetown is also the DC region's most walkable neighborhood.

What Gtown doesn't offer is the bar/restaurant scene available in most other dense parts of DC but Gtown shouldn't strive to be like everywhere else. Keep Gtown different (if not exactly weird).

by Falls Church on Jan 31, 2014 10:45 am • linkreport

Ok, so my overall, non-dissertation length thoughts boil down to this: the Metro concept is both a blessing and a curse, and this report demonstrates that in spades.

The blessing part is obvious: having a Metro station in the middle of Georgetown will once and for all banish the notion of the neighborhood as being inaccessible or a PITA to get to (for non-drivers, anyway). It will make the Rosslyn-Dupont Circulator obsolete, allowing the funds from that route to be reprogrammed to other good uses. It should significantly decrease local car traffic (that is, traffic with the commercial district as the destination) and relieve parking demand and stress on neighborhood residential streets.

The curse part is that 'Metro as silver bullet' thinking also gives stakeholders a free pass on making any sort of real tradeoffs regarding how we allocate public space and right of way. Dedicated transit lanes? Forget about it. Removing M Street parking? Forget about it. M Street bike lanes? Forget about it. Streetcar on M Street? Forget about it. Wider sidewalks on M or Wisconsin? Forget about it! The Metro will solve all our problems once and for all, so there's no reason to take any space away from cars or fundamentally rethink how we do things.

To the extent that this wholehearted embrace of Metro makes it happen that much/any quicker (or happen at all...), I can live with the tradeoff. But it is nonetheless a bit disappointing, if totally unsurprising, that the embrace of Metro and all the other measures in the report by the residents' groups is really much more about securing their own status quo in perpetuity, rather than any sort of philosophical shift in thinking.

Regardless, I'll take what I can get.

by Dizzy on Jan 31, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

What Georgetown offers is nature, views, history, and architecture with better retail/restaurants than what's available at/near the other place in DC offering that -- the National Mall.

I understand the point you're making, but "better reataurants" and "Georgetown" shouldn't be used in the same sentence. Ever.

by dcd on Jan 31, 2014 10:52 am • linkreport

@Rich

...the time needed to wait for/take a gandola would be longer than the more healthy approach of walking across key Bridge.

This type of gondola is meant to have a large number of smallish pods, somewhat akin to a ski lift. Waiting time for the next pod should be negligible.

by Dizzy on Jan 31, 2014 10:53 am • linkreport

I understand the point you're making, but "better reataurants" and "Georgetown" shouldn't be used in the same sentence. Ever

Gtown gets an undeserved bad rap for not having good places to eat. Here's a list of great gtown establishments, and contrary to the stereotype, they're mostly very affordable and a great value:

Baked & Wired
Pizzeria Paradiso
Il Canale
Bangkok Joes
Tackle Box
SweetGreen
Dolcezza
Ching Ching Cha
Sushi To Go (best value sushi in DC)
Harmony Cafe
Dean & Deluca Cafe

Yes, I realize that none of these places are good for hipsters or foodies but they're great for people enjoying Gtown's outdoor beauty and wanting a delicious and affordable bite to eat with a side of people watching.

by Falls Church on Jan 31, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

@Falls Church:

I wholeheartedly agree that Baked and Wired is fantastic (I'm in there at least 5 times a week, and sometimes 7), though it's not really a restaurant. Tackle Box and Bangkok Joe's are fine, for what they are, as are Thunder Burger and Bistro Francais. As for the rest of the restaurants you mention (I don't really consider D&D Cafe and SweetGreen restaurants), we'll just have to agree to disagree about whether they are "great" or "delicious." In fact, the fact that this is the list of "great" Georgetown eating establishments just reinforces that, for a so-called high-end destination neighborhood, the food options generally are terrible.

But now you've made me crave a ham and jalapeno biscuit . . .

by dcd on Jan 31, 2014 11:48 am • linkreport

@DAlpert
The reason that skateboarders seem to be the predominant form of life on the Pa. Ave. plazas is that they've basically chased everyone else away,. I friend of mine was hit by a flying skateboarder a few years ago there and wound up in the emergency room with a concussion and multiple stitches. The scofflaw ran away. Trying to sit on Freedom Plaza or even cross it can be a hazardous pedestrian experience. On top of that, the black scratches, and gouges in the steps and edges and occasional graffiti left by boarders make it ugly. Granted, FP should have been designed with trees and kiosks also, which would encourage more passive use. This webi-site seems to be all about making our city more walkable, safe and pleasant. Moving the scofflaw boarders out of our urban plazas would certainly help with that.

by Alf on Jan 31, 2014 11:49 am • linkreport

Disagree with Alf's characterization of Freedom Plaza. I wouldn't say the skateboarders have chased everyone else away, and I don't find it hard or hazardous to walk across.

It's a crappy space because it's a blank slate. Nobody uses these kinds of spaces. What are people supposed to do there? Bring their kids so they can play on the barren marbled surface?

by MLD on Jan 31, 2014 11:58 am • linkreport

Simple (but costly): add a much-needed Metro station as part of the blue line separation and get rid of the Whitehurst. It does nothing to serve Georgetown. It only makes the waterfront dark and inhospitable.

by Mark on Jan 31, 2014 12:00 pm • linkreport

I agree with LowHeadways. Consolidating the 30s bus stops farther north on Wisc Ave will improve the reliability of these routes and the accessbility of Georgetown.

by 202_cyclist on Jan 31, 2014 12:09 pm • linkreport

@ Rich, re: it's not clear that new City Center development will provide serious competition for Georgetown (I tend to think not--it's not close to the 14th/U corridor)

Not as the bus drives, per se, but as the Metro goes, you can essentially take the Yellow/Green lines directly from CityCenter to U & 14th. And given the bus headways in DC (not that rail ones are much better), I suspect that's exactly what many people will choose to do.

by Low Headways on Jan 31, 2014 12:23 pm • linkreport

@dcd

Restaurant quality is admittedly subjective but pretty much everything I listed gets 4 stars on Yelp which is a more objective measure. That's a far cry from "terrible". The fact that some consider restaurants terrible that many others give 4-5 stars just goes to show the wide diversity in preferences.

Also, mine wasn't a list of restaurants per se but a list of "good places to eat" hence the inclusion of places like Sweetgreen.

by Falls Church on Jan 31, 2014 1:44 pm • linkreport

"A simple solution to this is to require drivers who aren't Georgetown residents to pay for curbside parking on residential blocks."

IMO this is what needs to be done. I see no reason why this solution should require pay-by-phone parking. Residents get residential permits for free on-street parking. Non-residents can pay with quarters or credit card. Why would G-town residents be against this? It would free up parking for everyone, bring in revenue, and cut down on people circling around looking for free parking. Donald Shoup could solve everything with the snap of a finger.

by Gerald F on Jan 31, 2014 2:19 pm • linkreport

Residents get residential permits for free on-street parking. Non-residents can pay with quarters or credit card. Why would G-town residents be against this?

Residents wouldn't be but I'm guessing some or many gtown businesses would be opposed.

by Falls Church on Jan 31, 2014 3:45 pm • linkreport

"Who visits Georgetown? Where are those people coming from?"
Indeed. There are a lot of great ideas here, but which ones are solutions?

by Matt O'Toole on Jan 31, 2014 7:37 pm • linkreport

"Why would G-town residents be against this? It would free up parking for everyone, bring in revenue, and cut down on people circling around looking for free parking."

I agree with you, but here are the objections I've heard:
-Those in parts of Georgetown without a parking problem (ie those on the east side above N) don't want to fix what's not broke
-And they don't want their guests or contractors (etc) to have to pay just to visit
-And to an extent that they admit there's a problem closer to M and Wisconsin they feel this solution will just push more parkers back into their blocks (that is if paid parking is only on the blocks closer to M and Wisc)

But we were moving towards a compromise before Angelo left DDOT and the whole effort collapsed. We still may get something through, but it won't be as good as it could've been.

by Topher Mathews on Jan 31, 2014 10:36 pm • linkreport

I think it's a great warning to neighborhoods putting up opposition to new Metro stations coming into their area (talking to you Silver Spring). You'll end up paying for it in the end.

by Mandrake on Jan 31, 2014 11:04 pm • linkreport

sadly, most discussion of preservation is about preservation of automobile access at the expense of everything else. The lifeblood of urban retail is transit and, increasingly, bicycle access and a pleasant pedestrian experience. Fighting to maintain auto access will do very little to actually address Georgetown's problems. So while this plan begins a good discussion and had some positive elements, I see a continued decline for Georgetown.

by TransitSnob on Feb 1, 2014 7:31 am • linkreport

@Falls Church:

Yelp is an objective measure? Come on. Yelp is a conglomeration of the subjective opinions of random people who may or may not know anything about food. (And judging from this list, "may not" appears to be the winner.) Yelp also gives Filomena 4 stars - if we were having this discussion on our Palm 3s during the Clinton administration, that might be accurate. Not so much these days.

I do agree that there are some decent places to eat in Georgetown. (I can't believe I forgot Stachowski's, which is excellent. And I just had breakfast at B&W.) But as far as restaurants go, the reputation for over-priced, bad quality tourist traps is well-deserved.

by dcd on Feb 1, 2014 9:12 am • linkreport

I've always wished we could do some really great things with our streets like Barcelona and other cities have done. Why not take one side of M Street through Gtown and run a two way bike lane with another even wider sidewalk with planters and areas for people to sit or allow restaurants to service tables there. I dined at a restaurant in Barcelona where the waiters crossed the bike lanes to the center where tables were and it was great. Sure, we'd lose a lane for traffic and parking on M but why are we limiting greatness that would really set DC apart from other American cities because of 60 or so lost parking spots. We're hurting the future generations by continuing to put cars and parking as our primary focus in transportation planning.

by LoganRes on Feb 1, 2014 9:40 am • linkreport

@logan

The difference between las ramblas and m st is that m st is a major thoroughfare that empties onto two of the major ways out of the city and one of four bridges into the state.

Totally about parking though. Take it all out -there are ample alleys for deliveries. And put a shared bike/bus lane on each side

by @loganres on Feb 1, 2014 10:19 am • linkreport

When the Metro line is built, widen the supposed 4 track tunnel to include enough room for an underground M St. Expressway of maybe 4 lanes. This would allow the removal of the Whitehurst Frwy. The underground express would come out of the hill at about where the Whitehurst was and join the middle lanes of the Key Bridge. Going into Roslyn.

The K. St. light rail line can than burro under Wisconsin Ave. Without climbing to meet the Georgetown Metro lines. It can make a left on M St. Headed to G.U. with a stop at the New gondola lift.

The Gondolas being a novelty transport system isn't that close to the center of Georgetown, and may need some other incentive to get visitors to move in that direction. How About rebuilding F. S. Key Park to include an outdoor theatre and an animated hourly clock that would showcase Key's witness to the battle in Baltimore with the Star Spangled Banner playing tune accompanying.

Along with building the bridge to Roosevelt Is. for peds. and bikers, why not include carriage horse rises over the brige onto and around the Island?

One dream I have, but most likely wouldn't see the light of day is to turn Teddy Island into a small village with carriage rides, small outdoor cafes, water fountains and expeditions on the south side of th island. A Metro stop could be put along the orange line under the Potomac with a tunnel leading to the island. Like I said, a long shot.

by David B. on Feb 1, 2014 8:02 pm • linkreport

@David B

i like the idea of carriage rides, but imagine the howls from PETA. After all, they threw themselves behind the Sandanista mayor of NY, Comrade Di Blasio, after he pledged to ban horse carriage rides in the city.

by Jane on Feb 2, 2014 9:19 pm • linkreport

I think that places such as Freedom Plaza should actually welcome skateboarders, in a safe manner of course. There should be places within even dense downtowns (and other areas of any city) where skateboarding should be welcome. Places that are well located AND are also designed to handle skateboarding. Now, it doesn't have to necessarily be Freedom Plaza itself, but places DO exist where it would work. There SHOULD be some skate parks integrated into public, downtown plazas and other such places. Dan Reed wrote here about this very issue not too long ago.

by DaveG on Feb 3, 2014 8:27 am • linkreport

Has the stupid idea of banning carriage rides from NYC been dropped yet? And the even stupider idea of electric 1920's style cars as replacements?

by DaveG on Feb 3, 2014 8:29 am • linkreport

I think a Metro station for Georgetown is overdoing it. All that's really needed is the pedestrian/bike bridge to TR Island and the streetcar, possibly as a loop along K, M & PA Ave.

by DaveG on Feb 3, 2014 9:27 am • linkreport

I don't oppose skateboard parks and in fact, they should be available so that skateboarders don't damage public monuments and plazas. But I'd be interested to see if anyone would want to live (or for that matter, work) right next to one. The constant clack-clack echo of boards off concrete and other hard surfaces can be unpleasant.

by Alf on Feb 3, 2014 10:04 am • linkreport

You're assuming the skating will go on 24/7 which I doubt...but if it's downtown and not near any residences...how will it be noisier than traffic?

by DaveG on Feb 3, 2014 1:45 pm • linkreport

We at the C&O Canal Trust, the official nonprofit partner of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, would be interested in hearing from those wishing to post about the proposed changes to the C&O Canal. Please post here or contact us directly at www.canaltrust.org

by Mike Nardolilli on Feb 5, 2014 7:12 am • linkreport

@Mike Nardolilli
Personally, I love the proposed changes to the C&O canal. I currently don't use it because I don't want to run on dirt, but if it got paved walk ways, I would definitely use it. I also love the idea of a new barge on the canal.

by TyGr on Feb 5, 2014 12:29 pm • linkreport

@Patrick Kennedy:

You mentioned improved east/west connections to Georgetown and the Canal Road study. I forgot to post this earlier but there is a proposal that was submitted to the Palisades CItizen Association for approval to build a bike path on the abandoned Glen Echo trolley right-of-way.

This would large parallel MacArthur Blvd and give recreational cyclists and residents of Palisades an alternative to riding on MacArthur Blvd.

WABA had a post about this proposal on its blog in Nov. 2013.

Palisades Citizens Association to Consider Glen Echo Trolley Path for Bikes
http://www.waba.org/blog/2013/11/palisades-citizens-association-to-consider-glen-echo-trolley-path-for-bikes/

by 202_cyclist on Mar 3, 2014 8:58 am • linkreport

Yeah, I saw something about that proposal in the Current the other week. Seems like a great idea, that should perhaps be pursued in concert with the Canal Road study, since both matters seeks to address the same kind of access concerns.

Of course, I'd love to see the trestle returned to service for streetcar use up through the Palisades at least to Sibley Hospital, but I'm not sure that that's in the cards for at least the next couple of decades.

by Patrick Kennedy on Mar 3, 2014 4:48 pm • linkreport

I don't think you'll ever see a streetcar run on the old ROW again. It's so narrow and passes right next to people's homes. More than a few people have squatted on it. Plus the Water treatment facility has built on it, so it could never go to Maryland again. There's really no reason to restart that streetcar line anyway.

by David C on Mar 3, 2014 10:26 pm • linkreport

At 202_cyclist & Patrick Kennedy
Just wanted to let you know that I did attend the Canal Road study and I did let them know about the bridge.
Hopefully they will incorporate it into their study.
-Brett Y
P.s. The Palisades Citizens association will be having a walk of the trail on Sat April 5th and Sun May 4th.
You can find out more here
http://palisadesdc.org/

by Brett Y on Mar 11, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

Cool, thanks for the heads-up Brett. I'll try and attend one of those walks.

by Patrick Kennedy on Mar 11, 2014 3:01 pm • linkreport

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