Greater Greater Washington

A better 14th Street coming soon

Last week was the latest public meeting to review the proposed streetscape improvements to 14th Street, from Florida Avenue to Thomas Circle. I wasn't able to make the meeting, which conflicted with the Columbia Heights parking meeting, but I was able to get copies of the presentation. This street is becoming a major restaurant and bar corridor, and improvements that make it more welcoming and safer will help the street continue to grow. Most if not all of these changes can and should be applied to other streets around the city and the nation.

The plan substantially upgrades the street's appearance, from better tree boxes to nicer paving stones on the sidewalks. Curved benches will line up with colored lines in the pavement to create an artistic appearance, and some of the large empty sidewalk areas will get trees and bike racks. There may even be an archway built over the street at 14th and Florida to create a "gateway" to the street from the north.

In addition to making the street more attractive, there are a few key improvements, like bulb-outs (including bus bulb-outs) and even the possibility for demand-based parking pricing.

The street will get bulb-outs at most of the busy corners. A bulb-out is where the sidewalk sticks out into the corner, at the end of the row of parked cars. This increases space for pedestrians at corners (the most crowded places) and shortens the distance pedestrians must walk to cross. These are so great and simple I'm disappointed the nearby 17th Street project didn't include them.

This plan also places bus stops on the bulb-outs. This lets buses stop right in their lane, without having to pull over and then wait to pull back into traffic. This speeds up the buses, and since one bus carries as many people as the whole lane of traffic, it moves more people more efficiently.

The transportation section suggests a variety of mechanisms to improve the parking situation beyond today's reality of more demand than supply for extremely cheap to free parking. It recommends creating a TDM (transportation demand management) entity to coordinate between businesses, institutions and residents, and recommends coordinating parking (for example, a bar could encourage patrons to use a garage that's otherwise used by offices during the day). It also suggests a high-frequency shuttle to get people to nearby garages.

But more importantly, it recommends variable pricing on 14th Street to encourage turnover, extending the meter hours to weekends and until 8 pm, and enhanced resident parking (similar to that proposed in the ballpark area and Columbia Heights) to protect residential parking. I want this around Lauriol, but 14th Street is a great place to try it. Anyone at the meeting want to post in the comments about how these parking innovations were received?

See the complete proposal (PDFs): streetscape improvements, transportation improvements, and long roll-out diagram of the entire street.

Update: Bloomingdale (for now) attended the meeting and was particularly pleased about the bike lanes and bike parking. Apparently there will be 80 bike racks installed along the length of 14th Street. I was also curious if the bulb-outs would force buses into the bike lanes; apparently DDOT has designed them to minimize these conflicts, though I'd be interested to hear more about how this exactly works.

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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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PDF links not working.

by Chris Loos on Feb 25, 2008 2:18 pm • linkreport

Oops. Fixed. Thanks for letting me know.

by David Alpert on Feb 25, 2008 2:22 pm • linkreport

There was a woman at the meeting soliciting comments about how to integrate public art into the streetscape. I'm not a big fan of public art; too often it's just a 3rd-grade mural slapped on some abandoned space. But I couldn't think of better suggestions. Usually the best art in a neighborhood is part of the privately-owned streetscape, like some beautiful architecture, or an awesome neon sign. I do like our historic equestrian statues, but 14th St doesn't have the right space for something monumental. So, what to suggest? More artsy crosswalk designs (like at 14th & S)? Embedding art in the sidewalk?

by Michael on Feb 25, 2008 3:36 pm • linkreport

Here's a video of an artist who had an awesome art project for the lampposts at Thomas Circle (albeit without permission):

Traffic-Go-Round Street Installation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uHkX9upNnc

So, it shows a good artist CAN make use of boring street furniture!

by Michael on Feb 25, 2008 3:39 pm • linkreport

Although the bus does not have to block the bike lane up against the curb, no one, bike riders included, may overtake a bus on the right past the open doors. Thus a conflict still occurs unless the bike rider crosses behind the bus and overtakes on the left.

These conflicts repeat because the bus may overtake the bike halfway down the next block and then there is another bus stop. Transportation engineers have a name for this: leapfrogging.

by ajaynejr on Aug 12, 2010 9:58 pm • linkreport

ive always wondered why the plaza in front of the Reeve Center isnt better used. it's sad that there's all this space and nowhere even to sit and eat lunch. id think it would be so much more pleasant and feel more part of the neighborhood if people were encouraged to use the plaza for any variety of reasons.

by brian on Oct 4, 2010 6:42 pm • linkreport

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