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Bicycling


Making this street more bike-friendly should be easy. Why isn't it?

A barrier meant to calm traffic doesn't need to also block bicyclists on an upper Northwest street. But even though Councilmember Mary Cheh and the local ANC support a cut-through, there had to be yet another hours-long community meeting and site visit in the pouring rain so nearby residents could express their concerns that accommodating bicyclists would result in mayhem and carnage.


Traffic diverter at 44th and Harrison NW

The proposal is to add bike cut-throughs to an existing traffic diverter at the intersection of 44th Street and Harrison Street NW. The traffic diverter blocks cars from passing through the intersection, which is meant to preclude the use of these residential streets as an alternative route for nearby Wisconsin Avenue and Western Avenue.


Bicyclists currently use these ramps to get around the diverter

Backers of the project believe that adding the cut-throughs would give people on bikes a more direct route from the neighborhood into Friendship Heights without disrupting the neighborhood itself.

Opponents, on the other hand, think changing the diverter will invite drivers to attempt to drive over the diverter and through the neighborhood. Some also believe that more bike traffic through the residential streets would be a bad thing.

Additionally, opponents believe that cyclists already have an adequate alternative by leaving the roadway, riding up the curb ramps and onto the sidewalk, to circumnavigate the diverter. Opponents believe that this practice is safer for everyone than any compromise to the integrity of the traffic diverter.

Following the meeting, representatives from DDOT said they would bring these concerns back to their agency to study possible design adjustments, further delaying a project that would make life easier on bicyclists.

This situation is a snapshot of a bigger story

Ultimately, this isn't a very substantial project and will not affect many residents or bicyclists. But it speaks to a few larger concerns about the process of adding additional bicycle accommodation to parts of the District that currently don't have many.

Anyone who has ever attended a public meeting knows that it can be very difficult to change the status quo. The resistance to make changes, regardless of how small those changes seem, exhibits itself in fierce resistance and the desire for an endless series of meetings, further discussion and design tweaks. While this project had been approved by the local ANC and is supported by Councilmember Mary Cheh, a committed group of opponents has managed to stall the process.

If this is the case for such small projects &emdash;the low-hanging fruit that cuts neither parking nor traffic lanes&emdash;what does this suggest about gaining any ground on larger ones? It's important to work with neighbors, but at a certain point it becomes necessary to reach a decision. If DDOT is expected to assuage every concern from every resident before moving forward with a project, it will never accomplish anything.

This meeting also raised concerns about the results of interrupting the public right of way. When the traffic diverter went in, residents of the nearby streets benefitted disproportionately. But the traffic didn't disappear, it just went somewhere else. And when breaking up a street favors some residents over others, it's no surprise that those who benefit want to preserve their advantage.

Even though this particular project would keep the diverter in place and simply add some small cut-throughs for bicyclists, the residents' attachment to their preferred status is so strong that they are worried about any action that might jeopardize it. DDOT needs to be mindful about the consequences of traffic decisions that have the potential to create this dynamic.

The overwhelming majority of opponents of these changes claimed that they support bicycling. However, they worried that changes to the road to accommodate bicyclists would unintentionally lead to more reckless driving, making everyone less safe.

This is similar to the concern about how installing bike lanes might degrade air quality due to more traffic from slowing moving cars. So long as meeting the needs of bicyclists are sublimated to larger concerns about how this might lead to even more negative externalities from driving, progress is unlikely.

Additionally, meetings like this always raise concerns about the division of public and private space. Both 44th Street and Harrison Street are public streets, open to all. While those who live nearby feel that they will be more affected by any changes to the intersection, DDOT needs to weigh their interests (and how reasonable their concerns are) against the larger goals of public mobility and bicycle accommodation.

You can't build a genuine bicycle network with a patchwork of compromises, where infrastructure appears or disappears based on block-by-block votes. If DC is committed to creating neighborhood bikeways and cross-town bike routes, like those laid out in the MoveDC plan, DDOT will need to find a way to address neighborhood concerns without sacrificing its larger goals.

Transit


The Van Ness Metro station's west entrance isn't closing just yet

The west entrance to the Van Ness Metro station was supposed to start a three-year closure for escalator repairs today. But after pushback from nearby residents and DDOT, the project is on hold.


Photo by David Bardin.

"I am putting WMATA on notice that all public space permits are suspended until further notice," DDOT's Matthew Marcou said. He spoke in response to an audience member's question at a community meeting on Thursday, which ANC 3F Commissioner Mary Beth Ray organized.

Marcou, who chairs the DDOT committee that oversees permits to use public space for construction staging and other work, went on to explain that this means no trucks can bring any supplies or equipment to the site.

It's not clear how long DDOT can hold up the work. ANC 3F has asked Metro's interim general manager for a delay until the closed sidewalk at the Park Van Ness site reopens at the end of this year.

Marcou is no stranger to the community or that project. He, along with ANC 3F and developer Saul Centers, hammered out the traffic safety control plans that have closed the Park Van Ness construction site to pedestrians since late 2013.

DDOT hasn't had a chance to plan for the entrance being closed

During a community meeting with DC's Office of Planning last Tuesday, DDOT's Ward 3 transportation planner, Ted Van Houten, revealed that DDOT wasn't notified of WMATA's plans until April 21st, the same day as the general public. Further, at that point WMATA had not set up any meetings with DDOT to discuss the Van Ness station entrance being closed.

At that same meeting, Council member Mary Cheh said she would be talking to WMATA and DDOT, and specifically asking DDOT about the possibility of a temporary sidewalk at the Park Van Ness site.

Because closing the Metro entrance will add more stress to this heavily-traveled stretch of Connecticut Avenue, Marcou explained at the meeting that all options for relief are on the table. Community members' suggestions, which came in via written comments and questions, included:

  • Increasing crossing times for pedestrians at Windom Place and Veazey Terrace.
  • Marking a crosswalk on the south side of Windom
  • Installing a Barnes Dance crossing which stops cars coming from all directions so pedestrians can all cross at once.
  • A temporary sidewalk at Park Van Ness
  • The repairs at Van Ness will require a multi-step process

    WMATA sent Cedric Watson, its head engineer of escalators and elevators, to the meeting to explain the escalator replacement process. He gave a presentation and answered questions from ANC 3F commissioners.

    Watson stated repeatedly that WMATA had notified the community about the work at an ANC meeting about 18 months ago, when a representative spoke about a five-month closure of the east entrance at Van Ness that was also for replacing escalators.

    At the meeting's end, however, Watson acknowledged that ANC 3F had not been given a date for the west entrance project.

    He explained that the Van Ness station has certain constraints that are going to keep it closed for a long time. Removing the escalator at the entrance will create a chute through which workers will drop sections of three longer escalators, some of the longest in the Metro system, down tot he mezzanine level. Also, a lot of the work can only happen at night, while the station is closed. Finally, there's electrical work to do and structural upgrades to make since the escalators have been there since the station opened almost 35 years ago.

    Steve Strauss, DDOT's Deputy Director of Progressive Transportation, asked whether closing the station over the weekends would have a significant impact on shortening this time frame. There wasn't a clear answer, but the question appeared to warrant further discussion.

    ANC Commissioner Sally Gresham asked whether the entrance stairway could remain open. Watson said that might be possible if it remains structurally sound.

    Van Ness is only the first of a number of stations that need escalator repairs

    Asked about delaying the project for eight months, Watson said that would affect the timetable for the contractor, which will tackle the Cleveland Park escalators after this project is complete. He said an entrance will close for three years at that station as well. Medical Center, Woodley Park and Friendship Heights are other Red Line stations due for escalator replacements.

    Watson also said the decision about whether to delay the project or move forward with it ultimately rests with Jack Requa, the interim general manager at WMATA.

    3F Commissioner Malachy Nugent captured the frustration and anger at the meeting, stating that WMATA made working with its contractor a higher priority than getting input from the community. He warned that an injunction was not out of the question. This got resounding applause from the audience.

    It was clear that WMATA did not fully consider how closing a Van Ness station entrance would affect the community. But after the community meeting, the tone changed. DDOT's Marcou and WMATA's Watson met on Friday. And Ann Chisholm, WMATA's head of government relations, told me that Metro needs to do a better job of outreach.

    To see Metro's advisory addressing questions about the work itself, see wmata.com/vanness.

    This post originally appeared on Forest Hills Connection.

    Politics


    In some DC neighborhood commission races, urbanism, walkability, and growth are the issues

    Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) in many DC neighborhoods have a reputation for just being obstacles to any change, but that's not always true. In many parts of the District, ANCs have been a positive force for steps to improve communities. Will this election bring representatives who would continue or arrest those trends?

    Each ANC covers one or a few neighborhoods and is divided into Single-Member Districts of about 2,000 residents each. You can find your district at here and a list of candidates here.

    All of the regular neighborhood battles crop up in ANCs as well: density, bike lanes, sidewalks, parking. Good ANC commissioners work to shape change for the better instead of block it. They find ways to build consensus for better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. They work to make development projects better respond to community needs rather than just oppose them or push to make them smaller. They listen to neighbors, but also recognize that after everyone has a chance to be heard, there comes a time to make a decision and move forward.

    Here are a handful of the many ANC races across the city. In these districts, a resident stridently opposed to a change or to a particular project may be challenging a more constructive commissioner, or someone is challenging a more obstructionist incumbent, or two candidates with differing views are vying for an open seat.

    3E (Tenleytown)

    Many parts of Ward 3, in upper Northwest DC, have warmed up to urban-friendly growth in the past few years and even led with key steps to improve walkability. A lot of that comes from hard work of a few ANC commissioners who face challengers in Tuesday's election.

    ANC 3E includes the Wisconsin Avenue corridor from Tenleytown to Friendship Heights. The commission worked out a good deal for a new parking-free building at Brandywine and Wisconsin and endorsed new bicycle boulevards.

    Tom Quinn represents 3E04 in Friendship Heights east of Wisconsin Avenue, and received our endorsement two years ago. He has been a champion of smart growth with particularly enthusiastic support for the zoning rewrite. Quinn faces Sandy Shapiro, who has said she would like the physical neighborhood to stay the same and expressed a desire to further delay zoning changes that have been under consideration for six years.

    In 3E01 around and west of the Tenleytown Metro, the incumbent is stepping down, and the two candidates present dramatically different views. Anne Wallace has expressed a desire for a mixed-use and multi-modal Tenleytown. In an interview on TenleytownDC, she talked about how much she loves the diversity of the neighborhood and wants to see it thrive.

    Her opponent, Kathleen Sweetapple, is running on a platform criticizing the current ANC commissioners and their efforts. She often says she worries about "outside influences," "one-size-fits all approaches" and smart growth strategies that she says do not fit in Tenleytown. Tenleytown needs responsive commissioner, but one who sees neighborhood's issues in connection to the challenges that all of the city faces.

    3G (Chevy Chase)

    In the leafier parts of Chevy Chase DC, Barnaby Woods, and Hawthorne, ANC3G has been fairly moderate, pushing for positive change instead of outright opposition on a new building at 5333 Connecticut Avenue and strongly supporting pedestrian safety activities.

    Carolyn "Callie" Cook, the incumbent in 3G01, dissented from the rest of her ANC to oppose the new residential building at 5333, supporting instead a legal challenge to the by-right building. She testified to keep in place the District's often-abused disability parking placards. Brian Oliver is running against Cook. He is a parent of school-aged children and is interested in school improvements, revitalizing the Connecticut Avenue commercial area, improving parks, the library, and sidewalks.

    In 3G06, an open seat, Dan Bradford is a small businessman who has promised a balanced focus on issues like pedestrian safety while seeking to preserve the vitality of the current community. In contrast, Alan Seeber has been a strident opponent of the more progressive elements of the zoning rewrite, and continues to criticize the idea of reduced parking minimums in transit zones. He also promises to fight any increased cross-town bus transit if it runs on roadways through Chevy Chase.


    ANCs 3B (left) and 3G (right).

    3B (Glover Park)

    Farther south in Glover Park, the incumbent in 3B01, Joe Fiorillo brings an honesty and enthusiasm to a diverse district that includes both single-family homes and high-density apartments. Two months ago he voted in favor of a small new development in his district. That move brought him an opponent, Ann Mladinov, who felt that she and her neighbors were not heard in the process.

    She's facing no opposition, but it's worth mentioning that GGW contributor and editor Abigail Zenner is on the ballot to represent 3B03. She will surely make as valuable a contribution to the ANC as she has to Greater Greater Washington!


    District boundaries for ANC 2B.

    2B (Dupont Circle)

    Moving eastward, ANC 2B, which spans from the Golden Triangle area to Rock Creek to 14th and U, will be changing substantially between this year and next. Four of the nine members are not running for re-election this year, and two of those districts are contested along with two others where an incumbent faces a challenger.

    In 2B02, west of Connecticut Avenue, Daniel Warwick and Jonathan Padget are both vying to succeed Kevin O'Connor, who moved out of the neighborhood. Perhaps reflecting the way this district is rich in transit, bicycling, and walking, both candidates answered a question about parking by discussing ways to reduce parking demand rather than add more parking.

    Warwick served as the ANC's Public Policy Fellow recently and also helped start the transportation committee. He has a very deep understanding of many issues, as is clear from his interview on the Short Articles About Long Meetings blog. Padget expressed good ideas as well, but in much less detail, and Warwick's valuable work on the ANC already seems to make him an ideal candidate.

    Nicole Mann, who commutes by bicycle every day from north Dupont to H Street, has been an integral part of the ANC's transportation committee, which I also serve on. She is bidding to represent 2B08, as recent ANC chair Will Stephens is stepping down. Meamwhile, Mann's opponent, Robert Sinners, sounded quite pro-car-dependence and anti-new-residents in his SALM interview.

    The ANC's chair, Noah Smith, has has done an excellent job as commissioner and chair of the transportation committee. He also drawn a challenger in his district 2B09, Ed Hanlon, who focuses extensively on his complaints about growth and argues for one-side-of-the-street parking which would be very problematic without additional tweaks in Dupont Circle.

    In the neighborhood's southeast, commissioner Abigail Nichols in 2B05 has been a regular voice against new housing, nightlife (sometimes with good reason, sometimes not), and other elements of a vibrant, urban neighborhood. Jonathan Jagoda takes a more balanced view of many of these issues.

    6B (Capitol Hill)

    Last year, we highlighted two key races in southern Capitol Hill's ANC 6B, where residents staunchly opposed to development on the Hine school site were running on an anti-growth platform against Ivan Frishberg and Brian Pate in the two districts closest to the site.

    Pate and Frishberg are stepping down this year, but the races in those districts still maintain the same tenor. In 6B05 northeast of 8th and Pennsylvania SE, Steve Hagedorn is running for the seat. Hagedorn has been involved with the ANC already as part of its Hill East Task Force, and as a volunteer with Congressional Cemetery.

    He faces Carl Reeverts, one of the leaders of the Eastern Market Metro Community Association (EMMCA), which has organized opposition to Hine and is part of litigation trying to block or delay the project. Ellen Opper-Weiner is also stridently against the development and many other changes in the neighborhood.

    Just to the west, the race in 6B02 pits Diane Hoskins, a wetlands lobbyist and environmentalist (formerly with the District Department of the Environment) against Jerry Stroufe, another EMMCA leader who ran last year against Frishberg.

    And many more!

    There are hundreds of ANC seats across the city, many contested, many not. Many have a spirited contest which doesn't turn on policy to the extent that some of these do. And there are far more races worth talking about than we have time or space to discuss.

    What ANC races in your area are worth watching?

    Bicycling


    Next up for NoMa bicycling: Fill in the gaps

    Last Month, Mayor Gray and DDOT cut the ribbon on DC's newest protected cycletrack on First Street NE in NoMa between G and M Streets. This is a part of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT), which will eventually connect Union Station to Silver Spring. Next, they plan three short extensions to fill in some important gaps.


    Celebratory cake for the 1st Street NE ribbon cutting. Photo by the author.


    Map of gaps in the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Base map from Google Maps.

    First Street NE between Massachusetts and G

    The cycletrack doesn't cover one last block of First Street NE just north of Columbus Circle. There is one lane for traffic in each direction, plus metered spaces on the west side.

    Delivery trucks often park on the east side as well, facing the wrong direction and blocking northbound traffic. This leaves little room for bikes and no room at all for northbound cars.


    Sidewalk gap and illegal loading on First Street between G & Mass NE. Photo by the author.

    DDOT plans to fix these issues by making this block one-way southbound for cars. The northbound vehicle lane will become a two-way cycletrack. A concrete curb, identical to the one on First Street between K and M Streets NE, will separate the cycletrack from other traffic. The parking lane will become a loading zone.


    Proposed road sections for 1st NE from G to I. Drawings from DDOT. Click for larger version.

    This project will also include rebuilding and expanding the sidewalks, particularly on the east side where a loading dock entrance and bollards currently cause the sidewalk to disappear completely for approximately 80 feet. This will help prepare the street if and when DDOT is able to expand the mezzanine in the adjacent Union Station Metro station.

    M Street NE between First and Delaware

    The elevated Metropolitan Branch Trail ends at L Street, but there is only a stairway there, so bicyclists on the trail usually exit at M Street. They ride down a ramp onto a wide sidewalk across from the NoMa Metro Station. The trail then continues on-road on First Street NE, but there is a one-block gap on M Street without any dedicated bicycle infrastructure.

    This block of M now has one lane of vehicular traffic in each direction, with metered parking on the south side. DDOT's proposal would remove these 16 parking spaces to create a protected cycletrack.


    M Street NE at 1st showing potential cycletrack. Image by the author.

    DC's 2005 Bike Master Plan and the recently released MoveDC Plan both show protected bicycle lanes for M Street all the way from downtown, past this block, to the end of M at Florida Avenue NE (between 6th and 7th Streets NE). The new M Street NW cycletrack runs from Thomas Circle at 14th Street west to Pennsylvania Avenue at 29th Street (with a one-block gap between 15th and 16th).

    DDOT's Mike Goodno is also preparing designs to add more blocks on M Street NE and portions of M Street NW, but this first block is the highest priority because it would fill a gap in the MBT.

    F Street at 2nd Street NE

    The MBT technically splits south of L Street into a pair of pathways on 1st and 2nd Streets, NE—on either side of the Union Station tracks. The 2nd Street section primarily runs on widened asphalt or concrete sidewalks which abruptly end at F Street close to Union Station.

    The block of F Street between Union Station and 2nd Street, which goes past the Securities and Exchange Commission building, is one-way eastbound with limited parking spaces. However, the street is the same width as the blocks to the east, in residential Capitol Hill, which have two lanes of traffic plus parking on both sides.

    DDOT proposes adding an eastbound bike lane on the south side of the street, along with a contraflow bike lane on the north side for westbound bicycles similar to nearby G and I Streets NE.


    Proposed bike lanes on F Street NE. Drawings from DDOT. Click for larger version.

    This will connect to planned bike lanes for F Street NE from 2nd to 8th, which Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C voted to support in September 2013.

    Next steps

    ANC 6C will be voting on these new bicycle facilities at its monthly meeting tonight, June 11. The ANC's transportation committee previously endorsed these projects. DDOT has already begun the procurement process for some of these projects, and is aiming to have all of these MBT sections complete this year.

    Parking


    A municipal parking garage for 14th and U? It would not come cheap

    A number of businesses and residents around 14th and U Streets are interested in trying to create a municipal parking garage in a large government-owned parcel on S Street. Is this a good use of the land? What if it cost $4 an hour, or required heavy subsidies from the DC budget?


    Image from Bing Maps.

    The DC Department of Parks and Recreation now uses the property, 1325 S Street NW, to park vehicles and for other service uses. Proponents of a municipal parking garage suggest an above-ground parking structure lined with retail or residential, or an underground garage with buildings or a park on top.

    But those advocating for the garage assert that it would pay for itself. Based on a quick analysis based on numbers from parking experts, it seems likely that such a garage would have to charge $3.50-4.50 per hour just to break even.

    Do those supporting this garage idea realize that would be necessary? Or, if a garage would require significant ongoing subsidies to operate, is there a good reason to spend public money on making parking cheaper in the hot Logan Circle and U Street area?


    Image from the DC Zoning Map.

    A committee of Logan Circle's ANC 2F heard a presentation on the concept in January, as did ANC 1B in March. The concept is getting support as a part of a larger effort to establish a Business Improvement District for the area, and the JBG Companies, which owns a lot of properties nearby, has given $150,000 to help set up the BID.

    A lot of the impetus is coming from the Studio Theatre at 14th and P, which, the presentation said, saw "significant reductions in their show subscribers and customer base, largely due to the lack of available public parking."

    Arguments for the garage

    Recently, many residential blocks in the area got the "red sign" parking restrictions that limit parking on one side of each street to residents with the appropriate ward sticker (1 or 2, depending on where in the area you're talking about). That has made parking easier for residents (or people driving in from places like Mount Pleasant or Georgetown in the same wards) but even scarcer for others.

    The presentation to ANC 2F claims that there are not many buildings with "abundant nighttime parking" in the area, and that "case studies of many great urban areas show how centrally-located public parking facilities solve transportation issues and spur economic development (locally, including Clarendon, Bethesda, and Shirlington)."

    Architect Roger Lewis praised the idea in a recent column for the Washington Post, where he suggested cities need a "flexible approach" to parking. He said,

    Along 14th Street for several blocks north of P, public parking is a scarce and expensive commodity. Moreover, the nearest Red Line and Green Line Metro stations are a half mile or more away, just far enough to be a challenging walk for older folks, for people with disabilities and for parents with very young children in tow. ...

    Either the city or a parking garage operator could construct and manage the garage, which would be self-financing. From such a garage, people could comfortably walk or hop on a local shuttle to reach their destinations.

    How much would this cost?

    Is this a good idea? Certainly parking is often difficult in the area. If one could make parking easier, without any costs or tradeoffs at all, that's not a bad thing. But it's always important to understand the proposal clearly.

    There are plenty of arguments to be made about the garage. I will get into most of those in part 2. First, we need to talk about cost. How much would this cost the DC government? How much would people pay to park? Often in these discussions, people make assumptions that turn out not to be true. Let's delve into them.

    Lewis suggests a garage would be "self-financing." What does that mean? Does it mean that a private company could afford to buy the land at market price, build a garage, run it, and break even? (Probably not, because if that's true someone would probably have done it).

    Does it mean that the city would lease the land for free to the operator, who would then build a garage and maintain it? Or would the city have to pay for a garage which then an operator could maintain?

    Many suggestions to build parking (like the National Coalition to Save Our Mall's proposal for the National Mall) assert that garages will pay for themselves, but often without numbers to back up the assertion.

    Fortunately, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute has some detailed research on the cost of parking structures. Their report estimates that an urban parking garage costs about $18,000 per space to construct, and $600 per space per year to maintain. Karina Ricks of Nelson\Nygaard says DC has higher costs than around the county, so $20,000 would be a better estimate.

    If a property pays no taxes, therefore, the annualized cost of construction per space, plus maintenance, is $1,569 to $1,744 at a 6% interest rate. With operating costs, that's $181-195 per space per month. Already, this rivals the cost one would pay for an off-street space in the neighborhood, meaning that the revenue from parking is unlikely to even pay for just constructing and maintaining this garage.

    Plus, we haven't even talked about land. This property is about 2 acres. The square to the west, once you get past the commercial area right along 14th, has about 120 townhouses in 5.74 acres. The property assessment database shows that DC assesses the land for each townhouse at $400-500,000, so at an average of $450,000 per townhouse, that's $9.4 million in land value per acre in this area, comparable to what VTPI lists for center cities in most of the country.

    For a 4-level parking structure of 130 spaces per level, that's $36,000 more in land costs per space; for a smaller 3-level garage, it would be over $48,000. That adds $263-$351 per month to the parking cost.


    Image from the ANC presentation.

    Oh, and that's just if the garage is above ground. Move it underground, and your construction cost skyrockets. Ricks says DC construction costs usually run around $60,000, or $5,231 per space. That makes the monthly cost per space about $486 per month with operating costs, even if you ignore the cost of the land entirely. You can do that to some extent because you can still build something else on top of the garage, though that building then becomes more expensive, and having a commercial garage below diminishes the value of whatever can be built there.

    The price per hour to break even is...

    How much would the garage have to charge per hour to recoup these costs? Ricks said that a very generous estimate would assume the garage averages 70% full each day over an 8-hour peak period of 4 pm to midnight.

    This assumes the garage is totally full at the busiest times, like Saturday at 8 pm, tapering off toward the edges with low occupancy on weeknights at 5 or 11 pm. There will be little if any revenue from the daytime in this area, which has few offices except the Reeves Center, which has its own garage.

    If Sundays and holidays stay free, that is 270 days per year. With the numbers from above, the garage would have to charge $3.52 to $4.33 per hour just to recoup its costs, whether it is underground or above ground.

    You can see all of the math and calculations on this spreadsheet (XLS).


    Image from the ANC presentation.

    Would people really park in the garage?

    So, we've got a parking garage which costs $3.50 or $4 an hour to park in. To go to 14th or U for dinner, that would set you back maybe $10-15. The presentation to ANC 2F CDC suggests that a garage would "relieve parking pressure on nearby streets and reduce circling." That's only true if it is considerably more desirable than parking on the street.

    Right now, it's not. At night, it's free to park on the side of the street which isn't reserved for residents of the ward. Lots of people (including myself) circle for long periods of time in Georgetown to find free spaces or cheap metered spaces even though there is pay parking, because the cost is so different.

    If this garage has to pay for itself, it would provide some parking, but that probably wouldn't be cheap enough to dissuade people from trying for a street space. We could change the on-street policies to charge more of a market rate there, but then would a garage be necessary?

    For those who don't want to circle, there are businesses with valet parking on 14th and U already. Le Diplomate, for instance, has valet parking for $12. It seems that there are options to park if you are willing to pay a market rate, and building a garage wouldn't lower the market rate.

    One problem with many of these parking proposals is that they assume, on the cost side, that the garage would make so much revenue to not cost the public anything, but on the other hand they assume that the parking is cheap enough to not cost the public much there either. It can't be both.

    Cost isn't the only reason to build or not build a garage. In the next part, we'll look at other arguments for and against the proposal.

    Development


    Who benefits from the Secret Safeway's community benefits agreement?

    As part of a deal to build a replacement for the Tenleytown Safeway, residents are looking for the right public benefit to ask for. But the rare opportunity to get a big donation is bringing out narrow interests.


    Photo from ANC 3E.

    At the February ANC 3E meeting, Steve Strazzella of developer Bozzuto presented the latest iteration of a 5-year-old plan to redevelop the so-called "Secret Safeway," located at 42nd and Davenport streets NW. Bozzuto plans a block-long, brick building with 4 stories of apartments atop a 65,000 square foot supermarket and two levels of parking.

    The project is a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which gives an owner more flexibility with a property's zoning if community representatives and the DC Zoning Commission agree to it. There are basically two ways a PUD contributes to a neighborhood: through public benefits, or amenities within the project itself. But it's unclear who will benefit from what the community's asked for.

    The proposal has some benefits all by itself

    Safeway originally needed a PUD because it wanted a new supermarket bigger than what could fit on the part of the site zoned for commercial use. In response to community pressure, the company agreed to build the store as part of a mixed-use development that is often the foundation of a more vibrant, walkable neighborhood.

    In many ways, the proposed building is good on its own. What is currently an ugly one-story building that turns its back on the street and has acres of impermeable parking lots would be replaced with a new store, 200 rental apartments and extensive green roofs, all a quarter-mile from the Tenleytown Metro station and a half-mile from the Friendship Heights Metro.


    Current Safeway site showing potential parcels.

    Bozzuto has hired a new architect for the project, Maurice Walters, who also designed the Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market in Brookland. The developer wasn't willing to share any images, but as before, the apartments will range from studios to three-bedroom units, perfect for an area known for its family-friendliness.

    The plan will absorb the adjacent WMATA chiller plant, allowing the building to have an inviting, street-friendly facade for the entire block. A loading dock in the rear will be fully enclosed, hiding loading activities from public view.

    Neighbors unsure what the public benefit should be

    At the ANC meeting, the neighbors largely supported the project. No one opposed it outright. For his part, Strazzella came to the commission ready to negotiate. Owners of the adjacent rowhouses worried that the proposed building would block their sunlight, but already the building was lower than previous iterations. Residents were divided on whether the building had too many parking spaces, and whether residents should be able to get parking permits.

    Everyone generally agreed that Bozzuto should close a slip lane that lets southbound drivers speed off of Wisconsin Avenue onto 42nd Street. Instead, traffic would have to slow down and turn right, reducing cut-through traffic without sacrificing connectivity. In its place, there would be a small park just outside the entrance to the new store.

    Beyond these points, discussion broke down. In a preemptive gesture, Bozzuto came with plans for a 4,000 square foot community building to occupy a corner of the lot on Ellicott Street. The building would hold meeting space, but it was unknown who would own it. While the main building featured quality design, the community building was bland and uninspired.

    In the subsequent discussion, one woman said it would be better used as a park. Another said it should become a new house. Commissioner Sam Serebin insisted that it should be an outdoor pool. The commissioners agreed to talk it out, but Strazzella indicated that Bozzuto wanted to file with the Zoning Commission within 60 days.

    To me, the community building makes little sense. There's no clear need for this kind of functional space. More importantly, there's no reason for this kind of building to be placed on a solidly residential street. But at the meeting, it felt like everyone agreed that the ANC had to extract something from the developer.

    How do you decide what a community benefit is?

    Part of the problem is that there is no framework to decide what's appropriate at this site. The Upper Wisconsin Avenue Corridor Study would have identified community needs and combined them into a menu of amenities. In that scenario, either the developer or the ANC could see whether the benefit would be appropriate. In the absence of that or any plan, the public is left grasping for any chances it gets.

    ANC 3E negotiated an meticulous PUD for the Babe's Billiards redevelopment nearby by focusing on the benefits and negative impacts of the project. This is a much bigger project, so there's more opportunity to toss around big-ticket items. But rather than seeing the PUD process as a mere transaction between a developer and the public, both parties should view it as a chance to build a neighborhood together.

    Parking


    Logan Circle could have a solution to visitor parking woes

    In neighborhoods with streets restricted to resident-only parking, how can visitors and household workers park when they need to? The Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2F) recently endorsed giving residents a "coupon book" of passes to give visitors.


    Photo by NCinDC on Flickr.

    This is the best solution for areas of DC where parking is tight. Logan Circle joined the growing number of neighborhoods where one side of every street is reserved for residents only. This makes parking much more available for residents, possibly at the expense of local businesses and houses of worship.

    But this arrangement also creates its own problem: if a family member is visiting by car, or a home health worker needs to drive in to care for a resident, what do they do?

    In some other neighborhoods, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) mailed out placards, one per household, which the resident can give to the visitor to display on the dashboard. But for neighborhoods like Logan Circle, this would represent an enormous temptation: if you don't need your pass, sell it to someone who works downtown and they can suddenly park in residential zones.

    That is why ANCs in Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, NoMA/H Street, and other mixed-use neighborhoods vehemently objected when DDOT tried last fall to expand the visitor placard system citywide. Earlier this month, Logan's ANC instead endorsed the idea of a booklet, where people get a limited number of passes:

    Commissioner Cain moved that the ANC endorse a Visitor Parking Program for all residents living within the boundaries of ANC 2F and at a Resident Parking Permit (RPP) eligible address. The proposed program shall consist of a coupon booklet containing 10 individual coupons for temporary visitor parking. Each coupon shall be valid for seven (7) days and may not be reused. Residents must opt in to the program. Each program participant may receive one coupon booklet per year (through the end of FY14). The motion was seconded and approved by the Commission (7-1).
    This is a much better idea than the all-year visitor pass. Over a year ago, DDOT parking manager Angelo Rao said he thought the city should set up some kind of visitor pass system, and he was under the gun to implement something by fall 2013. For whatever reasons, which almost surely include internal agency policies and bureaucratic inertia, instead nothing happened. Maybe now there can be some momentum for a real solution.

    There are still some questions to work out and some ways to improve the plan.

    This proposal would make passes each good for one week. That's not so bad, though it would make more sense for passes to work for a single day, and simply offer more passes. Some people have a housecleaner who comes once a week all year. Under this plan, they would get 50 days' worth of passes, but couldn't use them once a week for 50 weeks. Why not? How about a book of 50 day passes instead of 10 week passes?

    One big question: what do people do if they need more passes? Some people might get passes from their neighbors, but it also would make sense to let people purchase more booklets. The rate can be low enough that it's not extremely expensive, but high enough that it keeps the numbers of cars parking in the neighborhood from overwhelming the resident-only space, and also deters a resident from selling booklets to a commuter.

    The ANC did not work out a way to get more passes; Matt Raymond, a member of the ANC, said that they, Councilmember Jack Evans, and DDOT have to work out details like this.

    Another question is who gets the passes. Do people with cars and people without cars alike get them? Does a household with 2 drivers get the same number as an apartment of a single person? What about basement rental units? What about illegal basement rental units?

    Raymond said the commission was split on this issue, and said, "When we discussed restricting it to Ward 2 permit holders, we admitted it was somewhat arbitrary, but there was sentiment (I among those who felt this way) that there needed to be some way to restrict them rather than a no-holds-barred approach."

    "Ward 2 permit holders" are people who have a car registered with a residential parking permit in the area. That is probably not a good criterion, because a person who has no car will have visitors just as much as a person who has a car. On the other hand, it's a dense neighborhood with a lot of people, and ten week-long parking passes for every person could bring in a lot of cars.

    If people can buy more coupons, then one good way to deal with this is over time to lower the number of passes in the first, free book, while letting people buy more. That would discourage over-use, and DDOT could adjust the size of the initial book and the price for more until the demand doesn't overwhelm the neighborhood supply of spaces.

    Will this program (or an even better day pass version with the chance to buy more books) become reality, and even expand to other mixed-use neighborhoods? DDOT has had a years-long track record of promising to do something about parking and then failing.

    Walt Cain, another ANC 2F commissioner, said, "My understanding is that the new crew at DDOT is not in favor of visitor parking generally, so it will likely be an uphill battle to actually get the program put in place."

    DC Councilmember Mary Cheh's Committee on Transportation and the Environment is holding a hearing on parking Wednesday, January 29 at 11 am. Perhaps this, and the opportunity to apply it to more neighborhoods, will come up for discussion then.

    Pedestrians


    ANC 3B throws in the towel on Wisconsin Avenue median

    After a survey that says residents don't want traffic calming on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3B will support returning the street to six lanes.


    New left turn lane in Glover Park Photo from DDOT

    The District is working on a new streetscape that includes measures to discourage speeding and increase pedestrian safety. But ANC 3B commissioner Brian Cohen, a longtime supporter of the project, said at a meeting last night that it will oppose the median at a December 4 public hearing. Most of the 300 responses to a constituent survey favored returning to the six-lane configuration, he said.

    Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh first called a hearing in May as a response to concerns from Massachusetts Heights residents about a painted median that replaced one of the through lanes on Wisconsin between Calvert and Garfield streets. Councilmember Jack Evans was vocally opposed to the median, saying it created more traffic congestion as he drove his children to and from school.

    The District Department of Transportation created the median to draw attention to the commercial strip, give pedestrians a safer way to cross the street and planned to keep it for a one-year trial. Though this section of Wisconsin Avenue was the site of multiple pedestrian strikes, DDOT removed the median after about six months. DDOT has yet to release any empirical data supporting their decision.

    In addition to the lane configuration, the survey also solicited opinions on installing alternative traffic calming measures such as a HAWK light or speed cameras. ANC3B did not disclose the specific survey results on this question, but indicated that the results on these survey items were less definitive and suggested the community is more divided on such measures.

    Commissioners explained that the wider sidewalks, streetlights, and aesthetic improvements will remain in place. There is still enough room to keep the wider sidewalks along with a six-lane street. The few residents in attendance at last night's meeting voiced their agreement with the ANC, and repeated their frustration with the slow traffic between 35th Street and Calvert Street.

    The commissioners also noted that they have repeatedly complained about delivery trucks impeding the flow of traffic. and will work on pressing new rules for nighttime deliveries. Despite all the ideas residents floated from removing parked cars and ticketing delivery trucks, there was a perception that it was not working.

    "I wanted it to work, but no matter what fixes we tried, it didn't," said Commissioner Jackie Blumenthal. "What did work are the sidewalks, the streetlights, and especially the new intersection at 37th and Tunlaw."

    It's likely that the lanes will return to their previous form. However, there remains strong support to some kind of traffic calming measures to protect people crossing the street.

    The Wisconsin Avenue streetscape has exposed DDOT as being particularly vulnerable to political pressure. It sets a precedent for opponents of other progressive transportation initiatives, particularly in Ward 3. Opponents of the brand-new bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue can only come away emboldened by DDOT's eagerness to placate many of the same people on Wisconsin.

    It's clear that DDOT is willing to make significant decisions on highly politicized issues while offering no empirical support. It's a sobering reminder of the need to be vocal in support of progressive transportation projects, even after they're built.

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