Posts about DDOT
For streetcars to move through traffic, rail tracks have to be free of parked cars. To keep them that way, the rules of the road must be crystal clear for drivers.
Last week DDOT used a truck for a test-run of the H Street streetcar route, and because of illegally parked cars, the going was slow. But other cities with similar streetcar layouts, like Seattle and Portland, have had a lot of success keeping their lanes clear. How do they do it?
With constant and clear communication to drivers, like the sign pictured here, and with strong enforcement.
Any time you take pavement away from cars, there's a learning curve. Drivers accustomed to doing as they please have to change behavior. That's to be expected, and it doesn't happen on the first day you run your first test truck. But most drivers do fall in line, once they understand what's changed. That's how streetcars have worked in other cities.
And if all else fails, ticketing cameras mounted on streetcars, like in San Francisco, would solve any remaining problem in a hurry.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Last night, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) presented several concepts for replacing the end of the Southeast Freeway with a boulevard. While it's supposed to reconnect Hill East to the Anacostia River, all of the designs presented prioritize through traffic instead.
The Southeast Freeway has been a barrier between the neighborhood and the river, but the new 11th Street bridges mean that the spur between 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE is no longer needed. DDOT would like to replace it with a surface street, called "Southeast Boulevard," connecting the freeway at 11th Street to Barney Circle.
A standing-room only crowd packed the Payne Elementary School auditorium for DDOT's public meeting on the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Transportation Planning Study. At the meeting, required as part of an environmental assessment of the project under the National Environmental Protection Act, transportation planners shared design concepts for the project and gathered community feedback.
Alternatives for Southeast Boulevard and Barney Circle vary slightly
DDOT planners presented six different options they're studying for the new street, including a "No Build" option (Concept 1) required as part of the NEPA process that would keep everything as it is today.
Concept 2 puts Southeast Boulevard on an elevated structure midway between L Street SE and the existing CSX railroad tracks. The boulevard would be on the same level as L Street, with green space acting as a buffer. Pedestrians and cyclists could access the waterfront by crossing the boulevard at 14th Street SE. DDOT would also build a "multi-modal" parking facility underneath the raised boulevard, with ramps off of the boulevard providing bus and car access to the parking facility.
In Concept 3A, Southeast Boulevard would be at grade, below the level of L Street, with surface parking and green space next to it. There would be a foot and bike bridge over the boulevard and another surface lot to provide access to the waterfront.
Concept 3B is similar to 3A, except the boulevard is on the same level as L Street. In this case, pedestrians and cyclists would have to cross directly over the 4-lane boulevard and surface parking lot to access the waterfront.
Concept 4A places the Southeast Boulevard closer to the railroad tracks and away from L Street, with a parking lot in between. The boulevard and parking would be at grade below the level of L Street. Pedestrians and cyclists would access the waterfront via a pedestrian bridge over the parking lots and boulevard.
Concept 4B is the same, except the boulevard is at the same level as L Street, and pedestrians and cyclists would cross the parking lots and boulevard at 14th Street.
Planners also presented two options on the Barney Circle project, both of which would place traffic signals at the circle.
Option 1 would connect 17th Street, Kentucky Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, and Southeast Boulevard directly to the circle. Kentucky Avenue would stay a two-way street south of Freedom Way and one-way north of it. K Street would not be connected to the circle, but you could still reach it via Pennsylvania Avenue.
In Option 2, 17th, Pennsylvania, and Southeast Boulevard would connect to Barney Circle, while Kentucky Avenue would become a one-way southbound street from H Street to the circle. H Street would become a two-way street, with all-way stop signs installed at 17th & H and 16th, Kentucky, and H. K Street would remain one-way, but would connect directly to the circle.
These options prioritize through traffic over local connections
All of DDOT's concepts for Southeast Boulevard have three things in common: they all include a four-lane boulevard, have no connections to local streets, and include some parking element. The agency's traffic analysis determined that the new street was necessary, connections to local strets would increase cut-through traffic and that there's a significant need for parking.
The result is concepts that simply recreate what DDOT and the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative are trying to eliminate: a freeway that separates the neighborhood from the waterfront. The extra lanes, lack of signals and additional parking will just attract more drivers to the neighborhood during rush hour.
The designs are especially harmful to 17th Street, where Hill East residents have fought for years to reduce traffic volume and speed. DDOT proposes making 17th Street the only access point to Southeast Boulevard via Barney Circle, making it an alternative for drivers trying to avoid 295 and the 11th Street bridge.
Replace the freeway with a new street grid
If a new street is necessary, a better option is to extend the neighborhood grid by connecting the local streets, 13th, 14th, and 15th, to a two-lane boulevard with stoplights at each intersection. This would make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to cross at multiple locations and make the boulevard a local street, rather than a freeway.
A two-lane road with multiple signals would attract less traffic, easing but not eliminating some of the pressure on 17th Street SE. Green space could provide a buffer between L Street and the two-lane boulevard. And forget the unneeded parking lots.
On Barney Circle, Option 1 appears to be preferable to Option 2, assuming that DDOT can implement traffic calming measures on Kentucky Ave SE. Option 2 exacerbates current traffic volume problems by attracting more vehicles to 16th, 17th, and H streets. Without changes to the Southeast Boulevard portion of the project, both Barney Circle options make the neighborhood worse off.
If the goal of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative is really "to reduce barriers between neighborhoods and the waterfront parks" and "provide continuous pedestrian and bicycle access along the entire waterfront," than we need an option that replaces the Southeast Freeway with a new street grid that prioritizes local connections.
What do you think about the proposals? You can send your comments directly to DDOT at email@example.com.
DC could one day have 70 miles of protected bike lanes, if the latest proposal from DDOT becomes reality.
The proposal comes as part of the latest draft of MoveDC, DDOT's master plan. It's still only a proposal, and has not been approved by the DC Council. But what an exciting proposal it is!
And that's not all, just for bikes. The proposal also includes over 60 miles of new off-street trails, and another 70 miles of new regular bike lanes.
Of course, it's easy to adopt great plans and harder to accomplish them. DDOT is still struggling to implement the M Street cycletrack, after all. But one must start with a plan, and this appears to be an extremely progressive plan.
Tomorrow I'll share the latest recommendations for transit.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) promised to complete a number of important projects by now or by the end of this year. Quick quiz: Can you identify which of these have met or will meet the promised deadline?
- Start streetcar service on H Street NE-Benning Road by the end of the year.
- Devise a better system for handling visitor parking passes and residential permit parking.
- Start building a separated bike lane (or "cycletrack") on M Street NW.
- Expand Capital Bikeshare to twice its original size.
- Make pedestrian safety improvements to Maryland Avenue NE.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of a new median on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Glover Park.
The answer: None of the above. DDOT has delayed or given up on all of these promises.
Continue reading my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.
Every day 33 bus routes converge on H and I Streets in downtown DC, making it the busiest bus corridor in the DC region. According to a WMATA report, a contraflow bus lane on H Street would dramatically improve travel times for both transit riders and car drivers.
At peak times, one bus per minute travels along H or I. At off-peak, it's a bus every two minutes. Today, all those buses mix with car traffic on both H and I Streets, which slows them down. Meanwhile, all those buses make several stops to pick up and unload passengers, which slows down car traffic trying to use the same lane.
Moving all the buses to H Street, which is less congested, and giving buses in the westbound direction a separated lane, would speed up both modes.
Since H Street is one-way going east, westbound buses would need a contraflow lane. There are no contraflow bus lanes in the DC region today, but they do work well in other cities around the US.
In its report, WMATA also studied bus lanes on both H and I Streets, as well as a traffic management alternative that wouldn't provide bus lanes, but would optimize traffic signals for buses. All the alternatives improved bus travel, and all of them either improved or maintained current car travel. But the H Street contraflow alternate provided the best combination of benefits, for relatively low cost.
Ultimately DC owns these streets, so the decision to actually implement bus lanes on them rests with the District, not WMATA. But Metro's report could push DDOT to begin its own study process.
Seems like a good idea.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) may decide not to remove the service lane on Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park, even as the agency takes public input on it. Could a temporary closure show how it would work for businesses and pedestrians?
The proposal to remove the service lane, which was built in the 1960's, and restore a wider sidewalk has generated much debate in Cleveland Park. Merchants are concerned about losing business if there are fewer parking spaces, but a recent survey shows that many many more people visit Cleveland Park on foot or transit and would enjoy a wider sidewalk.
Yesterday, Fox 5 reporter Beth Parker tweeted that, according to DDOT spokesperson Reggie Sanders, the agency has ruled out changing the service lane. However, in emails, both DDOT Associate Director Sam Zimbabwe and staff for Councilmember Mary Cheh say that the agency hasn't actually made a final decision, It seems as though someone at the agency spoke out of turn, but Sanders' comment suggests that they are likely to indeed decide to do nothing.
This would be a perfect place for DDOT to experiment with a temporary pedestrian space. Cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have done this to give new public spaces a test run before making them permanent.
DDOT could simply rope off the service lane at each end, preventing drivers from entering, and make small, reversible changes, like paint or movable potted plants, to make it more welcoming. Businesses along the street could use the space for tables and chairs and sidewalk sales. Merchants, residents, and DC officials would be able to see how closing the service lane could make Cleveland Park more exciting and vibrant without any risks.
It is not too late to ask DDOT to try this out. The public comment period on DDOT's study is open until November 13, and tonight's public meeting is still on. The agency will finish the study at the end of the month.
If you would like to share your opinion about the future of the Cleveland Park service lane, you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know which of the 4 proposed options for changing the service lane you prefer.
You may also attend the final community meeting tonight from 5 to 8:30 pm at the Cleveland Park Library, located at 3310 Connecticut Avenue NW.
Speak out on DC's proposed zoning update, learn about streetcars in DC and Bus Rapid Transit in Montgomery County, and envision a new Franklin Park at events around the region.
Testify on DC's zoning rewrite: It's finally here. After many years of delays, push back, and changes, DC's Zoning Commission will begin considering the first update to the city's zoning code since 1958 in a series of public hearings over the next two weeks. The first hearing is tonight, with additional hearings to follow Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
Each hearing will be about one or more topics in the code, including housing, commercial uses, and parking. The hearings will be held at the Office of Zoning, 441 4th Street NW on Judiciary Square. Each hearing will start at 6 pm and continue until all the witnesses are heard or the Zoning Commission decides to recess.
Transit reporters talk politics: How will Smart Growth issues affect the 2014 elections in DC and Maryland? The Action Committee for Transit will host a panel discussion on transit and the election with the Washington Post's Robert Thomson, also known as "Dr. Gridlock," Ari Ashe from WTOP, and Josh Kurtz from the blog Center Maryland. Kyjta Weir, former Examiner reporter and current reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, will moderate.
This free meeting will be Tuesday, November 12 from 7:30 to 9pm at the Silver Spring Civic Building, located at the corner of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring. For more information, visit ACT's website.
Learn about BRT on Route 29: Do you live, work, or travel along Route 29 in Montgomery County, also known as Colesville Road and Columbia Pike? Join the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Communities for Transit, and other local organizations hosting an educational event about Bus Rapid Transit for residents and business owners along 29 between Silver Spring and Burtonsville. Speakers will include Montgomery County Planning Board member Casey Anderson, county planner Larry Cole, and Chuck Lattuca, BRT system manager at the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.
With 17,000 projected riders by 2040, a BRT line along 29 is an important part of Montgomery's rapid transit network. The event will take place on Wednesday, November 13 from 6 to 9pm at the White Oak Community Recreation Center, 1700 April Lane in Silver Spring. Click here to RSVP or for more information.
And talk about the north-south streetcar line: The District Department of Transportation will kick off its study of a north-south streetcar line with four open houses this week. Planners will decide specific routes for the streetcar and whether it should go to Takoma or Silver Spring.
The first meeting is tonight from 6:30 to 8:30pm at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, 600 M Street SW. Tomorrow from 6:30 to 8:30pm and Wednesday from 2 to 4pm, there will be open houses at the Reeves Center, 2000 14th Street NW. And on Thursday, there will be a meeting from 6:30 to 8:30pm at Emery Recreation Center, 5701 Georgia Avenue NW. For more information, visit the streetcar study website.
Talk about how to spend Virginia's transportation money: Virginia's newly-passed transportation funding bill means new money for projects in Fairfax County. How should the county spend it? County officials are holding a series of dialogues to learn what residents want and find the best ways to get them moving.
They're holding a meeting tonight from 6:30 to 8:30pm at Falls Church High School, located at 7521 Jaguar Trail, with meetings to follow in Fairfax and Reston. For more information, visit the Fairfax County website.
Restart Franklin Park: DC, the National Park Service and the Downtown Business Improvement District will discuss the future of Franklin Park at a meeting Thursday night. The three organizations will study ways to renovate the park to make it more active and safe. The meeting will happen from 6 to 8:30pm at Four Points by Sheraton, 1201 K Street NW. For more information, visit the event's website.
Envision Tenleytown's future: On Saturday, Ward3Vision will discuss issues affecting Tenleytown and ways to improve the neighborhood at a workshop at American University. Organizers hope to bring together residents of Tenleytown and surrounding neighborhoods to share their hopes and dreams for the neighborhood. The event will happen from 9am to 12:30pm at Nebraska Hall, 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW. Click here for more information and to RSVP.
DC will start a one-year study of a north-south transit corridor from Southwest DC to Takoma or Silver Spring. While it's too early to tell what officials will decide, it's clear that Silver Spring's jobs, amenities, and other transit connections make it the most logical terminus.
This new corridor, which could operate as BRT but more likely a streetcar, will be one of the largest transit expansions in the District. This study, which is the first step in a longer planning process, will analyze alignments and modes through the entire study corridor to produce no more than three alternatives.
Historically, streetcars ran up 11th Street, 14th Street, and 7th Street/Georgia Avenue, spurring the development of commercial nodes along the way. You can see the vestiges of those lines today at their former termini: the Trolley Turnaround Park at 11th & Monroe Street NW, the streetcar terminal at Colorado Avenue, and downtown Silver Spring, just beyond the Georgia Avenue line's end at Eastern Avenue.
According to project manager Jamie Henson, DDOT has not committed to any exact alignment, but the study will consider corridors from 16th Street NW to as far as a quarter-mile east of 7th Street or Georgia Avenue. The original 2010 plan for the 37-mile network depicted a line running from Buzzard Point through downtown on 7th Street SW/NW and F Street NW, then along 14th Street NW, U Street NW, and finally on Georgia Avenue NW to Takoma. The plan described Silver Spring as a future extension along Georgia Avenue.
Though DDOT will study BRT and a wider range of alignments, the original alignment is still a possibility. The agency just announced that its preferred alternative for the Union Station-Georgetown transit line is a streetcar on H Street NE/NW, New Jersey Avenue NW and K Street NW, mirroring the original mode and alignment in the 2010 streetcar plan.
DDOT will compare streetcars to BRT, but not entirely
This phase of the study will consider modes such as BRT and streetcars, assessing the travel time, reliability, level of service, access to jobs, and types of trips served. The study will consider the trade-offs and desirability of running the line in dedicated lanes versus mixed traffic. DDOT will also contemplate whether the new service should prioritize speed and install fewer stops, or increase the number of stops to reduce walking.
Henson said the study will consider construction and operating costs of BRT versus streetcar, but Henson dismissed the differences in real estate development each mode sparks, saying development along the north-south corridor will happen regardless of mode. The Office of Planning's 2012 Streetcar Land Use Study, however, clearly favors streetcars' development potential for the District:
Although well-designed BRT systems attract some development, their impacts are typically much less than those for railWeighing the costs of construction and operation without accounting for land value appreciation misses an important part of financing the eventual project. DDOT recently announced that the District government will finance the streetcar, while contracting to a private firm to design, build, operate, and maintain the system.
— and the BRT systems that have generated the strongest development response operate on exclusive rights of way at all times and not in mixed traffic, as the District streetcar would. In cities without the potential to attract much development investment, implementation costs and other factors give buses a clear advantage. In the District, however, streetcar service appears very likely to attract significant real estate investment.
The District has not decided whether it will finance the full streetcar network through TIFs, general tax revenue, or special bond programs, but one thing is clear: bonds will have to be paid off through some stream of tax revenue, either a special account or the general fund. It's essential to compare the new tax revenue each mode generates, but this will likely wait for a later phase.
Extending the corridor to Silver Spring is in DC's interest
While keeping the north-south streetcar entirely in DC would be politically easier, there are many compelling reasons why terminating it at the Silver Spring Metro station would benefit the District and the region as a whole.
One of the main lessons our region learned from constructing the Metro is that all parts of the region thrive when everyone cooperates on transportation planning. The streetcars provide a valuable opportunity to further knit together the region's many vibrant walkable urban places both socially and economically.
When connected with urban-oriented transit infrastructure, urban places make each other more desirable because people in one location enjoy the benefits of all the other urban places. Even though it's on the other side of Eastern Avenue, District residents will more easily enjoy all that Silver Spring has to offer with more robust transit access via the north-south streetcar.
Silver Spring is a regional jobs center with 40,000 jobs and more to come. DC's northernmost neighborhoods would have an easy, quick reverse commute just across Eastern Avenue to a major regional jobs center. And unlike the Takoma Metro Station, Silver Spring is a major transit hub connecting not just the Red Line, but also MARC, the future Purple Line, and numerous bus lines to places throughout DC and Maryland.
It's also a regional shopping and entertainment hub, home to the Fillmore music hall, the American Film Institute Silver Theater, a public outdoor ice rink as well as free concerts at Veterans' Plaza, a farmers' market, and some regionally notable bars and restaurants. Not surprisingly, the 70/79 Metrobus, which serves the 7th Street/Georgia Avenue corridor between Southwest DC and Silver Spring today, is one of the most popular bus lines in the system.
Even though Silver Spring is just outside DDOT's jurisdiction, it would obviously win out over Takoma if transit projects followed economic, not jurisdictional, boundaries. Furthermore, two Montgomery County Councilmembers have asked DC Mayor Vincent Gray to consider Silver Spring as a terminal.
Share your views with DDOT next week
The District is hosting four meetings to kick off the study next week. In this first round, the agency is interested in learning your views on the eventual plan's features. Do you prefer faster travel times to frequent stops? Do you think the new line should run in its own dedicated lane at all or only in certain places? What impacts on street parking would you consider unacceptable? Do you prefer Takoma or Silver Spring as a northern terminus?
- Buzzard Point to Downtown: Monday, November 4 from 6:30 to 8:30pm, St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, 600 M Street SW.
- Downtown to Petworth: Tuesday, November 5 from 6:30 to 8:30pm, Reeves Center, 2000 14th Street NW.
- Businesses (entire study area): Wednesday, November 6 from 2pm to 4pm, Reeves Center, 2000 14th Street NW.
- Petworth to Silver Spring: Thursday, November 7 from 6:30 to 8:30pm, Emery Recreation Center, 5701 Georgia Avenue NW.
In response to drivers making U-turns across the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, DDOT has completed the first stage of installing a special kind of barrier called a Zebra. Now that the Zebras are out in the wild, will they work?
Last summer, Mayor Vincent Gray announced that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) would work with stakeholders to address an increasingly dangerous problem with illegal U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue. DDOT's solution was to install Zebras, a bicycle lane separator from the Spanish company Zicla.
The low-profile barriers can separate bike lanes from vehicle traffic without being visually obtrusive. DDOT chose the Zebras because their low profile does not interrupt the viewshed to the US Capitol, a serious issue for the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA). They're also bolted to the pavement, meaning they can be removed for the presidential inauguration parade every 4 years.
In September, the CFA approved a pilot project to install the Zebras on two blocks of Penn. Yesterday, DDOT installed Zebras on the south side of Pennsylvania between 12th and 13th streets NW. According to Mike Goodno, DDOT Bicycle Program Specialist, DDOT installed the Zebras on only one block for the time being in order to assess their effectiveness.
How effective will they be?
DDOT's construction plans call for spacing the Zebras at 10-foot intervals on each edge of the bike lane. However, the manufacturer's specifications recommended placing them no more than 2.5 meters, or 8.2 feet apart. Subsequent measurements on installed Zebras show the actual separation to be approximately 15 feet center-to-center in violation of DDOT's construction plans for this project.
This may or may not be narrow enough to prevent drivers from entering the bike lane. However, Zebras also have no sharp edges, which are not only safer for cyclists, but allow emergency vehicles to drive over them when necessary.
Why did DDOT exceed the minimum recommended separation? One possible answer is that the Zebras will be located on each side of the bike lanes in a staggered arrangement. This creates a combined separation of approximately 5 feet. However, the rows of Zebras on either side of the bike lanes are 15 feet apart, meaning drivers can still cut across them.
In order to determine the Zebras' effectiveness, DDOT took counts of illegal U-turns prior to installation and will take additional counts now, in addition to doing a review of crash data. The agency will also look at public feedback about the Zebras to gauge the pilot program's success. The test results will determine if DDOT will install Zebras along the entire length of the cycle track.
First stage of Zebra installation on Pennsylvania Avenue, other side to follow soon. Photo from the author.
The Zebras' spacing may lower their effectiveness, reducing the chance of a successful test and making cyclists less safe. Hopefully, DDOT's test will encourage transportation officials to install them not only throughout the corridor, but in the manner that the Zebras' manufacturer recommends.
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