Posts about Glover Park
Last week, DC officials quietly reversed their recent traffic calming project in Glover Park and began removing a new median on Wisconsin Avenue.
With the Glover Park ANC's support, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) replaced one lane on Wisconsin between 35th and Garfield streets with a painted median in January to calm traffic and improve pedestrian safety. However, a number of residents who drive through Glover Park, including Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2, including Georgetown), pushed to reverse the move.
DDOT previously said their plan was to leave the median in place long enough to study it, but in the face of pressure, the agency suddenly began removing the median between Calvert and Garfield streets. Drivers struck 2 pedestrians each year in this stretch between 2008 and 2010. DDOT spokesperson Monica Hernandez says the change is "permanent" and that "the plan is to monitor pedestrian safety going forward."
Community supported median on Wisconsin Avenue
ANC 3B, which contains Glover Park, endorsed the median after a long vetting process. In June 2009, DDOT and its consultants at Toole Design Group recommended replacing one through lane with a center left turn median lane. Studies from the Office of Planning and DDOT found that it would increase pedestrian safety, calm traffic and direct it to the commercial strip by removing turning cars from the through lanes.
While DDOT originally proposed a raised median, ANC 3B advocated to start with painted medians so DDOT could study their effect and make changes if needed. After multiple ANC meetings and ample discussion on the Glover Park listserv, DDOT finally completed the painted median in January. Some neighbors immediately began to question the new median's impact on local businesses and whether it had just pushed traffic onto other streets.
Despite some complaints, most Glover Park residents agreed that the new configuration made it safer to move around Wisconsin Avenue, whether by car, foot or transit. The Glover Park ANC was also supportive, though they advocated for continued study and tweaks to reduce congestion.
Political pressure trumps collecting data
DDOT offered to study traffic delays for a year and look at ways to change the light timing, signage and enforcement to reduce congestion, but opponents said that was too long to wait.
Evans kept pressure up on the issue, including railing against it at public forums. He made regular phone calls to Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3, which includes Glover Park) while driving through the area, which he traverses several times a day to take his kids to and from their home in Georgetown.
When DDOT presented preliminary results of traffic studies showing that the median only added 1-2 minutes to driving time, Evans was incredulous. "If we were talking about just a couple minutes, we wouldn't be here," he said.
Last week, DDOT quietly began removing part of the median. The agency made this decision without telling residents of Glover Park or ANC 3B. DDOT spokesperson Monica Hernandez says they acted based on "direction provided by those at the May 1 hearing."
ANC members are disappointed in DDOT's change of heart. "It's outrageous that DDOT would make this change without considering its impacts on pedestrian safety and traffic flow and without consulting with the community most affected by the modifications," said ANC 3B chair Brian Cohen.
Cohen also says Evans' involvement shifted the decision from safety-focused to political. "The change from data-gathering to simply reversing DDOT clearly happened when Councilmember Evans inserted himself into the issue," said Cohen. "Jack Evans hasn't shown the slightest interest in the well-being and safety of the people who live, work, and play in Glover Park. ... It's galling that he's been given carte blanche to make decisions that undermine pedestrian safety in our community."
The Wisconsin Avenue median was the result of extensive study, community discussion, and eventually community buy-in. It's disappointing that DDOT would subvert its own process and put pedestrians at risk based on political pressure. Glover Park residents deserve better treatment from their officials and elected leaders.
Upset Georgetown residents are challenging a 2012 traffic calming project in Glover Park. They say it has lengthened their car commutes through that adjacent neighborhood. Monday, these residents will air their frustrations at an extraordinary Georgetown ANC meeting with Councilmembers Jack Evans and Mary Cheh and DDOT Director Terry Bellamy.
The idea for traffic calming project began years ago. The Glover Park ANC, after hearing constituents bemoan the state of retail in Glover Park, complained to the city about their commercial district's struggles.
The Office of Planning studied the area in 2006. That report found that cars speed through Glover Park, particularly going downhill on Wisconsin, which makes it dangerous to the pedestrians who patronize Glover Park businesses.
2-3 pedestrians are struck each year on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park. In fact, after a driver hit a Georgetown woman and her dog in Glover Park, commissioner Ed Solomon of the Georgetown ANC said, "I would hope that this accident would result in a comprehensive review on the safety concerns that this community has about this section of Wisconsin Avenue."
It's precisely this hostile pedestrian environment, concluded the Office of Planning, that reduces pedestrian traffic to retailers in Glover Park.
DDOT concludes median could reduce congestion and boost pedestrian safety
The Glover Park ANC then asked DDOT in 2009 for a follow-up study about making Glover Park more welcoming for pedestrians. DDOT collected tons of data on traffic at all times of day and days of the week, and reached some interesting conclusions.
The data showed that Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park actually suffers from both congestion and speeding, due to the many left turns. When drivers are turning left they block the lanes and cause congestion; when they don't, people speed and pedestrians are at risk.
DDOT's engineering models showed that adding a middle left-turn lane would both reduce congestion and also speeding. It would calm traffic (with a single through lane) and eliminate left-turn lane blocking (with the turn lane). The models estimated that the project would not change the time to drive though Glover Park.
Officals presented these results at numerous public meetings. Anyone who was remotely involved in civic affairs by reading public meeting notices, attending ANC meetings, or talking to their ANC commissioners knew about it.
Changes aren't complete
DDOT then began the construction, and some residents in Glover Park and Georgetown complained about traffic spilling over into adjacent neighborhood streets. That was a legitimate complaint, and there is a poorly-designed intersection at 37th & Tunlaw that invites drivers to cut through adjacent neighborhood streets.
Fortunately, DDOT's study had a recommendation for that. It suggested reconfiguring 37th and Tunlaw to calm traffic and reduce cut-through traffic. That project is not done yet; it's scheduled to be completed in March.
The construction on Wisconsin, however, largely finished early this year, but the center median containing the left-turn lanes is only painted for now. That's because DDOT is spending a year measuring the results and tweaking different things like light timing, enforcement, and so on.
Changes already help some pedestrians, frustrate some drivers
Pedestrians are already feeling the benefits. It's far less stressful crossing and walking along Wisconsin Avenue. Families with children in particular report less anxiety about walking around Glover Park to popular destinations like the Guy Mason playground and area restaurants.
When the year of tweaks and study ends, DDOT will replace the painted medians between the left-turn areas with raised medians. This will be even better for pedestrian activity, because crossing Wisconsin Avenue will be safer and less threatening with a central raised median.
However, a vocal minority of drivers who prioritize a few seconds of driving time over pedestrian safety have won their first battle to reverse this project. They have secured an audience with two Councilmembers and the DDOT Director at Monday's Georgetown ANC meeting.
DDOT Program Manager Paul Hoffman says that "early returns" of data collection indicate that through time is the same for drivers headed north through Glover Park, but 30 seconds longer on average going south.
If the opponents are successful in repaving Wisconsin Avenue to add the lost through lanes, DC will not only have to pay for the repaving. We will have to pay the federal government back for the money it contributed to the project.
Use the form below and attend Monday's meeting to ask the councilmembers and Georgetown ANC commissioners to give the Glover Park traffic calming project time to succeed. The ANC meeting takes place on Monday, March 4, 6:30 pm at Georgetown Visitation School on 35th Street and Volta Place. The meeting is on the 2nd floor of the main building, in the Heritage Room.
Speak up for safety
This Thursday night, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) in affluent upper Northwest's Ward 3 will vote on a resolution about the DC zoning update. We need you to go try to dissuade the reactionary, backward commissioners from trying to keep new residents out of their fancy neighborhods and... wait a minute... they're totally for it!
ANC 3B, which covers Glover Park and Cathedral Heights, is considering a resolution to endorse the changes in the zoning update. Assuming they pass the proposal, they're totally enthusiastic about more neighborhood-serving corner stores, renting out basements and garages and other parts of homes.
The resolution strongly defends the plan to remove parking minimums "that undermine market forces, increase housing costs, reduce incentives to use mass transit, and damage the historic and walkable form of many neighborhoods."
If you live in Glover Park, please head to their meeting, which starts at 7 pm at Stoddert Elemetary, and speak up for these important (and quite modest if not overly timid) changes.
Here's the full text of the draft resolution:
Whereas, the District's current zoning code, written in 1958, predates Metro and the modern mass DC bus system, and is not consistent with past population shifts or expected trends in population growth in Glover Park, Cathedral Heights, and the District of Columbia as a whole;In the interests of full accuracy, it's not strictly true that the update "does not modify parking minimums outside of transit zones," since new residential buildings of up to 10 units won't have parking minimums even outside transit zones. However, that doesn't override any of the cogent arguments for the change.
Whereas, 50 years of accumulated amendments have made the code complicated and hard to navigate and understand;
Whereas the Office of Planning proposed and sought public comment on a December 2012 update to the generations-old zoning code;
Whereas, the updated proposal makes reasonable allowances for local corner stores in rowhouse residential areas such as Glover Park so that the ability to walk a short distance to local, neighborhood-friendly stores enriches our neighborhood fabric and provides easy access to daily necessities;
Whereas the December 2012 draft of the zoning update contains reasonable limits on these corner stores to limit trash, noise, or other problems;
Whereas the updated proposal offers improved options for homeowners to create an accessory dwelling unit, creating more affordable housing, increasing the value of existing housing stock, allowing for neighborhood population growth without modifying existing building density, and allowing seniors to age in place in their own homes;
Whereas the December 2012 draft of the zoning update contains reasonable limits on such accessory dwelling to prevent overcrowding of neighborhoods or accessory dwellings that are not consistent with the fabric of traditional residential neighborhoods;
Whereas, the updated proposal modifies required parking minimums that undermine market forces, increase housing costs, reduce incentives to use mass transit, and damage the historic and walkable form of many neighborhoods;
Whereas the December 2012 draft of the zoning update does not modify parking minimums outside of transit zones so that the proposal will not adversely impact the availability of on-street parking;
Whereas, a simplified zoning code will offer clear rules that can be followed by the average resident and enable the zoning code to be transparent and accessible to all;
Therefore, be it resolved that the ANC supports the December 2012 Office of Planning zoning code draft that will let Glover Park, Cathedral Heights, and the District of Columbia grow in a sustainable way while meeting the needs of current and future residents of all ages;
Now, therefore be it further resolved that the ANC 3B asks the Zoning Commission to adopt the December 2012 draft zoning code proposal.
Plus, we've already seen, when there have been parking minimums, that it doesn't guarantee abundant street parking. The neighborhood can protect its street parking by creating smaller RPP zones, making permit prices better match supply and demand, and using performance parking to promote turnover by non-residents.
Meanwhile, the Foxhall Community Citizens' Association took a look and outright opposes just about everything, mainly on the usual grounds we've heard: they don't really want more people around, especially not students, and also think that more people will make it harder to park. Here is an email we obtained, which FCCA historic preservation chair Paul DonVito sent to other citizens' associations:
Here are a few of our concerns. These issues aren't unique to FV - or the FCCA area in general - but they are at least some of the areas of potential concern that have been discussed:The basement apartment rules will actually not "lead to pressure [for] additional front entrances" because the zoning proposal already forbids new front entrances in single-family type houses (they're okay for row houses, unless it's a historic district and historic preservation blocks such a change).
Apartments over garages - seems like a back door way to pack more students into rental housing. Would a "garage apt" mean a house with a max of 6 students could suddenly add a couple more over a "garage" - increasing the max to 8?
Making basement apartments a "matter of right" - Clearly this would lead to pressure additional front entrances as well as full height basement egress windows. This is already a growing problem in the neighborhood as at least a half dozen houses have expanded basement windows on facades over the past few years.
Reducing parking requirements - we already have an overabundance of cars due to all the group houses. Increasing density would only make that problem worse.
Corner shops - we are definitely concerned about commercial encroachment - ie corner stores.
Pepco trucks recently invaded Glover Park to remove redundant utility poles that have been cluttering neighborhood streets for the past decade. Thanks to persistent community advocacy, these eyesores will soon disappear.
Around 2001, Pepco replaced its existing utility poles in Glover Park with new taller ones, as part of an effort to improve electrical reliability and increase pole capacity. Unfortunately, when the new poles went up, the old poles remained in place, often side by side, with the wires from other utility companies still attached.
Years later, it became clear that the double poles were here to stay.
With no automatic procedure in place for the city to push for removal of the old poles, it took a concerted, years-long effort by neighborhood residents to get them taken out.
In some cases, new poles and old poles were attached to each other with odd collections of metal cables and brackets. Residents wondered whether there was any rhyme or reason to the seemingly random metal supports. W Street NW even had the distinction of a triple pole cluttering a tree box.
According to meeting minutes, ANC3B first attempted to hold Pepco accountable to a specific removal timeline at a November 2004 meeting.
Commissioner [Christopher] Lively reported that Pepco has been in the area and has almost completed removed [sic] their lines off the old poles on to the new poles. Verizon, Comcast, and Starpower, however, have not removed their lines so the poles still cannot be removed. Commissioner Lively will write a letter on behalf of ANC 3B to OCTT [Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications] to bring the issue to their attention.Nearly a year later, at ANC3B's October 2005 meeting, Commissioner Melissa Lane brought up the issue again, to Pepco representative Roger Green. Green asked for a list of double pole locations in order to identify removal needs. The ANC complied and expected Pepco to deliver.
In June 2007, ANC3B invited Pepco to explain its plan to remove the double poles.
Pepco Regional Vice President, Vincent Orange, and Linda Jo Smith, Public Relations, reported on the status of the double utility poles that has been a problem throughout Glover Park for the past five years. Pepco replaced their poles but could not take all of them down because other service companies (Comsat, Verizon, etc.) and the district had their products on the original poles. Pepco is making a concerted effort to work with these other companies and get rid of the original poles. Ms. Smith committed to returning in September with a status report.As a concerned resident, I corresponded with Councilmember Mary Cheh and DDOT in 2008 and 2009. Cheh's Director of Constituent Services stated, "Trust me, we have asked and mentioned it, and reminded Pepco. We will keep doing all of the above until we get responses/action."
Likewise, DDOT's Customer Service Officer assured me, "You will be happy to know that we are working with Pepco and other agencies to resolve the double pole issue. You're right, it isn't happening overnight, but we're getting there."
A few back and forth tweets with the @PepcoConnect Twitter account in June 2011 didn't help either, even after I offered to provide an inventory of locations.
Finally the long drawn out issue turned around in October 2011, when I asked my ANC3B single member district commissioner Brian Cohen to intervene. Cohen worked with Tom Smith, Ward 3 Liaison, Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Engagement, who immediately contacted Pepco's Public Affairs Public Affairs Manager for the DC Region, Chris Taylor. Smith also pulled DDOT and the city's cable office back into the issue.
Taylor provided a 521-page document called NJUNS covering the entire Pepco service area. His email walk-through of the pole removal process may be very useful to other neighborhoods trying to resolve this same issue.
To tell you more about the list, NJUNS stands for National Joint Use Notification System. Several states nation wide use this system. The basis of the system is that all utilities in a specific geographic region voluntarily participate in a program to help track progress in removing double poles. As was indicated earlier, equipment must be removed in sequential order from top to bottom. Pepco normally initiates the process when we first remove wires and equipment. Generally, the order is as follows:Pepco, while now apparently willing to coordinate wire transfers, didn't know where the poles were located. NJUNS listed only three or four double poles for Glover Park, but there were a lot more. Cohen and I counted 41 during our block-by-block survey, and provided a list to Pepco in January 2012.
5. Pepco inspects to ensure pole is completely stripped
6. Contractor pulls the pole
The NJUNS sends an automated email each time a location is updated. If you look on the report, each page has various steps. At each step, NJUNS automatically sends an email to each utility notifying them of any action that is taken and needed next steps.
Behind the scenes, Pepco lit a fire under the other utilities. Only 2 months after identifying all the pole locations, temporary no parking signs went up and convoys of utility trucks scattered around Glover Park to begin removing the redundant poles.
Over half of the excess poles have been removed already, though ironically 3 new double poles were recently installed.
10 years later, a final resolution is in sight. It took a long time, but Glover Park's double poles are nearly gone. There is hope for other neighborhoods willing to put in the work to identify pole locations and repeatedly follow up with Pepco.
Last month, DDOT and DPW asked residents whether they had organized their neighborhood snow shoveling teams. In the snow announcement, then-DDOT Director Gabe Klein specifically mentioned elderly and disabled residents who may need assistance with accumulated ice or snow.
It's worthwhile to examine the activities that one specific neighborhood, Glover Park, undertook to organize and provide these services. Glover Park has had frequent discussions on the neighborhood listserv regarding some sidewalks that never seem to get shoveled.
These issues are by no means unique to Glover Park. The root causes can vary from elderly residents unable to shovel to government agencies for whom it does not seem to be a concern. Snow removal is highly dependent on whether a property owner is willing and able to clear sidewalks on a timely basis.
No single solution, regulatory or otherwise, could hope to solve all of these issues. With support from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3B and the Glover Park Citizens Association (GPCA), the appropriately named "Glover Park Team" sought to address the needs of residents who are physically unable to shovel.
The sense of urgency to organize and pursue this initiative came from two sources. A primary driver was listserv traffic describing properties whose sidewalks have persistent snow and ice long after precipitation ends. Another factor was the occasional senior citizen or physically limited person who approached GPCA for shoveling assistance.
With feedback from residents, the ANC developed a snow shoveling flyer. The flyer explains the obligation to shovel sidewalk. It also promotes the availability of volunteers help with those who are physically unable to shovel. Any resident can print the flyer and leave a copy at a property with untreated sidewalks.
At no point was there significant discussion about how to formally validate that someone needed assistance. Organizers generally assumed that someone who approached the neighborhood for assistance legitimately needed it.
The outreach for the Glover Park Team has been through nearly every means possible in order to maximize its reach and effectiveness. The neighborhood association (GPCA) and ANC have announced these volunteer services at their meetings. GPCA also published an article in its print newsletter. Reminders have been sent out through the neighborhood listserv and Twitter account.
Residents can request volunteer services either by phone or email. Volunteers man the phone and email accounts, sharing the time commitment required to organize the efforts. Organizers try to match the resident with an existing volunteer. Or, if there is not yet a volunteer in that area of the neighborhood, an announcement is sent out by email and Twitter to find one nearby.
The volunteer program has been successful with matching several residents with shoveling volunteers.
As implemented in Glover Park and other neighborhoods, volunteer shoveling does not resolve every snow removal concern. It has, however, proven highly successful in clearing sidewalks for those unable to do so on their own.
As a result, Glover Park residents are enjoying an easier walking environment.
DDOT is recommending pedestrian improvements, bike lanes, consolidating bus stops, two-way streets, a Wisconsin Avenue median, performance parking and more in their recently-completed Glover Park Transportation Study.
Toole Design Group conducted the study on behalf of DDOT. They conducted a survey of residents, which found that 33% commute by bus compared to 20% by car, and 75% walk to shops along Wisconsin Avenue compared to 25% driving. Here are some of their most important recommendations:
Pedestrian improvements: The study provides recommendations to improve pedestrian safety at various intersections, especially along busy Massachusetts Avenue. They include new graphic "turning vehicles yield to pedestrians" and "stop for pedestrians in crosswalks" signs, leading pedestrian intervals that let people start crossing before turning traffic, new crosswalks near bus stops, and HAWK pedestrian signals.
Sidewalks: The report also recommends completing sidewalks on both sides of every street, starting with parts of Cathedral Avenue, Watson Place, and Fulton Street.
Bike lanes: The report proposes creating new bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue and Tunlaw Road. A bike lane on the northbound side of New Mexico Avenue heading towards American University would let cyclists more comfortably climb the steep hill more slowly than traffic, while southbound cyclists can merge with traffic as they go downhill at comparable speeds.
Another recommendation is creating a new bicycle route from 39th Street to Idaho Avenue and Porter Street. Additionally, the report recommends adding new bike racks along the Wisconsin Avenue commercial corridor and other key locations in Glover Park.
Consolidate bus stops: The study recommends consolidating some duplicate bus stops on Wisconsin Avenue. This could greatly improve the reliability of the 30s buses. It suggests repositioning "the bus stop on the southbound side at the Chevron gas station to the near side of the intersection with Calvert Street. Northbound and southbound bus stops on Wisconsin Avenue between Edmunds Street and Davis Street (adjacent to the Russian Embassy) should then be eliminated."
Currently, along the 30s line routes, some locations have multiple bus stops on the same block. This reduces the operating speeds of the buses as they have to merge into/out of the curbside lane to pick up passengers. Frequently, the buses also get stuck at traffic lights after picking up just one or two passengers at these redundant stops. Additionally, the merging buses create congestion for other vehicles in the traffic flow, further slowing down other buses along Wisconsin Avenue.
Combining these stops in Glover Park would also result in a higher number of riders at the newly consolidated locations. This would justify improved passenger infrastructure like covered bus shelters at these stops, further encouraging new ridership.
Off-board fare collection: Another important transit recommendation is to work with WMATA to install off-board fare collection equipment at busy bus stops. Such locations include all stops at the Massachusetts/Wisconsin Avenue intersection and all stops within the Glover Park commercial district on Wisconsin Avenue. Cities with successful bus rapid transit have installed ways to pay prior to boarding the bus, improving the operational efficiency of these routes.
Two-way streets: The Glover Park study also recommends converting one-way streets into two-way streets. In more suburban neighborhoods, cul-de-sacs increase vehicle miles traveled and walking distance by prohibiting direct access to major arterial streets. One-way streets create the same issue. Motorists have to drive farther with one-way streets since more direct routes to their destinations are not possible. Additionally, the study notes that the one-way streets in Glover Park create wider lane widths, encouraging people to drive faster than they would with two-way streets and narrower lanes.number of alternatives for the road, and settled on a configuration adding a median along the entire length, with the median ranging from 6' without trees to 10-11' with trees, and 4 travel lanes in most sections with some non-rush-hour parking, some full-time parking, and some center turn lanes.
Performance parking: To strengthen the commercial district, the report suggests a performance parking district for Glover Park. Residential streets would be resident-only (no 2-hour free parking for non-residents) on one side and metered on the other, while commercial streets would be metered on both sides.
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