Posts about Jack Evans
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.
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.
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.
Over 100 friends, readers, and contributors turned out to the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company last night to celebrate Greater Greater Washington's 5th birthday.
Thank you to DC Mayor Vincent Gray, DC Councilmembers Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, and Tommy Wells, Arlington Board member Chris Zimmerman, and everyone else who made it to the celebration!
Many contributors, commenters, and readers joined us for fun conversation, drinks, and cake, including many longtime members of our community and a number of new ones, including contributors for our new Greater Greater Education site.
Councilmember Jack Evans brought a resolution declaring March 5, 2013 "Greater Greater Washington Day."
You can see more images from last night on this Flickr set. If you were at the party, did you snap a few pictures? Please take a moment to share them in the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool for everyone to enjoy!
Over 300 people rallied for affordable housing this weekend with the Housing for All Campaign. The packed house drew Mayor Gray and Councilmembers Muriel Bowser and Jack Evans, all of whom were unified in their commitment to stem the tide of displacement in the District.
Evans said, "We need to make sure the people who were here in the difficult times get to stay for the good times." But the three differed on how to respond to this need.
Mayor Gray promised a big housing announcement at his State of the District address next week, so he didn't make any commitments at this time. The Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force, which the Mayor commissioned nearly a year ago, has recently finished its work. Their report is expected soon, so he's likely waiting for its publication before making a statement.
He did take the opportunity to praise key housing programs that have struggled in the recession, including the Housing Production Trust Fund and Local Rent Supplement Program.
Bowser, however, challenged the Mayor on his housing record. "You can't say you're for affordable housing and take $40 million out of the Housing Production Trust Fund," she said referring to the DC budget in 2012 and 2013 when the administration proposed $18 and $20 million in cuts to the program, respectively.
The Housing Production Trust Fund has created 7,500 affordable housing units in its 10-year history and is respected as a model across the country. It remains to be seen if the Mayor's strategy will include a continued commitment to this highly-successful program.
The next few months will be critical for housing funding. The task force is scheduled to release its report in the next few weeks, and Mayor Gray will announce his housing plan. The Mayor will then submit his budget to the DC Council, which many hope will offer increased investments to make housing affordable to District residents.
"It is time to act," said Bob Pohlman, Executive Director of the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development. "More than a thousand newcomers are flooding into the District every month, putting more and more pressure on the cost of housing. If we don't face this reality and act now, affordable housing will be out of reach for tens of thousands of DC residents."
What does seem clear is that after years of accelerating housing need and limited political interest in the topic, affordable housing is becoming a key political issue again.
A few DC officials haven't stopped trying to get the Landover NFL team back to the District. Even though one dedicated champion of wooing the team, Michael Brown, is off the DC Council, Tim Craig reports that Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is promoting the idea, along with Mayor Gray and dedicated sports fan Jack Evans.
Evans, perhaps reacting to criticism that he'd pour public money into the stadium, insists that the city wouldn't spend any public money on a stadium. However, he says, the city might pay for new streets and parking lots.
It's good he wants to make the team pay for the stadium itself, and as Craig explains, that's likely going to make any deal not appealing to owner Dan Snyder. However, even paying for parking lots is a big expense, and a bad one. New York spent $39 million on parking lots at the new Yankee Stadium.
Plus, they ended up finding the lots going largely empty, thanks in part to a new Metro-North station at the ballpark. The garage operator ended up defaulting on the garage bonds because of low usage. Public spending on garages at any new stadium largely amounts to spending public money to encourage people not to use the Metro that we also already spend public money to operate.
Why do these apparently bad deals keep resurfacing? It's simple: some people think that having professional sports teams here is integral enough to our civic pride that it's worth large sums to get them, even if the deal doesn't pay off economically and wouldn't fly if it were a deal for just a generic private development.
A few months ago, I was on NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt right after Jack Evans. We mainly talked about development without underground parking and Evans spoke to that issue as well in his segment. But they had an interesting exchange about sports stadiums, who've had no greater booster than Evans.
DePuyt asked Evans about plans for a soccer stadium at Buzzard Point, and what the District's subsidy might be. Evans asserted that it would pay off economically, but even if it doesn't, he said the District should pay to bring in professional sports simply because of "civic pride":
There's a civic pride that comes from this. When I was pushing the baseball stadium, I used say to people, we're we do it because we want a team. Start with that. Whether it's economically viable or not, who cares? We want a baseball team because Washington, DC was the only major city in America without one.I'd note that actually, most museums get their funds from private individuals, foundations, and the federal government. The District cut arts funding during the recession, and doesn't spend $611 million on a museum. On the other hand, it has contributed to help many local theaters and other prominent arts organizations buy and renovate their buildings over the years.
Do we economically analyze every museum we build? If we did, we wouldn't build any museums. It's a part of our culture.
The early analysis of the presidential election suggests that President Obama can credit much of his victory to a changing American electorate, which is more diverse, better educated and more urban than it was 20 years ago when Bill Clinton became president.
The Washington region is changing as well. It, too, is growing more diverse, and it is now majority-minority. Like the nation, it is also becoming more urban. Neighborhoods in the District, Arlington, Alexandria and Silver Spring are on the national forefront of the trend toward young people and empty-nesters choosing to live in urban communities. And spread-out commercial areas with (or soon to have) good access to transit, such as White Flint and Tysons Corner, are evolving into walkable communities.
These changes bring new types of diversity to our region: a diversity of housing choices and transportation options. We can be a region with many ways to live.
Continue reading my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.
Bruce DePuyt and I talked Tuesday about the Babe's project, a planned 55-65-unit apartment building one block from Tenleytown Metro which will not have underground parking and whose residents will not be able to get resident parking stickers.
A lot of people are nervous about this proposal, but it really should be a no-brainer. The Office of Planning report said that there are 560 parking spaces available for rent nearby. In just the garage at Cityline at Tenley (the building with the Container Store), there are 110-120 spaces going unused each night, and 50 during the day.
That means that even if almost everyone brought a car and just rented a space, everything would be fine. There's a strange legacy assumption that everyone who parks would need to either park in their own building or on the street, but there are actually a lot of garages in Tenleytown.
Plus, Douglas Development is explicitly planning to market the building to people who don't want to have cars. The Container Store at Cityline only sells containers. That doesn't make it a bad store because it doesn't also sell furniture or clothing. If you want containers, go there. If not, shop somewhere else. Likewise, there's nothing wrong with having a building for people mostly without cars, and other buildings and houses and neighborhoods can serve people with different needs.
Bruce was worried that someone with a car would want to buy a unit from an initial owner (actually, it's an apartment building, not condos, but I forgot to mention that on the segment). Regardless, I pointed out that some apartments in some buildings have decks, or more bathrooms, and others don't. People choose where to live based on the available amenities, and not every apartment, condo or house has to serve every need for every person.
This is a simple economic concept, but it seems to escape many people, like Councilmember Jack Evans (ward 2), who was on the show before me. Bruce asked Evans about the proposal. Evans made the odd argument that a building designed for people to ride transit one block from the Tenleytown Metro is a bad idea because there isn't a Metro station in his own neighborhood of Georgetown.
I think it's a major mistake to do that in the District of Columbia. The reason being that the Metro system, the bus system does not work well enough to get people around in the city. I live in Georgetown. There is no Metro. For me to get around I'm taking buses, transferring, it takes me a long time to get anywhere.This thinking reflects one of the most common cognitive errors we see in policy debates. People extrapolate their own experiences to everyone else. If I need to drive, everyone must. If I need a certain size apartment, everyone must. Therefore, the government must force the market to build those things.
We don't all need the same type of housing. Some people do need, or want, large suburban houses with big yards and 4 bedrooms and 2-car garages. We have a lot of those. Other people would rather save money and time and buy or rent a small unit without parking if it lets them live near the Metro.
Our zoning need not force everything into a single mold. That's what 1960s planners tried to do, and we know it was a failure. With the agreement to withhold residential parking permits to residents of this building, there's no way it can negatively effect anyone else. That means there's no reason to forbid Douglas from constructing the apartments they think the market demands.
A driver, talking on a cell phone, started to make an illegal U-turn across the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes and almost hit Bill Walsh. He recorded the experience in a video:
Cyclists have been pleading for action against dangerous and illegal U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue for some time. Justin Antos captured a recent U-turn on his camera as well, and many cyclists have reported the similar experiences using the #stoputurnsonpenn hashtag.
Councilmember Tommy Wells wants to stop the practice. His staff have obtained crash reports from DDOT for Pennsylvania Avenue and have been analyzing them for some time. Based on those reports, it appears that U-turns are by far the most common cause of bicycle-related crashes in the Pennsylvania Avenue lanes.
Here is the police narrative from one report, for a crash on October 27, 2010, where a taxi driver injured a cyclist:
DRIVER #1 STATES WHILE HEADING EAST BOUND IN THE 600 BLOCK OF PENNSYLVANIA AVE NW HE ATTEMPTED TO MAKE A U-TURN AND STRUCK VEHICLE #2 [A BICYCLE]. DRIVER #1 STATED THAT HE DID NOT SEE THE PERSON ON THE BIKE WHEN HE TURNED.Solutions: Enforcement? Bollards?
THE DRIVER OF THE BICYCLE STATED THAT ALL HE REMEMBERS WAS BEING STRUCK BY A VEHICLE AND DID NOT KNOW WHERE THE VEHICLE CAME FROM.
THE DRIVER OF THE BICYCLE WAS IN THE BIKE LANE WHEN HE WAS STRUCK, THE BIKE LANE IS A UNPROTECTED MEDIAN FOR BICYCLE TRAVEL.
WITNESS #1 A DC POLICE OFFICER WHO WAS IN A MARKED PATROL WAGON WAS BEHIND VEHICLE #1 AND STATED THAT HE SAW VEHICLE #1 MAKE A U-TURN AND STRIKE THE PERSON ON THE BICYCLE.
THE PASSENGER IN VEHICLE #1 STATED THAT SHEN [SIC] THE CAB PICKED HER UP HE WAS TALKING ON HIS CELL PHONE WHILE DRIVING AND THAT WHEN HE STRUCK THE PERSON ON THE BIKE HE MAY STILL HAVE BEEN ON HIS CELL PHONE.
What can be done? Police could more strictly enforce the no-U-turn rules, and DDOT could add more clear signs or markings. Walsh himself made this suggestion:
Most of the crash reports Wells' office provided show that police did indeed ticket drivers for U-turns after crashes, at least when it was clear from the driver's statements or witnesses that a U-turn was involved. The fact that many drivers admitted to the U-turn may tell us that drivers don't realize it's illegal or unsafe, and the right signs might help.
On the other hand, police don't seem to ticket drivers for U-turns when there's no crash, and many federal and local police cruisers often actually park right in the lanes.
Darren Buck suggested more plastic stanchions or "flexposts." There are already short sets of these at each corner to make it clear to drivers that they shouldn't use the bike lane as a turn lane, but their absence in the center seems to give drivers license to make U-turns:
Earlier plans for the bike lanes included bollards along the whole length of the blocks, but the Commission on Fine Arts, a federal panel which reviews projects on federal land an in key areas near federal property, wasn't thrilled:
The Commission approved the proposed design without colored pavement on the bicycle lanes or median, noting the importance of the avenue's design character as a prominent visual symbol of the nation. The Commission also recommended against the installation of reflective plastic stanchions, commenting that these would be intrusive and incompatible elements in this iconic streetscape.DDOT ultimately decided to go ahead with some stanchions at the corners anyway, apparently believing this was a reasonable compromise between CFA's desire to keep objects out of Pennsylvania Avenue and safety. It may be time to revisit that decision and install stanchions mid-block.
Any physical changes, Wells points out, will probably not happen until after the Inauguration in January, when all of the traffic signals and other objects on Pennsylvania Avenue get taken out for the parade. DDOT will have to re-install the existing bollards at at that time, which would make it a perfect opportunity to put more bollards in while they already have crews out there.
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- Ask Congress to give DC self-rule on building heights