Posts about Medical Center Access
Montgomery County has wrapped up their study of multimodal access to Navy Med and ended up recommending a combination of new elevators to the Metro and a pedestrian and bicycle underpass. But there's only enough funding for one. Which will it be?
The Montgomery County Planning Board will discuss this issue at a public meeting tonight. They should listen to their staff recommendation and put the elevators first.
The elevators will do the most to encourage non-automotive commuting to the facility, which will combine the operations of Bethesda Naval and Walter Reed. The Medical Center Metro has only one entrance, on the west side of Rockville Pike in front of NIH. Riders going to the hospital have to exit and then cross the busy MD-355 at grade.
WMATA studied station access and evaluated the possibility of a pedestrian underpass, a pedestrian overpass, or new elevators on the Navy Med side. However, Montgomery County DOT seemed more focused on making this into a highway interchange to speed traffic, first applying for a TIGER grant using a "secret plan" from Clark Construction to create an underpass that was more a vehicular tunnel than a pedestrian and bicycle path, and then undertaking a study that evaluated a number of interchange-style options.
Fortunately, on November 23, "a consensus among local, state, and federal stakeholder agency representatives" chose Alternative 2B, which combines the elevators with the underpass. That will cost $60 million, which the House version of the defense appropriations bill provides for, but the Senate version only has $20 million.
If it is necessary to only build half of this alternative, the Planning Board staff suggest building the elevators, which is "more effective at reducing pedestrian travel times and at enhancing Metrorail evacuation, while reducing nearly as many pedestrian conflicts." While "reducing pedestrian conflicts" is traffic engineer shorthand for "getting pedestrians out of the way so cars can go faster," the sentence is saying that the elevator is just about as good even by the metric of moving the cars and is much better for pedestrians.
It was looking for a while like the Medical Center area would turn into a giant highway interchange, but . Whichever stakeholder really pushed for this Update: Ben Ross reports that the Planning Board did in fact endorse the staff recommendation and prioritized the elevator over the underpass.
Update: Ben Ross reports that the Planning Board did in fact endorse the staff recommendation and prioritized the elevator over the underpass.
On the calendar: Happy hour tonight on H Street, plus Alexandria tour, open data, BRAC, Connecticut Ave
Tonight is the latest in our series of Greater Greater Washington happy hours. Join us at Biergarten Haus, 1355 H Street NE, starting at 6:30.
There are happy hour drink specials until 7:00, but we'll of course stay longer than that. You can get there by X1, X2, X3, X8, or B2 buses, bicycle, car, or if you have a time machine, go into the future, ride the streetcar, then come back to tonight for the party.
Alexandria Old and New: The next terrific CSG walking tour is Alexandria, this Saturday from 11-12:30. Starting at King Street Metro, the tour will cover part of Alexandria's historic gridded Old Town, then go through Carlyle and other newer developments ending at Eisenhower Avenue Metro. RSVP is required.
What do you want from open data? On Monday, July 19, I'm leading a RAC committee meeting with the WMATA staff in charge of Transparent Metro Data Sets. This is a great chance to find out more about plans to open up data and to give feedback for data sets to open, legal terms and conditions, and more. It's in the ground floor committee room of WMATA HQ, 600 5th Street NW, left and then right past security.
Two diametrically opposite pedestrian projects: There are public meetings on adjacent days for two studies that involve pedestrians along major boulevards from DC to western Montgomery County. But they couldn't be more different.
On Tuesday, Montgomery County DOT is having their latest meeting on the Medical Center "pedestrian crossing" project that morphed from transit access and an opportunity for a new Metro entrance into interchanges to speed traffic. The meeting is at Bethesda/Chevy Chase High School, Tuesday, July 20 at 7:00 pm.
Then on Wednesday, Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action will present the prelimiary results of their study, which actually aims to help pedestrians along the busy street from Woodley Park to Chevy Chase. There's an open house at 6:30 and a formal presentation at 7, at UDC Building 44 (on Van Ness Street) in room A03.
After more than a half-century of designing public spaces around automobiles, many residents, journalists, and public officials instinctively react to conflicts over space between pedestrians and drivers assuming that the right answer is to get all the people out of the way of the cars. That "windshield perspective" needs to change.
Matthias reported from the Mall on the 4th of July, "The crowds surged through the empty streets after the fireworks, with a few drivers foolishly trying to squeeze through. The police lit flares, waved torches helplessly and screamed at the crowd, "Get out of the street! There is traffic on the street! Get on the sidewalk!"
Space was scarce on the roadways after the fireworks. Each car takes up far more space than a pedestrian. Yet the police instinctively assumed that the roadways should be for cars, even at that time.
This "windshield perspective" similarly reared its head in an article by Andrew Ujifusa in the Gazette about BRAC and Rockville Pike. One resident is frustrated at traffic around Medical Center Metro where people cross the street. Her reaction: "You've got to get pedestrians off that street."
However, her problem is traffic, not pedestrians. She should be saying, "You've got to get other cars off that street," by increasing the mode share of Metro and buses.
A while back, reader Nick Partee wrote one of my favorite quotes from the comments:
The funny thing is, I didn't realize I was thinking in a car-centric way until I began reading and saying, "that's been me", about just wishing roads were wider. I didn't think about the systemic problems that lead to traffic and demand for wider roads.Nick originally had the classic reaction to traffic: there are more cars than space, so we need to take up more space for the cars. Over time, he came to see things a different way: there are more cars than space, so we need better ways to move people that don't take up as much space.
Blogs covering sustainable transportation ought to (and often do) periodically repost this comparison of space taken up by cars, buses, and bicycles to move the same numbers of people.
Unfortunately, Montgomery County DOT's view of the intersection at Medical Center Metro is to get pedestrians out of the way of cars, not how to increase the mode share for transit. Ironically, in fact, the best option will actually get pedestrians out of the way: an entrance on the east side of Rockville Pike, so all the pedestrians exiting the Metro there can walk directly to Navy Med/the future Walter Reed without crossing.
Montgomery County DOT has released design alternatives in their study of a "pedestrian crossing project between the National Naval Medical Center and the Medical Center Metro station."
The alternatives could improve the experience for pedestrians crossing Rockville Pike/MD-355, but also look a lot like the vehicular interchanges that MCDOT staff insisted were not the purpose of the study. Meanwhile, the purely pedestrian options don't exist except as part of larger vehicular options.
The interchange alternatives do look much better than the "not a secret plan" plan suggested by Clark Construction, which would have sent pedestrians far out of their way through a tunnel with a sidewalk to cross from Medical Center Metro to Navy Med.
These alternatives, by contrast, sink Rockville Pike down to pass under the connecting road between the two, and provide other connections for vehicles to that roadway. One adds a ramp from Rockville Pike to the north to the NIH side of the road, while the other creates a diamond interchange. Pedestrians are still traveling on a road with a sidewalk, but at least it's an overpass.
The study maintains the pedestrian-only options originally studied by WMATA to add a new elevator entrance on the Navy Med side or to build a pedestrian underpass or bridge across 355, but only as part of other options that also add vehicular capacity. One adds the jughandle interchange, while another adds additional left turn lanes from 355 in both directions.
For a project usually described as a "pedestrian crossing," it's notable that the alternatives are named based on their vehicular impacts, not on their effect on pedestrians. There's "Alternative 3: Grade Separation w/NIH Jug Handle" and "Alternative 4: Grade Separation w/Diamond Interchange." Even the alternatives that don't add an interchange are named based on the vehicular movements: "Alternative 5: Double Left Turns w/ one of five WMATA alternatives." It's clear where the MCDOT officials' and consultants' minds were focused.
This project is a great illustration of how agencies can manipulate the EIS process to get what they want. As one agency official told me, the Purpose and Need statement is key. By wording it in a certain way, officials can shape the outcome.
In this case, the project was originally a Metro station access project. But MCDOT officials wanted it to be a vehicular access project. Therefore, they first started calling it a "multimodal" access project, then put vehicular movements into the Purpose and Need, and presto, we have some interchanges with sidewalks.
The full evaluations of the alternatives will come out next. But spending considerable money to lower Rockville Pike and speed traffic is unlikely to be a worthwhile use of Montgomery County's limited money. Instead, they should build the direct elevator entrance to the Metro station to maximize ridership of the existing rail line, and focus on transit, pedestrian, and bicycle projects that increase those modes' share of trips on the Pike instead of speeding up vehicles.
The County is accepting comments until May 25th. You can send them to Kenneth.Kendall@montgomerycountymd.gov.
The Montgomery DOT is kicking off a NEPA study of the Medical Center Metro area, and at a meeting last week, officials insisted that all options are on the table, including underpasses, overpasses, elevators, pedestrian-only crossings, pedestrian and vehicle crossings, and more.
The end goal is to modify the Rockville Pike/MD 355 area between NIH and Navy Med (soon to be Walter Reed National Military Medical Center) to accommodate the influx of new workers from BRAC.
It's good to see the County clearly focus on improving access for pedestrians, cyclists, and riders of all modes of transit. But despite officials' insistence that they're open to all options, they continue to sound attached to the idea of building a roadway underpass with a sidewalk, and the wording of the Purpose and Need statement seems to presume that conclusion.
Here's a recap of the tortured saga: Metro conducted a study with Montgomery County's blessing about improving access from Navy Med to the Medical Center Metro station across the street. The alternatives looked at a pedestrian underpass and/or a new elevator entrance on the Navy side. The idea was to use a TIGER grant, BRAC money, or other money to let the thousands of workers who take Metro to Navy Med exit on the Navy Med side instead of having to cross over Rockville Pike.
At the very last minute, once the TIGER application was almost complete, Montgomery County representatives to TPB suddenly changed the wording to "multimodal underpass," which foreclosed the possibility of building elevators with TIGER money. They also included a proprietary design from Clark Construction, which ACT member Richard Hoye managed to obtain, which showed a 4-lane interchange-like set of roads with a sidewalk for pedestrians. ACT further discovered that Clark's submission was part of a larger proposal to build Beltway off-ramps directly through the Navy property, a concept that the Navy didn't like at all.
At a public meeting last week, Montgomery DOT head Arthur Holmes, deputy Edgar Gonzalez, and BRAC Coordinator Phil Alperson insisted that this was never the plan, and therefore it's not a "secret plan" as we charged. The Clark proposal was unsolicited, they explained, and they just included it in the TIGER application to increase the chances of getting the grant. Specifically regarding the offramp portion of the proposal-not-plan, they say that the County has rejected this possibility and is not pursuing it.
That's great to hear. However, officials still seem to have made up their minds to build an underpass rather than a direct entrance to the Metro station.
Any NEPA study starts with a Purpose and Need, and the way those are worded strongly influences the outcome. If the purpose of an intersection study is to "facilitate vehicle traffic," you're likely to end up with a different project than "facilitate pedestrian, bicycle, transit and single-passenger vehicle access" or something.
This study's draft Purpose and Need does not focus on moving vehicles. That's great, though it also spends a lot of time talking about how the pedestrians crossing the road slow down vehicles.
The draft Purpose and Need also builds in assumptions, such as that people need to cross MD-355. It reads:
The purpose of the MD 355/Rockville Pike Crossing project is to improve the movement of the traveling public between the west and east sides of MD 355/Rockville Pike at its intersection with South Wood Road and South Drive in Bethesda, Maryland. This transportation project is intended to: (1) enhance/improve access to mass transit facilities; and (2) improve the mobility and safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and emergency and transit vehicles crossing MD 355/Rockville Pike in Bethesda, Maryland.There's a lot that's good about this Purpose and Need. It emphasizes access to transit, and the mobility and safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit vehicles.
However, it does assume that crossing the Pike is the objective. Why, necessarily, is that the objective? Let's say that one option were a personal helicopter system that would bring workers from set launch pads near their homes right to Navy Med. Many of those workers come from east of Rockville Pike, meaning they never have to "cross" the road. This study, however, would not weigh that option very highly because it doesn't help people "cross."
We have such a system. It's not personal helicopters, but it's a fast system that whisks people from many places across the region right to the doorstep of the facility. It's called Metrorail. And if people arrive via Metrorail and can get out of the train on the Navy Med side, they don't need to cross anything.
In an email, County Executive Ike Leggett wrote, "After BRAC there will be 6,700 pedestrian and cyclist [sic] crossing the Pike every day." That's only true if all of the Metrorail riders have to cross the Pike at all. With the elevator entrance, the study predicted that only 1,320 people would still cross, less than the number who cross today.
Gonzalez noted at the meeting that not everyone takes Metrorail. Some people arrive by Ride On or Metrobus, for example, and those buses do stop on the west side of the Pike. That's true, and an underpass might increase their safety. However, a Metrorail entrance would also increase safety. The current Metro station has poor fire evacuation facilities, and the east side entrance would have included fire stairs along with the high-speed elevators able to evacuate people in case of fire.
A good study needs to weigh all of the safety implications of options whether or not they get people to "cross" the Pike. If an option separates traffic and pedestrians but encourages more people to drive, pushes some people to cross the street at-grade anyway, and doesn't improve evacuation from the Metro station, is it really safer in the broader sense, or just safer on paper for the small numbers of users that you're studying while ignoring the greater implications of any change?
The unsolicited not-a-plan from Clark would have required Metro riders to walk far out of the way, along a more circuitous route than they do today when they cross the street. This study might come up with a much more direct connection. It could even demonstrate that such a connection is superior to the Metro elevator entrance.
However, with the current Purpose and Need, the study will inevitably recommend grade separation whether or not that's best. The County should amend the Purpose and Need to remove references to "crossing" 355 and replace them with something like "accessing jobs on either side of 355."
It should include something about maximizing the available capacity on existing transit infrastructure by providing transit riders (bus and rail) with the shortest possible paths between transit and jobs. And any evaluation of safety should, at the very least, consider the safety implications of fire egress from the existing station, the safety effects from attracting more vs. fewer rail and bus riders, and the likelihood that some people will cross the street at-grade if the underpass requires walking farther than the direct crossing.
Montgomery officials say they are really open-minded. Now is a great opportunity to show that they are and to move beyond the secrecy, finger-pointing, and accusations of lying that have been flying back and forth by making this study a real, honest evaluation of the best way to get people to their jobs, by any mode, on either side of 355.
Montgomery BRAC Coordinator Phil Alperson posted an impassioned denial about the secret Beltway widening plans Cavan discussed earlier. However, his denial actually seems to admit that there is such a plan.
First, let me be clear that there is no plan, secret or otherwise, to widen the Beltway or construct a ramp into the Bethesda Naval Hospital campus.However, later in his email, he says there is a plan:
Clark Construction is a local builder that is responsible for most of the ongoing BRAC-mandated hospital construction at Navy Med. Clark Representatives have attended monthly public meetings of the County's BRAC Implementation Committee, a community-based advisory body, where the topic of a Beltway ramp frequently arises. Some people in the community and on the BRAC Committee support that concept because they believe it would allow Navy and NIH personnel direct access to their campuses without clogging local roads.(Emphasis added). In other words, there's no secret plan, but Clark suggested a plan and it's secret. SHA and the Navy have said no but the County wants SHA to study it anyway.
Clark came forward with an unsolicited plan they purported would address the Metro access issue and the Beltway issue. The State Highway Administration, which is the only body that can do anything on the Beltway (not the County) has rejected the Beltway concept as unfeasible for safety and environmental reasons, although it should be noted that SHA has never conducted a formal study on the matter. The Navy has also rejected it.
But area residents continue to call for a Beltway ramp. Montgomery County would like SHA to put the issue to rest, conclusively, once and for all by conducting a thorough and formal traffic and environmental study on a Beltway ramp so we can all know whether or not the concept is feasible and, even if technically feasible, whether it would relieve enough traffic to justify the enormous cost such a project would surely entail.
I'm sure there are plenty of plans out there that nobody gives credence to. But they don't conduct expensive studies on those either. This would all be a nonissue except for one key point: Montgomery County included this "secret plan" in the TIGER grant request, while redacting it from the public version. It's not that someone suggested a bad plan that has everyone upset; it's that the County turned around and submitted that plan to the federal government, and wants to study it, but still refuses to explain what's in it.
Alperson addresses the secrecy:
I should point out that ACT has criticized the County for not making public the designs of what they call another "secret plan," but the engineering designs of the pedestrian underpass are the intellectual property of Clark and are proprietaryThis sure looks like an interchange, even if engineers are calling it something else.
— the County is legally unable to release them to the public at this time but will do so when it becomes appropriate. ACT is aware of this legal encumberment but continues to accuse the County of "hiding a secret plan". I should add that, contrary to other ACT accusations, the underpass design doesn't include a "secret plan" for an interchange.
Alperson also claims that Clark's plan is their "intellectual property." He's either misusing the term "intellectual property" or trying to hide behind it.
Copyright law only protects an actual work of creativity, not facts. Even if it prohibits the County from physically photocopying or emailing Clark's documents, it doesn't stop County officials from answering questions about the plans, just as the copyright on Harry Potter doesn't stop me from telling you it's about a young boy who discovers he has magical powers and that the first book involves a special stone
It's possible that the County signed some sort of nondisclosure agreement where they promised not to reveal Clark's plans. If that's the case, it's not "intellectual property," but the County could be prohibited from discussing it. However, in that case, the question would be, why did they agree? Is it right for a governmental body to recommend a proposal and put it in a grant request but refuse to talk about it?
Again, we can separate the engineering details from the salient facts. It could be that Clark doesn't want to share their specific estimates of cost, the materials they'd use, or the precise grade, since others might bid for the project if approved. However, the County should distinguish between sharing engineering details and actually answering questions about the key elements of the plan.
The biggest question of all is why the road is four lanes if it's just supposed to service limited numbers of shuttle buses and emergency vehicles. Basically, there are numerous pieces that look like they fit into a larger plan for Beltway widening between 270 and the Medical Center campus, signs that such a plan was discussed, mysterious secrecy over all the details of the plan, and explanations from Montgomery County officials that don't really fit the facts. Why not just come clean?
Back in October 2009, residents found out about a secret plan to switch federal funds granted for pedestrian and transit improvements around the Medical Center Metro into funding the construction of a 4-lane automobile underpass under Rockville Pike.
After receiving documents from a Freedom of Information Act request, the Action Committee for Transit has found that the truth appears to lie even farther down the rabbit hole:
The specifics of the plan remain secret, but a FOIA request from ACT to the Navy has now unmasked MCDOT's objectives. The attached letter from the Navy to Clark [Construction Company] about the July 8 meeting has the subject line "355 & 270/495 Roadway Designs." This reveals that Clark's full plan includes roadway construction along the Beltway, adding lanes (at a minimum) along the two-mile stretch between I-270 and the Bethesda Naval campus.Looking at this project feels like looking at a black hole. In astronomy, a black hole emits no light. It can only be detected by its effects on other surrounding matter.
The FOIA request didn't uncover the actual plan, only the Navy's reaction to the plan which references elements. But the elements only fit with a plan to add lanes to the beltway and on-ramps directly to the Medical Center, which explains the secret plans to build a 4-lane underpass under Rockville Pike.
There has been a long precedent in our county and region about public disclosure and debate regarding infrastructure construction, from the beltway, to the Metro, more recently to the ICC, and the Purple Line. The ICC, while I disagree with it, has at least withstood public debate in a transparent process. The same applies to the Purple Line. I can't even remember how many forums, presentations, and hearings I have attended and testified at regarding that project.
Since the details of the plan are not available to the public, we have no way of knowing why the plan remained in the TIGER grant request despite the Navy saying:
The National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland met with you and Shirley Contracting Company, LLC on Wednesday, July 8, 2009 by the request of Montgomery County to review roadway design alternatives. ... During the meeting we expressed our initial concerns with the proposal...In October, it was hard to figure out why MCDOT would want an automobile tunnel. Bethesda Naval Medical Hospital is not an emergency care hospital. Neither is Walter Reed, which will be merged with Bethesda Naval in the future. Patients at Bethesda Naval are long-term patients and are usually transported from Andrews Air Force Base after returning from overseas.
The National Naval Medical Center strongly reiterates that no consideration will be given to roadway design alternatives from Clark Construction, Edgemoor Real Estate, Shirley Contracting Company, LLC or any subsidiary thereof that do not address the above listed concerns. In addition, all communication with the National Naval Medical Center must go through proper public affairs channels.
Further, what good would an automobile tunnel as proposed between Bethesda Naval and the National Institutes of Health do? Even for the extremely rare emergency vehicles, why four lanes? It's not like there is currently a lot of automobile traffic between the NIH and the hospital. One is a civilian research institute. The other is a long-term military hospital. The two organizations have completely different staffs and completely different objectives.
Due to history, they happen to be located across the street from each other and share a Metro station. There is negligible emergency traffic between them and there are no plans for any such traffic in the future. The unanswered question about why the MCDOT was pushing for a 4-lane automobile tunnel makes a lot more sense in the context of a larger highway building scheme rather than in the context of connecting the hospital with the NIH.
Montgomery County has an established history of good, transparent governance. Plans that involve billions and billions of dollars along with a future with more sprawl, traffic, road maintenance bills, and environmental degradation are things that have always been discussed publicly in the county. I see no reason to depart from our proud history of transparency to go down a path towards the late Robert Moses' power brokering.
Note: BRAC coordinator Phil Alperson posted a denial about the "secret plan" to a neighborhood email list over the weekend, though his message leaves plenty of questions. I'll address those in the next post. - David
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's isn't giving up on proposals for an anti-urban skybridge connecting the Silver Spring library to a parking garage.
This past weekend, Leggett unveiled concept sketches for the new library at Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street. It strongly evokes images of "an open book," along with large glass windows said to represent "the openness of government" and limestone similar to that in other Silver Spring buildings. A coffee shop and art gallery will line the ground floor, with artist studios above, followed by three stories of library. Two more floors on top will contain community meeting space and some county offices.
The design also leaves room for a future bridge across Wayne Avenue to the adjacent parking garage. Original plans contained the bridge, but urbanists protested that this costly endeavor would only draw pedestrian traffic off the surface streets, encouraging faster traffic and road designs hostile to those who wish to cross at ground level.
Existing Silver Spring plans prohibited bridges, and the Montgomery County Council voted to sustain that plan, with only Councilmember George Leventhal (at-large) voting for the bridge. Instead, to accommodate persons with disabilities, the library will contain a small amount of handicapped parking on site. Nevertheless, Leggett hasn't given up on the opportunity to put cars above pedestrians by building the bridge, and Duchy Trachtenberg might be wavering on the issue.
In his letter to the County Council this summer (large PDF), Leggett insisted that "accessibility and sustainability" drove his recommendation:
The primary rationale is not one solely of safety; it is primarily one of accessibility and sustainability. The use of the existing underutilized parking garage is a "green" decision which saves the use of materials and taxpayer dollars which would have been otherwise needed to provide new on-site parking for the library. The disadvantage of utilizing the existing garage is the greatly increased travel path to the library for many patronsIt's funny Leggett should mention a "greatly increased travel path." That's exactly what county DOT staff would create with their secret vehicular underpass at the Medical Center Metro that forces pedestrians to walk over 100 feet out of the way, just to facilitate greater car volume in and out of the NIH and future Walter Need National Military Medical Center site. The direct Metro station entrance would have added both accessibility and sustainability, but apparently speeding up cars is more important.
— including, but not limited to, the elderly and disabled. The bridge is being proposed to address this concern.
Leggett's and his staff view transportation through the lens of the driver. Sure, Montgomery is a suburban county with a lot of drivers, but it also has fantastic walkable places and some of the best transit of any suburban jurisdiction in the nation. But Leggett sees auto-oriented development as natural and walkable development as dangerous. He views the proper role of streets as carrying as many cars as possible above all, with the needs of pedestrians and transit secondary.
As with Gaithersburg West versus White Flint, Leggett cleverly ties in themes of sustainability, "Smart Growth," and more to justify suburban development patterns and oppose urban ones. His PR staff are remarkably defensive about it, too, saying I "just don't get it." It's Leggett who seems not to get it. He doesn't seem like a stupid man, but is listening too much to traditionalist transportation officials who can rattle off Level of Service letter grades but, despite some terrific examples in their county, don't recognize the value of walkable places designing around people and transit instead of driving above all.
Fox 5 picked up the Medical Center "Secret Plan" story last night, with a short segment during the evening news. Yesterday, the Examiner's Bill Myers covered the issue, noting that he read about the controversy here on Greater Greater Washington. Fox reporter John Henrehan reached out in the comments to interview me and also ACT's Ben Ross:
As an extra bonus, you get to see my living room. Apparently Montgomery officials still aren't commenting on their supposedly not so secret plan. And why no captions for the interviewees?
There's a fascinating juxtaposition between the way the anchor introduces the issue and the way Henrehan does moments later. The anchor starts out by talking about how the commute is rough, but by showing a picture of cars, not the crowds of Metro riders, and how the tunnel is a plan to relieve the traffic. Henrehan, on the other hand, notes how hard it is for riders to get to and from NNMC, and how an entrance would relive that. This gets at the fundamental debate here: do you look at this area as a problem for cars alone, or a problem for people? And, of course, more riders on Metro also helps the drivers by taking other cars off the road.
Meanwhile, the Post discusses the grossly underutilized DC USA garage. Reporter Paul Schwartzman digs up some helpful facts: the garage's peak utilization is still only 47%, which was last November. In May, only 25% filled up. Many suburban retailers plan parking for the day after Thanksgiving, which leaves most of the lots empty the rest of the time; clearly, here, even by that overly generous standard the garage is still about twice as big as it should be.
Developers, who cited a $50,000 price tag per underground space, have started to get the message. The Highland apartments in Columbia Heights, for example, still have about 80 empty spaces, even now that they've rented out almost the whole building.
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