Posts about Mount Vernon Triangle
Delayed implementation of curb extensions at the deadly intersection of 15th and W, NW didn't stop DDOT from finishing strong. The intersection did not receive the quick-curb called for in the draft plan and hastily installed in July to slow drivers like the one that killed a pedestrian in May while turning from 15th onto W. Instead, DDOT has installed more permanent curb, and filled some of the bulb-outs with asphalt.
While the plan for temporary improvements at this intersection could have gone further to protect vulnerable road users by closing the slip lane from 15th to W and Florida, DDOT's implementation of the approved plan, though belated, provides a good sign that DDOT is serious about protecting pedestrians.
Still missing from the intersection are signals for pedestrians crossing 15th on the south side of W Street, forcing crosswalk users into a dangerous guessing game to cross multiple flows of automobile and bicycle traffic. To fix this problem, DDOT is currently working on an engineering design, which it anticipates will take another month. Installation would happen by mid-November, nearly six months after Ana Marie Canales was killed in another of this intersection's crosswalks. The real test, however, will come in the next six months: DDOT has stated that it will study these temporary improvements and then hire a consultant to completely redesign the intersection.
Another improvement for pedestrians comes at the intersection of 5th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, NW, where DDOT had restriped two short sections of I Street to become one-way. That provided more space for crossing pedestrians and reduced the number of locations where drivers can make dangerous left turns from Massachusetts Avenue. However, as at 15th and W, drivers easily ignored striped pavement, creating a more dangerous situation for pedestrians not expecting drivers to travel against traffic on a one-way street. DDOT has since placed a large "Do Not Enter" sign, along with orange barrels and posts on the striped area. DDOT has an order for more permanent curbing but cannot say when it will be installed.
Residents and this blog hassled DDOT for moving slowly to implement promised changes at both intersections. Now, it seems, they have started to move more quickly, at least in these cases. While a lengthy planning and engineering process can be valuable for large projects, a NYC DOT-style approach to small projects like these can make a quick, targeted difference for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.
DDOT is moving ahead with plans to rebuild and widen the 11th Street Bridge over the Anacostia with its stimulus dollars. The project will create a new local bridge so drivers, walkers and bicyclists can cross the Anacostia without merging on and off a freeway. It will also provide space for a future streetcar. However, it will also increase cut-through traffic, enticing some drivers to pass through DC between Maryland and Virginia instead of going around over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. DDOT has asked regional TPB planners to investigate a possible solution: swapping freeway capacity to New York Avenue for the new capacity on 11th Street.
This plan would close the Center Leg Freeway (I-395) between Massachusetts Avenue and New York Avenue. To illustrate the rationale, here are some diagrams showing the traffic on our freeways for drivers coming from the US-50 and BW Parkway corridors to destinations in DC. These aren't to scale or based on hard traffic numbers, but instead illustrate the general concepts. The TPB study, when released, should provide hard numbers to defend or refute this thesis.
Illustration of current traffic flow for drivers from the northeast.
Today, the best route from Bowie or Fort Meade to Arlington involves taking New York Avenue to 395, under the Mall, and out the Southwest Freeway to the Virginia part of 395. The other sensible route, staying on Kenilworth/295 until the 11th Street Bridge, is inconvenient because there's no connection from southbound 295 to the bridge. Drivers have to get off 295, circle around on local streets in Anacostia, then get onto the 11th Street or Sousa bridges.
Of course, other drivers use the bridge, such as northbound 295 drivers, but they are mainly headed into DC. For the purposes of this discussion, we're most concerned with cut-through drivers from the north and east.
Likely flow after completion of 11th Street Bridge project.
Once DDOT rebuilds the bridge, a new ramp will let drivers on southbound 295 directly access the bridge. That'll create an appealing cut-through route that avoids the traffic lights and congestion on New York Avenue. According to the Smart Mobility traffic analysis, some people who were using the Wilson Bridge will switch to this new route. It may also entice some commuters to drive instead of taking the Orange or Blue Lines all the way through DC, or to buy houses in Maryland and commute to Virginia thanks to the faster drive.
Potential closure of the New York Avenue ramp to 395.
In exchange, we should discourage cut-through traffic from using the old route. If we add capacity on one cut-through route but substract from another, we can keep the total cut-through volume the same.
New York Avenue is a major boulevard into downtown. It should continue to serve that function. But drivers headed downtown don't need I-395 under the Mall. 395 only goes to Southwest, the House side of the Capitol, and Arlington. Those drivers should just take the new, wider 11th Street Bridge instead.
Drivers using 395 in the other direction don't need this ramp. Those coming from Capitol Hill, River East, and points south who use 395 get off at the US House or Massachusetts Avenue, where they can head downtown. It's impossible to go downtown from northbound 395 at New York Avenue, since all traffic must turn right.
Without the ramp, we can reduce traffic on New York Avenue. It might even be possible to remove one lane each way. With lower traffic, we can make the road safer for pedestrians and less of a forbidding gulf dividing the neighborhoods around Mount Vernon Square. We can remove the freeway-style signs and lengthen pedestrian crossing times.
If we open the 11th Street Bridge and keep the ramp open, drivers will get used to having more and faster options. It'll then be hard to take something away, even if that only restores the total capacity ex ante. Instead, DDOT should close the ramp at the same time as soon as the new bridge opens. It can be temporary at first: a few concrete barriers and signs would do it. Then, drivers will see the new bridge as switching them from one route to another, instead of taking something away. In fact, if traffic models predict that we could remove a lane from New York Avenue entirely without the 395 traffic, DDOT should also close that lane at the same time.
Once New York Avenue crosses Florida, it passes through historic neighborhoods just like Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Georgia and all the other major routes from Maryland do. It should serve as both a commuter route and a neighborhood boulevard, just like its cousins. Yet it's more a freeway than a boulevard, since it connects to a freeway. Now we're building a better freeway route to the same destination.
this comic strip, we see what happens when our hero runs across a car parked in the bicycle lane. No, no cars get keyed. (Tip: Steven)
MoCo launches project viewer: Montgomery County launched a new Web tool providing "three-dimensional and animated views of proposed development." It's pretty good, though it would be even better if it included complete plans. Basically, all the drawings and schematics that a developer files with zoning officials ought to go on this site. And the rest of the jurisdictions should do it too.
There was sex in George Washington's day: A local property owner got fed up with Alexandria's historic preservationists rejecting plans for an addition. So he rented his space to a sex shop. Preservationists are even more upset now.
Commenter spookiness wrote, "Sex existed in GW's day, and I'm thrilled that Old Town has a sex shop right in the "historic" center! How Euro! I think it would be VERY cool if they did their mannequins up in 18th century whore-couture, or curated an exhibition of some sort. Alexandria was a port town, so you know there was some of that business going on. Don't whitewash history." Slate's Brian Palmer either read the comment or had the same idea, because an hour and a half later he published an article on the same topic. No, there weren't sex toy shops, but there were brothels.
Gaithersburg neighborhood to get sidewalks: Some neighbors in Quince Orchard Knolls don't want sidewalks, because they'll lose a few parking spaces. They'll probably get them anyway. (Gazette)
Another argument against modern buildings: Beatus Est argues that modern buildings are less sustainable than old ones. In rejecting the past, the architectural style also rejected all the things that architects figured out about drainage and energy efficiency over centuries.
Tragedy of the cul-de-sacs: Ryan Avent applies "collective action" economic thinking to cul-de-sacs. Each street benefits from cutting itself off to traffic, but the rest of the community suffers. Among other problems, fire trucks take longer to reach homes, costing taxpayers more money.
We appreciate you, Dan: Just Up the Pike's Dan Reed points out that he wrote several times on families and urbanism just days before our article. I have no idea if Cavan did or didn't see Dan's posts, but they're excellent as well. I, for one, am a strong proponent of linking to whatever site gives you inspiration for a post.
Streetcar and pedestrian Tommy: Councilmember Tommy Wells spoke to the H Street-Benning Road Streetcar Alliance about his belief in streetcars as a "transformative investment" and how well they work in other cities around the world. He, along with Jim Graham, also formally introduced a bill to create a Pedestrian Advisory Council, modeled on the existing Bicycle Advisory Council.
And: DC sold a Mount Vernon Triangle lot to a church for a dollar; Apple slightly modified their Georgetown store proposal; Rockville Central has a picture of when Rockville tore down its downtown to build new auto-dependent sprawl, only to reverse itself decades later.
- DDOT has rejected several suggestions for pedestrian improvements in Mount Vernon Square. Neighborhood resident Matt Yglesias is not pleased. (Life in Mount Vernon Square)
- The bad economy may deter legal challenges to DC representation in the House, if the voting rights bill passes. (DCist)
- Bicycle police harassed a cyclist downtown, telling him (incorrectly) that he was required to register his bike. (WashCycle)
- 77% of respondents in the Cleveland Park listserv's unscientific poll support the Giant development.
- Montgomery County's policy of giving parking fine money to the local parking district causes the districts to underprice parking and keep time periods really low to encourage fines, charges Ben Ross of the Action Committee for Transit. Performance parking would be fairer to all. (Ryan Avent)
- Building a skybridge across Wayne Avenue between the parking garage and the future Silver Spring library requires amending Silver Spring's revitalization plan, and the County Council plans to try. Park and Planning officials and a majority of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board oppose the $684,000 bridge. (Gazette) ... Previously: we shouldn't build the bridge nor too much parking.
- Marc Fisher argues that PG's scocer stadium deal with United is bad for taxpayers, and DC made the right choice by not doing a stadium deal. (Post)
- Residents are fighting the scale of the proposed JHU "Science City" at Belward Farm in Gaithersburg. For once, Smart Growth activists probably agree. (Gazette) ... Previously: we should put the transit in first.
- Transportation Examiner Katherine Hill is pleased that Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley kicked off stimulus spending by overhauling the Laurel MARC station.
- Opponents of a downtown Wheaton library argue it should stay "modest", but the best thing for "modest" Wheaton, including reducing crime, would be a downtown library. (Just Up the Pike)
- Arlington can finally turn its red light cameras back on. Cameras have been shown to reduce fatal accidents to drivers and pedestrians. The Virginia legislature forced them to be turned off, then changed its mind, but VDOT just now gave the needed approval. (WTOP)
- Arlington's long-awaited bike sharing program is happening. The County issued an RFP for an operator to share responsibilities with the County. (WashCycle) ... Previously: can it be compatible with DC's?
- HOT lane construction will be forcing pedestrians crossing the Beltway on Braddock Road to follow a 1.6-mile detour for at least 12 months. (WashCycle)
- Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood suggested replacing the gas tax with a VMT tax. Matt Yglesias isn't so sure that's a good idea. The gas tax, at least, specifically discourages burning gasoline. ... Way previously: A year ago, experts discussed the idea at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference. ... Update: President Obama put the kibosh on the idea, Alex points out.
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Darkness at the end of the tunnel: Tom Toles looks again at the irony of cutting Metro amid record ridership. Dr. Gridlock's readers debate budget cuts and float conspiracy theories that Metro's already cut service. Via Unsuck DC Metro.
Crowdsourcing in commuting: A Falls Church resident started MyCasualCarpool to help people create their own informal park-and-ride lots; Avego is trying to to create a market to fill empty seats in private cars on the daily commute.
Low parking enforcement? Deputize your citizens: Salt Lake City allows trained citizens to write parking tickets. The Salt Lake Tribune describes how a member of the "Mobile Neighborhood Watch" is allowed to take a photo and write a ticket for violations. The photo and ticket are sent to the local police for processing. By Michael Perkins.
Two wheels good, four wheels baaaaad? Bicycling to the Inauguration from Bethesda might have been the quickest way, though not the least sweaty; a rendering of a Wheaton apartment complex shows a Humvee driving around.
Huge parking garages worse: NYC's Mayor Bloomberg, who gets it on congestion pricing and complete streets but not at all on land use, wants to build a huge parking garage for the Bronx Botanic Garden. Streetsblog suggests making the pedestrian access and bus drop-off areas more inviting instead.
Not just strip malls anymore: The Triangle worries about City Vista's new corporate owners, who say they want to attract local retail like Busboys and Poets but otherwise only run "unambitious" strip malls in the suburbs.
how to spend the stimulus money. Maryland's John Porcari says they'll prioritize repairs over new projects, which is the right choice; VDOT head Pierce Homer wants to pay for repairs and some of the delayed projects, meaning potentially more freeway widenings or new freeways. Most likely, according to COG transportation planner Ronald Kirby, the Purple Line won't get any of this money. Update: Or maybe it will. Nobody really knows yet.
Screw nature: $200 million to repair the Mall's grass and keep the Jefferson Memorial from sinking underwater got cut from the stimulus. MoCo is cutting port-a-potties from Rock Creek Park in winter. And auto manufacturers have confirmed they plan to use public bailout money to keep suing the public for imposing higher clean air standards (via Ryan Avent).
Wires have their high points: That Bombardier wireless streetcar technology looks pretty cool but, writes Manifest Density, it'll probably be quite energy inefficient, likely wasting 20% of the power it consumes.
Thanks for reading, Examiner: It looks like the Examiner noticed GGW's weekend links about the emergency DMV rule for federal judges. Reporter Bill Myers called the DMV, who said "the emergency order sprang from 'a situation' recently," but wouldn't elaborate.
Cut transit and people stop riding transit: Maryland Politics Watch's Marc Korman reluctantly stopped riding MARC after recent service cuts (and falling gas prices). No word yet on whether he's changing his name to I-95 Korman.
Lose the LOS: Streetsblog SF explains how Level Of Service (LOS) warps traffic engineers' thinking and blocked important improvements in San Francisco. city and state planners are trying to dethrone LOS as the primary driver of traffic decisions.
Stop hatin' on K Street: Yglesias points out, "'K Street' is a synedoche for the influence peddling business, but it's also an actual street," which is definitely not full of lobbyists over in the Mount Vernon Triangle. "You wouldn't want to actually crack down on K Street, leaving out all the bad people on other streets but hitting the new Busboys & Poets coffee shop."
Cary Silverman makes a good suggestion: replace the large, green freeway-style signs on New York Avenue with ones that better fit an urban environment where cars, buses, bikes, and pedestrians are all using the public space.
I can't tell you how many residents have struggled with trying to get across 10 lanes of flying traffic from Mount Vernon Square to the new Safeway at 5th and New York Avenue, or the number of accidents at that intersection or the NJ/NY/3rd/4th Street intersection. ...16th Street, Connecticut Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue, North and South Capitol Streets, Pennsylvania Avenue, and other major boulevards into the city get by fine with regular signs. New York Avenue is US-50, but Georgia Avenue is US-29, and it doesn't have big green signs.
Get rid of the big green signs. The send the message that drivers are indeed in the freeway. And there appears to be no need for them. There are an abundance of smaller signs already along New York Avenue pointing out where to turn for 395, which way is to downtown, and how to get to 50. Perhaps one sign is needed to inform truck drivers of the height and hazmat restrictions of the 395 tunnel, but six?
And the flashing "STOP PEDS" sign as drivers approach the convention center doesn't quite do it. Of course, removing the signs is not even by far a silver bullet and does not excuse the need to make the street truly more pedestrian friendly and safer for drivers, but it will begin to change the atmosphere.
These seem to be a vestige of an era when transportation officials were trying to make New York Avenue as freeway-like as possible, and expected to build a full elevated freeway overhead as they'd done to
M K Street in Georgetown and Virginia Avenue in Southeast. That's not going to happen anymore, and our signs should send the right visual cues to clarify New York Avenue's role as a place where pedestrian crossing is welcome and common, as well as a major traffic artery.
Third Church of Christ, Scientist to tear down and redevelop their landmarked building at 16th and I. I'll be there to watch and report. Observers think the church is probably going down; allowing a raze would also forestall civil rights litigation and legislation that might have far-reaching and damaging repercussions. Richard Layman finds the process dirty if not actually corrupt.
Three fewer townhouses: The Mount Vernon Triangle will lose another three Victorian townhouses to a new development. The Triangle laments that in that neighborhood, with historic properties scattered about, there's no single cluster to fight to save. Commenters wonder why the facades, at least, couldn't have become part of the new building.
How low they stoop for parking: Baltimore has had a rash of counterfeit parking permits, where people take pictures of others' permits and print them to post in their own windshields. Baltimore is cracking down. Via Inside Charm City.
More on Hill fence, parking: Hill Rag covers the debate over fencing the former Marine parking lot on 8th Street that Infosnack wrote about yesterday. The area ANC (6B) also endorsed less parking at a commercial site to allow ground-level retail; that's yet another good reason not to mandate parking (or complex and expensive variances).
- Cyclists are special and do have their own rules
- Judge denies injunction against closing schools
- Metro policy for refunds after delays falls short, riders say
- M Street cycle track keeps improving, draws church anger
- Long-term closures: A solution to single-tracking?
- O'Malley announces first projects using new gas tax money
- ICC losing bus service in classic bait and switch