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Bicycling


Going Dutch: Planners from the Netherlands make suggestions for bike lanes in DC

In late April, Dutch cycling experts met with DC area planners, engineers, and feds to look at cycling conditions in the West End neighborhood. They all teamed up to draft a plan that would build connections to trails and add new segments of on-street bikeways, all with the goal of creating a safe, easy-to-use cycling network.


The Netherlands are the world's gold standard for bike infrastructure. Photo by Christopher Porter on Flickr.

The Dutch Cycling Embassy is a public-private partnership that serves economic development and foreign policy goals of the Dutch government, exporting their safe, convenient, and mainstream cycling culture to the world through infrastructure design expertise. The Royal Netherlands Embassy brought this initiative to DC in 2010 for a "ThinkBike" workshop focusing on L and M Street.

The "Dutch way" emphasizes clear infrastructure design criteria to create a "joyful" cycling experience. The Netherlands is the western world's most successful country at actually getting people onto bikes. Unlike in the US where we often plan bikeways only where we can fit them in without upsetting too many drivers, in the Netherlands, the safety and convenience of cyclists get full treatment.

Dr. Peter Furth of Northeastern University, who teaches an annual summer course on bicycle infrastructure design that takes American civil engineering students to the Netherlands, pioneered translation of this vision to our side of the Atlantic through his "Level of Traffic Stress" typology in the United States.

DC has sometimes struggled to build the kinds of bike lanes that are commonplace in the Netherlands. The Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, from concept to present day, have generated five pages of posts on GGWash alone through multiple redesigns, tweaks, and controversies. The L and M Street NW bikeway that were the focus of the 2010 ThinkBike workshop have also struggled (quoth contributor Dan Malouff: "They're almost Dutch. Almost.").

Workshop attendees first considered the dangers of biking in DC

There's clearly more to learn. Last month, the Cycling Embassy returned to take a look at the West End, along with over 50 local bicycle planners, advocates, experts, and policy professionals. Many staff from USDOT were in attendance, even as their boss was trying out a bike in Amsterdam.

The emphasis was sober rather than joyful, with the DDOT professionals emphasizing the need to make roads safer. Virginia Tech planning students presented an analysis of bike crashes that showed clear problems with the key north-south connections to the West End (21st Street NW and 17th Street NW) and the core east-west spine of the neighborhood, Pennsylvania Avenue.


22nd Street NW between C Street and Virginia Avenue today. Image from Google Maps.


What if a two-way protected bikeway replaced the existing security planters and buffers?

Participants also noted an opportunity to substantially increase connectivity to the regional trail network, through improved wayfinding and short segments of infrastructure upgrades to and from trail connections to Rock Creek, the Capital Crescent Trail, the Roosevelt Memorial Bridge (aka I-66), and the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

However, increasing connections to low-stress cycling would likely necessitate serious work on Virginia Avenue, lest more crash hotspots bloom.


A map of the 194 West End bicycle crashes between 2010 and mid-2015. Data from DDOT, map by Virginia Tech urban/regional planning studio spring 2016 students.

The result was a world-class bike plan... but will it actually happen?

The final proposed network conference attendees came up at the end of the workshop included an ambitious wish list of new protected bikeways on DC's streets, including the notorious Washington Circle.


ThinkBike DC 2016 proposed network. Map by the author.

It is worth noting that the corridors identified and prioritized by this workshop, including Pennsylvania Avenue, Virginia Avenue, G Street, 17th Street, 21st Street, and 22nd Street NW, correlate almost exactly with the vision of MoveDC, DDOT's long-term transportation plan.

It's nice to see that at the planning level, a plan DC already came up with was already on the same page as the Dutch. It remains to be seen, though, what we can achieve at the design level. Workshop participants cycled the study area, measured rights of way, and sketched potential designs. In the safety of a workshop of cycling experts, parking was removed left and right, and a bike lane never had to give way to a bioretention swale.

In the real world, there are more diverse stakeholders and tradeoffs when space is at a premium, as it is in a neighborhood where real estate is doing "phenomenally well." And at the edges of our study area, we didn't dare tell the Dutch about our "trails" with unmarked connections and crossings, broken pavement, narrow, crowded surfaces, and dead-end trailheads.


It's easy to build protected bike lanes on paper!

Trail connections are (hopefully) the next step

The region's missing piece is connections from streets to our longer bike trails. WABA has recently invested in advocacy capacity to advance this, and the National Park Service just dropped a mic: a Paved Trails Study complete with a regional vision, specific segments delineated, measurable goals, and capital recommendations.

The report acknowledges the NPS has no trail design standards, recommends developing some, and proposes a National Capital Trail (hellooooo "Bicycle Beltway!").

If you care about trails in our area, check it out and submit comments. The comment period is open until May 19.

Demographics


Who are DC's 1,000 "new residents per month?"

You may have heard that DC's population is increasing by approximately 1,000 per month. That's a true popular statistic. But it's not really true to say that 1,000 people are moving into DC each month. What is really driving this number?


Not officially one of the new residents. Photo by Smithsonian's National Zoo on Flickr.

In short: people being born and dying, and large numbers of people moving in and out of DC. On balance, if you add up all of these numbers, you get about 1,000 a month.

Births: Some of DC's new residents are babies. 9,593 humans were born in DC from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015, according to the US Census' 2015 "Vintage Population Estimates," or about 800 a month.

Deaths: Meanwhile, some people die. In that same time span, it was 5,218, or about 435 a month. Together, that makes the net "natural population change" 365 people a month.

Domestic migration: Other people move into or out of DC. The Census also estimates that DC had a net domestic migration of 311 people a month. In other words, the number of people who moved to DC from other parts of the US was 311 people more than the number who moved the other way.

International migration: Finally, people move to and from DC from other countries as well. There was a net of 379 such people a month from 2014-2015. As you can see from the graph below, that number has stayed more consistent than the net domestic migration:


Data from US Census Vintage 2015 Population Estimates. Numbers do not include pandas.
* Residual is where the estimates for individual components don't quite add up to the total population change.

This graph shows, with some variation, that roughly a third of the population change is natural, a third domestic migration, and a third international. However, it'd be very inaccurate to say the three are about equal.

That's because the net domestic migration number, in particular, conceals a huge amount of "churn." Remember how, above, we said that 800 babies are born a month and 435 people die. Since those are almost entirely not the same people, there aren't 365 people coming into the world a month; instead, 1,235 people total either enter or leave this life.

The corresponding number of people who moved between DC and another part of the US per was between 7,000 and 8,000 a month in either direction, based on data from the Internal Revenue Service and the Census's American Community Survey.


Purple bars from US Census Vintage 2015 Population Estimates. Red and green bars are very rough estimates extrapolated from IRS and American Community Survey data.

This graph shows the rough magnitude of the churn in each category. The domestic migration comes out to a net of about 400 a month over the last five years, but that's two large numbers balancing out to one small one. The size of those components is partly why the domestic number fluctuates more from year to year.

It also makes it hard to drill down. We'd love to know how many of the 8,000 movers per month are going to or from the immediate metro area versus elsewhere in the US. Unfortunately, according to Jeannette Chapman of George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis (who provided the data for this post), the available public data sources have limitations.

The Census' American Community Survey uses a small sample that's only good enough to conclude that net domestic migration was somewhere between -13,000 and +7,500 in 2014.1 The IRS has data on people who filed taxes in one jurisdiction and then changed to another, but not everyone can be matched over two years and not everyone files taxes.2 Both of these data sources can tell us a lot about movers, but doesn't completely nail down "the" absolute number.

But the overall net population change numbers are more solid, and in the end, some more people are born than die, and more people come into DC from around the nation and the world than leave.

The people moving domestically and internationally, in general, need housing units; the people born don't right away, but most of their families eventually need larger housing spaces. DC has added approximately 10,000 new jobs per year over the last five years, and many of those job holders will live in the city.

How much housing DC is adding, and how much it needs to build to meet the need, will be the subject of a future post.

1 If you estimate the domestic migration using the ACS and IRS data, as Chapman did, they actually show a net negative domestic migration—more people moving out of DC than in. But, Chapman said, that likely doesn't mean more people actually moved out of DC; the Census' Population Estimates show an increase, and they incorporate more data sets and sophisticated modeling to come to these numbers.

2 The data set only covers people who file taxes and do so by the April 15 deadline. That excludes
many lower-income people, higher-income people, and misses some, like young people, who may still be using another address like their parents'. New filers (like recently-married or first-time jobholders) also don't have two years of history to compare. In 2013, about 15% of people who filed federal taxes (either as the filer or a dependent) couldn't be matched to 2012.

Roads


Make space for bikes on the GW Parkway

The George Washington Parkway was originally just supposed to help tourists get to Mount Vernon, and its keepers' main mission is to preserve natural resources, not maintain roads. Could there be fewer driving lanes and more space for other modes of transportation?


Photo by Roger W on Flickr.

The southern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway opened to traffic in 1932. Conceived as a means to ease tourist access to George Washington's home at Mount Vernon, it morphed throughout the latter part of the 20th century into a motorist commuter route for far-flung suburbanites heading to DC.

Both the road and the adjacent Mount Vernon Trail are maintained by the National Park Service (NPS), whose mission is to "preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources" of the United States. You will not find anywhere in its mission statement that it is to provide fast, convenient commuter routes for the suburbs of Washington, DC.

Average daily traffic (ADT) volumes on the parkway within the last few years have been approximately 16,000 vehicles, a number that isn't huge but certainly lessens the road's original scenic purpose. Birdsong is impossible to hear with the din of SUVs in the background.


Note how close the four lanes of traffic are to the trail on the right. Also, note that no crosswalks are present at this busy intersection. Nor are there any signals to stop traffic for people crossing on foot or by bike.

That ADT number is also well within the 20,000 ADT set as the maximum for the practical implementation of a road diet as decreed by the US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). That FHWA maximum is, itself, arbitrarily low based on real-world observations. For example, no significant increase in regional congestion was caused by the 2015 closure of two lanes on the far more heavily used Memorial Bridge just to the north.

Parallel to the four-lane parkway is the Mount Vernon Trail, a winding, narrow multiuser trail. In recent years, this trail has become a major commuter route for people who bike to and from DC. Upwards of 2000 bikes per day hit the trail, despite the trail's narrowness.

People who walk and bike must share this trail, as signs along the road prohibit bicycles from the road. Interestingly, the federal code governing the road's usagedoesn't reference bicycles explicitly. Nor does the code prohibit changes to the amount of space on the roadway given over to motorists.


Bikes are not allowed on the lightly-traveled GW Parkway. Instead, they are forced onto the adjacent Mount Vernon Trail.

Recently, the National Park Service released its National Capital Region Draft Paved Trail Study for comment. The study is an update of the 1990 plan written in an era when bicycling in the US was less of an everyday transportation mode and more of a recreational activity. The plan tends to view the trails in isolation. There's no mention of what mode will get priority when there is conflict, such as when people on bikes or on foot must cross the road for access to trails. It also does not address the feasibility of road diets that would balance out mode space on routes like the southern section of the parkway.

Does it make sense that cars on the southern section (below Alexandria) of the parkway are given four lanes of space while bikes and pedestrians are crammed onto the narrow, winding MVT? Both are major commuter routes, but whereas the MVT is overcrowded at 2000 ADT, the parkway is half-empty at 16,000 ADT. In essence, the trail is under-built, while the road is over-built.


This is the George Washington Memorial Parkway today: four high-speed lanes, no traffic lights, controlled access, and a narrow multiuser trail parallel to the roadway. All of this is next to the Potomac River. All images from the Virginia Bicycling Federation.

If the draft paved trail plan truly acknowledged the modern and future needs of this particular route, discussion of a road diet on the GW Parkway would be on the table. The road could easily be shrunk to one vehicle lane in each direction with adjacent buffered bike lanes. The MVT could be given over entirely to people who walk, eliminating potentially hazardous bike-pedestrian conflicts.


A road diet on the parkway would leave two lanes for motorists, buffered bike lanes on the remaining space, and leave the Mount Vernon Trail exclusively for use by those on foot.

This is not without precedent. In 2001 the state of New York closed two out of four lanes on the Robert Moses Parkway in the Niagara Falls region. As with the GW Parkway, this highway was controlled access with an eye towards enhancing tourist traffic while providing access to scenic beauty. Instead, it proved to be such a failure in all regards that local advocates didn't stop with a road diet. They pushed through a plan to remove it entirely for at least a two mile stretch. If the state of New York can pull this off, despite actually having a mandate to provide speedy transportation options, why can't the National Park Service?


The Robert Moses Parkway in the Niagara River region was very similar to the George Washington Parkway, until a road diet was implemented. Now a two-mile portion will be removed to allow better river access.

NPS has an opportunity to shift its focus in the National Capital region away from an old-school, road-centric mindset to a more sustainable approach that also recognizes the changing commuter habits of younger generations. If you agree, send the National Park Service your comments via their comment page. You have until May 19th to do so. After that, you may have to wait another quarter-century to get your input to them.

This post originally ran on the Virginia Bicycling Federation's blog.

Architecture


What will become of D Street once the FBI moves?

With the FBI planning to move out of the J. Edgar Hoover building on Pennsylvania Avenue, the possibility of restoring D Street so it runs all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue has come up. But it's unclear whether or not that'd be a good idea, or even if it'd actually be doable.


D Street currently ends when it reaches the FBI building at 9th Street. Image from Google Maps.

In DC, each city block is called a square, and each has a number. Square 1, the block between 26th, 27th, Virginia and K Street NW, is the westernmost square in the L'Enfant City, and the numbers continue to to the east. D Street used to extend all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue, creating the two squares where the FBI building now sits—378 and 379—as well as a small triangle north of the Avenue where the Ben Franklin statue originally stood.

In the 20th century, D Street was closed, square 348 was enlarged, and squares 378 and 379 merged.


Plat map of the FBI HQ site in 1932

Undoing this would reconnect the street grid, extending a road that goes all the way to Oklahoma Avenue NE in Rosedale. That would make getting around easier for everyone, add redundancy to the road network, and add new space for storefronts that could bring added life to the area. But it would also come at the cost of greater density.

A connected grid is nice, but at what cost?

Restoring D Street would obviously mean less space for buildings. More specifically, it'd be the equivalent of removing a building 60 feet wide, 530 feet long and 160 feet high—and it would do so in the core of the city.

Another way to view the possibility: a loss of nearly $7 million per story, as Loopnet reports the average price of office space in DC at $217 per square foot at the time of print.

It's not clear how much having D Street run through would help cut down travel times. For those traveling between 10th and D, or between Pennsylvania Ave and D, it would create a slightly shorter route, trimming a couple hundred feet from a trip. But we don't know that the change would noticeably reduce congestion. Perhaps a traffic analysis could shed light on the actual impact.

The District won't be the one to decide what happens

In the end, whether or not D Street opens back up isn't even DC's decision.

The National Capitol Planning Commission (NCPC) will, with GSA and NPS, be developing the new square guidelines that will then have to approved by Congress. NCPC is considering reducing the current 75 foot setback from Pennsylvania. If it were to stay at 75 feet, it would be difficult to open D street without limiting square 379 to a plaza. If the set back were reduced to something closer to the property line, which is 25 feet from Pennsylvania Avenue, the block would be large enough to open up D and still build a commercially viable building on square 379.

The NCPC usually leans toward reopening streets from the L'Enfant Plan, which is viewed as a national landmark. But it's in the federal government's interest to restore the setback and keep D Street closed, because a closed D Street and smaller sidewalk would result in the highest sales price.

If the federal government does sell the property, will the buyer want assurance that D Street will remain closed? It is entirely within the federal government's power to simply make it illegal for DC to reopen D Street.

Perhaps a more palatable alternative would be for D street to pass underneath whatever replaces the FBI headquarters, similar to the way M Street goes underneath the Convention Center. This would undoubtedly reduce the value of retail along D, but would retain much of the building space while providing the transportation benefits of a restored D. The current courtyard could even be retained as a gap above D Street.

It would be hard to make an argument that Pennsylvania Avenue needs another plaza, but easy to assert that downtown needs more residential and commercial space. A restored D street, with air rights given in exchange for an affordable housing set aside might be able to address all the competing needs.

Bicycling


Green means go (for bike lanes)

Washington is one of many cities going green, literally: green paint is becoming a go-to way to make bike lanes stand out so that using the street is safer for everyone.


The bike lanes along 14th Street NW, between V and U Streets, just turned green. Photo by Rodney Hunter.

The latest green lanes in DC were just painted on 14th Street NW between V and U streets. But that's just the latest in what has been regularly happening in DC for the past few years. Why has the city gone green for bike lanes all of a sudden?

It wasn't always green

According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, an early 1990's test in Portland used blue paint to see whether or not painted lanes made cyclists safer and more visible. The overall test results found that the treatment was generally popular and both drivers and cyclists felt that it helped reduce confusion and conflict.

But cities gradually started switching to green paint because blue pavement markings because blue is often the color used to mark handicapped-accessible spaces. Meanwhile, other colors like red and yellow are used to warn people or signal that something is prohibited. Before it became the color for bike lanes, it was rare to see green paint on the street.


Green Paint on First Street. Image from Google Maps.

In DC, green lanes are found in a few places. The entire First Street NE protected bikeway, which runs from Union Station through NoMa, is painted bright green. The L and M street bikeways also have green sections where there are turn lanes for cars, to make sure that bikes going straight have a path around turning vehicles.


Green Paint on L Street. Image from Google Maps.

Places where bike lanes cross turning lanes or tricky intersections are also spots where you're likely to find green paint in DC. That's the case at R Street and Rhode Island Avenue where the diagonal avenue makes for an awkwardly long intersection. And at Eye Street SW, numerous entrances have green paint so drivers know to check for cyclists and to merge carefully rather than just turning (check out this shot of I before it got green paint and a bike lane, and this one after).


Green paint along R Street across Rhode Island Avenue. The paint helps keep bikes and cars straight across a long intersection.

Other places around the region are getting in on the act as well. Arlington has painted portions of the bike lane along Clarendon Boulevard green at some of the tricky intersections and along Hayes Street near Pentagon City as well.


Green Lanes in Rosslyn. Image from from Google Maps.

Green paint has also shown up in Montgomery County, first appearing on Woodglen Drive in Bethesda.


Green Paint in Bethesda. Image from Google Maps.

Other places get the point, but they use different colors

Other countries seem to be fond of different colors, as standards in those countries have developed differently over time. Red is a popular color for bike lanes in the Netherlands and Copenhagen while painted bike lanes in the UK are probably going to be blue.

No matter the color, the intent is that a bike lane should stick out so that people know to watch out.


Blue bike lanes in London. Image from Google Maps.

At least one town in the Netherlands decided that all of those colors were too boring and decided to install LEDs that mimic the whorling patterns found in the famous Van Gogh painting Starry Night.

Still, while green seems to be a popular color for more and more bike lanes, it isn't universally beloved. Recently, automobile advertisers found themselves in a lurch when a bright green bike lane was painted in LA along a street that is often used for filming car commercials.

Hollywood's troubles and all, it appears that green lanes in the US are sticking around and will soon be a regular part of the landscape. Where should the next splash of green go in the region?

Development


This rule scattered "parking craters" around DC, but they're steadily disappearing

I recently wrote that a healthy downtown office market, plus a federal rule that has pushed offices outside downtown, have combined to fill in all of the "parking craters" in downtown DC. That doesn't mean they're totally gone, though. They've just moved to other places in the city.


Parcel A at the Yards, the largest "parking crater" in DC. Photo by Payton Chung.

Over the years, DC noticed the success it found in broadening the federal government's definition of the Central Employment Area, the space eligible for federal government offices. The District successfully lobbied the General Services Administration to widen the CEA further to encompass not just downtown, but also NoMa, much of the Anacostia riverfront, and the former St. Elizabeth's campus. Because the latter areas have much cheaper land than downtown DC, and lots of land to build huge new office buildings, federal offices are now drifting away from the downtown core.

A developer with a small site downtown usually won't bother to wait for a big federal lease, as the government wants bigger spaces at cheaper rents. It's easier to just rent to private-sector tenants. However, a developer with a large site within the CEA and next to Metro, but outside downtown, has a good chance of landing a big federal lease that could jump-start development on their land—exactly the formula that can result in a parking crater while an owner waits for a deal.

One recent deal on the market illustrates the point: the GSA recently sought proposals for a new Department of Labor headquarters. GSA wants the new headquarters to be within the District's CEA, within 1/2 mile walking distance to a Metro station, and hold 850,000 to 1,400,000 square feet of office space.

The kicker is the timeline: GSA wants to own the site by April 2018, and prefers if DC has already granted zoning approval for offices on the site. It would be difficult for a developer to buy, clear, and rezone several acres of land meeting those requirements within the next two years, so chances are that the DOL headquarters will be built on a "parking crater" somewhere in DC. Somewhere outside downtown, but within the CEA, like:

High-rise residential seems like it would be an obvious use for land like the Yards, which is outside downtown but atop a heavy-rail station. Yet even there, where one-bedroom apartments rent for $2,500 a month, it's still more valuable to land-bank the site (as parking, a small green area, and a trapeze school) in the hopes of eventually landing federal offices.

Many federal leases are also signed for Metro-accessible buildings outside the District, which helps to explain why prominent parking craters exist outside of Metro stations like Eisenhower Avenue, New Carrollton, and White Flint. (For its part, Metro generally applauds locating offices at its stations outside downtown, since that better balances the rush-hour commuter flows.)

One reform could fix the problem

One esoteric reform that could help minimize the creation of future parking craters around DC is to fully fund the GSA. Doing so would permit it to more effectively shepherd the federal government's ample existing inventory of buildings and land, and to coordinate its short-term space needs with the National Capital Planning Commission's long-term plans.

Indeed, GSA shouldn't need very many brand-new office buildings in the foreseeable future. Federal agencies are heeding its call to "reduce the footprint" and cut their space needs, even when headcount is increasing. Meanwhile, GSA controls plenty of land at St. Elizabeth's West, Federal Triangle South (an area NCPC has extensively investigated as the future Southwest EcoDistrict), Suitland Federal Center, and other sites.

However, ongoing underfunding of GSA has left it trying to fund its needs by selling its assets, notably the real estate it now owns in now-valuable downtown DC. GSA does this through complicated land-swap transactions, like proposing to pay for DOL's new headquarters by trading away DOL's existing three-block headquarters building at Constitution and 3rd Street NW.

In theory, it should be cheaper and easier for GSA to just build new office buildings itself. In practice, though, they've been trying to do so for the Department of Homeland Security at St. Elizabeth's West, and Congressional underfunding has turned the process into a fiasco.

Parking craters will slowly go away on their own

In the long run, new parking craters will probably rarely emerge in the DC area. Real estate markets have shifted in recent years: offices and parking are less valuable, and residential has become much more valuable. This has helped to fill many smaller parking craters, since developers have dropped plans for future offices and built apartments instead.


This now-closed parking lot in NoMa will soon make way for apartments. Photo by Payton Chung.

Even when developers do have vacant sites awaiting development, the city's growing residential population means that there are other revenue-generating options besides parking. "Previtalizing" a site can involve bringing festivals, markets, or temporary retail to a vacant lot, like The Fairgrounds, NoMa Junction @ Storey Park, and the nearby Wunder Garten. This is especially useful if the developer wants to eventually make the site into a retail destination.

Broader trends in the office market will also diminish the demand for parking craters, by reducing the premium that big offices command over other property types. Demand for offices in general is sliding. Some large organizations are moving away from having consolidated headquarters, and are shifting towards more but smaller workplaces with denser and more flexible work arrangements.

Unlike the boom years of office construction, there's now plenty of existing office space to go around. Since 1980, 295 million square feet of office buildings were built within metro DC, enough to move every single office in metro Boston and Philadelphia here. While some excess office space can be redeveloped into other uses, other old office buildings—and their accessory parking lots—could be renovated into the offices of the future.

Retail


Chick-fil-A's proposed Van Ness drive-thru is denied

A key review board has denied Chick-fil-A's controversial request for a drive-thru in Van Ness. But it might not have the last word.


An early rendering of the planned Chick-fil-A in Van Ness.

At its meeting on Thursday, April 28th, the five-member Public Space Committee voted unanimously to deny Chick-fil-A a permit to widen an existing curb cut for a drive-thru at 4422 Connecticut Avenue, which is now the site of the Van Ness Burger King.

The committee, which has five members from various DC government agencies, made its decision based on testimony from Chick-fil-A, Van Ness community members and representatives, and District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Office of Planning (OP) staffers. Ryan Westrom of DDOT and OP's Tim Maher recommended against approving the curb cuts, concerned that the increased drive-thru traffic projected by Chick-fil-A would result in more conflicts between pedestrians and drivers.

Chick-fil-A says it'll stop traffic backups, but not persuasively

There is already a drive-thru here for Burger King, but it gets little traffic. A Chick-fil-A would draw much more. To try to prevent traffic backups, the store plans to have three to four employees taking orders on iPads on the north driveway, more employees at another station for taking cash in the back, and another area on the south driveway with a door for more staff to deliver the food. They also mentioned using the rear parking lot for overflow, assuming there would be available spaces.

"What would prevent a back up onto Connecticut Avenue?" they were asked. Chick-fil-A had a ready response: They would hire an off-duty police officer to direct traffic. Matthew Marcou, the chair of the Public Space Committee, raised his eyebrow at this, and quipped, "DDOT can't get any for other projects."

Chick-fil-A also promised to have additional staff on hand to quickly handle orders if a surge in drive-thru business was causing backups. ANC 3F Commissioner Sally Gresham said promises of "self-monitoring" – which Chick-fil-A representatives continued to stress – were not enough. The city had no enforcement mechanism, she testified, if Chick-fil-A did not uphold its agreements.

Community groups and experts oppose the drive-thru

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3F voted unanimously in February to oppose Chick-fil-A's drive-thru. Steve Gresham, a member of an ANC committee formed to study Chick-fil-A's application, testified about flaws in the drive-thru system, such as the lanes being too narrow to accommodate employees taking orders. And during peak hours of business, he said, cars could be blocking the sidewalk at either the entrance or exit of the drive-thru more than half of the time.

ANC 3F hired Karina Ricks, a former chair of the Public Space Committee, to consult. She stated in written testimony that the drive-thru did not meet regulatory muster. Ricks also said the drive-thru would create an unsafe environment for pedestrians and bicyclists – conditions that would run counter to DDOT's moveDC, the long-term DC transportation plan, and the goals of Vision Zero to reduce all traffic fatalities and serious injuries in the District to zero by 2024.

In addition, she said, the city was making substantial investments in Van Ness, in planning and implementation, to create a vibrant, walkable commercial area.

The Chick-fil-A can thrive without a drive-thru

Dipa Mehta, a co-chair of the economic development committee of Van Ness Main Street, presented research showing a safe, walkable environment is a key ingredient to fostering economic development. The car traffic generated by Chick-fil-A would be detrimental to the business climate at Van Ness, she said.

Chick-fil-A has stated in the past that the Van Ness location does not currently generate enough pedestrian traffic to support its business. However, I as a Van Ness Main Street board member testified that Chick-fil-A was underestimating the chain's potential to attract walk-in customers from the immediate area, given the large number of high-rise residential buildings nearby.

Marcou asked Chick-fil-A about pedestrian traffic in Tenleytown, where Chick-fil-A is building a restaurant without a drive-thru. The answer: They had not done a pedestrian count there.

Though comments on Forest Hills Connection articles about Chick-fil-A's plans indicate at least some residents support a drive-thru, the opposition has been more outspoken and organized. A Ward 3 Vision petition opposing the drive-thru collected 366 signatures. In addition, The Northwest Current published an open letter to Mayor Bowser from several signatories, including the owners of Bread Furst and Acacia Bistro, and co-presidents of the Hastings Condo Association, representing the building just north of the site at 4444 Connecticut. They asked for Bowser's support in opposing the drive-thru.

Only one resident testified in support of the Chick-fil-A drive-thru. However, he explained that he had business ties to the location. He said similar driveway situations exist in nearby locations – at the Park and Shop in Cleveland Park, at the Whole Foods in Tenleytown, and at the Tenleytown CVS – and pedestrians adjusted.

Committee member Reg Bazile cut him off. "Those locations are not similar," he said.

Marcou recommended that Chick-fil-A continue to pursue a Van Ness location, only without the drive-thru element. Chick-fil-A also has the option of going to court. That's what a citizens' group did in 1980, when a Burger King franchisee sought and received permits for the drive-thru in 1980. The court sided with the franchisee.

Van Ness Main Street President Mary Beth Ray said the community would support the restaurant without the drive-thru. "Our research has shown how wildly popular their food is, and we hope [Chick-fil-A's] interest in Van Ness goes beyond the drive thru," Ray said in an email. "Van Ness is open for business."

This originally ran on Forest Hills Connection.

Development


Interning in DC? Here’s how to find a place to live.

DC's shortage of affordable housing options touches lots of permanent residents, but summer interns struggle with the problem as well. Below are three ways to find a place to stay when you're only coming to DC for the semester.


My home during my internship, at Connecticut and Cathedral NW.

Each season, a new wave of unpaid interns in search of work experience floods the nation's capitol. And before interns even arrive to DC, the search for housing acquaints them with the city's high cost of living. The housing market is already short on affordable options, and the need for short term leases and access to public transportation means even more barriers.

As most interns in DC are unpaid, the main qualifications for housing are that it's cheap, close to transport, and a short term lease. These three requirements can make for a lengthy and exhausting housing search within the current DC housing market.

Here are three go-to options for interns who are on the hunt:

1. Get housing through your school or program

Some lucky students' universities pick out housing out for them, usually in a building specifically designed for students. Because of the demand, many apartment complexes in DC are starting to specialize in short term leases for these students interning in DC. Universities sending students to DC frequently use this option, but interns searching for a short term lease can use it as individuals as well.

One example is where I currently live, Washington Intern Student Housing, aka WISH. WISH, along with Cheap Intern Housing and Cassa Housing, are some of the options for students searching for apartments with short term leases mostly occupied by students. At the WISH Woodley Park location, interns are offered a convenient location, but at a steep price: Places start at around $1,000 a month, and that's in a three-bedroom apartment where you're splitting a room.


The kitchen in my WISH apartment.

2. Stay in a local college dorm

Another option for summer interns are the university dorms from schools like American, George Washington, and Georgetown. This option offers students a chance to experience life at an University in DC, but for a price ranging from $310 to $450 a week for shared rooms.

These universities have web pages (linked above) dedicated to attracting and informing students about their summer rates and availability, along with contact information or an application for housing.

3. When all else fails… try Craigslist

The third option for interns is the exasperating Craigslist search. This option is not for the faint of heart, especially during the summer when the demand is the highest. I have some friends who sent dozens of emails to potential roommates, but even after weeks of trying never found a place to live.

In a Craigslist search, make sure to respond to a listing as soon as possible, but also be wary about your potential roommates. If your Craigslist search is not successful many interns might just turn to option one intern apartments, even though they can be a higher price.

It's possible to feel at home even if you're only here briefly

Once you find housing, be aware that life as an intern can be tough. It's not uncommon for city dwellers to have to make lots of maintenance requests, for everything from rat removal to broken refrigerators. It can also be hard to assimilate, as you're in DC for much longer than a tourist, but you aren't here for good.


Decorating a space is a go-to way to turn it into a home.

But the benefits to interning in DC outweigh the cost and stress of housing. In DC you have the opportunity to explore countless museums (for free), attend enlightening events, and network with inspiring people. And when it comes to feeling at home in your apartment, try making and spending time with friends, decorating, and cooking family recipes.

Do you have any tips for interns coming to DC?

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