Posts about Medians
Petworth residents who walk along New Hampshire Avenue will have noticed that the medians on the blocks closet to the Metro station have recently been mulched. However, according to area resident Jeff Green, there are much more exciting plans in the works.
The medians on the 3900 block of New Hampshire Avenue (between Randolph and Shepherd) have finally gotten approval to move forward with plantings between the trees. Work is scheduled to commence on July 10.
The project was made possible due to a grant from the ANC 4C for the plant material. Tom Cater from Petworth-based Terra, Inc. will be donating the mulch.
Buckets and funnels are also available to anyone who is willing to adopt 2-3 trees and water them on New Hampshire Ave. during the summer months.
Depending upon future funding and community support, the long-term plan is to increase median beautification by about one to two blocks per spring/summer. Volunteers for either can get involved by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Capitol Hill residents recently reviewed traffic-calming options for C Street, NE including separated bike paths ("cycle tracks"), reducing lanes, bulb-outs, "chicanes" where the road curves from side to side, reconfigured intersections, medians, stormwater bioretention araes, and more.
From Toole Design.
C Street, NE through northeastern Capitol Hill serves two roles. It's a neighborhood street with houses and a school, but it's also a major westbound route from the East Capitol Street bridge toward the Capitol and downtown.
In the morning peak, it carries high volumes of traffic. At other times, it has many fewer cars, but the wide configuration encourages them to speed.
At the request of residents, DDOT engaged Toole Design, one of the best local transportation firms, to study alternatives. They found that the wide roadway could become much more, even preserving the ability of the street to move many cars.
All options maintain the existing treebox areas, then place protected bike lanes inside the current curbs, but elevated to sidewalk level. Additional pedestrian and/or planted spaces (in red on the diagrams) then protect the lanes from traffic and parking.
North Carolina Avenue would get an eastbound cycle track and retain its westbound bike lane, while the westbound cycle track would continue on the one-way portion of C Street west of 16th Street and transition to a standard bike lane as the road narrows past 15th.
The largest difference between options is in the numbers of vehicular lanes. All reduce the eastbound lanes to one, as there is little eastbound traffic. Instead, drivers generally use Independence Avenue. For westbound cars, option A preserves the current three lanes and parking. B would preserve the three lanes in the peak but use the space for off-peak parking only, and C reduces the travel lanes to two with full-time parking.
In the center, a planted median would separate the two directions of traffic and provide left turn pockets. Each alternative includes a chicane, gently curving the road back and forth, either at a gentle 3000-foot radius or a narrower and more traffic-slowing 600-foot radius. The medians also prevent cars from crossing over C on smaller cross streets such as 17th Place, 18th Street, and 20th Street.
Raised crosswalks would slow traffic on cross streets to assist pedestrians. To the west, there is an option to reconfigure the intersection of Constitution and North Carolina to create one large island instead of several small ones.
Options for the intersection of Constitution and North Carolina Avenues.
Finally, the proposals contain significant "green streets" elements. The cycle tracks and new pedestrian paces in red would use permeable paving to minimize stormwater runoff. In addition, where there are large bulb-outs (also in red), Toole proposes bioretention areas, planted areas that are left more wild than manicured and can hold water like miniature wetlands during and after storms, letting it slowly drain into the ground rather than overloading storm sewers.
This project could create DC's first real "green street" and show how good design can do so much more with public spaces. I'm just disappointed we aren't getting the same for projects like 17th Street, NW, now under construction. Fortunately, the new DDOT is using Toole for several other ongoing projects, boding well for more designs like this to come.
DDOT is recommending pedestrian improvements, bike lanes, consolidating bus stops, two-way streets, a Wisconsin Avenue median, performance parking and more in their recently-completed Glover Park Transportation Study.
Toole Design Group conducted the study on behalf of DDOT. They conducted a survey of residents, which found that 33% commute by bus compared to 20% by car, and 75% walk to shops along Wisconsin Avenue compared to 25% driving. Here are some of their most important recommendations:
Pedestrian improvements: The study provides recommendations to improve pedestrian safety at various intersections, especially along busy Massachusetts Avenue. They include new graphic "turning vehicles yield to pedestrians" and "stop for pedestrians in crosswalks" signs, leading pedestrian intervals that let people start crossing before turning traffic, new crosswalks near bus stops, and HAWK pedestrian signals.
Sidewalks: The report also recommends completing sidewalks on both sides of every street, starting with parts of Cathedral Avenue, Watson Place, and Fulton Street.
Bike lanes: The report proposes creating new bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue and Tunlaw Road. A bike lane on the northbound side of New Mexico Avenue heading towards American University would let cyclists more comfortably climb the steep hill more slowly than traffic, while southbound cyclists can merge with traffic as they go downhill at comparable speeds.
Another recommendation is creating a new bicycle route from 39th Street to Idaho Avenue and Porter Street. Additionally, the report recommends adding new bike racks along the Wisconsin Avenue commercial corridor and other key locations in Glover Park.
Consolidate bus stops: The study recommends consolidating some duplicate bus stops on Wisconsin Avenue. This could greatly improve the reliability of the 30s buses. It suggests repositioning "the bus stop on the southbound side at the Chevron gas station to the near side of the intersection with Calvert Street. Northbound and southbound bus stops on Wisconsin Avenue between Edmunds Street and Davis Street (adjacent to the Russian Embassy) should then be eliminated."
Currently, along the 30s line routes, some locations have multiple bus stops on the same block. This reduces the operating speeds of the buses as they have to merge into/out of the curbside lane to pick up passengers. Frequently, the buses also get stuck at traffic lights after picking up just one or two passengers at these redundant stops. Additionally, the merging buses create congestion for other vehicles in the traffic flow, further slowing down other buses along Wisconsin Avenue.
Combining these stops in Glover Park would also result in a higher number of riders at the newly consolidated locations. This would justify improved passenger infrastructure like covered bus shelters at these stops, further encouraging new ridership.
Off-board fare collection: Another important transit recommendation is to work with WMATA to install off-board fare collection equipment at busy bus stops. Such locations include all stops at the Massachusetts/Wisconsin Avenue intersection and all stops within the Glover Park commercial district on Wisconsin Avenue. Cities with successful bus rapid transit have installed ways to pay prior to boarding the bus, improving the operational efficiency of these routes.
Two-way streets: The Glover Park study also recommends converting one-way streets into two-way streets. In more suburban neighborhoods, cul-de-sacs increase vehicle miles traveled and walking distance by prohibiting direct access to major arterial streets. One-way streets create the same issue. Motorists have to drive farther with one-way streets since more direct routes to their destinations are not possible. Additionally, the study notes that the one-way streets in Glover Park create wider lane widths, encouraging people to drive faster than they would with two-way streets and narrower lanes.number of alternatives for the road, and settled on a configuration adding a median along the entire length, with the median ranging from 6' without trees to 10-11' with trees, and 4 travel lanes in most sections with some non-rush-hour parking, some full-time parking, and some center turn lanes.
Performance parking: To strengthen the commercial district, the report suggests a performance parking district for Glover Park. Residential streets would be resident-only (no 2-hour free parking for non-residents) on one side and metered on the other, while commercial streets would be metered on both sides.
Tonight, DDOT will discuss the planned Adams Morgan streetscape project, which will reconstruct 18th Street from Florida Avenue to Columbia Road. The project would widen sidewalks, repair and replace tree boxes, streetlights, and sidewalk pavement. It would also reconfigure the roadway from two travel lanes in each direction and angled parking on one side to one travel lane each way, parallel parking on both sides, and a center median for turns. The single lane would also contain "sharrows" reminding drivers that cyclists are welcome to share the road. At each intersection, bulb-outs would narrow the pedestrian crossing distance.
18th Street around Kalorama Street before (above) and after (below) the proposed streetscape
reconstruction. North is to the left.
Original plans suggested a raised median or one made out of special materials that create more of a pedestrian refuge in the center. However, a median which can accommodate vehicles could allow trucks to stop for loading, and DDOT is leery of different materials that may pose greater maintenance costs or headaches. Therefore, the current plan calls for the utilitarian, simpler, but less attractive striped paint.
The plan will also improve the intersection of Florida Avenue and 18th Street, where pedestrians on the east side of 18th have to cross three separate roadways and where cars race through in many different directions. The current plan consolidates the two islands into one, larger island. Southbound traffic on 18th will have to continue farther south to turn left onto U or Florida instead of swinging through the existing slip lane. An earlier iteration would have moved the islands entirely and created an even larger pedestrian plaza at the northeast corner, but that didn't survive to the final plan.
Businesses and residents support this plan, though many are concerned with the impact of construction. DDOT has not done a good job in recent years of managing these streetscape projects. Work has stretched far beyond the promised end date, temporary closures have impacted businesses, and the unwelcoming appearance of construction has driven people away. However, once completed, 18th Street Adams Morgan will be much more pleasant for walking or biking along.
Tonight, members of the community will decide if they're willing to accept the short-term pain, and DDOT will try to convince them that it can handle the job. The meeting is at 7 pm at the 3rd District police station, 1620 V St, NW.
Greater Capitol Hill's residents proudly lead the city in promoting a vision of our streets as welcoming and safe places for pedestrians, bicycles, transit, and cars alike. Not only did they elect DC's most pro-walkability, pro-complete streets Councilmember, but multiple groups of residents have created designs and blogs for improving their particular corners of the neighborhood.
We've already seen the C Street, NE group's ideas in the Rosedale area. Now, Tommy Wells' blog highlights some suggestions for improving pedestrian safety at the busy corner of Maryland Avenue and 7th and D Streets, NE drawn up by resident and ANC Commissioner Bill Schultheiss.
As Wells' staff member and Schultheiss' fellow ANC 6A Commissioner Anne Phelps writes, "This has long been a dangerous and troublesome junction," with long pedestrian crossing distances and poor visibility at a major intersection right in front of the library. Schultheiss created drawings of the current conditions as well as three options.
All options add curb extensions ("bulb-outs") to shorten pedestrian crossing distances, extending the existing median on Maryland, and realign D Street at the corner to a 60 degree intersection with Maryland. B also limits northbound 7th Street traffic to turning right onto Maryland, blocking off left turns which expose drivers to the greatest collision danger. C closes 7th off from Maryland entirely, forcing northbound traffic on 7th to turn right onto D and expanding the park space right across from the library.
Option C reclaims the most space, maximizes pedestrian safety, and would expand the park. That option seems best as long as it wouldn't create unreasonable traffic problems. All three would improve conditions by shortening pedestrian crossing distances and keeping parked cars out of the key sight lines.
Options A and B do remove a crosswalk on the west side of 7th. That's probably safest for pedestrians, as long as they stick to crosswalks, but in reality people generally don't. It seems likely that people will cross there anyway, especially with the library on the west side of 7th.
I also wonder about safety for the bicycle lane on D. Bikes continuing east on D will have to first turn onto Maryland, possibly conflicting with the cars also coming out from D. Perhaps D Street should also include a bike box where it hits Maryland, so that the bicycles can get into the right lane on Maryland in front of any cars. Drivers can certainly go around bikes by using the left lane, but will see them as they make the turn.
What do you think of these options?
We needn't wait for a major reconstruction of this intersection. DDOT could try out one of these designs very quickly. They could place plastic curbs and bollards to cordon off the bulb-out areas, shown in green on the diagrams, and paint the new crosswalks. That wouldn't cost a lot of money, but would let drivers, pedestrians and cyclists acclimate to the new pattern, and neighbors see the effects.
If it works, then DDOT can schedule the intersection for a permanent reconstruction. If, instead, we discover an unforeseen problem with bike, pedestrian or traffic conflicts, it's easy to move the curbs and modify the design to find something that does work. Let's do it!
Like Dupont's 15th Street and many others around DC, C Street, NE in the Rosedale section of Capitol Hill is a neighborhood street that traffic engineers turned into a high-speed traffic raceway. After crossing the Anacostia on East Capitol Street, the freeway-like road passing RFK Stadium dumps traffic onto C Street. According to the 2005 Capitol Hill transportation study, drivers regularly speed on this portion, making it unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Instead of waiting for a streetscape project from DDOT, residents are proactively designing a better C Street. Resident Ken Granata created a blog for the street that explores potential redesigns. Granata, who also maintains the Rosedale Citizens' Alliance neighborhood site, advocates removing one lane between 16th and 22nd Streets. On this stretch, C is a divided highway of three lanes in each direction. Heading west on C, the road divides at 16th, with C continuing west as a narrower road and North Carolina Avenue heading southwest to Lincoln Park. This creates a bottleneck around 16th.
Instead, Granata argues, a narrow C Street will move the bottleneck to the ramps around RFK, out of the residential areas. Instead, the C Street site shows potential designs (16th Street, 17th Street, 17th Place, 18th Street, 18th Place). The proposals include bulb-outs at the corners and a widened median containing a two-way bicycle path in the center:
Residents arranged for a walkthrough of C Street with DDOT Ward 6 Transportation Planner Allan Fye on January 5th. Fye suggested also considering a physically separated bike lane on one side of the street, similar to those NYC recently added on Eighth and Ninth Avenues or one proposal for 15th Street.
Such a lane would allow cyclists to enter and exit without crossing half of C Street. On the other hand, there may not be enough space on C Street for one of these on each side including the landscaped buffers between parked cars and the bicycle lanes, whereas a two-way path in the median occupies less space. It also adds pedestrian refuges for people to stop in if they can't cross the entire street on one light cycle. Area resident Lance Brown also suggested widening the sidewalks, writing that "Many streets, including the north side of C Street [in this area], have sidewalks that are much too narrow."
Often, some residents reflexively oppose bulb-outs or medians because of ingrained habits through years of designing streets for cars above all else. It's good to see residents of the Rosedale part of Capitol Hill thinking about creative solutions to reorient their streets for the benefit of all users.
Nancy Shia, representing northeastern Adams Morgan on ANC 1C, was arrested Sunday for taking pictures of a crime scene. Shia claims she was "just trying to document the scene," while police claim she was "impeding a police investigation" and opened the door of a police vehicle to get a picture of a juvenile suspect.
Petworth median parking compromise: The Petworth ANC, community and DDOT have reached a compromise about church parking on New Hampshire Avenue. DDOT wanted to replace a concrete median with a landscaped median, but a nearby church has been using it for parking on Sundays. Under the plan, the median will go in, but one of the travel lanes will become a parking lane on Sundays only.
Nobody's enforcing Capitol Hill meters: What good is having market-rate performance parking meters (which still aren't actually market rate, yet) when most of the cars parked at them haven't paid? (Infosnack)
Falls Church kinda-sorta-semi-urban-ish: A resident of Falls Church praises his "bucolic suburban village"'s transition "towards [a] quasi-urban place" by building some denser, mixed-use buildings on Route 7. Via Planetizen.
Ride-and-drive in Chicago: CTA is creating a unified fare card that's also an access card for I-GO car sharing services. This coincides with new shared cars that will be parked at CTA lots. (Apparently we have some Zipcars in WMATA lots too).
Montgomery County is finalizing a new "road code" to define basic standards for roads of different types across the county. It's a good idea to update the standards, but in the hands of MoCo's traffic engineers and some county leaders, it's become a blindly pro-traffic sledgehammer that will force pedestrian-unfriendly design throughout the county.
Unveiled by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett during Pedestrian Safety Week, the road code actually works against pedestrian safety. It sets a minimum speed of 30 mph for all streets, even those in urban areas (like downtown Bethesda) that should be 25. Arterial streets like Wisconsin or Georgia have even higher minimums, whether or not that's appropriate.
"We're very disappointed that the road code revisions didn't focus enough on pedestrian safety and putting a greater priority on making our vibrant urban areas safe and walkable," Cheryl Cort of the Coalition for Smarter Growth told the Gazette. The environmental provisions are more laudable, requiring all roads to absorb stormwater runoff, though, according to the Gazette article, environmentalists feel the absorption requirements don't go far enough.
The Planning Board wasn't pleased either, writing that the proposed minimum speeds are too high, the minimum widths too large for pedestrian safety and important traffic calming, the bicycle facility requirements too vague, and the standards too devoid of trees along the edges and in the medians.
That upset AAA spokesperson Lon Anderson, who participated in the working group that formulated the initial proposals. Anderson, whose organization consistently advocates for devoting as much public space as possible to cars, slammed the Planning Board and its non-car-centric ideas:
"Park and Planning thinks if every road was 20 mph or 25 mph that'd be great and every road should be tree-lined," Anderson said. ... "'It's our way or the highway' is an old maxim that apparently planners at the Montgomery County Planning Board take very seriously," said Anderson, who called the decision by the planners to offer separate recommendations "an outrageous and arrogant attempt to circumvent an appropriate study process."Of course, Anderson's way is the highway. But while not every street should be 20 or 25 mph, some should, and many should be tree-lined. The road code prevents that. Anderson, though, thinks no streets should have tree medians. Commenting on an article in Just Up the Pike, Anderson wrote:
We are all for trees, but want them set back adequately to ensure they don't limit motorists' and pedestrians' site[sic] distances, and obscure things like traffic signals, stop signs, and pedestrians and children preparing to enter the roadway. Additionally, trees set too close to roads can kill motorists who run off the roads.If Anderson is sincere, he's woefully misinformed about traffic safety. "Blocking sight lines hurts safety" is a 1950s concept. But, in truth, when sight lines are blocked, motorists drive slower; when they're wide open, they drive faster. And since a pedestrian is 85% likely to die if hit by a car at 40 mph but only 5% likely at 20 mph, we do more for safety by slowing down the cars in areas where pedestrians will be crossing. A narrower street without sight lines, therefore, is often the safest kind precisely because the driver can't see everything and has to proceed with care.
Please know that AAA has long played a role as a leader in the fight for pedestrian safety, and sponors over 36,000 children as AAA School Safety Patrols in the DC area, and I served on Doug Duncan's Pedestrian Safety Task Force a couple of years ago. We must design our roads in ways that encourage pedestrians, bikers and all users, but in the safest possible ways, and that's what I worked for in my efforts on the Road Design Study Commission.
There are two ways to keep pedestrians safe. One is to keep all the pedestrians far away from the main roads, build big barriers against crossing roads and locate buildings far apart, and giving the cars lots of room to run off the road without hitting anything. Problem is, then nobody can get anywhere without driving, we get crushing traffic (which Anderson professionally complains about), high rates of car crash injuries, asthma-inducing pollution, and depressingly sprawly communities. Or, we design our environment for cars, people and bicycles to coexist smoothly and, in the denser areas, at slow speeds. The Planning Board wants more of the latter, while Anderson, Leggett, and the rest of the authors of the Road Code want the former. That's only a recipe for more sprawl, which helps nobody except, perhaps, AAA Mid-Atlantic.
The Golden Triangle BID hired the consultants HNTB to conduct a streetscape study for Connecticut Avenue between Farragut and Dupont. That stretch has some of DC's fanciest stores and extremely heavy foot traffic, and should therefore be a prime shopping and restaurant district. But the street itself leaves much to be desired, with relatively few trees and some very wide, not so pedestrian-friendly spaces.
The most noticeable change recommended is to install a tree-lined median in the center. The avenue currently has three lanes in each direction and a center lane; it would be better both aesthetically and for pedestrian safety to use that center lane for landscaping, trees, and a pedestrian refuge to stop while crossing. The median could also feature some artwork (as in the below picture, but the art would not necessarily involve multicolored cubes).
Concept sketch for Connecticut Avenue. Image courtesy of HNTB.
There is already a median just north of N Street, but as the HNTB report points out, that median is raised above eye level, creating more of a visual wall than a friendly green space, and inducing cars to drive faster rather than watching out for pedestrians. If possible, the report suggests lowering that median at some point in the future.
The study also gives examples of street furniture that could unify the avenue and make it more visually appealing. These include nicer vending carts, "newspaper corrals" to combine the free and pay newspapers that currently occupy clashing and often low-quality boxes on the street, bike racks, benches, grates and manhole covers, and more.
Potential street furniture possibilities. Left: one type of newspaper corral. Center and right: two
potential styles of vending carts. Images courtesy of HNTB.
The biggest question of the night: where will the money come from? This plan isn't going to spring into being overnight. Golden Triangle BID is applying for some grants to build the median, which would be a noticeable first step. Other components, such as more trees, better sidewalk pavers, or the street furniture will come over time, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, perhaps never. But the median alone would be a great improvement.
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