Chick-fil-A will try again this month to win DDOT’s approval for a drive-thru at its planned Van Ness restaurant at 4422 Connecticut Avenue, using another traffic study and plan to address community questions left unanswered by its first effort.
The first traffic study left out pedestrians entirely. The second study (you can download the summary here) looks at pedestrian numbers on two weekdays and one Saturday in March during breakfast, lunch and dinnertime peak periods.
As for vehicle traffic numbers, the second study refers to back to the first study done in January, which projected 200 to 300% increases in hourly drive-thru traffic at peak periods, with the greatest increase on weekday evenings and Saturdays at midday. During the peak weekday evening hour, we could see 110 vehicles cross the sidewalk as they enter and exit the drive-thru, at a pace of almost two per minute. On Saturdays at midday, the pace could quicken to about 200 vehicles per hour, more than three per minute.
Even so, the second study states the “anticipated drive-thru traffic will not have a noticeable effect to the pedestrians, nor will it lead to any congestion issues.” In the morning, it says, the Chick-fil-A drive-thru will attract barely any more traffic than the Burger King location sees at that time now. At lunchtime, the projected drive-thru’s busiest weekday period, it sees a drop-off in pedestrian traffic. And in the evening, it cites “a relatively low rate of pedestrians compared to other blocks along Connecticut Avenue.” What it does not study is how many of those other blocks have vehicles crossing the sidewalk 100 times per hour.
The second study’s summary also touts plans to upgrade the property, saying the changes could provide “significant benefits” to pedestrians compared to conditions at the current Burger King site. “Significant upgrades” it suggests include:
And while it’s not clear how this helps from a safety standpoint, the summary mentions the planned outdoor café as an improvement to the pedestrian environment.
The second study explains in more detail how the restaurant intends to prevent cars in the drive-thru from stacking up during peak periods and blocking traffic on Connecticut Avenue. This involves sending at least three employees out to take orders, accept payments and deliver the food to waiting vehicles. A similar ordering process at other restaurants, it says, allows them to process approximately 30% more cars than a menu board and drive-up window alone. In the event of a surge in traffic, a fourth employee would come out to direct vehicles to the pass-through lane and the parking in the back of the lot. This employee, it says, would “assure a safe, calming presence” when the drive-thru is at its busiest.
With this study and traffic plan, Chick-fil-A is attempting to address the primary considerations of the DDOT’s Public Space Committee. The committee is charged with determining whether the proposed use of a public space is consistent with the District’s laws and policies, and it will ultimately decide whether Chick-fil-A gets its drive-thru permits.
Applicants must show their projects meet these criteria:
An operative word is “additional.” Drive-thru opponent ANC 3F is making the case that the projected increase in cars using a Chick-fil-A drive-thru is an “additional use” with the potential of endangering the public and interfering with traffic.
Chick-fil-A’s drive-thru permit application is on the agenda of the committee’s April 28th meeting. The committee will take into account recommendations from various DC offices, ANC 3F’s resolution and written and verbal testimony. It will make its decision that day.
If you wish to testify in person or submit written testimony, contact Dipa Mehta, who is coordinating testimony for our community. Ward 3 Vision intends to submit a petition opposing the drive-thru, which you can sign.
This will be the second time Chick-fil-A’s public space application is scheduled for a Public Space Committee hearing. The first time was on February 25th, after ANC 3F has passed a resolution opposing the drive-thru due to pedestrian safety hazards. The date of the second study suggests Chick-fil-A wasn’t ready to try at the committee’s next meeting on March 24th. In the meantime, our ANC representatives have been reaching out to District officials to inform them of Chick-fil-A’s plans.
The outreach includes Mayor Muriel Bowser, who was in the neighborhood to kick off the annual Potholepalooza.
Commissioner Mary Beth Ray praised the mayor’s adoption of the Vision Zero plan to eliminate pedestrian and bike deaths by 2020. She then asked Mayor Bowser, “In light of that goal, how can we best work together to eliminate the proposed Chick Fil A drive through on Connecticut Avenue, to ensure pedestrian and vehicular safety, and continue to work toward the Office of Planning and community’s shared vision of a walkable, sustainable, beautiful Van Ness?”
Mayor Bowser agreed that Vision Zero is an important initiative of her administration, and is concerned about pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries along Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues. She promised to look into the Chick-fil-A matter.