by Marlene Berlin
Is Van Ness “well-served by transit?” That’s the question I am left with after reading the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s recap of parking minimums changes in the Office of Planning zoning rewrite (PDF). In areas “well-served by transit,” the current parking minimums are halved. Most of the Van Ness/Forest Hills area certainly meets the definition: a half-mile from a Metro station, a quarter-mile from a major bus line.
So how could I be asking such a question with buses on Connecticut Avenue and a Metro station at Van Ness. Am I nuts? No.
We are transportation rich going north and south, but transportation poor going east and west. From the east we do not even have good car access, and biking and walking? Just forget it, until we either get a sidewalk and bike lanes on Broad Branch and the same across Military. And then, to the east of us, we have Tenleytown, AU Park, Palisades and Spring Valley. Again, the mass transit connections are poor.
We want to attract good retail at Van Ness. This means also attracting our friends and neighbors from these other neighborhoods. We all know we just don’t walk to our neighborhood eateries, we go and try out others in other neighborhoods. And Crestwood folks made it quite clear to us in our Broad Branch survey that they frequent the eating places at Van Ness, as well as in Chevy Chase, using their cars because they don’t have access to convenient public transportation crossing the park. We have very limited on-street parking since we are surrounded by Rock Creek Park and UDC, and just two public lots (at Giant and behind the Burger King). So parking, whether it be for car-sharing or personal cars, is an important element to retail growth in our area.
So my thought, and I hope I am not pilloried for this, is that we may end up needing more public parking for retail. We want folks to come from east and west to visit our shops. And in looking at the moveDC plans, transportation connections east and west will not change much for the next 25 years. That means more cars. I wonder what the zoning rewrite says about this. If anyone knows, please leave a comment.