by Marlene Berlin
Public comments on moveDC, the District Department of Transportation’s 25-year vision of a multimodal transportation system, are now being accepted until July 31st (you’ll find the survey here under the “Offer More Input” section).
DDOT has extensively involved the public in the process since January 2013, and Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh presented another opportunity for us to weigh in by scheduling a roundtable on moveDC on Friday, June 27th. She made it very clear, however, that the Council has no official role to play in the plan’s adoption. The mayor adopts the plan by signing off on it.
Out of 28 public witnesses who had signed up to testify, four were from Forest Hills/North Cleveland Park.
I was there to testify as the pedestrian advocate for Iona Senior Services. My testimony supported the plan, given the strength of the pedestrian component, which makes those traveling on foot the number one priority. Adam Tope, the chair of our ANC 3F, was signed up to testify, but could not make it. His comment below is part of testimony sent to Colleen Hawkinson, a DDOT planner who co-led moveDC with Sam Zimbabwe, the associate director of policy and planning at DDOT. Mr. Tope and Larry Rausch, a Van Ness Vision Committee member and representing the Van Ness Residents Association, both testified against turning Van Ness Street into a high-frequency bus corridor. Larry Werner, a resident of Forest Hills, lambasted the plan, saying it’s anti-car.
Here are excerpts of each of the testimonies:
“The Bus Proposals Harm The Van Ness Commercial Corridor – The moveDC plan proposes making high density bus routes up Connecticut Ave. NW, down Van Ness St. NW and then up Wisconsin Ave. NW. This will significantly harm the businesses in the Van Ness corridor.
“As you are probably aware, a large number of commercial and retail establishments line Connecticut Avenue between Van Ness St. NW and Nebraska Ave. NW. If high frequency buses were to bypass these businesses, they will not get the benefits that high density bus service can bring to commercial and retail establishments. The moveDC plan should be revised so that the high density bus lines travel up Connecticut Ave. NW to either Nebraska Ave. NW or Military Rd. NW, where they can connect to Wisconsin Ave. NW. This will remove bus traffic from Van Ness St. NW and also benefit our valuable, lively commercial corridor.”
“As our ANC points out in its submission, Van Ness Street was not designed to be a high-traffic street – houses were built closer to the street than that on arterial roads. Current levels of truck and bus traffic are problematic but DDOT has been working with the neighborhood to implement measures to reduce truck and bus traffic with an expressed purpose to enhance livability on Van Ness Street. We wish to continue with what we viewed as a partnership with DDOT and build upon the improvements recently achieved.
“But the MoveDC proposal would reverse this progress and fundamentally change the character of our neighborhood. Thankfully our ANC read through the MoveDC draft plan and immediately recognized the serious negative impact this new proposal would have.”
“Is the solution to traffic congestion really reducing road space by 7%, increasing bikeways by almost 200% and putting a car access price moat around downtown so that only the 1% can drive? What about the simple basics like retiming our traffic lights and trying to ensure that cars, bikes and pedestrians don’t block each other’s access and rights at City intersections? Has DDOT even considered retiming the lights so, like New York, a whole group of blocks turn green or red at the same time and pedestrians can have time to safely cross? Could we address bus overcrowding in the 16th Street corridor by retiming lights and running additional rush hour buses from U Street or even Harvard Street into downtown?
“Who needs to use cars because there are no viable alternatives? I’d guess it’s older residents, people in the outer parts of the City like Ward 8 or Upper Wards 3, 4, 5, and 7, the disabled, parents with young children, anyone who wants to go to a grocery store for more than a bag or two, or someone who wants to go to church or work on Sunday. Since Washington is not even in the top 125 most densely populated cities in the United States there are a lot of these people – all of whom have essentially been ignored or worse by moveDC and OP.”[/box]
This is an important plan for the future of our city, and there will be tweaking in response to the many comments DDOT has received in this last phase of public comment. A sign-off by the mayor is expected by the end of September, with an accompanying action plan.