Mayor Vincent Gray kicks off moveDC plan

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray on Tuesday released an ambitious long-range transportation plan that he said would expand the city’s transit options while deterring driving through the use of toll lanes on the city’s gateways and charging a congestion fee to motorists entering downtown.

MoveDC, looks ahead to 2040 and envisions a wide transit network that includes a streetcar system, dedicated bus lanes in major commuter corridors, expanded Metrorail service in the downtown core, an active water taxi system and 200 miles of on-street bicycle facilities.

To ensure the plan is implemented, Gray launched an action plan Tuesday that lays out 36 key steps the city will take over the next two years to advance the vision. The two-year action plan includes some capital investments in infrastructure, the advance of several transportation studies and some policy changes.

“MoveDC is about being able to expand choices for all modes or methods of getting around the city,” said Gray, whose term ends in January. He said he has every confidence that the 25-year plan will be carried out. “I don’t know what changes future mayors will make, but the fundamental direction in this plan will be made.”

Some of the key steps over the next two years are:

  • Begin construction of a new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge over the Anacostia River. Transportation officials project construction will begin next year. A new bridge would provide wide sidewalks and bike facilities and serve as an important gateway for people east of the river into downtown.
  • Complete DDOT’s traffic signal optimization project to enhance the District’s traffic signal network. The city plans to finish optimizing each of the 1,600 signals by 2016.
  • Add sidewalks where they are missing, with priority to areas near schools, parks, and transit.
  • Improve pedestrian safety at 20 or more intersections.
  • Complete the Klingle and Kenilworth Anacostia Riverwalk Trail projects and advance the Rock Creek and Metropolitan Branch Trail projects
  • Continue the expansion of the bike network by installing or upgrading 15 miles of on-street bicycle facilities
  • Complete bus priority improvements: DDOT plans to install dedicated bus lanes on Georgia Avenue from Florida Avenue to Barry Place, transit signal priority on 16th Street, and real-time arrival information in shelters citywide. DDOT officials say they plan to work with Metro to implement signal improvements in at least 10 locations on high-ridership corridors to expedite the bus service.
  • Reduce by half the number of structurally deficient bridges. DDOT officials say in the pipeline are investments for improvements at several of the city’s most used bridges including the 16th Street Bridge and the Key Bridge.

DDOT Director Matthew Brown said the short-term action plan will keep DDOT and other agencies on track to advance the vision. Officials say a discussion and a plan about how to pay for the $54 billion moveDC plan have yet to be addressed. Gray said among the most immediate concerns are restoring funding for the proposed 22-mile streetcar network. The D.C. Council voted to sharply roll back Gray’s proposed budget for the streetcar system, something that he says imperils the system before it even begins service.

“This funding needs to be restored,” Gray said. “It is going to cost the city more money to not have the streetcar program fully in the city.”

As part of the short-term goals, DDOT will proceed with several studies, including how to increase bus capacity in the 16th Street NW corridor where some transit users and advocates have been calling for the implementation of dedicated bus lanes. The agency also plans to advance a study on bicycle infrastructure on the east side of downtown, the federal environmental review process for the streetcar system and a comprehensive rail plan for the city.

Cheryl Cort, policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said the plan provides a big vision for how the city will move in the future and welcomed the two-year action plan as a good strategy to advance the vision.

“We can check and keep track and see how we are going to move forward,” she said.

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Age-friendly report calls for better sidewalk maintenance, transportation improvements

By 2017, officials want D.C. to be a World Health Organization-defined “age-friendly” city for older adults. A report released by the Coalition for Smarter Growth today finds that, while the city has policies in place that work toward this goal, there are many improvements to pedestrian and transportation infrastructure needed.

Testimony on MoveDC & Confirmation of Matthew Brown, DDOT Director

We are pleased to contribute to the discussion about MoveDC. I have served as a member of the advisory group and participated in different public events related to the MoveDC’s significant public outreach effort. MoveDC is a major milestone for the city. It is built on an extensive and innovative approach to public engagement, and sets a bold vision for our city’s future. We commend DDOT for leading this deliberative process resulting in this far sighted plan. We urge the DC Council to embrace this plan for our future.

Testimony on DDOT regarding the Transportation Reorganization Act of 2014 (B20-759)

The Transportation Reorganization Act of 2014 (B20-759) proposes to radically reorganize DDOT by separating out and isolating transportation functions into a set of individual agencies. While the TRA is a provocative conversation starter on how to better integrate transportation functions, improve customer service, and increase capacity to focus on implementation, we worry that the cure is worse than the disease. The kind of segmentation proposed in the TRA creates silos that make coordinated, cost-effective and comprehensive solutions hard to deliver.

Testimony before the Hon. Mary M. Cheh, Chair, Committee on the Environment and Transportation regarding the Performance Oversight Hearing of DDOT

We want to commend the committee and the Mayor for the advances we are making in transportation to ensure that our streets, transit, walk and bicycling facilities help make our city a healthier, safer, more sustainable, and more attractive place to live and work. New services and improvements to offer better access and travel choices such as expanded Capital Bike Share, sped up limited-stop bus service, routine curb extensions in streetscape designs, extensive use of leading pedestrian intervals – demonstrate there is much to commend about the advances we have made in just a few years. Given the tremendous growth our city is experiencing, it’s clear that we cannot accommodate this growth unless we continue to increase the attractiveness of alternatives to driving and car ownership. Our city’s growth and vibrancy cannot be predicated on how many more cars it can jam onto its already congested roads.

Rival bureaucracies are not the way to manage traffic congestion in Washington, D.C.

The D.C. transportation department is building a record of partially fulfilled promises on bike lanes, bus lanes, street parking, streetcar service and pedestrian safety. “In the 12 years since the District Department of Transportation was spun off from the Department of Public Works, no one has asked the critical question: Does the current agency structure work,” D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) said last week.

STATEMENT on DC Department of Transportation’s New Visitor Parking Pass Program

AUGUST 8, 2013
CONTACT: Cheryl Cort, (202) 251-7516 – cell

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced today that the Visitor Parking Pass (VPP) program will be available District wide to all Residential Parking Permit (RPP) eligible households and those in ANCs 1A, 1B and 1C. Click here to read DDOT’s announcement.

“Giving away something for free that is very valuable and in limited supply inevitably leads to conflict and frustration,” said Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “DDOT’s plan to give out free visitor passes will increase demand for curbside parking in areas where it is already high. A better approach for high demand areas is to fairly price this valuable privilege so that residents, their guests and others would have parking available when they need it,” said Cort.

This decision demonstrates that DDOT needs to step up its efforts to completely reassess the Residential Parking Permit program. We call on DDOT to reset its residential parking management policies before making more individual decisions about public street parking privileges that don’t necessarily serve residents or the city well. A comprehensive approach includes tailoring to the needs and characteristics of different neighborhoods, and using pricing to efficiently manage valuable curbspace where it is scarce.

About the Coalition for Smarter Growth
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies needed to make those communities flourish. To learn more, visit the Coalition’s website at www.smartergrowth.net.


Walking tour explores Fort Totten’s present and future

Development at Fort Totten has been slow despite access to 3 Metro lines, its close proximity to both downtown DC and Silver Spring, its access to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, its green space and its affordability. But as demand increases for housing in the District, this previously-overlooked neighborhood could become a hot spot.

Photo by tracktwentynine on Flickr.Last Saturday, the Coalition for Smarter Growth concluded their spring walking tour series with “Fort Totten: More than a Transfer Point,” a look at future residential, retail and commercial development near the Fort Totten Metro station. Residents and visitors joined representatives from WMATA, DDOT and the Office of Planning on a tour of the area bounded by South Dakota Avenue, Riggs Road, and First Place NE.

Today, vacant properties and industrial sites surround the station and form a barrier between it and the surrounding area. Redeveloping them could improve connections to the Metro and make Fort Totten a more vibrant community.

There is a significant amount of new residential, retail and commercial development planned within walking distance of the Metro station. But Saturday’s tour began with the only completed project, The Aventine at Fort Totten. Built by Clark Realty Group in 2007, the 3-building, garden-style apartment complex consists of over 300 rental units as well as ground-floor retail space.

The Aventine at Fort Totten, the newest apartment complex in Fort Totten. All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.Visitors were ambivalent about the success of the Aventine due to its small amount of retail space and lack of connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods. While residents noted that it created more options to live close to Metro, representatives of the Lamond Riggs and North Michigan Park civic associations agreed the development differed from the original vision for the project.

They called it an example of the need to continually engage real estate developers and local government agencies to ensure that new development is of a high quality and responsive to the local context. Throughout the tour, residents said that future development proposals should adhere to DC’s urban design guidelines, improve pedestrian access and have a plan to mitigate parking concerns.

Between South Dakota Avenue and the Metro station, the Cafritz Foundation will redevelop the old Riggs Plaza apartments to build ArtPlace at Fort Totten. When finished, the 16-acre project will contain 305,000 square feet of retail, 929 apartments, and 217,000 square feet of cultural and art spaces, including a children’s museum. Deborah Crain, neighborhood planning coordinator for Ward 5, noted that ArtPlace will include rental units set aside for seniors and displaced Riggs Plaza residents.

An ad for ArtPlace at Fort Totten at its future home.As one of the largest landowners near the Fort Totten Station, WMATA has a huge stake in future development around the station. They own approximately 3 acres of land immediately west of the station along First Place NE that is currently used as surface parking lot for commuters. Stan Wall, Director of Real Estate at WMATA, discussed the great potential for development on the current parking lot mentioned that the agency will solicit proposals for development of the area in the near future.

Parking lot at Fort Totten station.Anna Chamberlain, a DDOT transportation planner, talked about how streetscape improvements could calm traffic, making streets around the Metro station more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. DDOT is also working to improve connections to the Metro, as some areas lack clearly defined walking paths. The agency will begin designing a path connecting the Metro to the Metropolitan Branch Trail within the next few months.

New sidewalks and street trees on Riggs Road.The final stop on the tour was Fort Totten Square, a joint effort by the JBG Companies and Lowe Enterprises to build 350 apartments above a Walmart and structured parking at South Dakota Avenue and Riggs Road. DDOT has completely rebuilt the adjacent intersection to make it safer for pedestrians and more suitable for an urban environment, replacing freeway-style ramps with sidewalks, benches, crosswalks and improved lighting.

Jaimie Weinbaum, development manager at JBG, says they’re committed to working with the city and residents to make Fort Totten Square an asset to the community. They’ve promised to place Capital Bikeshare stations there and would like to have dedicated space for Car2go as well.

With help from the private sector and public agencies like DDOT and WMATA, Fort Totten could become a model for transit-oriented development, but much of the new construction won’t happen for a long time. Until then, residents eagerly await the changes and continue to work with other stakeholders toward creating a vision that will benefit everyone.

Photos courtesy of Greater Greater Washington

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DC: Support for Howard University Central Campus Master Plan

We wish to express our support for the Howard University Campus Plan. We especially want to commend the university for committing to the reconnection of several important streets – Bryant Street between Georgia Avenue and Sherman Avenue; W Street between Georgia and 9th St, NW; and, College Street between Georgia Ave. and 6th Street, NW. This commitment to reconnect these streets will have a major positive effect on the surrounding community and help mitigate traffic impact from campus growth. This was a key request by surrounding residents and civic groups. We applaud the university for its commitment to make these street connections.