Re: Draft ANC 3C Resolution to support Concept C for DDOT Study on Connecticut Avenue
1. DDOT has not sought, nor has it put any of its considerable expenditures for consulting advice, nor has it formulated in any way, what is to be the purpose or ultimate highest and best use for Connecticut Ave. The only approach DDOT is taking is to lay out several fixes to partially explained targets such as safety and mobility, and let public conflict sort out in what direction they will spend precious funds to move. It is essential that we first take an opportunity to define what we want to see Connecticut Ave used for in the best interests of the most of our community, and once that is defined, whether by consensus or majority or whatever, only then can we determine if any of the offerings satisfy those objectives. Safety and mobility are desirable concepts, but none of the proposed versions of massive changes to Connecticut Ave in any way achieve either one of these goals. More below on both.
2. We have been in a reduced traffic mode for more than a year. My own daily view of 14th St, NW, where I have been observing traffic for more than 40 years is that the amount on the streets today is a single digit percentage vs 2019 [pre-Pandemic]. While this is unscientific, it is at least as good or better than the numbers we are getting for Connecticut Ave from DDOT, which seems to be completely clueless that what is going on today is in no way representative of 2019, or worse yet, 2045, the magic date included in the planning process as the guiding date for realization of the best effects of this costly undertaking. By simple math, if the percentage is say 5 per cent, that means that we can expect 20 times the traffic we are seeing currently when circulation returns to anything close to normal. My point is that on Connecticut Ave, the revisions proposed in the remaining “concepts”, i.e. no build, B, and C, are all fatally flawed. So this undertaking is entirely premature. It would make a lot more sense to wait for 6 months or even a year post-Pandemic to gather new observed impartial data to see what the actual usage levels bring before we engage in a multi-score million dollar undertaking that ties that precious roadway up for 25 upcoming years.
3. The reason that I cite 14th St, NW, above is that the introduction of bus islands, scooter and bike lanes with buffer zones on both sides, reduced parking for all varieties of use which is being proposed by the currently favorite Option C has actually already been put into effect on 14th St, and it has resulted in chaos, not less but rather more hazard to pedestrians and bus riders and bikes themselves and drivers of all kinds who get behind Metro Buses that have to stop in the right lane to let riders get on or off where in the past they were able to pull over to the curb past the last parked car to pick up and leave passengers at the sidewalk, all done safely. A bus island is a massive masonry construction surrounded by metal bars with its own elevated sidewalk and kiosk for weather protection. The layout of the island is simply that it occupies the edge of the right lane and the bike/scooter lane sandwiches between it and the existing curb requiring bus riders to cross the bike/scooter lane to mount or alight the bus. This is a significant increase in hazard to that constituency. 3000 bikes a day would be a major inconvenience, and 30,000 bikes replacing the commuter cars would be an unbearable and unendurable challenge. Kudos to the planners for installing the metal bars to protect bus riders relegated to the island, but the very fact that such are needed is a self-evident screaming testimonial to the increased danger these Bus Islands bring to already challenging urban life. Hardly a resolution of the alleged fundamental objective of increasing safety.
4. We have yet to determine if saving time of users of Connecticut Ave is a value we want to honor as this would address the stated mobility goal. In the April 1 on line DDOT presentation, mention was made of the increase in driving times that would result from the remaining Options. Of the 7 evaluation criteria used to screen the various original Options, it was determined that several contained fatal flaws and were essentially eliminated from consideration entirely. In response to a detailed question I posed about No Build vs Option B, the response was that essentially there is no difference, which frankly puzzled me as to why then we have 2 separate categories at all. The 7 criteria in order were: safety, operations, bike accessibility, pedestrian accessibility, transit accessibility, parking/loading/pick-up/delivery, and finally constructability/implementation. Sorry but it looked to me right then and there that bikes and scooters occupied a higher regard than pedestrians or transit and certainly parking and frankly even cost which is shorthand for constructability/implementation. In addition, as the various remaining Options were reviewed, Reno Rd, Wisc Ave and other north/south alternate routes were found to be identified as major overflow routes as the impediments to free flow mobility on Connecticut Ave increased. Furthermore, many additional minutes of travel time were determined to be increased with Option C. Simple math: if 30,000 travelers use cars along Connecticut Ave going each way, and only 5 minutes of extra time is added to a trip from for example Chevy Chase to Dupont Circle [a destination candidate in Phase 2 for further restructuring of Connecticut Ave that means 10 minutes per day per car or 300,000 minutes of extra travel time or 5000 hours of lost productivity due to impairments to mobility. Is there any society in the world that would advocate adding 5000 hours per day to travelers traveling less than 5 miles on urban pavement? This is hardly supportive of additional mobility as a consequence to this project.
5. Connecticut Ave is a major emergency evacuation route. Keeping it in a layout that reserves the potential for major movement out of a threatened city is like an insurance premium: it is a cost you bear while you hope you never have to make a claim for it. With buses stopping in the right lane, and only a single lane adjacent to the double yellow center lines remaining, if we were to restrict or reduce the ability of everyone in DC to use this arterial corridor to evacuate in an emergency, the risk of death and injury from just one such unwanted event will make the current crash statistics look like a drop vs an entire ocean. There is no free lunch. This alleged safety achievement is a deceptive illusion.
6. Parking spaces all along the proposed impact routes will be eliminated wholesale in Option C. Commenters have suggested that parking is abundantly available behind buildings that front onto Connecticut Ave. As a life-long resident of DC, I am absolutely convinced that if such abundant parking were available for residents, visitors, and service personnel, it would be in use today.
7. Eliminating parking will have a major catastrophic impact on the disabled, and seniors in our community. Right now if a senior or wounded vet or any other person needs to unload a walking assistance device or wheelchair, the driver can use a parking space off the main traffic lanes, unload the disabled person safely and get on with their affairs. Eliminating parking and forcing the right traffic lane to be the sole unloading area will not only block bus traffic completely but will put an intolerably negative burden on this vulnerable segment of our community. The very consideration that these Options would make it impossible for those in need to function should bring shame on anyone who promulgates such embarrassing nonsense.
I encourage all interested parties to submit whatever ideas they have on these proposals. In my humble view, this project is untimely, damaging, dangerous, wasteful and costly, ultimately hazardous to every constituency involved, and at the very least should be shelved until we can come up with a clear definition of what we are trying to accomplish and whether it can even be achievable without major disruptions to this precious legacy of arterial roadway surface, a treasure which as heirs we are obligated to protect and cherish.