I’m confused by DDOT. With one hand, they propose changing one-way 15th Street in Logan Circle into two-way, which is a very good idea (some reasons and some more. From that it seems that DDOT understands how making cars move faster through our neighborhoods doesn’t actually improve the quality of life.
But with the other hand, they propose making even more one-way streets in Georgetown, on 30th and 31st, and reversing 33rd Street. The Georgetown Transportation Study, which according to DDOT Ward 2 rep Chris Ziemann has “an emphasis on improving pedestrian and bicycle safety,” nonetheless devotes most of its draft report to lane changes and the like.
Any bicycle options are only mentioned at the end of the report as part of alist of other options being considered, without the detail given to traffic improvements. There are some good ideas, such as bus bulb-outs (but only on a few side streets), traffic calming (but only speed bumps, not better mechanisms like making intersections into little tiny roundabouts or bulb-outs beyond just for buses), and widening sidewalks on M and Wisconsin (but only a little). Unfortunately, most of the good ideas are in the Long-Term section, and the bad ideas are in the Medium-Term section. Does this mean the planners in this study would make Georgetown worse before they make it better?
Despite the supposed focus on pedestrian and bicycle improvements, the report spends most of its ink on “Level of Service” (LOS) charts, which measure the average delay a car would wait at each intersection. This is a traditional tool of traffic planners, but thinking of transportation in these terms always leads to planners wanting to widen intersections and add lanes in ways that ultimately make an area more appealing to drive and less appealing to walk, pushing people toward driving over walking and further adding pressure to improve LOS.
So what’s up with DDOT? It looks like there are a bunch of people who want to make neighborhoods more livable, other people who just want to make the cars move faster, and others who don’t really know the difference. We need a DDOT head like NYC’s Jeannette Sadik-Khan to firmly knock DDOT off the fence and over to being a progressive department. Right now, a DDOT study is like a box of partly moldy chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.