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The DC government has released its "Sustainable DC 2.0" draft, an update to the 2012 sustainability plan and a further developed version of an outline released in June. This plan continues the trend of having very significant high-level goals, like to reduce driving and increase walking, biking, and transit.

However, DC will need to do much more than the actions listed there to actually hit those goals, and it even dropped a potential action about dockless bikeshare. Instead of backing away, DC should set goals like our recommendation of 20,000 shared bikes and scooters, both docked and dockless.

Comments are open until September 30. Give your comments here, either echoing mine or others of your own.

What's great

The plan has a few pieces: general "goals," specific but high-level "targets," and detailed "actions."

There are a lot of good goals and targets in the plan around many sustainability topics, like increasing renewable energy, cutting unemployment, and reducing greenhouse emissions by half. On transportation, this plan continues and improves upon the meaningful and aggressive targets from the 2012 plan:

  • By 2032, increase use of public transit to 50% of all commuter trips in all wards.
  • By 2032, increase biking and walking to 25% of all commuter trips in all wards.
  • By 2032, reduce commuter trips made by car to 25%.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by 60%.

That's great! Let's do it! Here's how we're doing so far on the three mode-share goals:

2032 Sustainable DC goal 2016 ACS 5-year estimate 2011 ACS 5-year estimate
Transit 50% 36.8% 37.5%
Walk/bike 25% 17.6% 14.6%
Car 25% 39.1% 41.9%

What should be stronger

How are we going to get there? DC will have to do a lot more than what's in the plan now.

For instance, on bus service, the action is to "Complete a high capacity transit study on high capacity corridors." The draft plan neither defines what high-capacity transit is nor insists we then implement any of these corridors.

A better goal might be, "Study and then implement a network of priority transit lines covering all eight wards." Define priority transit something like: a bus or light rail line which combines dedicated lanes, off-board fare payment, signal priority, rebalanced stops, and more to provide a fast, frequent, and reliable trip.

And let's look at bicycling. The plan has an action to "Develop and maintain a safe and convenient citywide 100-mile bicycle lane network," up from 83 miles today, including east of the Anacostia. That's nice, but what really moves the needle is protected bikeways, of which DC has about 7 miles — a bit more now with the new one in Georgetown. The MoveDC plan proposes 70 miles of protected bikeways. Some are in the works, but the Sustainable DC 2.0 plan should explicitly talk about that.

Also, bikeshare. Worldwide research from ITDP suggests that DC ought to have at least 20,000 shared bikes, between Capital Bikeshare and dockless offerings (now, that's just JUMP). That report didn't talk about scooters, but scooters also are helping people get around instead of driving.

Let's include the 20,000 goal in Sustainable DC! The only current goal is to "increase the system from its current 270 stations to 300 stations by 2020," especially east of the Anacostia so everyone is within a half mile of a station. That's great too, but not enough to get to 25%.

Plus, I actually think dockless (or a hybrid docked-dockless CaBi, which has been rumored to be in the works) could be a better way to serve lower-density areas east of the Anacostia, where the capital cost of stations is high but spreading out bikes outside of stations could actually bring bikes closer than half a mile to more people. (But if DC can afford to buy the stations, sure.)

Instead, actually, the team dropped a proposed dockless bike action from the earlier outline draft. It had said, "Based on results of current dockless bike pilot, facilitate new, accessible active transportation options such as dockless bikeshare and scooter systems." That's worth keeping in.

Also watered-down: the original plan had an action to "Reduce required parking minimums and restrict surface parking for large developments." In the latest version, that's been changed to just "Reduce required parking minimums." The original plan called for "an expanded Performance-Based Parking program"; that's gone in version two (though DC should expand the one it has in Chinatown to more areas).

There are still some good actions around vehicular travel, like one to study a congestion charge.

Let's push for action

It's great that DC has recommitted to aggressive mode share targets. We just need to push officials to take big steps now toward those goals.

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