For the last two years, Greater Greater Washington has managed DC Sustainable Transportation, a coalition of business, advocacy, and government entities who work together on shared priorities for transportation. The group sent the following letter in response to recent events and the general imperative to make DC streets for all.
To: Muriel Bowser, Mayor of the District of Columbia
Lucinda Babers, Deputy Mayor for Operations & Infrastructure
Jeff Marootian, Director, District Department of Transportation
Phil Mendelson, Chairman, Council of the District of Columbia
Mary Cheh, Chairperson, Committee on Transportation and the Environment
All members of the DC Council
Dear District leaders,
The members of DC Sustainable Transportation are deeply saddened by the loss of Dave Salovesh and Abdul Seck, among the many residents and visitors killed and injured on District roadways this year and in years past. We believe that immediate, strong, transformative action is necessary to shift the dynamic of our transportation network and reach Vision Zero goals of eliminating deaths and serious injuries before more lives are lost.
While we appreciate that planning, designing, and constructing transportation projects can be complex and time-consuming, we believe that many long-promised projects take too long to reach completion and face too many points where they can stall due to opposition. Too much is at stake, including people’s lives. The District must put safety first in practice as well as rhetoric and do so with all deliberate speed.
We also believe DC must seriously pursue its goals in the recently-released Sustainable DC 2.0 plan of altering commute mode share in all 8 wards to 50% by transit (up from 40.5% today), 25% walking and bicycling (up from 16.8% today), and 25% by private car (from 42.7% today) by 2032. Achieving this goal will take a strong focus and sometimes difficult choices, but it is necessary to keep residents safe and moving and to do the District’s part to avert climate change.
This requires DC leaders to acknowledge, as New York leaders have begun to do, that centering road decisions around the needs of private automobiles above other modes must change. We allocate the overwhelming majority of road space to moving and parking these vehicles, and while there are important reasons for some people to be driving them some of the time, including for freight deliveries, the above targets cannot be achieved without changes to parking, driving space, and/or pricing, which will never garner universal support.
In particular, DCST asks the District’s leaders to:
- Implement the Florida Avenue NE Multimodal Streetscape Project, including protected bicycle lanes in each direction of travel, as quickly as possible. DCST endorses the Florida Ave Emergency Act of 2019 (and associated emergency declaration and temporary act) and urges the Council to pass it on May 7. While we do not wish to punish or hamstring DDOT unnecessarily, we believe that this is a reasonable measure to emphasize the urgency of this matter.
- Build the K Street Transitway including three transit lanes and protected bicycle lanes in each direction.
- Acquire, with eminent domain if needed, both the Wendy’s at the intersection of New York Avenue NE, Florida Avenue NE, and First Street NE to construct an intersection which is safe, provides a direct walking and bicycling path that minimizes street crossings between NoMA and Eckington, and includes, if possible, a dedicated bus lane to move buses along Florida Avenue with minimal delay; and the former Exxon site at 36th Street and Canal Road for a multi-modal transit center that can serve the Circulator, bike connections, and possible Metro and Gondola stations.
- Build bus lanes on 16th Street NW and H/I Streets NW. Build a bus lane on 14th Street NW, without part-time parking, if it can be achieved in a way which preserves or enhances a safe, dedicated space for cycling. Plan a citywide network of dedicated bus lanes in every ward to move people around in under 30 minutes.
- Reach 20 miles of protected bicycle lanes installed by 2020 in all wards including studied and/or planned projects including the Eastern Downtown Protected Bike Lane, Alabama Avenue SE Corridor Safety Study, Crosstown Cycletrack, 20th/21st Street NW, 17th Street NW, and 7th/Maine or 4th Street SW.
- Implement solutions to problems with access by foot, bike, and transit, and congestion impeding transit access, to rapidly-growing and popular destinations such as the Wharf.
- Pass strong legislation to ensure swift action toward safety, the above mode share goals, and achieving climate targets and to implementing the above transportation projects.
In the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, DCST reiterates its recommendations for the Council to:
- Preserve funding recommended by the Mayor for the K Street Transitway and Wendy’s; other road safety projects including bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and bus lanes; funding for additional enforcement officers; and Budget Support Act subtitles concerning enforcement.
- Move Automated Traffic Enforcement to DDOT from MPD. The traffic camera program has not to date been implemented in a way which maximizes safety, and we believe that is only realistically possible with it under the supervision of the agency focused on road safety, DDOT. We feel it is urgent that the Council move this program so cameras can begin being deployed around safety priorities at the start of FY 2020.
- Fund studies for the possibility of a congestion charge to reduce emissions, improve safety, enhance equity, and achieve the mode shift goals above.
The success of the District’s business centers and neighborhoods centers on the safe access to these areas by many modes of travel. Much more must be done, and more quickly, to fulfill this promise. We stand ready to assist the District’s leaders in setting a new and bolder course to turn its ambition into reality and maximize the potential for a thriving and safe District of Columbia.