Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, October 30, 2009

DDOT to Hold Meetings on Transit Recommendations Including Streetcars

Reprinted from 10/15/2009. Note the WTOP radio story, based on the first meeting, "Ambitious plan to bring streetcars back to D.C.." There are 3 public meetings left, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week. The WTOP piece supports my reasons for concern, as discussed below.

Note that Alex B. called my attention to the Transit studies that I said (I excised the text) were no longer online. Alex provided this link, DC Alternatives Analysis (DCAA), and this one is also good because it has costing and phasing information, DC Transit Development Study—Executive Summary (also see their presentation to City Council, DC Transit Development Study—City Council Hearing).

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It happened that Matt Johnson was at the ACT monthly meeting on Tuesday, so we talked after. Matt is a blogger, both on his own blog, Track Twenty-Nine, and within Greater Greater Washington. Although Matt is "young," he's already probably forgotten more about fixed rail transit especially railroads, than I will ever know...

So we were talking about a more recently energized WMATA planning division, for example that they are putting the separated blue line back on the planning table and that there is a recognition that the decision in 2003 to devolve responsibility for transit (WMATA) expansion planning to the jurisdictions means that there is no regional planning perspective brought to bear on heavy (and light) rail transit planning. That funding is an issue. Etc.
Proposed changes for the WMATA system, 2001 (separated blue line)
Circa 2001. These plans were scuttled in 2003. Washington Post graphic.

The failure to plan regionally for transit is an issue, I believe in the context of the DC "Streetcar" studies. I wrote part of this (below) in a comment on an entry a couple days ago, in response to a comment about the design of the WMATA system, but the text below is expanded beyond my earlier comment.
DC Streetcar in the Czech Republic
DC Streetcar being tested in the Czech Republic, where it was manufactured.

You may know that I have proposed that a streetcar or light rail line be developed for Rhode Island Ave., starting even as far inward as Dupont Circle, although I suggested it from RI Station originally. Peter Shapiro, an ex member of the Prince George's County Council, suggested such a line could go as far as Laurel. Note that MTA in Maryland studied a streetcar for route 1 in the mid 1990s.

At the H Street streetcar meeting in September, I mentioned the point that DC needs to (1) distinguish between Light Rail -- which is scaled to be a more regional kind of service -- and streetcars -- which are intended for a more local service -- depending on demand potential and (2) plan regionally, not just with a parochial focus on DC, (3) because part of providing such services should be not only to improve mobility within DC but to remove traffic coming into (and then going back out of) the city.

For example, major arterials such as Wisconsin, Connecticut, Georgia, 16th Street, North Capitol, Rhode Island, Michigan, South Capitol, Constitution, Independence, H Street, etc., are major routes into and out of the city, primarily used by commuters during rush hour periods.

By thinking about surface fixed rail transit in this context as well, "DC's Transit Future" may well need to be more expansive--and replanned--than what has been planned within the context of "streetcars."
San Francisco MUNI map
Map of the fixed rail transit system in San Francisco, the MUNI, which is managed and planned separately from the BART subway system. The BART is a regional subway system and the MUNI is a local transit system exclusive to San Francisco, planned in part to satisfy a variety of needs, including promoting tourism (i.e., Cable cars and the Market Street line).

By comparison, the BART system covers a much broader area.
Bay Area Rapid Transit System map (BART)

In the DC region, WMATA tries to do both--provide metropolitan commuter rail services, and intra-city, or more close in fixed rail transit.

Also see "The (Meta) Regional Transit Network and transportation "vision" maps and "Adding cultural heritage dimensions and expanded service capabilities within commercial districts to DC Streetcar planning."

I don't think the necessary rethinking of "DC's Transit Future" will be happening as
Gabe Klein, the director of DDOT, either didn't really understand the points I was making (although I could be reading more into his response than is justified) at the Q&A in the H Street meeting, or he was just blowing off my assessment of more fundamental needs and issues in the context of surface fixed rail transit planning and development.

From email:

Series of Open Houses Scheduled in Every Ward

(Washington, D.C.) - The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is embarking on a public outreach tour to all eight wards of the District to engage residents and businesses in the implementation of improvements proposed for the transit system for the city, including streetcars.

DDOT will be holding a series of open houses beginning later this month to present the findings of the DC's Transit Future study. DC's Transit Future studied short-term and long-term surface transit improvements for the District, potentially including additional limited-stop bus services, bus rapid transit (BRT), and streetcar services. The meetings will focus on DDOT's proposed streetcar network.

DDOT initiated the study in 2004 as a joint effort with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). It included a comprehensive public outreach program and a multi-corridor Alternatives Analysis that evaluated modes of transportation (bus and streetcar) and an implementation schedule for transit improvements in the District. The Interim reports of the study recommended a number of improvements, many of which DDOT has already implemented, such as bus improvements on Georgia Avenue/7th Street, 16th Street, and the Metrobus 30s Line with the launch of express services.

DDOT has already initiated construction on two streetcar lines, and the public meetings will give District residents an opportunity to hear about the current progress and view updated plans for future streetcar lines and other exciting transportation investments across the District.

The dates, times, and locations of the public meetings are as follows:

Ward 8: Monday, November 2, 2009, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Savoy Elementary, 2400 Shannon Place, SE

Ward 5: Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Luke Moore Academy , 1001 Monroe Street, NE

Ward 3: Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 6:30pm - 8:30 pm
Stoddert Elementary, 4001 Calvert Street, NW

The program for all eight open houses is the same; it will consist of display boards, maps, information about the proposed system, and opportunities for participants to speak individually with and ask questions of project team members.

Recommendations from the plan have already been implemented as seen in bus improvements on Georgia Avenue/7th Street, 16th Street , and the Metrobus 30s Line.

Now in 2009, with a growing population and employment opportunities and the need for greater economic development for residents in the District, DDOT is revisiting the District's future transit options, and is looking to engage residents to comment on the recommendations.

For further information, please visit DC Streetcar Project website.

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Note that the DC Transit Futures (Alternatives Analysis) website is no longer online, although some of the documents are online at the Mass Transit Administration subwebpage (these are listed above).

This is an archival copy of the DC Transit Futures website with many of the documents:

-- DC Transit Future website, April 2007 -- check out the publications page. It doesn't link to the full document, but to a 12 page executive summary and many of the assessment documents.

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