New DC Circulator route serving National Mall reminds us that we are neglecting connections from west to east and fail to adequately connect Georgetown to the National Mall
Photo from the DC Circulator of a bus stopped at the Jefferson Memorial. The service launches this Sunday.
A few weeks ago, the Georgetown Business Improvement District showcased a couple of pop-up urban design and service initiatives.
One was demonstrating what M Street could look like if the parking lanes were given over to wider sidewalks. (I would have done a sample section showing an actual change but that's me.)
I talked with the staff member at the table and we had a good conversation. And it made me realize that I haven't adequately thought through thinking about visitor services at two scales: the city as a whole and within key subdistricts like Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Capitol Hill.
Providing sustainable transportation connections from the Georgetown to the National Mall is neglected. One person came up to the table during the time, and wanted to get from there to the Lincoln Memorial.
The options suggested were all "inefficient," sending her to Union Station to get to there. She wasn't interested in bike share, and there aren't transit options. So she ended up taking a cab.
I realized that my proposal for a heritage streetcar and visitors center system for the National Mall is also focused on moving people east to west, from Union Station mostly.
-- A National Mall-focused heritage (replica) streetcar service to serve visitors is way bigger idea than a parking garage under the Mall
It fails to provide connections from west to east, specifically from Georgetown.
Plus I proposed that the service end at the Kennedy Center.
That's because we're focused on "the National Mall" rather than the monuments, parks, and waterfront areas more generally and as a complete whole. That's shown in this map of the National Mall, captured from a National Mall Wayfinding sign.
But the National Park Service manages the entire system as a unit, including sites across the Potomac River in Arlington County, Virginia. And an integrated visitor transportation and service system needs to treat this as one unit as well.
Map, The National Mall and Smithsonian Museums, National Park Service.
Plus, given the fact that Georgetown is one of the city's primary tourist destinations outside of monuments and museums, not extending or mirroring transit connections from Georgetown to the monuments on the National Mall is a serious omission.
But it has been an omission all along, as the DC-centric streetcar system didn't provide many connections across the city's borders, mostly stopping at the edge.
DC Streetcar and bus map, 1955
The old streetcar system provided service to Georgetown on many routes. The 10 line from Deanwood via H Street to Rosslyn operated until 1949. The 20 line, from Union Station to Glen Echo served Georgetown afterwards, as did other lines.
The new DC Circulator route for the National Mall, which will start up on Sunday, makes the same omission that I did. It provides service east to west, but the service terminates at Lincoln Memorial.
I would argue that the service should loop to Georgetown as well.
Were there a permanent visitor center in Georgetown, that could be the termination point.
It would be complicated to go across the Key Bridge, because of the steepness of the grade between the Georgetown waterfront and M Street and the limited street space options therein.
Finally a visitor center for Georgetown should be a key element of the overall program proposed in my heritage streetcar+visitor services concept.