More about making 17th Street between P and R a pedestrian space on weekends
This entry is an expansion of Item #6 in "Planning urban design improvements at the neighborhood scale: Dupont Circle, DC."
More and more, out of the idea of promoting sustainable mobility and walkability especially, I now believe that the city needs to create more small sections of pedestrian prioritized spaces, and that like how 7th St. from Pennsylvania to North Carolina Avenues SE is closed in front of Eastern Market on weekends (below), so should 17th St. between P and R.
The idea is to support those areas of the city that are already highly pedestrian oriented. Because the typical pedestrian mall is many blocks long, and a pedestrian district can encompass 20-50 blocks, I couldn't see implementing pedestrian spaces at that kind of scale in the US. But there are a number of places that can support a "pedestrian district" for one to four blocks, at least in the temperate months.
The Dupont Circle neighborhood is a premier example, as we can see from its WalkScore rating.
Montreal creates similar pedestrian districts in the summer, although they also have 24/7/365 pedestrian areas in their Old Port and by McGill University. It's called Aires Libres -- free air.
St. Catherine Street, the heart of the "Gay Village," is pedestrian-exclusive during this roughly four month period although some shop owners believe it hurts their business. It is the site of an art fair for part of the period, and is programmed at other times, along with art installations ("Aires Libres 2019 - The Montreal Gay Village continues to shine as an LGBTQ and contemporary art beacon ," press release).
Pedestrianized spaces need to be actively managed and programmed. For a weekend pedestrian district to succeed on 17th Street, it would need to be programmed and managed, and in terms of programming, if it is open all year, for all four seasons of the year.
The experience with such places is that they need to be managed to be successful, the pedestrian mall in Boulder ("Now I know why Boulder's Pearl Street Mall is the exception that proves the rule about the failures of pedestrian malls," 2005) and the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica ("Third Street 3.0 in Santa Monica," Los Angeles Business Journal) are good examples of this.
Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica
It could be a coalition of neighborhood groups, including Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets, the Dupont Circle Civic Association, merchants groups, the Dupont Circle BID, etc. The model for management would be what pedestrian malls and BIDs do.
In the region there are two ped malls in Charlottesville and Winchester. Both peter out at the ends in terms of success, but they are much longer, and don't have the immediately proximate population density of the Dupont Circle neighborhood.
But it could be a deal changer providing renewed oomph to the 17th St. commercial district, which faces massive competition from 14th Street especially as it has revitalized but also from Connecticut Avenue and Upper P Street. (An article in the Washington Post a few weeks ago, "Tom Sietsema’s 8 favorite places to eat right now," says Le Diplomate gets 3000 customers/day on the weekend. That's just one establishment on 14th St.!)
Monthly during the temperate months, restaurants in Denver's Larimer Square sponsor dining in the street.
Open Streets Project as a resource. The Open Streets Project is more focused on "temporary" street closures for walking, biking, and play, modeled after Ciclovia in Bogotá ("Bogotá closes its roads every Sunday. Now everyone wants to," Vox). But it could still be a useful resource. They offer manuals, case studies, etc.
Start by doing this from the Spring to the Fall. Rather than start off doing this for the entire year, I'd start smaller, like the Aires Libres summer program in Montreal, and just do this for the temperate months. Aires Libre is from mid-May to the third week of September. Since it stays warmer here a little longer, I'd suggest running it from mid-May to mid-October.
Yoga in Times Square, NYC.
Transportation demand management. A traffic plan, especially to accommodate deliveries, etc., would be required. Ideally, a kind of parking district could be created ("Parking districts vs. transportation/urban management districts: | Part One: Bethesda" and "Parking districts vs. transportation/urban management districts: Part two, Takoma DC/Takoma Park Maryland") to provide for parking in place of the spaces removed from 17th Street (I need to do a parking space count).
Traffic Safety: Install Retractable bollards. I would recommend installing retractable bollards at P, Q, and R Streets, using the model of Liverpool, although the Liverpool bollards are a lesser grade in terms of ideal security requirements (ability to withstand a vehicle traveling 50 mph), and properly rated bollards should be installed instead. (In Liverpool, there was a driver rage incident and he was able to crash through the bollards, because they didn't install bollards capable of resisting vehicles going at a high rate of speed. See "Special report: How Liverpool crowds could have been exposed to mass casualty terror threat despite a year of warnings," Liverpool Echo).
The way it's set up in Liverpool is that there is a priority delivery period for access in the morning, and access can be provided later, using a key card. There are safety lights that flash when the bollards retract and advance.
(I don't know why DC is resistant to installing bollards. Now it uses heavy vehicles to block streets when they are closed for special events.)
Special roadway materials treatments. Long term I'd recommend a special roadway materials treatment for the section. 7th St. SE is one example, as is Exhibition Road in London (below).
Half St. SE between M St. SE and the Nationals Stadium is also getting a special pedestrian oriented treatment.
Rendering showing special pedestrian urban design street treatment for Half Street SE, in the vicinity of the Washington Nationals Stadium
"Pedestrian fatalities and street design" discusses the concept of utilizing differentiated roadway materials other than straight up concrete or asphalt as a way to slow traffic and/or indicate a pedestrian-focused area.
Another great example, the sidewalk treatments on the Copacabana in Rio and Biscayne Boulevard in Miami (below), by Roberto Burle Marx.
In Santa Monica, Colorado Avenue leads to the Santa Monica pier and is perpendicular to the Downtown, and the location of the Expo Line transit. Both the sidewalk and street have special design treatments denoting their pedestrian-centricity.
Facilitating movement between the neighborhood and the commercial district without requiring a car. I'd recommend considering creating a combined people and delivery pick up and drop off service. What communities use is an electric vehicle usually with a capacity for 6 people, and they are primarily advertising sponsored.
The idea is to move people between home and Metrorail stations and commercial districts without their having to drive.
A number of communities have contracted with an electric vehicle operator to provide this kind of mobility option. This article ("They’re like Uber but free: New electric shuttles popping up all over South Florida," Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel) describes the different business models to pay for the service.
Integrating business district promotion organizations. The Dupont Circle Main Street program has been in operation for 16 years. Recently, a separate BID was formed ("New Dupont Circle BID names first executive director," Washington Business Journal) which I think is unnecessarily duplicative. There is no reason that "clean and space" and public space improvement initiatives couldn't have been added to the Main Street program.
It's important to separate the functions, principles, and operations of the commercial district management organization from the funding. In DC, BIDs are funded by an upcharge tax on commercial property. Main Streets raise funds independently as well as receive monies from the city.
In San Diego, they provide a standard way to fund such organizations: an upcharge tax on commercial property; but the business promotion group can organize however it wants, as either a Main Street program or a BID, and either can deliver clean and safe and transportation management programs, and public space improvements.
Green Benefit Districts. Another funding model, from San Francisco, is the Green Benefit District. It also includes residential properties (BIDs may include apartment buildings, and condominium buildings if a majority of owners agree), including individually owned houses, and provides additional funds to maintain neighborhood green spaces and sidewalks. Such a funding system could be implemented as well, to provide for better maintenance of such spaces in and outside of the commercial district sections of Dupont Circle.