After attending last night’s North-South Corridor Study at Banneker Recreation Center, I wanted to share a few notes and first impressions while they are still fresh in my mind. If you didn’t attend, but want to, there is a final meeting tonight at Emery Recreation Center – 5701 Georgia Ave NW – from 3:30pm-8:00pm. Presentations will be at 4:00pm and 7:00pm.
The current round of meetings are the second of three rounds, with the final series currently planned for around June. The first round was in November and was very general in its approach. It focused on streetcars and buses, along with a variety of corridors.
The stated purpose of the corridor study is to evaluate reliable and comprehensive improved transit service in the North-South corridor and support existing neighborhoods and future growth in and along the corridor. The corridor in question is the 9-mile corridor from Takoma/Silver Spring to Buzzard Point/Southwest.
Since the first meetings, and with the above in mind, a few decisions have been made (although there are still many more that need to be made). First off, it definitely looks like DDOT has settled on streetcars as the mode of transportation. Based on the data of ridership in the corridors now and the population projects in the coming years, the streetcar option provides the better scenario for capacity and reliability.
In short, to use DDOT’s words, they are choosing the streetcar option because they:
- Increase transit capacity,
- Provide complementary service to buses,
- Improve transit vehicle accessibility and reliability of service,
- Increase transit share of trips, and
- Provide a higher quality of service.
There were a couple of things I found interesting in looking at the various information boards. The first was a map showing ridership volume and busiest stops (see map above). In looking at 16th and 14th streets vs. Georgia Avenue, 16th and 14th streets have a ridership that suggests that they support more commuters and the Georgia Avenue data suggested more local traffic. This ridership pattern suggested that the future streetcar route should be on or near Georgia Avenue.
Other routes were discounted because they were considered to have fatal flaws (constructability, grades, turns, & tunnels/bridges) . 14th Street, for example, already has a horrible traffic intersection at the intersection of Monroe and 13th Street has a grade by Cardozo High School that is too steep for a good streetcar line.
North of New Hampshire Avenue, Georgia Avenue is definitely the route with only the end in question (Takoma or Silver Spring). In our area (Zone 3) both Georgia Avenue and Sherman Avenue are on the table. Due to the new streetscape along Sherman, and the higher volume of traffic on Georgia, I favor Georgia over Sherman.
Roughly at Florida Avenue, four different possible routes come in to play. Of these, I think the 14th Street option is the best, followed by the 11th Street option. Either would bring much needed transit to an area not well served by Metrorail. I favor the 14th Street option more because it would serve more of U Street and I think that is important.
Lastly, parking and traffic configurations still need to be figured out. There were several boards that illustrated possible traffic patterns with a streetcar system in place. Some of these included parking, others did not. None were being presented as what DDOT will be doing, but rather as options to get attendees talking about what they liked or didn’t like. As for me, I think there is definitely room for both streetcars and parking south of Florida Avenue and north of New Hampshire Avenue. I’m still uncertain about the Florida to New Hampshire section of Georgia Avenue. I know parking is an issue with some, but I also know that increased transit capacity is critical with a growing city and new residential developments continuing to come to Georgia.