Traffic Jam on M St. by M.V. Jantzen.
Today for his occasional “Why Not” series, GM turns to the ugliness that is M St. on a summer weekend. So he asks: Why not shut down M St.?
It’s an idea GM thinks about every time he sees gridlock on M St. There is a concept called a traffic tipping point. At the center of this concept is the observation that once the numbers of travelers passes a certain threshold, the entire system seizes up. Thus, a very small increase in the number of cars on an already crowded road can result in huge delays due to congestion. (The opposite has also been observed: a small reduction in vehicles on a gridlocked road can result in significant reductions in delays).
Once it’s warm, on every Saturday by about 2:00 PM, a traffic tipping point is passed on M St. Traffic comes to a standstill. It can take 20 minutes, if not longer, to get from one end of Georgetown to the other.
There has got to be a better way.
What GM proposes is to close M St. to all non-bus traffic from noon to 8:00 PM on weekends during June through August. Wisconsin Ave. would remain open, however all traffic would be directed straight down to K St. (and out to either Rock Creek Parkway or downtown).
Drivers would still be able to come in to Georgetown from P St., Q St., Reservoir Rd., and Wisconsin Ave. Drivers coming from Virginia would be directed to either Foxhall or the Whitehurst. From Foxhall they would circle around and come in from Reservoir. Those who head down the Whitehurst could come through the West End up to P or Q St.
Cars coming down Pennsylvania Ave. or M St. from the east could be routed down 29th St. to K St. Ideally they’d go straight into one of the many garages on K St.
Would that be a pain? Absolutely. But it probably wouldn’t be worse than the current situation. And the best part is that we could then reclaim four lanes of M St. for pedestrian use (two lanes would be used for buses, which would be a great thing in and of itself). We could host a Feet in the Street like DDOT is proposing for K St. Georgetown shopkeepers and other vendors could set up tables and tents all along the street and we’d still have a ton more sidewalk space than we have now.
GM firmly believes that by shutting down M St. we wouldn’t be cutting off our nose to spite our face. We’d have bigger crowds, they’d just come different ways. And by keeping Wisconsin Ave. open, residents wouldn’t be trapped (and GM also believes that by removing all turns at M and Wisconsin, there won’t be nearly as much of congestion on Wisconsin as we have now).
It’s a plan that would have to be thought out a lot more than GM has (for instance, do we close off 34th St.’s access to the Key Bridge?) and it would take a huge amount of courage to implement, but the situation we have now is unacceptable and hurts both residents and visitors.
- Why Not: Secede From Washington?
- Why Not: Build More Bike Lanes?
- Why Not: Bring Performance Parking to Georgetown?
- Why Not: Allow Some Streets to Return to Cobblestone?
- Why Not: Bring Back Those Old Street Names?