The ANC’s Anti-Ten Year Plan Resolution: The Transportation Section

On Friday, GM dug into the first section of the ANC’s proposed resolution regarding Georgetown University’s ten year campus plan. That section dealt with enrollment numbers. Today, GM will take a look at the second section, which deals with transportation issues.

The resolution focuses on three broad issues with regards to transportation:

  • The number of cars being driven to the campus
  • The number of cars being parked in the neighborhood
  • The effect of shuttle buses

Cars Being Driven to the Neighborhood

The university is proposing to add 2,100 new students to the main campus. These would be primarily graduate students, but would also include some non-traditional undergraduate students, such as second degree nursing students.

Many if not most of these students will not live in walking distance of the campus. This is particularly the case for School of Continuing Studies students, who frequently work full time and are not likely to move in order to enroll.

So a large percentage of these students will have to travel to attend classes. Many will choose to drive cars. This adds a burden to congested streets, particularly since many of the relevant classes are held in the early evening, which is to say right around rush hour.

Moreover, G.U. is proposing building an additional 1,000 parking spaces on campus. 750 of those are for the hospital and 250 are for the university. The 250 university parking spots would be added to the Southwest garage, which currently hold 465. This would be a 54% increase in parking spots.

The school argues that this is to address non-regular visitors who are resistant to instructions to use the shuttle bus. But night graduate students would still be permitted to use the additional spots. They simply have to pay $3.00, which is significantly below the market rate and cheaper even than taking transit.

GM is not particularly sympathetic to the school’s claim. It is a basic law of transportation demand management that parking demand follows parking supply. The more supply offered, the more demand there will be (particularly when the price is set artificially low). Right now, according to G.U. there are occasionally some visitors to the campus who are turned away from the garages. GM has absolutely no doubt that if the supply were increased, all that would happen is more people would choose to drive to the point that they’d end up turning away people at peak times again, at which point they’d turn back to the community and ask for more spots. If they really value giving these occasional visitors a parking option, they should take spots away from the non-occasional users and tell them they have to take the shuttle.

Despite flagging the increase in traffic as an issue, the ANC doesn’t even mention the parking cap increase. This is a shame, because on-campus parking is an intrinsic part of the problem. To their credit, though, the ANC does put forward satellite parking as a potential solution to this problem. Georgetown currently maintains two satellite parking lots, but they are already filled to capacity.  More satellite lot capacity could lower the number of cars driving to the campus.

Cars Being Parked in the Neighborhood

Maybe one reason the ANC doesn’t complain specifically about the on-campus parking cap increase is its concerns over students and visitors parking in the neighborhood. While the resolution doesn’t propose any solutions specifically addressing the visitor parking issue, they do address the student off-campus parking issue.

Specifically, the ANC recommends that G.U. “should provide students who live on campus or in the surrounding community – both undergraduates and graduate students – with a combination of incentives, better transportation arrangements, and satellite parking to assure that GU students will not have cars in zip code 20007.”

Students on campus are already not permitted to bring a car to the campus and they are unable to get reciprocity parking permits. But a student living off campus can register his or her car and get a Zone 2 RPP. Thus if they are willing to register a car with DC, they can park it on the streets and keep it there all day.

It’s interesting that the ANC didn’t pursue a strategy of completely prohibiting off-campus students from parking in the neighborhood. It’s a draconian step, but it’s one that at least one DC school takes. At A.U. Law, for instance, students get ticketed by the school if they park in the neighborhood, even if they have a Zone 3 RPP.

GM is skeptical that the school can come up with incentives enough to discourage off-campus students from bringing cars. There are really only two things that can truly solve the parking crunch on the West side: performance parking and increasing prices for multiple RPPs. Briefly, this is how that would work:

  • Performance parking prices on-street parking to the market. Parking meters set the price high enough that it discourages people from staying too long. But residents would be exempt (some streets would be resident-only on one side).
  • If group homes are really causing a glut of cars in the neighborhood, than make it prohibitively expensive to have a third, fourth, or fifth car registered to a certain address. This is a good policy regardless of whether it applies to students or non-students.

Until these steps are taken, little will change with regards to on-street parking in West Georgetown.

The Effect of Shuttle Buses:

Finally, the ANC puts a lot of emphasis on the use of the Canal Road exit by shuttle buses. They would like all shuttle buses to use this exit at all hours (requiring a change in the restriction on left turns from that exit during morning rush hour). The reasoning behind this is that there are so many shuttle buses going through the neighborhood that they are causing damage to the old foundations.

This is a controversial position for several reasons. First of all, there are plenty of Metro buses that go through the neighborhood on the same streets (the counter-argument to that is that Metrobuses are public transit for all to use, whereas the GUTS buses are restricted to G.U. users.) Second, if the new routes are noticeably longer, users will be more likely to choose to drive instead.

With this argument, the ANC runs a very high risk of seeming unreasonable. In one breath they complain about all the new students driving, but then also that the shuttle buses, even those going to Dupont, should only use one exit onto a road that gets awfully congested during rush hour. The ANC takes a similarly inconsistent position vis-a-vis the graduate students in the first place. On one hand they’re going to flood the neighborhood with new student houses, yet on the other they’re all going to drive here and clog up the streets. Which is it? Maybe the positions can be reconciled (e.g., half will move here, half will drive here, but those are unacceptable numbers in both case) but it needs to be articulated better.

What’s not mentioned by either G.U. or the ANC is a new Metro station. Yes, it’s a distant possibility, at best. But it would be good policy for both the ANC and the school to go on record supporting the notion of a Georgetown Metro stop and identifying it as a potential cure to many of these transportation issues.

Tonight the ANC will meet and likely adopt this resolution. While representatives of the school and the community groups will be permitted to speak, the public won’t (on the theory that they had their say at the hearing in January). There are still some other elements of the resolution that GM hasn’t yet covered in detail, but he’ll either hit those in the round up for tomorrow, or discuss them this week in separate posts. So stay tuned.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The ANC’s Anti-Ten Year Plan Resolution: The Transportation Section

  1. Pingback: Morning Links: Giant Steps - Housing Complex - Washington City Paper

  2. Dizzy

    So a large percentage of these students will have to travel to attend classes. Many will choose to drive cars.

    How do you know this? I graduated from one of Georgetown’s MA programs, which had about 300 students. Of the many students I knew, only a very small number (like 4 or 5) ever drove to campus for class because they knew street parking was a huge variable – plus it was time-limited – and they did not want to pay the garage fee.

    This adds a burden to congested streets, particularly since many of the relevant classes are held in the early evening, which is to say right around rush hour.

    Access is through the Canal Road entrance. Canal Road is a major commuter artery – whatever relatively small number of students drive to class is and would continue to be a drop in the bucket compared to the many thousands of commuters that use that road or any of the ones connecting to it.

    GM is not particularly sympathetic to the school’s claim. It is a basic law of transportation demand management that parking demand follows parking supply. The more supply offered, the more demand there will be (particularly when the price is set artificially low).

    “Artificially low” compared to what? The parking on nearby neighborhood streets is free or, where metered, relatively cheap. The charges are high enough – whether the monthly charges for those who can get a permanent garage permit or for occasional users – to make commuting via transit by far the dominant means of getting to campus.

    It’s interesting that the ANC didn’t pursue a strategy of completely prohibiting off-campus students from parking in the neighborhood. It’s a draconian step, but it’s one that at least one DC school takes. At A.U. Law, for instance, students get ticketed by the school if they park in the neighborhood, even if they have a Zone 3 RPP.

    It is “interesting” that they don’t pursue a blatantly discriminatory strategy that treats lawful residents as second-class citizens based on their enrollment status? I don’t think that’s the right word.

    If group homes are really causing a glut of cars in the neighborhood, than make it prohibitively expensive to have a third, fourth, or fifth car registered to a certain address. This is a good policy regardless of whether it applies to students or non-students.

    Yea, there’s a reason why they’re not calling for this. It’s because it’s not the students that have multiple cars to a house…

    (the counter-argument to that is that Metrobuses are public transit for all to use, whereas the GUTS buses are restricted to G.U. users.)

    Anyone can and does use a GUTS bus. No ID is ever asked for. That the routes have extremely limited stops is a requirement of the license under which it operates in the District (the Arlington Loop, by contrast, has many more stops because Virginia’s regulations are not as restrictive).

    With this argument, the ANC runs a very high risk of seeming unreasonable.

    “Very high risk” indeed.

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