DDOT Doesn’t Particularly Care for the Campus Plan Either

Last Friday, GM wrote about the stunning report from the Office of Planning calling for GU to house 100% of its undergrads by the fall of 2016. Buried in that news was that DDOT also chimed in on the campus plan, and it wasn’t good for the university either, although it was not uniformly negative.

The overall thrust of DDOT’s report is that it cannot support the campus plan at this point due to a lack of information. The agency praises the school for some of the measures it takes to address transportation problems. However, DDOT was very critical of the school’s failure to deliver adequate studies on the effects of the proposed changes.

Canal Road Entrance

The agency praised GU for delivering a transportation study, however it found major faults in the school’s efforts. Primary of them was that much of GU’s transportation plan depends on the ability to turn left from the Canal Rd. exit during rush hour. Right now that is prohibited, but GU wrote in its campus plan:

In the 2010 Campus Plan, the University is prepared to fund construction of an internal loop road that will improve GUTS service on campus by creating stops for major routes on both the north
and south ends of campus. Combined with signal timing adjustments at the University’s Canal  Road entrance and relief from left-turn restrictions and Canal Road capacity constraints in
consultation with DDOT, and assuming receipt of necessary regulatory approvals, the internal  loop road also will permit the University to reorient GUTS buses away from neighborhood streets.

DDOT agreed that allowing an eastbound turn onto Canal Rd. during rush hour would make sense, however it notes that this is a “highly congested regional corridor” and criticizes the school’s study on the future states of this corridor with the change. DDOT requests that GU resubmit a study with projections for the road in 2020 and 2030, taking into account the entire stretch of the corridor within the District, not just in the immediate vicinity of the school.

You’ve got to feel for the school somewhat on this issue. It’s because of the neighbor’s demands–unreasonable demands in GM’s opinion–to stop running GUTS buses on Reservoir Rd. that GU is looking to the Canal Rd. in the first place.

Loop Road

DDOT also supports the concept of the proposed loop road. However it criticizes the school for not producing evidence of substantive conversations with the National Park Service, which manages Glover-Archbold Park.

38th St. Reallignment

Georgetown proposes realigning the 38th St. exit with 38th St. north of Reservoir–right now the exit is 20 feet or so to the west. The neighbors are against this change, as they believe it will increase cut-through traffic. DDOT supports the change in theory, but criticizes the school for failing to perform a study on how this change would affect traffic flow and whether it would result in the increase of cut-through traffic that the neighbors fear.

Parking Management

DDOT asserts that with so many students living in the neighborhood, this results in more cars parked on the street. This is based off of its assumption that group houses tend to have higher autos-per-household than non-student households. DDOT doesn’t cite to any concrete evidence that this is even true. And GM is pretty sure that to the extent there’s any evidence, it’s in the other direction. For instance, according to the American Community Survey, only 23% of households in West Georgetown had more than one car, while in East Georgetown, that number is 32%. Certainly many factors go into that, but it’s certainly the case that a lot more students live in the West Village than the East Village.

Regardless, DDOT concludes that there doesn’t seem to be any plan on the horizon to deal with this problem–GM’s not sure if that’s a reference to the long-planned performance parking plan–so the only answer is to get the students out of the neighborhood. As far as logical arguments go, GM thinks this is pretty shabby. For instance, if those group homes begin to be occupied by 20-something professionals instead of students, who’s to say the cars-per-household won’t go up? (Full time residents are a lot more likely than students to register their cars here and get a parking permit).

Transit

The GUTS bus is a phenomenally successful transit system that moves more than 2 million riders per year. However, GU and the hospital still have way too many of their employees drive to work alone. Specifically, 46% of the combined 8,302 GU and hospital employees drive alone to work, and only 396 of them participate in SmartBenefits. This is probably why DDOT wrote that GU should be more aggressive at limiting the vehicular traffic to the campus. Unfortunately, DDOT’s suggestions to address this problem are somewhat flimsy. They essentially boil down to increasing the marketing of transit options, setting goals to reduce car use (no directions how to do that, though), and Capital Bikeshare. These are good tactics (GM particularly likes the idea of giving all students free memberships to Capital Bikeshare) but they aren’t terribly “aggressive.” If DDOT wants real reductions in vehicular travel to the campus, they need to insist on much higher parking fees, which are extremely low compared with other parking options in Georgetown.

DDOT leaves a lot of space to maneuver back in support of the campus plan should the school quickly deliver all the information that DDOT is requesting, but GM’s not so sure the school has enough time to do so before the Zoning Commission makes its ruling.

Here’s the report:

DDOT final comment 5-5-11

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7 Comments

Filed under Zoning

7 responses to “DDOT Doesn’t Particularly Care for the Campus Plan Either

  1. Kate

    More students in group houses DEFINITELY means more cars, traffic and congestion – and far less parking. Take it from one who lives near the university and knows first hand. (Just drive around during GU vacations – it’s a different town.)

  2. GM

    But Kate, you’re comparing student filled houses with empty houses. Of course there’s fewer cars around when your neighbors are no longer there. The question is whether it would be better or worse if those houses were filled with non-students instead. I believe that in the short term, at least, it would get worse as the group homes are filled with young professionals instead. Maybe that would be better overall, but I don’t believe it would be better specifically with regards to parking and traffic, at least not based upon the data I’ve seen.

  3. Dizzy

    Thanks for pointing out the Swiss-cheese logic of this report, Topher – I only wish you had done the same for the OP report. I’ll add a few points:

    DDOT agreed that allowing an eastbound turn onto Canal Rd. during rush hour would make sense, however it notes that this is a “highly congested regional corridor” and criticizes the school’s study on the future states of this corridor with the change.

    Gee, DDOT, whose fault is it that this corridor is highly congested? Are you honestly suggesting that you’re unsure about permitting left turns onto Canal at rush hour for buses because it might further slow down car commuters from Maryland? This is kind of a no-brainer from an “encouraging transit” perspective, no?

    DOT supports the change in theory, but criticizes the school for failing to perform a study on how this change would affect traffic flow and whether it would result in the increase of cut-through traffic that the neighbors fear.

    What traffic-flow? Cut-through traffic to and from where, exactly? 38th Street dead ends 4 blocks up; this is a very low-traffic street, used almost exclusively by residents and those making use of “Firebird Stadium.” This is really a non-issue.

    You are absolutely correct that DDOT’s reasoning on parking is incorrect and the evidence points in the exact opposite direction. I’ll add to that. You say:

    Full time residents are a lot more likely than students to register their cars here and get a parking permit

    I would submit to you that pretty much zero undergraduates, and very few of the oh so scary “transient graduate students,” actually register their cars in DC. Georgetown students are not eligible to receive a Student Reciprocity Parking Permit, so the easiest option is out. Combine that with the fact that almost all undergrad cars are registered and insured in the names of the students’ parents, switching registration to another jurisdiction based on students’ newly established (but in all likelihood temporary) residency is far too much of a hassle with very little gain.

    Of the small number of undergrads who do have cars, they almost exclusively keep them in off-street parking spots. In some cases, they even rent off-street spots attached to residences other than their own. I cannot think of a single student multi-car household from my time as a student. I’m guessing a big part of this misperception is the assumption that anyone in Burleith who looks to be under the age of 30 must be a Georgetown student.

    If DDOT wants real reductions in vehicular travel to the campus, they need to insist on much higher parking fees, which are extremely low compared with other parking options in Georgetown.

    I don’t know how much money you think it is that we make, Topher, but I can tell you that parking on campus is absolutely cost-prohibitive for me as a University employee. And I’m probably somewhere in the middle, salary-wise. More importantly, it’s common knowledge that it is effectively impossible to get an on-campus parking permit if you’re not way up in the food chain. So upping the parking fees isn’t really going to do much, as the price-elastic people at the margins aren’t the ones parking anyway.

    You want to know what would be some “aggressive” measures to promote transit use by employees? Let’s start with not having CAG and BCA force the GUTS bus routes to be turned into abstract art-like designs that greatly extend commute times (and thereby pollute more to boot). It shouldn’t take half an hour to go just a shade over 2 miles. I can walk faster than that!

    Another one: allow the completion of the West Road so that Rosslyn GUTS can make its way up campus and stop near the Hospital/Medical School as well. As it stands now, those taking the Rosslyn (or Arlington Loop or Law Center) GUTS have to walk the equivalent of four or five Georgetown blocks up a pretty steep incline to reach the MedCenter. That might not bother you or me, but for those with a mobility impairment, it is a major issue. The time factor should also not be ignored. Ditto in the other direction – walking from the Dupont Circle stop down to the bottom of campus takes several minutes that could easily be shaved off with a Loop.

    Not aggressive enough for you? Well, WMATA clearly still has a Georgetown University Metro station in its long-rane plans (see here and here [PDF, marked pages 14, 15, 19 in particular]). How about some advocacy for that? That would be pretty expensive though, and if I’ve learned anything from listening to NIMBY shill Jack Evans, it’s that even minor increases in taxes on the wealthy are off-limits.

    How about some extensive no-parking hours on Wisconsin Avenue, which exacerbate the jams that catch the 30s, the Circulator, and GUTS alike?

    Most aggressive of all would, of course, be to encourage University and Hospital employees to live within walking or very close commuting distance of their jobs. I’m sure the neighborhood associations would be fully supportive of various measures to promote that, right? Right?

  4. Pingback: Georgetown U needs to manage transportation demand | Delaware News | Delaware Breaking News Headlines | News Directory

  5. Sandy

    Obviously when there are 5-6 students per household there are more cars. These days, almost every student has not just a car, but usually some massive SUV. Believe me, I live on a road that is 50% student housing and the backyards are crammed with huge cars as well as cars parked on the streets. Some back yards have basically been converted into massive parking lots – landlords just throw a ton of gravel down. Makes for lovely scenery. It is very clear there are more cars for student group houses. Later in the evening and on the weekends all these cars dump out onto the main streets, since there are no parking restrictions then. It becomes very difficult to park anywhere near your home if you come home late, you’re just out of luck.

    And BTW, we don’t want group homes filled with young professionals either. We don’t want group homes period. These are transient in nature, and homes have been converted to group homes only because of the student demand for them.

    Finally, graduates are transient, just like undergrads. The reason we don’t like being dominated by a transient population is that they have NO INTEREST in establishing roots and a community here. In other words, no incentive to care about their home, their neighborhood and their neighbors. Trust me – they DON’T CARE about what this neighborhood looks like, its character, its community. In 6mo-1 year, they are outta here.

  6. asuka

    @Dizzy

    “Most aggressive of all would, of course, be to encourage University and Hospital employees to live within walking or very close commuting distance of their jobs.”

    That’s just ridiculous. Most of those employees don’t make enough to live near their jobs. Do you think they like their two hour commutes? Do you think they endure that by choice? Get some perspective.

  7. Dizzy

    Asuka – I think you misread my post. My point was that while this would be a very “aggressive” measure in support of reducing traffic congestion and improving the urban fabric, it is one that the ANC and CAG would never ever go for because they do not want increased density.

    Btw, I am a University employee and commute to work by public transit daily, so I think my perspective is plenty well0informed.

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