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.
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.
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).
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: