Someday Georgetown is going to have its own Metro stop. GM might be old and retired by then, but it is going to happen. It will revolutionize how people get to and leave Georgetown, finally erasing a decades old short-sighted mistake by Metro planners.
But Georgetown can’t wait until then to better manage its transportation network. And the thing is, people aren’t waiting. Several different groups are working to bring transportation changes to Georgetown. The problem is that they’re not working together and there’s no overarching plan to organize the efforts.
For example, the BID and CAG are working with DDOT on how the streetcar will come to the neighborhood. A completely different working group is working towards bringing performance parking to Georgetown. Yet another group has long term plans to widen the sidewalks along Wisconsin Ave. and possibly M St.
One plan calls for the construction of an in-fill Metro stop between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom (the idea being that using a ventilation duct as the backbone of a new station would be much less expensive than a new Metro line). Others want to tear down the Whitehurst. Yet others want more bike lanes. Others still want transit-only lanes.
The point is that a lot of ideas are floating around out there. And it doesn’t make sense for any one plan to hold itself up waiting for the others to materialize because then nothing would happen. But all these pieces need to be considered together. For instance, getting rid of a parking lane on M St. might push cars into the side streets. But performance parking can address this. And a new Metro station near Thompson’s Boat House would benefit greatly from having the streetcar use K St., but many want the streetcar on M.
This type of conflict calls for a master transportation plan for the neighborhood that takes all these issues into account. It would make decisions and set goals based upon a consensus of all the stake holders, including the BID, GBA, CAG, Georgetown University, and DDOT. For example, it would decide whether the streetcar should go on M or K, what should ultimately happen with the Whitehurst, how many traffic lanes should we have, etc.
Most of all, we need data. When the idea of taking a parking lane of M St. away for a transit lane gets mentioned, a lot of people get nervous and think this will have a big effect on how people get to Georgetown. But nobody really knows if that’s true. There are approximately 180 street parking spots on M St. How many people can possibly use those spots in a day? A thousand? Two thousand? Now consider the fact that between WMATA and the Circulator there are 704 different buses that travel along M St. on a weekday. It would not take very many people arriving per-bus to easily swamp the number of people using those parking spaces. Should we continue to give up so much road space to so few people, or should those lanes be converted to transit-only so to benefit the majority of people coming here? Or maybe pedestrians swamp both users and widening the sidewalk makes more sense. We don’t know what the numbers are, so we give solutions based upon our own biases and preferences, and GM is no different.
The problem is that only a few years ago DDOT spent a ton of money on a transportation study that was too narrow and whose recommendations DDOT mostly ignored. So that well is likely dry. None of the civic groups in Georgetown have the cash to fund the type of master plan that is necessary. But even lacking a master plan, a working group of all these stake holders should be formed to at least start the discussion and get the parties to see how interconnected all these issues are. And who knows, maybe some transportation planning grad school will be willing to draw up a plan pro bono as part of its coursework.