Last night, DDOT hosted a public meeting on the topic of traffic circulation through Georgetown. The pre-meeting public information was sparse, so it was unclear what that meant. One of GM’s speculations was that it was about turning some two-way streets into one-way, and indeed it was. (For the record: It’s not really that impressive to get a speculation correct when you make as many speculations as GM does…)
This was just the first meeting, and DDOT will be conducting data collection and receiving public input before putting out any recommendations. But the substance of the presentation suggested that changing the direction of streets was one of the central ideas they would study.
What does that mean for Georgetown? Well as you may know, there’s a big difference between the streets on the east and west sides of Georgetown. West Georgetown has far more one-way streets than the east side does. You can see that in this map that was part of the presentation last night:
All the dark streets are one-way. West Georgetown’s streets are probably over 50% one-way. East Georgetown, particularly above M St., are almost entirely two-way.
From the audience, it was clear that there is a vocal group in support of changing that. Among the changes most voiced would be to change 29th, 30th, and 31st to one-way (likely 30th southbound, and 29th and 31st northbound). There was also a lot of support for converting N St. to one-way (probably westbound, to mirror Dumbarton St.).
The advantages of one-way are that it eliminates the conflicts that come from having two cars pass each other on narrow streets. This is particularly a problem on several of the blocks immediately north of M St. During periods of congestion, the 1200 block of 31st (the one with the post office) can be really messed up by bad suburban drivers who drive way too large cars and yet have terrible spatial awareness. They either refuse to move because they don’t know how to pass a car closer than six feet. Or the opposite happens and they shear off a couple sideview mirrors. Making these blocks one-way would mitigate these problems.
But there are drawbacks to making this change. As DDOT pointed out last night, one-way streets tend to encourage faster and more dangerous driving. When you know there’s nothing you have to worry possibly hitting until the next stop sign, your foot gets heavier on the pedal. And it leads to more driving. Far more trips will require looping around a few more blocks to get to the same destination. And what about the blocks off M that are northbound? In order to get to these blocks in a car, you’ll have to travel on M St. (or loop way down to K St.). That is not a great prospect!
Funnily enough, DDOT already paid for a study over ten years ago that suggested the changes. GM wrote about it nine years ago. It obviously didn’t happen. Will this one lead to an actual change? We’ll see.