Last Friday I provided an update on the Mount Vernon Square District Project for which public comment is due by January 22nd. The Office of Planning has devised four alternatives for the public to consider and is also accepting of feedback on individual components within the alternatives. The feedback form is rather cumbersome to make use of as you’d have to print it, circle your choices and scan it back into PDF to email to Christopher Ziemann – but it has been suggested you may forgo the form and simply submit whatever written comments you have in an email.
Follow the Read More link for the rest to read my priorities for evaluating the alternative and the modified Alternative 3 I’ll be submitting to OP in my feedback.
- The entire area should be more pedestrian friendly and the square needs to be integrated into pedestrian life rather than isolated.
- Traffic flow around the square should accommodate the future streetcar to the best extent possible.
- I believe pairing the bus routes on 7th and 9th is better than sticking them both on 7th
- Vehicle travel lanes wider than 10ft encourage speeding. Some of these plans include 12ft travel lanes which I think are undesirable for the area.
- One of these two streets should have a protected two way cycle track. A mixed bus/bike lane is undesirable.
- One-way traffic is OK if it does not exceed two vehicle lanes.
- Considering 7th and 9th are major corridors I think two-way traffic that only provides one lane in each direction would be a failure. With only one travel lane in a given direction cars turning left or right could back up traffic for a block or more. Such backups would lead some cars to breach the bus lane to go around these turning cars.
The one-way circulation around Mount Vernon Square instantly gave Alternative 3 an edge for me but the other alternatives also earned demerits for components that contradicted my values. Alternative 2 is undesirable to me because it places both Bus Only lanes on 7th Street and with the rush hour restricted parking lanes I think it becomes too much of a traffic sewer during rush hour. I do not care for Alternative 4 as it has the mixed bus/bike lanes and the wide 12ft travel lanes encourage speeding. Alternative 1 is not awful in how it configures the streets but lacks a southbound bus lane in the overall design and doesn’t have the optimal one way circulation around the square.
Alternative 3 shines for me because it’s design for Mount Vernon Square as a focal point with one-way traffic circulation around the square, widened sidewalks and new mid block crosswalks. It also meets goals for 7th and 9th streets with dedicated bus lanes and cycle tracks. I think one-way traffic has a bad reputation with regards to pedestrian safety among urbanists – but I can attest it works beautifully for the pairing of Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards in Arlington. The key is to have two paired streets on a grid designed to complement each other while featuring only two vehicle travel lanes that are narrow (10ft) rather than highway width (12ft). If kept to that scope I believe one-way design is not hostile to pedestrian experience.
The one small issue I have with the Alternative 3 design is that both 7th and 9th streets have the cycle tracks. The two streets are only 1/10 of a mile apart so the second cycle track feels like overkill. I could certainly live with that but wonder if it is truly the best use of street bandwidth. After pondering how the plan could be tweaked I came up with the following modification:
Keep 9th Street exactly as planned with the cycle track. Reconfigure 7th Street to eliminate the 10ft Cycle track. I’d shift that 10 ft over to the Bus Lane area on the east side of the street. In most spots I’d use it to make the sidewalks wider for bus stops and general pedestrian activity. In certain spots I’d have cut outs that allow Taxi stand parking. The Bus Lane would become a Bus/Taxi lane. This area should be curb separated from main travel lanes.
I think that modification would be an improvement for pedestrians and bus riders while providing a bonus opportunity for taxi riders and will incorporate this in my feedback to the Office of Planning.
What are your thoughts?