Friday, July 8, 2016

An Open Letter to People Who Bike & Walk in DC Regarding the Atlantic Gateway Project

To those who walk and bike in Washington, DC: 

I attended a press conference today in which Virginia's Governor, Terry McAuliffe, promised to end congestion (his words) by widening I-95 near Fredericksburg and inside the Beltway with HOT lanes. From the amount of time he spent on this aspect, this was clearly the primary component of the Atlantic Gateway project. You might not immediately realize the implications of that statement. 
Virginia Governor McAuliffe addresses a small crowd in Alexandria, vows road widenings will "end congestion."

Most of you reading this are already one up on the governor's staff, as you are familiar with induced demand: more road capacity yields more traffic, which yields more congestion. As Houston's Katy Freeway shows, more HOT lane mileage will also yield more car traffic. Those additional cars have a destination: DC's streets. More drivers, many of them distracted, mean more risk to people who walk and bike in DC.

The only way to protect DC's livability from the traffic induced by the Atlantic Gateway project is to embark on an emergency program of road diet implementation throughout the downtown area. If you take away capacity at the destination, you will mitigate the threat posed by Virginia's attempt to shove more cars your way.

Any street with more than one car lane in a particular direction is a candidate. So, for a two-way street, look at those with four lanes cars are allowed to use and reduce them to two. For one-way streets, look at those with two lanes and reduce them to one. Substitute whatever works best in that area: bus lanes, bike lanes, wider sidewalks, or loading zones. Just reduce the throughput for cars.

You will also need to eliminate as much of your public parking as possible. If suburban Virginia commuters cannot park in DC, there's no point in hopping in a longer HOT lane. They simply will have nowhere to go.

As someone who lives in Virginia, I apologize for the shortsightedness of our politicians and planners. I hope the DC political and planning establishment will act quickly, preferably before this new tsunami of traffic breaks upon DC's streets.