Monday, August 22, 2016

Separating Fact from Fiction on the Maryland Avenue Road Diet

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 7.15.41 AM
A map from the Toole Design project website

There's been some rather heated discussion both online and offline recently about the Maryland Avenue Road Diet. The Road Diet is an attempt to mitigate traffic concerns and make the street safer for all who use it, drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Some opponents of the project have recently cried foul, claiming that this project has offered little in the way of outreach or opportunity for public input, and accusing others of trying to "ram through" the proposal. None of those things are true. This project has been in the works for many years and it's getting closer to implementation. I'm providing links to some information sources below so that anyone who wishes to learn more about the project can do so. I am also reposting (with his permission) an email from Bill Schulteiss, who is not only a long time resident of the area, but also a former two-term Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, and worked as a project manager for the planning study. Please read up and familiarize yourself with the facts.


Some Media Coverage:

Email from Bill Schulteiss:

There is some general misinformation that is being circulated on this project that needs to be corrected. I was the project manager for the planning study and I have lived at 1225 F Street (on the corridor) for 17 years. 

We collected two weeks of traffic data between April 30 and May 11, 2011.The data collected was 24 hours per day to calculate speeds and volume continuously. 

Traffic models are developed to assess the highest volume period. That day was a Tuesday. We also modeled a Sunday to understand a typical lowest volume conditions. The counts were taken during a time that both the H Street/Benning Road streetcar and I-395 (11th Street bridges) were being constructed, congress and schools were in session. This resulted in more traffic arriving on MD Avenue than at any other time in the last 20 years. There is certainly not more traffic today than it was in 2011 because traffic entry into the road is constrained at both ends by the amount of green signal time that can be provided: 

1) the signal at Stanton park only allows one lane of traffic eastbound onto MD Avenue from the park;

2) the signal at H/Benning/Bladensburg only allows westbound traffic onto MD from Bladensburg. Benning traffic cannot turn left and never will. Westbound traffic can only enter MD Ave for 30 seconds from two lanes on Bladensburg Road. 

More green time cannot be provided at either end, thus the signal constrains traffic into and out of the corridor. Why? the traffic lights can't be changed at the ends because of the higher importance of the other streets. Maryland Avenue is not a priority traffic corridor for the city.That is why the new construction on H Street or the other surrounding areas is not an important factor for the future traffic flow. Because of the signal operations being fixed at the ends, no more additional traffic can enter MD Avenue - ever.  

Further, the design will change the timing of the lights between these endpoint constraints. What you see now will not be how it operates when the design is implemented. Today groups of cars routinely get stuck somewhere in the middle of the corridor (12th, 10th, 8th) as they pass from 6th to 15th or vice versa. The future timing will allow that movement to happen in one shot, with no stops. There will still be queuing at Stanton Park and H Street - the same as today and the design allows 2 lanes of traffic to store those cars. 

From a safety perspective, crashes along this corridor have been steadily increasing for the last 10 years. Yet crashes are not the only part of this project. For every crash there are a dozen or more near misses - where drivers fail to yield to pedestrians or almost rear end other drivers. The near misses are a major factor of this project that can't be revealed in data collection. 

I worked very hard as a citizen, as an ANC Commissioner, and as the project manager for the planning study to reach out to the community, and to be very cognizant of potential negative impacts of the project. I have lived here for almost 17 years and I care deeply for our neighborhood and the safety of our neighbors. I worked hard to ensure that concerns were addressed - double parking can happen (in the bike lane), emergency vehicles can get through, cut-through traffic is going to be minimal or non-existent. 

I do not appreciate some of the ill-informed commentary, the purposeful falsehoods intended to stir controversy, the abusive tone and behavior given to my professional colleagues at DDOT and the ANC, that I am personally seeing and hearing about. 

People have every right to disagree with the outcome of this project or to have a different perspective. But please be civil, honest, and respectful as you do it.  If you think this street should prioritize faster traffic, than say it. If you want to double par,k say it. If you aren't comfortable with change, fine. This project is a simple choice of community priorities. The choice is either:

1) Maintain status quo with faster  and chaotic traffic so people can get home 20 seconds faster. A road without left turn lanes where drivers are constantly weaving, almost rear ending each other, and failing to yield to pedestrians and cyclists in crosswalks while turning. This project can potentially add in some pedestrian curb extensions. We can signalize 7th Street so it functions poorly the way the old signal at 9th/10th did (which was removed because of this study). 


2) A calm street. A road where we allow traffic to flow through at a reasonable. A predictable road where you know drivers are turning left. Those left turning drivers now only having to look across one lane of oncoming traffic have an opportunity to see pedestrians in crosswalks. A street where you can choose to ride a bicycle and outside of rush hour, the street design results in people driving the speed limit without the overbearing presence of police cameras and officers. 

A large majority of the community supports this project and believes in the vision for Option 2. People are always nervous about change and that is understandable. You can believe what you want about the facts and studies. I write this to correct the record as incorrect information does our public discourse a tremendous disservice.  

Bill Schultheiss 1225 F Street, NE 
Professional Transportation Engineer for Toole Design Group
Former ANC6A06 Commissioner (2006-2010)
Resident of F Street since 2000


Anonymous said...

i'm sick and tired of being told i'm wrong by people who are better informed than me or who have investigated the facts.

Anonymous said...

Me too. If I can't get my way, I'm gonna scream and holler to stop this project. Too bad that you have made an effort to be informed and work for improvement in your community. I only care about this single issue so I'm call you names and try to sully your reputation.

Anonymous said...

As someone who doesn't own a car and lives in the neighborhood I'll be glad to have the bike lanes and cars stopping for me when I need to cross. Understandable there will be more traffic on the side streets.

Anonymous said...

I do own a car, but I walk and take the bus on Maryland. I've nearly been hit twice in the crosswalk while walking across Maryland, and I witnessed a very serious crash, so yeah a road diet might help.

Anonymous said...

For what its worth, Gales Place between 16th and 17th in Rosedale (which is just off the Maryland-Benning-H Street intersection, is notorious for people speeding at ~40-50 mph. This is a very dangerous situation as there is foot traffic and people pulling into and out of the the entrance to McDonalds. Speed bumps, at a minimum, are a must. This will be the backside of the to-be 7-story mixed use complex that is slated to come to the 1600 block of Benning.

curmudgeon said...

Elise -- You write that "Some opponents of the project have recently cried foul, claiming that this project has offered little in the way of outreach or opportunity for public input, and accusing others of trying to "ram through" the proposal. None of those things are true." I've lived here for 10 years, I sometimes attend ANC6A meetings, I read traffic on the ANC-6A mailing list, etc; but the WAMU story you link-to from almost a month ago was the first I ever heard about this project. If they've done extensive outreach over the years, I'd be curious to know what that was.

curmudgeon said...

I'm not opposed to the project. But I do think that the case for it has been made in part with statements that leave me scratching my head. It may be that *even with that*, it still makes sense to implement the plan. But it's frustrating to read stuff that just runs contrary to what I see all the time.

I should say that I have a near-infinite amount of respect for everything Bill Schulteiss done for this neighborhood. I really, really miss him on the ANC. Many people who take advantage of the Kingman Dog Park, for instance, don't realize the tremendous amount of effort he put in to help make that happen. As a neighbor, he'd be an asset to any neighborhood, and I'm really glad we're lucky to have him in ours, and anyone who's being nasty to him over this needs to move away and be nasty somewhere else, please. But that doesn't mean I'm going to agree with him on everything; and in his email that you post, his comments about the inbound traffic flow on MD being regulated by the nature of the Starburst and the light timing there confuse me, because from my personal experience a large fraction of the inbound traffic doesn't enter MD Avenue at the Starburst -- it's overflow traffic from Constitution and C Streets, it comes up 15th and 13th from C, and it enters MD Avenue from 10th thru 13th Streets. Bill puts the choice as "faster and more dangerous on MD" vs. "safer"; but for me, the choice is "commuting cars driving fast on MD" vs. "commuting cars driving fast on the side streets", and I know which one of those seems more dangerous to me.

Elsewhere, DDOT has asserted that not much commuter traffic would divert to side streets when MD Ave is redone. But DDOT said *exactly the same thing* years ago about reconfiguring Constitution Avenue thru NE Capitol Hill, from one way in-bound to two-way. And yet, when that happened, and Constitution changed from two lanes inbound to one as will be the case for MD Avenue -- a large fraction of the inbound traffic *did* divert onto the side streets. It happened. We watched it happen. C Street (one-way inbound) took as much of the traffic as it could, and the rest of the inbound cars filtered their way through the side streets north of Lincoln Park up to MD Ave. During the morning commute time, my block of E has been a goat rodeo ever since. Several years ago I went out to count cars, and I clocked 27 cars inbound passing our house in one minute -- this on a narrow side street that requires two cars going opposite directions to be *very* careful to avoid contact. On some mornings, when the short bus comes to pick up a disabled neighbor kid for school, we get a hellacious tailback of Maryland commuters down the block, leaning on their horns at 7:30am, honking away while the disabled kid is loaded into the bus. God forbid a truck has to make a delivery somewhere on the street. The completion of the 11th Street Bridge has reduced the volume somewhat; but they're not back to the way things were before the change to Constitution Avenue. The Constitution Avenue reconfiguration definitely affected the side streets, even though DDOT said it would not.

Again, I'm NOT arguing against the MD Avenue re-configuration at all. I'm simply saying that when DDOT says there won't be any significant impact on side streets, I don't believe them. They've said that before, and they were dead wrong about it. The commuters don't disappear when their route gets narrower. Some of the cars that were on MD Avenue before will go somewhere else. That doesn't mean the redesign is a bad idea, or that I'm opposed to it. It may still make sense to do the redesign, but let's at least be clear about what its impact will be.

inked said...

I know I've seen emails and flyers (I do not know where they were distributed, I probably saw them posted or on a table) about meetings over the years, and I recall visiting the survey site on multiple occasions. I'm also in the habit of at least sometimes glancing at agendas for ANC 6A, so would have also seen it there. I was definitely aware of the project, and a bit envious that it is moving forward since I live on Florida Ave and people speed like crazy (don't get me started on the upper 1300 block through the 1400 block). I do understand that this one seemed to fly under the radar for some people.

As for the merits of the project, I do not live immediately adjacent to Maryland Ave, and I'm not a transportation planner. I am interested in traffic and pedestrian safety generally (again, I live on Florida Ave, and I tend to walk a lot). I would hope that the plan is a good one based on the effort that has gone into it. I'll admit I am deferring to the professionals on the merits here.

inked said...

Another possible factor is that this project has been referred by multiple names over the years depending on who was talking about it. There are older articles, but you won't necessarily find them in the same Google searches picking up the new pieces.

Bill Schultheiss said...

I was very cognizant of this negative impact as we did the Maryland Ave Study and sought to minimize the chance of it happening. That is why for MD Avenue to work the lights must be coordinated to let traffic flow from Benning Road all the way to Stanton Park. Today the lights are not synchronized to allow this. At Benning Road, entering traffic gets 40 seconds of green as it enters MD Ave. The same traffic then gets 60 seconds of green as it progresses down MD Ave to Stanton Park - thus it can't back up until it gets to a red light at Stanton Park. The 2nd lane just allows people to driver faster than they should to get to the red light at Stanton Park. The also drive in a tighter grouping in the 2 lanes. This is why if you stand at an intersection you will see a group of cars go by for 20-30 seconds followed by an empty street for 20-30 seconds. With only one lane, traffic will spread out in a longer line but still arrive at Stanton Park to a red light in many instances. The biggest change is they will not be able to speed, as they can only go as fast as the person in front of them. At Stanton Park they will only get 30-40 seconds of green. This is why traffic backs up at Stanton Park. This is why 2 lanes will remain approaching Stanton Park from the park back to 7th Street.
People driving on side streets who turn onto MD Avenue, will turn into an empty lane. As they drive to the next intersection, they will see a red light. They will green at the time the traffic coming from Bladensburg Road gets a green and they will drive in the lane to Stanton Park ahead of the flow of cars coming from Bladensburg Road. This will create a perception that the street has lots more traffic, when what will be happening is the space will be more efficiently used. Delays won’t change appreciably for anyone. This process is almost identical in reverse except there is only one lane entering MD Ave today from Stanton Park. So what happens is now people start racing around each other to beat the other guy to the red light at H Street from the park. At H Street, there is only 20 seconds of green light available for MD Ave traffic to leave the street. This is why 2 lanes of traffic will be provided for traffic to queue past 14th street.

So if this is clear, there is no advantage or purpose for any traffic on MD Avenue to redirect onto G/F/E with stop signs on every block. Further those streets don't connect well to anything - they dead end onto MD Avenue itself or Union Station. It will take people longer to cut around the side streets than to just stay on MD Avenue. The only place people will continue to bypass MD Ave is eastbound onto F Street (past my house FWIW)to turn left onto 15th to try to skip the backup at night caused by the 20 seconds of Green at H. They do this now because they have learned that there isn't much traffic on 15th at night. But they still wait as well since 15th street northbound onto Benning Road only gets 17 seconds of green time. The other “cut through” is eastbound D Street at night. These folks are mostly neighbors going home or people that think it is marginally faster to drive down D to 15th for same reasons people cut down F Street.
The other concern that keeps being raised is a parking car, double parking car, or UPS type deliver truck will block the lane. This is accounted for with the provision of a wider bike lane. People will use the bike lane for this maneuver and won't have to fear being rear ended. It won't be great for bikes when it happens, but it is still better than the condition today with no bike lane. When cars aren't in the bike lane, it will be more comfortable than most bike lanes.

I've been trying to explain this in non-technical terms, but this is the kind of thing that a video makes easier to understand. I hope people realize that I am not trying to create a situation where traffic diverts around to local streets. I have as much to lose from that as anyone else. This is truly a project to improve safety for everyone on the street.

Bill Schultheiss

Bill Schultheiss said...

this was meant to go prior to my other comment!

thanks Curmodgeon. You are right, Constitution was a good idea for safety of people on that street, but the cut through traffic impact was not clearly articulated by DDOT. Constitution Avenue was converted to one-way in 2007.

Reducing Constitution to one lane resulted in an increase of traffic on side streets. This is because we presently have a traffic funnel around RFK Stadium where 3 lanes come across the bridge from I295 and at 15th they funnel onto one lane streets – C Street, Constitution, and NC Avenue. The conversion resulted in significant amount of traffic turning onto 15th (where a right turn lane pushes 50% of the C Street traffic), 13th, and 12th. A lot of the 15th traffic turns onto D, E, and F as people connect to MD Avenue, G Street, H Street, or Florida Avenue. The traffic volumes on these side streets is likely to be reduced somewhat once the C Street project reduces the 3 inbound lanes of traffic to 2 lanes starting at Oklahoma Avenue. This will push some of the backup of traffic that exists on C Street onto the East Cap Bridge where it belongs. ( It is this "new" traffic which I think is greatly influencing peoples perceptions that traffic has increased and is getting worse in the neighborhood. There is also a significant amount of our own neighbors driving down these streets to get to the 3 schools on G Street - in particular the School Without Walls. Traffic volumes on MD Avenue have not increased at all since 2011 based on DDOT traffic counts.

Anonymous said...

You maybe saw 27 cars passing one time after an event at RFK. I ride my bike on E street in the am because it is the least busy. This is a Lochte-like exaggeration.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I had the forsight to purchase on Maryland Avenue, which will now be transformed into a quiet residential street where my yard is even further extended, while those who purchased on some of the formerly quieter side streets may now share in the burden of suburban and east of the river commuter trash.

curmudgeon said...

Anonymous 2:22 -- Nope. Like I said, it was several years ago, before the 11th Street bridge project concluded; but it was before 8am on a weekday.

Actually, I haven't noticed being hurt by RFK events much; but I'm usually *at* DCU matches rather than on the block, and they (sadly) don't draw that many people anyway. Dunno about concerts/ShamrockFest/etc., but I haven't noticed a big problem.

curmudgeon said...

Bill -- thanks for the info. I wasn't aware of the C Street study either; guess I'm totally out of the loop these days.

I'm a bit confused by the statement that tightening C down to two lates at OK Ave will "push some of the backup of traffic that exists on C Street onto the East Cap Bridge where it belongs." By this, do you mean that this will cause there to be a bit *more* of a jam/slow-down/whatever on the bridge and the curve over to Oklahoma, and the traffic going onto C Street will be throttled there, rather than further down the road? (if this is explained in the study, feel free to tell me that -- it's not convenient for me to look at it right now, but I can later)

Bill Schultheiss said...

traffic will be "throttled" as you say at Oklahoma Avenue instead of at 15th/North Carolina/C Street. It just moves the congestion that already exists on C back onto the bridge. This will reduce some of the incentive for people to bail out at 15th, 13th etc. unless they are really trying to get over to H or MD or Florida anyway.

This is detailed in that study at the link.

I have also invited neighbors to meet me at 12th/MD/F tomorrow night at 5:30 if you are interested in discussing MD Avenue in person.

louc said...

I was very surprised when I attended the Maryland Street meeting at Northeast Library a couple of weeks ago to hear the clamor of people who weren't familiar with the project. I've been following this for five years and I knew about it through the ANC listserv and fliers passed out in the neighborhood. There was a meeting with the DDOT director a year ago, which focused on the 10th Street traffic signal and reconfiguring the 9th/E street flow.

The only thing I can think is people didn't pay attention or they're new to the area. Personally I think it will be great. Cars drive way too fast on Md.

I also thought a certain person attending the meeting was extremely rude -- he kept screaming his disagreements instead of speaking in a reasonable tone. Kudos to the DDOT team for showing professionalism in light of that hostility.

l said...

Maybe a new traffic study needs to be done since the street car is up and running. All this will do is force more traffic on to the side streets.

Anonymous said...

I live on the south side of the 1100 block of Maryland Ave and received a flyer from a neighbor a few weeks ago about how the road diet plan includes moving a bus stop from 10th St. to 11th St. This neighbor (who I've never met) was livid that people would be standing around, possibly sitting on her wall, and leaving litter on the block. Not to mention the fumes! And the noise! First, hardly anyone ever waits at the 10th St. bus stop (the X8 only goes a few blocks before it ends at the starburst intersection) so why would anyone be waiting at the 11th St. stop? The racist undertones of the flyer were unbelievable. I regret not going to the meeting so I could say something. I've been renting for 5 years here. Cannot WAIT to leave this neighborhood.

Hill Resident said...

We need speed bumps on Maryland now to slow traffic down. No waiting for the diet (which I support) in a few years. That was my point to the Mayor at the meeting a few weeks ago. Someone is going to get hurt between now and the projects completion (first shovel full of dirt has yet to be dug for this project). So we sit and wait until 2018? That's what I'm upset about. The experts at the meeting stated that MD Ave traffic volume isn't sizable enough except at peak periods (high volume was the previous reason NOT to put in speedbumps) why wait and put in some bumps now to start slowing inbound/outboard traffic at those peak hours.