The ReOpenDC report recommends reallocating street space for walking, restaurants, and buses
"DC should reallocate sidewalks and streets to support physical distancing for residents and greater outdoor capacity for restaurants and other businesses," says one section of a new report, released Thursday by Mayor Muriel Bowser, "as well as reconfigure road lanes to prioritize Lifeline Network bus corridors."
The report, which WAMU's Martin Austermuhle posted online, revolves around four "core values" of Health, Opportunity, Prosperity, and Equity ... or HOPE. The specific recommendations cover various stages of reopening and "safeguards and protocols" in each, as well as a set of "cross-cutting enablers" including reducing the digital divide, coordinating education and transportation, guidance for employers about legal liability they might face, and equitable outreach to all residents.
One cross-cutting enabler specifically relevant to GGWash issues is reorientation of public spaces:
DC should reallocate sidewalks and streets to support physical distancing for residents and greater outdoor capacity for restaurants and other businesses. It can also temporarily repurpose private spaces that are vacant during the early stages of reopen to distribute PPE or expand classroom or childcare space, as well as reconfigure road lanes to prioritize Lifeline Network bus corridors.
The actual reopening divides into three stages, each of which gradually loosens restrictions on things like childcare and education, public gatherings, businesses, and travel. Stage 1 happens when DC has a 2-week sustained decline in new cases and widespread testing and contact tracing. In this stage, transportation-wise, "Public transit services should expand to accommodate increased travel for reopened activities."
Stage 2 kicks in when the declines in cases are enough that "transmission is only localized." This level allows some use of taxis and ride-hailing. Transit continues to expand in Stage 3, when "the remaining transmission in DC is sporadic only."
What the committees said
Most of the document contains recommendations from 11 committees that focused on topics such as Restaurants and Food, or Public Space and Recreation. Each committee created a set of "staging recommendations" and "safeguards" for the reopen process. Besides the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, several had recommendations relating to mobility:
The Education and Childcare Committee suggests as a safeguard that students "avoid public transportation, particularly during high-volume times."
The Equity and Vulnerable Populations Committee suggests DC:
- Reinstate free Circulator access and expand free bike share access.
- Increase resources for expanded and safe transit operations, including hazard pay for vulnerable transit employees
- Improve safe access to DMV services and improve the ease of online and mail-in DMV services
- Encourage the use of PPE by riders on public and micro transit
The Open Spaces and Recreation Committee advocates to "develop 'hyperlocal public spaces,” including identifying locations to widen sidewalks and bike lanes, where residents can spend time outdoors within 15 minutes of their homes."
The Real Estate and Construction Committee would "facilitate adoption of physically-distant transportation options for construction and office workers who cannot work from home, including free memberships to Capital Bikeshare and subsidies for taxis."
And the Restaurants and Food Retailers Committee recommends the District "facilitate adoption of physically-distant transportation options for construction and office workers who cannot work from home, including free memberships to Capital Bikeshare and subsidies for taxis."
Finally, the Transportation Committee, naturally, has detailed recommendations on transportation. I was one of many people they invited to present ideas, which I did on behalf of DC Sustainable Transportation.
Its recommendations divide into ones for transit and for "shared and micro-mobility for hire," which covers ride-hailing, dockless bikes and scooters and Capital Bikeshare, and more. (We really need a good word that covers this whole area of transportation.
The transit recommendations for Stage 1 include dedicated bus lanes and signal priority on "lifeline" routes; skip-stop service; continuing to board by the rear door; and considering on-demand shuttle services for workers, like hospital and public safety workers, who need to travel to and from work outside of the limited hours transit currently runs.
When DC gets to Stage 2 ("only localized" transmission), the committee recommends continuing bus lanes and skip-stop and also to "bundle trips and integrate travel modes, including contactless and integrated fare payments through WMATA." The idea here is that people working or visiting could pay for a package of transportation including transit to and from their job or hotel but have it include other short-range trips on buses or scooters or the like (maybe ride-hail also).
For safeguards, the report suggests ideas like blocking middle seats on trains, buses, and airplanes.
Non-essential ride-hailing is "discouraged" in Stage 1 and can resume later. In the ride-hail vehicles, the committee recommends passengers only sit in the back and that the car have plastic shields to separate driver and passenger. The number of passengers would also be limited.
"Dedicate more parking spaces to commercial delivery services" is a public space recommendation from the transportation committee, along with encouraging deliveries outside busy hours and "expand 'multimodal mobility hubs' parking options," which is not clear what that means.
Finally, there's a set of "other recommendations and 'big ideas.'" There's no narrative about this list, but it seems this is likely a list of ideas from committee members which had the group's support, but what exactly will happen with them isn't clear. In particular, bicycle-specific recommendations are mainly on the list. It includes:
- Identify select streets to close off to cars and convert to outdoor seating and retail space
- Encourage local deliveries of food and other goods by bicycles
- Use food trucks and hand-washing stations to bring amenities to every neighborhood to prevent the need for residents to travel by any method other than foot
- Establish expanded sidewalks through travel lane conversion on bridges to promote physical distancing, especially Anacostia River crossings (Sousa, East Capital, Frederick Douglass, and Benning Road Bridges)
- Re-program curbside lanes for e-scooter/bike lanes along major corridors
- Permit dockless e-bike and e-scooter providers to increase fleet size for anticipated demand.
- Convert existing on-street "bicycle route" system to shared street network with rapid implementation of signage, barriers and traffic calming with a target speed of 10 mph
- Reduce speed on local arteries from 25mph to 20mph to protect more people walking in streets due to physical distancing
- Experiment with on-demand transit
- Provide subsidies to ensure access to affordable bikeshare and transit services, particularly for low-income areas
What do you think of this report?