Kojo and Tom Sherwood chat with D.C. Transportation Director Leif Dormsjo and Virginia Del. Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax).
Big plans are in the works for transportation in our region. Regional planners are touting $42 billion in transit investments, while the District released a long-range plan for changes and upgrades to take the city through 2040. D.C.’s plan is aimed at expanding non-car modes of transportation through congestion pricing for downtown, dedicated bus lanes, and new bike lanes. We explore how these plans might reshape the District and the region.
- John Townsend Manager of Public and Government Relations, AAA Mid-Atlantic
- Martin Di Caro Transportation Reporter, WAMU
- Cheryl Cort Policy Director, Coalition For Smarter Growth
- David Snyder Vice Mayor, Falls Church; former Chairman, National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
MoveDC Two-Year Action Plan
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. What will getting around Washington be like in the future? Planners in our region are working on an ambitious plan to take us to the year 2040. You'll likely pay a fee to drive a car downtown. You might be able to catch a streetcar from Union Station to Georgetown or zip up Georgia Avenue on a bus in a dedicated lane, or you can pedal on miles of new bike lanes.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe plan is aimed at expanding transportation options here and many are pleased with the overall goals including holding car traffic to current levels. But some caution that expanding transit options can't be done at the expense of those who are not able to take advantage of metro or bike lanes.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us to discuss this is Martin Di Caro. He is WAMU 88.5's transportation reporter. Martin, always a pleasure.
MR. MARTIN DI CAROIt's good to see you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso joining us in studio is Cheryl Cort. She is the policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Cheryl Cort, thank you for joining us.
MS. CHERYL CORTThank you.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with John Townsend of Triple A and David Snyder, vice mayor of Falls Church. But you can start calling now, 800-433-8850. How do you get around and how could your commute be improved, 800-433-8850? You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Shoot us a tweet @kojoshow. Martin, big picture, what does Move D.C. entail? First, what's the scope timeframe?
CAROIt's a 25-year vision but most immediately there's a two-year action plan. The people at DDOT and the mayor, Mayor Gray believe that, you know, when you talk about a 25-year vision, you know, people will lose interest in that. You want to update the public every so often as to how you're progressing on all of these items. So they released a two-years action plan that we first report earlier this week. It's 36 items that fall into different categories. And it's really everything. The goal is to have every resident of D.C. live within a short walk of a major transit node, whether that's Metro rail, Metro bus or streetcar. It's to enhance sidewalks or pedestrians, make intersections safer, improve pedestrian safety.
CAROThere's vision zero in there meaning no pedestrian fatalities. There is an enhancement of bike lanes that already exist and installation of new bike lanes with the goal of keeping traffic congestion at current levels for the next quarter century, meaning no adding more gridlock.
NNAMDIDraft of this plan was released in the spring so we knew a little bit about where this was going, but ten projects are slated to begin in the next two years. For those who have been following this, some of this will be familiar but for the first time they're included in a single plan. Can you talk about what's slated for the near term, for instance a plan to build a new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge?
CAROYeah, you're right. A lot of these projects are old or they've been on the planning books for some time. Old is not the right word. But this places them in a larger framework so D.C. can offer its residents a vision of what all this will look like together. Yes, the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge is going to cost close to a billion dollars over six years. I think right off the bat it's $600 million. And that construction is expected to begin over the next couple of years.
CAROYou know, I have the action plan. We have these fancy devices called SmartPhones. Yes.
NNAMDISome of these projects are park-related.
CAROYes. I have the action plan in front of me, complete traffic signal optimization, 25 blocks of sidewalk apps will be completed, pedestrian safety improvements at 20 more intersections. I'm just going down some of these. Yeah, a (word?) and Kenilworth Anacostia River Walk Trail projects and the Rock Creek and Metropolitan Branch Trail Projects are also on the two-year action plan. So it's the scope, streets, parks, bike lanes, sidewalks, you name it.
NNAMDIMartin Di Caro. He's WAMU 88.5's transportation reporters joining us in studio. Cheryl Cort, policy director for the Coalition of Smarter Growth. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Would you like to see more rail, more buses, more streetcars, bike lanes? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Cheryl, you are among those who helped to shape this plan for the future of D.C.'s transportation. First, what went into this plan and how was the public involved?
CORTWell, DDOT brought together a very -- put together a very extensive public outreach process which had, you know, Saturday workshops and a lot of evening meetings and going out to the public and bringing people in to make comments. It was online -- opportunity to participate online. There was actually an extensive statistical significant survey. So there were a lot of different tools that DDOT put together to make this something that we could really get a snapshot of both just generally what people think and then really engage people and bring them in who really wanted to get more involved.
NNAMDIWhat do you think of the result at this point?
CORTWell, we are really excited about this plan. I've been involved with transportation for many, many years in the region and in D.C. And this is really the first time that we have such a clear vision on how our city is -- how we can shape the change of our city to really meet the challenges of today and the future and to really make sure that we're creating a more walkable, bikeable and transit-accessible city.
NNAMDIMartin, one of the items in this plan is likely to cause a great deal of debate, a proposal for congestion pricing for the district. First, can you explain what congesting pricing is and second, what's the plan for D.C.?
CAROWell, briefly what congestion pricing is, it's a toll. And it is designed to limit traffic congestion in your downtown, in your city during the peak travel times. So if you want to drive -- this is how the idea goes. If you want to drive your car into our downtown by yourself and take advantage of a lot of the parking that's available -- and I know Cheryl's been -- one of her big issues is the copious amounts of parking that's available that kind of induces people to drive single-occupant vehicles into a crowded downtown.
CAROIf you want to do that you're going to have to pay for it. Now the plan in D.C. -- well, it's not actually at plan level yet. These are studies to determine if it's feasible. And it's going to be a tough sell to put high-occupancy toll lanes on the major bridges leading into the district from Maryland and Virginia.
NNAMDICheryl, do we know how successful congestion pricing is in places that have implemented it?
CORTYeah, actually London, the UK has done it and been very successful. What's interesting about the case in London is that it's been so successful that I understand it hasn't gotten quite as much revenue as was expected, which was to be reinvested into their subway system. But in terms of managing limited street space, it's a very effective tool to make sure that those who do need to drive and also obviously transit vehicles -- it really helps transit vehicles move around more effectively.
CAROAnd Kojo, briefly one argument made against congestion pricing is that it's a form of double taxation. The counter to that argument is that we're actually not paying fully for our roads at this point because, you know, funds for roads are always being drawn down. You look at the national level, the highway trust fund's always being -- you know, every six months there's a new crisis so general fund revenues have to be transferred to that anyway. So it's another form of revenue producing.
NNAMDIYou mentioned earlier that congestion pricing will be a tough sell. Joining us by phone now is one of the people and his organization to whom it will be a very tough sell. John Townsend is manager of public and government affairs at Triple A Mid Atlantic's Washington office. John Townsend joins us by telephone. John, thank you for joining us.
MR. JOHN TOWNSENDThank you for having us, Kojo.
NNAMDIJohn, what is Triple A's concern about congestion pricing?
TOWNSENDWell, that it is a regressive tax. You know, Martin mentioned a moment ago that some people say it's a double taxation but it's really regressive in the fact that it penalizes the people who have fewer means. And I think it not only is regressive. It won't work in the setting that the district is talking about. When you look at the expansion of congestion pricing in places like 495 and the 95 express lanes, what they did was add additional lanes. That is what is happening to expand capacity. This does nothing to expand capacity. It restricts an already constricted system.
NNAMDIWhy do you say it will have an adverse affect particularly on poor people?
TOWNSENDBecause they will have to -- you know, one of our concerns historically, even about the express lanes on 495 and 95, we once labeled them as Lexus lanes. But they really didn't turn out to be Lexus lanes because what they did, and both systems did rather, was to expand capacity. Here they'll really become Lexus lanes where people who are the movers and shakers and the people with high income can afford to utilize the system. And poor people, middle class people will be stuck in more and more congested lanes.
NNAMDIIsn't that, in a way though, one of the points of -- the reasons for the existence of public transportation, to allow people of modest income access to the same places?
TOWNSENDAbsolutely right. But what you have is a public -- we're talking about expanding transportation options but you have a public transportation system that doesn't have the same outcome for people in certain income groups. If you live in certain parts of the city or if you commute in, everybody doesn't have the same access to public transportation. Martin mentioned a moment ago that one of the beauties of this plan is that if it's utilized and comes to actuality, then everybody will live close to some transit hub. That's going to be very expensive not only to implement a system like that but everybody in the city does not have equal access to the transportation.
NNAMDIMartin, there's also recommendation for dynamic parking pricing. This topic has come up before. It's also controversial. What is that?
CAROThat's a good question, dynamic parking pricing. You know, the real parking expert is sitting next to me over here. But it's a form of managing the existing space. Parking is -- people overlook parking. Before I became a transportation reporter, I never even thought of this stuff either. The amount of space and the heavy subsidization of parking is really a -- it's a huge public -- I don't want to call it a drain. Maybe Cheryl would call it a drain.
CAROYeah, it's a huge expense. It takes up a lot of space. And, you know, from the Smart Growth community saying excessive parking induces people to drive single-occupant cars into your city. I mean, you're going to have -- you know, you have more congestion and that's the, you know, opposite result of what we want. I think dynamic parking, all of these parking ideas there, they form part of this larger framework. Right now the district is trying to decide how much parking it will need in the future, and the best uses of the parking that's been built already. And I think that's where a dynamic parking system comes in.
CAROThere's a lot of parking that goes unused for a large part of the day. An office building lets out in downtown Washington at 5:00. The restaurants in that area don't need their own parking because maybe they could use the parking in that office building if there's better communication between those two entities.
TOWNSENDOh, that's ridiculous, Martin.
CAROI think John just said something I said was ridiculous.
NNAMDIJohn Townsend, you...
TOWNSENDThat's ridiculous. We have a city where almost 2 million tickets -- parking tickets are issued every year to the tune of over $100 million. And yes, those office buildings, the parking slots in there are empty in the afternoon, and the restaurants utilize those, but they subsidize that parking. So if I go and eat at Old Ebbitt Grill, I may have valet parking. But Old Ebbitt Grill is paying $25 for every slot. So that's a heavy tax on the restaurant industry and the tourism industry just to do this.
TOWNSENDAnd this whole foolishness about dynamic parking is there's not enough parking in the city now. The parking in the garages is overpriced. One of the most expensive cities already in the country just to park beyond New York City and Chicago and San Francisco. And we're going to make it more expensive.
TOWNSENDAgain, you're killing the goose that lays the golden egg because you have 18 million tourists who come into the city every year. You have people who wine and dine and entertain themselves in downtown Washington. And you're going to make it cost prohibitive for them to come into the city.
NNAMDICheryl Cort, the overall goal, as I understand it, is to keep car traffic at current levels, as Martin pointed out earlier. Even if this plan is realized, how realistic is keeping car traffic at current levels in a city that's adding a thousand new residents every month?
CORTWell, what's striking is the changes that we've seen in the very recent past in what people's preferences are. D.C. is growing by leaps and bounds and really at an astonishing rate. For anyone who's been around here for -- before 2000, D.C. was continuing to decline and hemorrhage population. And that turned around in 2000. Between 2000 and 2010 we added about 30,000 residents. Between 2010 and 2012 we added more residents than the previous decade. This is a tremendous growth rate.
CORTBut what's striking is that at the same time we've seen a proliferation of transportation choices. We've got Capital Bike Share as a national leader with millions of trips taken by cabbies every day. And then that's actually inspiring more people to go out and buy bikes and to ride more. We're adding -- we're striping more bike lanes. We can get into a car-to-go or rent a zip car. Uber is a very popular way to adapt. Taxis and different kinds of for-hire vehicles where people can go out and have a great time at a restaurant and not have to worry about driving home because they have a lot of ways to get home.
CAROCheryl, I don't want to put words in your mouth but it seems like you're making the argument that then there needs to be less or less per capita parking in what John Townsend raised before really is the crux of this issue. On one side you have people arguing there is not enough parking. There's a chronic parking shortage. On the other side you're saying we've already built more parking than we actually need. I don't know if those two sides will ever see eye to eye on that issue but it's a huge issue for the future of the city.
CORTWell, I mean, the fact is that parking is steeply subsidized. And it's sort of distorting how we look at, you know, should I take Metro, should I take a cab or should I drive and park? And so in terms of looking at how to manage parking more effectively, we need to share it more. And we need to not subsidize it because people need a fairer playing field on what they're going to pay for. And it would be better for more folks to choose to ride a bus or get into a cab than to need to have a parking space at the end of each one of their trips.
NNAMDIJoining us now by phone from Amsterdam is David Snyder, vice mayor of Falls Church, Va. He's former chair of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. David Snyder, thank you for joining us.
MR. DAVID SNYDERThank you very much, Kojo, I'm honored to be with you.
NNAMDII mentioned that you chaired the transportation planning board which coordinates between Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. You've been involved in regional transportation planning for awhile. You point out that transit does not stop at the district's borders. What, therefore, are your thoughts on congestion pricing for drivers who commute into D.C.?
SNYDERSure. And let me just say...
NNAMDIOr for that matter, dynamic parking?
SNYDERYeah, let me just say at the outset that the opinions I'm expressing are mine and I'm not, you know, sort of an official Council of Government's representative. But I have been on the transportation planning board since 1994. Let me just take a step back. And, you know, I think you've heard a pretty good debate on the pluses and minuses of congestion pricing in a center city like Washington. There is some international experience but it's not going to be well received, as can be indicated by John Townsend's comments.
SNYDERI really want to take a step back though and just speak very briefly about D.C.'s plan, which is very innovative, creative and comprehensive. They're really trying to address what I think the entire region is going to need to address in the future, which is the highways are simply not going to be able to absorb the numbers of people that we expect to come into our region, which is a mark of our region's success. But they're simply not going to be able to absorb anywhere near the projected population. So we've really got to focus. And that's even if we add a lot of land miles which are horrendously expensive these days.
SNYDERBut moving away from that for a second, I think what impresses me about the D.C. plan, it isn't really the congestion pricing element but the transit elements, the notion that this is an entire system where we want to offer everyone in D.C., and I would say in the region, attractive choices so that they're not going to want to drive single-occupancy vehicles anymore. Because frankly as a region, we just can't simply keep up with the demand. But it's -- we're not talking about imposing things on people but rather working as a region to offer a seamless set of transportation options.
SNYDERWe've got -- one thing the plan -- the D.C. plan talks about is adequately funding Metro. We've got to do that. The second thing the plan talks about is dramatically improving bus service. I think that's a regional challenge. It's absurd the second class citizen bus service that we have in a lot of our region . And we have an absolute obligation to improve the safety and reliability of that system and bring it up to world class standards, which it clearly is not. So -- and bike and pedestrian.
SNYDERI mean, the other thing we've got to consider is that we need to build today a transportation system that's going to serve what people want to use 20 and 30 years from now. And increasingly the younger generation that's coming along is saying, we don't really want to use our cars. There have been a lot of stories about this. We much prefer to use transit, to bike, to live in walkable communities. So we're going to need a transportation system in the future that serves their needs.
NNAMDIWe only have about a minute left in this segment. But before you go, John Townsend, I know you'd want to comment because all of this is taking place you, I think feel, at the expense of cars and drivers?
TOWNSENDYes. Yeah, I do but according to what Mr. Snyder said, and I agree with him 100 percent, but you have to have a comprehensive plan that addresses all modes of transportation and give people essentially what they want. But surely millennials and younger people are making different transportation choices. Our concern is that all of this should be comprehensive and not to the exclusion of motorists.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we will be continuing our fall membership campaign. But after that we'll be returning to this discussion on our region's transportation plan. So if you'd like to join the conversation, now is a good time call 800-433-8850 before all the lines get busy. We still have a few lines open. Would you like to see more rail, more buses, more streetcars, bike lanes? This new transportation plan aims to keep car traffic at current levels into the next 25 years. Do you think that's a good idea? Do you think it's a bad idea? Do you think it's realistic, unrealistic, 800-433-8850? You can send email to email@example.com, shoot us a tweet @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're discussing our region's transportation plan with Martin Di Caro. He is WAMU 88.5's transportation reporter. Cheryl Cort is the policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. John Townsend is manager of public and government affairs of Triple A's Mid-Atlantic's Washington office. And David Snyder is vice mayor of Falls Church. He's former chair of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. We're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. The lines are almost filled so you may want to offer your question or comment by way of email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you could send us a tweet @kojoshow.
NNAMDIWe got a tweet from Abigail who says, "If I know that it is difficult to park at my destination, I am more likely to bike or take transit." That seems to be an option or options that a number of people are following. But this apparent dichotomy, Martin Di Caro, between roads and transit is something you wanted to address.
CAROYeah, I mean, it's not obviously black and white. What is really in life? And this is another incident where it's not so easy to draw a separating line. We're all at some point, especially for those who live here in D.C. where 40 percent of households are car-free, drivers or pedestrians or some of us ride bikes some of the time. You know, we're not only doing one mode all the time.
CAROAnd I think the issue in D.C. is less pressing than it is when you go down to the suburbs and people believe or they actually in fact don't have access to transit and they believe they have to drive into the city. And a congestion pricing plan becomes more onerous to them compared to somebody living in the district like myself who does not own a car but I still drive because I have access to say car sharing or I live on, you know, a very busy bus stop or on top of a Metro station.
CAROSo there is that suburban urban -- I don't want to call it a dichotomy. It's different there, but here in D.C., you know, it's a transit rich city. And one point the road lobby makes that is legit, going back to the suburban part, okay, you want less people to drive from say Fairfax county into Washington every day. Well, then you need to have Metro cars that aren't overflowing or packed like sardines. And that is a real issue, Metro's future capacity. And it's asking it's jurisdictions for money so it can expand to all eight car trains by the end of this decade.
NNAMDIDavid Snyder, one of the things you know as a result of your experience with the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board is that there are fundamental challenges to this kind of regional planning. Martin Di Caro just mentioned one of them. Can you talk about what are some of the other issues here?
SNYDERWell, it really relates to the whole structure of transportation planning and funding in the region. While the Council of Government's transportation planning board under federal law has approval authority for any federally-aided transportation project in the region, the reality is that the money flows into the states. The states go through a public process, evolve their plans and then they're presented to COG.
SNYDERSo we really -- this is both a top-down and bottom-up effort to take a solid look. And COG has done some reports about what would it take to achieve various objectives in terms of congestion or in terms of air quality, however you want to measure it. But the region is -- it's large. In fact it's growing larger. Our region really goes all the way up to the borders of -- northern borders of Frederick County, Maryland. It goes all the way, for some purposes, to Fauquier County, Va.
SNYDERAnd the fact of the matter is that different parts of the region have different needs. And we need, as a region, to provide as many options as we can for as many people. So for example, we know that we've got existing rail lines. We've added the Silver Line. The Purple Line seems to be moving forward. Those are what you would call the backbone of the region. And then we've got certain major highways and we know that they're going to be expanded to some limited extent based upon finances and other issues.
SNYDERAnd then we've got lots of folks that really have only an option to use their cars today. And so I think one of the challenges to the region is to provide those folks with an attractive, reliable and safe alternative. And there are countries that do it. Scotland and Ireland have very good intercity bus services.
SNYDERAnd I think we ought to really focus. If I could say the one thing that this region needs to do as a region in the future, it would be to focus on how we can provide better, safe, reliable and attractive bus transportation all around the region. And that is part of a plan that D.C. is putting forward with respect to within the borders of D.C. But I'd like to see that thinking expanded. Even as we do other things, we've got to maintain bridges. Certain highways do need to be expanded. We need the streetcar, you know, D.C. has really led the way in the region in terms of streetcar. Arlington and northern Virginia is trying to follow their lead in certain areas.
SNYDERSo there isn't one solution. In a way, we're blessed in having a region that people want to move to, people want to work here, people want to visit here. But it's going to take really a good coordination, some innovative ideas and the willingness to fund options...
SNYDER...in order to have a transportation system that people really want.
NNAMDIYou raise a number of issues, one of them being busses. But I wanted to get to some telephone calls from both John and Paul before we get back to our panelists. John in Chevy Chase, you're first. You're on the air, John. Go ahead, please.
JOHNHas anybody ever actually -- thank you, Kojo, for taking the call. Has anybody actually accurately priced out the impact of automobiles on things like air pollution, land use, that kind of thing, that all have a bearing on what eventually comes into the taxpayer's, you know, that they actually have to foot the bill for?
NNAMDIJohn, I'm going to ask your namesake, John Townsend, to answer that question. But, John Townsend, before you answer, let me add to it the comments of Paul in Fairfax, Va. Paul, your turn.
PAULHi. I'm having one of those driveway moments that you talked about during your fundraising break. So thank you for this...
PAUL...important discussion. I have two comments to make. I agree with many of the comments that your guests are saying. But I do take exception to the comment made earlier that we need to do this not at the expense of or by excluding cars. I think, given that the last 50 years cars have gotten the lion's share of the attention about transportation in the area, it's about time to break up that attention among all the other options that there are.
NNAMDIOkay. Allow me to have John Townsend respond to that. John Townsend, you heard our first caller, John, say that, well, have we considered how much cars are costing the taxpayers? And now, our caller, Paul, is saying, look, you guys have been getting all the attention for the past 50 years. It's time to cut back.
TOWNSENDWell, one reason for that is the taxation system in this country. And much of the transportation funding in this country has been based on congressional largesse and also the predicate for all of this was the gasoline tax. And because cars are getting better mileage and people are driving less these days and choosing other transportation options, that gasoline tax is not what it used to be. But much of the projects that we have in our transportation infrastructure has been funded through that taxation paid for by motorists, which is why you have seen this.
TOWNSENDBut the fact of the matter is that we see, as Martin was saying a moment ago, a fundamentally different approach to this and understanding of this, depending on where you live and which neighborhood you live in. For example, in the District of Columbia, like Martin was saying, there are so many households without cars. And you look at the daily trips in the District every day, and you still see 635,000 motorized trips versus 314,000 trips by transit and 450,000 trips daily by non-motorized means such as walking or taking the bike. That's 32 percent versus 22 percent versus 45 percent of people who drive each day in the District. These are people who live in the District and work in the District.
TOWNSENDBut it's fundamentally different when you look at trips to and from the District. So here we're looking at 1.3 million trips or 65 percent of all those trips into the District for people who live outside of the District...
NNAMDIAre by car.
TOWNSEND...are by car. And then you have, by transit, 486,000 trips by transit. That goes to what Mr. Snyder was talking about. You have to grow that segment and that sector and that mode in order to accommodate people.
NNAMDIGot to -- got to transit, too. Here's Martin Di Caro.
CAROWell, yeah, John is raising these statistical points and he's accurate. So then the question is, how do we change that, if in fact that's the vision of the region to minimize the dependency on the automobile to get around.
NNAMDIGotta expand transit.
CAROYeah, but it's about land use. It's about land-use policies. We cannot talk about transportation without land use. Shame on me for not bringing this up sooner. You know, I went to a Heritage Foundation luncheon earlier this week and there was a lively discussion. And I raised the issue of land use and transit-oriented development, which again won't be for everyone. But we don't need everyone to move closer to a city or into a city. We only need to get a certain number of cars off the road to improve the throughput, right? So my argument was countered by the contention that transit-oriented development is a form of coercion.
CAROThat if you're going to have government policies that induce people or incentivize people to live in high-rises above a metro station, like in Tysons Corner with the Silver Lines going up, you're coercing people away from a free existence where they want to have a McMansion with a big back yard for their kids, 65 miles outside of D.C.
NNAMDIYou're restricting our liberty.
CAROYeah. However, you can make the coercion argument on the other side of that as well, where the last 50 years of federal and regional policy, subsidizing the automobile, our tax system incentivizing the wrong behaviors -- or depending on which side of the debate you're on, wrong behaviors. So it could work both ways.
NNAMDICheryl, who we have not talked about yet, pedestrians, often overlooked in these plans. What's planned in terms of sidewalk and safety at intersections?
CORTWell, what's really helpful with the action plan that DDOT has put forth that was part of this big public effort is that it's really started to enumerate the kinds of pedestrian improvements that we can expect to see. It promises a certain number of intersections to be improved, problem intersections, ones that are really create -- are a barrier for people being able to get around. It promises to do a better job with maintenance of sidewalks, which can create a barrier for people who are vulnerable, who have a disability or who are just fearful of tripping and falling and hurting themselves. And so we're actually really grateful to this plan to lay things out in a clear manner and then be reporting on it regularly.
CORTLast year, the D.C. Council did vote to pay for the backlog in sidewalk maintenance repair -- sidewalk repair and maintenance costs that had been accumulating. And that's great. But the question is, you know, what do we do going forward? And this plan is a good starting point to sort of say, we're going to commit to making these improvements and maintaining these facilities so that people really can get around. It will be safe to cross the street, to walk down the sidewalk.
NNAMDISome of this plan involves studies, including looking at bus lanes, bike lanes and environmental reviews. What do you hope will come of those studies?
CORTWell, we're very excited that the 16th Street bus lane study is moving forward, improvements to a rush-hour bus lane and other improvements that are going to move one of the biggest transit ridership routes in the system. We've been -- transit ride -- riders on 16th Street are very, very frustrated that they have -- they might have five busses pass them by during rush hour. And the busses are completely crammed. So we need a lot of attention to this. We're appreciative -- we appreciate that DDOT is moving forward with this and decision makers are expressing support for assessing how to make this -- how to fix this problem.
NNAMDII want to get to Joe in Sterling, Va. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOEHi. Thanks for having this conversation and taking my call. I'm a new commuter in the area. I'm 23 years old. So I've been here for a while, but just started commuting. And one of your panelists comments earlier struck me, about how my generation, I think they said, tends to prefer not to drive. And I would count myself in that because, to me, driving and especially parking are very stressful and they're work. So when the Silver Line opened up near me, I was really excited -- I'm still pretty excited about it. And when they were talking about building sort of with my generation's preferences in mind, they said, you know, plan for 30 and 40 years in the future.
JOEAnd it made me think of something that, you know, self-driving cars, that technology is...
NNAMDIGlad you brought that up, as a matter of fact because, David Snyder, Robert Thomson, Dr. Gridlock, in The Washington Post yesterday said, "What about technology and the future driverless cars, for example?" Are we anticipating that? Is that something that has to go into our regional traffic planning? We only have about a minute left.
SNYDERThe answer is yes. Technology developments need to be figured into our transportation planning. And it's pretty exciting what can occur. But the experience is, it'll take 10, 20 years or more for a major changeover in the fleet. So, yeah, clearly that needs to be included. The basic approach, in my view, is multi-modal, get as many options out there as we can possibly afford. Let people make their own choices. And I think when they do, we'll find that we'll be able -- if we do those things...
NNAMDIMartin Di Caro...
SNYDER...we'll be able to meet the demand in the future.
NNAMDI...final comment. We only have about 30 seconds left. We haven't talked about busses. What's in store there? And what else did you have to say?
CAROYeah, well, I've -- 30 seconds or 30 minutes?
CAROWell, let me just touch, what Cheryl mentioned about the bus lanes on 16th Street Northwest. There will not be a dedicated bus lane on that corridor until at least 2017. And it should not be looked at as a panacea either. There has to also be off-board payment systems and traffic light optimization working in concert with a dedicated bus lane to really make that work -- and not just on 16th Street, across the city. D.C., despite its transit-oriented nature, does not really have a dedicated bus lane yet. The ones on 7th and 9th don't really count.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Martin Di Caro is WAMU 88.5's transportation reporter. Cheryl Cort is the policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. John Townsend is manager of public and government affairs at AAA's Mid-Atlantic-Washington office. And David Snyder is vice mayor of Falls Church. He's the former chair of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. Thank you all for joining us. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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