I made it to Tommy Wells's meeting on possible changes to M Street
, and there was a bigger crowd than I might have expected, one which seemed to be weighted more heavily toward Southwest residents than Southeast folks. Tommy opened the meeting by talking about how much development is coming to this area that he calls the "most multimodal neighborhood in the world" (with everything from cars to buses to the subway to electric jitneys to water taxis to horse carriages), but that the street itself is does not display the sort of character one might want, and that it's "not an inspiring architectural area saying 'Welcome.' " He has become very interested in the "Complete Streets" concept
, which aims to create road networks that work for pedestrians young and old, cyclists, public transportation users, and drivers. by doing things such as adding dedicated bike lanes, creating safer crosswalks, etc.
Last year he talked to the Toole Design Group and asked them for some basic renderings that would imagine M Street in this new way, for what he called an illustration that he could take to people, which they provided, paid for by the Capitol Riverfront BID. But when he took the resulting drawings to a meeting of the BID's members and *someone* blabbed and posted the designs
as if the changes were coming soon, it "created confusion," he said. (Ahem.) He wanted to make clear that no decisions have been made, but that he does want a dialogue about whether M Street is "really what we need for the uses."
Adam Goldberg of the AARP then did a presentation about Complete Streets, saying that what's good for 50-plus folks is good for younger people, too, and that the basic idea is to create networks that are "safe, comfortable, and convenient for travel by auto, foot, bike, and transit, regardless of age or ability." You can see the 128-page AARP report on "Planning Complete Streets for an Aging America
," and the "In Brief
" sheet he handed out is available as well.
Funds from the Ballpark Performance Parking Pilot
could be used for these sorts of alterations to M Street, and clearly Tommy has a great interest in "transforming" M Street "into a showcase street," though he said that he's not excited about doing it if the community doesn't want it. And there was definitely trepidation in the room about the possibility of shrinking M down to four driving lanes from six, even though Tommy says the 10,000 vehicles a day that M carries could ostensibly be handled by the smaller footprint. Other attendees spoke enthusiastically about the ideas, so there was certainly no consensus from the audience. ANC commissioner Andy Litsky made clear his desire for a traffic and parking study that covers all of Near Southeast and Southwest before embarking on any changes to M Street. (Other speakers were a bit vociferous in their distaste for bike lanes, with the word "elitist" getting tossed around by one particular speaker who seemed especially agitated by the idea.)
There was no indication of what the next steps may be, and indications from the BID meeting a few months back
were that businesses along M (including the Nationals) were expressing some concerns as well, so for now I'd suggest following the above links for more basic background on what sorts of changes are being thought about for M Street, and getting in touch with Tommy's office
with your thoughts. I'm guessing WashCycle
will have coverage of the meeting as well, and I'll link to any posts from them.