Small Setbacks Not Stopping Capital Bikeshare from Improving, Expanding Service

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The District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) Capital Bikeshare system has experienced a record-breaking year of ridership, with over 1 million rides taken since June 1. With so much demand for bikesharing, we’ve received many questions about when we will be able to add more Capital Bikeshare stations and bikes in the District. Here are some answers:

Recently Installed Bikeshare Stations 

In June, our Capital Bikeshare operations contractor (Alta Bicycle Share) was able to obtain some much-needed hardware to address our immediate expansion needs. We have installed three new stations in the past few months (at 24th Street and New Hampshire Avenue NW; 34th Street and Water Street NW and at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library). We have also added docks to several existing downtown stations to accommodate rush-hour demand. Our Capital Bikeshare partners in Arlington County, Montgomery County and the City of Alexandria have added new stations as well.

In The Queue 

We still have approximately 10 more new stations to install in the District this year and we are working through our placement list (below) to identify 10 of 12 potential locations, which we developed based on member input, user demand and other demographic criteria such as population and employment density:

Twelve potential locations for future Capital Bikeshare stations.

Twelve potential locations for future Capital Bikeshare stations.

  • 1st Street and K Street NE
  • 5th Street and Florida Avenue NE
  • Division Avenue and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE
  • 11th Street and S Street NW
  • 14th Street and Irving Street NW
  • 15th Street and L Street NW
  • 17th Street and G Street NW
  • 18th Street and R Street NW
  • 19th Street and G Street NW
  • Connecticut Avenue and McKinley Street NW
  • Georgia Avenue and Missouri Avenue NW
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue (at St. Elizabeths Campus)

We are consulting with Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, property owners and Business Improvement Districts to pin down exact spots for these station locations. However, some of these locations may not pan out, and some may take longer than others to finalize.

Resolving Issues, Looking Ahead

Recently, we experienced some setbacks with the some Capital Bikeshare vendors. We continue to plan for a larger expansion of Capital Bikeshare, but there is still some uncertainty about our supply of new equipment.  In addition to the bankruptcy last year of the company that makes the bikeshare equipment, the two companies that worked together on the hardware and software components of the system have discontinued their partnership.

We like to view these setbacks as small bumps in bringing forth a mode of transportation that is just coming into its own. Moving forward, the manufacturer of the software and circuitry for our Capital Bikeshare stations has committed to producing an all-new, enhanced bikeshare station that will work seamlessly with our existing system. We haven’t yet had a chance to test this new station, and cannot commit to a larger-scale expansion of Capital Bikeshare in the District until we are fully satisfied that this new hardware meets or exceeds our requirements. However, our hope is that by Spring 2015, we will be announcing the arrival of 40 or more new stations that will bring Capital Bikeshare to many more DC residents, workers, and destinations.

 

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Careful Driving Enhances District’s Safe Routes to School

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A parent makes a 3-point turn outside a District school.

Throughout the District children are once again traveling to school and, while doing so, encountering traffic safety problems.

While some of the traffic safety problems near District schools are caused by commuters who speed or fail to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, some are caused by parents who are just trying to get their children to school.

If you happen to find yourself outside a school during arrival or dismissal, there’s a good chance you’ll see parents making illegal U-turns, blocking a travel lane, parking on top of a crosswalk, or stopping across the street from the school and sending their kids across the street, mid-block, between moving cars.

The traffic chaos outside schools can become so extreme that parents decide to drive their children to school–instead of walking–to keep their children safe. This is a Catch 22: the more cars that arrive at a school, the more all the children at the school are exposed to traffic danger.

DDOT’s Safe Routes to School program is available to assist schools with solving these types of problems. The program, which is aimed at elementary and middle schools, works to make it safer for students to walk and bike to school and to encourage more students to do so. Among many other elements, the program works with schools to make sure that there is a safe arrival and dismissal system in place for parents who drive to school. To learn more about the Safe Routes to School program, please contact program coordinator Jennifer Hefferan at 202-671-2227 or Jennifer.Hefferan@dc.gov.

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Enhanced Bus Service Prioritized in DDOT’s 16th Street NW Action Plan

A southbound S4 Metrobus, headed to Federal Square, leaves a bus stop near the intersection of 16th Street and U Street NW.

A southbound S4 Metrobus departs from a bus stop near the intersection of 16th Street and U Street NW.

This past winter and spring, we heard a lot about the challenges faced by bus riders on 16th Street NW. 16th Street NW was part of an original network of bus lanes in the District, and currently carries around 21,000 riders every weekday. The buses actually carry more people than cars do during peak hours.

In 2011, DDOT received a petition from residents requesting the installation of a bus-only lane along the 16th Street NW corridor, from H Street to Eastern Avenue. DDOT agreed to undertake such a study and the 16th Street NW Safety and Mobility report was completed in 2013. One of the main goals of this study was to determine whether the corridor could support a bus-only lane. The report’s final analysis showed that a dedicated bus lane between H Street and Arkansas Avenue would lead to measurable gains in bus efficiency and travel time during peak times, but also noted some of the challenges that could come up if bus lanes were implemented.

Since the release of the report, DDOT has continued to receive petitions from residents and various Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) in support of a dedicated bus lane on the corridor, and we’ve taken note.

  • DDOT’s draft moveDC plan has identified 16th Street NW as a transit priority corridor. Our draft moveDC report designates 16th Street NW as one of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) 24 Bus Priority Corridors in the metropolitan region. These 24 corridors carry over half of all of the bus riders in the region.
  • DDOT is committed to improving bus service on the 16thStreet NW corridor and we have developed an action plan that will continue to improve service in the corridor. In the past five years, the addition of the S9 limited stop service and more service in the southern part of the corridor has increased  ridership by around 5,000 riders a day, and yet there are still problems: buses bunch, get stuck in traffic and passengers have a hard time onboarding and off-boarding.
The section of 16th Street NW that DDOT is studying for transit improvements.

The section of 16th Street NW that DDOT is studying for transit improvements.

Quick Signal Optimization (July 2014): DDOT recently completed a focused signal optimization timing plan for the 44 signals along 16th Street NW between H Street and Portal Drive. The preliminary assessments show that this  led to travel-time savings, and DDOT will continue to evaluate the results over the next 6-8 weeks.

Additional Articulated Buses (August 2014): Later this month, WMATA will add additional articulated buses to the corridor. These longer buses will add more bus capacity on the corridor and will hopefully help get people on and off buses in a more efficient manner.

Potential “Enhanced Rush Hours” (Fall 2014): DDOT is exploring the possibility of extending rush hours along 16th Street NW by up to an hour in each direction. These would enable buses at the tail ends of the morning and evening rush hours to make up some time and improve operational efficiency.

Transit Signal Priority (TSP) and Full-Scale Signal Optimization (mid-2015): DDOT is already working hard on a citywide signal-optimization project. The northern area of the city, including 16th Street NW, will get a full-blown network optimization in mid-2015. Around the same time, DDOT and WMATA will also optimize traffic signals along 16th Street NW and in some other major bus corridors so that buses can have a little extra “green time,” which will lead to less bus back-ups and quicker travel times.

Transit Priority Study (2015-2016): In 2015, DDOT plans to conduct a transit priority study that will examine various alternative approaches for improving transit along the 16th Street NW corridor, including examining the potential for bus lanes. The study—which will be conducted with public involvement—will take approximately one year to complete, and will identify specific long-term capital needs for improving transit service in the corridor.

Throughout all the phases of our 16th Street NW Action Plan, DDOT will be collecting data and evaluating performance of buses and the broader transportation network. As the District continues to grow, we think 16th Street NW can be a model for improving public transit and maximizing  our large roads so that they can efficiently move people and support healthy neighborhood life.

 

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Three-Quarters of District Roads Are in Fair to Excellent Condition

DDOT crews smooth freshly-laid asphalt on 16th Street NW.

DDOT crews smooth freshly-laid asphalt on 16th Street NW.

According to District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Chief Engineer Muhammed Khalid, the roadways within the District that DDOT maintains are in a much better state than reported. Three-quarters (75 percent) of the District’s roads are rated in fair to excellent condition, which is contrary to a report that categorizes 95 percent of the city’s streets as being in poor condition.

DDOT uses Pavement Condition Index (PCI) to rate the condition of its roadways. The Pavement Condition Index is a standard method based on a 100-point scale (100 being the best). This index is a nationally-recognized method of rating streets and is more suited to measuring the condition of District roads.

For a full list of the roads that DDOT plans to pave—and has paved—in FY 2014, please visit our website.

 

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What Lazy Days of Summer?

Creating and maintaining a safe transportation network is a year-round job. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is committed not only to safety but to efficiency; so it can’t afford to take a summer vacation. That’s why DDOT is keeping its nose to the grindstone through those hazy and lazy summer days.

DDOT is working on the following priorities:

  • DC Streetcar’s H/Benning Line—Launch passenger service on DC Streetcar before the end of the year. We’ve fast-tracked operator training; work on the Car Barn Training Center and Storage Facility; launched our #staywithinthelines safety campaign that educates the public on parking near streetcar tracks; and emergency drill will schedule simulations with the District’s emergency response teams to ensure the safety of future passengers in any situation.
  • Metrobus Services—Finalize plans to improve Metrobus service along the 16th Street NW corridor.
  • moveDC Plan—Analyze and implement recommendations from the public to develop the final moveDC Plan, which is scheduled to be released September 30. The public comment period is open until July 31.
  • Restoration Work Plan FY2014 —Continue to pave and restore streets, alleys and sidewalks in the District as part of  DDOT’s FY 14 Work Plan. DDOT is on track to add about $8 million to restore sidewalks and alleys as well.
  • SafetyComplete safety improvements at the intersection of Maryland Avenue, 7th Street and D Street NE.
  • Streamline Efficiency and Services—DDOT’s creating changes  that will help the agency further streamline service requests and relay status updates about service requests to the public in a clearer fashion.

This is just a small sample of what DDOT’s been doing over the past several months. However, we realize that there is always more to do, which is why we are:

  • Continuing to engage our residents to improve customer service.
  • Improving transparency, becoming clearer with the public about what we’re doing—from individual service requests to large infrastructure projects.
  • Working to make our 22-mile DC Streetcar Plan a reality.

At DDOT, we’re working every day to improve our services, our efficiency and our track record. However, we encourage you to continue to help to push us forward. When you attend agency meetings—or communicate with us via social media, emails or in any other way—it helps us to grow as an agency, shape our future decisions and better serve you, the residents of the District of Columbia.

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In the Lab: DDOT’s QA/QC Division Ensures Street Paving Materials Are Up to Spec

An asphalt sample after it has been spun into a cylinder by a gyratory compacter.

An asphalt sample after it has been spun into a cylinder by a gyratory compacter.

DDOT’s Quality Assurance / Quality Control (QA/QC) Division has a universal impact on almost every infrastructure project that DDOT has a hand in.

The QA/QC Division operates as the spine of DDOT’s road management system, shouldering the responsibility of ensuring the safety of the city’s  infrastructure by               ensuring that all materials utilized in DDOT-related construction projects meet the standards established by the District and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Before DDOT, or DDOT contractors, use any material in the construction projects involving bridges or roadways (eg, asphalt, metal used for beams, concrete) it must first past the muster of a test or review by the QA/QC division. The division serves as DDOT’s auditor of the materials that the agency and its contractors use and ensures that the substance of the city’s infrastructure can stand the test of time.

In addition to testing the materials that the agency and its contractors use, the division conducts geotechnical studies, troubleshoots problems related to roadway and bridge construction projects and resolves citizens’ concerns about roadway vibration and drainage issues.

The Wheat from the Chaff

Several buildings off of the McMillan Reservoir, near Howard University, serve as the QA/QC Division’s laboratory and testing facilities.  One of the structures, a square warehouse fronted by a large garage door, was built by industrious members of the division in the early 1980s, and houses machines that test the dexterity of concrete used in construction around the District.

In this building, engineers test “wet”  samples of concrete that are slated to be used in construction projects, and analyze cylinder-shaped samples of concrete that are usurped from finished roadway and bridge projects. These “core drill” samples are usually taken once every 50 cubic yards to ensure the uniformity of the quality of the concrete used in a project.

Nearby, engineers operate specialized machines that test another ubiquitous material used in construction: asphalt.

As is the practice in the division’s concrete tests, QA/QC engineers test asphalt samples that are taken before and after the materials are installed.

QA/QC engineers place asphalt samples in an ignition oven, which heats the material at 1,000°F.

In the lab, the “aggregate” (asphalt’s rock base) and the “binder” (the oil-based sludge that holds asphalt together) are mixed and subjected to a gyratory compacter that spins the compound to produce a condensed cylinder of material that is comparable to asphalt that is crushed into the street by an asphalt roller (pictured above).  Hot asphalt samples taken from the field are also burned at 1,000°F, to separate the aggregates from the binder, and   subjected to a variety of tests.

These tests–like all of the experiments the QA/QC division performs–ensures that the District is getting an adequate return on what it spends on infrastructure and that DDOT, and its contractors, are using the appropriate materials to keep the District’s streets safe.

 

 

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DDOT Showcases Historic Photos, Documents Online

Streetcar tracks line M Street NW near 30th Street, circa December 8, 1959.

One of the many photos on DDOT’s new tumblr page: Streetcar tracks line M Street NW near 30th Street, circa December 8, 1959.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) would like to announce the debut of its new tumblr page – an online resource for historic, transportation-related photos and documents.

The agency’s tumblr page is an effort to showcase the District’s transportation past and give the public a look into the collections that are housed in DDOT’s Library and Archives. DDOT’s Library has an extensive amount of historical photos, documents, and books that the agency is working to digitize. Some of these digitized relics will be posted on DDOT’s tumblr for everyone to enjoy.

To view DDOT’s tumblr page, please visit: ddotdc.tumblr.com.

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