The 10 Year Campus Plan: GUTS Busted

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The University is formulating its 2010 Campus Plan, which, once it passes ANC and D.C. Zoning Commission muster, will dictate how the University can expand over the next decade. Previous Campus Plans excluded neighborhood input in their planning stages, much to the neighbors’ dismay. So this summer, University officials will hold a series of meetings to gather community input. For those of you who aren’t here, Vox will be attending all meetings and recapping them here on the blog. Keep in mind that the proposals under discussion are only tentative. At the same time, they do comprise, as University architect Alan Brangman told Vox, Georgetown University’s “wishlist.”

As Kate mentioned on Tuesday, at Saturday’s community meeting Georgetown’s permanent residents were just as down on the University’s affect on local traffic as they were on its students’ behavior. It should come as no surprise then that a major portion of the afternoon session focused on the University’s transportation plan, especially GUTS buses.

Historically cited for noise and even house-shaking, on Saturday, the neighbors and attendant ANC representatives described GUTS buses as both carelessly piloted and wreaking havoc on Reservoir Road traffic (speaking to the former charge, a University official said that the Georgetown had implemented better training for drivers a couple years ago, but that perhaps further improvements could be made).

ANC commissioner Ron Lewis said, “They’re still in our communities and on Reservoir Road in our neighborhood and that is unacceptable.” The neighbors seemed to agree and collectively insisted that the University included a provision in its 10 Year Plan that all buses use the Canal Road entrance to leave and enter the school—a demand University officials seems ready to comply with.

That’s right: on the University’s “wish list” is a tentative plans to send all buses in and out Canal Road, with the exception of the Wisconsin Avenue bus. Most noticeably altered would be the Dupont Circle bus route. Instead of its traditional 2.1 mile route, it would permanently follow the 4.7 mile test-route it has been using recently in spite of student protestations.

While there are many caveats to the University’s plan—including the need to coordinate with the Federal Highway Association and possibly the D.C. Department of Transportation (neither of which the University has spoken to) in order to make the left turn onto M Street from Canal Road less insanely difficult on weekday mornings—administrators did not mention basic convenience for GUTS passengers as one of them.

Besides rerouting most of its 29 GUTS buses, the University is looking to reduce their numbers by potentially replacing them with Circulator buses that would stop closer to campus and encouraging use of other WMATA buses. (Keep in  mind that both make additional stops and neither is free.)

Lewis said this was not a desirable solution if it meant that WMATA would increase the number of buses running through the neighborhood. A University administrator stressed that it was only a suggestion, and that coming up with a plan suitable to neighborhood residents was difficult because, “we haven’t looked at these buses ever any other way than the way we get people on and off campus.”

This plan may yield one positive change for students, the potential greening of Tondorf Road. In order for GUTS buses entering Georgetown by Canal Road to be able to loop around and exit the same way (which University Architect Alan Brangman said they cannot do using the existing road structure), Georgetown will need to construct a service road behind campus, which would eliminate the need for Tondorf to be open to service vehicles.

The new service road, ‘Park Road,’ would require the approval of the Park Service, whose land is adjacent to the strip the road would be built on. Lewis was not confident that the University would be able to get their approval, but Brangman noted coolly that there is an easement within which the University is authorized to build a service road. Pressed for a “Plan B,” Brangman noted that they could construct a “turnaround”—although the former would have the benefit of enabling buses to pickup passengers near the hospital.

Conversation about the University’s parking plan followed. Earlier, Lewis’ case against additional housing on the 1789 block included a plea that the University not “add cars to already saturated streets.” So unsurprisingly, the University’s potential plan for parking—which is to split 1,000 new parking spaces between the new hospital facility and potential convocation center—had neighbors in a tizzy over how big events on campus would exacerbate traffic problems on Canal Road and Prospect Street.

32 Comments on “The 10 Year Campus Plan: GUTS Busted

  1. Thanks for the update!

    If there are going to be further meetings about the GUTS buses, please let us know! I know that there are a lot of graduate students living off-campus that rely on the bus to get to and from school every day that are very concerned about these potential changes. I, for one, am likely to start driving to campus if the route changes like this–it isn’t worth the 30 minutes on the bus each way for me. I’m sure the Georgetown residents who want this change, wouldn’t be too happy about more people parking on their streets!

  2. Perhaps the University should just bend over at all meetings from now on.

  3. The argument that GUTS buses shouldn’t be allowed to drive on public roads, that transporting students, staff, and visitors to and from Georgetown through the surrounding neighborhoods is “unacceptable”, is beyond the pale. Residents certainly have many legitimate complaints about Georgetown students–drunkenness, garbage, and general disorderliness among them, though not to the extent that the neighbors seem to believe. These are legitimate complaints because people have a right to live in a reasonably quiet, reasonably clean neighborhood. They do not have a right to regulate perfectly reasonable uses of the roads they live on.

    What really bothers me about this complaint, though, is its classist nature. If the DuPont GUTS route was extended from 2.1 miles to 4.7 miles, the principle victims would be Georgetown staff, many of who rely on GUTS buses to transport them to and from campus. Lewis and the other residents are suggesting a change which would hugely burden staff members by more than doubling their commuting time, just so residents won’t be forced to see/hear GUTS buses drive by.

    GU administrators, most of whom have cars and drive to campus, seem prepared to subject the men and women that Georgetown depends on to an enormous disadvantage for the sake of a negligible gain of the residents. This blindness to the needs of Georgetown’s staff, in service of our wealthy neighbors’ petty complaints, is shocking and disappointing, even at Georgetown.

    As much as residents of Georgetown attempt to close off the neighborhood to those unable to afford a multi-million dollar townhouse, the fact is that they live next to a university campus which people need to be transported to and from. Surely this is not an unreasonable demand. If Georgetown residents truly crave isolation this much, perhaps they should move to a gated community in the lovely Virginia suburbs.

  4. Amen, Sam! I hope that enough students protest to stop these absurd route changes from becoming permanent. Kudos to Vox for keeping us informed!

  5. This is particularly appalling because the ANC is supposed to represent ALL residents of Georgetown, including students, not just rich white people who want to turn the neighborhood into their private country club.

    Unfortunately, the situation won’t improve unless students actively ORGANIZE to throw these ANC bums out of office or at least put severe pressure on them to represent all of their constituents. One way to accomplish the latter is through showing up in numbers at meetings like these. In that regard, holding these meetings over the summer was a clueless move on the part of the administration; since students aren’t able to attend, the NIMBY types were able to monopolize the discussion.

    GUSA and other campus groups need to take a page from our current President and organize the student body in support of vital services like GUTS. Real change is a goal well within Georgetown students’ reach – given students’ strength in numbers throughout the neighborhood and the usual low turnout for ANC elections, they could easily flip several ANC seats. I have no idea why the administration isn’t leveraging the organizing power of students in support of their campus development goals.

  6. First off, I agree with Sam that this is a terrible imposition on a majority of the university’s employees.

    Anonymous, students should attend these meetings and organize against changing the bus route. But there are a lot of problems with voting ANC people out. Students would have to register in the District, and you’d have to actually find students who wanted to hold the seats. The hardest part, though, would actually be taking over an ANC district, since they’re geographically zoned.

  7. This is frustrating, angering, and upsetting. I’m stunned that the school will so readily submit to the demands of somebody who has the audacity and nerve to say that our standard-sized school buses cannot use “their” roads. To think that Reservoir Road is owned by a select few and monitored accordingly… I can’t believe it. Vox, please do continue updating on this, and I second those who have mentioned wanting to know when meeting times are or more ways we can get involved. This is obscene.

  8. I agree with everything that has been said above me. But you have to also look at this from the school’s perspective. I think that the administration is bending over backwards in hopes that pacifying the neighbors will reduce the likelihood of any “fits” over major construction projects (especially a massive hospital addition). I don’t agree with how the administration is going about this (not giving the students’ and employees’ view), and wish the neighbors weren’t so whiney, but the university is more concerned with the future layout of the campus. I just hope we don’t get shafted on both fronts, with longer bus routes and major construction projects shot down.

  9. I agree with almost all that has been said above. The sticking point for me with the buses is the fact that they all drive on public roads. If the neighbors are so concerned about buses in the neighborhood, they should move to have the ANC or relevant traffic-regulating boards pass an ordinance banning vehicles over a certain gross vehicle weight on the roads in question. But politically, this isn’t possible, since delivery vehicles (UPS, Fed-Ex, suppliers, etc.) and WMATA use the same roads. If they can’t win against the big interests, they are going to go where they have the best chance of success, in this case, Georgetown. I don’t have an issue with the neighbors having a problem with buses on their streets; that is a position they are entitled to have. But if they want to do anything about it, they should do it the right way and put everyone on a level playing field. I am not holding my breath.

  10. Have to agree that public relations is trumping good sense here.

  11. This is appalling. Georgetown residents do not have the right to decide who or what can or cannot use public roads. I want to know when the next one of these meetings is and I will be there. We live here too Ron! It’s time he got voted off his high horse!

  12. This is flatly ridiculous. That neighbors next to an arterial road are surprised when all of the sudden vehicles pop up is simply ridiculous. These roads are not sovriegn territory of the ANC, they are for publci use, and I consder these move to be simply incomprehensible. The wear and tear (and noise for that matter) residents put on the road with their individual cars far exceeds what busses do on a per person basis. The fact that students are so powerless to this change makes me feel so frustrated at times.

  13. To those who expressed a wish to stay informed on campus plan issues: the University has agreed to hold additional “subset” meetings throughout the summer to cover specific areas like transportation/GUTS buses and student housing, in addition to the two meetings left that administrators had already planned to have with the community (four were originally scheduled – two have already happened, last November’s and last week’s; the other two should occur next Sept/Oct-ish and Nov/Dec-ish).

    Keep checking Vox for updates on when and where subset meetings will be held

  14. Kudos, Vox, excellent work keeping all of us informed. You have done all Georgetown students a tremendous public service!

  15. this makes me so angry. there has to be something we can do about this. thanks for keeping us in the loop

  16. @kristin from EcoAction, I hadn’t really thought about it before, but the environmental implications of extending the route from 2.1 miles to 4.7 miles–a lot of unnecessary extra pollution from the GUTS buses–are pretty unseemly as well.

  17. With the slow campus news over the summer and the renewed prominence of the neighbors in light of the campus plan, any chance of bringing back your seemingly defunct “better know an ANC commissioner” segment?

  18. @Rob, we’re going to bring back the segment. I’m shooting for one of the Bills as my next interview, since they were both at the meeting.

  19. It’s true that students might have to register in DC to vote in ANC elections themselves. But even if they didn’t, there’s probably a silent majority of permanent Georgetown residents who don’t hate the University. In addition to that, there are many alums who live in the neighborhood and would probably speak out in support of the University if called upon to do so.

    A coordinated student and University organizing effort could make sure the voice of this silent majority is heard in the city planning process alongside that of the NIMBY “get off my lawn” types, who are impossible to please no matter how many concessions you make. Don’t believe me? Do some googling and check out how the NIMBY crazies in Tenleytown and Cleveland Park have kept a new Giant from being built for decades, even though Giant has bent over backwards to accommodate their “concerns.”

  20. Statements such as “hate the university,” “nimby,” “their roads,” “rich white people,” etc.. Come on everyone, you are above being racists and calling neighbors “hating..” This really does not help your cause at all. As a long time resident, and watching this groundhog day over and over again, there is a truth out there, but in your search for it be careful of the path you are laying for yourself. Maybe you want to look internally before randomly venting:

    1. Why does GU Ecoaction permit extreme littering around many of the student occupied housing (including GU-owned properities)? Is there a different standard?

    2. Why are students (who pay MAJOR bucks) willing to live in subpar housing conditions that landlords are becoming very wealthy off of? Many residents are willing to help them with these issues via cooperating with GU and the City of DC. Should GU help them with better ON-campus housing alternatives that are more affordable as well?

    3. Why attack neighbors (who do not hate students or GU) but are haters of rat infestion, pollution, vandalism and serious noise violations? Do you honestly like a rat to run across your feet while your sitting outside?

    4. Realize there will always be town-gown frontlines and relations. If you take over one block or one issue there will always be the next block or next issue. You have to find a balance that mutually respects and works TOGETHER in the end. Anonymous, you need to chill.

    5. Also, there seems to be a common “we are bigger and have been here longer” philosophy among the students. This entitlement attitude is showing the world your are considering yourself privileged over others. This has been stated numerous times by students. i.e.” if neighbors don’t like it here, they can leave” Not cool.

    Anyway, agree or disagree that is up to you. At least we all have a right to our opinions. I wish all of the GU students the best, and I hope they can do the same with the community.

  21. Damn. I go out of town one weekend and miss a community meeting that has juiced no fewer than four seriously substantial posts for you guys. Good work.

    Frankly I think it’s ridiculous to force this rerouting. Ultimately the best solution would be to resurface Reservoir Rd. with a vibration dampening surface (the Georgetown Transportation Study recommended this) and to purchase smaller buses and run them more frequently.

    In the meantime, it does appear that GU is sacrificing student interests with an eye towards gaining good will before major construction projects. Not sure there’s much you can do about that.

    If only there were some germane analogy I could use. Maybe something about GU throwing the students under the something-or-other…

  22. As an alum, let me give you 3 pieces of advice on how to fight the ANC’s anti-GUTS nuttiness:

    1. Run as many candidates for ANC2E as you can. I know they’ve gerrymandered it so that Campus coincides with seat 4. (See http://www.anc2e.com/anc2emap.html) But if you get off-campus students to run for seats 1, 2, 3, and 5, you may lose the vote, but you will force the “town” candidates to moderate their anti-student bias in order to fend off the challenge.

    2. Get the Student Association to talk to your City Councilman, Jack Evans, about getting a DC Circulator to replace the DuPont shuttle. If the bus made a couple stops on Q St, soon the locals would start using it for their work commutes, and they’d end up being the bus’s strongest supporters.

    3. Don’t be afraid to talk to regular University employees, especially hospital staff. For these guys, travelling to & from campus is not an option — it’s how they get to work every day. The University tends to forget that most of its employees are ordinary folks who can’t afford to drive a car to work every day, but when the employees remind them, the University tends to snap to its senses REALLY fast.

  23. Tom, do you really think running student candidates will make traditional candidates soften their stance? It seems like it would only encourage differeniation.

  24. So, what’s the ANC going to do about the Metro buses? They run through the neighborhood, too.

  25. If they reroute, I think it will probably be faster just to walk from Dupont rather than sit on the bus in traffic.

  26. Michael, when the route first changed someone in the neighborhood was asked the same question about Metro buses. They said Metro was fine, since they serve people in Georgetown neighborhood.

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  28. @sam sweeney, that’s the original reason ecoaction joined up with gula in attempts to fight this

    @scratchingmynose, obviously we don’t condone student littering – much like we don’t condone anyone littering. however, we don’t have the time or the resources to go around being peoples’ personal trash collectors… all we can do is try to make sure that there are trashcans and recycling bins available (which we ARE trying!) and to encourage people to dispose of their recyclables/trash properly… we can’t do it for them though

  29. Pingback: Vox Populi » Greater Greater Washington thinks D buses should replace Dupont GUTS

  30. Pingback: Vox Populi » Georgetown residents form two new groups to address town-gown issues

  31. Pingback: Vox Populi » 2010 Campus Plan: Transportation plans would send Dupont GUTS through Canal Road

  32. Pingback: On-campus housing not the answer for Georgetown University | DC Students Speak

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