Urban planning wonks sound off on proposed GUTS change

Dupont GUTS map

The absurdity of the new, potentially permanent Dupont GUTS bus route, discussed at the 10 year campus plan meeting, caught the attention of Greater Greater Washington, a wonky, “smart growth” blog about D.C.  The issue, mentioned briefly at the top of a list of links, has provoked a 57-comment debate.  Here are some of the more interesting ones:

Most commenters, like Jasper, agreed that the neighbors are being unreasonable, saying the proposed route would add to congestion and create a parking nightmare:

Oh, you’re objecting to the a private university offering free transportation to its students, employees and visitors? Would you rather subsidize WMATA through your taxes? And where exactly, would all those cars be parked? Do you realize that there is a two-year waiting period before employees can actually apply for a (ridiculously overpriced) parking permit?

The only commenter who came down solidly on the neighbors side was Lance, who has posted 14 increasingly absurd comments.  Given his comments, I think it’s fair to say he probably hasn’t ever seen the intersection of Canal Rd. and M Street.  Here are some excerpts (emphasis mine):

GU has a major entrance on Canal Road with roads from there leading to all parts of the campus including the hospital. I think the residents are just saying ‘go make your noise on your own roads instead of ours’ …

[A]sking the buses to use the larger more commercial streets where their noise and vibration is less likely to disturb people in the quiet enjoyment of their homes doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. The riders are still getting to their destinations and from what I can see it’s not taking them any more substantial time to get to their destinations … maybe even less time when you consider that once on GU grounds there’ll be little traffic to impede the buses’ speed …

[T]he idea of banning this private bus system altogether from this historic district should not be off the table … Having a second “public” bus system which is not accountable to the public running through it seems to make little sense …

I get the impression that those who want to see the buses travel narrow residential streets (1) aren’t even interested in open discussion as to whether less intrusive alternatives are possible; (2) ARE fixated on wanting the buses to travel through streets where they perceive the residents as being “uppity” “rich” people in “single family roads”.

This kind of distorted view of who owns city roads, lack of awareness about Georgetown traffic flows and attempts to brand GUTS buses as anti-upper class have provoked some strong responses, like this one from Sensible Person:

1.) As an owner of property, you may feel entitled to certain rights. YOU DID NOT PURCHASE THE ROAD IN FRONT OF YOUR TOWNHOUSE, YOU HAVE NO EXPECTATION OF A BUS-FREE ROADWAY.

2.) Further, property owners SHOULD FUCKING ENCOURAGE THE SUBSIDIZING OF PUBLIC/PRIVATE MASS TRANSIT TO GET PEOPLE OFF THE STREET. It’s unreal that you can sit here and say that removal of GUTS buses passing your Q street residence would bring a reduction in congestion. MORE PEOPLE WOULD JUST DRIVE TO WORK if GUTS service were made ridiculously slow as is proposed.

Many commenters, like Joey, also took issue with ANC commissioner Ron Lewis’ insistence that GUTS buses have no place on Reservoir Road:

Reservoir Road is one of the widest streets in Georgetown (roughly the same width as Wisconsin) …  The absurdity of the Commissioner’s statement was that Reservoir Road is *not* a small side street. It’s a heavily travelled commuter route.

11 Comments on “Urban planning wonks sound off on proposed GUTS change

  1.  by  those posts were made by people who where not there

    Overall, I believe Vox Populi has done a good job with its characterization of the meeting, however on the GUTS issue, I think they are presenting something that is not in its full context. A very small handful (maybe 2-3) had comments regarding the GUTS buses. The vast majority of the conversation if you want to call it “complaining by neighbors” was over the issue of GU not having a more detailed traffic plan for review. This led to general statements by a couple residents in terms of whys and whats. From reading the article, I envisioned a group of very angry residents saying “get off my streets!” NO large loud opposition occured and it is ridiculous to portray it that way. Sorry Vox, but I think there is an underlying attempt to stir up the pot in order for you to market your blog. As a permanent neighbor I am now being viewed by students and others in DC as a NIMBY, rich white person (is that racist?), hater of students, and someone who thinks for whatever reason that is MY road. Sorry, but you all are just flat out wrong on that one. How did this happen? I think it goes back to the leaders. GU and the ANC need to sit down and work this out a little better privately. In living in a variety of college neighborhoods over the years, I have never seen a more strained and divided relationship then at this community. All of us need to step it up towards respect and politeness. These ARE tight quarters and we are very close to saturation (if not fully there). Come on Vox, you can do your part and at least get the context right next time.

  2.  by  Look...

    Come on. First of all, these posts have never characterized YOU as any of that laundry list of negative traits you just listed. It has, however, criticized many of your neighbors for taking positions that do come off as decidedly anti-student and unnecessarily hostile.

    In my view, Georgetown’s neighbors should consider themselves very lucky that the administrators of MY University are so willing to listen to and often even accommodate people who are entirely unaffiliated with GU aside from having chosen to live next to us. The fact that the University would ever, EVER, side with the interests of local residents over the best interests of the students, staff and faculty of Georgetown is, frankly, a damn shame.

  3.  by  Charity

    The response from Sensible Person wasn’t even very good. I mean, I generally agree with the student side of this argument, but the idea that the groups to whom GUTS particularly caters would “JUST DRIVE CARS TO WORK” in lieu of the service is an exaggeration of how many people who utilize the GUTS service own cars (and would spring for parking).

    This is about living standards and property values — pretty reasonable concerns. I’m not saying that the particular traffic complaints here are reasonable, but pretending that the only legitimate concerns that homeowners have, and ought to have, are those immediately within their property lines is pretty damn naive.

  4.  by  those posts were made by people who where not there

    “neighbors should consider themselves very lucky that the administrators of MY University are so willing to listen to and often even accommodate people who are entirely unaffiliated with GU aside from having chosen to live next to us.”

    Is that what GU teaches in school? We are bigger and badder then you, so we do what we want and go screw yourself. That entitlement attitude is exactly what I am talking about. There will always be a gate and outside the schools gates there is a community that falls under the rules and laws of the City of DC. This attitude of we don’t have to follow YOUR laws and regulations because we are GU is only going to make matters worse. I had hoped some of you on this blog may think about attitude and respect, but I guess that is a lost cause here. Go ahead and blast away……..

  5.  by  Charity

    I agree. The problem with that paragraph is that if you replace “MY University” and “GU” with “my house,” this would rightly read as the rant of an insufferably entitled neighbor.

  6.  by  Hoya

    People are still missing the fact that GUTS buses are being removed from Q-street where not 1, not 2, not 3 but FOUR different metro buses travel (D1, D2, D3, D6). I dont understand why they are kicking off GUTS buses, which are often smaller buses, for noise. How are they any different than the metro buses that go into Glover Park or Sibley? Can residents really hear the different between a GUTS and metro bus? I doubt it. Is taking GUTS off that route going to make Q street significantly quieter? I doubt that further.

    It seems like a few neighbors are targeting the University simply because they can.

  7.  by  Look...

    Fine, maybe I should have said, “the university” instead of “my university” but the point still stands. You make it sound as if I am saying GU should be willing to break laws and intrude on neighbors because I feel entitled as some big bad Hoya.

    That couldn’t be further from the truth. There are no laws being broken and no more intrusion than is already caused by metro buses. All I’m saying is that the actions the university takes to engage the community on this issue are decidedly voluntary and, should they accept this new proposed route, are doing a great disservice to the people GUTS actually serves.

  8.  by  kristin

    i think that the neighbor who commented above was absolutely right. it’s easy to read these and be angry about what we perceive to be unfair treatment – but treatment by a (very outspoken) minority at best.

    a similar thing happened when i was in high school, when a woman who lived on the street next to the school used to put her trash bins out in the street to prevent people from parking there. extremely frustrating and also illegal.

    i think what we need to do is, instead of alienating people by lumping all neighbors into “elitists who think they own the streets,” is to accept that our complaining isn’t going to do anything about it, and instead to actually do something about it.

    if we can get representation in the anc, we can stir up a lot of legitimate support

  9.  by  Charity

    No, the point doesn’t still stand, and a distinction between “the university” and “my university” was in no way the point. Their actions are not voluntary; they’re necessarily diplomatic. The idea that the university can exist, evolve and expand in the long-term in the absence of political cooperation with the communities that surround it — amidst a self-centered antagonism toward those communities’ self-interest, no less — is just silly.

  10.  by  Look...

    Charity, you ignored everything I said. In no way did I say the University shouldn’t or doesn’t need to engage the community now or in the future. I agree that a positive dialogue is obviously necessary and desirable for both parties.

    The university, on this particular issue, is going well beyond what is “necessarily diplomatic” by actually allowing what you and your fellow neighbors are describing as a vocal minority to significantly and detrimentally alter a university program. And I needn’t mention that this is far from this first time this has happened. You seem to argue that self-interest is only acceptable when it is the communities’ and not the students’, staff’s and faculty’s.

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