The last time University officials discussed the transportation aspect of the 2010 Campus Plan back in May, they said they were tentatively planning to send the Dupont GUTS bus through the Canal Road entrance, meaning the shuttle route would be extended to the experimental 4.7 mile test route permanently. At last night’s meeting presenting the University’s first draft of its transportation plans, University officials made it clear that the rerouting isn’t just tentative—it’s now part of the University’s preferred draft plan.
Vice President for Facilities and Student Housing Karen Frank, who presented the University’s transportation plans to neighbors last night, explained that Georgetown would like to build a loop road on the west side of campus (as illustrated above) which would allow more buses to use the Canal Road entrance.
When the University requested the rights to build the Canal Road entrance in its last ten year plan it promised neighbors that the new entrance would be used for GUTS buses. Georgetown students, faculty and staff have been spared from the extended route thus far thanks to the fact that the current set-up of the parking lot near McDonough makes it nearly impossible for buses to turn around on campus.
The other problem is that between 6:15 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. on weekdays—prime rush hour time—drivers are not permitted to make left turns off of the Canal Road entrance. If the University could get the left-turn prohibition lifted and build the loop road, all buses besides the Wisconsin Avenue route would be able to enter and exit through Canal Road.
The potential roadblock for the plan is the Park Service, which owns the land west of campus that abuts the proposed loop road. While the road would be on GU property, the University has an agreement with the Park Service to only use that part of campus for service vehicles. Frank said she is pushing for the definition of “service vehicles” to be any vehicle “dedicated to the University,” which would include GUTS buses. However, Frank said, the Park Service is “not real easy to work with.”
While Georgetown’s northern neighbors were pleased that there would be fewer buses on their residential streets, residents of Foxhall and the Palisades protested that Canal Road traffic is already at near-gridlock levels without adding more GUTS buses into the mix.
How fast could the plan be enacted? While Frank would not elaborate on what the University’s prioritization of the project would be, when one resident pressed her for more immediate fixes, saying the new routes couldn’t be enacted within the next two or three years, Frank replied, “I wouldn’t be so sure.”
Frank acknowledged in her presentation that GUTS users had raised some objections to the changes in terms of the inconvenience and environmental impact of extending the route. She also said that using the Canal Road entrance exclusively would inconvenience students who use the bus to get to the Car Barn.
“I’ve made student concerns known,” Aaron Golds (COL ’11), the student representative on Georgetown’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission said after the meeting. “I’ve taken it as far as I can [in terms of voicing student concerns], but I will continue to do so”
The other major issue discussed at last night’s meeting was on-campus parking. The University wants to add a total of 1,000 new parking spots—500 for GU, 500 for the hospital. The hospital is working on their plan separately, and the University’s new spots would all be added to the parking lots on the southwest end of campus.
While some neighbors from West Georgetown were pushing the University to find better ways to get people to park on campus rather than in the community, others who live in Foxhall and the Palisades were worried about additional traffic flows on Canal Road.
“There is a problem,” ANC Chair Ron Lewis said during the meeting. “And the problem is that people who come to your classes are jamming up our streets by parking. It’s not our role, it’s not our job to figure out the solution—it’s the University’s. But there is the problem. And unless the problem goes away, it’s going to be a problem for the plan.”
There was one parking issue all the neighbors were worried about: undergraduates with cars. Frank assured neighbors that undergraduates living in University-owned housing were not allowed to have cars and that the Registrar would not provide them with the proof of residency required to register a vehicle in D.C.
Neighbors were unconvinced, though, and pushed administrators to add a line to the Code of Student Conduct explicitly prohibiting students who live on-campus from bringing cars with them. Frank refused, saying there would be no way to enforce such a rule and that “there’s now way I’m going out on the streets to patrol.”
Next week will be a biggie for 2010 Campus Plan fans. Not only will the administrators be holding their first meeting with students on Tuesday, they’ll also be meeting with the neighbors three times.
The next neighbor meeting will be on Monday and will tackle the University’s plans for the 1789 block (the block between N and Prospect Streets and 36th and 37th Streets). The University is hoping to build an infill there for graduate and faculty housing. Although the plans are still in their draft form, they are currently considering converting six undergraduate student houses on N Street into housing for graduate students or faculty.
Map from the University’s transportation presentation [PDF].