DDOT Delivers Radio Show – Haley Peckett, Transportation Planner

DDOT Delivers Radio Show – Haley Peckett, Transportation Planner


Hello everybody I’m Terry Owens with the
District Department of Transportation better known as DDOT and welcome to DDOT
delivers each week we try and take you inside the agency for a look at what
we’re doing to serve residents and visitors to the District of Columbia.
Today we’ll be discussing the K Street transit way a major initiative for the
district and the agency first this background from a recent event that
included mayor Muriel Bowser K Street Northwest is indeed an international
destination home to hotels conference centers restaurants offices and more
150,000 people travel along this corridor every day every day 28,000
vehicles use K Street and 40% of all people who travel east and west across
our city are K Street bus passengers with a 122 million dollar investment
we’re going to completely redesign K Street between 12th Street and 21st
Street we have to build and reinforce a culture that prioritizes the proper use
of our space and when we do that we know that we will continue to build a city
and invest in an infrastructure that will allow us to keep up with the growth
of Washington DC. So how does DDOT plan to reimagine K Street when can we expect
to see the work begin how will this project improve bus transportation and
what does it mean for everyone else here to help answer those questions and more
is Haley Peckett she’s a transportation planner and our planning and
sustainability division at the district Department of Transportation Haley
welcome to the show thanks Terry all right so let’s start with a little
history of K Street just for people who may not be completely familiar talk
about the the roadway and its importance to the transportation network in the
District of Columbia. Sure so as some of you can imagine when case tree was
originally built I would say more than 60 or 70 years
we thought about transportation a lot differently and so the way that K Street
has all of its lanes with service lanes was really thought about as a way to
help vehicles move through the district at that time we weren’t really thinking
about prioritizing pedestrians and bicyclists and transit users in the same
way that we do today so this was really meant as a way to try to separate some
of the parking uses from through moving vehicles and help vehicles move really
quickly through the district so as we have proceeded through the years we
really thought a lot more about bringing other modes to the table and really
using our shared space to accommodate lots of different travelers with all
different abilities and with all different types of ways they want to get
around and there are lots of buses that use case tray right now they go on the
side of the through running lanes and they have bus stops where they have to
cross over the service lanes and traffic tends to be really congested it’s
confusing for vehicles that are trying to go through it’s confusing for
vehicles that are turning and if you want a park or if you want to load you
have to find a way into the service lanes and find a way to turn it just is
pretty confusing for everyone and you can see that through the levels of
congestion there’s tons of pedestrians that are
coming to access their jobs the beautiful parks and museums that we have
around downtown DC and there’s just lots of things to explore around K Street so
we get a lot of people and using that corridor when was the last time this
quarter had a major facelift if you will has it been you know I can’t answer that
for sure so I think it’s been a very long time
certainly pre 80s if you will and we certainly have as new buildings come and
develop we try to improve the streetscape but there has not been a
full-scale streetscape reham provement at least 30 years you touched on this
but let us do a little deeper dive on some of the challenges for people trying
to navigate K Street now what why so many problems there you know one it’s
just it’s a real Central Corridor it goes all the way through the heart of
downtown where we have some of our most intensive office and retail and
commercial uses so if we think about where people are coming to work every
day this is a huge destination for millions of people each year
that are visiting the district as tourists that are coming every day to
work as well as people who just live in the district and are trying to get from
place to place so as bus roadways go how does K Street compare to others in the
district I mean we’re talking about in some segments 70 buses an hour that are
coming through this area which is huge I mean if you think about that kind of at
least a bus a minute and a lot of these buses are really full so some of our
highest capacity routes and the district are passing through here now it’s
unfortunate because due to all of the other uses that are on the street
especially vehicles those buses move really slowly so it just doesn’t work
well for the people that are trying to get there now let’s double click on that
because I suspect some people may have missed what you just said there we’ve
got 70 buses an hour at some points during the day navigating sections of
that quarter exactly yes and you know we think about it we think about bus
planning we do think about some of the adjacent streets that move east and west
– so we’re thinking about bus volumes across both K Street and the parallel
quarters when we think about ways that we can improve the street we do try to
think a little more holistically about how buses move east and west or downtown
in case you are just joining us this is D delivers I’m Terry Owens our guest
today is hailey package she’s a transportation planner with the district
Department of Transportation and we are talking about the K Street corridor and
what it’s going to look like under Mayor Bowser’s new vision for a K Street
transit way if you will Haley take us back to the day of the announcement of
this initiative we were there and Farragut square we had a pretty good
side crowd beautiful day this is your baby as the planner on this project as
you’re standing there listening to all these people talk about it what were you
thinking you know I was really excited I have as long as I’ve been at DDOT I’ve
been working on this corridor and there’s clearly a lot like there’s a lot
that we can do to improve things it was so exciting to see so much momentum
around actually making this better and hearing so many people say you know what
I don’t want to be stuck in a car and traffic on here I want things to work
better I want to see that space for people riding a bus I really want to pay
attention to making sure this works for all modes and of course we did this
event late in the afternoon so everybody who was out there got to
get a real good sense of some of the challenges that the quarter presents for
buses in particular you know one thing that’s been surprising to me is that we
saw that traffic out there that afternoon and of course it was
bumper-to-bumper things weren’t moving well buses were bunching and no one was
surprised you know I think that that’s just become what people expect to see on
K Street especially at that time of day during the event I recall some numbers
being presented about just how congested things can be just how many people rely
on public transportation to get through that quarter what are some of those
numbers again you know we’ve got between 25,000 and 40,000 people that are bussed
passengers every single day depending on how you add up the different bus routes
and a lot of them are moving really slowly I mean some areas you could
really be walking faster than you could be on a bus zoom you got a quick walk
and there are on some of those segments we’ve got over a hundred thousand people
a day that are riding buses that pass through the K Street corridor at one
point or another so if we can make things faster even just for a few blocks
for those bus routes all of those people across the entire district will really
benefit I was gonna say this isn’t just talking about impacting the K Street
corridor but this actually impacts people from all the awards across the
district or at some point touching that corner absolutely take the X to for
example I mean that’s a huge way that people from Ward 7 get to downtown and
they for a lot of them that’s the destination that they are sitting on the
bus going through so many other segments and that is one of the slowest segments
for them to get through so if you can speed that part up then their overall
travel experience gets better it gets faster and that’s more time that people
are spending with their families or out enjoying DC’s parks and attractions not
sitting in traffic not sitting on a bus so we’ve made the announcement now comes
the hard part you’ve got to build this thing talk about the planning process
and what that’s expected to look like well what are the great things about
this project is we’ve been planning it for a long time this is not a new idea I
think people have known that there’s ways to make K Street better so the
plans actually date back to the early 2000s we had a K Street planning study
in 2005 and then updated that a bit with some new
thinking in 2009 so we have some thoughts about what it needs to look
like but you know what we thought about in terms of roadway design in 2009 2010
that’s different than how we think about it now so that’s exciting now we get to
think about how do we get all the users in there and really make this a
world-class streetscape design that fits all of the interests and priorities that
the mayor and that district residents have right now so that’s one of the
things we’re trying to really make sure to integrate as we think about this
project all right we are talking about the K Street transit way a project that
was announced recently is coming to K Street between 12 and 21st
that’s correct and just reimagining what that area of downtown looks like and the
kinds of impacts it’s going to have for public transit users across the district
we’re talking with Haley package she is the lead transportation planner on this
project we’re gonna take a quick break come back and pick up the conversation
just on the other side of this stay with us
welcome back everybody this is DDOT delivers our guest today is Haley peckin
she’s a transportation planner for the district Department of Transportation
and our planning and sustainability division and she is the lead planner on
the K Street transit Way project which is what we’re talking about today so
Haley we’ve announced the project there are some preliminary designs what
happens next so now’s the fun part now we get to say what is it going to look
like as we start thinking about final design and construction so we are having
lots of conversations we are talking to all the different people at DDOT I’m
getting to meet and work with lots of new folks that have it all it worked
with before so whether it’s the war two arborist or thinking about the
streetlights and thinking about how the utilities work just lots of different
fun factions of what’s above ground and below ground and on the side of the road
so we are all working together in terms of figuring out what’s feasible and what
we can do especially in our project time frame and then our next steps which I’m
really excited about is to really start bringing in lots of stakeholders and
members of the public so we’ve already put some feelers out to our bids and ANC
but we’re excited to get out and talk to the bus riders and the pedestrians and
the drivers and everyone who is using this corridor and figure out how we can
make it work best for them community input is always important around all of
our projects and how will you use that feedback to inform the decisions you
make is the planner on this project absolutely we’re trying to figure out
right now we want to make sure that we’re asking the right questions we’re
really fortunate in some way that there’s already been quite a lot of
analysis done so there are some things that we already know design decisions
that will work really well and that the public has waited on in the past but you
know things are different now I alluded to before that the way we thought about
transportation 2010 is not the same as what we do in 2019 so we want to make
sure that when we’re thinking about a streetscape refresh that it absolutely
reflects the flexibility and the different types of uses that not only we
see today but that we’ll see over the next 50 or 100 years because this is
really a capstone project we also want to think about you know how people are
using buses and how they think about using buses what type of amenities they
might want at their bus stop and along the streetscape and we have a really
beautiful historic Central Corridor part of the L’Enfant plan so talking with
folks who are interested in historic preservation and the beauty and
aesthetics of the district that’s obviously very important to preserve as
well okay so we’ve got some tentative plans as you said give us a sense then
of what we can expect to see what is it you’ve envisioned the mayor’s envisioned
the director’s envisioned of what this quarter is gonna look like when all this
is said and done absolutely well the central feature is the transit way
itself so that is two lanes one in each direction for buses only and we’ll have
lots of buses going through they’re operating a lot more quickly than they
do now and that will be separated by medians where we’ll have bus stops we’ll
have landscaping will have other beautification elements so instead of
having the service lanes those will be eliminated and then we’ll be moving that
to the center of the street it’ll be beautiful it’ll really be fitting of a
transit corridor and then for the rest of the the street we are going to have
lanes for our vehicles to go through we’re going to have protected bicycle
lanes and then beyond the curb well how more landscaping Street trees and really
enhanced pedestrian realm so all of the preliminary images that we’ve seen show
two buses running down the center of K Street is that the plan to have buses in
the center with vehicles on either side or well definitely keep buses in the
center I mean this is something where we keep us in the center it works from a
design perspective and it also really works well from an Operations
perspective we are going to put bus routes on the corridor that can really
take advantage of the entire use of the corridor so we think about buses one of
the things that can slow them down in addition to stopping and bus bunching is
having to make turns and to wait at signals by putting buses in the middle
and letting them go straight through the entire corridor we let them operate most
efficiently and we eliminate some of those turning movements that can hamper
traffic operations okay and so these guys have these painted lanes and do
they have some sort of borders on either side or how do we keep everybody else
out of the bus way yeah so those mediums that you now see a service lanes those
are going to be redesigned and put into the middle of the street so there will
be medians that separate the buses from general traffic and those medians will
also contain the bus stops with shelters and other beautification elements we are
planning on putting landscaping and when you asked about community engagement
some of how those medians will look and how they’ll contribute to the overall
beauty of the corridor is something we hope to get input from all these
stakeholders but looking for something that’s gonna look really nice but also
be functional and keep the bus passengers on an accelerated path and
safe I was gonna say the ultimate goal is to speed up buses through the
downtown corridor and once this is in place give us a sense I know we’re
talking projections now but how much faster will these vehicles be able to
move yeah so our models that are a bit a bit old now are 30 to 50 percent faster
than current times which is a big improvement and you know this doesn’t
even start thinking about some of the other operational improvements that
we’ll have to work with our partners like well Mata in terms of improving bus
speeds there’s lots of different tools in our toolbox and our hope is that if
DDOT can lead by putting in this dedicated infrastructure well Maude has
already expressed a lot of interest and trying to find other things we can do to
make the work faster talk about what that means
for somebody to have their bus commute improved by 30 to 50 percent yeah well I
will say that that’s you know that’s just huge that is the difference between
people saying I don’t even want to get in a bus because it’s just gonna be
standing still versus people wanting to get in transit and really you know
change their mode which is huge it’s also time that people are able to either
be at work on time every day maybe they can get their kids from daycare on time
or they can just spend more time with their families I think that that’s a
huge time-saving that’s really important to get people off of the congested buses
and really to the rest of their lives and we are optimistic believing that
this is going to inspire some people to perhaps move away from a car and try the
bus if we can guarantee that it’s going to move a little faster I think that’s
true and there’s a lot I mean think about the density and the types of uses
on K Street say that you work there in the corridor maybe you’re somebody who
typically drives around but you get to work and you want to go get lunch at a
new restaurant that’s about six or seven blocks away that might be a lengthy walk
but if you know you can get on a bus it’ll be coming every single minute and
it’ll be able to just go right through you can probably get six or seven blocks
and a minute or two as opposed to having to take ten or fifteen minutes to walk
there that’s you know that’s huge and that improves somebody’s mobility maybe
they won’t jump into a taxi or get in a car to stop and make all those errands
okay so one of the first impacts we’re gonna see is the removal of the service
lanes on K Street first why are the service lanes of problem and what does
this mean for all of the delivery vehicles that Claude K Street every day
yeah that’s a good a good question you know the service lanes were I think
intended to be able to accommodate a lot of parking and turning activity it turns
out that the way that it is sometimes difficult to enter those lanes just
means that it’s confusing for drivers and it’s not a typical design especially
for DC there’s really not somewhere else in the district that we see that so
people aren’t super customed to it and there’s also often blockage to the
service lanes as cars are pulling in and out it just doesn’t operate very well
we’re not a hundred percent sure what it’s going to look like in the future
condition in terms of the parking and loading of vehicles but we do think that
by freeing up some of that space we’re actually gonna
have more space that we can have some new types of Aquila operations and while
I don’t know again I don’t know what that’s gonna look like we’re working
internally on that now I will say that my colleagues have done a great job on
thinking about different types of flexible zones loading zones pickup
drop-off zones so we’re definitely trying to incorporate those as tools
into this design so that we can make things work better and take some of
those vehicles out of the travel lanes and put it into a place where it can
happen and still let vehicles pass without causing congestion and so will
these dedicated bus lanes also mean improved travel for people who are still
driving downtown you know that’s that’s something that modeled yes you know when
we did our traffic models and we’re updating our traffic models now it
definitely shows that there is some improvement for vehicles and from what
I’ve heard anecdotally because traffic models are really imperfect we expect
there to be more benefit than we’re even seeing in the models just because we
think we can move some of the congestion activities or congestion inducing
activities off of K Street and there’s a lot of different roles part of it is
design part of his enforcement part of it is driver education and awareness and
certainly we all have to work together but we believe this can be a much
improved corridor one of the things we often hear about these projects is how
can we do it faster it’s a great idea we love the vision can it happen tomorrow I
am so glad you asked that I you know one thing that I’d love about working this
project is I said I’ve been planning in this quarter for a long time we have
done quite a lot of work and one fun thing that I’ve been able to do over the
last few weeks has been looking back at some of the analysis we’ve done in
saying what part of this is still relevant what value can we take to help
accelerate the project so for example we did utility designation and looked at
all the utilities that were underground and we still need to go back and talk to
utilities and see what’s relevant and what’s not but we’ve been able to
advance ourselves a lot more than if we had to start from Ground Zero and had no
idea it was underground as unfortunately some of my colleagues have to do when
they’re starting a project from scratch alright you are listening to DDOT
delivers on 96.3 hd4 in DC radio that gap i’m t-ray owens in studio today is
hey the package is a transportation planner
with DDOT we’re talking the K Street transit way project one of the most
exciting initiatives underway the agency right now we’ve got to take a quick
break come back and wrap things up in just a moment stay with us welcome back
everybody I’m Terry Owens on DDOT delivers this is 96.3 HD for indc radio
gov where you can catch us each and every Monday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. we
so appreciate you tuning in this is the show of course where we take you inside
DDOT and try and give you a sense of all that our staff is doing to serve the
residents and visitors of the District of Columbia our guest today is hailey
peckin she’s a transportation planner with the agency and she has been tasked
with one of the biggest projects that we’ve got underway at DDOT right now and
that’s the reimagining of K Street going right through the heart of downtown from
12th to 21st Street and doing away with those service lanes and putting a
dedicated bus way in new Street scapes just the whole kit and caboodle is in
her lap and we could not ask for a stronger talent to walk us through this
project hailey when do we get the first shovel
in the ground let’s just say you’re making it sound so easy
so we’re currently working internally to see what that answer is but we are
hoping that we can be working on our final design and next year so starting
starting in FY 21 and then FY 22 so starting into it and maybe even as early
as the end of calendar year 21 but certainly in early and 22 to get that
shovel in the ground and start construction and just to give people a
sense I mean when I call this a major initiative for the agency this is a 122
million dollar project yeah that’s that’s what our initial estimates are so
again we are right now in the preliminary design so we should have an
updated cost estimate soon but we are really excited to be thinking about the
possibilities for this corridor as we think about ways to accommodate
bicyclists safely as we think about the streetscape enhancements so we really
want to make this a world-class corridor that is worthy
not investment one of the great things we saw at the launch event was the
support that came from really around not just the downtown area but the city I
mean there were people from east of the river we had the the downtown bid the
dupont circle bid the Golden Triangle bid all these folks out there saying
this is a great idea we’re ready to see it move forward how can we help you know
I’m rather as I mentioned before I’ve been thrilled to see how many people
just think wow K Street just is so ripe for improvement there’s it’s so glad to
see that this is actually gonna get built and we touches on so many people I
mean people who ride buses know how slow it is and we just haven’t done a great
job of putting bus lanes and dedicated bus infrastructure here in the district
I am thrilled that we are making this investment in saying you know what to
all the people who ride buses every day we care about you we want to make things
work better and again we’re talking tens of thousands of people every day that
navigate that corridor on buses so we talk about the cost of the project we
talk about the the vision for the project and when you talk to your
colleagues around DDOT about this work what are you hearing what’s the buzz
inside the agency I think that there’s a lot of excitement and I think that they
recognize the same challenge I feel as a project manager that you know we’re
excited to put something down that really is a world-class facility and
that finally starts dedicating space to buses space to pedestrians and cyclists
as well as making sure that vehicles operate well that it really is a
complete Street but we know that that challenge comes with really engaging
community hearing what they have to say and also doing this accelerated timeline
the framework that I just told you for delivery is a lot faster than what DDOT
typically delivers and we have a lot of different tools that we are trying to
dispose all at once to do that and that certainly makes for some fun and
challenges from where I’m sitting what should the public know about that
process because often there is a clamor to do things faster and people don’t
it’s hard to convey to the public the amount of work that has to go into
making sure a project is right before you move forward that’s a good point
what would you have people now well I will just go back you said it’s 122
million dollar prize I feel a personal responsibility that
this is public money that we are using and we want to make sure we are
delivering the best product and there’s a lot of things both regulatory that go
into it but also just common sense you know we could rush forward to what is
the fastest way to do this but that might mean that we skip some steps and
we don’t get the best benefit for the project we haven’t included a really
important concept that somebody knows needs to be included and we really want
this to work well for all users so as a steward of public dollars it is
important and we have all sorts of organizations around DC that make sure
we use money responsibly so we have to follow their process see then we have to
do good due diligence from our ends I’m glad you mentioned that this being a
transit way and uses for all users so we’re talking pedestrians we’re talking
bicyclists we’re talking buses of course but we’re also talking vehicles as it
relates to pedestrians and bicyclists what does that look like
so the pedestrians currently well about had about the same amount of space but I
think we’re going to try to improve the aesthetic design we’re going to improve
the crosswalk safety an improvement and include different functions that will
make the experience safer and more pleasant for them and we’ve always been
working with our partners at the office of planning to think about ways that
people use the street and how we can bring those types of uses into our
future design and keep things really flexible and enhanced I’m sorry head I
was gonna just mention for cyclists we’re working on protected lanes now we
have a great protected bike lanes on LNM to the north but we know there’s so many
destinations on K Street and if we’re making this investment we want to make
sure it’s a safe place for cyclists to go to and to access all those
destinations okay Hayley so it’s that time in the show where we asked our not
victims their guest is our guest to drop the veil and tell us a little bit about
your journey how do you get to do that were you that little
girl sitting at home playing with trains going I really want to be a
transportation planner when I grow up you know it’s funny my son does that now
so I hope he becomes the transportation planner I grew up in Orlando and I
watched the orange groves near my house turn into strip malls and car Lots and I
think that once I realized that there was a field where you could think about
those decisions and have those happen more responsibly it really got me
excited about thinking systematically about how we think about our cities and
how we can plan them to solve so many different problems really so what was
the educational journey line I studied geography when I was in
college I went to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and fell in love with the
mountains and really took an environmental standpoint in terms of
coming to term and planning and then worked in land-use planning a bit in
Florida where I’m from and decided I was really interested in sustainability and
thinking about how to save energy and that’s what brought me into
transportation I mean transportation touches on so many features it is equity
it is resource use but it really it’s just how people get around and how they
live their lives every day it’s something that just affects everyone it
has so much potential to make the world better and so to be able to work at a
place like DDOT what does that mean that’s great for me and really one of
the things I’ve always wanted to do is just be at the local level and be able
to lead decisions that can really have an impact and I’m so excited to be able
to lead the K Street trans away project I’m excited to see a planning project
get implemented and I feel a lot of weight of responsibility but I also feel
really excited to have this opportunity and I I do believe that the leadership
at DDOT and my wonderful colleagues who taught me so much are giving me this
opportunity I’m really grateful for it mmm I have two folks it not there who
maybe thought about a career in transportation what would you say it on
every type of skills that can be accommodated you know I was not somebody
who had an engineering background and now I am working with engineers every
day and learning a ton from them but there’s also so much about communication
and art and visualization as well as people who can just sit and code traffic
signals I mean whatever your skill set chances are there’s a place for you
in the transportation world smell Vltava well thank you so much for coming in and
making some time for us really excited to talk about this project and what it
means for the district and for the agency we’ve been talking with Haley
package today she’s a transportation planner at the district Department of
Transportation and she’s leading the way on the K Street transit way project we
are out of time for this segment I want to say thank you again to everybody who
tuned in my name is teri Owens I’m in the public information division at DDOT
and we hope you’ll join us again next week for another edition of DDOT
delivers have a great day everybody see

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