Time Traveling

February 8, 2013

In my dreams — or, specifically, in a dream I had the other night — everyone could get anywhere by hopping through a wormhole. No SmarTrip card was required, although for some reason we were expected to always have thick socks. (Can any shrinks out there explain that one?)

That’s probably not the future of transportation in Washington. But what will be?

Metro recently took a stab at answering that question with the release of its strategic “Momentum” plan, which would bring new tunnels (for trains and pedestrians), bus-only street lanes and an upgraded electrical grid to allow for more eight-car trains. The goal: Get people moving safely and efficiently.

If WMATA succeeds, some drivers might hang up their car keys, and we won’t have to hear that D.C. has been named the top city in the country for traffic congestion. Again.

The city can’t rely on Momentum alone, so the District Department of Transportation is prepping its own plan for the decades ahead.

Specifically, DDOT is going for “a bold and implementation-focused vision,” and you’re invited to pitch in through moveDC (Wemovedc.org). On Saturday, anyone who lives, works or plays in the District is welcome at an Idea Exchange at the MLK Jr. Library (901 G St. NW).

“We’re acutely focused on public participation and reaching groups who haven’t been involved in the past,” says moveDC manager Colleen Hawkinson, who hopes to drum up feedback and recommendations.

Saturday’s schedule starts with a transportation fair, a collection of wonky diversions designed for the whole family. Participants can use building blocks to create their ideal streetscapes, pose for photos with transportation props and map out their regular movements with pins and string.

The main event comes at 11 a.m. After opening remarks by Mayor Gray, Council member Mary Cheh and DDOT director Terry Bellamy, moveDC will host a panel discussion on — what else? — the future of transportation.

I got a preview of what to expect from panelist Anita Hairston, a senior associate at PolicyLink who advocates for equity in transportation investment. Her position is that buses, trains, cars and bikes aren’t just how people get around. They’re how they get ahead.

“Transportation is at the heart of opportunity,” Hairston says.

So as new options arise, it’s critical that they’re open to everyone. One recent example Hairston applauds is Capital Bikeshare’s partnership with Bank On DC, which is helping folks who don’t have credit cards get access to the system.

Hairston has no doubt that huge benefits can come from real-time information displayed on smartphones, the expansion of car sharing and other technological advances, but she says it’s critical to think about the whole population and what’s feasible and affordable.

Wormholes or no, we really are headed to another world. And we’ll need more than socks to get there.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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