Except only one of the 20 highest-earning lobbying firms has a K Street address (and its main entrance is, in fact, on 16th Street), and total spending on lobbying last year ($3.27 billion) decreased for the first time since 1998, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
So to what should “K Street” refer, if not to a corridor of influence?
Something grander. Something blander. Collision, maybe. The tidy mess of it all. Grand vision obscured by quotidian economics. The inelegance of trying to have it all while stuck at a desk under a rectangle of fluorescence.
Think of K Street as the medulla oblongata of Washington — the reptilian part of the brain stem that automates circulation and breathing, contributes to overall sentience and, when malfunctioning, causes imbalance, dizziness and vomiting.
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K Street is unavoidable, in multiple ways.
“You can get anywhere from it,” says Daniel Daudu, 32, a bike courier who lives in Takoma Park. “If I’m going to be chilling between runs, I’ll be on K Street.”
The couriers own the street in a way that eludes cars (which are hampered by buses and ill-timed traffic lights) and pedestrians (forced to cross three separate roadways to get from one side to the other). K Street, for the courier, is the road to which all roads lead, a grid of access inlets and service entrances, a freeway of danger.
“I saw a guy die over at 20th,” Daudu says, pausing on his bike next to the American Legion building. “He was on one of those Kawasaki Ninja joints. A car jumped over to the right lane to make a turn. He went flying. His head ran into a light pole.”
That intersection sits on the busiest stretch of the city’s busiest transit corridor — the 1.5 miles of K between 22nd Street, where it burrows toward Georgetown, and Ninth Street, where it jogs at Mount Vernon Square before setting a course for I-395, Union Station and Northeast D.C. Every day an average of 30,600 vehicles traverses K between 19th and 21st streets. Between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, 100 different city and regional buses lumber back and forth, spiriting workers from crowded medians to more pastoral realms such as Charlotte Hall in southern Maryland. An average of 23,796 riders disappears daily down the escalators at the Farragut North Metro station at Connecticut and K.
For half of January, Dallas resident Rich Cauffman, 42, made K Street his front yard as part of Occupy D.C.
Pedestrians here “seem depressed,” Cauffman says, reclining in the winter sun, his feet propped on an iron post. “They stare at the ground. Like they have no idea where they’re going. ”