The 24-hour-a-day zones will also be used for commercial loading, officials said. They are expected to go live later this year, following a public comment period and the installation of signs.
Officials said they anticipate that the changes will allow for safer loading and unloading that otherwise would occur in travel lanes and that they will help reduce tension created when cars block bike lanes and crosswalks.
“We are dedicating spaces for loading and unloading so that there isn’t a need to block lanes,” DDOT Director Jeff Marootian said at a meeting with Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) this week in which he discussed the initiative as part of the mayor’s Vision Zero strategy to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries.
The program is an extension of the nightlife ride-hailing zones that launched last year in the Dupont Circle area to ease the traffic created in the wee hours when people were leaving nightclubs along Connecticut Avenue NW. In many cases, officials say, people waiting for their Ubers, Lyfts and taxis led to double- and triple-parked vehicles along both sides of the road. The new zones helped minimize some dangerous traffic patterns, including instances in which people were walking into the middle of the street to meet their rides.
The new pickup and drop-off zones are also part of a larger campaign to address the congestion created by for-hire vehicles as a result of the rise in popularity of Uber and Lyft.
As part of the effort, the city is also looking to step up parking enforcement. The Department of Public Works is expanding its enforcement team and asking the city to amend its code to allow citations to be mailed instead of having to be placed on vehicles’ windshields. The agency cannot process tickets when a car drives off before they are issued. If the change is enacted, the agency will be able to mail citations to cars’ registered owners.
The designated zones also are likely to help ease traffic from delivery trucks that often double-park in major corridors during rush hour. New rules and higher penalties enacted in recent years for commercial vehicles have not helped reduce the number of trucks that routinely block traffic. Even a robust campaign to ticket violators has had little effect to reverse the practice.
“There is a misimpression that getting a ticket changes the behavior,” D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said at a meeting this week. “Particularly when you look at the delivery vehicles, it’s not changing the behavior at all. The delivery vehicles look at it as part of business, park and unload.”
Giving them more curb space could help, officials said. Although the city is announcing five zones this week, Marootian said DDOT is looking at adding more locations that have been identified along with the business improvement districts in high-priority areas. So far, he said, the agency has identified up to 30 locations within downtown and the surrounding area.
The new zones will require the removal of parking spaces, but it was unclear this week how many spots would be lost at each location. Along Connecticut Avenue, the city took about 60 parking spaces from Thursday night to Sunday morning, reserving them for pickup and drop-off zones, according to reports.