All Walks DC surveyed candidates for mayor, council, and attorney general. We will use candidate’s responses to compile scorecards on candidates’ perspectives on walking issues.
The MoveDC plan states that DDOT should build streets with a “pedestrian first” policy. Will you work to ensure that DDOT prioritizes walkability and pedestrian safety as outlined in the MoveDC plan?
David Catania: As Mayor I will prioritize walkability and pedestrian safety as part of the District’s overall transportation and transit plan. As recommended by the MoveDC plan, I will address issues of traffic control, intermodal connectivity, accessibility, and aesthetics to help promote a “pedestrian first” policy. I will also pursue a safety agenda consistent with the Vision Zero Initiative, which calls for the elimination of deaths for all those that use our roads – pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers alike – through innovative street design, enhanced traffic management technologies, and public education campaigns.
Muriel Bowser: Yes. Whether your primary mode of transportation is car, bike, bus, or train, each of us is a pedestrian at some point in our travels. But, providing safe walking conditions is about more than transportation. It also contributes to health, economic development, and the overall quality of life of District residents. That’s why in addition to developing and implementing a Vision Zero Plan, I will appoint a strong DDOT director who shares my emphasis on making the District more walkable and who can ensure that MoveDC becomes a reality.
Carol Schwartz: Absolutely. Most of us are pedestrians, whether we also ride a bicycle, ride metro or drive a car. As our neighborhoods become more vibrant and our population increases daily, we must continue to ensure the safe walkability of our city. Most areas of our city, especially around downtown, have sidewalks on both sides of the street. But we must expand that and make sidewalks universal throughout DC. Also crucial is ensuring that our sidewalks and streets are in good condition. When I was on the Council and the Chair of the Department of Public Works, I created a perpetual fund for street, pothole, and sidewalk repair. Sadly, the fund was eliminated when I left the Council and the results are evident. As Mayor, one of the first things I will do is reestablish this fund to ensure our sidewalks and streets are kept in good condition.
Bruce Majors: I would not pre-commit to plans drawn up by commissions or groups before I was elected. I generally disapprove of the various groups that circulate candidate questionnaires that are basically requests to endorse their pre-conceived spending plans, sometimes subsidies to their own organization. That said I will read through your document when I have time and perhaps amend this answer. I have lightly perused the plan and would be willing to incorporate aspects of it. However I favor many new policies that are not part of the limited current discussions, and so make any plans that are part of that discussion obsolete. In particular I favor (1) more local and neighborhood control of streets and sidewalks, (2) deregulation and legalization of more forms of transportation including vans and jitneys, and (3) eliminating the height limit so that there are more urban centers with tall buildings and a density of shopping, jobs and residences that they become easily walkable, as well as creating enough commercial space that more parking garages are built on the lower floors of tall buildings. I also favor making at least one car on Metro trains available to bicyclists at all times, so that bicycling is not discouraged. In addition I would like to see some way of addressing the sexual harassment problem on the Metro. I suspect legally we cannot have an option of single sex cars on each train so that women (or men) could choose a single sex car. But perhaps we could at least have a car available only to children and people travelling with children.
As mayor, will you support adequate resources and funding for traffic enforcement by Metropolitan Police Department officers?
David Catania: Yes, I will support adequate resources and funding for traffic enforcement by MPD officers.
Muriel Bowser: Yes. I will work with Chief Lanier to identify exactly what resources MPD needs for traffic enforcement and make sure they are funded. That includes more officers, automated traffic enforcement cameras, and other tools.
Carol Schwartz: Yes. It was recently reported that our revenues from traffic cameras has declined dramatically over the last year and may end up $70 million under projection. This means that the cameras are changing people’s behavior. Thus, I would keep current resources to continue this trend. Additionally, I do believe we need to make sure bicyclists follow the street rules as well to avoid creating hazards.
Bruce Majors: DC has more than adequate funding for everything already, as the DC budget has expanded by billions in the past few years. It is simply mis-allocated. Of course I favor adequate funding for the police, as everyone would. I do favor expanding the amount of parking off street in DC, which might mean we could reduce the number of parking enforcement employees.
Do you support the continued use of traffic cameras to enforce existing traffic laws?
David Catania: Speed and red light cameras have contributed to the overall safety of our streets and I support their continued use. However, in some instances deployment of these cameras raises questions about whether the goal is to improve street safety or simply to raise additional revenue. This concern is reinforced by the recent Inspector General report on the camera programs, the Chief Financial Officer’s concerns about our reliance on ticket camera revenue, and the District Department of Transportation finding that only 2 of the District’s top 10 hazardous intersections have traffic enforcement cameras. As Mayor, I will require a proper safety analysis be conducted so that speed and red light cameras are targeting street and pedestrian safety concerns.
Muriel Bowser: Yes. Recent studies have shown that MPD’s Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE) program has resulted in fewer collision-related fatalities and injuries, and it has reduced speed-related traffic collisions across the District, even as the city’s population has increased. That said, the recent Inspector General’s report demonstrates that some reforms need to be made. Drivers deserve due process to ensure they don’t receive tickets in error when a license plat doesn’t match the car’s registration or it’s unclear which car in a picture violated the law. I also believe MPD needs clear standards for determining when a location has safety problems to merit a traffic camera. That will not only make the ATE program function better, but also build public and political support for the program as well.
Carol Schwartz: As indicated above, I believe traffic cameras have been effective in increasing driving safety. However, I would consider removing those cameras that don’t function as safety but are traps solely used to drive up revenue.
Bruce Majors: I am not against traffic cameras simply but I am against their use as a revenue tool.
Do you support the bill introduced by Councilmembers Grosso, Wells, and Cheh to replace the contributory negligence statute as it applies to pedestrians and bicyclists with comparative negligence?
David Catania: Yes.
Muriel Bowser: It’s an issue that deserves further consideration. I know a lot of states have a comparative negligence standard and it gives bikers legal protections so they have some redress even when they were partially at fault for an accident. But, I’m also interested in knowing why bikers deserve unique treatment compared to victims in other personal injury cases. There are also other solutions to help protect bikers. MPD needs to be better trained on the laws in place to protect bikers. We need more protected bike lanes throughout the city so accidents never happen. We also need to train both drivers and bikers to share the roads and drive/ride safely.
Carol Schwartz: My initial inclination is to say yes, as it takes into account degree of fault, but I would need further examination and more discussion to provide a definitive determination.
Bruce Majors: I believe I do support this change, though I have not studied how each has worked in different jurisdictions.
Do you support funding for the MoveDC plan, including its proposed transit and pedestrian improvements?
David Catania: MoveDC provides a strong foundation upon which we can build a world-class transportation system that promotes all modes of transit – walking, bicycling, driving and our public transportation options. I support MoveDC’s vision and will support funding for its key initiatives.
Muriel Bowser: Yes. MoveDC is the product of a lot deliberate work and public input, and should be considered a living document. The next step is for DDOT to develop an implementation plan with specifics about project priorities, costs, timelines for completion, and performance metrics for tracking progress. We’ll also need good leadership in the relevant agencies to make sure the work gets done. For the District to continue to grow and prosper sustainably, we have to improve our transportation options and MoveDC will help us do that, especially when it comes to the proposed transit and pedestrian improvements.
Carol Schwartz: I support many of the proposed improvements. Pedestrian safety should be a dominant focus of transit plans. I would need to look more closely at all the recommendations before committing to a complete buy-in. For instance, considering the revenue projections from traffic cameras, I am more inclined to believe that our current system is working and to keep it steady. But I would take input from advocates like yourselves before making any conclusions.
Bruce Majors: See my first answer on how my own innovations in transportation would be my primary goal and I would only incorporate aspects of other plans into them as they could be made workable.
The main principle behind Vision Zero – initially implemented in Sweden and recently adopted in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco – is that no loss of life or serious injury is acceptable within a given area’s transportation system. DC has adopted the similar concept of “Toward Zero Deaths.” Do you support changes in enforcement, speed limits, traffic calming investments, and policy that would be necessary to achieve Vision Zero in our city?
David Catania: Yes. As stated above, I will pursue a transportation plan that is in line with the Vision Zero initiative so that we can eliminate loss of life or serious injury within our transportation system.
Muriel Bowser: Yes. I wholeheartedly endorse the adoption of a Vision Zero Plan. Adopting a comprehensive, holistic approach to transportation safety will not only place the District at the forefront of transportation safety efforts across the United States, it will ensure that the District addresses every factor that makes our streets dangerous – from behavior to road design – in a thoughtful, deliberative manner. As Mayor, I will focus on key areas including engineering, education, enforcement, and policy formulation, to eliminate dangerous behavior on our roadways, in all communities.
Carol Schwartz: Yes. I would certainly support the initiatives for safety that are currently in place and take input from advocates to enact strategies which move us to Vision Zero.
Bruce Majors: I don’t think it is possible to eliminate all risk, so I would have to have a better understanding of what this slogan means to you. That safety should be a priority I agree with.
Currently, it can be difficult for the public to learn about the causes and effects of traffic crashes because comprehensive and complete data are not maintained by a single DC government source. In addition, the limited data that are published may not be published for more than a year after the crash occurred. Data transparency is an important aspect of ensuring an effective and safe transportation system. Do you support the regular and full release of data about traffic crashes, including information about locations and causes of pedestrian crashes and the injuries and fatalities that result?
David Catania: During my tenure on the Council I have made increased transparency a top priority. I have improved public access to District laws, ensured that budgets are prepared in a reader-friendly format, and shed light on agency practices. Together, these efforts promote accountability and help improve District practices. As Mayor I will continue to promote transparency and support the release of more complete data surrounding traffic crashes in the District.
Muriel Bowser: Yes. Transparent data and thoughtful performance analytics are vital to achieving progress on any issue, and transportation safety is no exception. As Mayor, I will make data about traffic accidents easily accessible to the public via an online clearinghouse in the most useful format with as close to real-time updates as possible.
Carol Schwartz: Of course, I would support full and regular release of data about traffic crashes and would push for the data to come from a single government source to ensure transparency as well as eliminate redundancy and waste.
Bruce Majors: This is a much larger problem. Almost no DC data – including budgets, graduation rates, truancy rates, etc. – is made available to the public. I favor making almost all if not all government data available on the internet for any DC resident to view. One of the few things I would be willing to spend more money on are servers and IT employees to keep this data published.