Opinion: Downtown D.C. Recovery Requires More Inclusive Planning

To meet its climate goals and revitalize its downtown core, the District must expand its transit and urban amenities to meet the needs of a wider variety of people.

2 minute read

May 26, 2023, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

View down Pennsylvania Avenue with U.S. capitol in background and bike lane in middle of street

Sergey Novikov / Washington, D.C.

After a disheartening experience at a webinar ostensibly focused on downtown Washington, D.C.’s potential for post-pandemic economic recovery, Caitlin Rogger highlights the need for more multifaceted, multimodal investment in the District in a piece for Greater Greater Washington.

For Rogger, “Downtown recovery will take a lot more than just drivers: a key component is making it easy to get downtown without a car.” But the dismissive attitude of District officials and delayed transit projects signal a lack of willingness to engage with transit users, pedestrians, and cyclists and cater transportation options to their needs.

Moreover, it reflects an overall failure to engage with the needs of parents, elderly people, disabled people, and other groups. “Choices we make now–from employers subsidizing parking but not transit, to building multi-lane roads that are scary to cross for the young, old, and mobility-impaired, to insisting on full-time in-person work only–will determine who participates.”

Rogger points out that key elements of a successful post-pandemic recovery doesn’t necessarily differ much from things that people have advocated for for decades: “things to do, public space, room for sidewalks, bikes, and transit, good air and sound quality, public art–as opposed to space for cars.”

The District already has goals to reduce driving, lower carbon emissions, and encourage more mixed-use neighborhoods, but policy choices have to support those goals. “Workers aren’t the only type of person who can generate valuable activity–even profitable activity,” Rogger writes. Downtowns must be accessible, safe, and attractive for everyone, not just white-collar workers.

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