Dave Thomas Circle “has gotten exponentially worse” due to SafeTrack Shuttle Buses

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“Dear PoPville,

Any chance you have any scuttlebutt on the horrendous traffic circle at FL and NY Ave? With all the red line shuttles coming through for the red line Safe Track, that area has gotten exponentially worse (although I’ve been hoping for the razing of that Wendy’s and improvement of the traffic there for almost 4 years now). I searched your old posts and saw one from 2010 about that intersection, so was wondering about any new developments or if I missed one.”

This circle was profiled for a Dysfunction Junction Vol. 4 but that’s the last heard. Anyone else hear of short term or long term plans to ameliorate the situation?

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63 Comment

  • let’s not forget the root cause of the traffic: too many people driving cars.

    • Very well Bob – traffic is caused by people driving cars – very, very astute of you.

      • amazing how often this point is forgotten though. it’s the road design, the lights, the other cars, the bikes, a wreck, the weather, or in this case, the shuttle busses.

        • People are not going to stop driving cars.

          • many people in the netherlands said the same thing in the mid-to-late 1960s

          • Then they should stop complaining about congestion. They cause it and they just get into each other’s way.

          • Did the Netherlands scale back their public transportation options to achieve that? Nope. DC certainly isn’t expanding public transportation or making it more appealing, that is for sure.

          • Not with that attitude!
            .
            in a metropolitan area of 6m, and a population density of 11,000+/sqmi, we really can do better than this. but car drivers have to give a bit. even below, someone thinks a dedicated overpass is a solution, which would kill the streetscape, encourage speeding, etc. plus, (to my original point) bc cars create traffic, not road design, everyone would just get through this intersection a bit quicker to the next bottleneck, where there will be (surprise!) more traffic.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            “bc cars create traffic, not road design.” Seriously? What do you think roads are there for? Hint: for cars/trucks to drive on. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_engineering_(transportation)

          • “cars/trucks to drive on”
            Not really. Roads were designed for a bunch of things, not just cars and trucks. DC itself was designed before both of those were in use. Besides, what good is road design if everybody tries to beat the light and block the box? What good is road design if drivers just pull up and double-park wherever the hell they feel like it? At some point design fails because the driving culture fails?

          • Tsar of Truxton

            You’re right, the Wendy’s intersection today looks exactly like it did in L’Enfant’s original plan. How silly of me. Obviously, I was being overly simplistic, but the point remains the same. The roads are designed to prevent traffic congestion as best they possibly can. Also, there is a difference between saying traffic is caused by too many people driving cars and saying that a few a**holes running lights or blocking the box/lanes of traffic make traffic work. I think everyone on here would concede the latter. If no people broke any traffic laws, the traffic situation would be better; you are correct. That, however, is not relevant to the discussion at hand.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            *makes traffic worse

          • I’ve never understood why people assume that Europe is a utopia of car-free living. Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that the Netherlands has the worst traffic jams in Europe. And the super cool bicycle-only lanes get their own version of traffic jams. The Wendy’s intersection is just awful no matter how many cars go through it.

          • flieswithoney, because in europe, having a car is a choice, and one can get typically get by even in minor cities without one. in the u.s., it is a requirement of life in all but a few major cities. plus, bike traffic jams? and i’d love to see a comparison of the “worst traffic jam in europe” to daily life in the u.s.

          • “That, however, is not relevant to the discussion at hand.”

            How the hell can that NOT be a part of the discussion? If people are blocking the box then what can you do? If they ticket people then everybody complains about cameras or that officers are chocking the intersection by pulling people over. I think the driving culture of “I’m gonna get mines” is exactly how these messes are created. Good luck with “timing the lights” and all that. If everybody just ignores the rules then no amount of “design” will do any good, unless you just get rid of the cars in the first place, which you don’t want to do…so it’s either the driving culture gets better or you live with the clusterf*ck that is driving in DC.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            I’m all for cameras as I said below. Start handing out $200 tickets, and I bet people think twice about blocking the box. If they don’t, they city gets a new revenue stream.

    • That’s a clever answer, but DC’s traffic circles are a disaster, lots of cars or not.
      .
      For example, Logan Circle is not a super heavy traffic circle. Because the lights are green for about 10 seconds at a time. It’s totally micro-managed by stoplights.
      .
      Heck even if Dupont Circle – it back-up to get into the traffic circle is ridiculous, but there’s nobody in it half the time. And not to mention the disaster of the inner and outer lanes.
      .
      And also, I’m not much of a driver. I put less than 1,000 miles a year on my car (including trips out of the area). But it’s asinine to act like cars will just poof and go away. Especially when the investment is NOT being put in alternative transportation (and access to public transportation has been curbed in DC over the last 6 months).
      .
      A lot of increase in traffic I’ve noticed has been from Uber/Lyft drivers. It feels like every other car on the road around my neighborhood is one a lot of the time. And the explosion in that I think has a lot to do with the problems with Metro. I know a lot of people who basically have stopped using Metro and use Uber when they need to go somewhere further away.

      • i also own a car, but also advocate that dc start planning for better public transit. it’s not a binary choice. as to the mess of the traffic circles, i actually prefer that it’s a bit of a pain to get through these places. too many people live here and walk around the city to have cars bombing down our roads. it’s a city of 600,000; it shouldn’t be easy to drive through at 40mph.

  • Seriously, we’re blaming people taking mass transit for traffic problems/. I’m not sure what your question is. The shuttle buses will stop going through Dave Thomas Circle when Safe Track ends. Then it will go back to being a royal mess instead of an epic mess.

    • I mean, OP isn’t wrong – the busses are, in fact, making this intersection that much worse. I’m not sure why you chose to go on that tangent when OP didn’t make any sort of claims claiming people for taking public transport.

    • He’s faulting the shuttle buses. The shuttle buses are filled with people taking mass transit. Not sure how that’s a tangent.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        Blaming WMATA for a poorly developed plan is not blaming people for relying on WMATA. Do you understand the difference? I don’t blame people taking public transit when there is a fire on the Metro, I blame WMATA for not maintaining the tracks.

        • Huh? The circle is a clusterF**ck, no doubt about it. Imagine how bad it would be if all those people on the buses decided to drive in cars instead? So, why complain about the buses? The buses didn’t make it worse. If anything, the buses are keeping it from being a super duper clusterF*ck. That’s why it is nonsensical to blame the buses. Think of all the people they are moving. Complain about DC’s failure to implement changes to better control the traffic at that circle. Do YOU understand the difference?

          • The busses most certainly are making the traffic worse. Have you actually witnessed this first hand?

          • WMATA could likely come up with a better plan to get the busses to NoMa metro than going around the circle.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            I do. I understand that it is not zero sum as you would suggest. Every person taking a bus (a) does not have a car and (b) would not need to drive through that intersection, so you can’t suggest that having no buses would actually make things worse (because neither you nor I know for sure). The OP suggested that the traffic at the intersection has gotten worse since the buses started going through there. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know as I haven’t used the intersection, but OP never said anything negative about people taking public transit.

          • And I interpreted the original post differently.

      • I’m on those damn buses. What you rather have happen? Me, along with all of those other people get in our cars and drive to work? Imagine what the circle would be like then. SMH .

        • Tsar of Truxton

          No, we would rather WMATA rethink the plan for where the buses need to go to get you between your stops. No one said the buses shouldn’t run. They are suggesting that there might be an alternative route that would be better for everyone.

          • I dont see where the OP is suggesting that the buses take a different route. I just see a complaint about the mere presence of the buses. Because of safetrack, my kids have to stay in daycare an extra hour. It sucks. So, again, yes, I have been witnessing the traffic first hand.

          • @BKDC it is being implied that given the already dense traffic at this area that the buses shouldve chosen a different route, not that the buses are causing the traffic.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            The OP asked for any “scuttlebutt” about the traffic circle, and later asked for any new developments on the traffic issues. This pretty clearly implies that they OP was wondering if anything is being done to improve the traffic situation, which has apparently gotten worse with the buses.

          • If there are so many great routes around the circle for busses, why aren’t you driving them?

          • Tsar of Truxton

            I’m not driving through there so I could care less, but I don’t think someone asking if anyone is looking into the problem is the same as blaming the people riding public transit for the issue. The answer may very well be that there is no better route.

  • My friends and I call that Wendy’s Island

  • In response to redeveloping the intersection, I feel like they just recently completed what is there now but my timing could be off.

  • You leave that Wendy’s alone. Some of us enjoy a spicy chicken sandwich!

  • DDOT did a study on this intersection a couple years ago. (Good summary here: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/22375/dave-thomas-circle-could-get-fixes-or-disappear-entirely/) The current layout is actually an improvement from its past rendition and is supposed to be “temporary”. As an Eckington resident, a major overhaul can’t come soon enough!

  • I couldn’t believe my eyes, but I did see traffic guards positioned around the circle on Tuesday during evening rush hour keeping people from blocking the box. This was the first time in my two years of commuting home through there. I think the main problem with this intersection is people running lights through parts of the NY Ave. intersection with no cameras because they know they won’t get a red light ticket. Same for Eckington Place. These people just clog up the intersections for the next light cycle giving zero Fs and no one gets anywhere. I think this whole circle would be so much better if they put red light cameras on EVERY light there giving people no incentive to run the lights, and keep traffic moving much more smoothly.

    • Better yet just make it a real circle with flowing traffic and no lights. Maybe w/ an NY ave overpass to keep that traffic flowing.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      Agreed. There is also a serious issue coming from the other direction on FL Ave at P right before the Wendy’s. All the cars coming down FL Ave block the box, so people can’t turn onto P from FL (westbound) and cars from P can’t get out despite having a green. That said, the left turn from in front of the Elevation building gives about 1 second to go through before the light crossing NY Ave turns yellow, which is why people run it. The city needs to make the cycle of people going up FL a little shorter to let more people leave from the left turn area.

    • I’ve heard that in some jurisdictions, actual police officers sometimes lay in wait for such violators, and pull them over to give tickets.

    • This is a problem throughout the city, not just there. I often see cars blocking boxes everywhere from GTown (M & 29th) to Dupont Circle (P & 20th, Mass & 20th). If the city cracked down on double parking and blocking boxes (and blocking crosswalks) the traffic would probably become somewhat tolerable. I can’t stand all the honking that ensues when the box is blocked. That being said, there still are too many cars and not enough street.

  • This circle gives me so much rage every day. When traveling south on Eckington Place no one is ever in the correct lane. It is written on the lane that the right lane is to make a right turn on to Florida Ave only. The left lane is for traveling towards NY Ave. There are always people in the right lane continuing through the circle to NY Ave. Drive me nuts! Also, when in the left lane you should not turn right on red. There is an orange sign that states this but no one pays attention. Glad to get this off my chest!

    • This is not exactly true. There are two signs, one before the right hand turn that says the right hand lane is florida ave ONLY but there is a sign next to the wendys that indicates both lanes can turn to florida or 1st st ne. How about we get the signs to match to start with.

    • houseintherear

      UgHHHH I am so with you!! They’re a bunch of jerks and they know they’re not doing the right thing. Makes me infuriated.

    • That’s not accurate – Actually the problem is in the designation of lanes. Travelling south on Eckington place, the right lane says “FLA AVE WEST”. The left lane says “NY AVE EAST”. nowhere on those lanes does it indicate which lane you should be if you are traveling WEST on NY AVE or SOUTH on 1st Ave. If one of those 2 directions is your destination, you have 2 choices: 1. be in the left eckington lane then get boxed out by the gridlock of cars in the intersection going on NY ave WEST. Or 2. get in the right lane and get boxed out by those not turning into the furthest left lane.

    • This used to be the case, but they changed the traffic pattern, but didn’t take away all the signs as someone else already said. If they put the flexible pylons between the two lanes that turn onto 1st from Fl and the two lanes continuing West on Florida, you would prevent a lot of cars on Eckington Place from blocking the intersection because they would have to turn properly into those intersections. Also red light cams. The number of people that run every light in that intersection is ridiculous.

  • This intersection is totally screwed. And if DC wants to make money, ticket the people who run the red light, long after it turns red, as they turn right from Florida to enter the circle. Amazing that scored of pedestrians and cyclists have not been killed. This is the worst intersection/traffic circle in DC. And for the love of God, people, stop honking your horns. Traffic will not move in this traffic design disaster. Just wait until the new high rise apartments are finished.

  • I agree with the OP that traffic in the circle has gotten much worse due to the SafeTrack buses. Those of us who work on Eckington Pl often can’t even enter or exit our driveways at rush hour. I’ve been practicing patience and tolerance when I need to drive on Eckington but it’s another reason I’ll look forward to the end of this phase of SafeTrack next week.
    But then we go back to just our “usual” frustrations with the circle. Can’t the city condemn the Wendy’s using eminent domain and overhaul this intersection into something that makes better long-term sense?

  • I am old enough to remember when you could travel east on Florida Avenue without having to circle a fast food restaurant for no apparent reason.

    I am not a traffic engineer, so I could be completely wrong, but when the traffic pattern was changed (sometime in 2010?) the point seemed to be to make sure that people traveling north and south on New York Ave (i.e. people who do not live here) can get in and out of the city fast. It makes getting across town along Florida Avenue from Trinidad and H Street nearly impossible. When driving west, you are caught at I believe three separate lights between 3rd Street NE (where the old Burger King used to be) and actually crossing New York Avenue. That’s not a distance of more than 100-150 yards. Then, when traveling east, as we all know, you’re not forced to navigate around the Wendy’s rather than simply continue across Florida Avenue.

    Again, not a traffic engineer, but I cannot see how the change in the traffic pattern improved the intersection for anyone. It certainly made it worse for anyone who lives here to get across town. Some study must have said that it would get Maryland driver to their fed job faster, which seemed to be the point.