Exclusive: DDOT Now Runs Automated Camera Traffic Enforcement in DC

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 2, Edition 66 (5/15/2020)

ICYMI:Wednesday’s Street Justice reported exclusively that DDOT Director Jeff Marootian told Mayor Bowser’s Vision Zero Working Group DC is different from the dozens of other American cities that are closing streets or curbside lanes to thru traffic. Marootian insisted that DC can’t do the low-cost, low-maintenance tactical urbanism projects done by such forward-looking cities as Tampa, Florida. Despite the recommendations from months-long deliberations of DC Advisory Councils on Pedestrian, Bike, and Accessibility Issues, Director Marootian said Mayor Bowser opposes those changes. The Mayor‘s staff — specifically her Deputy Mayor for Infrastructure who runs the Vision Zero Working Group — hold veto power over DDOT projects (e.g., 9th Street NW cycletrack). Given the Mayor’s opposition to open/slow streets, Marootian said his agency will focus on bike-focused projects that were already in the works and don’t significantly change road space allocation to make social distancing and sit-down dining possible. Read that full report for free — no paywall — here.

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Police: DDOT Now Runs DC’s Camera-Based Traffic Enforcement

Today is a short report to update you on the latest development in a years-long fight over who controls camera-based traffic enforcement in Washington, DC. For many years, DC Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser have fought about this — the majority of Council wanting DC Police to continue running cameras and Mayor Bowser wanting DDOT to control them. There’s substantive debate about the merits of either agency controlling the program — perhaps the best argument is that enforcement should be better coordinated with traffic management and transportation planning and therefore housed within DDOT. Regardless, I don’t have time to recap that debate today.

The news today, reported exclusively by Street Justice, is that DDOT now has full control of automated traffic enforcement in the District of Columbia — that’s speed cameras, red-light cameras, and stop-sign cameras. This follows from Mayor Bowser's 2019 Executive Order moving the program from MPD to DDOT. However, since that Executive Order, neither DDOT nor MPD (especially not Mayor Bowser’s Executive Office), gave straight answers about who was running the program. Without a clear answer on who to ask about traffic cameras, ANCs, Civic Associations, BIDs, and residents have continued to fruitlessly ask MPD for cameras and gotten substandard answers when asked about the existing locations and enforcement.

On Thursday night, 1st District Commander Morgan Kane told ANC 6A (H Street NE/Capitol Hill NE) that DDOT has taken full ownership of the District's automated traffic enforcement camera program. An MPD spokesperson confirmed this today after Street Justice sent a media inquiry. During Wednesday's Vision Zero Working Group meeting, DDOT Director Marootian would not say his agency had taken over control of this automated enforcement system despite being asked about it directly by Bike Advisory (BAC) Chair Rachel Maisler. Last week at the BAC, Sergeant Terry Thorne directed me to the MPD public affairs team when I asked about the camera program handover. Also at the BAC, Karthik Balasubramanian — a Street Justice subscriber and Ward 6 resident, — asked DDOT bike/walk planner George Branyan about the transition process and George also did not offer information — referring back to Sgt. Thorne’s comment.

It may seem like a minor logistical matter, but automated enforcement is arguably the most effective tool to change driver behavior in a time where speeding has increased significantly with less traffic during coronavirus. The most commonly-request intervention for safer streets in DC-area community meetings is speed humps with traffic cameras as a close second. Residents — even those living in majority-minority areas — usually focus first on deterrence that doesn’t remove car travel or storage space in a street to re-designing that public space in a way data show effectively reduces driver speed and walk/bike danger.

For a year, Street Justice has asked Director Marootian and DDOT staff about the status of the cameras and — off the top of our heads — he has said “expect an announcement soon” three times verbatim. As I said, there’s a long history here of political fights about these cameras, but there’s been opposition from Mayor Bowser to increasing the number of deployed cameras — about 150 now and steady for the last decade or so.

Street Justice reached out to DDOT for comment and clarification and waited all day to publish this report, but we did not receive a reply. We asked also these questions:

Does Mayor Bowser plan to expand the number of these cameras? Which DDOT Department is running the cameras -- is it this DC Street Safe program where website content seems to be outdated and the website URLs are broken? To whom should DC's ANCs, Civic Associations, BIDs, and residents request camera enforcement?

At the moment, Street Justice suggests stakeholders apply pressure to DDOT to release more information about their plans for automatic traffic enforcement. And it probably won’t have any effect to send letters to MPD staff on this issue.

NOTE: This story was updated to say that Commander Kane was speaking at the ANC 6A meeting, not ANC 6C.

News Tidbits

“A Fifth District [DC Police] officer remains hospitalized with significant injuries from an incident that occurred yesterday evening. At approximately 10:24 pm, the 5D patrol officer engaged in a foot pursuit of an individual believed to be in possession of an illegal firearm in the area of Bladensburg Road and Levis Street, Northeast. During the pursuit, the officer was inadvertently struck by a Metro Bus. The officer was transported to a local hospital for treatment of critical injuries. Please keep the officer, his wife and his children in your thoughts and prayers.” That’s Lieutenant Brian H. Brown of DC Police, writing in an email to Ward 5 elected officials last night.

Social Media Activity

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Coronavirus Polling

Surveys/Public Comment Periods

  • [DC] Re-Open DC Advisory Committee Survey for Ideas and Requests from the Public (Transportation & Infrastructure Cmmte Roster) -> Project | Overall Form | T&I or Other Committee-Specific Form | ASAP Deadline

  • [DC] DDOT Notice of Intent: G St NW Cycletrack (17th St NW to Virginia Avenue NW) + Parking Changes -> Project | Email Comments | 5/19 Deadline

  • [DC] DDOT Notice of Intent: Water St NW Cycletrack & Streetscape Improvements including mini-roundabout, new lighting, and sidewalks -> Project | Email Comments | 5/19 Deadline

  • [DC] DDOT Notice of Intent: Creation of Metrobus Zone on K Street NW between 13th and 14th Street NW -> Project | Email Comments | 5/22 Deadline

  • [DC] DDOT Notice of Intent: Creation of Metrobus Zone on 15th Street NW between K and I Street NW -> Project | Email Comments | 5/22 Deadline

  • [DC] DDOT Notice of Intent: Two possible reconfigurations of the 14th St/Arkansas Ave/Varnum St NW intersection for greater safety -> Design Options | Email Comments | 5/29 Deadline

  • [DC] DDOT Notice of Intent: Installation of protected bicycle lanes on K Street between 7th St NW and 1st St NE (Note that this leaves un-modified the stretch of K St NE from 1st to 2nd Streets NE, under the WMATA/CSX tracks.) -> Project | Email Comments | 6/5 Deadline

Events Calendar

  • Full Events Calendar on TeamUp: [COMING SOON!]

  • This Week’s Password (case-sensitive): ————————————————-

  • I hope to cover the below public events in person.

New Street Justice Calendar Set-Up: [COMING SOON!]

[National/Region-Wide] Mon 5/15: [Webinar] Safe Speeds Save Lives: How Portland is Managing Speeds for Safety [Details]

[DC] Sat 5/16: Ward 7 Economic Vision Debate via YouTube Livestream, hosted by the Marshall Heights Civic Association [Details]

[DC] Mon 5/18: ANC 2D (Kalorama) via Zoom ft. “DDOT Road and Sidewalk Construction” [Details]

[DC] Mon 5/18: ANC 3C (Cleveland Park/Woodley Park) via Zoom ft. “Presentation from DDOT on Cleveland Park Drainage and Streetscape Project and the Connecticut Avenue Reversible Lane Study” [Details]

[National/Region-Wide] Tues 5/19: INRIX (Virtual) Mobility Panel — “A (virtual) panel on how cities and transportation companies are responding to COVID-19’s impact on cities, cars, customers and constituents” [Details]

[DC] Tues 5/19: ANC 4D (Petworth/Brightwood Park) via Zoom ft. Jeff Marootian, DDOT Director, and Sayra Molina, Program Analyst at DDOT [Agenda | Zoom Link | Dial 301-715-8592 with Meeting ID 964 6466 2897]

[DC] Tues 5/19: ANC 5E (Bloomingdale/Eckington/Edgewood) via Zoom ft. “Letter Requesting Removal of Rush Hour Parking Restrictions and Supporting Safety Enhancements on Franklin St. NE [Details]

[DC] Tues 5/19: ANC 8B (Fort Stanton/Woodland) via Zoom [Details]

[DC] Tues 5/19: Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association (ANC 5B) via Zoom ft. “resolution presented by our Ward 5 rep on the School Board, Zachary Parker, on the importance of full funding for early childhood (age 0-3) education and health programming.” [Zoom Link | Dial 301-715-8592 with Meeting ID 849 3277 3312 and Password 566174]

[DC] Wed 5/20: ANC 2A (Foggy Bottom/West End) via Zoom ft. “Presentation by the Friends of Francis Field regarding field updates” [Details]

[DC] Wed 5/20: ANC 5C (Woodridge/Fort Lincoln) via Webex [Details]

[DC] Wed 5/20: ANC 8D (Bellvue) via Webex [Details]

[DC] Thurs 5/21: ANC 3E (AU Park/Tenleytown/Friendship Heights) [Details]

[National/Region-Wide] Fri 5/22: [Webinar] Understanding Technology-Based Exclusion in Emerging Smart Mobility Systems [Details]

[DC] Tues 5/26: ANC 4B (Takoma/Lamond Riggs) via Zoom and YouTube livestream produced by Street Justice [Details]

[DC] Wed 5/27: ANC 5A (Fort Totten/Michigan Park/Riggs Park) via Zoom [Details]

[DC] Wed 5/27: ANC 5B (Brookland/Woodridge) via Zoom [Details]

[VA] Mon 6/8: Alexandria Bike-Pedestrian Advisory Committee [Details]

[DC] Thurs 6/11: ANC 3B (Glover Park/Cleveland Heights) in-person (?) [Details]

[National/Region-Wide] Sat 4/3/2021 – Sun 4/4/2021: Fully Charged Live North America — America’s largest consumer-accessible conference on electric transportation and renewable energy – Austin, TX [Details]