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On-Street Parking in Friendship Heights

Letter to County Executive Leggett
January 27, 2014

We understand that the County Department of Transportation is considering adding on-street metered parking along Wisconsin Avenue in Friendship Heights. ACT believes this would strengthen the pedestrian character of the neighborhood as well as the attractiveness of the retail shops and services along this stretch of the avenue. Consequently, we strongly support the idea.

From a pedestrian safety and traffic-calming perspective, on-street parking makes pedestrians on the sidewalk feel much safer, as they have a buffer between themselves and the road. The sidewalks in this area are quite wide, but not inviting. With a buffer of parked cars, the pedestrian/retail experience could become quite appealing -- especially in evenings and weekends when there are more people out and about.

As on nearby stretches of Wisconsin Avenue (in downtown Bethesda and in the District on the other side of Western Avenue), short-term parking in front of stores makes it easier for people to stop, run in to pick something up, and continue on their trip. Having to park in a garage a few blocks away or in a large surface lot makes such impromptu stops less likely.

And since this stretch of the avenue is bracketed on either side by significant stretches with parking and two travel lanes in each direction, the overall impact on traffic flow should be minimal.

Fewer traffic lanes also make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street, effectively providing more time to cross without adding to the time that cars are stopped. This is especially important for this area of Friendship Heights with its large number of older folks, families with small children, and people visiting doctors’ offices.

And finally having a parking lane will serve as a placeholder for potential future BRT or other bus improvements to be extended down Wisconsin Avenue from the Bethesda Metro to the Friendship Heights Metro and bus transfer point to half a dozen distributor bus lines in Maryland and DC.

We hope that the County will move rapidly to make these easy changes to Wisconsin Avenue in Friendship Heights and improve the general pedestrian environment in this area. Thank you for considering our comments on this matter.


Nicholas M. Brand, President
Action Committee for Transit