Red Brick Town (and former Carlyle Community) reader Scott Thompson is upset with the current transportation options being provided to residents and employees in the Carlyle neighborhood area.
“The Carlyle development is a semi-successful neighborhood. The Patent Office (officially the “United States Patent and Trademark Office”, so we’ll just say PTO) anchors the neighborhood and provides plenty of daytime population, and there are lots of really nice apartments and condos, yet there is an enormous amount of vacant retail and office space.
The center of Carlyle is about ¾ mile from the heart of the King Street vibe of Old Town, where people are out on the street all day and night, and vacancies along the commercial strip are rare and usually get snapped up quickly. Sure, Old Town has the historic charm going for it, but why can’t new commercial buildings fill up in an area with lots of daytime workers and lots of residents?
In a word, transportation.
Old Town is easy to get to. You can take the ferry from National Harbor, the trolley from King Street Station, or buses from all over the place. If you drive, there are plenty of garages, not that they’re well-marked or easy to find. It’s very walkable – blocks are short, the street is narrow enough to cross easily, and there are lots of interesting things to look at while you’re walking; and if you’re into bicycling, there’s a smattering of bike parking and Capital Bikeshare kiosks all over the place.
Carlyle is hard to find – you can’t end up there by accident the way you can in Old Town. Parking is no better than Old Town, with the street parking usually filled up during the day. There aren’t Capital Bikeshare kiosks yet, though they’re coming. Walking is tougher because the blocks are long, John Carlyle has a way-too-wide boulevard, and PTO creates a multi-block superblock that cuts the neighborhood in half. And public transportation is anemic at best. In a city with, overall, pretty decent public transportation, Carlyle is pretty much a transit desert.
It isn’t really possible to make the neighborhood really walkable the way Old Town is; we can’t tear down all the new buildings and rebuild them in a sensible configuration. Parking, well, it is what it is. Really the only way to make the neighborhood successful and viable is to improve public transportation.
Take one retail category for example, pharmacies. In a neighborhood of Old Town no bigger than Carlyle, there are three chain-store pharmacies, two CVS and a Walgreen’s. Each of them is a block or less from a bus stop – not necessarily by design, but in most of Old Town it’s hard to be much further than a block from a bus stop. Carlyle has not a single pharmacy. Much of Carlyle is nearly half a mile from the nearest bus stop, and on weekends, there’s only one bus stop active in the entire neighborhood – and that’s right across the street from King Street Station.
Ironically, it is the property owners – who are suffering the most directly from all that vacant storefront you see as you try to walk around the neighborhood – who are reluctant to even consider subsidizing decent public transportation. Through their organization, the Carlyle Community Council, they replaced a poorly thought-out DASH bus service with a poorly thought-out private shuttle, which only operates during peak hours, publishes no schedule and serves only part of the community. The remaining unsubsidized DASH service provides access to the Federal courthouse and the hotels to the west of PTO, but no service to the heart of the Carlyle retail area at all.
If the Carlyle Community Council would consider subsidizing a well-designed, thoughtful, all-day DASH service, then at least there would be one reasonable way for people to find the neighborhood and move around in it. Until then, the storefronts that have been empty for years, and the newly-emptied storefronts like Sushi Naru and Robek’s, are likely to continue to haunt what could, and should, be a lively neighborhood.”
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