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How should D.C. regulate public space?

City transportation officials will host “Public Space Day” at their offices this week

Cyclists in the 15th Street NW cycle track (2013)
The Washington Post/Getty Images

On Wednesday, residents can bring their public space concerns to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), which is scheduled to host its sixth annual “Public Space Day” in the lobby of its office building, 1100 4th Street SW, just steps from the Waterfront Metro station.

The May 22 event will run from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. “Attendees can meet with senior leaders and program specialists with DDOT’s Public Space Regulation Division (PSRD), learn more about the agency’s oversight of public space, collect information, fill out surveys and pick up free DDOT-related giveaways,” the department says in a release. The PSRD is responsible for enforcing public space laws, inspecting work performed in public space, and reviewing plans.

Last Tuesday, the D.C. Council preliminarily okayed a $15.5 billion budget for the District’s 2020 fiscal year that includes an additional $360,000 for the PSRD. That money will fund three new public space inspectors who would police construction sites. In its budget report, the Council’s transportation committee said it had concerns about DDOT’s ability to ensure utility companies and contractors refurbished streets to their original conditions—including by repainting crosswalks and bike lanes—after excavation work. The number of citations that utilities received for failing to do so fell to 153 in fiscal year 2018 from 340 in fiscal year 2017.

“The Committee believes the volume of new construction sites in the District has left DDOT’s public space inspectors short-handed,” the budget report notes. “The staff is overburdened attempting to keep up with the number of sites they must visit on a daily basis.” Fiscal year 2020 kicks off October 1. The budget also has $115,000 for a scooter-parking pilot program.