Norton Asks NPS to Hold Public Meeting and to Meet with Pedicab Drivers before Finalizing New Mall Transportation Plan
December 13, 2011
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today sent a letter to National Park Service (NPS) officials asking them to collaborate with stakeholders in the community by holding a public meeting before finalizing a new National Mall transportation plan. “An open meeting to allow citizens to understand your goals and your limits in developing a transportation plan, and to allow them to offer their suggestions, will benefit all concerned,” Norton wrote in her letter. In the letter to the National Capital Region Associate Regional Director for Lands, Resources, and Planning, Peter May, and the Superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, Bob Vogel, Norton requested that NPS get recommendations from the public during its process, and specifically noted that pedicab drivers should be heard, along with pedicab owners, during the process.
The District Department of Transportation’s emergency regulations for pedicabs expired on November 29, 2011, which has seemed to lead to an increase in confrontations between pedicab drivers and the U.S. Park Police, particularly around the National Mall. A number of tickets have been issued to pedicab drivers for traffic and parking infractions, but most have been dismissed. Norton said hearing from pedicab drivers would not only be helpful as NPS develops its plan, but could also reduce confrontations between pedicab drivers and the U.S. Park Police. Norton offered to assist with a meeting. “I believe that a meeting among NPS, U.S. Park Police, and pedicab owners and operators could end unseemly and unnecessary conflict and could turn the page to a more tranquil relationship,” Norton wrote in the letter.
Last month, Norton wrote to NPS officials expressing her hope that the new transportation plan for the National Mall area, which is currently being considered, will allow for a variety of fuel-efficient means of transportation, rather than the large tour bus of the past. In that letter, the Congresswoman urged a plan that increases green transportation options and is more welcoming to today’s variety of park users. Norton’s letter was a follow up to concerns raised by the Congresswoman and residents at Norton’s Parks Town Meeting on October 22, 2011.
Norton’s letter sent today follows.
December 13, 2011
Dear Messrs May and Vogel:
Many in the city and region have great interest in and concern about your work on the transportation plan for the National Mall. My recent parks town meeting, which you were good enough to attend, went a long way toward establishing a very positive relationship between NPS and residents. I am now requesting that you hold a public meeting prior to the issuance of the new transportation plan. I would be pleased to hold this meeting with you, but a National Park Service (NPS) public meeting is all that I am requesting. As is always the case when an agency anticipates major changes, it can only help to have a public discussion, even when an agency does not accept all of the suggestions offered.
In addition, I ask that you meet with pedicab drivers to help avoid increasing tension before it gets out of hand. I understand that NPS has committed to meeting with pedicab owners, but I am concerned about the increased instances of confrontation between pedicab drivers and the U.S. Park Police. Drivers lack clarity on the current rules, particularly since the emergency transportation regulations recently expired. Hearing from the drivers, who are most directly impacted by the regulations, would be helpful not only as you consider the design of your plan, but also in reducing the uptick in confrontations between pedicab drivers and U.S. Park Police around the National Mall. As I understand it, a number of tickets have been issued to pedicab drivers for traffic and parking infractions, yet most have been dismissed. And there was a recent arrest of a driver, after some escalation, who asserts that it began over nothing more than a misunderstanding of the emergency transportation regulations issued by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) that expired on November 29, 2011. I believe that a meeting among NPS, U.S. Park Police, and pedicab owners and operators could end unseemly and unnecessary conflict and could turn the page to a more tranquil relationship.
The two requests I make are in keeping with the transparency and citizen participation I know you can embrace. First, an open meeting to allow citizens to understand your goals and your limits in developing a transportation plan, and to allow them to offer their suggestions, will benefit all concerned. Second, a meeting involving pedicab drivers and U.S. Park Police is the best way to diffuse escalating tensions. Considering the cooperation with citizens that is necessary for our parks to be successful, and the important new relationship you are establishing with residents, I do not believe that the requests I am making are too much to ask.
Eleanor Holmes Norton