A strong community of trail users and local residents around the burgeoning Metropolitan Branch Trail in Washington, D.C. continues to have great success in promoting and improving this vital nonmotorized connection into the city.
Since this rail-with-trail was opened in 2008, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has focused on fostering a sense of community ownership, hosting listservs for regular commuters and joggers, establishing a formal neighborhood group and building a regular series of community events on and around the trail. As a result, not only are more people using the trail, but these same people are now invested in, and solving, important safety issues, helping keep the corridor clean and cared for, and exerting pressure on local authorities for new improvements.
Now, thanks to public pressure from trail users and supporters, including Greater Greater Washington blogger Geoff Hatchard and the District Department of Transportation's Bicycle Program Specialist and Trail Planner, Heather Deutsch, DDOT management has committed to better maintaining trailside lighting in order to ensure the trail remains lit at night. Lighting is a critical issue for this urban trail which has suffered from a number of muggings of trail users in recent years. Though the number of incidents was reflective of the crime rate in the surrounding neighborhoods and the trail does not attract a disproportionate rate of crime, the prominence of this relatively new trail resulted in thorough media coverage of the muggings and sparked a groundswell of demands for increased police presence and other safety measures. Like keeping the trail well lit.
Though solar LED lights have long been installed, the problem was keeping them in working order, and a number of broken units meant pockets of darkness along the trail.
Following a regular correspondence with DDOT's John Lisle, Hatchard reported that DDOT has agreed to work with the contractor to get all the lights functioning again, and would sign a new contract that included regular maintenance of the lights. The result is sure to be more trail users, safer trail users, and so the snowball rolls.
Great job, Met Branch peeps.