In transit-focused forum, Ward 3 DC Council hopefuls vow to focus on safety and expand public transportation access
Candidates largely agreed that significant transportation changes are needed as soon as possible
Protected bike lanes. Reliable buses. Intersection cameras. Even more protected bike lanes.
These were just some of the many ideas floated by the 10 candidates running to represent Ward 3 on the D.C. Council who participated in Tuesday’s virtual forum on transportation.
The hour-and-thirty-minute discussion was hosted by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and moderated by Axios reporter Cuneyt Dil. Candidates answered a range of transportation-related questions on issues facing the Ward, including how to expand public transit and keep pedestrians safe from speeding cars.
Henry Cohen, an 18-year-old candidate running on an education-focused platform, opened his remarks by reading the names of children who were injured or killed by cars in D.C. and called for hearings into those cases.
“The safest street is a car-free street,” Cohen said.
Eric Goulet, an aide to former mayor Vincent Gray, tied transit to climate change in nearly all of his responses, arguing that the city could make better use of tax dollars to invest in environmentally friendly transportation infrastructure. He referenced the idea of a city-wide carbon fee, which ANC 3E chair Beau Finley expressed support for as well.
Finley and Deirdre Brown, a former ANC 3F commissioner, each made the case for connected bike paths and expanded bus service throughout the Ward.
“We need to lower the barriers to non-car modes of transportation,” Finley said.
The transportation debate comes amid a rise in traffic deaths in the district. Forty people were killed on the road in D.C. in 2021, the highest number in more than a decade.
In 2015, Mayor Muriel Bowser hailed the city’s Vision Zero initiative as a game-changing plan to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024. Since then, deaths have increased in every year except 2019.
At the forum, candidates repeatedly stressed the need for more protected bike lanes along busy roads. During the lightning round, every candidate except David Krucoff, the lone Republican in the race, gave a thumbs-up when asked if they support building a protected bike lane on Connecticut Avenue.
Krucoff, defending his position on the bike lane earlier in the forum, said the other candidates were too “anti-motorist,” but that he also understood the benefits of biking.
“I like to bike. I biked this weekend — 20 miles,” Krucoff said at one point, to which several of the other candidates chuckled and shook their heads.
Krucoff was also the only candidate to give a thumbs-down when Dil asked about support for a proposal currently in front of the Council to give out $100 transit cards.
On the question of establishing a public subsidy for seniors to use rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft to get to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store, every candidate gave a thumbs-up.
The one moment of tension came when Cohen criticized Krucoff for referring to the Council as “13 fiefdoms of complacency” on his campaign website. After a brief back and forth, Krucoff said he stood by his statement and didn’t understand why he was being attacked. The debate moved on.
Other candidates who participated in the forum included Tricia Duncan, former president of the Palisades Community Association; Phil Thomas, chair of the Ward 3 Democrats; Monte Monash, former chair of the D.C. Public Library; Matthew Frumin, Councilmember Mary Cheh’s treasurer; and Ben Bergmann, chair of ANC 3D, who brought his two children onto his lap for his closing statement.
There’s still a long way to go before the June 21 primary, and it’s unclear who will emerge out of the crowded field of candidates. With many similar policy priorities, it will take more than one forum for voters to tease apart the candidates’ differences.
Throughout the event, viewers flooded the Zoom chat with hundreds of comments, responding to the candidates, arguing among themselves and engaging in conversations entirely unrelated to the content of the forum.
As candidates gave their closing remarks, one person wrote, “This chat has been the highlight of this forum. Truly.”