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Livability is one of those oft-used phrases that seems to exist primarily in the context of press releases. But DDOT’s latest study initiative, under the Livability Program, is trying to bring it to, well, real life.

Tuesday saw residents of Wards 7 and 8 meeting in the Anacostia Library to discuss transit-specific improvements they’d like to see to make their neighborhoods more “livable.” It was the second in a series of three designed to collect data to “provide more transportation choices, provide more sustainable alternatives, safer streets, and improve quality of life for citizens” throughout the city.

These feedback studies are merely data collection—it’ll take some time, and probably several more meetings and plans, to see on-the-ground results. The first study was held in Ward 3’s Rock Creek West; the last, for Far Northeast, is scheduled for Saturday, July 17. Last night’s “Far Southeast” study included the Fairlawn, Penn Branch, Dupont Park, Fort Davis, Fairfax Village, and Hillcrest neighborhoods.

The agenda allowed for a brief introduction by DDOT Ward 8 transportation planner Charles Thomas and KCI Technologies transportation engineer Angela Jones. But, the bulk of the evening was in control of the 15 or so residents who attended. Three small breakout groups bent over large-scale maps, putting down colored pins or circling intersections to illustrate where they regularly encounter problems. DDOT and KCI staffers helped residents orient themselves and scribbled down bulleted lists to correspond with the maps.

The activity, which lasted over an hour, was fruitful. Out of casual conversation—“I don’t understand people who don’t want sidewalks.  If you don’t want sidewalks, we’ll take ‘em!” “How do we decide where we need bus shelters, anyway?” “That hill, it just goes down and shoots back up!” “While we’re there, why don’t we put in a coffeehouse?”—came some real concerns. Some longtime residents pulled out their phones to ring up DDOT director Gabe Klein when they felt there was a discrepancy in the maps. Others honed in on the traffic impact of the proposed mixed-use Skyland Town Center, debated the merits of rumble strips, and, overall, requested better, safer accessibility to bus and metro lines running downtown.

Thomas told Housing Complex that the agency wanted to focus on areas in need across the wards to begin “comprehensive transportation livable improvements.”

“DDOT is the touchy-feely agency,” he said. “We can directly improve the quality of life with meetings like these.”

Overall, officials and residents alike seemed pleased with the evening’s results. Michelle of Fairfax Village said, “The interactive session was a great opportunity for residents to voice their concerns. We’re really hoping we’ll see the results.”

Two more meetings, slated for September and November 2010, will follow up on the data collected in Far Southeast on Tuesday. Residents who couldn’t attend are encouraged to voice their concerns online through the study’s website, which should be up and running soon.