There Is No War on Cars So why do we keep hearing so much about it?

If the District of Columbia is in the midst of a war on cars, then last month was its Gettysburg. Each bit of news about the city’s streets was met with a verbal assault, as predictably as a red light follows a yellow. The 1.8 million parking tickets issued last year? “A war on the 400,000 drivers who come into the city every day,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John B. Townsend II told WTOP. A proposal to allow developers near Metro stations to build as many or few parking spaces as they wanted? “A very dangerous proposal” that “threatens the future of Washington, D.C.,” Townsend’s colleague Lon Anderson told WAMU. The city’s push to promote biking, walking, and transit? “A strategy for decay and for sending future residents and businesses to the suburbs,” D.C. political gadfly Gary Imhoff opined in his biweekly email blast. An annoying traffic jam as Washingtonian national editor Harry Jaffe tried to get downtown for a meeting? “Cars losing war for D.C. streets” was the headline on his Washington Examiner column.

The “war on cars” rhetoric has been crescendoing for months, but now it’s reached an unsustainable volume. So before things go any further, let’s break the spell and say what needs to be said.

There is no war on cars.

There is no public official who wants to take away your old Camry. There is no proposal to force you to ride the Metro or bus. There is no gang of cyclists scheming to expand bike lanes until they consume the whole road. There is no plot, no conspiracy, no plan, no war.

So why are we hearing so much about it?


The idea of a war on cars is nothing new; it’s been around nearly as long as cars have. A 1902 Chicago Tribune story with the headline “Paris War on Automobiles” describes how a French politician, an “anti-semitic apostle in his grandiloquent but illogical exordium,” launched a civil war within his nationalist party by railing against the “tyranny of the automobile” and turning off his compatriots who were “fervent chauffeurs.” A year later, the Philadelphia Record told of another falling-out among former friends as the result of an “abandoned war on too speedy automobilists” led by one Constable Hoyle, “leader of the forces that intended to make it warm for scorchers,” who was accused of ditching his war on cars “only after receiving boxes of choice cigars from unknown persons.”

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A year after that, The Evening News bemoaned the “war on automobiles” in New York waged by stone-throwing “bands of roughs that infest the upper and lower east sides of the city.” Then there was the 1906 Chicago Tribune article about the boycott launched against the paper by carmakers who believed the Tribune to be “making war on automobiles.” There was the 1908 Baltimore Sun piece about a Rockville Town Council resolution to authorize the bailiff to stop all cars violating its 6-mile-an-hour speed limit by any means necessary. (“Bailiff Hewitt is an excellent pistol shot and he says he will use his revolver on the tires of all machines whose drivers ignore his commands to stop. If he finds he is not a good enough shot to puncture the tires as the machines rush by, he says he will use a shotgun.”) And there was the 1909 New York Times article on Seney, Ga.’s ordinance prohibiting cars within city limits and allowing the marshal to arrest anyone entering the town in “such ‘engines of destruction.’”

Yes, in the early days of the automobile, when the technology itself was being questioned and few rules existed to govern traffic and parking, there really was a war on cars. Driving could get you arrested in some places, whacked with stones in others, and actually shot by gun-wielding police in at least one. This wasn’t a philosophical debate over parking or bike lanes. It was a real, knock-down, drag-out battle.

Once cars were well established, however, the car war largely died out. News clips show scattered uses of the phrase over the next century, mostly things like “the sheriff has declared war on automobiles found without licenses” (Milwaukee Journal, 1925) and “Sheriff Jack Dunkley declares war on automobiles without sufficient lights” (Lawrence Journal-World, 1932). No grandiloquent exordium, no guns, no blood, no real war.


Except that there was a car war. It was just in reverse: Cars were declaring war on cities across the country.

The process of suburbanization in America that’s generally attributed to the automobile actually began with public transit: first the streetcar, then elevated rail and subways, which allowed people of means to commute downtown from posher residential areas. But it was cars that sent former residents beyond the city limits en masse. Downtown property owners converted vacant buildings to income-generating parking lots during the Great Depression, then called for the construction of massive urban freeways to bring suburbanites into the increasingly congested city. These rarely alleviated traffic, but they did bring about the condemnation and destruction of entire residential neighborhoods to make way for the new limited-access roads.

The District was not spared. “The idea was to get the congressmen [and] the people from the suburbs into Washington as quickly as possible,” says longtime D.C. preservationist Tersh Boasberg, former chair of the Historic Preservation Review Board and a District resident since 1964. “And since Washington was sort of dictated to by these congressmen, they didn’t give a damn what happened in the city. Nobody they knew lived in the city.”

In fact, fewer people lived in the city, period. The 1960 Census was the first to show a declining D.C. population—a trend that wouldn’t be reversed until 2010. New York planner Harold Lewis didn’t foresee that decline when he predicted in a 1956 report that the District’s population would steadily rise to 932,000 by 1980, accompanied by an increased reliance on cars until they achieved “universal use as the principal means of transportation.” (The population actually fell to 638,333 by 1980, down from 802,178 in 1950.) But Lewis’ report—with its stated goal of replacing slum-dwellers with more “sensitive and scrupulous elements of the population”—was the basis for the city’s 1958 zoning code, which mandated parking minimums and other car-focused policies and remains, with modifications, law to this day.

This was the era when slums were condemned and razed in the name of urban renewal, when neighborhoods in Southwest were wiped out to build Brutalist federal office buildings and the quadrant’s eponymous freeway. The push to replace houses with highways amounted to a declaration of war on the District—and particularly the areas around downtown that were home mostly to minorities and the elderly—by “the whole interstate highway lobby, which were basically the oil companies and the aggregate companies and people that built the highways and that sort of thing, car companies, everybody like that,” says Boasberg. Fortunately, residents and preservationists managed to stave off much of the damage by successfully protesting proposed freeways like the Inner Loop encircling the White House in a half-mile radius, the 10-lane North Central Freeway running from Union Station through Brookland to Silver Spring, and the Three Sisters Bridge spanning the Potomac near Georgetown, saving numerous residential areas and parks from destruction.

In the 1980s, with the most aggressive freeway plans shelved and Metro operating with additional construction well underway, the city made modest efforts to restore some high-speed roads to neighborhood-friendly uses. No sheriffs threatened to shoot out anyone’s wheels, but reactions occasionally did get violent. Tom Downs, who led the District Department of Transportation from 1981 to 1983 and now chairs the Metro board, recalls a particularly extreme response to his efforts to remove reversible lanes, which allowed for speedier commutes, from Reno Road NW.

“In the middle of the Reno Road reconfiguration down to a neighborhood, slower facility, somebody came into my driveway and stabbed all four of the tires on my car, and then a week later dropped a dud Molotov cocktail on my driveway,” Downs says. “Gasoline and a rag and all that.”

But even then, Downs says, nobody accused him of declaring war on cars.


So what are the fronts of today’s imaginary war?

One is the increase in parking and traffic fines initiated under the administration of former Mayor Adrian Fenty, who more than doubled the fines for some speeders caught on camera. (It came back to bite him when a camera caught his Smart Car driving over the speed limit.) The speed camera program has continued to expand under Mayor Vince Gray, with revenue more than doubling from 2011 to 2012. That’s led critics to accuse the government of extortion and setting transportation policy on the basis of revenue rather than safety.

Another: the profusion of bike lanes. AAA and others have blasted the city for promoting bikes at the expense of cars, even though most bike lanes have little to no impact on driving. The new L Street bike track has drawn heat for removing a lane that was previously used for driving during rush hour and parking at other times, leaving a measly three to four lanes for cars. According to rough figures from DDOT, there are about 85 lane-miles of bike lanes in the city, versus about 4,300 for driving and 985 for parking. Even these figures—the ones that show there are more than 10 times as many miles devoted to stationary parked cars as to bikes—understate how much of the city’s streets are dedicated to cars, since car lanes are much wider than bike lanes; all told, more than 100 times as much road space is dedicated to cars as to bikes. Yet some drivers continue to feel marginalized by the slight reallocation of road resources.

Even more contentious is a proposed rewrite of the zoning code, the first in 55 years. Among other changes, the update would remove parking minimums for new buildings within half a mile of a Metro stop or a quarter of a mile of a high-capacity bus route, allowing developers to build as many or as few off-street parking spaces as they think the market will support. It’s a relatively minor change, but that hasn’t precluded howls and war cries from AAA and residents who fear that cars will spill out onto the streets and make it harder for them to park in front of their houses—or, in more extreme iterations, that the city is trying to make life impossible for car owners and convert everyone to bikers, transit riders, and car-sharing users.

“I don’t think the ‘war on cars’ implies that there are forces trying to eliminate the automobile,” says D.C. political consultant Chuck Thies, author of the 2011 Huffington Post column “The War on Automobiles.” “I believe there are people who would like to see life made as difficult as possible within the framework of the law and within the framework of reality for motorists and for automobile owners. Their objective is to make it difficult to own an automobile, whether that is in a manner that is inconvenient or a manner that is costly, and that will in turn reduce the number of automobiles on the road.”

The loudest criticism tends to come from a group of about half a dozen Upper Northwest residents, who not only raise a stink on neighborhood email lists and at community meetings and D.C. Council hearings, but also trekked resolutely to meetings on the zoning update in nearly every ward to make their voices heard. (All of them declined to be interviewed for this story.) Sometimes their objections are well thought out; other times, they’re wildly hyperbolic. One opponent riled her neighbors up on an email list by alleging that the goal of the parking minimum change was “to extract people (meaning me and thee) from cars and get them to walk vigorously to a Metro stop.” One claimed at a Council hearing that the pint-sized Car2Go Smart Cars were making it impossible to find parking; another said at an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting that a single Zipcar on Wisconsin Avenue would thoroughly disrupt traffic. People occasionally get carried away by their emotions on the parking issue: When the Tenleytown ANC considered supporting a variance that would allow a building on Wisconsin Avenue NW to go up without parking, one resident accused the commissioners of not having a brain, and another was moved to shriek, “The emperor has no clothes!”


Perhaps the most dogged general in the war on cars is AAA’s John Townsend, a 62-year-old grandfather from Alabama with slicked-back white hair and a patient and genial demeanor—until you bring up David Alpert, who runs the “smart growth” website Greater Greater Washington, an unabashed proponent of policies that would make the city’s streets more multimodal. Then the venom starts to fly.

[Click image to enlarge]

“He is a nerd,” Townsend says. “I think that he’s developmentally retarded.”

Townsend believes that Alpert dishes out criticism from the protected space of his blog that he wouldn’t dare speak in person. “It’s almost like the Klan hiding behind the white masks,” Townsend says.

AAA doesn’t respond to Alpert, Townsend says, because he’s “not worthy” and it would be “like shooting a gnat with a bazooka,” but Townsend himself is not above lashing out at Alpert. “I’ve told him to his face, ‘You’re a little ninny,’ and he ran out the room like a schoolboy,” Townsend says.

Alpert contends that’s not exactly what happened; according to his version, the two of them were at a speed camera task force meeting last year when Townsend left to talk to a TV reporter on camera, leaving Alpert frustrated that Townsend wasn’t participating in the conversation. “I said to him after, I was disappointed that that happened, and he got this enraged look on his face like he was about to hit me, and he said, ‘You know what, you’re a ninny,’” Alpert recalls. “And I didn’t want to either a) get in a fight, or b) get in a shouting match with him. So I just walked away to give him a chance to cool off.”

Alpert questions why Townsend volunteers himself as the bully in the schoolyard metaphor, but Alpert’s been accused of some transportation-related bullying himself. Last month, when news broke that the Examiner would be shutting down its daily paper, Alpert sent out a series of tweets—the most extreme of which he later apologized for and deleted—accusing the Examiner of stirring up car-war hate and calling it “a bile-spewing, hateful rag that waged war against us.”

Alpert and other critics of the war rhetoric are frequently frustrated when reporters turn to AAA for input on transportation stories simply because they’re sure to get a zingy quote. It’s a formula, Alpert says, that distracts from the issues at hand.

In an effort to take the conversation back to the issues, I hopped in Townsend’s white Ford Five Hundred for a spin around town and a tour of where, exactly, the city has been declaring war.

For a man whose job is all about cars, and who drives downtown from Mitchellville, Md., every day, Townsend is a surprisingly bad driver. He runs a red light in front of Union Station—he claims he just missed the yellow, but it really wasn’t close—and nearly gets in an accident. He gets turned around on Capitol Hill and drives in a big circle while trying to find I-295. And he seems a little paranoid of the speed cameras he regularly assails, sometimes driving more than 10 miles an hour under the speed limit and annoying nearby drivers.

Townsend’s beef with the cameras is actually quite minimal. His gripe is with the city’s messaging; he wants greater transparency on what, exactly, you can get ticketed for—on DDOT’s website, say, or on signs.

So why the “war on cars” language? At first, Townsend says he doesn’t use the phrase, and that he recently told a television reporter who did, “I don’t like that term. I think it’s a misnomer. I think it just inflames the rhetoric.”

But when I present Townsend with several instances in which he invoked a “war on cars,” he says he was simply responding to a reporter’s use of the same term, and that he now wishes he hadn’t used it.

“I regret the rhetoric sometimes,” he says. “Because I think that when you use that type of language, it shuts down communication with people who disagree.”

But he stands by the sentiment. “We represent motorists,” he says, “and I have to represent my constituents.”

The question of representation irks Alpert, who argues that Townsend really doesn’t represent AAA’s 80,000 D.C. members. “They don’t vote for him,” Alpert says. “They don’t join AAA because they agree with the lobbying agenda. He’s employed by a towing, insurance, and travel discount company.”

Representative or not, AAA is not alone in its regular invocation of the war on cars. But if no such war exists, why are we bombarded with references to it? There are lots of theories, but any explanation has to begin with a fundamental truth: The war on cars isn’t really about cars. It’s about a rapidly growing and changing city.


The District’s 50-year population hemorrhage has given way to dizzying growth. The city is now gaining more than 1,000 new residents per month, and along with them a seemingly never-ending stream of new restaurants and bars and high-rise condo buildings. The boom has been accompanied by a drop in crime and an increase in income-tax revenue—a boon for a city that’s constrained by height limits and the inability to tax commuters—but it can still feel threatening to, say, Upper Northwest residents accustomed to the car-dominated, suburban feel of the their part of the District.

“I think that in general, change is a scary thing for anyone at any age,” says Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning. “And we probably have seen more change in transportation than in any other area of city life. And for some people that’s somewhat alarming.”

In other words, the changes on our roads are simply the most visible manifestation of a broader metamorphosis in the District. If you live in a house in Cleveland Park and commute to Capitol Hill, you might not notice the skyrocketing rents for Columbia Heights apartments or the hours-long wait for a table on H Street NE. But you will notice the biker who cuts you off on Connecticut Avenue, or the pyloned-off cycletrack that changes traffic patterns on L Street, or the white flash that catches you running a red.

The city isn’t so much masterminding the change in transportation uses as responding to a generational shift in who lives in the densest parts of the city and how they get around. The people flocking to the District recently—more than 30,000 just since 2010—are largely 20-somethings who don’t see car ownership as a top priority. Some are children of the recession who simply don’t have the money for a car, preferring Metro and bus. Others started driving in the Zipcar era and see no need to own a car when they can rent one on demand. Close to 40 percent of D.C. residents don’t own a car, compared to 8 percent nationally, according to the Office of Planning.

Logically, it’s great news for drivers if more people are turning to Metro and Zipcar and bikes—that ought to mean more parking spaces and less traffic. But some people are inclined to see our transportation mix as a different kind of zero-sum game, one in which a gain for bikers is a loss for drivers.

Except that there’s no way for the District to build enough car infrastructure if the current population boom continues and every new resident brings a personal vehicle. “If everyone comes of driving age with a car, then it’s game over,” Tregoning says. The people screaming about the war on cars think the D.C. government is trying to make driving inconvenient, but the government has nothing on their fellow drivers on that front.

Notably, Townsend also says he’d like to see more people ride Metro. But he argues that life can’t be made harder for drivers—even if his threshold for hardship is so low as to include a new bike lane here and there—as long as Metro is underfunded and unreliable. “You have to stand and four or five trains pass at rush hour before you can get on one,” Townsend says of the Metro experience. “Or if you want to get on one, you have to stand, and a guy can pull his johnson out and set it on a woman’s booty, as this molester was doing. I mean, it’s just outrageous, some of the stuff that goes on on Metro.”

Townsend agrees that a generational change is responsible for the evolving approach to transportation, but he sees it as the product of “arrogance” inherent to young people who think they can reinvent the world. “It’s not changing the world; it’s reinventing it because you’re experiencing it for the first time,” he says, waxing a bit poetic. “Nothing wrong with that. So: ‘We’re having the best sex ever. We’re drinking the best wine ever. We’re watching the best movies ever.’ Because none of this mattered that came before. None of it matters, until you wake up one day and discover there’s a gray speck in your beard and you’ve lost a step.”


Critics of the city’s transportation policy regularly accuse the government of “picking winners and losers,” of favoring younger, bike- and transit-using residents over longtime, car-reliant ones. But the measures espoused by Fenty and Gray and Tregoning can perhaps better be viewed as an attempt to strike a different kind of balance when it comes to who’s served by the District’s transportation infrastructure.

The policies of the 1950s were focused largely on suburban commuters—government employees who wanted easy access to their place of work. The assumption then was that everyone would flock to the newly developed suburbs, heading to the city only for jobs. (Planners didn’t spend much time thinking about the needs of the mostly black city residents who couldn’t move to the suburbs.) But now, 30 years into home rule, District leaders are trying to make policy for Washingtonians themselves. Fewer than 40 percent of workers living in D.C. drive to their jobs. A few additional bike lanes, higher fines for speeding, and the elimination of some parking minimums may bother some drivers—but it’s hard to argue that they’re anything more than a slight adjustment to the overall balance of power on the city’s roads to better reflect the realities of the present-day District.

Fortunately, in time, the war rhetoric that’s dominated all the recent debates will likely seem overblown and eventually be forgotten. Just ask Travis Parker, who led the zoning rewrite charge for the Office of Planning before leaving to become planning director for the Denver suburb of Lakewood, Colo., in 2011. He recently passed a “much much more progressive” zoning ordinance in car-dependent Lakewood that included limits on how much parking could be put in new buildings, and yet there’s been little in the way of complaint, and certainly no accusations of war. “Once it’s passed, nobody notices,” he says. “That’s the thing about zoning changes. All of this could’ve passed five years ago, and it’d be off people’s radars.”

After all, the real war on cars, that one with the flying rocks and shooting bailiffs a century ago, didn’t end with a bang; it fizzled out when people got used to cars. They figured out how to drive them, how to dodge them, how to regulate them. The same will happen with bikes, and with bike lanes and bus lanes, and with transit-oriented development.

The belligerent language already seems to have calmed down a bit. A few weeks after my drive with Townsend, WTOP ran another story full of quotes from him, this time on the 700,000 speed camera tickets D.C.’s on pace to issue this year. He was critical of the policy, of course, but stuck entirely to numbers and analysis. No talk of attacks or assaults or war.

I ask Townsend what accounts for his change in tone. He credits his general desire to move away from antagonistic language—and our conversation in his car.

“I think my conversation with you was very sobering and eye-opening, so I give you credit for that,” he says.

If only we could pile all the planners, the AAA spokesmen, the Greater Greater Washington urbanists, and the furious neighbors of Upper Northwest into a car together, or onto a Metro train or a giant multiseater bike, and ride around for a few hours, the so-called war on cars might end tomorrow.

Photographs by Darrow Montgomery

Our Readers Say

No surprises here: Townsend is a menace to society and the streets of metro DC and Alpert is a passive-aggressive pussy who does his movement a disservice because he's not savvy enough to defend himself properly.

Alpert is proof that you can be smart enough to make a million bucks in your 20s and still not know jack fucking shit. I guess he's perfect for DC, in that way.
While people are busy paying attention to this false "war on cars" meme, the Gray administration is busy raising speed limits on DC streets where DC residents live and walk.
I really want to read this but the white text on black background is really not working for my eyes after about 5 sentences.
"While people are busy paying attention to this false "war on cars" meme, the Gray administration is busy raising speed limits on DC streets where DC residents live and walk."

Exactly. And he's not just raising speed limits, but he signed off on a bill (introduced by car loving Ward 3 Cheh and Ward 6 Wells) that slashed moving violations by 75 percent. How a $75 fine for failing to yield to pedestrians is going to make people pay attention to pedestrians is beyond me.
This is a war on cars. The proposed legislation for the zoning commission will limit parking spaces developers would provide and the message is get rid of your car. Speed camera fines, increase in downtown parking meter fees, etc. all say take your car to the suburbs and shop where they give you free parking. The DC Business community should be alarmed and speaking out. Alpert and the bikers are trying to control how people park and drive instead of proposing legislation that provides for all the existing users of transportation in the city. Alpert and friends are part of Auto Free DC that now has a new name Smart Growth but they will decide how that growth takes place.
[For a man whose job is all about cars... Townsend is a surprisingly bad driver.]

It should be no surprise to anyone familiar with his take/s on traffic enforcement, or the Peter Principle.
20011, let's see...Alpert went to Harvard, helped start a couple of successful businesses and quickly built one of the most successful blogs in the region. Now that you mention it, he does sound like someone who doesn't know "jack fucking shit". I guess he only knows useless stuff like how to make money and succeed. What a loser.
Great article!
I think Mr. Townsend has hereby revealed himself to be a non-expert in transportation policy. Media should seek more knowledgeable and intelligent sources. Any idiot can spout inflammatory nonsense. That doesn't make it newsworthy.
Maryland drivers.
"The proposed legislation for the zoning commission will limit parking spaces developers would provide "

no it won't. It will allow developers to decide how much to provide.
@Anne, #5: you have the causation backwards. The zoning commission will allow developers to decide for themselves how many parking spaces to bring. The message is being sent TO the developers that people will pay for housing in locations close to high capacity transit without parking spaces, but the current zoning code doesn't allow them to respond to this message. If the demand for parking is as high as you claim, then these developers won't build buildings without parking anyway, because it wouldn't be worth their time.
Gray is giving 13% pay raise to DC workers, a budget-breaking $1.5 Billion capital building program, and this mutli-million dollar giveaway to developers.

Consider Gray's 2014 campaign financed !
The war on cars is being waged by cars. There's too many of them. There ain't enough pavement in the world to accommodate them. The burbs have maxed out and, it turns out, biking, walking and public transportation isn't as bad as everyone thought it would be. Walkable neighborhoods are quickly transforming from 'hoods.

The author James Howard Kunstler got it right when he said a "national automobile ghetto" was forming. Places that were only accessible by cars would lose value. Not having to use a car to get anywhere would be a luxury.
I live in one of those suburb-like upper NW neighborhood almost a mile from the nearest Metro station. I can take a bus to the Metro, but that adds about 45 minutes to my trip and requires meshing my travel schedule to the infrequent buses at mid-day. Therefore, I drive to the Tenleytown neighborhood, leave my car (illegally, because I'm not a Ward 3 resident), and take the Metro for most of my D.C. appointments, errands, etc. It has become increasingly hard to park in Tenleytown, due to the high volume of automobiles from elsewhere (like mine) parked there. A friend who lives on the block where I park often has trouble gaining a foothold for her car if she drives it away from the curb during rush hour. For that reason if no other, I believe that it was a mistake to allow a developer to build condos on the former Babe's site without parking. There is no way to monitor who among residents does not own or acquire a car, or enforce the no-car rule; any cars owned by those residents will be on the neighborhood streets. I realize that D.C. has a wonderful tradition of putting parking below its buildings, but I would suggest resuscitating the notion of building dedicated parking structures near Metro stops so that people who do not live near a Metro station can drive to one, leave their cars, and utilize public transportation. Unfortunately, parking would have to be very cheap or free, otherwise people would not be able to afford to use them in combination with the cost of Metro. By the way, I am an AAA member, and Mr. Townsend does NOT speak for me. And finally, the Examiner IS “a bile-spewing, hateful rag.”
If the PP wants to re-prosecute the Babes case, there has been plenty written about it. The summarize, the developer wanted to reuse the existing foundation. Thus, there wasn't opportunity for cars AND retail to fulfill the current parking requirements. As a result, they gave the community a choice: retail or some parking.

The ANC and Zoning Commission both unanimously agreed with the choice for retail instead of parking.

Unanimous.

The War On Cars meme is getting old. Our society is evolving back to a time when cities were about people, not cars. You are not stuck in traffic. You ARE traffic.

Let's figure out how to reshape the city and region into one that is less car-dependent and more people friendly.

@20011
In other words, he's raising speedlimits on streets where people live and walk. But, hey, imposing the threat of a $75 fine on the operator of 4000 pounds of steel is something, I guess.
@ARzondzinska-

So, let me get this straight: you drive into someone else's neighborhood where you park illegally on the street and your friend is upset because there's no place for her to park if she ever leaves and somehow it's the hypothetical residents of a new building where there is no parking that are going to be the problem? Um, ok.
There isn't a war on cars. If anything, DDOT is still too fixated on moving traffic. When a large project is reviewed, their focus is still on to what extent the impact of additional traffic will degrade "level of service" (i.e., vehicle throughput and wait times) at nearby intersections and streets. Beyond that, DDOT doesn't care much about traffic volume and parking demand, all of which can negatively impact the quality of life in a given area.

There isn't a war on cars, but there is a war being waged. It's on behalf of a special interest -- the commercial real estate lobby in DC. This special interest campaign dresses itself up as "smart growth." As they say, it would take a dumb developer today to call a project anything other than smart growth. The proposal to eliminate off-street parking minimums is part of that, since the only real benefit would be to enhance developer margins. If the proposal were seriously designed to reduce car use and encourage transit utilization, it would be combined with a prohibition of RPP eligibility for projects built without off-street parking -- a condition of the Babes project in upper NW and what Arlington County requires routinely where parking minimums are waived. But OP doesn't want to consider that. Now, of course, we see that Portlandia -- that nirvana of smart growth, forward-looking ideas, transit access and crunchy hipsterism -- has tried the elimination of parking minimums and has reversed course. Apparently Portland neighborhoods have become sick and tired of having streets clogged with cars owned by all those transit users who live in new projects with no off-street parking. Portland's recent experience is an inconvenient fact for Harriet Tregoning and the development lobby, but why would DC want to adopt a measure that has been tried elsewhere and found wanting?
Generally not a fan of townsend, but man...did he peg Dave Alpert or what. Every time I've met Alpert, or seen him at a city function, he comes off as the whiney, shy 7 year old better suited for the "kids" table. Then you see his "bravado" come out when he blogs about something.

@Alf: Bravo! Love how the hipsters declare nonsense "fact", then have to backtrack when common sense and human nature force them to recognize that utopian thinking is usually wrong.
Thanks for the reminder that I need to cancel my AAA membership. I only joined to have help when I need a tow or lock my keys in my car, I can't stand the thought of someone who sounds as ignorant as Mr. Townsend does considering me his constituent. I own both a bike and a car and I have to imagine that I'm not the only one of the 80,000 area AAA members that does, maybe we need to make our voice heard to AAA by taking our business away.

And for anyone calling this a "war on cars" can we cool it on that? Ask the next person you see in military uniform how this compares to Afghanistan or Iraq and see what they say.
What does THIS mean?

"Walkable neighborhoods are quickly transforming from 'hoods."

@Alf: You said it spot-on!
Ha, I see the Tenleytown sockpuppets are out in force.

Say hi to Susan H. for me, "Chuck" and "SS3345"!
This is a great article; good job, Wiener.
The Office of Planning does have it in for parking, loading, etc.

Taking the lanes of auto access only has exacerbated the traffic congestion. The L Street and Pennsylvania Avenue lane markings are a diaster for pedestrians, cars, and bikes.

It really is no question that there is a war on cars and trucks and stores in DC.

(I'm sure it hasn't made things better -- I wouldn't depend on cars to figure-it out, bicylists to adhere to crazy in- and -outs, pedestrians not get creamed by a bicylists (they are the WORST at adhering to traffic signage), etc.)

Who you kidding, Mr. Wiener? I hope not yourself.

@ARzondzinska: I'm guessing there's a reason why you couldn't walk/bike to the Tenleytown station? The way you describe your situation, it sounds tailor-made for biking.

@ALF: as I understand it, Portland doesn't have an RPP program, which is a bigger part of the issue than the previous lack of parking minimums...
There we have it! The first completely irrelevant complaint about scofflaw cyclists. Or, let me guess--they are part of the War on Cars, spreading confusion everywhere.

Let's get one thing straight. Congestion in DC is terrible, but it ain't the bikes' fault. Just last Wednesday evening, I biked through no less than 10 consecutive intersections that were each jammed with cars illegally blocking the box. Dozens and dozens of lawbreaking cars, creating utter traffic havoc. I heard from people that trips that usually took 20 minutes took 1 1/2 hours. They had to delay the start of the baseball game because the umpires and referees were stuck in traffic. You could take the accumulated inconveniences caused by every bike in DC for a whole year, and it wouldn't come close to what cars did in one afternoon, all to themselves.
It's bad enough to call someone "a little ninny" in the heat of the moment, when you may be feeling enraged. But to then repeat that insult (and others) to a journalist, when you know it's going to be published - that's totally unprofessional. I'm surprised AAA or any respected organization has someone like John Townsend as a public relations manager.
Makes me glad I dropped AAA like a bad habit. First they started making horrible maps. Then they refuse to rein in or replace John Townsend. I’ll never forgive or forget his comment on the Pa Ave Cycle track. “They taking from so many to give to so few”

If you have AAA drop them there are better alternatives.

Wake up! Lots of us get on just fine without cars, and peoples incessant fixation with driving a half mile down the street and parking wherever you want just makes walking, biking, transit more complicated for the rest of us. You are going to lose as there will be more of us then you soon. If you can't walk or bike a mile under your own free will you are either disabled or lazy.
I stopped commuting into DC years ago after I completed the sale of some lots we owned to a new builder. Scuttle the whole place. Start with all the corrupt ANC's and work up to the Wilson Building' inhabitants. It just isn't worth coming into DC. Let the foolish young people have their playground.
Alpert uses his blog to badmouth AAA every chance he gets; he's really stepped it up since last falls when once appointed to the DC Council's Pedestrian Safety Committe, Alpert objected to AAA's inclusion, dismissing it as a "regional towiung company".

Since then, Alpert has repeatedly taken snipes at AAA - on his blog and in the Washington Post Local Opinions section, speaking of AAA in a derisive and dismissive tone, and exhorting readers to cancel their AAA memberships,

Most egregiously, Alpert has taken to misquoting AAA's positions and even falsely accusing it of taking positions that it fact it has not - for example, recently stating AAA was "against speed limits" and "against fines for red light runners" when AAA in fact only objected to the unreasonably reduced speed limits on 295 and 395 (after the speed cameras were installed) and the excessive traffic camera fines - both of which which the Mayor eventually changed.

By shooting off his mouth, Alpert has brought Townsend's invective upon himself. There is a limit to the amount of insults and provocation that anyone can take. Townsend has obviously reached his limit with Alpert.
I was in Los Angeles last week, where one sees the automobile end game: so many cars that none can move. The "freeways" are fleets of slow-moving cars. This is what happens when automobiles rule. I suppose resisting the dominance of the personal automobile is a "war on cars". Better to say that we're opposed to becoming another gridlock city, like Los Angeles.

Curiously, we saw very few bicyclists in sunny LA. And of course nobody walks anywhere.

There's got to be a better way, and that way cannot require that one be young and athletic. Much as I love my bicycling, that can never be more than a niche solution.

(That white print on black background is hideous!)
Re the war on cars. I blame yellow journalism.
Is there a war on cars?

Definitely yes!

The insulting tone of this piece of "journalism" is a case in point.
@ceefer66, whether you agree with Alpert's positions or not, or the accuracy of his statements or not, his statements have always been germane to the question of balancing transportation mode share. He may be wrong, and he may not always be as polite as his opponents would wish, but he's always on topic.

And the proper response to on-topic statements is to counter them. AAA should say why Alpert is wrong. They can be heated about it; they can even issue heated statements of opinion interpreting what Alpert has called for without needing Alpert's agreement that it's a fair characterization of his position. That's all fine in matters of public policy. And these are all things that AAA has done, and nobody thinks anything of it.

Comparing someone to the KKK simply because it hurts your feelings when they disagree that what you're doing is beneficial, on the other hand, is unacceptable by any measure of civilized public discourse. AAA should be ashamed to have stooped so low.
Great article. A few simple points. Forget the personalities.Alpert is a childish twit and extreme. Townsend comes on too strong and is also extreme. Bicyclists tend to be extremist and adopt the view they can do no wrong.

There is no war on cars but there are issues worth looking at like zoning,zoning, zoning. I have lived and worked in the city for fifty-five years (I'm 87) until my recent retirement. I worked in a Farragut Square office building in 1954 without parking. It was a disaster. We spilled out all over the city trying to find a parking place. Then they put in "parking minimums". The city was transformed. Every building took care of its own. What's wrong with that today? Make parking easier, not harder. Then there are bicycles. The bike lanes may not be long in mileage but they are a major pain in the neck. They drive all over the road anyway and on the sidewalks too, and in the metros too. And they've taken over L street.. They get City Council Bills protecting them from cars. How about vice-versa? There is no question they make it harder for a law-abiding motorist to get around. And why not get some revenue from them? Car owners pay for their licenses, their gas and their registration. Bikers pay zip. Those lanes have a cost. Their accidents have a cost. How about a bike fee of $10 per year, just to show their hearts are with us. I think Harriet Tregonning wants to do the right thing, but she has not really come to grips with the idea that cars are the major source of transportation and commerce in this city and she must treat them with care. She is not doing that.

@bunky: and car drivers are not extremist themselves...?

It should also be noted that those bicyclists are contributing far more to the city in terms of sales and property taxes than the paltry sums that have been spent on road paint painting the bike lanes.
Another fabulous piece of reporting from the City Paper. Is there a war on cars? No! Why? Because here's some useless history of the automobile, here is one shrill character we found, and here is some baseless factoid about people from "upper northwest," i.e. the richies causing all the commotion. Really nailed the whole issue. I'll point out your own graphic shows 40% of residents use a car to get to work. I'll point out you state that traffic fines have sky-rocketed along with income from red-light and speeding cameras with no obvious rebuttle. So how is using the drivers of this city as an ATM for city coffers not a war on drivers? Maybe if you actually left your office and did some of that "reporting" thing and interviewed some actual drivers around town you could get a little perspective.
There may not be a 'war on cars' but there sure isn't much support for them either. Like lots of others in the city, I have a long reverse commute to a metro inaccessible area. Others need to drive for their jobs or provide critical services to DC residents (deliverymen, contractors, etc). Are we all just out of luck?

DC should have at least a couple of cross-city parkways that provide a rapid driving option. At a minimum, a few of the avenues should have coordinated lights so that you don't have to start and stop every 1/8 mile. THEN you can make the residential streets as driver-unfriendly as you want. But you need some sort of support for arterial traffic.
I think boiling it dow to 'war on cars' is simplistic.

But there is most definitely a derision and elitism aimed at anyone that finds they need to drive in DC.

And a lot of it comes from 20 somethings that are fortunate enough to live a lifestyle where they can easily do without a car.

It's one thing to do without a car if you are fit, single, live in a studio at Logan Circle, and have a work location that's on top of a Metro.

It's quite another if you are elderly, not in such great shape, have a family, have a job or home that's not so close to a Metro, have a dangerous ten block walk from the Metro station, etc.

And more than anything it's the elitist tone that the cyclists and public transit folks sometimes take that rankles.

For instance, Dave Alpert's blog is extremely quick to block any post they disagree with or is in any way critical of their line of thinking. Their blog comment policies are legendary.

And it's a bit tiring for us older folks with a more complicated life situation to be lectured by 20 somethings with a very transit-friendly life.

Yes, there are buttheads on the car side as well. Absolutely.

And the key to the future in DC is planning for better transit.

But we just aren't there yet.

We aren't NY. Our neighborhoods are more spread out. Our shopping, grocery, and other daily life options are harder to get to. Our metro is unreliable, slow, and doesn't run at all overnight, etc.

Ask someone living east of the Anacostia how metro-accessible their supermarket shopping options are, particularly if they are shopping for a family.

And our taxis? Abysmal.

Pretending that we can all rely on transit and cycling is to deny reality.



"But now, 30 years into home rule, District leaders are trying to make policy for Washingtonians themselves. Fewer than 40 percent of workers living in D.C. drive to their jobs."

Commuting to work is just one factor. To look at that alone is sortof silly.

A lot of people maintain a car to go grocery shopping, to take the kids to various functions, to get around town outside of work, etc.
Also a bit simplistic to suggest that concerns about transit policies are limited to half a dozen presumeably wealthy people from upper NW and one nutjob from AAA.

I know a ton of working class folks in SE that would find their already fairly stressful lives would be a lot more stressful without a car.

Choosing to rely so much on the one AAA dude is sortof childish, lazy journalism. He's not a spokesperson for anyone but himself. He doesn't represent anyone else.

He's clearly over the top personally.

But relying on him for nearly half the article?

That's allowing a caricature to flesh out the entire story, and suggests strongly that the author had a point of view already in mind before even embarking on this piece. Conveniently for him he found one over-the-top dude to back up his stereotypes.

But, hey, writing is so much easier if you can rely on stereotypes.

Heck, the story almost writes itself that way.
Actually I stand a bit corrected.

Apparently over the top dude is an actual AAA representative.

But he doesn't represent the vast majority of actual DC drivers.
Shame on Townsend for not figuring out the reporter's agenda before getting overly honest with him. as a professional pr guy, the alarm bells should have been going off when the reporter started asking him about Alpert. this was going to be a hack job on Townsend from the beginning. the reporter could have gotten more colorful verification of the war on cars from any city taxi driver. but devoted the entire piece to Townsend; no doubt picking the most embarrassing quotes. meanwhile all the smart growth people sound so reasonable. as a dc resident who has attended the city parking forums and listened to refining tregoning and gabe klein when he was still at ddot, the war on drivers and cars is not hidden. tTownsend needs to be less trusting of reporters with agendas and cool the rhetoric but he still is basically right.
<i>But he doesn't represent the vast majority of actual DC drivers.</i>

I dunno-- most drivers in the DC metro area drive a lot like Townsend-- running red lights, almost getting into accidents, not cognizant or accommodating of otherdrives.
For the record, I drive a long commute out of the city and back in every day, and no one has gone to war against me. The path to having good sense is to think about whether you have to drive or don't have to drive to get where you're going. People like Townsend and others lack the ability to engage in this kind of higher-level decisionmaking or ability to weigh tradeoffs and make the best transportation decision based on circumstances. They simply automatically resort to "drive drive drive drive" and then lash out in a namecalling rage when someone suggests otherwise.
Tyro: Most drivers run red lights and almost get into accidents regularly?

I'm not sure statistics would back you up on that.

And my point was that his personality is way over the top, and was specifically chosen by the author of this article to paint all drivers in a bad light.
Tyro: Most drivers run red lights and almost get into accidents regularly?

I'm not sure statistics would back you up on that.

And my point was that his personality is way over the top, and was specifically chosen by the author of this article to paint all drivers in a bad light.
"You are going to lose as there will be more of us then you soon. If you can't walk or bike a mile under your own free will you are either disabled or lazy."

How is this productive?

Also, try telling someone undergoing chemo that they are 'disabled or lazy'. Or that older woman that has just worked a 12 hour shift cleaning offices on the overnight shift that she's lazy because she doesn't want to end her shift walking a mile through a crime-ridden neighborhood.

Or that Mom taking care of three kids that she needs to cart her family groceries a mile in the August sun.

There've been several postings here about cyclists flaunting traffic laws.

We all break traffic laws at some point. Everyone has done it.

And there are most certainly some drivers with a sense of entitlement.

I think what irks many drivers is that cyclists seem to flaunt the more serious traffic laws with impunity (though since DC cops rarely step out of their vehicles unless you run over a busload of nuns you could also argue that unless it's a traffic or speed cam then cars often get away with it in DC as well, but that's more a factor of the laziness of many DC cops than anything else).

Cyclists don't have to have license plates, so they can blaze through red light cameras knowing they can't be ticketed.

And often the cyclist in question is quite vocal in the fight to have the camera there in the first place (knowing they can't be ticketed).

And going down one way streets in the middle of the street the wrong way?

I almost never see a car do that, unless it's by mistake.

But I see probably at least 20 people a day do it on my street on a bike. Though my street is filled with blind corners and such. More often than not if they encounter a vehicle that is going the correct way they give the vehicle driver the finger for having the audacity to be in their way.

And red light running of the most dangerous kind (blazing through the red light long after it's turned red)?

You may see one car in five hundred do that on purpose.

But I see probably one in every three cyclists do it.

There are most certainly a ton of responsible cyclists.

But it's very easy for drivers and pedestrians to get the feeling that cyclists feel they don't have to obey traffic laws.

Combine that with the fact the cyclists enjoy the roads for free (no annual license plate fee, no registration fee), while drivers pay thousands of dollars for the privilege (the vehicle registration fee in DC is 7% or 8%, and that can be thousands of dollars, plus the license plate fees, etc.)

And DC requires no safety training for cyclists.

Then add the caustic rhetoric that many use toward drivers, and you've got a recipe for anger and resentment.

it's a shame, as there are lot of folks out there like me, that support and use all forms of transit.






"Comparing someone to the KKK simply because it hurts your feelings when they disagree that what you're doing is beneficial, on the other hand, is unacceptable by any measure of civilized public discourse. AAA should be ashamed to have stooped so low. "
------

And badmouthing the entire AAA organization for what one employee said in anger is no better than KKK tactics.

As a matter of fact, you're only proving Townsend right.
"Wake up! Lots of us get on just fine without cars, and peoples incessant fixation with driving a half mile down the street and parking wherever you want just makes walking, biking, transit more complicated for the rest of us. You are going to lose as there will be more of us then you soon. If you can't walk or bike a mile under your own free will you are either disabled or lazy."
-----

Exactly the kind of nerdish, ninny, smug, twit-like rhetoric townsend is addressing.

YOU, my friend are the one who needs to "wake up". Like David Alpert, you've become so full of yourself you THINK you're running the show.

Don't be surprised when the next election finds the DC politicians who have been catering to the GGW set turned out of office.
"It should also be noted that those bicyclists are contributing far more to the city in terms of sales and property taxes than the paltry sums that have been spent on road paint painting the bike lanes."

-----

When most of them are young renters working some entry-level job in an office - or at some store?

Yeah, right.
I do not myself break traffic laws while cycling. But I object to the scofflaw cyclist theme for several reasons. First, it's rarely relevant--it's just hate, venting at cyclists for something that has nothing to do with thether or not the policies of the District favor or disfavor cars. Second, it's rank hypocrisy. Documented lawbreaking by drivers is on the order of 70% to 85% on any given road at any given time, versus the Mark 1 eyeball estimate drivers given of "every cyclist", which is demonstrably untrue. What's more, your efforts to rationalize serious versus nonserious lawbreaking are ludicrous. Speeding is serious, and dangerous. Further, you are not deputized to decide which laws are minor, and do not necessarily need to be obeyed. Finally, I see drivers every day run red lights, drive while on cell phones, drive on shoulders, pass with inadequate clearance, drive in bike lanes and, yes, speed.

Finally, my right to use the road is not contingent on any percentage of cyclists obeying the laaw--in fact, it's not even contingent on my obeying the law. Just as when you speed, you do not magically lost your right to be on the road. This notion that I should care what drivers think of me as I choose whether or not to exercise my right to use the road is absurd. I use it because I'm entitled to use it. The only road users whose adherence to the law you should be thinking about is you.
<i>And badmouthing the entire AAA organization for what one employee said in anger is no better than KKK tactics.</i>

It's reasonable to assume that the REGIONAL SPOKESMAN of AAA-Mid Atlantic is speaking for his employer
@ceefer66, "When most of them are young renters working some entry-level job in an office - or at some store?"

Huh. And here I thought that DC's bicycle facilities were a plaything for rich and privileged gentrifiers, while the poor and working class needed their automobiles. But if increasing bicycle infrastructure is actually primarily a benefit for people without a lot of money, maybe we *should* be doing more of it, so that poor people can get around more cheaply. Reliable transportation is key to getting and keeping a job.
"It's reasonable to assume that the REGIONAL SPOKESMAN of AAA-Mid Atlantic is speaking for his employer"

This. But if he isn't, then AAA has my apologies, although they probably should take steps in the future to make sure their official spokesmen don't go off the reservation like that.
Oh, please. He's a spokesperson speaking to a jounalist. Obviously he's speaking for AAA. It's credulous to accept any disavowal.
It is really striking that there are so many policies that AAA could embrace to actually HELP drivers. They could connect their members for car-pools to ease road congestion, partner with or start their own car-sharing service to bring in younger members who may not be able to buy a car. They could work with jurisdictions to put in sensors to make it easier for drivers to find parking both on and off the street and work to create discount programs for seniors and people with disabilities who desperately need to drive.

Getting the people who don't NEED to drive off the road helps the people who DO need to drive be reducing congestion. AAA's attitude is poor policy and helps no one.
@cminus

Fact is, cyclists who use the bike lane - in addition to the streets and sidewalks - are not paying anywhere near the proportion of the cost of building and maintaining bike lanes as drivers do for roads.

If cyclists paid registration fees, were required to insure their vehicles, and were subject to being fined for violating speed limits and running red lights, you would have the beginning of a point. As it is, any claim that cyclists are somehow "paying their way around here" is a silly lie.
@Crickey7,

" Documented lawbreaking by drivers is on the order of 70% to 85% on any given road at any given time,"
---

I for one would just LOVE to see the source of data to back up that allegation.

Wait! I forgot.

You NEVER provide sources for you claimed "documented lawbreaking" by drivers. You just go off half-cocked with nonsense, ignore requests for proof, and cry "foul" when called out.

Different venue. Same old Crickey7.
Hillman, I can guarantee you that David Alpert will freely concede that it's not particularly practical for everyone to live without a car. I know he knows that homeowners sometimes have to move bulky items that for renters are usually handled by the landlord. I know he would concede this because he is a homeowner, and he owns a car. He's mentioned this in his blog posts multiple times.

But there's a world of difference between "nobody can have a car!" and making it easier to undertake some trips that might previously have required a car by alternate means, and the latter is GGW's goal. Some people can get by just fine without a car, and other people may never be able to travel by any other means, but most people are somewhere in the the middle. If the bicycle, pedestrian, and transit environment were better designed, they could do without a car for some trips. It might be only one trip in twenty, but each time they do that's still one fewer car on the road, making it just a little bit easier for everyone who's still on the road -- including those who simply don't have any alternatives. Like the article says, "The people screaming about the war on cars think the D.C. government is trying to make driving inconvenient, but the government has nothing on their fellow drivers on that front."

I have friends who recently moved to Old Town from somewhere way out in the middle of nowhere; they were car owners before and they're car owners still, but they're quite happy with one car where they used to have two. They still drive to the supermarket, because carrying a family's worth of groceries by hand or cart is awkward, but if they find they forgot one thing one of them just walks to the store to pick it up, rather than having to get back in the car like they used to. This, not some kind of post-apocalyptic "world without the internal combustion engine!" rant, is the sort of thing that most GGW commenters see as the future.
Does Aaron Weiner think that this essay has put out the war on cars fire? Really? Or is he just poking the bear?
Thank you for this article - I thought it was one of the more balanced articles I've read on the subject. I'd just like to say one thing - my concern with decreasing parking minimums (I don't own a car, only a bike) is that there needs to be a respective increase in public transportation - more metro trains on weekends, longer trains at rush hour, a plan to expand the metro system, especially to transportationally-underserved areas - to support the decrease in cars. I don't see that happening any time soon, and that's a problem.
"But I object to the scofflaw cyclist theme for several reasons. First, it's rarely relevant--it's just hate, venting at cyclists for something that has nothing to do"

Really? Rarely relevant? DDOT studied the PA Ave Bike lanes and quantified that 42% of all the cyclists that use the PA Ave Bike lane were ignoring their red lights

http://dc.gov/DC/DDOT/Publication%20Files/On%20Your%20Street/Bicycles%20and%20Pedestrians/Bicycles/Bike%20Lanes/DDOT_BicycleFacilityEvaluation_ExecSummary.pdf

Now your turn, please show us a study that shows 42% of drivers blowing through their red lights, let alone 70-85%

@ceefer66, but aren't all the bicyclists rich gentrifiers? And aren't all the automobile drivers poor and working stiffs, many of whom don't even live in DC and so don't even pay DC income and property taxes? In which case, it would follow that those bicycling plutocrats are paying DC far more in taxes per capita than those poor, downtrodden, motorists, and so they're doing far more than the motorists to help DC balance its budget.

And then there's government expenditures! The lion's share of the District's budget is represented by just two items -- health care subsidies and the schools. Those rich, childless and incredibly fit bicyclists don't cost DC a cent in either of those categories! No, that's all on motorists, since by definition everyone who is poor, ill, or a parent is a motorist. Surely a public education system and the health of uninsured children are worth such a minimal expenditure in paint and bollards?
Posted many times before. But here, see it again. Note especially table 4. For all but a few of the streets in DC surveyed in 2010, the 85 percentile is above the speed limit. Translated as at least 85% of the drivers are speeding.

http://dc.gov/DC/DDOT/On+Your+Street/Safety/Speed+Study/DC+Speed+Map+2010
But, then, those are the laws you choose not to obey, so it's different.

How many people did red-light-running cyclists kill in DC last year?
The hyperbole on both sides can distract from the issues. A few comments:

(1) GGW focuses on the idea that people shouldn't HAVE TO drive. Not that they shouldn't drive at all. Many enjoy living in places where I won't need to hop in a car for every last trip to a restaurant or dry cleaner. Once in a blue moon, though, they might. But the cards have been stacked on the "driving" hand for so long that we often forget just how subsidized driving actually is.

(2) I find anti-cyclist rhetoric can be self-opposing at times. "We don't want bikes in our lanes!" "No bike lanes!" Would they rather that bicyclists be contributing to car traffic in the form of a car?

(3) Parking minimums subsidize driving. Simply put. If an apartment building near Metro needs to spend $50,000 per parking spot in construction, just so every unit can have a parking space, they transfer that cost onto the residents, drivers or not. The result? Non-drivers paying for parking spots they will never use. Removing parking minimums allows developers to decide for themselves what is sensible: lots of spots, or a few.
@ABBrown,

Your argument regarding parking minimums is a canard.

Developers provide on-site parking at their own expense at no cost to the city. Whether the cost of building parking is passed on to residents and tenants is a strictly private matter since living or locating in the development is purely voluntary.

As onsite parking in urban apartment and commercial buildings is nearly always an extra-cost option, the idea that anyone who doesn't own a car is being forced to "subsidize parking" is just plain silly.

It is specious car-hate prattle that parking minimums are a "subsidy" that make urbanists appear not only like self-serving bullies, but just plain ridiculous.

Should have said:

As onsite parking in urban apartment and commercial buildings is an extra-cost option, the idea that tenants who don't own cars are being forced to "subsidize parking" for car-owning tenants is just plain silly.
On the other hand, it could be logically argued that free onsite bike racks ARE being subsidized.

It could also be argued that hardly anyone cares. But if you expect a developer to provide an opportunity for someone to move into an apartment and buy or rent a parking space you are somehow "thinking in the 1950's".
Calling out every past and present GGW contributor to co-author a "we're so appalled at John Townsend's awful behavior" piece (while appearing to remain silent himself) is classic David Alpert.

It's a circle-the-wagons "don't mess with our esteemed leader" tactic that quite frankly makes GGW look small. The only thing missing is a paragraph asking readers to "please complete the attached form" demanding that AAA fire Townsend then click on the link to send it.
"johnson" ?
""if you expect a developer to provide an opportunity for someone to move into an apartment and buy or rent a parking space you are somehow "thinking in the 1950's".""

I completely expect a developer to provide such an opportunity if it turns out to be a profitable endeavor for him to do so, rather than a legal requirement.
The funny thing is, almost every argument made here against GGW, in defense of parking minimums, against cyclists, etc I've read before.

On GGW. Often by the same people.

Odd indeed, for such a 'censored' blog.
"It's a circle-the-wagons "don't mess with our esteemed leader""

I think its an attempt to make clear that this is not about a policy disagreement, but about the use of rhetoric that does not belong in civil discourse, and that is used to silence an opposing voice. I think the mass signing was appropriate.
@ceefer66:

<i>Fact is, cyclists who use the bike lane - in addition to the streets and sidewalks - are not paying anywhere near the proportion of the cost of building and maintaining bike lanes as drivers do for roads.</i>

Odd that you show up on GGW now and then, and yet can remain so completely ignorant. The amount cyclists pay is a much higher proportion of the cost of building and maintaining the roads (bike lanes and regular lanes) than drivers do. The wear and tear caused by a bike is negligible, and surface streets are paid for out of general revenues.

Drivers are the welfare queens of the road, and it's about time they had to pay their share.
@Crickey:

"Now your turn, please show us a study that shows 42% of drivers blowing through their red lights, let alone 70-85%"

Cyclists treat red lights as stop signs, and stop signs as yield signs. Meanwhile, drivers roll through stop signs (rather than coming to a full stop) and exceed the speed limit. Both break the law in comparable numbers. Only difference is that drivers are a huge threat to others when doing so. So obviously enforcement should concentrate on scofflaw drivers.
This is old news, but Townsend sounds like a real jerk and a bully in this article.
Cminus:

You raise a valid point.

There is a happy middle ground.

And I'm all for continuing to subsidize transit, just like we've subsidized cars for pretty much forever.

But I guarantee you there is a sizeable group in the transit world that don't feel that way.

They absolutely feel the way to more mass transit, cycling, etc., is to make it difficult for vehicle drivers given every opportunity, regardless of whether it makes sense or not.
"Drivers are the welfare queens of the road, and it's about time they had to pay their share."

Funny how I don't feel that way when I'm paying thousands of dollars to register my vehicle in DC, and when I'm paying for tags and yearly (or I think it's every two years now) vehicle fees to DC.
""There is a happy middle ground.""

The happy middle ground is the one advocated by GGW.
@ceefer66 You are dead wrong. City streets are paid for mainly with local taxes which cyclists certainly pay. Gas taxes and registration fees DO NOT COVER THE COST OF ROADS, period. Furthermore, bikes exert almost no wear and tear on roads the way cars do. If anything, car driving has been more heavily subsidized than any other form of transportation in the US for more than a half century. Providing expansive car-only roads, free street parking, and requiring parking at all buildings is, unequivocally, a gift to drivers at the expense of non-drivers. The expansion of bike lanes and pedestrian infrastructure is simply the right-sizing of our transportation network. DC and other cities around the country are now simply scaling back on that and making streets friendlier to those who want/need other options for getting around. Does that mean space for cars will be scaled back? Yes. Yes it does. But for too long far too much space has been given over to them. It's time to build our cities for people and not cars.
""I'm paying thousands of dollars to register my vehicle in DC""

Your initial registration fee is no different than a sales tax, and tags and fees are minor compared to, say, Virginia.

I have lived in places where you had to pay an annual "property tax" on your car which, honestly, is probably a more fair way to assess your costs for maintenance of the roads you drive (in the same way that your home's property taxes pay for local infrastructure).
"Those rich, childless and incredibly fit bicyclists don't cost DC a cent in either of those categories!"

Have you seen the tourists on bikeshare bikes on the Hill and on the Mall?

You may rethink 'incredibly fit'.

Last night, I spoke by telephone with an elderly black Ward 4 retired teacher. I mention to her about Capital Bike Share have install bikes in several Ward 4 neighborhoods. Her reply was, it want be too long before blacks are pushed out of this neighborhood because these bikes are for white folks and blacks don't ride bikes. I was shocked by her remark because young blacks do ride bikes. I rode a bike as a teenager, however, I am now in my fifties and I don't know if I can ride a bike due to being out of shape. Some blacks may view David Alpert as being a racist or arrogant. However, I'm not saying David Alpert is a racist. I do know now there's a great divide between liberal white Democrats and black Democrats on issues. I think David Alpert written about this several weeks ago in the Washington Post. If the alleged comments made by John Townsend are true, they are inappropriate.
@Hillman, Ah, if they're tourists, the public share of their medical costs isn't a burden on the DC government. Our bicyclists are all in incredible physical shape and have vast incomes without any apparent need for long days at work, like Batman!

But, yeah, I was playing on the conception that you need to be young and in excellent shape to even consider getting around by bicycle. It's a conception that I like to encourage, since I often use Capital Bikeshare to get around and appreciate thus being considered young and in excellent shape, but it's not true. (As I am sometimes reminded by my doctor, who keeps insisting that I'm middle-aged and could stand to lose a few pounds.)
Indeed, every cyclist I know is a driver AND and a homeowner AND well past their twenties (I'm working on multiples of that). We're flattered by the hipster label, but it's a bit misplaced.
"
Drivers are the welfare queens of the road, and it's about time they had to pay their share.'
----

Considering the fact that, in DC, revenue parking and traffic camera fines exceed the entire DDOT budget and drivers pay 70% on average of cost of building and maintaining highways (it would be more if part of the revenue raised from drivers wasn't hijacked to pay for transit), in addition to 100% of the cost of acquiring, maintaining, registering and insuring their vehicles - all in addition to paying the cost of building rail transit (Toll revenue from the Dulles toll Road is paying 52% of the construction cost of the Metro Silver Line) anyone who calls drivers "welfare queens" is a damn liar who doesn't know what they're talking about.

It's unfortunate that the loudest proponents of the "driving is subsidized" nonsense are the very people who know the least about how transportation is funded in the US.
AAA just issued an apology for at least some of what Mr. Townshend said in the interview.

Consider it a tactical retreat in the War on Cars.
"Considering the fact that, in DC, revenue parking and traffic camera fines exceed the entire DDOT budget..."

These are fines for misbehavior, and completely avoidable. You might as well count child-support payments as an "unfair tax". Or time spent in prison.

"Hey, no fair! You're "taxing" my free time and restricting my right to come and go as I please...and all because I bludgeoned my old lady!"

Here's a novel idea: Slow down when you're driving. Then, when you stop driving, pay for parking!

Problem solved!
"...drivers pay 70% on average of cost of building and maintaining highways..."


Nah, not even close:

"A new report from the Tax Foundation shows 50.7 percent of America’s road spending comes from gas taxes, tolls, and other fees levied on drivers. The other 49.3 percent? Well, that comes from general tax dollars, just like education and health care. The way we spend on roads has nothing to do with the free market, or even how much people use roads."

And the bulk of that is interstate highways, which you're smart enough to understand are irrelevant to this cost analysis, since bikes (and pedestrians) are barred from their use. We're talking about surface streets, and we all pay for their use.
@Frank, comment 47. You are absolutely right about the reporter's agenda in writing this article, which along with his past work was something clearly considered by others.

The reporter admitted that he contacted a half dozen people who opposed the parking recommendations in the zoning rewrite, and all of them declined to be interviewed by the reporter for this story. In the article, he then went on to present distorted versions of their public statements and mock them. Is it any wonder that he could not arrange a single interview?

Given the reporter's biases, the real question is why City Paper would run this article knowing that the reporter's reputation is so poor that not a single person who has publicly spoken in opposition to the elimination of minimum parking requirements would agree to an interview.
""The reporter admitted that he contacted a half dozen people who opposed the parking recommendations in the zoning rewrite, and all of them declined to be interviewed by the reporter for this story.""

Possibly because they knew that their beliefs are embarrassing and that they didn't want their statements appearing in the news.
@ibc,

"Here's a novel idea: Slow down when you're driving. Then, when you stop driving, pay for parking!"
-----
You are either too dumb to get my point or simply trying to be irritating by acting dumb.

Either way, not worth my time.

Have a happy landing.

What does that mean? Use your imagination.
@JustMe

Upper NW critics of eliminating parking minimums have found fora in which they can represent themselves on this issue -- op-eds in the Current and the Post, a white paper for Ward 3 Dems, testifying at hearings, speaking at community meetings, posting on listservs and commenting on blogs. They make reasonable fact-based arguments -- they don't "shriek" as Wiener suggests.

Maybe his sexism as well as his bias on this particular issue explains their lack of interest in talking to him. Or maybe they think "war on cars" is a stupid media-imposed framing that generates more heat than light on the issues that concern them. Could be all of the above.

But it's clearly not because they don't want to be publicly identified with the positions they've taking regarding parking and the zoning rewrite. Critics have made (and continue to make) their case publicly.
"Gas taxes and registration fees DO NOT COVER THE COST OF ROADS, period. "

And metro and rail transit are heavily subsidized. As they must be, to survive.

Your metro ticket would be astronomical if you were actually paying your 'fair share'.

All forms of transit are subsidized.

Because they provide a public good, and our society would grind to a halt without them.

Leaving parking minimums for the developer to decide is simply a decision on money and profit. The developer will build one parking space and make his money on the building and walk away. This developer does not care if the building is actually taking care of it parking needs. If they can rent the apt. or sell the condo they take the money and run. If the apts. don't rent it is up to the new owners to figure out how to get them on market, the developer is gone from the scene.

The bikers need to be using these bike paths and get off the road. If you continuee to allow them on any road then register the bike so it can be ticketed every time it goes through a red light. The arrogant bike riding public is only getting worse with its needs and still no responsibility.
Hillman's right. And we all depend on roads -- it's not as if drivers are the only one using them. Sure, I walk to the store to buy groceries. But how did the groceries get to the store?
"Gas taxes and registration fees DO NOT COVER THE COST OF ROADS, period. "

And don't even get me started on airline subsidies.

TSA is a MASSIVE cost, and the airlines pay for basically very little of it.
So someone (post 100) is really trying to sell the Ward 3 Dems as a viable voice for reason in this debate? This organization is the last bastion of the collective voices for statis in the District of Columbia. This is the organization that is opposing the current Administrations national policies in their collective self-interest and went so far in their "debate" over this issue as to produce a completely one-sided screed that the AAA could have written itself (see the recent Op-Ed in the Washington Post by the AAA and a Ward 3 Resident as an example). The Ward 3 Dems even quashed debate over an alternative White Paper that possibly conveyed "both sides" of the issue. That doesn't seem very democratic. In fact, it is incredibly hypocritical.

If the Ward 3 Dems want to try to make an issue of their White Paper, they will need to be prepared for the dirty laundry to be aired.

Holy shit! I can't look at this article. Whose idea was it to use reverse type?
Here's the Ward 3 Dems White Paper -- hardly a screed:

http://www.dcward3dems.org/Documents/March%2014%20W3D_Zoning_Task_Force_White_Paper_Parking.pdf

@Alex,

""Gas taxes and registration fees DO NOT COVER THE COST OF ROADS, period. "
------

Fares DO NOT COVER THE COST OF TRANSIT. Period.

Bike taxes and registration fess DO NOT COVER THE COST OF BIKE LANES, period

Wait. WHAT bike taxes and registration fees?

While you're on your "period", let me know if you want to continue down this path.
The entire purpose of City Paper's sorry hack job, masquerading as "journalism" along with GGW posting a whining response co-signed by everyone at GGW except David Alpert's dog was to embarrass AAA and get John Townsend fired. That, along with their tireless - and tiresome - efforts to get AAA members to cancel.

So far it hasn't worked. Looks like AAA knows what Alpert and City Paper are up to.
@@Alex,

"Gas taxes and registration fees DO NOT COVER THE COST OF ROADS, period. "
-----

Perhaps they would if a significant portion of gas taxes wasn't hijacked to pay for other forms of transportation - like rail transit.

Not to mention road, bridge, and tunnel tolls that are hijacked for the same purpose.

This ridiculous "driving is subsidized" bs is always trotted out by people like yourself who don't what they're talking about. The people who know the least about transportation funding in the US are always the first to shoot off their ignorant mouths about how non-drivers are "forced" to give drivers a free/cheap ride at non-drivers' expense. It's bs, plain and simple, period.

Tell you what, smart guy:

Come when you can name a SINGLE instance when revenue from transit fares was used to fund other forms of transportation - or when the cost of rail transit construction was paid for - even in part - by users.

I won't hold my breath.
"What does that mean? Use your imagination."

Sure, here we go:

"You are either too dumb to get my point or simply trying to be irritating by acting dumb.

[You are too dumb to form a coherent argument out of the unconnected ball of resentments I've tossed out. (Possibly, if you couldn't do it, maybe no one can!)]

"Either way, not worth my time."

[Unfortunately, I am unable to rebut any of your arguments, so I will turn tail and flee!]

"Have a happy landing."

[Pained ceefer66 "tag" line. Was "boo-ya!" taken?]
"Come when you can name a SINGLE instance when revenue from transit fares was used to fund other forms of transportation"

Hilarious goal-shifting here. Just to recap: ceef claims that drivers may all costs associated with driving. Other, more well-informed commenters point out that, no, in fact that is not the case. And that most of that money comes from the general fund--which cyclists are forced to pay whether they drive or not. Given wear and tear caused by bicycles versus private automobiles, cyclists already pay a hugely disproportionate amount towards the roads.

So what is ceef's response to this clear and unrebuttable argument?

"Ummm... Bus and rail transit systems are subsidized too!!!"

Painful.
Anne, why wouldn't a developer care how much parking a building has? If they don't put in enough parking, people won't want to live there, and the units will rent or sell for less than they otherwise would have, costing the developer money. The developer can't take the money and run, because for that to happen someone would need to give them money first -- and if it's a building nobody wants to live in, who would? Free markets are proverbially efficient at allocating resources, like the division of space between residences and parking.
Anne, why wouldn't a developer care how much parking a building has? If they don't put in enough parking, people won't want to live there, and the units will rent or sell for less than they otherwise would have, costing the developer money. The developer can't take the money and run, because for that to happen someone would need to give them money first -- and if it's a building nobody wants to live in, who would? Free markets are proverbially efficient at allocating resources, like the division of space between residences and parking.
"Given wear and tear caused by bicycles versus private automobiles, cyclists already pay a hugely disproportionate amount towards the roads."

I pay a couple thousand bucks every three years or so for registering my vehicle in DC.

I seriously doubt my vehicle does several thousand dollars damage to DC roads.

And I will never use most of the astonishingly expensive bike lane infrastructure. That my tax dollars help pay for. Or the absurdly expensive bike facilities at Union Station.

Actually the only one of those two I begrudge is the Union Station thing. That was a ton of money for very little benefit. Could have been done much cheaper.

I truly enjoyed this comment thread. Am torn on the bike thing. I drive, walk and bike in the central downtown area, Gtown, Dupont, Logan, Chinatown, etc...

Yes, cars are inconsiderate menaces often. They speed, turn right on red w/o checking for pedestrians, etc.

Pedestrians jaywalk.

IMHO, bikes are the greater menace. I am appreciative of the bike lanes etc. But the danger - for me - has been in accommodating more bikes, w/o requiring any sort of training for bicyclists. I live on a one-way street and the bikers have created a de facto against the traffic bike lane. VERY dangerous for pedestrians and cars. Honestly, I don't find bike scofflaws to be rare. It is terrifying to watch them blow through red lights sometimes.

My other concern has to do with the entitlement on both sides, but more of the part of the bikers. If I am driving in a strange section of town, unsure of where to go and holding up cars behind me, I'll pull over, let the other cars pass and resume my slow, lost drive. When I bike I love out of the way so cars can get past me. I consistently see bikes slowing traffic to a crawl during rush hour on Mass. Conn. Wisc. Aves. Why? Why would a bike purposely impede traffic when a simple courtesy of moving to the side of a lane or letting cars go by would engender good will? Why would a bike, seeing that cars are trying to turn legally right on red roll so far into a walkway that cars can't turn when walkways are pedestrian free?

The bikes have a right to be on the road, but they should be courteous and considerate. I think the vitriol toward bikes has to do with the small lack of courtesy. It is akin to the same feelings toward cabbies.
@Skeptic

Screed is in the eye of the beholder. Others can choose to read it and decide for themselves.

<i>I pay a couple thousand bucks every three years or so for registering my vehicle in DC.</i>

I don't believe you. I have a car and register it regularly and have never paid anything close to "a couple thousand bucks."

A quick perusal of <a href="http://dmv.dc.gov/node/155452">DC Registration fees</a> would seem to back up my actual experience vs. your fictional one.
Tyro:

The title fee for a vehicle in DC is 7 percent.

Even assuming a value of $50,000, that's 3.5% every time you title a new vehicle in DC.

http://dmv.dc.gov/book/vehicle-fees/vehicle-title

Sorry for the typo. Meant to say that $3500 every time you title a new vehicle in DC. Of course, obviously less if your vehicle is worth less, more if your vehicle is worth more.
Still misleading Hillman.

First you imply you have to pay thousands every x number of years. Then you say no, I made a typo, sorry; you have to pay thousands every time you title a new vehicle in DC.

Technically true, but it's not like the same person is titling new cars all the time, which you imply with that "every time." Basically, it's a ONE TIME FEE.

When I had a car, I was surprised how low the costs were, in terms of what I had to pay the city. I loved the low on street parking decal cost.
All the arguments about parking minimums, bad bicyclists, "war on cars", speed cameras, etc., etc., etc. are beside the point and irrelevant.

This is a schoolyard fight between Mr Townsend and Mr Alpert. If the overiding concern were the issues, they should find a way to work together. But it isn't; they are now enemies, nothing more, and will drag anybody and everybody into the fray to support themselves and their side of the fight.
“Except that there was a car war. It was just in reverse: Cars were
declaring war on cities across the country.”

Cars are machines and cannot declare war. Mischaracterizing the degradation of street use as a war makes it harder to understand. It is a tragedy of the commons — misuse and degradation of a resource held in common, where individuals reap the benefits but society at large is burdened with the costs. Sometimes the very residents who once walked the street now drive and park cars in it — but also outsiders do, as cars are mobile. On local streets, this typically occurs slowly, by degrees.

On the other hand, political battles — between people — do occur over destruction of neighborhoods to construct highways or widen streets, and over reclaiming streets.

I often see similar anthropomorphizing of machines in descriptions of traffic incidents e.g., “the car didn’t see me”. That wording may become more appropriate with self-driving cars but Heaven help us if cars are programmed also to be able to declare war!
since Thursday, and over the weekend, we've heard from every single Alpert sycophant and cheerleader on this.

Who's next? Alpert's dog?

The City Paper piece was a sensationalist hatchet job, plain and simple. And GGW has the audacity to to call The Examiner a "rag"?.

The howling from Alpert and his urbanist blogger friends makes them look like a bunch of crybabies who can't take what they so freely dish out.

Let's remember one thing. David Alpert started the fight and kept it going. He could have stopped at any time, but like anyone enamored with his own sense of importance, he thought he could get away with repeatedly trashing and ridiculing AAA because in his mind - and those of his fans - he was "right".

The only reason why we're now arguing about Alpert's beef with John Townsend (NOT AAA) is that Alpert - like a schoolyard bully - is surprised and appalled at getting hit back.
-----"The question of representation irks Alpert, who argues that Townsend really doesn’t represent AAA’s 80,000 D.C. members. “They don’t vote for him,” Alpert says. “They don’t join AAA because they agree with the lobbying agenda. He’s employed by a towing, insurance, and travel discount company.” "

this coming from an overly-opinionated jackass who doesn't get elected.
"The question of representation irks Alpert, who argues that Townsend really doesn’t represent AAA’s 80,000 D.C. members. “They don’t vote for him,”"
----

And exactly who elected Alpert to go before the DC Council and planning meetings to push for bike lanes, removal of on-street parking, neighborhood parking restrictions, elimination of parking minimums for new development, and zoning changes to allow people to create apartments in garages, basements, and doghouses?

Alpert's inherent arrogance is exactly why he got his ass handed by to him by Townsend.

I read the paper at comment #107 and found it to be quite informative.

For example, it compares DC’s current minimum parking requirements with average vehicle ownership rates: “Current minimum parking requirements are 0.25 to 0.5 spaces per unit for apartments and 1 space per unit for single family,” and “Current vehicle ownership rates are 0.9 vehicles per household.” From all the discussions I have seen here, one would never guess that this is how our parking requirements compare with vehicle ownership.

The proposed zoning regulations are described as including a reduction in minimum parking requirements outside transit zones. The paper includes a list of current and proposed minimum parking requirements outside transit zones which is quite illuminating. I have not seen City Paper coverage, or any other media coverage, on changes in parking requirements outside of transit zones.

It seems that the City Paper should be spending more ink providing information on the zoning rewrite, and less ink on personalities.

EVERY form of transportation in this region - streets, roads, bike lanes, transit, sidewalks - is subsidized to a degree.

But anyone who says that drivers are being "carried" by non-drivers is either a damn liar or someone who's been duped by a damn liar.
ceefer66 wrote: "Alpert's inherent arrogance is exactly why he got his ass handed by to him by Townsend."

Just to review, Alpert called AAA " a towing, insurance, and travel discount company."

In response, Townsend called Alpert a "retarded" Klansman.

The fact ceefer66 thinks Townsend has come out ahead in this exchange with Alpert is touching.
"But anyone who says that drivers are being "carried" by non-drivers is either a damn liar or someone who's been duped by a damn liar."

Funny; you can clench your fists and repeat this until you're red in the face, but anyone perusing the thread can look at the numbers above and go to the links. Cars are heavily subsidized by bicyclists. You're welcome.
ibc,

Cars are subsidized by bicycles"


You sir/ma'am, are a stubborn, ignorant ass. And you can kiss mine.

Have a happy landing.
I'm fine with bike lanes, although they make driving a bit more difficult. Live and let live. Because people often attribute to others the attitudes they themselves have, I was very slow to pick up on what I now see as a war on cars and people like me who own them.

I've been told in blogs like this that I should bike more ("good for my health" - thanks!), but in my 60s, I've had 4 knee operations and cannot do so. I still walk to work (2 miles) and will do so as long as I can.

I moved into a city in the 1970s because I wanted to walk to work, not drive. In that sense, I was green before the tern was invented.

That said, I have to have a car, I drive 3 to 5 times a week (4500 miles a year), and have to be able to park it near my home. This is already an issue, but will become far worse if these new zoning proposals go through.

When I said this on a blog like this one, I was told by a younger recent resident that if I really need a car, I should leave and move to a car friendly environment. In other words, there are new people in town, and even though almost all of our friends are nearly, we should leave everything we have known for the last 30 years to accommodate the wishes of a new generation who have no idea what the lives of people in or near retirement are.

This type of attitude very much feels like a war on cars to me.

One more thing. My costs of driving are basically filling my tank about 14 times a year, and insurance. Not only would using a zip car about 200 times a year be very inconvenient, but it would cost more than my current costs. So please don't tell me (yet again) what is good for me, whether it is biking more, moving away, or using a zip car.
@Longtime DC,

"When I said this on a blog like this one, I was told by a younger recent resident that if I really need a car, I should leave and move to a car friendly environment."

Whoever told you that was an ass.

Regardless of what you or I do, the city is going to gain thousands of new residents. We can provide infrastructure to allow those residents to ride bikes, take transit, etc... Or we can force them to drive cars. If the latter, then it's going to take you a couple of hours to get anywhere in the city.

The problem is, a lot of folks want DC to remain exactly as it was a decade or two ago. But that's not an option. So the option is, twice the number of cars on the road, or a quarter more cars and lots of bikes. Getting folks on bikes is going to permit people who need their cars--like yourself--to actually use them.
I have a lot of sympathy for long time residents. That's why I find it a little frustrating when their identification of issues tends to place blame on those not responsible.

Parking is undoubtedly getting more difficult every year. But it's not a War on Cars causing it--it's the fact that parking on the street is virtually fully subsidized, and without a market corrective mechanism, demand has outstripped supply. The removal of parking spaces for bike lanes was minimal, and in any event practically all in office areas, not residential. Only one project has gotten a waiver from parking requirements.

The resposne from residents has been twofold: one, continue the parking subsidy, even though it will only result in parking getting worse. Second, continue the forced consumption of parking by continuing the requirement to supply a set ration of off-street parking.

This at least has some logic, as long as one assumes, despite having no evidence, that builders would not build spaces with parking. It seems to me that to the extent there is demand for people to have a parking space, then it will be worth while for builders to construct buildings with parking. Forcing buyers to buy a parking space with their unit may actually make auto congestion worse, since having bought the parking space, there is less of a cost barrier to owning and using a car. It's also forcing new residents to subsidize your practically free street parking, since they pay property taxes that are used to build and maintain the on-street parking.
Way to define the narrative ibc.

The problem is that what is glaringly absent in these conversations is the need and the plan to improve metro to allow more metro buses to flow and better service.

But that's never focused on, so that is a problem. If you are going to slightly or majorly reduce driving capability in the city, without a doubt you have to improve public transportation. The young ones have no idea how to go about doing that. None. They hate buses, among other things.
@ibc:

Yes, we are getting thousands of new residents. Yes, we now and in the future will provide infrastructure (bike lanes, bike racks, etc.).

But how is the providing parking spaces in new construction "forcing" them to drive cars? DC will still be walkable (that is how I get to work), people will still be on bikes. Nobody will be forced to use a car at rush hour (or other times) by the retention of the current policy on including parking in new construction. Most people with cars, on Capitol Hill at least, don't use them to get to work, they use them on weekends and after work (which is my pattern)

It seems to me that if you don't provide parking in all the new developments, you are forcing all of us -- new residents and old -- to consider NOT have cars, because street parking will be so much more of a hassle than it is now. But that is a major problem for folks who are aging and who need cars to get to doctors as well as their other activities. This is where the coercion is, when you DON'T provide parking.

Do you know that Portland, OR just re-instituted parking minimums in new residential buildings, because street parking became too difficult? This is the green city DC is trying to imitate. Link:

http://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2013/04/porland_city_council_approves.html

Turns out all those new residents are green, do walk or bike to work, but about half of them have cars, and park them on the street all day long (as I do). So let's not create the problem Portland did, and then have to re-institute parking minimums AFTER everybody is angry, let's just keep the current zoning polices.

I don't agree that to retain current zoning will cause drivers a couple of hours to get anywhere in the city. I think you may be assuming that people will use their cars to get to work, but the Portland experience, as well as today's actuality in DC, suggests otherwise. Although the new Portland residents own cars, they rarely use them to get to work. When I use my car -- weekends and after work -- streets are not crowded with cars. It is the parking spaces that are already crowded, and we don't want policies which will make that situation far worse.

I don't "want DC to remain exactly as it was a decade or two ago," as you suggest. Cities always change, and DC has changes incredibly in my 35 years here.

But the option is NOT "twice the number of cars on the road" as you suggest. Again, look at the Portland experience -- the new, green residents (like the old time residents, like me) don't drive to work, they like walking and biking instead. But they DO own cars. So let's provide for them, as we currently do, and not make a big mess that we will have to correct later, after everyone is upset about no parking spaces.

There is no problem getting folks on bikes, even if we retain the current parking minimum policies. They are doing it already, and their number will expand as more younger people move here. You say "Getting folks on bikes is going to permit people who need their cars--like yourself--to actually use them." Whether or not there are more people on bikes, I will be able to USE my car. The problem is whether I can find a place to PARK it within a couple of blocks of my home when I get back late, or on weekends.

If the parking minimums are retained, there will not be a flood of new residents who commute by car, there will just be the convenience for both new car residents and old to be able to have a parking space. Among my new friends on our block, people move to DC because they are tired of traffic jams, they want to get to work by Metro, walking, or biking, they don't want the long commute, and they don't need it, either, once they live in DC. People who move to DC on the whole don't want to commute to work by car -- as with those who moved to Portland -- and that won't change. Just let us be able to park.
@Crickey7:

There are two different issues about the difficulty to park your car on the street. Only one of them can be seen as part of a "war on cars." Please don't confuse these two issues.

The first is that new residents in older existing buildings have more cars than the people they replace. That is just demographics, the older widows on the other side of our street didn't drive, the young people who replaced them do drive. It makes it hard to park on our street now, but obviously, there is no policy that will knowingly make it harder to park on the street.

The second issue is the new zoning proposal, to allow new residential buildings within half a mile of a Metro stop to not have parking spaces. The Portland experience is that this policy will make it far harder for both new and existing residents to park on the street. The new residents in Portland, green as they are, do have cars, they just don't use them to commute to work (I don't, either). Since it is a known result that parking for everyone will get worse, it can be characterized as an instrument in a "war on cars," or more precisely, a war on DC resident car owners (since we aren't doing anything to make it harder for suburban commuters, we just build a new 11th St. Bridges complex which according to DDOT will bring an extra 50,000 new cars into DC by that route).

Portland just decided to re-instate parking requirements in new residential buildings, because both new and old residents could no longer find parking spaces on the street, and it became a big political issue. Link:

ttp://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2013/04/porland_city_council_approves.html

Let's be smart, and not make things bad, and then reinstate the parking minimums. Let's forestall that process, and just keep the parking minimums.

So is that old MEN need to drive to go to the doctor, but old WIDOWS don't have cars? I'm confused. But again, whatever you do - DO NOT TALK ABOUT PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.

(At a certain age, EVERYONE should stop driving.)

Public transportation really really really helps old people, men or women.
@Estates:

No need to be snarky. It so happened that the two people who passed away across the street were older women, long time residents for decades, widows. And they didn't have cars. Just stating facts.

Of course we need public transportation, and thank goodness we have good options. I use Metro on the way home from work (I walk to work, except when it is too hot or too rainy or icy -- then I take Metro as well). But it doesn't go to a lot of places I go to when I'm off work (after work, weekends). That is why I need a car about 4 times a week.
I didn't mean to be snarky. It's just that you said older people need cars to get to doctors then .... ok, whatever. Moving on.

There seems to be a lack of sincerity on both sides since no one is advocating for better public transportation. It seems if you say you need your car to get you where you need to go *because* public transportation doesn't then you would be more in favor of better public transportation. But you fall back on that it's not there (instead of battling for better public transportation). And the ones who want to limit driving rarely utter a peep about advocating for better public transportation. I guess because it is hard work.

If it's public, it seems, it's forgotten.
@Estates

Thank you for clarifying, Estates. Older people in my generation and demographic do usually need cars to get to doctors (and physical therapy) of our choice (both my wife and I). The two widows that lived across the street from us were a different generation, a different demographic, and if I had to guess, neither owned cars nor saw doctors much before they passed away. So that is my clarification.

I like public transportation (as stated earlier, I use Metro coming back from work). We've got pretty good public transportation in DC, but it really can't go everywhere, and even when it does, it takes a lot longer to get there. Public transportation isn't forgotten by me, the Circulators are a real plus, for example, but it seems to me that the future is Zip cars and the like, because they go so many more places. It just happens that with my specific activities, and my proclivity to hold on to cars for as long as I can, it is much cheaper, and usually more convenient (except when I have to park 3 blocks from my home) to use my own car than Zip cars. That is because I use my car about 200 times a year, about 2/3rds to the suburbs.
Great article! Really well done--and I don't mean just because I agree.

By the way, I love the quote-it sounds like Townsend may be a writer:

“It’s not changing the world; it’s reinventing it because you’re experiencing it for the first time ... Nothing wrong with that. So: ‘We’re having the best sex ever. We’re drinking the best wine ever. We’re watching the best movies ever.’ Because none of this mattered that came before. None of it matters, until you wake up one day and discover there’s a gray speck in your beard and you’ve lost a step.”

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