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Cheh, Wells, Fisher on car-freedom

Marc Fisher spoke to Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Tommy Wells at last week's Car-Free Day. Fisher relays anecdotes about Harriet Tregoning converting her free office parking space into bike parking, and about Marion Barry moving Tommy Wells' bike to take one of the parking spaces at the Wilson building.

SmartBikes at Car-Free Day. Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Wells advocates for "five-minute living," the idea of having all daily needs within five minutes' travel. That's still not quite a reality in DC, says Fisher; downtown drivers still honk at Wells on his bike, and suburban drivers retain a car-centric mindset. But we've also made great strides; a bike valet program at the ballpark which Wells initially had to push onto reluctant owners now sees steady usage and a corporate sponsor funds the whole thing.

Cheh criticizes the anti-development activism in her ward, including opposition to the proposed public-private partnership at the Tenley-Friendship Library which created so many restrictions (like a requirement that all housing be located on the school site and not the library site) that the deal is about to fall apart. Cheh agreed with those activists in fighting a drive-through Commerce Bank, but their opposition to the bank didn't revolve around its design; according to Cheh, "They opposed it because they oppose things."

But I'm most intrigued by the teaser for Fisher's column tomorrow, which reads: "TOMORROW: Build less parking—and they will come." Ooh.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


Who sets the rate of the gas tax in the District? With so many District residents using transit and walking/bicycling, DC residents might be supportive of raising the gas tax to pay for transit and bike/pedestrian improvements. This will push some drivers to purchase fuel in VA or MD but it might also serve much of the function as the various proposals for a DC commuter tax. Many people from VA and MD will still purchase gas in the District if the price per gallon was 1-2 cents more.

by Ben on Sep 30, 2008 1:19 pm • linkreport

Gas already costs almost 40c/gal more where I live in DC then where I work in Rockville. From my experience, almost anyone who can purchase gas in MD and VA will do so, raising the gas tax would only really hurt DC drivers.

by Local on Sep 30, 2008 2:36 pm • linkreport

Yeah, gas taxes in the District are already way too high ... surely resulting in most people purchasing their gas in Va. or Md. (Va. is cheaper!) ... and the District missing out in revenues. I truthfully can't remember the last time I bought my gas in DC ... I'm sure it was an emergency "fill up" though.

The District has a great tradition of "self funding" and organizing. For example, many of our parks have been refurbished with neighbor participation. By that I mean the neighbors have put in all the sweat labor for organizing and planning the effort ... and leading it through to all the right channels ... including getting Council to buy on ... and buy in. These groups even start the ball rolling by donating their own personal funds.

For example, I was a member of a neighborhood "friends of" group that adopted a neighborhood park and raised $500,000 and concurrently paid for studies and volunteered what must have many many person-years of labor. After some 4 - 5 years of this effort (and having raised the $500,000 and made some initial efforts at the renovation including getting designs made and held many neighborhood meetings), the Council came in and funded the remaining $2 M that was needed to carry out the renovation. At that point it became a District project, though the "Friends of ... " group continued on to help ensure the District moved on its plans ... And to do its own supplemental maintenance.

Many of the dog runs being planned today will work the same way. It's a partnership between the District and those who want the dog runs. (For example, the District will only be paying for basics in the dog runs. All extras will have to come from the people in the neighborhoods with an interest in seeing it happen.) And, incidentally, I know of at least one locally proposed dog run where individuals have been donating their time, ideas, and money for at least the last 4 years. Construction hasn't started yet, but the dog run never would have happened had these dedicated individuals not been personally investing so much into it. It's doubtful that even the "dog off leash" laws would have been modified to allow for the creation of dog runs had these individuals not taken the initiative to start the ball rolling.

Honestly, I wouldn't count on imposing extra taxes on motorists or on anyone for that matter to get projects that are near and dear to you going. Personal involvement both timewise and moneywise (with what your own finances permit) is really the way to go.

And no, it won't happen overnight. But it'll happen ...

by Lance on Sep 30, 2008 3:37 pm • linkreport

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