Greater Greater Washington

AAA fights to keep unnecessary parking rules

Many AAA members would be surprised to learn that their roadside assistance fees also go to fund a vigorous pro-asphalt, anti-environment lobbying effort. Now, the organization is also spending members' money to advocate for antiquated car-centric urban policies that will keep DC's transportation options firmly mired in the 1950s.


Photo by WSDOT on Flickr.

In last week's Washington Post, upper Northwest activist Sue Hemberger and AAA lobbyist Lon Anderson argued against reforming the policy of government-mandated parking lots, which is a relic of America's misguided transportation planning approach of 60 years ago.

How many of the organization's 50 million cardholders know that their money has been spent to oppose the Clean Air Act, safety standards, airbags, mass transit, bike lanes, speed limits, and fines for running red lights? Now we can add zoning to the list of positions AAA has taken without talking to members who just want to get a tow if their car breaks down.

Parking minimums are a terrible idea for many reasons. Start with the fact that they simply don't work.

You can force a housing developer to build parking spaces, but you can't force a renter to rent them. It costs anywhere from $100-$300 per month to park in a garage, but only $35 per year for a residential curbside parking permit. Which would you choose? We've had parking minimums for decades, but the problem of spillover parking is still with usbecause it costs so much less to park on public land than it does on private land.

And parking minimums come with unintended consequences, the worst of which is that they make housing unaffordable.

Forcing a developer to build unwanted parking makes it more expensive to build, by as much as $30,000-$40,000 per unit. That cost is passed on to tenants, whether they know it or not.

More broadly, the District's crisis of unaffordable housing has its roots in a shortage of housing supply. Between DC's geography, the Height Act, and the zoning map, real estate for residential development is scarce. Parking minimums require that much of that space to be devoted to parking lots and garages instead of housing, they limit the overall size of buildings, and they make some projects altogether unfeasible. Less housing supply leads to higher prices.

So what we have is a very aggressive affordable housing policy for cars that is at cross-purposes with affordable housing for people.

In a city that is growing, we'll always have more and more demand for lots of goods: More demand for parking, schools, police, transit infrastructure, and drinking water. At the same time, the newcomers create economic benefits for lots of people. Yes, housing developers benefit, but so does anyone else who is in a position to sell them goods and services: local merchants, tax accountants, construction workers, interior designers, waiters. Local employers also benefit from a broader pool of talent.

Of all those people who benefit from DC's population growth, why should we single out the housing developer and penalize them with what amounts to a hidden tax, just because they're satisfying the new residents' need for housing?.

DC's most beloved neighborhoods were built before parking minimums were in place. If any given street in Dupont Circle, Shaw, or Georgetown burned down today, it would be illegal to rebuild it as isevery building would need to be accompanied by a parking lot or garage, destroying the beauty and walkability that define the character of our older neighborhoods.

The zoning excesses of the 1950s and 1960s were reckless experiments, and their unintended consequencesfrom the oceanic parking lots and strip malls of Rockville Pike to the megablocks of Southwest DCare plain for all to see. Today's zoning reforms take a small step towards undoing that damage.

None of this is to say that residential parking scarcity is not a real problem.

But it's only a problem because we act as if curbside space were abundant and valueless. The District gives away the right to park on public land for practically free (9.6 cents per day, to be exact).

When you underprice something valuable, you can be assured that it will be overconsumed.

If I have an old car that I no longer need, I have no incentive to get rid of it when I can store it on the street at public expense. If I have a garage, I have no reason to use it to store my car when I can use it to store my bikes and tools and junk. If I'm deciding whether my household needs one more car, the cost of storage doesn't enter my factor into my decisionbut it should.

The city is currently exploring ways to price parking more accurately, neighborhood by neighborhood.

As the population of the city grows, the cost of residential parking should reflect its growth in value. This will cause demand to fall naturally, because residents have incentives to own fewer cars or get them off the street. And it will allow supply to increase naturally, because the private sector will have an incentive to create parking where it's needed.

Oh, and by the way: If you prefer your roadside assistance without a side order of retrograde lobbying, there are lots of options out there. Do a web search for "AAA alternatives." My family has switched to Better World Club, whichin a nice touchprovides emergency service for bikes as well as cars.

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Herb Caudill lives in Cleveland Park with his wife, Lynne, and two young boys. He has lived in DC since 1995; he taught math as a Peace Corps volunteer in West and Central Africa, and currently runs DevResults, a web-based mapping and data management tool for foreign aid projects.  

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Nice piece. Certainly better than the one to which it responds.

Part of the problem is that those who are opposed to the proposal to remove parking minimums equate it with removing parking. No matter how hard anyone tries, these opponents are either too hardheaded or willfully misleading in an attempt to garner support.

Ultimately, cities are about people, not cars, and I, for one, am thankful that our leadership from Mayor Grey, Harriet Tregoning and several Councilmembers are firmly in this camp.

I would like to see strong statements from all of the At-Large candidates on this issue as well.

by William on Feb 14, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

Well, I already terminated my membership with them, telling them exactly why. I can not do more.

by Jasper on Feb 14, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

"Part of the problem is that those who are opposed to the proposal to remove parking minimums equate it with removing parking."

No, it should be equated with transfering private costs (i.e., a developer's cost to provide at least some off-street parking) to the public sphere, when more and more vehicles are parked on already overcrowded public streets.

If OP were serious about eliminating parking minimums, they would have the new rule apply only near Metro stops, not along bus corridors where the service remains erratic and unreliable. (Just ask the Glover Park ANC commissioners who don't want to give up ward-wide RPP because they think the 30s bus line service sucks.) OP ought to follow Arlington's policy and exclude no-parking developments from street parking permit status, to prevent the aforementioned shifting of costs and to encourage transit use.

Otherwise, it's just a smoke screen to increase developer margins on new projects at the expense of the general public.

by JasperJ on Feb 14, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

But how will I travel to Downtown DC to do things if I can't drive and park there?

It's amazing that even in the city with the second highest transit ridership in the nation that people wonder why they can't park immediately in front of where they are trying to go. And will often walk farther than if they had just gotten off at the metro station.

And yes, plenty of situations demand sometimes you drive. No one has proposed banning parking just because but when you only have X amount of space between buildings to accomodate cars/pedestrians/bikes and whatever else then hard choices have to be made.

Meanwhile this morning we had a link that showed a strong correlation between strong downtowns and lack of space devoted to parking and instead devoted to other things. Downtown DC is as nice as it is because it has a bunch of stuff occupying what used to be parking lots.

by drumz on Feb 14, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport

Raise RPP to a $100 minimum/year and more for neighborhoods downtown (maybe $500 for Dupont for example). Make the zones a maximum of 5 sq miles each. Leave some buffer areas along commercial corridors (16th st, U st, Mass Ave, Wisc Ave, H St NE etc) that have metered parking. Eliminate parking minimums for new construction. Require instead that new developments contribute a percentage (maybe 2%) of development cost to a comprehensive transportation trust fund that will be dedicated to citywide improvements.

by Alan B. on Feb 14, 2013 3:31 pm • linkreport

But obviously, mentioning that there are costs to providing parking and those costs are sometimes high means that there is a war on cars and we must hate freedom. Also I must not be snarky when explaining to adults that the laws of supply and demand even apply to parking.

by drumz on Feb 14, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

@ Alan B

Why not take the increase in RPP fees and also dedicate that revenue to the same comprehensive transportation fund? The Ward 3 loonies always complain that you can't change any parking rules unless you first fix stinky Metro service. They still get to park on the street and the rest of us get a better Metro.

I have no problem making the developers contribute their savings from not building parking into that fund.

Everybody wins.

by fongfong on Feb 14, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

Interesting post but as a card-holding AAA member, I don't get the "don't support AAA..choose Better World Club" angle. Is there a way to have the discussion w/o railing against AAA? I doubt most members are much concerned about whether AAA supports red light cameras or bike lanes..outside of the beltway that is.

I also think the constant harping, "only if they did xyx 50 years ago" and "only if I was born, I would've been smart enough to know xyx" as if people are soothsayers. People went from walking/horses to cars because it was the natural progression of things. Not because they were too incompetent or lacked forward-thinking principles.

Come on ya'll.

by HogWash on Feb 14, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

Ms. Hemberger makes this claim in the comments of the post story.

DDOT (in a grant application linked to in the op-ed) estimates that 25% of the congestion downtown is cause by people circling in search of parking. Do we really want to make parking even harder to find? That seems counterproductive, especially when we're at a point where technology makes it increasingly possible to track parking availability in real time and direct drivers to the closest space

That seems to indicate she wants a supply side solution. But we know that every foot you devote to parking off street (and the entrances and exits required)means the loss of an opportunity for a more productive use of that space (office, or restaurant, or store)which makes that area of DC marginally less attractive. So yeah you have more parking but less of a reason to go there.

Why is managing demand such an abominable idea?

I drive into DC fairly often and I'd much rather pay with cash rather than my time so I can go ahead and get on with what I'm trying to do.

by drumz on Feb 14, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

HogWash, the natural progression of transportation was hardly walking - horses - cars. There were a few intermediate steps there...

by Alan B. on Feb 14, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

No, it should be equated with transfering private costs (i.e., a developer's cost to provide at least some off-street parking) to the public sphere,

Except, if you mandate parking, those are not private costs.

And they are not private costs anyway, since those costs merely get passed on to the rest of us through higher prices.

The public pays for all this parking one way or another. The question is if we want the users of that parking to pay more in line with the share they use, or if we continue to overbuild and push the costs of doing so on the rest of our citizens.

by Alex B. on Feb 14, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

Alan B: if the RPPs were at market rate, we would be looking at $1000 to $3000, depending on location.
The RPPs also discriminate against the poor. Most of the jobs are in the wealthier wards, and the residents of those wards get to park near their jobs for free, while residents of other wards need to pay market rate.

by SJE on Feb 14, 2013 4:05 pm • linkreport

"Interesting post but as a card-holding AAA member, I don't get the "don't support AAA..choose Better World Club" angle. Is there a way to have the discussion w/o railing against AAA? I doubt most members are much concerned about whether AAA supports red light cameras or bike lanes..outside of the beltway that is. "

Count me in that club. AAA is for getting my car towed when it breaks and for a discount on Amtrak tickets. I don't really care about anything else AAA may do or not do.

by Another Nick on Feb 14, 2013 4:08 pm • linkreport

@HogWash
Interesting post but as a card-holding AAA member, I don't get the "don't support AAA..choose Better World Club" angle. Is there a way to have the discussion w/o railing against AAA? I doubt most members are much concerned about whether AAA supports red light cameras or bike lanes..outside of the beltway that is.
Why would a response to an article written by a lobbyist at AAA seek to avoid mentioning or "railing against" AAA? Mr. Anderson is signed on to this op-ed effort specifically because he is a lobbyist for AAA representing the position/views of auto owners.

I also doubt that most AAA members across the country know or care much about their lobbying efforts across the country, but there are some that do care, and for that it is worth educating people about alternatives.

I also think the constant harping, "only if they did xyx 50 years ago" and "only if I was born, I would've been smart enough to know xyx" as if people are soothsayers. People went from walking/horses to cars because it was the natural progression of things. Not because they were too incompetent or lacked forward-thinking principles.

Come on ya'll.

It's true that we moved to cars as a form of transportation because they were faster/newer/better. We also over the years have redesigned many elements of our cities to make auto travel as convenient as possible, to the detriment of our cities. There have been people criticizing the reorientation of cities towards the auto from the beginning; it's not a new phenomenon only looking backwards.

by MLD on Feb 14, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

SJE,

I don't see how the current regime is especially helpful to the poor either. Except maybe the satisfaction that rich people are frustrated looking for a parking spot as well.

Meanwhile the fees from a higher RPP would cover more than the costs to administer the program and go towards improving transit.

by drumz on Feb 14, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

SJE, that's not true at all. Most jobs are downtown (or in the burbs which are moot for this discussion) so everyone can learn to take transit, which would get a boost from restricting parking.

by Alan B. on Feb 14, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

I think any fees from increased RPP costs/performance parking/speed cameras/redlight cameras should all be lockboxed for transportation improvements. Why we are bringing in $100 million from speed cameras and putting it into the general fund is completely beyond me....

by Kyle-W on Feb 14, 2013 4:17 pm • linkreport

HogWash, the natural progression of transportation was hardly walking - horses - cars. There were a few intermediate steps there...

I used purposely used "things" instead of "transportation." I don't believe it makes a lot of sense to argue that planners (50 years ago) were negligent in not predicting that building "auto-centric" cities would be so horrible because it makes it harder for cyclists. I just believe it's a stretch into the unknown future and easier to Monday morning quarterback than dealing w/the reality of where we were/are. Ironically, the Harriet lady (DC planner) argued that not getting things right sometimes is a good thing. This should apply across the board imo...

Why would a response to an article written by a lobbyist at AAA seek to avoid mentioning or "railing against" AAA?

Except this is beyond simply "mentioning" AAA. It's promoting the idea an "evil" AAA and ends w/an effort to get people to switch their memberships. And since I am the target audience, you're seeing how I..and likely lots of others view such.

but there are some that do care, and for that it is worth educating people about alternatives.

Totally agree that a small fraction of the members are concerned about things like this. Absolutely nothing wrong w/the education effort. It's the negative "evil" characterization I reject.

We also over the years have redesigned many elements of our cities to make auto travel as convenient as possible, to the detriment of our cities.

Yes, but that shouldn't mean the people were "evil" for doing so which seems to be a common theme nowadays. I get the sentiment. But the negative characterizations (as presented here and in other discussions) are such a drain...:(

by HogWash on Feb 14, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

False dichotomies are usually an indication of a weak argument.

by Alan B. on Feb 14, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

Just like people can support big grocery stores or the corner market and a CSA, so too people can support AAA or alternatives like the Better World Club, which provide many of the same benefits of membership, without using your fees to lobby against transportation options which may, or may not be your preference.

I think that is the only point.

by William on Feb 14, 2013 4:30 pm • linkreport

I'm really torn on the RPP issue because I'm in a pretty unique situation. I live in Takoma, in a condo building that went up in 1928 - pre-parking lots of course. I own a car but only because my job requires that I do. I'm on call for emergencies. The car sits about 350 days a year because I'm so close to the Metro. I'm also a member of car2go and CaBi. I do everything I can to live a carless lifestyle but unfortunately I can't because the times when I'm expected to be available are exactly the times when car shares and Metrorail shut down (the derecho, or Sandy for example).

Should I be expected to pay the $500/year for RPP as some commenters have suggested?

by dcmike on Feb 14, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

@dcmike: What do you think the appropriate rate for year-round car storage would be?

by The Dawn of a New Gray on Feb 14, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

I own a car, I enjoy driving, and I have an AAA membership (mainly because said car is 15 years old).

Those things being said, I absolutely cannot understand AAA's lobbying activities.

As a driver, I want my trips to be fast, safe, and enjoyable. Virtually all of AAA's political positions are in direct opposition to those goals.

Despite owning a car, I commute to work by bicycle, and take Metro (bus and rail) for many other trips. These modes of transportation make far more sense than a car for these trips -- there's no logic in driving any distance less than 3 miles, or sitting in traffic with throngs of commuters all heading to the same place. AAA's #1 policy priority should be to get as many urban commuters off of the roads as possible, and to provide good alternatives where driving is impractical.

This improves things for everyone -- rail commuters get a fast, predictable commute, while freeing up space on the roads for trips where transit is impractical or illogical. Driving can be a pleasant experience, but it rarely is when our built environment makes it mandatory.

AAA's stance on speed cameras is similarly wrongheaded. AAA should be lobbying the government to use technology to improve safety rather than raising revenue, and act as a deterrent rather than a punishment. Instead, they unilaterally oppose speed cameras, at the expense of safety for both drivers and pedestrians. Similarly, it's astonishing that AAA opposes efficiency and cleanliness standards -- would any driver today really prefer the 15MPG, low-horsepower, smoke-belching cars of the past? Efficiency standards have driven innovation, rather than strangled it.

AAA could also lobby in favor of low-cost decentralized carsharing programs such as Car2Go, which make a whole lot of sense in an urban environment compared to private vehicle ownership.

by andrew on Feb 14, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

"The speed cameras are working in terms of reducing speed in school zones in Prince George's County, which is most important," says John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic's manager of public and government affairs. The report shows that you're seeing reductions in speeding between 70 to 80 percent in some case

I know this might not account for the total coverage of their position, but how does the above statement from AAA square against the notion that it is anti-speed camera? Is the generalization (that it is) more accurate than not?

by HogWash on Feb 14, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

Meant to add this is from an article written just last month.

by HogWash on Feb 14, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

I'm with Hogwash. Shame on you for not financially supporting AAA's efforts to pursue an political agenda you vehemently disagree with. Also, leave those poor 1950's planners alone! Like that Harriet lady said, "Failing is a good thing!"

If failing small is good, and epic failure must be epically good!

by oboe on Feb 14, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

Exactly what does a speed limit accomplish, other than an admission that the road was designed for faster speeds and that there's nothing on it worth stopping for? If you build complete streets and line them with dense amenities, people will slow down on them anyway.

by J.D. Hammond on Feb 14, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

Alan B: my point (perhaps too oblique) is that the current system is not only unworkable and inefficient, it is also socially regressive. I accept some subsidies if there is a common good, or aids the needy. The RPP system is a subsidy that achieves the very opposity

by SJE on Feb 14, 2013 9:22 pm • linkreport

"How many of the organization's 50 million cardholders know that their money has been spent to oppose the Clean Air Act, safety standards, airbags, mass transit, bike lanes, speed limits, and fines for running red lights?"
----

I don't know what to call the above - slander, exaggerations, anti-car bias, outright lies - really not sure.

Just anything but the truth.

In any event, it's enough to make me keep my membership.

by ceefer66 on Feb 14, 2013 9:44 pm • linkreport

AAA is for getting my car towed when it breaks and for a discount on Amtrak tickets. I don't really care about anything else AAA may do or not do.

Did you know you can receive those services from other sources at a lower cost? That's because those other sources don't have bloated overhead from their lobbying efforts and PR campaigns. I get my roadside assistance as an annual fee from my car insurance company (Geico). The cost is roughly half of a AAA membership. I'm sure there are other roadside assistance services that can similarly undercut AAA on price while still providing top-notch service. I've been very happy with Geico's roadside service.

by Falls Church on Feb 14, 2013 10:24 pm • linkreport

That is truly absurd. This nation does not need anyone advocating for more car rights.

by AlexW on Feb 15, 2013 7:50 am • linkreport

Hogwash, keep up the good work (and I mean that sincerely).

Food for thought: One reason to drop AAA is its cost. You can get towing coverage on your insurance for a lot less than $100/year.

I maintained my AAA membership for years based on the bail bonds cards. You get pulled over in some states, like Illinois, for doing 32 in a 25 mph zone and they expect out-of-state residents to pay the ticket, in cash, on the spot -- you have to cough up $100 on the side of the road or spend the night in jail.

by goldfish on Feb 15, 2013 8:43 am • linkreport

My parents (still!) give me a new AAA membership every year. I never realized they offer bail bonds, though....

by J.D. Hammond on Feb 15, 2013 8:55 am • linkreport

don't get the "don't support AAA..choose Better World Club" angle. Is there a way to have the discussion w/o railing against AAA?

No, there really isn't, in the same way you can't have a discussion about guns without discussing the role of the NRA and what the NRA does with your membership dollars, if you're a member of a firing range that requires NRA membership.

by Tyro on Feb 15, 2013 8:57 am • linkreport

If this is another way of selling "cars kill" rhetoric, that last comment was really quite telling.

Whenever I see some new framing device here about an auto accident where it was so important to talk about how the driver killed a pedestrian as if it were an intentional act rather than a cognitive or design failure, I always wonder why someone doesn't post the name and address of that "murderous" driver....

by J.D. Hammond on Feb 15, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

@J.D. Hammond-Doesn't the mere act of calling it an "accident" absolve both parties of any responsibility?

I ask b/c the state of NY's DMV just made a subtle but important change. They are now calling these "accidents", "crashes". Their reasoning; "A vehicle crash encompasses a wider range of potential causes than does the term accident. An accident implies something that is not preventable. A majority of crashes are caused by intoxicated, speeding, distracted, or careless drivers and, therefore, are not accidents."

So, I get your point that killing a pedestrian is rarely an intentional act..as far as you really would have preferred that didn't happen b/c you don't see yourself as a murderer, BUT, if you decided that you'd drive after a couple adult beverages, or decided to take that call on your cell while driving, those were INTENTIONAL choices to not pay full attention to the most important task at hand..piloting a multi-ton vehicle in a safe, respectful manner.

by thump on Feb 15, 2013 9:56 am • linkreport

I am fascinated by the vehemence with which some comments defend AAA. I wasn't aware that AAA is infallible. I'll be sure to agree with everything they do and say from now on. Indeed, I might even join -- how could I not be a member of the one entity in this country that is completely off limits to criticism.

by rg on Feb 15, 2013 10:03 am • linkreport

This isn't about AAA being infallible. It's expecting people to quit AAA because it isn't infallible.

And thump, lots of people drive in the rain or snow and lose control of their vehicle, or spend a split second switching stations on the radio and fail to see someone crossing mid-block and wearing all black at 2 AM. Should we post their addresses and engage in real vigilante justice against these hideous murderers with blood on their hands?

by J.D. Hammond on Feb 15, 2013 11:07 am • linkreport

"This isn't about AAA being infallible. It's expecting people to quit AAA because it isn't infallible. "

i thought it was about expecting people to quit because there are others who provide the same service without the lobbying, and that for most here, the AAA lobbying is, net-net, a negative.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 15, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

i thought it was about expecting people to quit because there are others who provide the same service without the lobbying, and that for most here, the AAA lobbying is, net-net, a negative.

No, it's more about encouraging people to quit because someone decided that the things it lobbies for/against should be cause of concern for many AS WELL AS because it isn't infallible. I didn't notice it until just now but where is the evidence that it, as a policy, universally advocates against bike lanes, speed camera's, air, bags and mass transit?

Where are the corresponding links to AAA's official position (as insinuated here). Since the goal is to rally people against it, I don't think it's inappropriate to ask for additional info. Otherwise, it does seem as if this is only a hit job in the way deniers claim unsubstantiated "proof" that homosexuals are unhealthy parents.

by HogWash on Feb 15, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

@JD Hammond - Should we post their addresses and engage in real vigilante justice against these hideous murderers with blood on their hands?

What's with the fixation on posting addresses and vigilante justice? That's not even good policy or conventional behavior when someone actually takes a gun/knife/croquet mallet and murders someone with it, and isn't being suggested anywhere.

Frankly, the description of car-related deaths/damages/etc. really should be "crashes" until liability or charges are determined; similarly, it's the journalistic standard to refer to the accused in a crime as the "alleged murderer" or "alleged shooter" until they're convicted.

Further, on the subject of AAA--this article is an opinion piece that concludes with a link to some alternative options for roadside assistance. It "expects" nothing of anyone and merely provides these alternatives should the conclusions of the piece dismay you. I actually didn't know there were AAA alternative outside of getting roadside through your insurance (which is what I do)! Knowledge is sweet.

by worthing on Feb 15, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

No, it's more about encouraging people to quit because someone decided that the things it lobbies for/against should be cause of concern for many AS WELL AS because it isn't infallible.

Um, well you have the evidence in the story itself, a link that Herb posted in the comments, plus stories on this very website of Lon Anderson speaking from his position at AAA against any little thing that may be perceived as making it harder to drive.

If you disagree thats fine but its incredulous to think that A. people are being bullied into certain conclusions via an internet article or B. that when presented with evidence that a certain organization works against things that I may support that I should feel bad for not engaging with that group commercially.

I mean is someone writing an article about an issue always automatically on a power trip?

by drumz on Feb 15, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

lobbying activities aside...based on my own experience and talking to friends with other services, you simply cannot beat AAA for security of mind when it comes to roadside assistance. Read the fine print on the other services.

by beatbox on Feb 15, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

hogwash

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/search/?cx=016106633186969982627%3Ag-4raj3cmea&cof=FORID%3A11&q=aaa

FYI - GGW has a search feature, which can be quite helpful

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 15, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

We won't have proof until we have the memo from the AAA CEO outlining his plan to screw up everything just to piss off the readers of GGW. Only then can we look at other options on the advice of others with a clear conscience.

by drumz on Feb 15, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

So the issue is, because AAA doesn't agree with every aspect of every transit issue as some of you, then the exaggerations are only warranted. Kewl beanz! Got it!

For history's sake, let's be clear that you used the word "bullied" not me. I said "encouraged" which is what it is..whether we agree/disagree w/all the substance. But advocacy is not an arcane concept...you know.

The assumption is that everyone should care about issues to the same extent (at least) as you and that's just not true. It's ok to advocate a position encouraging people to act one way. It's another thing to suggest that, "the government is about to come take ya'lls guns." They're not transit's NRA.

That's all I'm saying.

by HogWash on Feb 15, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

@HogWash - So the issue is, because AAA doesn't agree with every aspect of every transit issue as some of you, then the exaggerations are only warranted. Kewl beanz! Got it!

What exaggerations? The ones ceefer66 claimed, which Herb answered with his link? I don't think the piece exaggerates anything, nor does it at any point assert that "everyone should care about issues to the same extent (at least) as you."

I haven't had roadside issues, but in reviewing what my Geico policy covers, it doesn't seem different than AAA's.

by worthing on Feb 15, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

I live well outside the Beltway and work inside the Beltway. I quit AAA a couple of years ago because of its lobbying.

by Steve Dunham on Feb 15, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

Except no one has been exaggerating. I don't care if AAA agrees with me or not but its not lying to point out that they've lobbied the things they've lobbied against. Moreover, this isn't a little issue, its a big one that gets discussed a lot. You may not care as much as others but that's hardly the belwether of whether its worthy for discussion or not.

by drumz on Feb 15, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

"AAA is for getting my car towed when it breaks and for a discount on Amtrak tickets. I don't really care about anything else AAA may do or not do."

this x 100

by Jack on Feb 15, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

I don't really care about anything else AAA may do or not do.Here's the thing: you should care.

by JustMe on Feb 15, 2013 5:31 pm • linkreport

@ Herb Caudill
You state that parking minimums make housing "unaffordable" because the add $30 to 40K to condo prices. Developers sell the parking separately in DC however and it is not averaged into the condo unit prices. It is quite easy to look at average sale prices for buildings with and without parking and see the per-square-foot costs at sale are not appreciably different. If your claim was correct the buildings without parking should be selling for noticeably less and that is just not the case in DC. If you want to argue that developers have problems selling all the spaces they are required to install, then that would be a valid argument for reducing the size of the set aside but not eliminating it. And existing law allows for waivers of zoning requirements that severely impact the economic value of property so parking minimums can be waived now in justified cases. Also you argue parking minimums don't work, but absent the parking that does currently exist in DC BECAUSE of parking minimums we would have thousands of additional cars vying for street parking.

by dupontdem on Feb 16, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

Exactly what does a speed limit accomplish, other than an admission that the road was designed for faster speeds and that there's nothing on it worth stopping for? If you build complete streets and line them with dense amenities, people will slow down on them anyway.

Two thoughts on this: if we're talking about a street where there's any pedestrian or bicycle traffic whatsoever, then speed limits become very, very relevant. To look at it as a matter of driver choice or some such construct is to demonstrate a huge (social, moral, whatever) blind-spot.

by oboe on Feb 16, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

No, it's more about encouraging people to quit because someone decided that the things it lobbies for/against should be cause of concern for many AS WELL AS because it isn't infallible. I didn't notice it until just now but where is the evidence that it, as a policy, universally advocates against bike lanes, speed camera's, air, bags and mass transit?

Ok, I'm convinced. It's important for all of us to support AAA financially, because they may not actually hold the positions it advocates for. Plus they might be ineffective in their lobbying. Also, we all make mistakes sometimes--no one is infallible.

You might be able to get the same services from another organization, but if you switched, wouldn't you really be showing a kind of petty small-mindedness towards AAA?

About the only argument we haven't heard is that it's more moral to stay and try to change AAA "from the inside."

by oboe on Feb 16, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

When I cancelled my AAA membership, the people on the other side of the phone line couldn't have cared less and had no interest in discussing my reasons for leaving their services.

So, in my opinion, there wasn't much point in trying to change the organization from within.

by Andrew on Feb 16, 2013 4:01 pm • linkreport

Mr Caldill: the article you cite so deeply polemical that its credibility is undermined. See this passage:
From his office in AAA's public affairs headquarters in D.C. -- an elegant suite appointed with tropical wood furniture and oriental rugs, and so spacious that its reception area alone is larger than the combined offices and work bays of my AAA-approved mechanics -- Stephen Hayes sounds as if he genuinely regrets the fact that most members don't know what he's doing.
One thing it has going for it, however, is that the writer contacted and quoted AAA. If write something so critical of a person or organization it is only fair that you give them a chance to respond.

by goldfish on Feb 17, 2013 6:23 am • linkreport

goldfish, I believe this was in response to an article linked at the top of the piece penned by Lon Anderson of AAA and Sue Hemberger of CAVE-DC (Citizens Against Virtually Everything).

by William on Feb 17, 2013 9:36 am • linkreport

@William, thanks. It seems the original purpose was lost in the fray. And because of that, my point stands. Instead, what is presented here is Mr Caldill talking past the points made in the WP article, which unfortunately does not advance the discussion.

by goldfish on Feb 17, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

I've noticed that parking lots have been taking up much more real estate than what the stores actually occupy.

by W. K. Lis on Feb 17, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

@Herb Caudill ,

You call a link to an agenda-based anti-AAA piece in an environmentalist blog a credible source?

I've been a member of AAA for nearly 30 years - in the NY-New Jersey area, Texas, Georgia, Florida, and in the DC region. In that time I have NEVER, I repeat NEVER seen or heard of anything from any unbiased source that says AAA has spoken out against speed limits or fines for running red lights.

Has AAA opposed unreasonably low speed limits, arbitrarily set be politicians and not as the result of studies by professionals - as is the case with many locations in DC?

YES.

Has AAA opposed speed limits that were reduced after speed cameras were deployed - as DC did on 395 and 295 (then later raised after protests)?

YES.

Has AAA opposed speed limits, per se?

HELL NO! But that's what your post says.

Regarding red light fines, has AAA opposed shortened yellow lights where red light cameras were deployed - as DC has done? And has AAA opposed high fines for infractions at said locations?

YES and YES.

Has AAA opposed fines for red light running in general?

HELL NO!. But that's what your post says.

As for its position on transit, AAA has spoken out against the use of gas taxes and road tolls for funding transit projects in protest mainly because they think it's unfair to road users to hijack that revenue to spend on transit while we're canceling new roads and deferring road maintenance. I happen to agree. AAA thinks transit users should pay a larger share of the cost of building and operating transit. I happen to agree.

As for opposing safety standards, and airbags, I beg to differ simply on the basis of logic. As the operator of an insurance company, it simply doesn't make sense for AAA to oppose potential loss risk mitigation instruments like safety standards and airbags.

I honestly can't speak on AAA's position regarding the Clean Air Act.

As for bike lanes, AAA has been quick to point out that many in DC were poorly planned and executed - as DDOT admitted in the case of the bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue. That's why they were reconfigured. Considering that putting a bike lane on L Street downtown has worsened the already-bad traffic congestion, I happen to agree.

You don't like AAA? Fine? You want your readers to stop supporting AAA? That's alright, too.

But be accurate in your assertions.

And take care with the sources you use to support your arguments. Blogs are a great place for people to tell the world about THEIR opinions, preferences, and priorities, but they are not reliable, credible references and they are ALWAYS biased.

One would think by now that people would realize that just because you "saw it on the Internet" doesn't make it true.

by ceefer66 on Feb 18, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

" I happen to agree. "

Then it makes sense you would remain a member. Those who read the piece on parking minimums and disagreed - and disagree witht the position on transit - and on bike lanes (there is debate about the impact of the L Street track on traffic, and from what I gather most cyclists who use it like it) - which would likely include many who read GGW, it might make sense for them to join a different road service.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 18, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

"You call a link to an agenda-based anti-AAA piece in an environmentalist blog"

For those of us who consider ourselves environmentalists, that the piece was on an environmentalist blog (vs some other blog) does not seem to me to be a disqualification.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 18, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

For those of us who consider ourselves environmentalists, that the piece was on an environmentalist blog (vs some other blog) does not seem to me to be a disqualification.
-----
That doesn't make the statements correct.

As I said, blogs are always biased. And I'm not
saying whether that's right or wrong. Just making an observation.

And as I said earlier, the fact that it's "on the internet" doesn't make it so - even if you agree with the source.

In any event, I'm not canceling my AAA membership. Least of all because of something I read on an anti-car blog.

by ceefer66 on Feb 18, 2013 8:47 pm • linkreport

They seem to be focused on NYC, so I probably won't read them. Not clear to me they are anti-car (but I dont think GGW is). Anyway I think the clear stated positions of AAA - even just the op ed in the WaPo - are enough to make me look for alternatives.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 18, 2013 11:26 pm • linkreport

Personally I am a big fan of the "oceanic parking lots and strip malls of Rockville Pike." Easy in, easy out. Certainly preferable to endlessly circling around looking for street parking or lining up to get in or out of some labyrinthine underground parking garage.

Too bad those oceans are now an endangered species.

by Chris on Feb 20, 2013 7:38 pm • linkreport

@Chris, 95% of the housing stock in the US is in driveable places like Rockville Pike. So if that's your cup of tea, you can be happy pretty much anywhere in the country, and more power to you. Different strokes for different folks.

But here's the problem: If you ask Americans about their lifestyle preferences, roughly half prefer walkable-urban to driveable-suburban. Unfortunately there's not enough walkable-urban to go around, and that's because we have land-use rules that encourage the constructions of low-density suburbs (oceans of parking lots, four-lane roads, cookie-cutter subdivisions) and that make urban walkability illegal (compact neighborhoods, tall buildings, mixed use).

So while you're completely entitled to your preference for big parking lots, you're not entitled to impose your preference on me using the force of law.

by Herb Caudill on Feb 20, 2013 8:43 pm • linkreport

Thank you for your reply Mr. Caudill. I am not in the business of imposing anything on anyone, and certainly don't have anything against walkable urban environments. The more of those we can put in DC the better, as long as historic buildings aren't being razed

But variety is the spice of life as they say, so it is nice to have driveable suburbs close nearby as well. Some days I may be able to talk care of all shopping/entertainment needs within walking distance of my home, but others I want to drive to the mall. And when I park at the mall, I prefer not to get hit up for cash (I'm looking at you Pentagon City), which is really a rather counter-intuitive practice when you are trying to encourage people to come and shop 'til they drop.

by Chris on Feb 21, 2013 9:15 am • linkreport

which is really a rather counter-intuitive practice when you are trying to encourage people to come and shop 'til they drop.

Actually, it makes perfect sense.

One, you can get your parking validated if you shop till you drop.

Two, paying for parking at Pentagon City ensures that you will easily find parking. Unlike the times I've spent circling the garages at Tysons looking for a spot on a weekend.

When your supply is constrained and essentially fixed, and demand exceeds supply, you can either mete out parking spaces by queueing, or by price.

by Alex B. on Feb 21, 2013 9:21 am • linkreport

"And when I park at the mall, I prefer not to get hit up for cash (I'm looking at you Pentagon City), which is really a rather counter-intuitive practice when you are trying to encourage people to come and shop 'til they drop."

I also prefer to get lunch free. Charging for lunch (like they do at Pentagon City) is counter intuitive if they are trying to encourage people to shop til they drop. I would go there more, and stay longer, if they provided free lunch.

But didnt a wise man once say "There IS no free lunch"

Well there IS no free parking.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 21, 2013 9:26 am • linkreport

Downtown there is not too much free parking to be sure. But we are talking about the suburbs. Parking is free at Tyson's and Montgomery. Tyson's does become a total disaster during the holiday season (and I'm sure all the new buildings going up in the area aren't going to help matters), but the rest of the year I don't have much trouble finding parking there.

Admittedly the Pentagon City mall's parking could be abused by Metro commuters, so I understand the need for some parking control. But requiring purchases (at only select stores I believe) for vslidation is a disincentive to casual browsing trips that may result in a purchase but may not. Just another reason to take one's business to Amazon, which is certainly not a positive result for any physical retail establishment.

Perhaps they could track the location of customers' smartphones in the mall. If you remain inside the mall for more than an hour and visit at least 3 stores you receive a text/e-coupon providing free validation. Or something like that.

by Chris on Feb 21, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

But requiring purchases (at only select stores I believe) for vslidation is a disincentive to casual browsing trips that may result in a purchase but may not. Just another reason to take one's business to Amazon, which is certainly not a positive result for any physical retail establishment.

Well then, by that logic I would expect Pentagon City to be deserted!

Except it's jammed to the gills whenever I go there. Yogi Berra was right.

by Alex B. on Feb 21, 2013 12:11 pm • linkreport

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