Greater Greater Washington

Public Spaces


Community stories show the shift to a walkable lifestyle

38 percent. That's the growing percentage of District households that are car-free. Countless others are car-lite, relying mostly on transit, walking, and biking.

Too often we lose sight of this fact in local debates on issues like parking, transit improvements, redevelopment, and so on.

 Asdrubal - Mt. Pleasant Julia & Marcus - Columbia Heights Wanda - Hillbrook
Rebecca & Alistair - Petworth Dan - Dupont Circle Emilia - Woodley Park Dennis - Downtown Ward 7
Mouse over or click an image to read an individual story.

Basic lifestyle and mobility decisions are fundamentally changing for large segments of DC's population. Nonetheless, a significant number of District policies and discussions still assume that most residents will own a car and use it for many, if not all, of their daily needs.

The consequences of this misunderstanding impact all of us, ranging from higher housing costs, increased traffic thanks to unintentional subsidy of car ownership, and diverting resources from improving other transportation options.

In the end, what all of that means is a less walkable, less inclusive District.

To raise awareness of this misunderstanding, the Coalition for Smarter Growth has collected first-hand accounts from neighbors across DC, examining the various modes of transportation they use in their everyday lives.


Click for interactive map.

We hope this project will help policy makers and skeptical (but open-minded) residents understand that the District won't face parking and driving Armageddon if we respond to changing lifestyle choices by getting rid of unnecessary parking mandates for new buildings, or by giving buses more priority on roads to make transit more reliable and convenient.

The District won't face that Armageddon because so many existing residents and new residents simply don't drive very much. Tastes and lifestyle choices are in the midst of a dramatic change, and despite what some hyperbolic opponents of transportation have said, a majority of our new residents are very likely to be car-free or car-lite and looking to stay that way.

The Mosley Family - Mt. Pleasant Neha - Capitol View Mo - Columbia Heights The Hampton Family - Columbia Heights
Jeffrey - Chevy Chase Abigail - Glover Park Gavin - Adams Morgan Zach - Ft. Totten
Mouse over or click an image to read an individual story.

Abstract statistics and shouting matches about who is right aren't what walkable living is all about. Instead, it's just regular people throughout the city who are leading this quiet but growing sea-change, that's making much of our 20th century transportation formulas less relevant to how we get around today:

  • Longtime resident Wanda in Hillbrook notes how many of her neighbors walk to the stores along Minnesota Avenue, and pleads for more investment in pedestrian and bike infrastructure in her neighborhood.
  • Rebecca in Petworth happily relies on Metro to drop her toddler off at daycare in L'Enfant Plaza, and walks to the grocery store to do her family's shopping.
  • In Mt. Vernon Square, Keith says that on the rare occasions when he can't walk to where he's going, Car2Go, Bikeshare, or transit is there to fill the gap.
If you have time, please use our story collection form on the Walkable Living Stories campaign webpage to share your own story, and consider tweeting or sharing your favorite story on Facebook.

If you have other ideas to help explain this changing lifestyle preference to policy makers, neighbors, or the press, leave them for us in the comments section, or share them with the Coalition for Smarter Growth directly at action@smartergrowth.net.

Aimee Custis is the Communications Manager at the Coalition for Smarter Growth. A policy wonk by training and a transit advocate by profession, she moved to DC in 2008 to learn everything she could about walkable communities and public policy. Also a photographer, she photoblogs at aimeecustis.com
Alex Posorske is the Managing Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Before joining CSG, he managed two top tier Congressional races, organized key constituencies in the 2008 presidential primaries, built grassroots operations in numerous regions throughout the country. Alex has a B.A. in Journalism from Webster University in St. Louis, Mo. 

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What a cool project.

by Dave Murphy on Jun 19, 2013 10:13 am • linkreport

Very cool formatting and layout!

by Tom Veil on Jun 19, 2013 10:17 am • linkreport

My wife and I still have a car but we are absolutely comitted to not increasing that number at all. In DC and Arlington its incredibly easy to do most things without a car. And in many ways its getting easier all the time if you include things like Nextbus which takes away a lot of the pain of waiting for the bus.

And its fun to watch perspective change as people get used to walking to places and begin to enjoy it for its own sake and become more and more willing to walk slightly increasing distances to places they used to drive to.

by drumz on Jun 19, 2013 10:29 am • linkreport

Great idea - is this an evolving project?

It would be fun to completely fill in this map!

On my block in Friendship Heights almost every young family is car light (with some families barely driving during the week as both parents use Metro) and the newest baby on the block is in a car free family.

One of the many tiring refrains from the anti-development/anti-change/anti mode shift crowd in Upper NW is that young people with kids have to have cars and have to drive everywhere all the time.

And they make the same argument about the elderly - that it is impossible to age and have mobility options without unfettered access to a car and the cheap parking that should go with it so I hope this project can grow and capture as many stories as possible of folks who prove every day how easy it is to get by without a car.

by TomQ on Jun 19, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

Very cool. Even the people I know that own cars in the city rarely drive. Obviously still a storage space issue, but it's nice to live in a place where oftentimes other options are better than driving. That said the one sticking point for a lot of people especially those from outside of a city seems to be understanding the system. I think we really need to work on signage and a more user friendly information and systems. The new bus maps are an improvement but we need lower tech stuff and simplified graphics especially for the 50+(?) crowd.

by Alan B. on Jun 19, 2013 10:41 am • linkreport

TomQ -

Yes! This is absolutely an evolving project! As people submit their stories to our story portal, we transfer them over to the map. So if you add a story, check back in a day or so, and we should have it posted. We're hoping to fill in the map (which is actually embedded on our campaign page), so I hope (and many others!) submit a story.

by Aimee Custis on Jun 19, 2013 10:46 am • linkreport

Interesting.

To relate this topic back to an article that you posted yesterday, I think this trend is threatened by decentralization of work centers in D.C.

My spouse and I own and use a car not by choice, but because we have to - he works in Virginia, and I work in the District. Barring a vast expansion/upgrade of WMATA or centralization of jobs in D.C., this will not change for us.

Most families now have two working spouses. If both of those workers commute to the same location, it's much easier than if they have to try and choose a home in a location where they can BOTH take transit. Even in the worst-case scenario where they don't live near transit, they can carpool.

Shopping centers and amenities like restaurants and retail should be decentralized to make walkable neighborhoods. Jobs should be in the core.

by Eponymous on Jun 19, 2013 10:46 am • linkreport

I'll add my praise. I think this sort of public education is the best way to show that, yes, car-free and car-lite "lifestyles" work for all sorts of people, old or young, black or white, with kids or without. My wife and I are trying more and more to go car-free. The next step is regularly stopping for groceries on the way home from work instead of the weekly (car) trip. Should be pretty easy, actually.

by RDHD on Jun 19, 2013 10:47 am • linkreport

Cool project - I will definitely participate. My wife and I have lived car-free in Barney Circle for so long that when I imagine actually owning a car, it seems like it would be more of a burden than a benefit. I know a lot of people have a hard time processing life without a car, but we live full and normal lives.

The perspective thing drumz brings up is absolutely true. I am often astonished by what many car people, many of them much younger than I am, consider to be a long walk. Not owning a car completely changes your perspective. A good example: it is about a mile or so from the ballpark to our house. My wife and I don't think twice or even discuss walking home from a baseball game. It is just our normal way of getting home. I appreciate that car-free is not for everybody, and it would certainly be tough in a lot of the country, but in a place like DC car-free is in many ways easier than owning a car, at least for some people.

Not owning a car is also a big benefit financially. Some people laugh at us and think we are a bit eccentric for not owning a car, but that's OK because in the end we are laughing all the way to the bank as we save the money that other households would direct towards car payments, car repairs, car insurance, gas, etc. (There is a great chart out there that shows how the growth in US household debt almost perfectly tracks the growth of car ownership.)

by rg on Jun 19, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

rg, I spent a few months working in the rural burbs last summer for a small county transit agency. Fortunately I had bus service since we were right next to the bus lot. For lunch though I only had a few options nearby, the closest being a pizza place that was about a 1/4 mile walk. Most of my coworkers were obese. Anyway one time after making my weekly trip to the pizza place a coworker stopped by my desk and told me she was me walking, apologized that she couldn't pick me up at the time, and said if I ever needed to get anywhere she could take me. Kindness of the offer aside, apparently the idea of walking a 1/4 mile voluntarily was just incomprehensible.

by Alan B. on Jun 19, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

*er saw me walking

by Alan B. on Jun 19, 2013 11:13 am • linkreport

How about stories of low-skilled workers who are shut out of many job opportunities because they don't own cars?

Oh wait, that doesn't fit the narrative.

by dcdriver on Jun 19, 2013 11:13 am • linkreport

How about stories of low-skilled workers who are shut out of many job opportunities because they don't own cars?
Oh wait, that doesn't fit the narrative.

Well, you could encourage those stories you have to upload them.

Or there's me. I've turned down jobs because they would've required me to get a car and drive to them. The effect being I would be making less since all of a sudden I've got to pay for the upkeep on a car and the gas to go out to Gaithersburg or wherever.

by drumz on Jun 19, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

dcdriver, definitely true outside the city, but most areas within the district have transit. The only issue is hours which conflicts with some service industry jobs. That could be helped by extending service hours and capacity. When I get on an S bus between say 10pm and 2am they are usually packed to the gills because they don't put out enough service at night to meet the demand.

by Alan B. on Jun 19, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

Cool. I'd like more stories on the transition between car, car-lite, to car free. To many people, just giving up a car is too scary.

by SJE on Jun 19, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

@dcdriver - How about stories of low-skilled workers who are shut out of many job opportunities because they don't own cars?

How about better infrastructure for biking and better transit? That's the point.

There's no reason in this region why anyone should be in a position of being forced to buy a car to get to most places. If that's the case then the problem is with the design of roads that make biking so inhospitable as to remove it as a realistic option.

by Tina on Jun 19, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

Love it love it love it!

Yes, your health and wealth will significantly increase if you get rid of that car. Much less stressful lifestyle as well, no worries about street cleaning, car registration, the stress of traffic etc. And no DUIs!

by h st ll on Jun 19, 2013 11:53 am • linkreport

When you factor in car expenses ($7,000-$10k a year), cities become much more affordable compared to suburbs if a car free lifestyle is an option. Many suburbanites who look like they're "making it" with a nice house and car are barely breaking even. This is partly due to huge transportation expenses which many families don't think about when they're looking for a house.

I've been car free in Baltimore for 3 years. Completely different beast compared to DC, but doable.

by Mark on Jun 19, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

@mark

There is also the issue of the disposal of the car. I live in a neighborhood near Alexandria where some home owners have as many as six or seven cars that have just been there in the driveway or the yard for ages.

Come on guys, you can only lose your virginity once!

by Jay Roberts on Jun 19, 2013 12:03 pm • linkreport

make biking so inhospitable as to remove it as a realistic option

Find me the construction worker who can ride a bike with his or her tools to the jobsite.

I sometimes wonder if people on this site even open their eyes to the wider world around them.

Here's the irony, one of the largest public works projects in the country (the Silver Line) and certainly the largest in this metro area, is only open to workers who have reliable access to automobiles.

No car, no job.

Guess who is building those new office buildings springing up in DC? It isn't locals on bikes. Its people (many of whom are recent immigrants) with cars and trucks who are willing to DRIVE to where the jobs are.

There are no more factory jobs. Manufacturing now requires skills that DCPS grads (or drop-outs) simply do not have. That leave construction (which is booming but requires you to drive) and the service sector. Guess what, service sector managers don't want to hear that you couldn't get to work because the bus was late or you can't work a shift because Metro doesn't run then. You need a car or you are expendable. Remember, these are workers with very few options to begin with.

I have said it many, many times. If DC wants to bring real economic growth to all of its residents, scrap the streetcars to nowhere and give grants to low-income residents to buy and maintain cars.

by dcdriver on Jun 19, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

All those construction workers I've seen on metro (bus and train) must be a myth then.

by drumz on Jun 19, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

That said, I'd rather just give poor people cash as well. If they want to put it towards a car, great. If not they can spend it on transit passes or a bike and whatever else.

by drumz on Jun 19, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

whether folks with low skills who live EOTR should be given grants for cars, should be given better educations, or should have more affordable housing closer to where service jobs are (quite often IN the suburbs) is an interesting question. But isn't really on point to the questions about car dependency that are often raised - such as is it realistic to build a building in upper NW, say, without parking. Since its most unlikely that folks needing to drive to construction jobs will live a new building in upper NW.

Not every program needs to address every problem. Arlington County, for example has a program to give people info on how to live car free, and to encourage it - nonetheless it has low income service workers living there (and many of them do drive to their work)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 19, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

@dcdriver: We all get your point--and I'd argue it's a valid one--that some people simply need a vehicle. A construction worker carry hundreds of pounds of tools is an example.

But why is it not also possible that the point of this project is to show that for many (most?) people in the city, a car is not necessary for every day transport. Getting over the idea that "I could never do that; I *need* my car," is the biggest hurdle for most people, I'm guessing. So if they see others doing it then they think they might be able to also. And if they do, then hey, your roads aren't as congested because we got a car off the road.

So why give a grant to low-income folks for a car if you can build mass-transit that will take them to the same locations, at a lower per-traveler cost, and avoid the congestion and pollution?

by RDHD on Jun 19, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

Funny, when I worked at a restaurant, which employed many low-income workers, they all took public transit. Even those who were middle income (predominately the bartenders and a few waitstaff that picked up a 2-3 shifts a week to supplement their 9-5 income) and could afford cars took transit.

If DC wants to bring real economic growth to all of its residents, it needs reliable public transit and thriving communities across all wards, in addition to doing difficult things like breaking the cycle of multi-generational poverty.

by Birdie on Jun 19, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

Here's the irony, one of the largest public works projects in the country (the Silver Line) and certainly the largest in this metro area, is only open to workers who have reliable access to automobiles.

Bad on Bechtel in that case. They are paying a premium for workers who own cars. They should be like Clark Construction and provide a shuttle from the closest transit. Given the shortage of construction workers right now, a strategy like Clark's ensures they have access to the widest possible pool of workers without having to pay a premium for their services.

Not surprising to me that Clark won Silver Line Phase 2 even though everyone thought Bechtel would win since they won Phase 1.

I have said it many, many times. If DC wants to bring real economic growth to all of its residents, scrap the streetcars to nowhere and give grants to low-income residents to buy and maintain cars.

If a job requires ownership of a car but doesn't pay enough for employees to own a car, then the employer needs to pay more. Government shouldn't be subsidizing the employer's low wages.

by Falls Church on Jun 19, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

@dcdriver -I routinely carry ~40lbs of stuff on my bike.

I sometimes wonder if people on this site even open their eyes to the wider world around them.

Yeah, my thought exactly.

by Tina on Jun 19, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

If DC wants to bring real economic growth to all of its residents, scrap the streetcars to nowhere and give grants to low-income residents to buy and maintain cars.

Unfortunately that model does not serve "all residents", and it's also very expensive. If you give $15k grants to 150,000 low income residents, that's an outlay of $2.25 billion, not factoring in administrative/personnel costs and the external and internal costs tens of thousands of additional cars on the road, generating pollution, congestion, etc.

Personally I think that money would be better spent on education reform so that fewer people have to be forced to work low income construction jobs in the first place.

by Scoot on Jun 19, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

"That said, I'd rather just give poor people cash as well. If they want to put it towards a car, great. If not they can spend it on transit passes or a bike and whatever else. "

we could give every low income person who works some money, and they could use it for transport, or they could use it towards non transport things if they want.

Oh wait - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earned_income_tax_credit

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 19, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

@dcdriver - re: construction workers -- Remember, these are workers with very few options to begin with.

Geez. Thats REALLY disrespectful of the apprentice, journeyman and master level skills required on most construction sites.

by Tina on Jun 19, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

@dcdriver- Guess what, service sector managers don't want to hear that you couldn't get to work because the bus was late or you can't work a shift because Metro doesn't run then.

Once again this points to the point of this article and project: a greater share of the funds to be invested in better transit and infrastructure to allow transportation options other than driving a car.

by Tina on Jun 19, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

Note also

if one of the key roles of autos in DC is to provide transport to workers whose work requires them to commute late at night, then might suggest that prioritizing capacity on arterials that are seldom or never congested late at night may not be a priority.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 19, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

A construction worker carry hundreds of pounds of tools is an example.

But why is it not also possible that the point of this project is to show that for many (most?) people in the city, a car is not necessary for every day transport. Exactly. Even if someone does have to drive to a job site does mean s/he has to live in a community designed such that every trip <1/2 mile also has to be made in car b/c of missing facilities or transit.

by Tina on Jun 19, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

"Once again this points to the point of this article and project: a greater share of the funds to be invested in better transit and infrastructure to allow transportation options other than driving a car."

Or to put it slightly differently, to get more people who CAN use alternatives out of their cars, so that the road capacity is left for the people who DO need to use a car? (and for trucks and service vehicles as well)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 19, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

But isn't really on point to the questions about car dependency that are often raised - such as is it realistic to build a building in upper NW, say, without parking. Since its most unlikely that folks needing to drive to construction jobs will live a new building in upper NW.

Not every program needs to address every problem.

This here project mostly focuses on the needs of high income, high skilled residents who have chosen to live without a car mostly in affluent areas well served by transit/bikeshare/carshare. These people are more than capable of being their own advocates, and more than capable of using their considerable intelligence, resources and political clout to steer development tailored to their interests and lifestyle choices.

I think dcdriver is saying, however inelegantly, that advocacy of this sort often leaves out the poor, which the data have shown are often less able to access transit in this region than others. Maybe dcdriver is questioning just how much energy and resources need to be devoted to advocacy for eliminating parking minimums in upper NW, when there are still close to 150,000 poor households in this city? I guess a convenient rationale is that "not every program needs to address every problem."

by Scoot on Jun 19, 2013 1:00 pm • linkreport

Guess what, service sector managers don't want to hear that you couldn't get to work because the bus was late or you can't work a shift because Metro doesn't run then.

Maybe in a world where the "the gov't gives poor people a car" exists there would be credence to this argument if the opportunity to get rid of said program came up. But that's not even close to what's actually happening so I presume employers generally know how their employees get to work.

Similarly employers don't like to hear it when your car breaks down or traffic gets held up and makes you late.

by drumz on Jun 19, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

advocacy of this sort often leaves out the poor, which the data have shown are often less able to access transit in this region than others.

But this is the point: A greater share of the funding devoted to better transit/transportation options to enable non-automobile travel-for everybody. Use funds to improve service/infrastructure in under-served communities. Access for all. Safe Routes to Everywhere. Connect projects/transit to build a system, a network.

by Tina on Jun 19, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

I've never owned a car in DC. Not because I've chosen some highminded car free lifestyle, but because I really can't afford a car.

Walking the 2 miles to and from work was not really a lifestyle choice. I needed to get to work and the bus was often too unreliable to ensure I got there when my shift started.

But all of my friends now have cars. Most got them as soon as the kids started arriving, others because they needed them for work.

by anonanon on Jun 19, 2013 1:11 pm • linkreport

awitc,
re: eitc. Fair enough.

by drumz on Jun 19, 2013 1:11 pm • linkreport

Maybe dcdriver is questioning just how much energy and resources need to be devoted to advocacy for eliminating parking minimums in upper NW, when there are still close to 150,000 poor households in this city? I guess a convenient rationale is that "not every program needs to address every problem."

Well then you wander into the auto-retort of "we still have poverty!" any time anyone brings up a policy debate in DC (bike lanes, development, parks, parking, liquor licenses). Meanwhile you look at the money DC spends on social services so the city obviously isn't ignoring poverty and you look at major transit projects which serve poor communities (streetcars first going to H street from Benning Road and in Anacostia) and I think you've got a good counterargument.

Meanwhile, anyone is invited to share their story on here. Presumably poor people can share theirs as well. Indeed you can look at the map and see stories by neighborhood.

by drumz on Jun 19, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

Walking the 2 miles to and from work was not really a lifestyle choice. I needed to get to work and the bus was often too unreliable to ensure I got there when my shift started.

This is what I see as the focus: to readjust transportation planning priorities (and proportional funding) so that service and facilities are improved to make non-auto a decent option.

by Tina on Jun 19, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

@drums -whats eitc?

by Tina on Jun 19, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

A greater share of the funding devoted to better transit/transportation options to enable non-automobile travel-for everybody. Use funds to improve service/infrastructure in under-served communities.

I agree with what you're saying but the stories in this project are not really coming from the under-served communities. Maybe as the project gets more fleshed out, those stories will start coming in.

by Scoot on Jun 19, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

38% is encouraging! I'll remember it when I have to report folks who won't shovel their sidewalk in the winter, or let their branches droop below waist-level in the summer. Thanks for the report.

by Carfree since '05 on Jun 19, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

To throw a hat into the "low-income people" side of this coin, I think it's a huge fallacy to think blue collar workers need cars to get to their jobs. Stand on 16th Street during the PM peak and watch all of the S-buses going southbound packed full of service industry workers, including chefs, bus boys, office cleaners, etc. Stand on Columbia Road at any time in the evening and note the steady stream of guys peddling down the street wearing those baggy kitchen-restaurant pants. There are lots of opportunities for employment of all types that don't require cars.

That said, new developments like National Harbor work to reverse that trend. Recent stories about the lack of bus service to that new conference center make me sick, but only because the developer and the county both knew there were no good transportation options for the majority of the hourly wage earners going to work there. I'd say half of the modern transportation problems we experience are caused by land use decisions.

I'm going to submit a story about my experiences living car-free in DC with my partner and dog. A lot of people think having dogs means having to have a car for vet visits and vacations. Not true!

by recyclist on Jun 19, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

"This here project mostly focuses on the needs of high income, high skilled residents who have chosen to live without a car mostly in affluent areas well served by transit/bikeshare/carshare."

no, the folks who have CHOSEN to live without a car are the folks pictured, NOT the audience. The primary audience are the fence sitters - the skilled residents in well served areas who NONETHELESS may well assume they do need a car (the secondary audience are folks considering moving to the district, who may be more inclined to do so if they beleive they can live their car free - and thus have more $$ available to pay the high rents)

" These people are more than capable of being their own advocates, and more than capable of using their considerable intelligence, resources and political clout to steer development tailored to their interests and lifestyle choices."

To the extent this is an advocacy project, it IS the use of such resources and clout. Since its being done by CSG. I dont understand the logic of saying - "dont advocate, because you are capable of advocating"

I would also suggest that its still an open question whether they will on the things they advocate for - and that coalitions in both directions include a range of class and clout. Certainly some car free folks are modest income (even if highly skilled) while those on the other side are frequently strong in resources.

"I think dcdriver is saying, however inelegantly, that advocacy of this sort often leaves out the poor, which the data have shown are often less able to access transit in this region than others."

Im not sure that suggesting that many people can live well car free, and that parking minimums are not needed, is mutually exclusive with say, supporting better local bus service (heavily used by the poor) access to CaBi for the unbanked, etc, etc.

" Maybe dcdriver is questioning just how much energy and resources need to be devoted to advocacy for eliminating parking minimums in upper NW, when there are still close to 150,000 poor households in this city? I guess a convenient rationale is that "not every program needs to address every problem.""

The poor ye shall always have with you. The notion that no other policy question should be addressed or advocated for until poverty is eliminated is absurd.

Yes, not every program needs to address every problem. Thats not convenient, its true. Should we not advocate for historic preservation because we have poverty? Not advocate for clean water because we have poverty? Not seek an AIDS vaccine because we have poverty? Not, er, try to bring football to the district because of poverty? Put all other social change on hold because of poverty?

Many people here, Im sure, ARE advocates on poverty issues, and work hard to advance that cause. Some may not believe that public policy can relieve poverty. Even if it can though, it surely will take some time, and to delay needed advocacy till that is done surely does not make sense. Unless of course the things being advocated for are policies one actively dislike, in which case its in fact quite convenient to suggest that no one should advocate for anything else till poverty is solved.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 19, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

Well then you wander into the auto-retort of "we still have poverty!" any time anyone brings up a policy debate in DC (bike lanes, development, parks, parking, liquor licenses).

Who is "you"? I admit that I rarely do this, for better or for worse.

by Scoot on Jun 19, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

tina - EITC = Earned Income Tax Credit

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 19, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

These stories tell a fairly different tale of some people who *chose to move* to locations that are well-served with many transit, bikeshare, and walking options, and others who are waiting for improvements to come to the neighborhood they live in. Obviously there is a substantial difference in the degree to which people have the resources to relocate to better-served neighborhoods.

I think it's important to keep this in mind when people talk about lower-income neighborhoods being less interested in bikeshare and bikelanes, as demonstrated by their lower rates of usage. If it's not available, then they're not using it, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't like to do so.

by walker on Jun 19, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

Yes, not every program needs to address every problem. Thats not convenient, its true. Should we not advocate for historic preservation because we have poverty?

Well, it's both convenient and true. I personally happen to like street cars, bikes, elimination of parking minimums, etc -- but I fully recognize that most advocacy for these programs is generated by high skill high income residents on behalf of the "needs" of other high skill high income residents. Sometimes when the needs of low income residents are brought up, as they were by dcdriver, the response is certainly defensive verging on condescending.

by Scoot on Jun 19, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

I walk most places though I do still have a car. I was carless for about a year about a decade ago and at that time missed it for some of the convenience I got. What was good is that I ended up spending less overall, not because the car at a lot of $$ (I didn't drive much then either) but because casual trips to the Target bottomed out.

The car I have now is expensive and let me tell you I wish someone would total it for me like they did the last one. One of these days I will give it up.

by ET on Jun 19, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

"The poor ye shall always have with you. The notion that no other policy question should be addressed or advocated for until poverty is eliminated is absurd."

Strawman arguments certainly aren't in short supply....

by Andy on Jun 19, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

"Well, it's both convenient and true. I personally happen to like street cars, bikes, elimination of parking minimums, etc -- but I fully recognize that most advocacy for these programs is generated by high skill high income residents on behalf of the "needs" of other high skill high income residents."

er dude. I voted in the last presidential election for a candidate who advocated higher taxes on the affluent, a health insurance program that represents the largest expansion of the social safety net in a generation, etc. Im sure many of the folks advocating to make being car free in DC easier did the same. To imply that because they want zoning/transport changes that will help them and others like them (and, BTW, the not inconsiderable number of poor people who bike, use transit, etc) they are being selfish is unfair.

"Sometimes when the needs of low income residents are brought up, as they were by dcdriver, the response is certainly defensive verging on condescending."

because in this instance concern for the poor was used as a weapon in defense of autocentrism, and the posts appeared quite ignorant of actual conditions and needs of poor people. The implication that poor service workers dont use transit is laughable - has dcdriver never been ridden a local bus in Fairfax County? Quite often almost every person on the bus is spanish speaker. Similarly the implication (which Ive seen on here a great deal) that biking is something affluent white people do, is laughable to anyone who spends any time in the suburbs, where biking is basic transportation for immigrants. Some of whom do not have licenses and will not be able to drive regardless of any program to fund car ownership.

dcdrivers posts appeared to me, and I guess to others, to be using "concern" for the poor to support auto centric policies desired for other reasons (why should a transport subsidy program for the poor go to only auto ownership if the point is to enable mobility, and not to strengthen auto reliance)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 19, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

"The poor ye shall always have with you. The notion that no other policy question should be addressed or advocated for until poverty is eliminated is absurd."
Strawman arguments certainly aren't in short supply...."

strawman? Eh? Basically what was asked was if we should do this advocacy since there are still lots of poor people. Sure, the language was more nuanced than that. DC has no shortage of people who can nuance language.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 19, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

Well, it's both convenient and true. I personally happen to like street cars, bikes, elimination of parking minimums, etc -- but I fully recognize that most advocacy for these programs is generated by high skill high income residents on behalf of the "needs" of other high skill high income residents. Sometimes when the needs of low income residents are brought up, as they were by dcdriver, the response is certainly defensive verging on condescending.

It just depends on what anti-transit/anti-alternatives argument people are trying to make. Some days it's that transit is only for the poor, other days it's concern-trolling about how transit and bikes doesn't really help low-income people.

dcdriver took one specific instance of a person who probably needs a car (construction worker) and then painted it as if that's the situation of all low income people. This is bull. Even in this metro area the majority of transit riders are low-income people. Go out there and take transit in this city, there are tons of service workers and other people going to their jobs. Transit isn't gold-plated crap for rich people.

And judging by the construction workers I see driving around this city, they are probably the only people left who carpool anywhere. So no, every construction worker does not "need" a car - it is plainly evident that many of them ride together to job sites.

by MLD on Jun 19, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

"Nuanced" as in "I bastardized what was written to fit my view."

by Andy on Jun 19, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

"I personally happen to like street cars, bikes, elimination of parking minimums, etc -- but I fully recognize that most advocacy for these programs is generated by high skill high income residents on behalf of the "needs" of other high skill high income residents. "

http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/hispanic/03p00324/01.cfm

"Each year an average of 79 Hispanics are killed in bicycle crashes. Hispanic bicyclists account for 15.6% of all bicyclist crashes nationwide."

Feh.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 19, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

That couple, Julia and Marcus, live in my apartment building. We live in Adams Morgan, not Columbia Heights.

by Jon on Jun 19, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

I meant "you" generally.

Sometimes when the needs of low income residents are brought up, as they were by dcdriver, the response is certainly defensive verging on condescending

There is looking out for the needs of low income people and then there is accusations that others don't care because if they did they'd obviously support X. That does need to be countered, especially when the premise is false (transit doesn't help poor people because the only jobs available to low skill workers is in places only auto accessible).

by drumz on Jun 19, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

We also go from "street cars are stuff white people like, cause white people dont ride the buses which serve to poor people" to "poor people only use cars, the buses dont serve them"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 19, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

OT - @Scoot -Sometimes when the needs of low income residents are brought up, as they were by dcdriver,

@dcdriver didn't initially bring up "low income" residents. S/he said "construction workers" and equated that with low skill low income - which in my mind is highly ignorant and condescending. S/he then mentioned "carrying tools". Again, anyone with knowledge of the trades needed on a construction site knows that the people who travel with a lot of tools are anything but low skilled and low paid.

Back on topic: in my view this advocacy is for what I wrote up-thread, which again is aimed at shifting priorities and funding away from car-centricism to improved transit & facilities to build a system and networks that enables auto-free travel more easily for all, including for people who truly are low skilled and low income (not electricians, pipe-fitters, welders, carpenters, engineers, plumbers, etc. - highly skilled people you will find on most construction sites. Yes most sites need cement bag haulers & Hilte gun shooters too, but they aren't arriving with 100's of lbs of tools.)

by Tina on Jun 19, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

dcdriver - aptly chosen moniker for someone disinclined to consider the alternatives to driving:

"Find me the construction worker who can ride a bike with his or her tools to the jobsite.

I sometimes wonder if people on this site even open their eyes to the wider world around them."

from "Working Bicycles," http://www.independent.com/news/2011/jul/11/working-bicycles/
"Construction Circuit: Byron Beck can’t transport the heavy tools, wood, and scaffolding for his business, Solid Rock Construction and Fine Carpentry, by bike. However, he does ride to job sites for meetings with suppliers, clients, and architects, where, Beck says, “I have to change into long pants and hard shoes before I step on the construction site, for safety reasons. I am constantly getting funny looks from the construction workers on the different sites when I arrive, on a bike.” On his bike he can carry small tools, nails, glues, screws, and even large rolls of plans in side bags or front and rear racks. Cycling makes it easy to get around town and maneuver through job sites, while most trucks and cars have to park far from the action during the construction process."

Some people need a car for some trips. That's a fact. Let's call that group A. Many people use cars for many trips that could easily be made by some other means. That is also a fact. Let's call that group B. If some of the trips in group B were switched to non-car means, that would produce many benefits to everyone in the region.

There are a range of alternatives to driving a car everywhere: motorcycles, mopeds, electric bikes, human-powered bikes, scooters, skateboards, walking. The wheeled options can be supplemented by trailers of various sorts.

I sometimes wonder if drivers ever open their eyes to the wider world around them.

by Black Jack on Jun 19, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

"I sometimes wonder if drivers ever open their eyes to the wider world around them."

drivers certainly do.

some opponents of changes to urban and transportation policies do not, however.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 19, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

@Jon -

All of our storytellers self-identified their neighborhoods. Right or wrong, it's interesting to consider what people consider which neighborhoods!

by Aimee Custis on Jun 19, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

I am a parent. I unfortunately and at great expense have two cars. I resent having to drive (wife and I carpool to Metro). But I am realistic and I know the problems with Metro (too limited, not enough redundancy) and the bus (it's like sitting in your car, except crowded, and hot, and takes twice as long!).

Seems a radical but sensible solution would be to carve out exclusive bus/bike lanes on Conn, Mass, RI, 16th, etc and current bikes lanes on L, M and the like. Yes, means more congestion, at least at first. And buses will sometimes be slowed by bikes (but it works in London, which is 10 times more ludicrous in terms of street space and engineering). But it means buses will actually become a sensible option. And meanwhile build the separated Blue line already. And fix the zoning so you don't have to drive to buy a gallon of milk, or a light bulb, like you do in vast swaths of the city.

by 20816 on Jun 19, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

The first link in the article isn't working.

by Fitz on Jun 19, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

@Fitz -

Whoops! Good catch. Seems to be a cookies/interface issue on the "search" function the original link was using. I've replaced the link with a PDF copy - the info is on page 2 of the PDF under "vehicles available". Thanks!

by Aimee Custis on Jun 19, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

Awesome, thanks.

I'd imagine the biggest barriers to living without a car would access to work, having kids and maybe choice of hobbies and activities.

I think that simply having existing transit operate in a more reliable manner would give people more incentive to live without a car too.

by Fitz on Jun 19, 2013 3:18 pm • linkreport

I think anyone arguing that low income people don't take transit are extremely misled. The majority of transit users are still low income and proportionally low income people are more likely to not have cars and rely on transit. People get caught up on the difference between providing alternatives to cars and not letting anyone drive. Obviously some jobs (not most though by my analysis) require people to drive and that may mean that it's logical for them to live somewhere without much transit, but that doesnt negate the value of providing transit rich areas that serve other people. Even saying a job requires a vehicle is misleading. My brother the electrician drives a company van which he only uses to go to job sites and sometimes carpools with his assistants. If he didnt live in the suburbs he could otherwise be car free.

by Alan B. on Jun 19, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

I have trouble seeing how “District policies and discussions still assume that most residents will own a car and use it for many, if not all, of their daily needs.” Our current minimum parking requirements for most apartments range from 0.25 to 0.5 spaces per unit, which hardly seems like a regulation that is based on the assumption that most residents will own a car and use it for many of their daily needs.

And, if 38% of households have no vehicle, that would mean that 62% of households have one or more vehicles. So even for the areas with a requirement of one space for every two apartments, the minimum parking requirement (one space each for 50% of the apartments) is much less than the average number of households (62%) with at least one car.

by Mike on Jun 19, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

I have no empirical data to back up my hunch, but I'd think that a large majority of the car-less residents live east of the river, where a large proportion of our poorest citizens dwell. Paying a car note (or putting down a lump sum for a used car), insurance, tags and upkeep is more than enough to keep car ownership out of reach for our poorest citizens. Since our poorest citizens are also disproportionately black, I'd say even a quick glance at the faces attached to the stories in the original post seems to indicate that this study was not a random sampling of the entire car-less population (or even the car-lite population, which includes people who borrow cars for occasional trips, no?). The dots appear concentrated in Northwest on the map above. I don't think we get at the full story of being car-less or car-lite in DC if we focus too heavily in any one part of the city.

by washingtonian on Jun 19, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

@washingtonian --

You're correct that it's not a random sampling - we invited people to share their stories, and have posted the stories we received. So there is selection bias. Our intent was never to provide an empirical sampling of car-free residents, but simply to share stories. If somewhere along the way we implied otherwise, apologies!

by Aimee Custis on Jun 19, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport

@Mike, assuming that apartment residents are as likely to own a motor vehicle as the city average. In my experience, that's unlikely; a resident of a single-family home is far more likely to own a motor vehicle than a resident of an apartment.

by cminus on Jun 19, 2013 5:09 pm • linkreport

Whats the diff between a dot and a star? the map needs a legend.

by Tina on Jun 19, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

@Tina-
Alas, we were somewhat limited by what we could do in Google Maps beta. So no legend. :( If you go to our actual webpage where it's embedded, you'll see that stars are stories featured with a picture, vs. dots, which don't have a picture.

by Aimee Custis on Jun 19, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

'd say even a quick glance at the faces attached to the stories in the original post seems to indicate that this study was not a random sampling of the entire car-less population (or even the car-lite population, which includes people who borrow cars for occasional trips, no?). The dots appear concentrated in Northwest on the map above.

It's not a "study." Nobody said it was anything but a collection of stories.

Also, a while back I put together a map of zero-car households that you can mouse around. There are plenty in the core of DC and Northwest, I think it is a mistake to say they are concentrated EOTR.

http://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/mldickens.hhvehicles/page.html#12.00/38.8996/-77.0238

by MLD on Jun 19, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

To clarify, I certainly understand that there are a range of jobs at any construction site which require a range of skills and which pay a range of wages.

My point was that those jobs on the lowest end of the ladder (ie laborers, day workers, flagmen, etc) are jobs that could be done by nearly any able-bodied DC resident, but not having a car is often a barrier to entry. Many of these jobs themselves are mobile as they are hired out to staffing firms which may place you at one site today and at another the next day or even night.

However, I would note that even in the skilled trades, you often have to travel to where the work is. That is why you see WV plates at DC construction sites. Guys (and women) are willing to travel 2 hours each way to work (why DC doesn't have the skilled labor for these jobs is a whole other issue). In areas where jobs are scarce, trades workers are bunking in motels during the week so they can get work. None of that is conducive to public transit.

Bottom line is this. For many, there is no need for a car. Everything they need: job, friends, hobbies, family, etc, is reachable by transit/walking/bike or can be accommodated with the occasional rental car or zip car. These are the people featured in this project.

But there are many people who don't fit into that group and who don't have cars because they can't afford them. For these people, not having a car is not a choice but a barrier to economic opportunity. In my opinion getting these people "mobile" by getting them access to cars is just as important as any other transit or transportation priority the city has.

by dcdriver on Jun 19, 2013 6:02 pm • linkreport

@cminus The Amercan FactFinder (American Community Survey) does not include a cross-tabulation of the number of units in the structure and vehicles available to households. Do you have other data to show that fewer than 25% to 50% (depending on the zone) of households in apartments or condominiums have at least one vehicle?

There is data on household size and vehicles available: For DC, 55% of 1-person households have at least one vehicle, 74% of two-person households have at least one vehicle, and 72% of households with three or more persons have at least one vehicle. Unless a large percentage of these 1-person households are in single family homes, this suggests to me that at least 55% of the households in smaller apartments and condominiums have at least one vehicle, and the percentage is likely higher in larger apartments and condominiums. Compare this 55% with the parking requirement of 0.25 to 0.5 spaces per apartment or condominium.

There is also information on access to vehicles and whether the household is in an owner-occupied dwelling. Households in owner-occupied units, such as condominiums, are more likely to have one or more vehicles available than households in rental units, such as apartments. For owner-occupied dwellings, including condominiums, approximately 85% of the households have one or more vehicles available. For rental dwellings, approximately 50% of the households have at least one vehicle available. Unless a very high percentage of these rental households are in rental single family homes, our current minimum parking requirements which range from 0.25 spaces per unit to 0.5 spaces per unit would not generally be sufficient to accommodate the average vehicle ownership even in rental buildings, and if there is a special circumstance, there are provisions in the zoning regulations to make that case and provide less parking.

by Mike on Jun 19, 2013 6:26 pm • linkreport

The important figure is the 38% and its trajectory. I'm not going to bother reading stories by people about their walk-able life. It's a waste of time, ink and civic activism, and there's a counter-narrative that may be equally compelling.

And then how real is the 38%? What percentage of people are driver-less because car ownership is just not affordable? Test that with question No. 16: If given a chance, would you rather walk or own a BMW and a glorious parking space?

by kob on Jun 19, 2013 9:10 pm • linkreport

One other point: The idea that a walk-able life is a wonderful life is great if you work at a downtown nonprofit or industry group championing the oil & gas industry. But if you work at the National Harbor (something WaPo recently wrote about) at some entertainment venue and you work late, a walk-able, after-hours life may mean a two-hour trek back home. Hopefully these folks will be asked to submit their walk-able life stories to the wonderfulness bank as well.

by kob on Jun 19, 2013 9:30 pm • linkreport

And then how real is the 38%?

Ah yes, the "real" number of car free people which is obviously less than 38%. "Real" being defined as anything decided by the person questioning the data that somehow chips away at the concluded number.

by drumz on Jun 19, 2013 11:54 pm • linkreport

As someone who rents his spot in underground garage, having a "glorious" parking space does not mean you'll have one at your destination. I'm sure everyone would love to be exactly at their destination without having to look for parking ever. It's called a taxi.

by cmc on Jun 20, 2013 7:28 am • linkreport

Here's the long-term trend data re % of DC households that are carless:

1990: 37.4%
2000: 36.9&
2010: 35.7%

(the 38% figure comes from a 2011 1-year estimate with a high margin of error).

For decades, more than a third of DC households have been carless. This isn't a new phenomenon. And, to the extent that there's any trend, it would seem that the percentage of DC households that are car-less has been decreasing.

Personally, I'm struck by how stable the stats are. (The 2000 and 2010 car-ownership per HH stats were essentially the same: .9/HH overall; .6 per rental HH; 1.3 per owner-occupied HH).

It'd be interesting to dig deeper into the data to see whether the demographics of car-less households have changed and whether the percentage of family households that have only one vehicle has increased significantly.

by BTDT on Jun 20, 2013 10:05 am • linkreport

" Unless a large percentage of these 1-person households are in single family homes,"

Given that there are retirees whose spouses have died who stay in their homes, thats far from impossible.

" Compare this 55% with the parking requirement of 0.25 to 0.5 spaces per apartment or condominium."

But in any case is not relevant. People with cars will choose the buildings with parking. Buildings without parking AND without RPPs will be chosen by those without cars. The total percentage of folks in apartments with cars, or even in condos with cars, is not necessarily relevant. The point of citing the 38% or the stories is NOT to generate a specific percentage of spots needed, but to illustrate for the skeptical that living without a car is quite feasible.

"and if there is a special circumstance, there are provisions in the zoning regulations to make that case and provide less parking."

and as has been discussed here repeatedly, the variance process is onerous, costly, time consuming, and particularly a deterrent to small developers and small projects.

Why not require a variance in order to build parking, if getting a variance is so easy?

"For decades, more than a third of DC households have been carless. This isn't a new phenomenon. And, to the extent that there's any trend, it would seem that the percentage of DC households that are car-less has been decreasing."

Clearly the district has been going in a different direction on many metrics since the mid to late 90s.

Its worth noting that the percent carless has declined in the 2000s, despite average income increasing - higher income people nationally being more likely to own cars, one might have expected a substantial increase in car ownership. In all likelihood the carfree folks in 1990 and even in 2000 were much more likely to be the poor, as compared to 2010 (or 2011) when they include many more non-poor car free households.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

Good map MLD.

Anyone suggesting that all, or almost all, car free households in DC are poor should examine that map first.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 10:29 am • linkreport

@kob - But if you work at the National Harbor (something WaPo recently wrote about) at some entertainment venue and you work late, a walk-able, after-hours life may mean a two-hour trek back home.

And this is exactly the situation that can be addressed and improved with planning and policies to avoid exactly this outcome.

With more mindful policies, planning, and investment in transit and active transportation facilities to access transit or to use to get to final destination this exact situation can be prevented or minimized.

by Tina on Jun 20, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

^^ where planning and policies include land use and placement policies of big developments like Nat'l Harbor. It was very poorly thought out. Note the deal for it was made during Jack Johnsons administration.

by Tina on Jun 20, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

"Hopefully these folks will be asked to submit their walk-able life stories to the wonderfulness bank as well. "

Huh? Everyone knows there are SOME life situations where being car free doesnt work. Guess what, there are also some where living in the District doesnt work. Should the District tout those when trying to show the district is liveable?

The point here is NOT to show that this lifestyle is for EVERYONE. Its to show that it works well for SOME or MANY. It being for everyone is a strawman - a hurdle set to make it seem less viable than it in fact is.

BTW, the WaPo article was not so much about Nat Harbor employees having problems commuting from the District, as from Alexandria and other parts of PG. Which are, as a matter of fact, more logical places for a NH employee (esp one who wants to commute by car) to live, since they have cheaper housing, better schools (at least Alex), and shorter commutes (PG)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

I actually really like my walkable lifestyle - and even just like walking outside when the weather is pleasant. Plenty of people incorporate recreational walks into their day -- mine just happens to double as transportation. I mean I wouldn't turn down a free car (who would turn a large free gift of just about anything down?) but I'm just as happy taking the Metro to happy hour on U St, eating there and being able to walk home. I also realize that everyone having a car and the requisite space that would take up would probably hinder the areas walkability.

by Alan B. on Jun 20, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

The point here is NOT to show that this lifestyle is for EVERYONE. Its to show that it works well for SOME or MANY. It being for everyone is a strawman - a hurdle set to make it seem less viable than it in fact is.

Moreover, this is also an effective tool against the "well maybe it'll work in YOUR neighborhood but not mine" tactic. By showing that yes, people do make it work in lots of different neighborhoods. People's personal situations are obviously different but then that just shows that it can be folly to oppose wide policy changes (like removal of parking minimums) based on those same personal experiences.

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

Selection bias indeed.

I don’t know how many of those polled own versus rent. It would be an interesting stat that would illustrate some issues people have with living car free. Why? Because jobs rarely stay the same but owning restricts your mobility. If you get a new job, but it is in Fairfax City, or Reston, or Gaithersburg instead of Farragut North, then you have no choice.

I am in my mid-thirties and have lived in DC for more than a decade. In my 20’s, all my friends lived the car lite life. They didn’t own and so when they took another job (for any reason, laid off, bored, wanted more money etc) they simply got another apt closer to work, or they only searched for jobs they could metro rail to. This obviously eliminates quite a few jobs.

Now they are all in their mid-thirties as well. All of them own their places. While they would love to be 3 metro stops from work, their age and progression in their careers have also limited their ability to simply job hop to another company simply because the number of their mid to senior level positions out there are significantly more finite than they were in their early mid twenties. I point to the profile by Mo as a perfect example of what I am talking about.

This selection bias provides results and stories that warms the hearts of GGW’s, but this certainly isn’t representative of the city at large. Of course everyone would love to live in a big house on Macomb St, their kids schools within a ten minute walk in either direction, with a nice back yard, that is also a 5 minute walk to Metro, and ALSO work within a 5 minute walk of another station. No one would own a car if that was the case, but it isn’t.

by Rg on Jun 20, 2013 10:56 am • linkreport

This selection bias provides results and stories that warms the hearts of GGW’s, but this certainly isn’t representative of the city at large.

True but that's why he have census numbers that show that more than a 1/3 of dc residents are car free. This is just stories of showing how it works since people often wonder why and how it works.

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

So yes, some don't get a choice. Others do and this project is so there is forum where people can explain their choice. Hopefully this will influence leaders to make decisions that make it possible for a greater share of people to make the choice.

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

*people to be able to make the choice

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

"Why? Because jobs rarely stay the same but owning restricts your mobility."

fortunately the car dealers of the region are capable of selling you a car over a weekend. So if you change jobs to a place in the burbs where you need a car, you can just go buy one.

Of course owning restricting your mobility is a much bigger problem for people needing to get jobs in other cities. Somehow we just accept that people have to deal with that.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

"This selection bias provides results and stories that warms the hearts of GGW’s, but this certainly isn’t representative of the city at large."

its not a representative sample, its ILLUSTRATIVE.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

If you get a new job, but it is in Fairfax City, or Reston, or Gaithersburg instead of Farragut North, then you have no choice.
Right, since the employee has no choice in taking a new job at all.

I get that there are times when people have only one job option, but in general you consider lots of factors in deciding whether to accept a job offer. So in general, it's not the case that "you have no choice."

by Gray on Jun 20, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

Drumz,

But the same number have been car free for more than 2 decades. According to the numbers above DC's population has grown 5% sicne 1990, yet the number of carless folk have only increased by ~1 percentage point. Clearly most of the people moving to the District are not car free.

This statement...
" and despite what some hyperbolic opponents of transportation have said, a majority of our new residents are very likely to be car-free or car-lite and looking to stay that way."

rings completely false in view of the actual statistics.

by Rg on Jun 20, 2013 11:07 am • linkreport

I'll repeat myself from earlier. I was offered a job in Gaithersburg. I would have had to buy a car to get to it. I said no. It's possible to look for jobs in places you can get too easily.

Maybe I would have bought the car and took the job. Maybe I would have moved. I was lucky to not be so desperate as to take the first offer I got but it could have been in Texas or California as much as Gaithersburg and I would probably still would have said no.

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

Hold on, a lot of errors in the last few comments. There are approximately 275k cars in dc - http://washingtonexaminer.com/more-district-residents-getting-rid-of-cars/article/309136

with 632k residents. So yes, a (small) majority of district residents DO NOT own cars. This is likely true even when you zero out people under 16 - census data states 17% of residents are under 18 and I can't find the exact number for those under 16.

I think some are getting confused with the 38% - which is the household number.

by h st ll on Jun 20, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

PS - unless you are getting a huge raise (or getting fired and desperately need a new job) it would likely not make financial sense to buy a car just to get to a new job.

by h st ll on Jun 20, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

Drumz,

Of course it is possible. It is also possible to live in Petworth and take metro to my job. An hour on the train and then 25 minutes on the bus. I’ve done it a few times and that is when everything falls perfectly in place, you get the bus as soon as the train arrives, traffic is light. Nothing wrong with Metro rail. It has taken as long as 2 hours.

I drive it in the morning in 25 minutes. But assuming I was ok with 1.5 to 2 hours each way to be carless, once you have kids your mobility needs increases. God forbid I needed to get from my office in Tysons to my kids school because they are sick, or practice was canceled, or their after school activity got rained out, or their mother is sick, so on and so forth, or any other number of reasons I have to leave work early a few times a month to cover these contingencies.

I don’t know how old you are, or what level you are in your career but you can certainly admit that the older and more experienced (and more you are paid) the fewer positions there are to choose from, and even fewer yet that are metro accessible.

When I was an know nothing engineer fresh out of school there were literally hundreds of jobs I could apply for in the DC area. 15 years later, there are maybe 3 that match my experience and income, two of which (off the top of my head) are nowhere near a metro station.

I think it is great that some people can make it work for them. But again, most can’t and this isn’t any new revelation or paradigm in the District.

by Rg on Jun 20, 2013 11:29 am • linkreport

Clearly most of the people moving to the District are not car free.

And apparently the same share of people moving in are car free (or become car free once they're here) as reflected in the population already here.

I don't know what you think this is all suggesting. What its meant to suggest is that many people live car free and are able to do so because of choices the city has made.

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 11:29 am • linkreport

rg

even if you toss out the 2011 number, the striking thing is that those numbers are in the context of increasing incomes in the District.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

I think it is great that some people can make it work for them. But again, most can’t and this isn’t any new revelation or paradigm in the District.

That's the point. The city should be making decisions that make enable more people to make the choice.

Some people say "but we need a car in my neighborhood!" and that's why there is a map. So people can see that other's in their neighborhood make it work.

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

"I drive it in the morning in 25 minutes. But assuming I was ok with 1.5 to 2 hours each way to be carless, once you have kids your mobility needs increases. God forbid I needed to get from my office in Tysons to my kids school because they are sick, or practice was canceled, or their after school activity got rained out, or their mother is sick, so on and so forth, or any other number of reasons I have to leave work early a few times a month to cover these contingencies."

Im willing to bet that most people who work in Tysons and have more than one school age kid, live in Fairfax or Loudoun (or sometimes MoCo). Not DC. Even folks who previously owned in DC, will tend to find reverse commuting a costly option (in both out of pocket, time, and opportunity costs).

What if you'd taken a job in San Jose, or Atlanta? You'd have sold your house and moved.

Its nice to know there are folks so dedicated to city living (or to avoiding the hassles of moving) that they will reverse commute. But it hardly makes the stories above atypical.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

Rg I don't see why you are "most people" any more than the rest of us are? No one is saying that this applies to everyone yet you seem hell bent on only accepting situations that apply to your life. I know dozens and dozens of professionals (including many with kids)that live and work in downtown DC or Arlington. I don't think everyone does, but the point is for THOSE people a car free lifestyle might be perfectly reasonable. I don't think certainly that the majority of DC residents are commuting to outside the city for work.

by Alan B. on Jun 20, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

I get the impression that some people see this and take it as a personal insult or challenge to themselves - "see THESE people are car free, whats the matter with YOU?"

that of course is not the intention.

My wife and I live in an autocentric suburb, and manage to get by carlite with one car (just barely). We couldnt be carfree now - but I don't take it as an insult being told that others can be.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

And let's say there is a family in petworth with a partner who works in Tysons.

Would it be better for the city to pursue policies that encourage people to own cars and use them for shorter commutes or for the city to do things that make it easier to get by without a car thus ensuring more roadspace for those who really do need it (such as someone with a job in Va.)?

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

@AWITC, I think you're right about how some people are interpreting it. I've experienced it first hand, as both car-lite in the suburbs, and then car free in DC. People get very defensive about it. My mother-in-law in particular, she liked to come up with increasingly improbable scenarios that ended with "See! You'd need a car if that happened!"

by Birdie on Jun 20, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

We were willing (and financially able) to choose housing based on our desire to remain car-less. But even I wouldn't sacrifice job or school choice on the same altar. I guess it depends on your values and opportunities as well as your income. If the jobs (or schools) available to you are basically all the same, then, yeah, transit access might be a decisive factor. Otherwise, probably not. And it's all more complicated when you're dealing with two careers and/or roots in a particular neighborhood.

I've got no problem with feel-good stories about car-less households. But I don't think that "we take Metro to work!" or "we walk to the grocery store!" or "we ride our bikes!" are the kinds of observations that will win converts to this lifestyle. It's not as if the existence of Metro is a closely-guarded secret or people don't know that there is housing within walking distance of supermarkets and other stores.

It'd probably be more helpful to point out walkable neighborhoods with good transit access that are safe, affordable, and have good schools. Or give examples of how much time/effort can be saved by having stuff delivered. Or explain how to organize a "bus pool" for kids. And even if those kinds of stories don't persuade many people to abandon car-ownership, they could help them transition to a less car-dependent lifestyle.

Time/money/safety/reliability/convenience are the issues that keep people in cars. It's not just ideology or culture.

by BTDT on Jun 20, 2013 11:48 am • linkreport

Jeez people...

This isn't a challenge, and the fact that some of you are so defensive in taking it that way makes me wonder.

25% of the District workforce commutes out of the District for work on a daily basis. It isn't like this is a rare occurance and in fact residents in 6 of the 10 row homes on my block all commute out of the District for work.

@AWALKERINTHECITY
Now you are castigating me for choosing the DC urban life? Gee, I am sorry I didn't sell my house and move out to Tysons when my job moved me out there. So much for the inclusive DC urbanists.

by Rg on Jun 20, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

My mother-in-law in particular, she liked to come up with increasingly improbable scenarios that ended with "See! You'd need a car if that happened!"

Similar to how every vegetarian has always been asked at some point, what they would do if they were stranded on an island where the only food to eat was meat.

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

"Time/money/safety/reliability/convenience are the issues that keep people in cars. It's not just ideology or culture."

The deep rut of habit is also an issue that keeps people in cars. And changing an ingrained habit is hard.

One of the potential benefits of those personal stories is to illustrate that it is often possible to get around quite well without a car. That may encourage other people to leave their car at home and try substituting some other mode for travel sometimes, and may encourage the adoption of policies that make alternatives to cars safer/more convenient - and thus more appealing.

by Black Jack on Jun 20, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

From personal experience and even reading on this blog and other articles, to live (either rent or own) in an area that is low crime, has grocery stores, nightlife, etc within walking distance down the street, and close enough to walk to a metro station usually costs some serious coin. Just look at the prices for housing for some of these areas mentioned in the comments and the map.

For everybody to be able to live like this, wouldn't the cost of housing have to come down. Then again, there's only a finite amount of space near metro stops that you could build, and only a finite amount of space you can put grocery stores in walkable areas, before you would have to start moving that stuff out. So, by definition, this finiteness will always put a premium on this type of lifestyle (walkable to metro, grocery stores, bars, clubs, restaurants, etc.), no?

You can probably have a bigger place (house/apartment) further out plus a car and all the expenses that go along with it (monthly payments, insurance, gas, etc.) for the same monthly amount as it would cost to have a place with no car in these areas in Washington. See some of these new buildings that go for $2,200 for what seems like a large closet. Or that story a few weeks ago in the express about a girl in Dupont Circle paying $1,500 for a 252 sqft place. And that article said she was working on a PhD at one of the private schools (GW or GU, can't remember which), so who knows how she was paying for that place.

I guess there are poor people that live in DC without a car. Is their neighborhood safe, is it really "walkable" with the grocery stores and such right down the street. Not owning a car doesn't mean you live in a walkable neighborhood.

by Nickyp on Jun 20, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

"@AWALKERINTHECITY
Now you are castigating me for choosing the DC urban life? Gee, I am sorry I didn't sell my house and move out to Tysons when my job moved me out there. So much for the inclusive DC urbanists."

Im not castigating you - I'm merely suggesting your case is not particularly typical. I don't think it wise as public policy, for DC to mandate parking or choose other policies that support the auto lifestyle, because of the needs of reverse commuters. You may disagree.

Please, not every comment discussing data, or policy, is a personal attack. please do not take it as such.

Many people live different ways. That is, in fact, the point of this CSG effort.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

" It's not as if the existence of Metro is a closely-guarded secret or people don't know that there is housing within walking distance of supermarkets and other stores."

I think for fence sitters, there are lots of anxieties about specific situations - and using metro alone for everything is often not feasible - buses, bikes, carshares, have all played a role in making car free and car lite living easier, and many people are not that familiar with those options.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

"25% of the District workforce commutes out of the District for work on a daily basis. It isn't like this is a rare occurance and in fact residents in 6 of the 10 row homes on my block all commute out of the District for work."

but quite a considerable number of them commute to metro accessible locations in Alexandria, Arlington, Silver Spring, Bethesda, etc.

In any case, Im still not sure why some people needing to drive invalidates what CSG is doing here. Its NOT saying that carfree works for everyone. Its saying its more feasible than some people might think.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

"close enough to walk to a metro station "

which is why letting people know more about bus service, biking etc, are important parts of making this lifestyle feasible for more people.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

@Rg @AWITC

I am one of those reverse commuters - I go from Logan/U St. to the god-awful abomination that is the Mark Center off 395. And I don't own a car.

Sure, it takes far longer to go from U St. to the Pentagon (six stops) than it should, and then I have to connect to the 7M bus that is more reliable than most but still not enough (nor does it run late enough), but that sacrifice is well work living within walking distance of everything else when I'm home. It's increasing transit options like that, as well, which will allow more people to do the same.

by MetroDerp on Jun 20, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

@NickyP -Not owning a car doesn't mean you live in a walkable neighborhood.

Exactly right, and this is what greater investment in active transportation facilities and transit can transform in conjunction with policies and planning that give more weight and thought to creating environments that are walkable/bikeable with access to decent transit.

by Tina on Jun 20, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

How about expanding beyond the Distict? Let's show how are afield one can live car free and love it!

by RikOnThePike on Jun 21, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

rik

http://www.carfreediet.com/

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 21, 2013 11:13 am • linkreport

Even if you toss out the 2011 number, the striking thing is that those numbers are in the context of increasing incomes in the District.

AWITC beat me to it. Median HHI in DC was around $40k in 1989. In 2012, that was $64k. That the number of carfree households have stayed the same is actually quite surprising.

by oboe on Jun 22, 2013 6:40 pm • linkreport

@oboe: are those figures adjusted for inflation? And where did you get them?

If not, $40k in 1989 is worth $74k in 2012. So in real terms the median income has decreased.

by goldfish on Jun 23, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

I'm late to this posting, but I have seen this: A commercial painter I saw was riding his bike to a job on U Street. I spotted him because the bike was pretty laden with a couple gallons of paint and a few brushes. He parks his van somewhere, then pedals to the actual job site, where parking is impossible. It can be done. Others have mentioned the many construction workers we see on the bus and subway.

by Lisa on Jun 25, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

I have also had this experience: I say I'm going out for a run, and someone offers me a ride. Some car people really need to get an imagination.

by Lisa on Jun 25, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

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