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.
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.
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 havesaid, a majority of our new residents are very likely to be car-free or car-lite and looking to stay that way.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.