Our View: Can we ‘put up a parking lot?’

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Our city government has declared war on cars.

That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from the totality of its actions in recent years regarding streets, parking, cars and bicycles.

While most people in this environmentally conscious era want to steward the earth and reduce pollution, the specific actions taken by our local government reek of arrogance and short sightedness.

At every turn, parking for cars and trucks has been reduced with seemingly little community benefit. First it was the addition of bike lanes on King Street, taking street parking away from many residents.

City staff said that resident parking was underutilized, and therefore not vital. King Street residents countered that they were the best judges of what was vital to themselves and their property values, thank you very much. Guess who won that battle?

Several years later, lower King Street has no parking, but wide bicycle lanes that are, as you probably guessed, underutilized. Evidently, utilization is justification for taking away vehicular parking, but the same standard does not apply to bicycle use.

Then came Capital Bikeshare. Every time a Bikeshare station pops up unannounced, with no resident input into where they go or why we are subsidizing an entity that encourages bike riding without helmets, four to five parking spaces are lost. Just like that.

Where’s the data on the benefit Alexandria gets from Capital Bikeshare? What’s the data on cost per bike ride to our city? What will it cost us when someone winds up in a coma with head trauma and sues Alexandria and Capital Bikeshare for negligence?

Now we have the Parking Standards for New Development Projects Task Force, an entity formed to determine how big the parking reduction for new businesses should be. As with the BID exploratory committee, the question of if any action should be taken in the first place was not considered.

The BID committee determined that its mission would be to explore what type of BID we should have, not whether there should be a BID. With this parking task force, it’s just a matter of how big the exemption will be.

Is anyone surprised that city staff recommended the largest parking exemption on the table? Not 2,500 or 5,000 square feet, but a whopping 10,000. This means that large buildings with multiple businesses – the size of the Holy Cow, Sushi Bar and Pork Barrel BBQ trio in Del Ray – would be exempted from providing any parking at all, rather than the 23 spaces current regulations mandated.

This is a good thing, according to city staff, because their parking studies show there is “too much” parking in Del Ray and elsewhere in Alexandria. Does anyone who lives in the Del Ray and Old Town neighborhoods agree that they have too much parking?

Here’s possibly the most arrogant part: the city wants to tell businesses what is “too much” parking on their premises – and prevent them from providing more than what the city deems adequate – rather than trusting businesses to make good decisions that are in their own self-interest.

Much of the debate from this parking task force was done under the guise of doing what’s best for small businesses.

The choice appears to be between whether business owners who have to make payroll or city staffers who have no skin in the game get to decide what’s best for business.

Finally, this assault on cars shows incredible short sightedness. Parking is being reduced in the name of environmentalism, while technology is going to make the combustion engine all but obsolete within a few years.

Oops.
 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Just Stop.

    Just stop with the “War on Cars” trope. The city is doing what it has to do. It is only going to densify and there is not enough land to allow people to drive everywhere and park conveniently. We have to get people out of their cars. It is fine to quibble with individual decisions like the poorly engineered King St. bike lanes, but not the overall concept.

    Just stop with the parking thing. Your opinion on parking is completely two-faced. You want businesses to make their own decisions to include more parking, but not to include less. There is plenty of parking in Alexandria, though not necessarily free and convenient. If you want free and convenient parking, you are going to have less walkable, less interesting spaces. There are plenty of those places in Fairfax and beyond. Many of us moved here to get away from all of that.

    Finally, just stop with your criticisms of bikeshare. There is no fundamental problem with bikeshare. The system is perfectly safe and you don’t need a helmet to bike safely. There has only been one bikeshare fatality this decade nationwide and that is when a bus ran the victim over. No helmet would have saved him. Give bikeshare a try. At $2 per trip or $8 per day, it is a bargain and often the easiest way to get around.