Your Views: Free visitor parking harms the environment

Photo Credit: Cody Mello-Klein

To the editor:

If Alexandria’s leaders are really interested in improving the environment and lowering the carbon footprint they should get rid of free visitor street parking in Old Town and the director of the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services. Free visitor street parking in Old Town is an environmental, health, safety and welfare problem which also creates a crisis for residents to find street parking they pay for.

Studies show that free visitor street parking in urban, commercial areas attract cars which then cruise for free parking and in the process create environmental, health, safety and welfare problems for pedestrians and bikes. My wife was hit by a car near city hall.

In addition, cars produce copious amounts of air, water and noise pollution, including fine particulate matter which has been shown to be a risk factor for a number of diseases including heart disease and asthma. Free visitor street parking in Old Town is in fact an expensive subsidy for the use of cars which was possibly appropriate as an economic impetus to come out of the depression in the 1930’s, but is problematic today.

In contrast, the transportation leadership in Arlington County got rid of almost all the free visitor street parking more than 20 years ago, replacing it with visitor pay street parking on commercial streets and resident only parking in residential areas. My office is in Arlington and I observe the result: fewer cars driving around in residential areas, and more cars going directly into off-street parking facilities. This is a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

As a professional architect and planner of sustainable, walkable communities for more than 29 years, I have personally brought up the environmental, health, safety and welfare problems of free visitor street parking to the city for more than eight years. The foot dragging on the city’s part is serious and both hypocritical and negligent. We also see problems in other areas of transportation and environment leadership in Alexandria, like lack of traffic calming on some residential streets.

-Chris Hubbard, former candidate for Alexandria City Council