- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2005

D.C. transportation officials plan to give car-rental companies as many as 200 more curbside parking spaces in the coming months.

Two companies already have 52 spaces and will get roughly 100 to 200 more “depending on discussions with the neighborhoods and the companies.” said Bill Rice, a D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman.

He said the agency wants to increase the number to give residents without cars equal access to curbside parking.

Agency officials originally gave the Flexcar and Zipcar companies 50 spaces last month in such neighborhoods as Adams Morgan, Anacostia and Mount Pleasant. Mr. Rice said two new spaces have been added on Capitol Hill, near F and North Capitol streets in Northwest.

The companies already use about 150 spaces in private lots and at Metro stations through other partnerships. The expansion could mean about 350 spaces will be used for car rentals in the metropolitan area.

The city giving the companies curbside spaces has sparked a debate in the District, where officials have acknowledged there are 175,000 more vehicles than parking spaces almost every day.

Transportation Director Dan Tangherlini said the agency will not make a hasty decision. He said some residents in Ward 1 and Ward 4 have complained about the spaces, while some Ward 7 officials have asked about adding more vehicles.

“We’re going to take a very measured step at this thing,” Mr. Tangherlini said. “We’ll stop at this level and we’ll even go back if there’s a lot of hue and cry. But we’re not going to jam these things down the community’s throat.”

The original 50 spaces are composed of 25 former metered spots and 23 spots from previously illegal-parking areas. The two remaining spaces will be on a stretch of Eastern Avenue Northwest now under construction.

Mr. Tangherlini said the city has spent several thousand dollars for signs and stenciling that mark the spaces and on promoting the car-rental programs. He said the District is not making money from the contract with the companies, but may as the program expands.

“We’re not selling spaces, but we’ve reserved the right to charge them rent later on,” he said.

The companies’ foray into the city follows successful efforts in Arlington and elsewhere. Flexcar and Zipcar have more than 40 cars at 32 locations throughout Arlington and another 15 vehicles are scheduled to be added during the remainder of 2005.

In the District, merchants such as Melbi Sanchez, who owns Giovani Hair Design in Adams Morgan, do not support the idea.

“It’s not good because there is a lot of business over here in this area,” she said.

Adams Morgan resident Aurelie Shapiro and Logan Circle resident Tiffiny Bernichon, said that using the vehicles is a convenient, cost-efficient way to get around town.

“I save a lot of money every month,” said Miss Shapiro, 27, who sold her car and has used Zipcar for three years to run errands and drive on the weekends. “I don’t have the hindrances of having to park it or move it or maintain my car.”

Said Ms. Bernichon, 32, a Flexcar member: “Where I live now it’s just not worth it to own a car with all the hassles of trying to find parking.”

Gabe Klein, regional vice president for Zipcar, said the vehicles — which include BMWs, Mini Coopers and Toyota Tacomas — are an extension of public transportation and help reduce pollution and the number of cars on city streets.

“Our studies show we take 20 cars off the road for every car we put on the road,” he said. “By us placing a Zipcar on the street, that’s going to actually create more spaces for those that own a car.”

Flexcar charges a one-time membership fee and the standard rate of $9 an hour or $35 to $90 a day.

Zipcar has a membership fee and car rates ranging from $8.50 an hour or $59 a day.

The companies cover gas and insurance costs and have different plans, some with monthly or annual fees, for personal and business driving.

Flexcar became the first company of its kind in the area when it won a contract with Metro in 2001.

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