- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2006

D.C. officials have given two “car-sharing” companies 38 additional free parking spaces, increasing to 86 the number throughout the city.

Spaces this time in such low-income neighborhoods as Anacostia, Brookland and H Street “will be particularly helpful for persons who cannot afford a car and whose transportation needs are not fully met by transit, taxis or traditional rental cars,” said Michelle Pourciau, acting director of the District Department of Transportation.

Agency spokesman Bill Rice acknowledged that Flexcar and Zipcar executives were “not quite as enthusiastic” about the arrangement, compared to previous ones that gave them spaces in such wealthier, parking-starved areas as Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill and Dupont Circle.

Of the 86 spaces created since October, 41 were metered parking and 20 were created from no-parking zones. The others were made from bus zones, government parking and unregulated areas.

The city has also increased the fine from $30 to $100 for parking in a car-rental space.

Mr. Rice said the District’s long-term goal is to provide as many as 200 on-street spaces for the companies, which through other deals also have spaces in private lots and at Metro stations.

Supporters say the car-rental programs reduce the number of vehicles and provide alternative transportation in a city that has about 175,000 more vehicles than parking spaces almost every day.

Zipcar executives say the program already has eliminated more than 4,500 vehicles from the region since its arrival in September 2001.

Michael Sherman, chairman of the economic development committee for Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C, which includes parts of the Capitol Hill and H Street neighborhoods, said members are asking some developers to include car-rental spaces in their projects in exchange for approving zoning variances.

“We have really good public transportation in D.C., but some folks still have needs,” he said. “They don’t quite need a car, but they can’t quite get by without a car.”

Christine Tolson, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 7, said the hourly rates of about $7.50 to $9 plus the membership fees are too expensive for low-income residents.

“When you have people who can barely get to and from the Metro, how are they going to afford an eight or nine dollar hourly fee?” asked Miss Tolson, whose district has two spaces.

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

Gabe Klein, regional vice president for Zipcar, said vehicles in low-income areas still provide residents with a cheaper alternative than owning a car and that the program often catches on over time, citing success in Columbia Heights and at the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station.

“These new locations, they’re not doing exceptionally well, but they’re doing better than expected,” he said. “What will be really interesting to see is if in 12 months we’ll be going back to [the city] and saying, ‘These cars are doing really well.’ ”

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