Sunday, October 23, 2005

D.C. transportation officials have set aside 50 on-street parking spaces in Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Anacostia and elsewhere for private car-rental firms.

The set-aside increases to 200 the number of parking spaces city officials have allotted to Flexcar and Zipcar while acknowledging that there are 175,000 more vehicles than parking spaces in the District on any given day.

“How do they take up illegal spots on a public roadway for a private company?” said Darrell Green, who owns the Adams Mill Bar and Grill at 18th Street and Columbia Road in Northwest, where two of the new spots were filled by rental cars last week.

“It clearly interferes with business and upsets people who come to Adams Morgan and can’t find parking. It’s ridiculous.”

Transportation officials have created 23 new spaces from former loading zones or in areas where it had been illegal to park, and converted 25 spaces from metered parking spots. Two additional spaces will be created on a stretch of Eastern Avenue that currently is under construction.

The car-rental spaces are marked with orange poles, special signs and street stenciling. Most are at Metro stations and in private parking lots.

“In the long run, we think it will reduce traffic and the demand for parking,” said Bill Rice, a spokesman for the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). “We have looked at the data from other cities, particularly in Arlington and other localities, and it’s been very beneficial in those communities.”

The District is not making any money from its contract with the car-rental companies, but expects to in the future as the program expands, Mr. Rice said.

Under the contract, Flexcar and Zipcar are required to place rental cars in all eight of the city’s wards, including low-income areas such as Anacostia, where residents may be less likely to have their own vehicles, he said.

“Areas which may have a population that may not be able to afford a car will hopefully be able to afford the low-usage fees to be able to gain the mobility they might not have,” Mr. Rice said.

Aside from their one-time membership fees, Flexcar charges $7 to $10 an hour and from $35 to $90 per day, while Zipcar charges $8.50 an hour or $59 a day to rent cars. Both companies cover gas and insurance costs.

In Adams Morgan, where motorists often spend time scouring neighborhood streets for open parking, residents said they would prefer more parking spaces created for general public use.

“Parking in this neighborhood is horrendous,” said Betsy Rothstein, who lives in the area. “It’s impossible when friends come to visit.”

“The preference would be to have spaces for customers there,” said Rodolfo Navorio, an employee of Venus Stereos at 1804 Adams Mill Road. “They should have parking more for us but they just want to collect money, I guess. That’s business for them.”

DDOT said the spaces were created after consulting with advisory neighborhood commissions and other community groups. Most community leaders said they support the program, with reservations.

Gregg Edwards, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Mount Pleasant, said residents aren’t completely opposed to the new spaces, but are concerned about walking at night to find parking.

“They’re walking through very dangerous areas,” he said. “The cost to these people in terms of fear and anxiety is very tangible. They do not want to lose a single space.”

Mr. Edwards estimated there are 2,500 to 3,000 cars in Mount Pleasant and about 1,800 parking spaces.

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