The Great Georgetown Bugaboo Part II: How We Really Get There From Here

Last week GM explored the question of cars and parking in Georgetown by digging into the Census records to determine what the actual car ownership levels are in Georgetown. The somewhat surprising results demonstrated that the parking problem in Georgetown may be caused more by multi-car households than it is caused by a density of residents. This week GM looks into what we do (or don’t do) with those cars every morning.

GM first started thinking about these questions after the last ANC meeting. At one point Commissioner Bill Skelsey argued that when he has to drive around for a half an hour at the end of the day looking for parking, that’s time he can’t spend with his kids (a point made in critique of a proposed curb cut). GM left the meeting wondering: is that the experience of most Georgetowners, or is Skelsey a minority? Should the ANC be worried about Georgetowners spending time away from their loved ones while circling around the block, or do most of us get to work some other way?

The interesting results after the jump:

The Numbers:

According to the Census records, this is how Georgetown residents get to work:

  • Drive to work – 46%
  • Transit – 16%
  • Bike – 4%
  • Walk – 25%
  • Other – 9%

So nearly half of Georgetowners drive to work. Or, from another point of view, over half of Georgetown residents don’t drive to work. So from the outset, we can say that Commissioner Skelsey’s circling the block is the experience of the minority.

Moreover, 7% of Georgetowners carpool to work. That means that only 38% of Georgetowners get into a car alone every morning. (Meaning 18% more people bike, walk or take transit than drive to work alone).

Just as with the car ownership numbers, it seems that the so-called common experience espoused by organizations like the ANC and CAG aren’t as common as thought. Nearly two-thirds of Georgetowners do something to avoid having to find parking at night.

Commuting Habits and Parking:

It’s impossible, however,  to draw too many more conclusions about how commuting habits affect parking from the available data. The data doesn’t indicate whether there’s a correlation between people who drive alone and people who live in multi-car households. It would seem likely that there is, but without supporting data it would be too speculative to say so.

So What?:

What we can say with more certainty is that 45% of Georgetowners get to work by foot, bike or bus. Like the stats discussed last week, this doesn’t mean that the ANC or CAG should ignore the interests of those who drive to work; many simply have no other reasonable option (but definitely not all). But it does say that when they think primarily about cars and parking they may be ignoring the interests of almost half the residents.

To avoid favoring only one half the residents, organizations like the ANC and CAG need to remember that when they analyze projects that are primarily aimed at non-drivers (e.g. the proposal for buslanes on M and Wisconsin) they should not only see it through the lens of cars and parking. There has to be a balance. While it may be one or more Commissioner’s nightly experience to drive around looking for parking spaces, it simply isn’t the case that even most of their constituents do the same.


Filed under Cars and Parking, Transit

4 responses to “The Great Georgetown Bugaboo Part II: How We Really Get There From Here

  1. Tom S.

    I think anyone who lives below M Street and doesn’t own a parking space will find Mr. Skelsey’s experience all too familiar. West of Wisconsin, there are two places (with about 10 total spots) where residents can park for more than 2 hours. Everything else is metered, or time-limited. So you move your car regularly, or you’re constantly re-checking to see if one of those spots has opened, or you troll the area north of M, or you resign yourself to getting ticketed. The experience is made all the more enjoyable by the crowds of visitors driving through the area who crawl at 6 mph everywhere they go.

    I don’t know what the rest of Georgetown needs, but for sure the area south of M needs more long-term resident parking than those 10 or so spots…

  2. GM

    I agree with you that the areas south of M are different than the areas above M. But if there are only 10 or so spots, doesn’t that imply that most residents choose another course? Either they pay for off-street parking at one of the several parking garages on K/Water St. or they don’t have a car in the first place. By the very fact that only 10 or so people can park there long term doesn’t it mean that only a little more than 10 or so people end up circling the block every night? Doesn’t that just prove the point that it’s an experience of relatively few?

    I have said before, however, that we need to explore better allocation of on-street parking through the adoption of performance parking policies. In my brain storm of a parking map, I suggested that all the areas below M allow long-term resident parking and discourage non-resident trolling by adopting high meter fees. I don’t know if that’s the best option, but nonetheless it is an option.

  3. paosi

    I agree with Bill Skelsey comments. I own a car and park on street and I ride a bike to work. On the occasion I drive to work or wherever else, it can take a long time to find a parking spot. I strongly believe ANC is taking a balanced view and is correct in their statements.

  4. Ken Archer

    GM is not agreeing or disagreeing with Bill Skelsey’s comments (I’m sure he in fact agrees with Bill’s objection to curb cuts), but with the constant references by ANC and CAG representatives to the interests solely of Georgetown drivers. These census figures give a VERY different picture of the constituents ANC and CAG seek to represent than is assumed by ANC and CAG representatives.

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