Photo by Jason Pier.
Back in November, DDOT moved the Capital Bikeshare station, that was on the sidewalk of Wisconsin Ave. by the canal, about 20 feet south and into the street. This was reported at the time by the Patch. DDOT explained that with the eventual construction of the new condo building where the Verizon parking lot is, there would not be enough space on the sidewalk for the station.
Moving the station into the street would necessitate eliminating three metered parking spots. To mitigate the impact of that change, the ANC requested that DDOT convert a loading zone across the street into a metered space and to introduce multi-space also across the street to enable more cars to park there.
When the parking spots were removed, the grumbling began. Most of it originated from Grace Episcopal, in front of which the parking spaces were removed. A church bulletin read:
While Grace supports the Bikeshare program (we have members that frequently bike to services), many members of our congregation rely on convenient access to street parking to attend services here. They include older members with health issues, families with young children and others for whom cycling to church is not an option. The loss of these three spaces is already being felt.
ANC chair Ron Lewis mentioned at the ANC meeting Monday night that he expected a compromise to be found whereby the station would be moved somewhere else. And GM is happy to support a compromise that each side can live with. But this situation presents a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate just how disproportionate the impact car parking has versus bike parking.
First let’s consider how useful street car parking is. Professor Donald Shoup found that at Westwood Village, a shopping district in Los Angeles not unlike Georgetown, the average curbside parking spot was used by approximately 17 cars a day.
Seventeen cars a day suggests a new car parking every 50 minutes or so between the hours of 8 AM and 10 PM, which sounds about right for Georgetown’s metered spaces.
But say you’re being generous and want to say that 20 different cars use each of these three parking spots a day. That would mean that 60 cars combined would use these three spaces in the course of a day.
So how does that compare with the Bikeshare station?
Luckily we don’t have to guess about that. According to Capital Bikeshare’s data, in September 5,151 people either dropped off or picked up a bike at this station. That’s 171 people a day, or 57 people per parking spot removed.
Sure, cars can carry more than one person. But in order for these spaces to serve more people in cars than on bikes, the cars would have to have an average of almost three passengers per car. That’s highly unlikely.
The point of this exercise isn’t to say biking is the only way people should travel or that on street parking should be banned, but it demonstrates that biking brings a significant number of people to Georgetown, and they use much less street space to store their vehicles. So when the city considers where to move the station, GM hopes it keeps in mind how much better use of public space it is than three parking spots.
So by all means move the station if an equally convenient space can be found. But don’t move it off to some far away corner just because we’re too afraid to take out a couple inefficient parking spaces.