“It was definitely doable,” Anderson said of a carless lifestyle. “But, particularly running to the grocery store, it’s a lot easier to do in a car than on a bike. You can carry a lot more stuff with you.”
The District has seen its population boom in recent years as more people, particularly young people such as Anderson, flock to urban environments where they can live, work and play without much travel time in between.
But the influx of residents has placed added strain on the District’s number of on-street parking spaces, even as the city boasts one of the lowest rates of car ownership in the country and offers a bevy of alternatives, such as bikes, buses and trains.
It’s a headache that city officials want resolved.
“There will be a point where, if we do nothing, then it will backfire, and folks will not want to be downtown and not want to be in this business environment, because they can’t find parking,” said Angelo Rao, who oversees parking for the city’s Department of Transportation.
U.S. Census estimates released in December show the District’s population climbed from 601,723 to 632,323 between April 2010 and July 2012, meaning more than 1,100 people, on average, moved into the city during each of those 27 months.
Although not all of them brought cars, those who did placed greater pressure on an already limited number of spots. Officials tally approximately 260,000 on-street parking spaces in the city, a figure they say hasn’t changed significantly in the last decade.
A little more than 60 percent of households in the District own cars, according to the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey, a figure well below the national average of roughly 90 percent.
“In the District, we’ve had increases in households over the last couple of years, and at the same time seen car ownership decline, which is remarkable,” said Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies urban infrastructure. “It’s not the trend we’re used to in this country.”
That’s due in part to the fact that the District has been faster than many cities to adopt new forms of transportation. Beyond the Metrorail and Metrobus systems, the popular Capital Bikeshare program allows members to share bicycles stationed around the city, and several car-sharing companies, such as Car2Go and Zipcar, are active here.
Then there are a bevy of smartphone applications that allow those in need of a ride to summon one, whether through taxi services, carpooling or car rental.
“What’s different about this city is, we’ve been planning for growth for 30 years, and now we actually have it,” said Harriet Tregoning, director of the D.C. Office of Planning. “A lot of the ways we have done things are going to be different, and that means managing on-street parking.”