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Drivers Feeling Shunned by D.C.

Suburban officials are largely sympathetic to the District's goals. After all, they are trying similar strategies to encourage transit use and reduce through-traffic. They are also trying to make their streets safer for pedestrians. Arlington County, for instance, has increased fines for motorists who do not yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk to $500, and in Fairfax County, fines for failing to yield have been increased at designated intersections.

But the District is the home of the federal government, and District officials must accommodate the thousands of federal employees who need to get in and out of downtown everyday. The Department of Commerce isn't going anywhere.

"You'd like me to lambaste the District, but we're all in the same boat," said Montgomery County Council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large). "I am sympathetic to some of these initiatives. But the challenge is finding the right balance. Not everyone can ride Metro or walk to work."

She placed blame for the problem, in part, on the federal government, which offers many of its employees free parking in the city.

In addition to the pedestrian safety and quality-of-life issues for city residents, Floreen said, it is in the entire region's interest to reduce air pollution and the number of single-occupant vehicles on its crowded roads.

U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) said the city should be careful not to chase people away. Like the District, Old Town Alexandria would be a nicer place without all the cars, he said. But there is an economic component to be considered, he said, and people in cars represent customers for restaurants and shops.

"Because of the limitations of our rail and bus system, there are an awful lot of suburbanites who don't have access but are willing to spend lots of money in the District," Moran said. "They are dependent on suburban spending for their tax base."

He added: "D.C. could wind up as an island isolating themselves with these policies. Don't pray too hard for fear that all your prayers will be answered."


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