The District is considering a regulation that would provide limited curbside parking to car-sharing companies such as Flexcar and Zipcar. The intent is to promote car-sharing by making the service more visible, convenient and attractive, particularly in congested neighborhoods.

In Adams Morgan, however, the proposed regulation has caused concern. Holders of residential parking permits, who already struggle with a dearth of spaces, fear that parking will become even more difficult with spaces allotted to car-sharing, and business owners worry that metered spaces for their customers will be taken away. These concerns must be taken into account, but car-sharing can benefit everyone in a neighborhood.

Members of car-sharing services reserve a vehicle over the phone or through a Web site. They then have card-key access to vehicles parked in private spaces or on Metro lots. Reservations are by the hour; one hour costs roughly the same as a two-zone cab ride and includes gasoline, insurance and maintenance.

Car-sharing companies not only provide a valuable service to their members, they produce an important public benefit that merits the support of local government: Car-sharing makes it possible for area residents to go without a car -- or without a second car -- and thus helps reduce parking and traffic congestion. Everyone benefits from that.

Car-sharing can be a viable alternative to car ownership for a variety of people.

Take our two cases, for example:

Patricia lives in Anacostia. Because of the high cost of owning a vehicle, she relies on car-sharing. She takes a bus to the Anacostia Metro and the subway to Branch Avenue, where she picks up a Flexcar to get to doctors' appointments and to run errands. Safety is an issue for Patricia, which is why she uses a Branch Avenue vehicle. Share cars at Branch Avenue are located steps away from the subway exit; at Anacostia, the car-share vehicles are parked at the far end of a garage at the Metro station. Additional car-sharing vehicles in safe and convenient locations would be of great value to Patricia and others in her neighborhood.

Deborah lives in Adams Morgan with her husband and also doesn't own a car. She and her husband use public transportation and taxis. When they had a child in 2001, many people told them they would need a car to handle trips to the pediatrician, the grocery store and day care. In addition, some of their friends were moving to homes that were not Metro-accessible.

Instead, Deborah and her husband gave car-sharing a try, and, while not perfect, it generally has worked well for them. Without it, they almost certainly would have bought a car, even though their building provides no parking, and they would have had to compete with their neighbors for precious Adams Morgan parking spots.

Washington has an excellent subway system and a network of bus routes that serves the community relatively well. Taxis are an important private-sector complement to public transportation. Car-sharing is a private-sector innovation that helps fill gaps. Making car-sharing more visible, more convenient and safer by providing some curbside parking spaces would be sensible public policy.

-- Deborah Crane

-- Patricia Green