Cities around the world are encouraging drivers to take a break from their vehicles in celebration of World Car Free Day on Sept. 22. (Clean Air Partners)

 

If brutal September traffic and the possibly apocalyptic Beach Drive closure weren’t enough to make you ditch your car, perhaps this will: Thursday is “World Car Free Day.”

Commuters can take a pledge to go car-free or “car-lite” — that is, rideshare — for 24 hours. Teleworking counts, too. And even if you don’t commute into Washington, you can not drive, too.

“Car Free Day is really for anybody who’s traveling,” said Nick Ramfos of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the director of Commuter Connections, the local promoter of  Car Free Day. The automotive holiday asks people to “think about how they’re traveling tomorrow, lessen the toll on their vehicles, use public transit, carpool, or take a bus,” he said.

Staying out of cars, however, may be a hard sell — at least for some Metro riders who have given up the rail for wheels during SafeTrack. A State of the Commute report released Wednesday by the D.C. region’s Transportation Planning Board showed just 48 percent of those who use Metro were satisfied or very satisfied with the service.

The report also said that although the percentage of Washington area commuters who drive alone has dropped in recent years, it is by far the most common method of commuting, the choice of 61 percent.

Still, almost 4,000 people — perhaps lured in by the promise of prizes such as a Capital Bikeshare pass — had signed the car-free pledge by Wednesday evening.

And the payoff of Car Free Day, held every Sept. 22 since 2007 (when then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty raised eyebrows by riding the bus), is measurable. Ramfos said Car Free Day 2015 kept about a quarter ton of nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds out of the atmosphere, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 28 tons.

With SafeTrack continuing for months and Northern Virginia on track for HOV-3 lanes, why not check out alternatives now?

“We’ve seen increases in transit use, in bicycling and walking … and more capacity for people to carpool and vanpool,” he said. “And I think once Metro gets back up and running, people will be coming back to Metro as well even though ridership numbers are down.”

Robert Thomson and Martine Powers contributed to this report.