Myth-understanding: OP is using the wrong vehicle data to justify its parking recommendations.
Fact: OP’s data about vehicle usage is derived from the U.S. Census Bureau, and we’re pretty confident in it. We’re labeling this one a “myth-understanding” because there appears to be some confusion around this issue, and reasonable people might have interpreted information differently. Here are the facts: in October 2012, a citizen asked OP some questions about vehicle data presented in a DDOT presentation. The slide, derived from Federal Highway Administration data, listed a figure of 150,000 vehicles in the District. OP uses Census data to estimate vehicle availability. And, different agencies using different sources of data seems to have caused some confusion. We want to clear up this myth-understanding, since we’ve heard some claims that OP has used “skewed facts and figures” to make “fallacious” claims that there “has been a significant reduction in registered passenger vehicles.”
Here are the numbers of vehicles available to District households, from 2005 to 2011 (all numbers are from the American Community Survey’s one-year data):
Year Aggregate Number of Vehicles Available
Based on this data, it appears that the total number of vehicles (this includes SUVs, pick-up trucks, and motorcycles) available to District households peaked in or around 2007, and has been mostly decreasing since then. Over the same period, we’ve added more than 50,000 residents and more than 20,000 households. As a result, the number of vehicles per household has dropped slowly over several years – it was about 0.91 vehicles per household in 2010 and about 0.83 in 2011. In short, we’re adding far more new households than cars.
We also have large numbers of people who live in DC without cars. The percentage of households in the District without access to a private vehicle has remained relatively constant over the past several years: it was 36% in 2006 and 35% in 2010. According to the most recent data, it went back up to nearly 39% in 2011. Remember, those are citywide averages. In some Census block groups, that figure is under 20%. In others, it’s more than 80%. Not surprisingly, block groups with lower ownership rates tend to cluster around areas of high transit access (of course, income is also a major explanatory variable in car ownership).
So, when we say that the data supports the notion that reduced (or no) minimum parking requirements are justifiable in areas where transit, walking, and cycling are widely available and vehicle ownership rates are low, we’re on pretty solid ground. Regardless of whether the vehicle count is 150,000 vs. 231,000, the total number really isn’t what we’re basing our recommendations on. We have never said “DC only has 150,000 cars, and therefore we don’t need more parking.” What we’ve said is, “the number of cars per household is dropping, we have more families choosing to live car-free, and therefore each additional increment of development does not need to provide as much parking per dwelling unit/customer/employee as it did over the past 50 years.”
Of course, as we have pointed out repeatedly, the absence of a minimum parking requirement is not the same thing as the absence of parking. Some percentage of residents will continue to use private vehicles and will demand places to park them. Some will not. Both types of households will continue to find places that suit their needs. OP wants to ensure that DC residents can choose the living and parking situation that works best for them.