The magic number is 86,193.

The D.C. Council began the process of redividing the residents of D.C. into eight wards in late September. A subcommittee made up of at-large councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Anita Bonds, and Christina Henderson will draw lines to get as close to 86,000 people into each ward as possible (plus or minus five percent). The biggest takeaway is Ward 6 will be condensed while Wards 7 and 8 will be expanded to hit the magic number. But many of those 86,000 D.C. residents come with a car. How will the new boundaries affect parking?

Henderson has submitted a bill to address this problem. She announced Wednesday that she and Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto have submitted the Rightsizing Residential Permit Parking Regulation Amendment Act of 2021. 

Under Henderson’s plan, permits would be distributed by Advisory Neighborhood Commission boundaries, rather than by ward, creating “smaller but more consistently sized zones,” she says in a statement. 

Henderson aims to take the example set by neighborhoods in Wards 1 and 4 and plan to establish 41 smaller parking zones throughout D.C. Her statement cites a study done in seven cities which found this method led to “less congestion on neighborhood streets and [keeps] enforcement consistent across a larger geographic area.”

Even though D.C. is one of the least car dependent places in the country, parking is still one of the hottest topics locally. And because parking permits are tied to ward boundaries, the redistricting process inevitably devolves into a debate about parking. During the previous redistricting process in 2011, for example, a Ward 6 neighborhood received their own Ward 6 parking privileges despite being absorbed into Ward 7.

“The redistricting process prompts a rightsizing of our wards, and it is time to do the same for our residential parking permit zones,” Henderson said in a statement. “This legislation will continue to support the purpose of the residential permit parking program—enabling residents to park near their homes—while creating a more equitable parking system for the District.” 

Traffic safety weighs heavy on the minds of elected officials and residents after four children were hit by cars this month. As of fiscal year 2019, over 358,000 cars were registered in the District—an upward trend over the past decade. With D.C.’s urban density and a focus on alternate transportation, there aren’t a lot of places to put them. 

Henderson’s plan does have equity in mind though. Her statement says following ANC rather than ward boundaries will also “strive for more focused conversations on the task at hand when it comes to redistricting—delivering equal & fair access to political representation.”

Regardless of whether you’re on the side of the gas guzzlers or the car anarchists, a balance has to be struck. D.C. may be able to call itself a carless city, but it’s still in a car dependent country. Per-usual, there isn’t an auto-solution.

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