Increasing Demand for Car-Free Living Is Opportunity for Pike

More evidence this week that an increasing number of DC residents are moving to a car-free lifestyle (or “car light,” sharing cars via commercial services or within the household).  This is consistent with surveys showing that Millennials are more interested in a walkable, urban lifestyle than the generations before them.

For urbanists and others interested in Smart Growth, this emerging trend is critical to the decision-making process.  Rather than focusing on tools to “get people out of their cars” (as argued by out-of-touch Boomer politicians),  this generation does not need convincing.  Rather, what they seek is communities that offer them the mobility tools to get around.

Penrose Square, the new ABC store, the Columbia Pike SuperStops and much of Pike Multimodal are all moves in the right to direction to increase the day-to-day livability of Pike Town Center.

Regardless of one’s feeling on Pike Streetcar, there is much more to be done short-term and medium-term to turn the communities along the Pike into the sorts of urban villages that Millennials crave.  Further implementation of Pike Multimodal is a necessary, but insufficient plan to get us there.  Here are several concrete steps that our politicians, citizens and businesses should be working towards:

1.  Expand Zipcar. It has only one spot along the Pike right now for those who want to car-share.  While this is a private company, its expansion along the Pike is critical to increasing the viability of car-free living.

2.  Expand Capital Bikeshare.  The County has refused to expand it to the Pike until it saturates the Metrorail stations, particularly on the Orange Line.  (When it polled residents where to put stations, it included zero suggested stations on Columbia Pike.)  This abrupt slap-in-the-face, particularly to the lower-income Pike residents further west, will hopefully be rectified in the next round of expansion.  Compare DC, which has several off-Metro stations, with more planned.

3.  Implement a real bike route from Pike Town Center to the Potomac River bridges.

4.  Build better pedestrian access.  While Pike Multimodal has some great plans for Pike walkability, ignoring the current broken sidewalks and worn-away crosswalks is shameful.  Mary Hynes recently said that “Spring is coming,” and we can hope that upgraded crosswalks are in the mix for the Pike.

5.  Focus on fast, reliable, frequent public transport to work and play.  In addition to Pentagon/Pentagon City, destinations to focus on include downtown-ish DC and the Orange line corridor.  Specifically, this includes maintaining current Metrobus PikeRide service and extending the hours and destinations served by ART 41, 42, and 45.

The market for renters and home buyers is evolving, and the DC area remains a popular place for young people with a strong job market.  Providing services to this changing demographic should be the focus of Columbia Pike pols, citizens and business.

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