2024-06-14 11:39 AM

Our Man in Arlington

Our local stewards of transport continue to muster willpower in nudging Arlingtonians toward a car-free diet.

“The simplicity of living car-free,” boast the map/brochures and Metro ads offering “stress-free” greener options from the county’s Environmental Services Department. “There are countless car-free trips you can take in Arlington.”

Next month brings a new option. The D.C-based carshare company Free2Move, with more than 21,000 members, will expand its home zone into Arlington. Such moves toward trimming the number of personally owned cars crowding roads and polluting our air are a welcome sign of progress, I am told by Arlington County Commuter Services.

Like the now-ubiquitous electric scooters, car sharing is an app-based service that allows those who sign up to grab a car from myriad temporary locations, rent it for a flat fee (by the minute, hour or day) and then return it to any legal parking spot in D.C. or Arlington. Free2Move will compete with the German firm Car2Go, already on our streets.

The expansion in Arlington was suggested by member surveys, I was told by Natalie Richardson, marketing manager for Free2Move, which is part of the French PSA Groupe, owners of Peugeot. “A lot of those individuals — hands down more than any other place — said, ‘Please come to Arlington’ because so many traverse to and from D.C.,” she said. “There’s also a desire to go more green, to provide options for mobility in conjunction with public transportation, and we want to be part of that progression.”

The soon-to-be visible Chevrolet Equinox and Cruze models with the Free2Move logo form part of PSA’s long-term strategy to offer modern mobility and integrate its vehicles with the North American market, Richardson said.

“Free floating cars,” as they are called by Jim Larsen, bureau chief for Arlington’s commuter services agency, have been shown to reduce the cars competing for road space. “All these choices we’re promoting have impact,” Larsen told me, referring to options from scooters, to Metro, to Metrobus, to ART Bus, to the VRE train, to the extremely popular mode long called the bicycle. (WMATA just built a bike-and-ride storage cage for personal bikes at the East Falls Church Metro.)

Larsen’s office estimates that the alternative modes are keeping at least 30,000 cars off the road every day. From June 2017 to June 2018, 40,000 people changed transport modes, daily vehicle miles in Arlington dropped by more than 500,000, and emissions from greenhouse gases were cut by 228,000 kilograms.

A Virginia Tech study, he added, asked scooter users what mode they would use if they were not riding a scooter. Roughly 30 percent said they be using Uber or Lfyt. “That for us is good news,” Larsen said. Anecdotally, having those “floating cars” available means that more people can do without owning a car.

The downside to Uber and Lyft, Larsen said, is the challenge to “curbside management”—when their drivers stop to pick up or disgorge passengers, they block traffic and add to emissions.

Looking ahead, Arlington’s commuter services team has been engaging with staff from arriving global-class employer Amazon. “They have a robust program helping to support their employees in getting to and from work, and there are lots of options,” Larsen said. “Arlington’s leaders and citizens created this opportunity to promote these transport options, and frankly, we’re one of the leaders in the nation.”

Strange, at an outdoor concert Saturday evening, to stroll behind the stage at the renovated Lubber Run Amphitheater and behold damage from the July 8 Arlington flash flood.

Two metal girders detached from a pedestrian bridge, their slatted railings askew, now sit obtrusively on rocks in the babbling creek in the woods.

They were tossed there by the massive gush of water, a rare disruption of our community tranquility from which the county is still recovering.





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