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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


George Franklin
Washington Times
December 30, 1922


Cars in Washington D.C. 1922 Traffic congestion resulting from the parking of thousands of automobiles in the streets throughout the business section of the city has resulted in a general disregard of the parking rule requiring an open space of about five feet between each motorcar.  The illustration shows how this disregarding of the spacing provision practically results in the formation of impassable barriers along the curbs of many of the downtown streets during business hours.  Fire department officials declare the condition created in this way in the streets greatly increases the work and the danger in fighting fires.  District parking garages, it is said, would free the street congestion existing at present.
Committee Ready to Approve New Regulations for District Traffic.

Declared to be the easiest city in America to provide with proper traffic control, yet Washington is struggling with all of the traffic problems harrassing the largest cities in the world, according to traffic experts recently surveying conditions here.

Laid out to avoid traffic congestion, the average width of its streets being considerable in excess of that of other cities, nevertheless, traffic conditions developing during the busy hours of the day throughout the central sections are declared to be the despair of those responsible for the enforcement of regulations governing vehicles in the use of the highways.

Parking First Problem.

This condition, it is pointed out, is of comparatively modern development.  Its incipiency may be traced back to the advent of the automobile, according to highway engineers.  Hence, they say, the chief traffic problem consists in finding a solution to the question of parking automobiles in the central districts of the city.

It is estimated that no fewer than 10,000 motor vehicles are parked at times in the highways traversing or leading into the business quarter of the city.  In certain blocks in that section each side of the street is lined with autos tailed in or nosed in so closely that it is impossible for the pedestrian to cross to the opposite side without going to an intersecting street.  This is not the condition in a single block.  It extends generally throughout the entire downtown section, and with the increasing use of automobiles is creeping out into adjacent sections.

Will Endorse New Rules.

To park thousands of motor cars within the limits of the commercial section, it is said, is the greatest problem faced by authorities, and that until a satisfactory solution has been found for it little improvement in traffic can be expected.

According to William Phelps Eno, traffic expert and chairman of the recently appointed traffic committee now seeking solutions to the various problems found in existing conditions, parking of automobiles is to be considered at a meeting of the committee on January 3, when the revised traffic regulations, to be presented for consideration of the District Commissioners, will be officially endorsed by the committee.

Those who have studied the auto-parking situation here closely admit that the final solution to safe, sane and satisfactory parking of autos cannot be reached through any regulations prescribing the particular way in which autos must be placed in relation to curbs.  It is conceded that it is no longer a question of ranking and parking.  The final solution of the traffic problem involved in the presence of autos left standing in the streets rests, it is asserted, in providing parking quarters off the streets.

Must Free Highways.

Free the highways of the central section of the city of the thousands of automobiles left standing along the curbs for hours each day, it is urged, and a long step will be taken toward solving the other traffic problems, especially that of reducing the number of street accidents to a minimum.

While not authoritatively stated, it is understood that consideration is being given a plan which would result in the District Commissioners acquiring sections of land within certain blocks now used by the property owners as backyards, and converting them into sites for District parking garages.  On these locations, it is pointed out, it would be possible to erect fireproof, substantially constructed buildings several stories in height, each having a capacity of from 500 to 1,000 autos.  The garages would be equipped with powerful elevators capable of hoisting five or ten autos at one time to the upper parking floors.  These floors would be divided into a given number of spaces.  Each space would be numbered and a check corresponding in number to the space given the motorist.

Could Provide Service.

In addition to providing parking space, the District garages, it was suggested, could provide service, including the cleaning of cars and the making of slight repairs.  This would provide additional revenue, a nominal parking charge being made.  According to those favoring the District garage plan the lower floor of each garage would be reserved for motorist parking cars for a few hours only, while while the upper parking floors would be used for all-day parking.

Those familiar with the parking situation express the opinion that five District garages, having parking accomodation for from three to five thousand cars, would meet requirements for the next five years, while the withdrawal from the highways of a corresponding number of automobiles would free the streets from the dangers and inconveniences incident to existing condistions and parking methods.

Object to Insurance.

Several new regulations applying to motorists in the equipment of their cars and the rules of the road, it is understood, will be endorsed when the committee meets next week.  The rules and regulations to be passed upon have been drawn and printed, but members of the committee seen today, declined to discuss their salient features, taking the position it would not be proper to do so prior to the committee meeting.

Many local motorists openly resent the idea that they be compelled to carry automobile insurance protecting possible accident victim injured by them while driving their cars.  They declare the cost of operating motor cars is heavy enough without adding to it an insurance premium amounting to nearly $200 a year.  Wealthy owners of motor cars, it was declared, would not be affected by the proposed compulsory insurance requirement, but the poor man would be hard hit.

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