Gray & Fenty on Parking

Vince Gray and Adrian Fenty did a DC mayoral debate today of which, unfortunately, there seems to be no transcript. There is, however, a Dave Alpert has spent so much time trying to reassure urbanists about Gray. Here’s Austermuhle’s writeup of their back-and-forth on the crucial issue of parking

12:33 p.m.: Audience question on … parking. Really? Ugh. Fenty says you need to find balance between cars and other means of transit, cites Gabe Klein’s work at DDOT. This is actually a winning point for the mayor, at least from the urbanist perspective. Gray calls parking rates “outrageous,” firmly appealing to the car lobby. Boo! Does express concern over loss of business due to expensive parking, but also supports looking at alternative modes of transit.

I wish I had a proper transcript of what was said here since Austermuhle is tragically dismissive of the whole topic. But it seems clear enough that Fenty stood by Klein’s efforts to make the city less car-dependent, whereas Gray wanted to offer rhetorical support for that goal while simultaneously endorsing a policy concept — increased subsidization of parking — that’s diametrically opposed to that goal. I hope this is just Gray being opportunistic on the campaign trail, but I think the basic assumption has to be that Gray’s plan is to undo the controversial Fenty-era education and transportation reforms.

As a sidenote, when you look at the class divide between Fenty and Gray supporters it’s a reminder of how frustratingly upside-down the politics of these transportation issues often gets. Transportation reform plays as a kind of yuppie concern in practical politics, but the biggest losers from parking subsidies aren’t people like me — I could go out and buy a car tomorrow if I wanted to — but poor people for whom owning and maintaining automobiles is genuine financial hardship.