How Washington, DC is trying to crack down on people owning large cars

Living in an urban environment for most of my life has certainly impacted the way I look at cars. Carbon emissions aside, I accept that there is a need for them sometimes, even in a city. But in my experience, large cars make things harder for everyone, from pedestrians to the drivers who can't see anything as they squeeze down narrow streets. Anecdotally as a cyclist, I've had some terrifying encounters with road-rage-inclined drivers in big vehicles as well; statistically, owners of large pickup trucks and SUVs are significantly more likely to kill or injure someone.

A recent local law proposal in the District of Columbia aims to crack down on the problems presented by these large vehicles: by septupling the annual registration fees. Via Bloomberg:

During this year's budget process, [D.C. City Councilmember Mary] Cheh proposed overhauling the city's vehicle regulation framework. Annual fees for machines under 3,500 pounds would remain at $72/year, while those from 3,500 to 5,000 pounds would now cost $175. The fee for registering a car between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds would rise to $250. The biggest hit is aimed at a new category created for SUVs and trucks weighing over 6,000 pounds: Their owners would now have to shell out $500 per year.

In other words, a D.C. resident registering a heavy-duty pickup or SUV who would have paid $775 over five years in the old fee structure will now have to fork over $2,500. Notably, no exception is available for residents claiming that they need a heavy-duty truck or SUV for their work. (Cheh says the issue hasn't come up.)

Cheh sees the hiked fees as "a kind of proportionality" for the damage caused by the heaviest vehicles, but she doesn't expect them to be the decisive factor for all car buyers. "The bigger thing is going to be the cost of gas," she said.

Obviously, there are valid reasons for some people* to own these large motor vehicles. And those people won't be affected by these kinds of laws, even if they visit the national capitol in those cars. Hell, even people who live right across the river in Virginia won't be impacted. But as far as living in a dense urban area goes, this is certainly intriguing step.

A City Fights Back Against Heavyweight Cars [David Zipper / Bloomberg]

Image: PxHere (CC0)

*I also have a whole half-assed theory about suburban SUV ownership further disconnecting people from their communities and disassociating them from aware and responsible driving, but I'll flesh that out in detail some other time. Sorry, mom.