Market-rate parking is going forward in the new Washington D.C. ballpark district, and the pilot plan has received a good amount of coverage lately in the local press. JDLand.com has a roundup of links: page one and page two.

Here’s JD’s parking map page, which says: “On all streets shown in the color red, DDOT will install new multi-space meters or modify the times and prices on traditional existing meters. Multi-space meters will be programmed with rates that vary according by day and length of parking stay. These rates will be aimed at encouraging parking turnover and limiting vehicles squatting on commercial spaces.”

Why is this good news for D.C.? I previously discussed market rate parking, its justification and benefits, and a trailblazing implementation in California, in Redwood City’s Free-Market Parking Meters. If D.C.’s pilot plan is implemented as well as Redwood City’s, then the ballpark district should see reduced traffic congestion and pollution, scarce parking allocated in a more convenient and efficient way, more income for streetscape improvements, an improved pedestrian environment and therefore more business for local shops.

And who doesn’t love a solar-powered parking meter? (Okay, that was a rhetorical question.)

The parking plan has a champion in City Council member Tommy Wells. Wells has educated himself about the “Shoupian” parking concept, taken it to public meetings, and convinced Mayor Fenty to support a three-year pilot plan. Here is Wells’ press release — he calls it “performance parking.” And here is a copy of the bill itself.

The bill:

  • Establishes a “performance parking” pilot program in the ballpark district;
  • Specifies “multi-space meters” that are electronic and solar-powered, which manage multiple parking spaces, and which accept a variety of payment methods like cash, credit or Smartrip cards, and pay-by-cell-phone (handy in case of extra innings);
  • Establishes a goal of 80 to 90 percent occupancy of the curbside parking spaces on certain streets, achieved through market pricing;
  • Dedicates a portion of meter revenues to upgrading pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities; and
  • Calls for a web site to detail the scope and rules of the pilot zone, and annual reports that evaluate the performance of the pilot, plus recommendations about city-wide changes to parking policy.

Rob Goodspeed did an analysis of DC’s existing parking requirements and concluded that the rules are indeed inconsistent and excessive. Rob’s post also included a Nelson/Nygaard presentation about reforming DC’s parking policy.

UPDATE: Rob Goodspeed discussed the fairness of market-rate meters in Are Expensive Parking Meters Fair? He made several excellent points:

  • Thirty-seven percent of D.C. residents do not own cars; that includes much of the poorest demographic. When market-rate parking meter revenues are directed to pedestrian and transit improvements, this group can only benefit.
  • When parking is scarce, conventional meters reward those with the time and flexibility to search for parking.
  • Drivers’ willingness to pay more for parking in choice spots is not based on income alone. Factors like convenience, being in a hurry, and number of passengers are at least as important, if not more so.
  • The follow-on effects of market-rate parking meters — reduced congestion and pollution, improved transit service, increased potential for revitalization — benefit the community as a whole. Standard meters fail to provide those benefits. In other words, real costs are getting passed on to everyone. Cheap meters are actually not so cheap.