Performance Parking in DC

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. 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.

3 responses to “Performance Parking in DC

  1. Michael Pereckas

    “encouraging parking turnover”

    I’m not sure what sort of turnover is in mind here. One would think the last thing you’d want to do is force someone to pointlessly drive a few blocks to a “fresh” parking space because they’re in the city for a few hours but are only allowed to park in one place for 1 or 2. The last thing I’d want to do is park more than once. The rest should all be walking.

  2. Laurence Aurbach Post author

    Keep in mind that’s a statement by an independent blogger and resident of the baseball district. It may not necessarily represent the DC policy.

    In general, for most streets and conditions, I agree with you. There’s one situation that needs careful treatment in this regard, and that is on-street parking in front of shops. You want people to be able to use on-street parking as part of a “park-once” strategy, where they can leave their car in one place for several hours while they walk to various destinations in the neighborhood.

    On the other hand, those parking spots in front of shops are valuable real estate. I’ve seen estimates that each one represents $2-3,000 in extra income for the store it’s in front of. At the least, store owners want to discourage commuters and employees from parking all day in those spots.

    So maybe instead of “encouraging turnover,” a better way of describing the goal would be “discouraging all-day parking.” In Redwood City, that’s done by pricing parking in front of shops at the highest rate, and providing lower-cost alternatives elsewhere (and on other modes). In Redwood City, there is no time limit on parking spaces.

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