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When you look at the comments overall, the dominant issue is enforcement of rules. I guess I took it for granted that enforcement was needed, but the question remains, what comes after getting enforcement up to par? What next?

Kate W. replied my earlier post: "I will also say that if churches can't attract any members in the area and can't manage their parking, then they should consider moving to where they can meet the needs of their members. I see no reason for the District to prop them up."

@Kate W. Who knows if the churches are attracting members in "the area" or not? What is "the area", anyway? Who get's to define that? Residents who park near churches? I think, based on my experience, no church relies on people within "the area" if that means walking distance. My mother used to drive me to the church where she went as a child, passing two or three on the way. I think it's not hard for churchgoers or former churchgoers to understand why that is. I do think you make an unrealistic assumption about the nature of church when you ask the church to limit itself to people nearby. Cars and highways have enabled individual church communities to span the region, and if these churches moved, no matter where they move to, almost none of these churches could survive by appealing only to people in "their neighborhood". I honestly believe you are actually asking a number of them to permanently shut their doors or permanently change their community when you ask them to move. I just don't think it's fair to ask churches to pay that price just so residents can have easier access to free parking. I wholeheartedly endorse enforcement.

You make a good point that churches should find ways to take care of their parking needs. I agree. But I do think the argument that this is a problem that the churches have to fix on their own falsely rests on a presumption that city residents automatically get free use of city parking spaces, and I do take issue with that too. There has to be a balance between these users, both of which are using something without paying for it.

As to giving churches special treatment, I was just trying to say that there are some ways that the particular pattern of parking generation created by churches does differentiate them from the broad category of parking generators. This doesn't mean that churches are more deserving of help than other entities, as you pointed out. Rather, I am saying that these differences may simply mean that making accommodations for churches isn't necessarily unconstitutional on the grounds of favoring a religious activity or favoring a particular category of religious entity, depending on how those accommodations are done. I say so because the parking generation from churches is different than parking generation from other land uses.

And, while I am not a churchgoer, I do not like the way that some people have acted as churchgoers should be treated as parking pariahs - nobody is paying for parking on RPP streets on Sundays - not even residents with RPP permits. Let me explain that, since some people have objected to the notion that parking on RPP streets is free. First, there are no RPP regulations of parking on Sundays, so if you are paying for the right to park on RPP blocks you are not paying for the right to park there on Sundays. Secondly, even if RPP applied to Sunday, the two hour exemption would be in effect, making RPP moot for most churchgoers. So, I think this issue can be mostly resolved by actual enforcement of parking rules, but I disagree with the idea that the city should rewrite RPP rules to single out church goers and exclude them from an otherwise liberal approach to giving away parking.
Thirdly, the DC website used to make it clear that RPP permits do not constitute paying for parking. Perhaps it still does. I have not checked recently. I recall reading the DC website on RPP rules many years ago when I first moved to the District. The website said that RPP does not apply to all blocks. Only residents in RPP blocks pay the annual RPP fee.
The website explained that if enough residents on a block joined a petition asking for RPP on their block, than the RPP program might be implemented on their block by posting signs. In order to pay for the cost of implementing the RPP program in a particular block, the city charged each resident on that block a mandatory $15.00 RPP fee which was bundled into their car registration fees automatically. That resident's registration decal made reference to their RPP status and zone. The actual parking is free. You paid for participation in the RPP program of your block, but you still park for free.

There is a huge difference between paying for the implementation of the program in your area and paying for the right to park. Further, even if your miserly $15.00 annual payment (I assume they never increased the cost of this, but I don't pay attention anymore) was "paying for parking" on city streets, that permit doesn't apply to Sundays. So, I don't agree with the idea that RPP permit holders have paid for the right to park on their block. Not at all. That's free parking!!

Paying for the right to park is different. For one thing, paying for the right to park (buying parking time) should be paying for a right that is exclusive in consumption (e.g. a first-come, first-served meter space is exclusive in consumption as only one car consumes it at a time). The city can issue more RPP permits than can be supported by the existing stock of available on-street parking spaces but you can't ask for your money back if there is no place to park in your zone. Therefore, you didn't pay for the right to park there and you aren't guaranteed to be able to find a space. You're on your own to find parking, but non-residents are excluded from long-term parking in your area, and you pay for the right to exclude them.

If that's not enough proof, recall that residents of blocks that don't have the RPP protection get a different registration decal indicating they are not RPP participants in their zone. They still have a zone number. Cars with non-RPP decals cannot park in RPP areas within their own zone. So, they aren't paying to support the program and can't receive it's benefits. But they are still able to park in non-RPP areas for free.

On the flip side, residents living downtown, where all parking is metered, don't get any free parking. The city has decided to charge for parking in business districts and regulate (but not charge for) parking in residential neighborhoods where non-residents have an incentive to park long-term. RPP fees means paying for regulation, not paying for parking.

I don't know why the city couldn't pay for implementing the RPP program with parking fines (nor do I think the city ever tried to explain that part on the website). I just go by what I recall was on the city's website.

However, regardless, some neighborhoods have extremely valuable parking and letting people use that parking for free (or for $15.00 for those who have their own interpretation) is still a big give-away. I am not asking the city to make the jump to market rates for all city owned parking because that would be hard for many lower income residents to afford. (Too bad, though, since you could partially offset the regressive impact of market pricing by reducing the rates on lower marginal brackets, boosting the individual exemption, or creating a parking tax credit, and use the remaining revenue gains for socially constructive purposes. That's where we should be.)

So, when non-paying users disagree on use of the resource, I think that we still have to treat free parking as that - something people are getting for free and which they are not necessarily entitled to.

Secondly, I do think residents could be asked to pay a little more for their RPP permits. All residents are required by law to pay into the city's tax base according to the terms of the tax code. Even a portion of tenants' rents goes to property taxes. Yet the parking spaces are allocated principally to those with cars. This seems to make the tax code less progressive in my view. It is frustrating to me that the benefit of on street parking is so valuable and the RPP costs are so cheap in areas where private parking costs are so high. The downside of charging more is that it is hard to change the rules without imposing harm on middle and low income households. If someone is paying upwards of 20k for a private space near their condo in a trendy neighborhood, the on-street spaces in that area are certainly worth a hefty sum. So, I see a social equity problem in the current system, but resolving that social equity problem over the short term imposes costs for many who aren't rich, which makes me reluctant... Further, free on-street parking may add to high housing prices. If residents had to pay market prices for parking, perhaps that would depress demand, with rents following. Secondly, perhaps paying out of pocket for parking would reduce income available for bidding on pricy rental units, and landlords might be forced to accept lower rents as incoming tentants adjust their budgets to reflect the reality of paying a market price to park their car on the street. Frankly, tenants should be chomping at the bit for the advantage market pricing gives them in the rental market ... but who am I to tell people how to make public policy?

Re. adjusting parking alignment Sunday mornings: I recall the friction caused by street cleaning requirements in Astoria, Queens. You couldn't find a space Wednesday nights because Thursday mornings were street sweeping for on-street spaces on one side of all of the streets in the neighborhood. Half the parking disappeared for several hours on two different mornings. Starting Thursday afternoon you tried parking in the Thursday morning street cleaning spaces just so that you didn't have to move your car again while they cleaned the other side of the street. (I don't recall what day the other side of the street was cleaned). You would move your car several days in advance of street cleaning to avoid having to drive around for as much as 30-40 minutes waiting for someone to vacate a parking space in the left side on Wednesday night before street sweeping was to occur. Even if you were on your way someplace else (and catching a train), if you saw a good parking space open, you'd often try to move your car to that space while the opportunity was there. So, changing the parking pattern can itself create new temporary parking shortages that are a huge problem - hence I use the term "friction" to describe these problems. But I just use this notion of changing parking configuration as an example of three alternative approaches to David's and to illustrate the type of accommodation that I think is possible. None of those alternatives are very attractive, in my opinion (except for changes in parking configuration that would be relatively frictionless and would lead to increases in public parking supply in areas where low Sunday morning traffic volumes could accommodate such changes).

I still think the important points are: 1) some adjustment does not seem automatically unconstitutional to me on religion-state grounds. Not remotely. Would it be special interest politics? That depends.
2) It seems unfair for residents to insist they get something for free but ask churches to give up access to any free parking at all. There needs to be a compromise.
3) I honestly believe the existential issue for churches is quite real, given the type of connection churchgoers have to their church.

While I like the fact that David's "voucher" concept limits free church parking and gives churchgoers an incentive to find alternatives by forcing someone (the churchgoer or the church, but either way the churchgoers) to pay if exceeding their "allocation" (kind of like a parking "cap and tax" proposal), I think this may reinforce the false perception that residents are "paying for" or are "entitled to" on street parking.

If you believe in parking reform and market pricing, this issue is about avoiding policy that seems to reinforce the false belief that parking should be free to residents and that residents pay for parking through RPP. A voucher program recommended by David, one that continues to exempt residents from paying for parking, reinforces the false perception of a parking entitlement, which is a step in the wrong direction. Just slowly ramp up enforcement to full enforcement and simultaneously try to help churches find alternative areas for churchgoers to park.

by CrazyHorse on Dec 5, 2012 6:29 pm • linkreport

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