The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


H Street getting performance parking in March

Parking on H Street NE will continue costing 75¢ per hour from 7 am to 6:30 pm but increase to $2 per hour until 10 pm, under a performance parking program DDOT plans to launch in March.

Photo by Agent Relaxed on Flickr.

Damon Harvey, DDOT's parking operations manager, and Councilmember Tommy Wells are co-hosting a meeting tonight to discuss the plan. It's 6:30-8 pm at Sherwood Rec Center, 640 10th Street, NE.

According DDOT's report, drivers will be allowed to park during the day for up to 2 hours, but there will be no time limit after 6:30. In addition, as at other performance parking zones, new restrictions will limit one side of surrounding streets, from G to I Street, 3rd to 15th, to drivers with Zone 6 parking stickers only.

Adjust rates regularly

The most important element of making any performance parking zone succeed is actually adjusting the meter rates up or down depending on demand. It took some time for DDOT to get data on occupancy rates in the existing performance parking zones, but even then, they didn't adjust meter rates very quickly or very often.

Performance parking depends on actual market-rate meter rates to succeed. It's not just a strategy to charge more money, but gives drivers a promise in return: You'll be able to find a space, even if it's more expensive.

DDOT Director Terry Bellamy argued at last year's oversight hearing that the ballpark district isn't the best place to try performance parking. Demand fluctuates so greatly around the baseball schedule. In Columbia Heights, Harvey argued against making any changes until streetscape construction concluded.

On H Street, the streetscape is done and demand is less dependent on specific events, so this is a good opportunity for DDOT to demonstrate that it can, and will, actually make a performance parking zone work by truly adjusting meter rates to match demand.

Charge for non-resident parking on neighborhood streets

DDOT can make the pilot work even better with one more simple change: Let people park on the neighborhood streets, but charge non-residents for the privilege.

A major objective of performance parking is to reduce circling. Just park at the meter for a few bucks instead of driving around looking for free spaces. But as long as one side of every street remains free for visitors to park, and both sides of streets more than a block away from H Street, many people will still try to find a spot in the neighborhood.

Now that DDOT has very successful pay-by-phone technology, they can easily put up signs on residential streets saying, "Drivers without Zone 6 stickers must pay with ParkMobile." Set a rate on the side streets that, like on H itself, ensures that every single space doesn't fill up.

With this, DDOT can apply such a restriction to both sides of the street, not just one. Residents will enjoy a high likelihood of finding spaces near their homes, and the neighborhood can raise extra revenue to pay for more improvements like more Capital Bikeshare stations, trash compactors, or maybe real-time screens.

Who's a resident?

Restricting parking on one side of each street to "residents" further exacerbates the silly effects of the current, large parking zones. A resident who lives 2½ miles away in Southwest Waterfront or Shaw will be able to park on residential blocks of H Street for free, while a resident of southeast Trinidad might be prohibited from parking 2 blocks from home.

Georgetown currently restricts parking to Zone 2 residents only on certain blocks for the O and P Street reconstruction. That made it really easy for me to park there one day I drove to Georgetown, but giving Dupont or Logan residents special privileges is not the point. If a policy is supposed to help residents park near their homes, then it should only apply to actual residents of the area.

It's long past time to set up zones that match actual neighborhoods, rather than the arbitrary and too-large ward boundaries. The Mayor's Parking Taskforce (that's Mayor Williams) recommended doing this 8 years ago (section 4.4.1).

An H street performance parking zone presents a great opportunity for DDOT, to demonstrate that it can capably manage a performance parking zone and achieve the policy objectives of ensuring some availability and reducing circling. Its stewardship of the other two zones has disappointed, but this zone lacks many of the obstacles of previous zones.

Given DDOT's reluctance in recent years to actually follow through on implementing its performance parking policies, it would be helpful for area residents and supporters of performance parking to attend the meeting tonight. It's at Sherwood Recreation Center, 640 10th Street, NE, from 6:30-8 pm.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


Add a comment »

Whats the logic of treating residents differently? In places like Dupont, it gives rich folks special rights to public property. And those folks are the ones for whom it is easiest not to have a car.

Wouldn't it be more efficient to just charge everyone the same.

by MW on Feb 16, 2012 3:47 pm • linkreport

Free parking for the 1%.
Everyone else must pay.

by MW on Feb 16, 2012 3:50 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure how well this will go for H Street. There aren't many private garages near H Street's main commercial stretch, from around 8th NE down to Maryland Ave. Parkopedia shows the closest one at 2nd ST NE, and I can't recall seeing anything closer. I usually drive out there to visit friends or go out for dinner because I find the buses that head that way pretty unreliable at later hours.

Maybe someone who knows more about performance parking can correct my head-scratching, but until the streetcar is actually running to provide an additional transit option to H, will the lack of available alternative parking make circling even worse? My completely anecdotal impression is that driving is very much the preferred mode for prime-time visitors in search of dinner, drinks, concerts, etc.

If the goal is to shift more H Street patrons to transit, cool, but I think that plan needs a little more transit to really work.

by worthing on Feb 16, 2012 4:15 pm • linkreport

Yay! Finally another person recommends smaller RPP zones! The current system is ridiculous.

I had no idea that this was actually recommended back in the Williams administration. Why no movement?

by chris on Feb 16, 2012 4:20 pm • linkreport

In Ward 4, the residential parking permit zones are smaller, and match the ANC zones. I don't know how or why such a system was set up. I presume it has to do with concerns about people driving to areas near subway stations and parking all day on the residential streets. Not all blocks are zoned for RPP though.

by Richard Layman on Feb 16, 2012 4:37 pm • linkreport

Richard: Are you sure that's the RPP zones and not the visitor parking pass zones? I think DDOT has been working on or did implement visitor passes for smaller zones, but I was under the impression that every ward had ward-wide RPP zones.

by David Alpert on Feb 16, 2012 4:39 pm • linkreport

I can't make this meeting tonight, but someone needs to bring up the ACRES of parking at Hechinger Mall. If the city feels the need to find spaces for people who absolutely must drive to H Street, the space there could be rented out and better utilized. It's rarely even 1/3 full.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Feb 16, 2012 5:22 pm • linkreport

Is it NO parking if you don't have a zone 6 sticker, or 2 hours?

by charlie on Feb 16, 2012 5:39 pm • linkreport

charlie: For people without Zone 6 stickers, one side of the street will be no parking at all, anytime. The other side will be 2 hours until the evening, I think, though they could extend the hour limit later. I'll ask.

by David Alpert on Feb 16, 2012 5:46 pm • linkreport

Where is the appropriate venue to request that an RPP system be established around NY Ave Metro? ANC6 meeting?

During work days, commuters from the other end of Zone 6 park in my 'hood and walk to the metro.

There are more cars parked on the street during the day than at night. New apartment buildings are only exacerbating the problem

by NY Ave Metro Parking on Feb 16, 2012 5:52 pm • linkreport

@dalpert; not a worry; just a little unclear from the write up. The only reason I found it interesting is clearly a no time limit PP is designed for people going to dinner. But it does go against the idea of PP -- turnover.

by charlie on Feb 16, 2012 6:01 pm • linkreport

@worthing, @Geoffrey Hatchard: I agree 100% with your comments. While raising prices to performance levels on the meters makes very good sense, restricting a large number of the parking spaces in the H Street area to 2 hours or less, without a plan to make longer-stay pay lots available, will make H Street significantly less attractive as a destination, certainly until the streetcar is in place.
This is particularly true for arts events at the Playhouse and Atlas, where in much of our weather, I don't want to arrive by bike. An effort to make the Hechinger Mall lot available would certainly help.

by Arl Fan on Feb 16, 2012 6:07 pm • linkreport

There's something wrong with a city requiring citizens to hire a certain business if they want to park on a certain street. Parkmobile gets a valuable piece of the social data mine, knowing where you go and for how long. Parkmobile does not owe you any due process. And Parkmobile charges you a surcharge for these privileges. There is nothing especially evil about Parkmobile - business is business - but there is something evil about DC's government giving people no choice but to sign whatever terms & conditions Parkmobile puts in front of them.

by Turnip on Feb 16, 2012 8:53 pm • linkreport


Using Parkmobile is completely voluntary. You can use a credit card, a debit card, or cash to feed one of the green kiosks. You might just as well complain about the city "forcing" you to pay a private company for valet parking. Totally voluntary. Those who wish to carry giant sacks of quarters around with them can knock themselves out.

by oboe on Feb 16, 2012 11:30 pm • linkreport

Using Parkmobile is completely voluntary.

Not according to the suggestion in the article:

Now that DDOT has very successful pay-by-phone technology, they can easily put up signs on residential streets saying, "Drivers without Zone 6 stickers must pay with ParkMobile."

by Falls Church on Feb 17, 2012 12:42 am • linkreport

H Street is not just a nighttime destination, it's a place where people live. And those people should not be forced to troll their own neighborhood to find a parking spot on a busy bar night. I think the restrictions are a good idea.

by jessica on Feb 17, 2012 8:06 am • linkreport

@Falls Church,

True, and we could argue about the various issues that brings up.

Of course, local governments outsource many, many roles to private industry (that's just where we are today). It's just that in the case of, say, traffic photo enforcement the premium charged by the contractor isn't made explicit as in the case of Parkmobile. You can't "choose" your parking fee collector, but neither can you choose your photo enforcement company.

The simple answer to this is to allow parkers to walk to one of the many green kiosks on H Street, get a receipt, and put it in their windshield.

by oboe on Feb 17, 2012 10:30 am • linkreport

Back in 2003, the Parking Task Force (I was a participant) came up with a considerable number of recommendations for parking reform. Nothing happened. Complete waste of time and effort.

One recommendation was that the RPP zones should correspond to ANCs, not to wards, and that RPP zoning would be throughout the ANC (or not), not block by block. The District Council has been unwilling to touch this issue. CM Graham is actually making an effort, here in Ward One, but DDOT is doing its best to nullify his effort. As far as DDOT is concerned, if you don't live on an RPP-zoned block, then you're not a resident, you don't get residential parking privileges, you don't get visitor passes. You are, as the Task Force reported eight years ago, "treated in the same way as a visitor or commuter".

by Jack on Feb 17, 2012 10:55 am • linkreport

@Jessica - I generally agree with you: H Street is definitely a neighborhood first. Yet much of its development into one has been fueled by "nightlife" stuff, a pretty broad category that can include bars, one of the better concert venues in the city, and standout, best-of-class restaurants (Toki, Granville Moores, etc.). Many of them pull an out-of-neighborhood crowd, and that drives a lot of the neighborhood's success and growth. I'm only worried about the effect of an absolute reduction in parking capacity to stifle the accessibility and growth of one of the more creative/ambitious stretches of DC.

If the X2 starts running 50% more frequently, that could pick up some of the slack. If the streetcar winks into existence or the Hechinger Mall parking becomes available, another good adaptation. But if everything else stays status quo, area residents heading to Granville might choose metro-anchored Brasserie Beck for their mussels/Belgian beer needs, simply because they know they can get there and back without a challenge.

by worthing on Feb 17, 2012 2:38 pm • linkreport

Ah, so the variable demand at the *ballpark* is why DDOT hasn't done anything with the consistently high occupancy on Barracks Row. I got it.
DDOT should take a look at what San Francisco did. They raised time limits to four hours or no time limit, and kept the same revenues. They wrote far fewer tickets, collecting more revenue directly from the meters. I bet that in general people would rather just pay the meter than deal with getting a ticket.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 17, 2012 2:46 pm • linkreport

It'd be really nice if there were some kind of alternative to getting up and down H street without a car. Maybe some kind of electric road-going train or something. Nah... nevermind that'd just be crazy.

by Doug on Feb 19, 2012 12:15 am • linkreport

I am ignorant of such matters as I don't get out much, but here goes: What difference will this make when a driver can park a block away, in the neighborhood? I have never seen any parking enforcement on I or G St after the middle of the afternoon.
This entire idea depends on enforcement. I wonder, nay doubt, that there will be any.

by goldfish on Feb 19, 2012 12:25 am • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us