Greater Greater Washington

Better parking for Logan Circle or bonanza for Kalorama?

Jack Evans has proposed a new parking restriction to limit parking in Logan Circle to residents. That could be a worthwhile policy, but will it help residents of Logan Circle find parking, or just give special privileges to residents of Georgetown and Kalorama? It depends on the details.


Resident-only parking sign in SW. Image from Google Street View.

In the performance parking zones in Columbia Heights, Capitol Hill, the ballpark area, and soon H Street, only residents (and their guests) can park on one side of each block. This has been a successful element of performance parking zones that coupled the restrictions with market-rate meters.

In 2010, Jim Graham decided to offer neighbor­hoods in his ward the option to similarly restrict parking, but without a corresponding market-rate pricing component. The DC Council passed his bill, and now individual ANCs are deciding whether to opt in or not. Mount Pleasant's ANC 1D has decided not to join, in order to assist businesses in the neighborhood.

Now, Jack Evans seems to have jumped on the bandwagon. According to ANC commissioner Nick Barron,

Evans is proposing a pilot program for at least part of ANC 2F that would make one side of a street for Residential Parking Permit (RPP) holders only for at least six days a week. The opposite side of the street would remain unchanged, with two-hour time limits except for RPP holders. I believe street sweeping rules will stay in effect.

Logan residents who would want to exempt their street from the pilot program would have an opportunity to do so, provided they supply a petition signed by a majority of residents on that block stating they do not want their block participating in the program. There would likely be a time limit on when such a petition needs to be provided.

If the program is successful in ANC 2F, it could be rolled out District wide.

This program could be a fine approach, though I'd prefer it to come as part of a performance parking package. Either way, though, to make it succeed requires one key element: Making sure it actually applies to Logan Circle residents and not, say, residents of Georgetown or Kalorama.

Currently, all DC residential parking permits apply for an entire zone, which almost always corresponds with ward borders. There's no good reason for the zones to be so large; many other cities have smaller zones, and ward boundaries are fairly arbitrary, given that they need to move every 10 years to reflect changing populations even though the boundaries of communities don't shift.

Logan Circle is (now) at one edge of Ward 2. If this program also applies to all of Ward 2, it will amount to a major parking giveaway to people in Georgetown, Kalorama, Dupont and Foggy Bottom, at the expense of drivers living north of U Street (which is in Ward 1), Columbia Heights (also 1), Shaw (which is now in Ward 6), Mount Vernon Triangle (also 6), Bloomingdale and Truxton Circle (5), and other neighborhoods which are closer to Logan Circle than Georgetown and Kalorama.

In fact, Georgetown and Kalorama residents can already drive to Logan Circle and park near the Green Line all day with their Ward 2 stickers. This policy could exacerbate the practice as well.


Proposed post-redistricting ANCs for Ward 2. Image from the DC Office of Planning.

The stated purpose of the RPP system is to help residents park relatively near their homes, not to give residents of certain neighborhoods special priority to park near a special set of other neighborhoods. If this program is to actually advance such a goal, it must apply to a smaller zone.

The new ANC 2F could form an appropriate such zone. Give new "Zone 2, subzone F" RPP stickers to drivers living in the 2F boundaries. Limit the one side of each street to those holding these stickers. To avoid hurting people who live right next to the boundary, DC could also give the permits to anyone living, say, within 500 feet of the zone boundary.

This policy may also reserve spaces for residents so well that the spaces aren't filling up on all blocks. In that case, as I suggested for H Street, the legislation should let DDOT offer the extra space to non-residents for a fee, and dedicate some of the money to local improvements that help local businesses.

That's cheap and easy to do with the new pay-by-phone systems. All DDOT would have to do is put up signs that say, "Reserved for holders of 2F permits; others pay by calling 800-xxx-xxxx or at parkmobile.com." The rates for this space should be high enough that it doesn't just fill up the blocks and make space too scarce for residents once again.

Finally, why 6 days a week? Presumably this excludes Sundays. But Sunday is one of the days parking is in demand in Logan Circle. Given all the churches, it's actually the day of most demand, but there's also demand to park for the restaurants and shops as well. If the policy is going into effect, it should apply all the time, as the similar restrictions in other neighborhoods do.

ANC 2F is hearing about Evans' plan at its meeting tonight, which starts at 7 pm at the Washington Plaza Hotel on Thomas Circle.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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. . . and by "Market Rate" you mean in theory since DDOT is reluctant to actually adjust the meters in some cases due to political concerns.

by Michael Perkins on Mar 7, 2012 2:24 pm • linkreport

Good luck getting permits for people along the edge.

I live in Ward 1, in an area where every block except mine (for something like a five-block radius) is RPP parking. But I can't get an RPP because I live on that specific block. So everyone from out of the neighborhood parks on my block, and yet I can't park on the adjacent blocks. Fortunately, I have an offstreet parking spot, but if I didn't, I'd be in a special kind of parking hell.

by dal20402 on Mar 7, 2012 2:49 pm • linkreport

dal20402: The policy that people who live on non-RPP blocks can't get RPP stickers is pretty ridiculous and I wish DDOT would change it.

It basically seems to assume that the purpose of each RPP block is to let the people on that exact block park there. If you don't have RPP on your block, you don't need a sticker to park on your block, ergo you don't need a sticker.

It's nonsensical. This isn't the sort of policy which should be decided block by block. Likewise, DDOT has a rule that if you want to extend RPP hours, you have to do a petition for your own block. But again, it's silly to have a patchwork of hours for individual blocks.

We need to decide these policies at the neighborhood level. Conveniently, we have elected neighborhood councils which can do just that.

One thing I can say for Graham's one side of the street legislation is at least it didn't specify that individual blocks choose to participate or not, but rather that ANCs do.

by David Alpert on Mar 7, 2012 2:58 pm • linkreport

"In the performance parking zones in Columbia Heights, Capitol Hill, the ballpark area, and soon H Street, only residents (and their guests) can park on one side of each block. This has been a successful element of performance parking zones that coupled the restrictions with market-rate meters."

I live by the ballpark and I don't know if I would categorize it as "successful." Trying to get them to enforce parking restrictions is like pulling teeth. Explaining to illegal parkers that they are illegally parked only results in getting screamed at. When certain teams are in town, I know that I will not be able to find parking, despite the restrictions, anywhere close to my home because of all the cars with MD, VA, and PA plates that have illegally parked. This is exceptionally frustrating because there is not a lack of parking lots of these people to use--they're just being cheap and don't want to pay.

The same holds true for the local churches. Their congregants, as everyone throughout the city well knows, almost universally have zero respect for parking restrictions (or fire hydrants or drive ways or anything else). Calling and asking for parking enforcement on a Sunday morning will only get you laughed out.

It is all a very nice idea in theory, and I support restricting parking for residents and their guests in these high-demand zones. But if often fails in reality because DC lacks the will to engage in meaningful parking enforcement.

by Birdie on Mar 7, 2012 3:02 pm • linkreport

With some technology this does not strike me as a difficult problem to solve.

Why not just use some sort of GPS enabled ticketing tool and ticket people who are parked more than say one quarter of a mile from their home?

Link the RPP to the license plate and give parking enforcement some sort of scanner (I think they may already have them) that reads license plates and tells them if the car is within the quarter mile of home or not.

This allows folks who live in neighborhoods with scarce parking some discretion to park on adjacent streets but it needs to be a short enough distance that people won't drive for trips they could otherwise walk.

And then based on the context (traffic, parking availability, possibly the proximity to Metro and the need for on street parking for local businesses) each neighborhood could decide what to do with the resulting excess spaces.

Trying to use Ward or ANC boundaries is just silly and potentially contentious.

This does not strike me as a difficult problem to solve and without the boundaries everyone gets treated equally so politically it should be a lot easier to take on.

by TomQ on Mar 7, 2012 4:10 pm • linkreport

Actuaaly, isn't that the point of rpp? Park on your block nearest your home?

Are gtown residents crowding out parking in Logan circle?

by Charlie on Mar 7, 2012 4:13 pm • linkreport

Why should residents get to park for free on public streets? Have they somehow been rendered incapable of paying the full cost of parking for their vehicles?

by Gray on Mar 7, 2012 7:48 pm • linkreport

The RPP zones should be no larger than ANC areas, and perhaps even smaller. In Ward 3, RPP holders are able to drive some distance and park all day for free in blocks close to Metro. This means there's no turnover on those blocks and residents who live on those blocks often can't find parking during the day -- the extra large zones kind of defeat the purpose of an RPP program.

by Axel on Mar 8, 2012 9:16 am • linkreport

Way back in 2003, the Parking Task Force observed that limiting RPP permits to residents of RPP-zoned blocks was bad policy, "one of the major flaws in the system. . . . If one lives in the area with the generally restrictive parking conditions, but does not live on an RPP block, one cannot get a parking sticker and is effectively treated in the same way as a visitor or commuter." But good luck on getting the Council to change that policy.

Re Mount Pleasant's opting out of this residents-only system, not only was this going to be trouble for our neighborhood businesses, but the 50%-setaside was going to afflict blocks far from the commercial strip. This would be a completely gratuitous complication. And what does one do if only one side of a street has parking? Which half gets to be resident-only, which retains the two-hour visitor allowance?

This program promises to be a massive ticket trap for unwary visitors to a neighborhood. How many people from outside the area will realize that one side of the street has one parking rule, the other side, a different rule? This is already nabbing people parking in Columbia Heights, unaware that "Zone 1 only" means no two-hour allowance for nonresidents.

by Jack on Mar 8, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

As much Mr Evans' proposed parking changes are a small step in the right direction - just making resident only parking on one side of the street will make little difference to us here in the Logan Circle/14th St area. The issue for us is not just people from the burbs coming in to play - it's much bigger than that. The issue we face is a plethora of new developments adding to the parking burden because they aren't required to provide underground parking. Until parking requirements for new development approvals are tightened this situation will only get worse. And when I say "new developments" I include conversions of existing buildings.

I've number crunched the impact of three new developments in and around my block (1400 bock of R Street). These are the two on the corner of 14th & R and the new one where AYT repair shop is currently located. I haven't included the proposed City Union Mission because they're still silent about the number of units in that development. The guys in the AYT condo won't have resident only unlimited street parking availability at all as they've 14th St at the front and an alley at the rear of their building.

So for my block the number of cars potentially being added to our parking situation is, using one car per unit: 32 at the Aston (18 parking spots included in the development), and 36 at Northern Exchange = 50 cars). Add to this say 30 cars for the AYT condo building and you get potentially 80 new cars daily competing for the 10 spots which are located outside of the two new condos. That's pretty dire! So "one-side of the street" unlimited parking will not make one bit of difference to us.

by @nodecomms on Mar 9, 2012 11:00 am • linkreport

The fundamental problem is increased car ownership, in a city that was not designed for car ownership at all, much less one or more cars per household. Gimmicks like this 50%-setaside for residents only don't address that fundamental issue. In our neighborhood (Mount Pleasant), the parking crunch comes in the evening, when thousands of residents bring their commuter cars home from work, and way too many of them have to park on the street.

In the famous words of Pogo: "we have met the enemy, and it is us."

by Jack on Mar 9, 2012 12:13 pm • linkreport

The entire RPP system needs to be blown up and begun again from scratch.

The zones should be much smaller, the prices should be much higher, and more of the block faces should be metered (perhaps with exemptions for RPP cars to not pay those meters).

by Alex B. on Mar 9, 2012 12:38 pm • linkreport

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