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How to fix parking: Price it right, and don't play favorites

Parking has been called third rail of local politics, and for good reason. At a panel Wednesday on "Getting Parking Right," Nelson\Nygaard transportation planner Jeff Tumlin put it this way: "People hate the existing system, but they'll also hate any changes you make to the rules. No matter what you do, people are going to be very upset with you."

Photo by Wayan Vota on Flickr.

Sam Zimbabwe, planning director for the District Department of Transportation, was also on the panel. From the look on his face, he knows that has his work cut out for him as the agency tries to bring some measure of rationality to the city's tangle of parking regulations.

We all want to be able to park wherever we want, for as long as we want, and we want it to be free. But we might as well wish for a world of free and infinitely available ice cream. We can't have it, and we give up a lot by trying to get there.

Parking management is pro-driver

The parking problem is one of economics (real estate in the city is valuable and scarce) and geometry (cars take up a lot of space). It is not, Tumlin emphasized, a question of ideology. It's not wrong to own a car, not wrong to drive, and it's not wrong to want to park conveniently. But like all good things in life, convenient parking comes at a cost.

What we all want most of all is availability: We want parking to be there exactly where we need it and exactly when we need it.

The best way to get there, he said, is by pricing parking accurately. The "correct" price for parking in any given place is one that keeps a couple of spots per block open. In practice, that means around 85% of the capacity is used—not less, not more. A world with 85% utilization of parking is a world of parking karma for everyone. You can always park where you need to. It's every driver's dream come true—if, that is, you're willing to pay for that spot's true value.

Small pricing differences make a big difference

Does this mean that parking is just a luxury for the rich? Well, no.

One of the most interesting findings of San Francisco's experiments with parking pricing, according to Tumlin, is that demand is extremely sensitive to location. Right on a main drag like Valencia Street, parking might cost $4.50 an hour. Just around the corner on a side street, it might cost $2.50. Just another block away, garage parking might be available for $1.00. As in every other facet of life, you can choose to save money by giving up a little convenience.

Much of DC's policy discussion on parking management focuses on "transit zones" vs. everywhere else. But there are a lot of things that affect demand for parking. The availability of transit nearby is one, but it's just one of many. How dense is the neighborhood? Are there theaters, restaurants, or other attractions? Are there offices nearby? Just as in San Francisco, demand changes dramatically from block to block, and it's hard to say exactly where the demand is without measuring it empirically.

Thus far, data collection on DC's parking pilots has been thin. There has been a very long lag between collecting any data and adjustments to meter rates, and the data DDOT collects is not very fine-grained.

If and when DDOT collects more and more data on driving and parking patterns, we'll start to have a better understanding of the microgeography of parking demand. Hopefully this bring us closer to pricing that reflects observed real-world demand, instead of crude lines drawn on a map by politicians.

Payment mechanisms make a big difference

Much metered parking throughout the country still uses 1947 technology: You pay by feeding quarters into a metal contraption. Out of quarters? You're out of luck.

There's much better technology available today, and in this area DC has been out in front. According to Zimbabwe, 42% of DC parking transactions are paid by phone or using the Parkmobile app.

The friction of having inconvenient payment mechanisms—whether it's machines that only take quarters, or single-block machines that you have to walk five minutes to get to—is more of an issue for people than cost. If you can make payment seamless, then people don't care quite as much about the actual cost, and you have less resistance to increased rates.

My experience with the Parkmobile app has been that it's like magic: You tell the app you're parking, it already knows where you are, and has your credit card and license plate on file, so there's nothing more to do.

Ultimately, license-plate recognition coupled with smartphone apps will eliminate all of the friction of payment. Tumlin suggested you could even agree to have the city just automatically send you a parking bill at the end of each month based on how long you've parked and where.

Decriminalize parking now!

Another fascinating finding from San Francisco's performance parking program is this: When you start charging the right price for parking, meter revenue goes up ... and revenue from parking citations goes down by almost the same amount.

And when you think about it, that's exactly how it should be. Sometimes you don't have enough quarters on you, or you underestimate how long you'll need to park, and can't get back to the meter. That shouldn't make you a lawbreaker. In some neighborhoods, Tumlin pointed out, driving to dinner and movie is a criminal act, because there's no provision at all for out-of-zone parking for more than two hours.

In fact, the whole two-hour exception doesn't make any sense at all. If you're parking for an hour, you should pay for an hour. And if you need to park for three hours or eight hours, you should be allowed to pay for it.

Keep it simple, and don't play favorites

DC currently has a lot of parking programs. There's ordinary metered parking in commercial areas. There's a residential parking permit program and a pilot visitor parking pass program. There are pilot performance parking programs in a handful of neighborhoods.

Recent legislation looked at how to provide for contractor parking. City leaders are working with churches to resolve conflicts over church parking on Sundays. There have been proposals for special teacher parking and firefighter parking.

DDOT recently unveiled a Parking Action Agenda (PDF) that vows to review all of these different programs and propose reforms. We can start by no longer treating all these different categories as exceptional.

As Tumlin forcefully argued, it's not the government's business why you want to park. Are you shopping? Babysitting? Going to church? Commuting to the nearest metro stop? Redoing someone's kitchen? Making a delivery? Visiting a friend? Out on a date? (As Tumlin asked, "And what if your date goes better than expected?")

It shouldn't be the government's job to make value judgments about people's reasons for parking. So let's eliminate complexity and preferential treatment. You don't need a contractor parking program; you don't need a visitor parking program; you don't need a church parking program. You just need accurate pricing so that people can pay a fair price to park wherever they want, for as long as they want.

Herb Caudill lives in Cleveland Park with his wife, Lynne, and two young boys. He has lived in DC since 1995; he taught math as a Peace Corps volunteer in West and Central Africa, and currently runs DevResults, a web-based mapping and data management tool for foreign aid projects.  


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I traveled to Capitol Hill to visit friends a few weeks ago. I was on the House or Southeast side and was quite surprised to see large tracts of on street parking reserved "Resident Parking Only" and that it applied seven days a week. When the residents only pay for the streets and don't ask any other taxpayers either local or federal to pay for construction or upkeep, perhaps as a matter of ownership, they should be able to reserve and exclude. But otherwise, is their ANY public policy reason to grant this valuable right to an exclusive and small group at the expense of the larger community? BTW how long has this been the practice and where else does it apply?

by Tom M on Apr 19, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

Not only does the price need to smoothly reflect the demand of parking on a particular space but it needs to reflect time. With a digital meter you can ramp down or up the fare depending on the time of day. Going from 4 dollars an hour to 0 at 8 pm creates problems. Smoothly going down or up as demand changes would add a lot of value.

by Richard Bourne on Apr 19, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

Having attended this discussion, this article is right on target in my opinion. Treat everyone the same and charge accordingly to encourage turn over based on demand. I did want to mention how important it is to be transparent about how the increase in parking revenue would be used. Its not mentioned in the article and its critical to getting public support.

by Ryan Sigworth on Apr 19, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

I think parking is great. On street parking is logical and almost universally better than paved lots. Structured parking makes sense where on street parking cant meet the demand at reasonable prices. Where there are major transit corridors, transit needs to be given a priority since you can move about 10x in a bus as the equivalent car space. RPP is a good step but it needs to be more expensive and it needs to be more localized than by Ward or it just becomes arbitrary who gets to park. Any commercial zone needs some parking, if it can't be accomodated on street there should be structured parking somewhere with a half mile or so. There should probably some small annual tax on cars for the space they take up and services they require like a property tax.

by Alan B. on Apr 19, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

If you want mixed development neighborhoods that are more dense and more vibrant with a better mixing of people, parking is going to be a "toe stubbing" issue. Residents are likely to want some priority treatment regarding street parking. Should they have primary or exclusive access? If so, at what price or condition? Do businesses that "create traffic" and demand for parking have some vague responsibility to either not greatly inconvenience local residents or to serve their customers by paying for a type of parking that takes them out of the competition for scarce free street parking? Conditions change over time in neighborhoods (many change in 2-3 years). Public policy is slow and driven by people who can make the most noise, grease the campaign coffers, or stay at the table the longest without a bathroom break. So i'm not much confident that public policy can be innovative enough to be effective. But since public policy defines the status quo, a very imperfect arena will host the "Hunger Games - Parking Edition."

by Tom M on Apr 19, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

The framing here is correct; how to make parking better for people looking for parking.

Two economic points -- first, you've always have the information gap. Pricing is meaningless without information. Second, there is a lot of transactions costs on credit card readers/parkmobile/etc.

Finally on pricing, the problem is you're not pricing based on any real data, and when you do price it out it can go skyhigh. Yes, moving a few blocks from high demand helps, but in a high demand area you've got to set limit to keep it affordable.

by charlie on Apr 19, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

There are, unfortunately, distinctions of parking use. For example, consider the justification for the RPP: residents pay taxes, non-residents do not. I also submit that short term parking needs (e.g., deliveries) take precedence over long term needs (e.g., commuters), in greater proportion that the amount of time used.

by goldfish on Apr 19, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

We could just force people coming in to use transit instead of driving in. There are plenty of empty Metro garages where they can park and do so. Making parking more available sort of defeats that goal.

And we do have a reason to heavily discourage people from driving in to go drinking.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 19, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

Tom C

except there are people who drive to work, then need to drive off on an errand to somewhere not transit served. Or they need bring heavy items to the office that day. Or they are carpooling (our region is known for its slug lanes) which is an option that conserves on fuel, on road space, yet is workable for many people who live in the many suburban areas without a metro station with parking nearby - CHARGING appropriately for parking, will discourage suburban drivers who have other good options, while allowing those who really don't have options to park, by paying to do so. Better than a command option, IMO, which does not allow for distinguishing the intensity of need.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 19, 2013 11:49 am • linkreport

I agree with AWITC, this is one case where we should use real market values to balance supply and demand. I think they should just jack up parking and give DC residents like a 50% discount or something since they should have priority. Maybe do away with RPP but just grandfather anyone in so they can essentially keep it to use for free parking as long as they pay the annual fee (which would slowly go up every year).

by Alan B. on Apr 19, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

Tom M:

Those residential parking only rules were put in place when the Nats Stadium first opened (they were literally putting up some of the signs on Opening Day). At the time there was fear that Nats fans would clog up most of the parking in SE and SW. No one really knew what would happen so everyone planned for the worst. That never materialized for a lot of reasons, and so I think at some point those restrictions will go back to normal residential parking with the 2 hour exemption. Everyone who lives on a block with those rules is sent a visitor pass each year, but there are still complaints about the difficulty of having people over given these restrictions.

by dcdriver on Apr 19, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport


or just raise it market rate for everyone, and use the revenues to cut some other tax on DC residents.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 19, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

I'm not going to use a smartphone to park. My biggest current complain about parking in DC is that each meter has several stickers on it in different places, each with different info, some of it contradictory, and sometimes contradicting the street signs, which can be located a block away. What I would like to see is one and only one label on every parking meter that contains the critical info: when you have to pay, the time limit(s), and when it is illegal to park (with the assumption that outside the hours on the label, parking is free and unlimited for all.)

by Alan on Apr 19, 2013 12:05 pm • linkreport

Maybe the hordes of Nationals fans taking up on-street parking never materialized on Capitol Hill, but it is most certainly an issue the the SW neighborhoods immediately around the stadium. there is ample parking in parking lots, but as noted in the post, "We all want to be able to park wherever we want, for as long as we want, and we want it to be free." People would much rather park illegally for free and risk a ticket than pay $20 to park in a lot.

On my block, one side is RPP only, the other is the more typical 2 hour exemption without RPP (and we have the vistors pass program). Despite a ton of signage, as well as a sign that the start of the block that says "LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY DURING NATIONALS STADIUM EVENTS" we still find ourselves overwhelmed by folks parking illegally--almost all of them with MD and VA plates (PA when the Phillies are in town). I don't even drive a car, but the complete disregard that people have for the posted rules, when there is plentiful parking available in the pay lots for games, drives me crazy.

by Birdie on Apr 19, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

@Alan B.- You realize we already have a de-facto market rate with the expanded RPP. Parking around me is $20 (plus tip) while the fine for violating expanded RPP is $30, with less than a 100% chance of getting a ticket. People are just taking tickets to park because it equals out and DC is making a ton of money off the tickets (DC made $100M/yr off parking enforcement before ERPP).

Any pricing that could be gotten through (I doubt it could) would result in lower revenue.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 19, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

You realize we already have a de-facto market rate with the expanded RPP. Parking around me is $20 (plus tip) while the fine for violating expanded RPP is $30, with less than a 100% chance of getting a ticket. People are just taking tickets to park because it equals out and DC is making a ton of money off the tickets (DC made $100M/yr off parking enforcement before ERPP).
Any pricing that could be gotten through (I doubt it could) would result in lower revenue.

Two points.

1. What you describe is not a very efficient market. I would rather have the more efficient market with clear rules and clear pricing.

2. Look at San Francisco. They've seen meter revenue go way up, and enforcement revenue go way down. Overall revenue is about flat.

Lesson: give people the chance to comply, and most will.

by Alex B. on Apr 19, 2013 12:25 pm • linkreport

I'm mostly concerned about creating a solution that will be publicly viable. Giving residents a slight cut on parking rates might go over well. Out of state people will still have the option of taking transit if public parking is too much. It is also quite easy to distinguish based on plates so enforcement wouldn't be difficult. I don't think we should use parking citations as the de facto way to generate revenue, the system should be much more transparent.

by Alan B. on Apr 19, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

I think the issue of resident parking on one side of the street is absurd. This is simple pandering to win votes. There is little justification for this. I have just as much right to park there to visit a restaurant or a friend as someone who lives on that street.

Again, charge me an appropriate price, and be done with it. Make it $4 an hour, I am in.

by Kyle-W on Apr 19, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

There are some areas along Wisconsin Ave. in DC which are being proposed for resident only parking restrictions that go beyond the current RPP ones. They may be piloting very localized parking zones also.

by Ron on Apr 19, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

Alan B.- I agree with you. But it's not gonna happen. (And $100M/yr is doing something very efficiently).

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 19, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

@Kyle who said: "I think the issue of resident parking on one side of the street is absurd. This is simple pandering to win votes. There is little justification for this. I have just as much right to park there to visit a restaurant or a friend as someone who lives on that street."

Don't you think that most people who come to restaurants in enhanced transit oriented corridors will take Metro or bus? That's what OP thinks. What do they need parking for?

by Ron on Apr 19, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

This will shock some, but if I'd like to go to a concert at say, the black cat, on a weeknight and want to see the whole concert rather than leave early to not miss the last train I'll drive.

Now my usual strategy is to park closer to 7th street than 14th because parking is usually easier to find. But if I knew that I could pay for a spot closer and not have a time limit (because concerts are more than 2 hours) then I'm perfectly willing. It's part of the price I pay for choosing to drive.

Resident only parking makes it harder for me obviously, even psycologically as I see a gap big enough to fit a couple of cars but I can't use it. Wouldn't it be just a simple to hand out a sticker that exempts a resident from paying?

That's just one example obviously but it shows some of the solutions that could be employed.

by drumz on Apr 19, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

drumz- Enhanced RPP only goes over to 15th St NW. By all means feel free to find a spot west of 15th where ERPP rules don't foul things up. (And good luck).

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 19, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

This is my first time hearing the term enhanced RPP. Is that where its explicitly resident only during the hours?

In any case the last case I remember wason V between 12th and 13th and I could have gotten a ticket if I didn't notice the sign was different. I would've ok if it was closer to 8:30pm.

Which is the key and why I've never gotten a ticket.

by drumz on Apr 19, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

drumz- Yes it's called Enhanced RPP. It's only one side of the street.

BTW- In Boston both sides of all streets including commercial ones in RPP areas are resident-only 24/7. And, as I found out the hard way, tickets are $50.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 19, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

It's probably a bit too blunt but it seems like they could do RPP/metered by zoning. Or maybe do metered on Numbered/State streets and RPP on alphabetical order streets?

by Alan B. on Apr 19, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

San Francisco has RPP, a lot of it:

They charge $104/yr and allow residents' visitors and neighborhood businesses to purchase temporary permits ($14/day, $35/2wks, $50/mo). Up to 4 permits allowed per house.

And they have much smaller zones than DC.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 19, 2013 4:35 pm • linkreport


You may feel different if you lived on one of these Capitol Hill streets.

Depending on how close you are to the Capitol (or to a metro stop) quite often the majority of the street parking is commuters and tourists.

After you live with this as a daily experience for a few months I doubt you'd be clamoring for a reduction in availability of street parking for actual residents of the block.

Having one side of the street resident only 24/7 has proven to be immensely popular with residents.

Worth noting that's far less restrictive than many surburban areas. Try parking in the residential areas around say the Costco in Pentagon City. It's resident-only 24/7 on all sides.

As for the public policy question, yes there is a legit public policy rationale for allowing residents at least some sort of shot at street parking somewhere near their homes.

Particularly when the alternate uses are tourists and commuters.

by Hillman on Apr 20, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

Hillman- What I said to drumz about trying west of 15th was facetious. I'm a huge supporter of ERPP.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 20, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

I used to live with what you describe, Hillman, but ERPP is not necessary to combat it in fully-residential areas with commuter/tourist parking problems. The tourists and commuters don't park there for only 2 hours, they park ALL DAY. Sure, it's easier on parking enforcement that they can come by once and ticket a car, but good enforcement of the two-hour limit would do just as well. My thought on this is to take a few block area each day (as many blocks as the officer can cover in 2 hours to mark down non-RPP plates), and run through it every 2 hours, writing all the commuters and tourists tickets EVERY two hours all day. A $90+ work day or visit should be enough to get results, and if you randomly rotate exactly which blocks are being targeted, there will be no safe haven. We never had much trouble on weekends (and I was CLOSE to the Capitol), but expanding *regular* RPP to weekends would do, if necessary, while still making it easier for visitors or businesspeople who go to residents' homes.

For areas with greater mixes of uses, I tend to agree with the previously-floated idea of one-side ERPP, one side market-rate meters that you're exempt from paying if you have an RPP or visitor permit. There HAS to be some availability for people to patronize neighborhood establishments in mixed-use neighborhoods, but it doesn't have to be free. I mean, there are blocks right off Dupont Circle that are simply RPP, and I've been with more than one friend who parks in the RPP zone and walks a few blocks just so they don't have to pay a few bucks to a meter. Make it cost something everywhere in these zones (which include parts of the Hill near businesses), and a portion of the problem will resolve on its own. To quell objection ("they're advertising MY STREET as parking for the businesses") use the ERPP on one side and exempt residents from the meters. I'd be willing to wager an hour's parking fee that it will work out pretty well.

Of course, all of this works best with much smaller RPP zones. Our yearly parking permits are limited to our ANC. That would be a start, with what I've noted before, a "mixing zone" at the borders, where 2 ANC permits are allowed (like parts of the H st. corridor where zone 5 and 6 permits are allowed, for example), so that parking one block the wrong direction from home doesn't cost a resident a ticket. One nice thing about ANCs is that they tend to be smaller in the denser areas, so your parking area kind of automatically adjusts to how much parking is available in your neighborhood (my neighborhood is not very dense, parking is READILY available (seriously, I can count over a dozen available parking spots just looking out my front window), our ANC is pretty large...others are very dense, parking is scarcer, the ANC is pretty small).

by Ms. D on Apr 20, 2013 6:59 pm • linkreport

Ms. D:

You raise some valid points.

I think the problem with the 2 hour window is that it's far easier for parking enforcement go to after the low hanging fruit of the person parked illegally for violations other than RPP, and they tend to get back around to RPP only after they spend most of their time going after other violations.

Which sadly means residents end up getting more tickets.

Many residents returning to our blocks filled with commuter and tourist cars end up parking illegally because we are sick of walking three or four blocks past 100 tourist/commuter cars.

I know. That doesn't justify it. But it's a fact of life.

Also it's an attitude on parking enforcement's part.

I've actually had city officials tell me that they think the streets of DC 'belong to all citizens of the nation' and that if any citizen wants to visit the National Mall they should get to park on any city street to do so.

This, when we were trying to get resident parking 24/7 on one side of the street.

If that's the attitude coming from the higher-ups I can see why parking enforcement may not be so energized to enforce the 2 hour limit.

by Hillman on Apr 21, 2013 7:44 am • linkreport

I 100% agree, Hillman. I got my share of tickets for very minor infractions while watching the same joker commuters park on our streets day after day and *maybe* get a ticket once a week. But I still say, properly enforced, in entirely residential areas, the 2 hour window is ideal. It balances hassles with allowing visitors/workers. It's an enforcement issue, not the structure of the regulation themselves.

by Ms. D on Apr 21, 2013 11:40 pm • linkreport

But I still say, properly enforced, in entirely residential areas, the 2 hour window is ideal.

A two-hour window without a parking meter is very difficult to enforce. It requires two points of enforcement - one visit to start the clock and another to issue a ticket at least two hours later. Technology like license plate readers makes this somewhat easier than, say, chalking tires, but it's still far more laborious than using a meter and using price (even if nominal, like 25 cents an hour).

Put in parking meters, and at least you have the meter 'starting the clock' for you. Then you only need one point of enforcement - check the car, and if the meter is running, then they're OK. If not, issue a ticket.

by Alex B. on Apr 22, 2013 7:43 am • linkreport

Put in parking meters, and at least you have the meter 'starting the clock' for you.

1. Only makes sense if there is enough revenue to pay the cost of the meters -- in residential areas with few visitors, that is unlikely.

2. Currently parking in residential areas is free. Installing meters all residential areas means that everybody has to dig for quarters for any daytime visit. This becomes yet another revenue grab, which hassles anybody -- plumbers, cleaning services, residents looking into grandma for lunch -- that has to run an errand. I think there is quite enough of that.

by goldfish on Apr 22, 2013 8:26 am • linkreport

Only makes sense if there is enough revenue to pay the cost of the meters -- in residential areas with few visitors, that is unlikely.

Or if the meters and revenue means we can have fewer parking enforcement people, or shift them to jobs that would be more beneficial, or provide a benefit by making parking better utilized (e.g. not by all-day commuters) then it would be a net benefit.

Currently parking in residential areas is free. Installing meters all residential areas means that everybody has to dig for quarters for any daytime visit. This becomes yet another revenue grab, which hassles anybody -- plumbers, cleaning services, residents looking into grandma for lunch -- that has to run an errand. I think there is quite enough of that.

There may be places where parking is scarce enough and taken up by people parking for too long, or all day, or unnecessarily, and we don't have the resources to enforce it when it's free. In those cases you could actually help out the plumbers, cleaners, residents visiting grandma, and others who need to use the parking on a short-term basis by charging a nominal fee to use it. This could make it easier to enforce (one point of enforcement), increase tickets for the people abusing the parking, and make more spaces available for those who need them on a short-term basis.

by MLD on Apr 22, 2013 8:51 am • linkreport

Installing meters all residential areas means that everybody has to dig for quarters for any daytime visit. This becomes yet another revenue grab, which hassles anybody

Don't take my suggestion for meters to be a) universal, or b) literal.

I used meters to illustrate the point about payment providing the start and end point for enforcement. There are lots of different ways to allow people to pay, and parking meters are one obvious example.

Also, don't take the suggestion too literally - the point was to illustrate that you can't just put in a two-hour limit like we have in RPP zones and then complain that it is not enforced tightly enough - because the very structure of the rule makes tight enforcement a challenge.

Also, I encourage you to read the above article. The goal of such reforms would be to make parking more available, not less.

by Alex B. on Apr 22, 2013 9:12 am • linkreport

Or if the meters and revenue means we can have fewer parking enforcement people, or shift them to jobs that would be more beneficial, or provide a benefit by making parking better utilized (e.g. not by all-day commuters) then it would be a net benefit.

The "cost of the meters" includes the costs to service them, such as enforcement and collection. The actual cost of a meter is small fraction of the service costs.

by goldfish on Apr 22, 2013 9:24 am • linkreport

The "cost of the meters" includes the costs to service them, such as enforcement and collection. The actual cost of a meter is small fraction of the service costs.

Obviously, and I don't see how this discounts what I said. If the other benefits exceed the cost of the meters then that would be a benefit.

by MLD on Apr 22, 2013 9:26 am • linkreport

Like I said, I agree, it's easier to just swing through once and write a ticket. Those of us who've ever lived in a neighborhood that is popular with commuters and tourists know this because *we'd* get the tickets for being a little past the "no parking from here to corner" sign (invariably because someone who had no business parking there did such a poor job of parking that what should have been a spot was not *quite* big enough) or some other minor - but easily enforced - infraction. But is parking enforcement over-burdened with higher-priority tasks than enforcing RPP in neighborhoods that need it? I can see how enforcing bus zones, hydrants, and intersection clearances is important, but those things can be done along a normal swing-through to nab 2-hour violators. The revenue stream from actually, properly ticketing 2-hour violators in the most pressing areas would cover an intermittent increase in enforcement officers to send a message that if you park in a residential neighborhood to avoid paying a garage fee, it will end up costing you more.

Meters would help...parking enforcement would not need to do the initial pass through the neighborhood to start the clock. However, in order for enforcement of something like this to work, it has to either be painful or persistent. So, the violators would either need to intermittently get multiple tickets in one day, or get a ticket almost every day they violated, in order to push the cost of violating above the cost of compliance (the cost to park in a paid lot or garage -or- the inconvenience of taking the Metro). I don't see how that's possible without the same additional enforcement resources as would be required to "target" a few blocks here and a few blocks there for heavy enforcement every couple of days.

The only other thing I came up with was changing the ticket structure to really hit repeat violators. Your first ticket in X amount of time (say 6 months) is the standard $30 - we wouldn't want to raise this because everyone makes a mistake from time to time. Then we start bumping up fines for additional tickets within the next 6 months. That hits those who repeatedly park illegally because they figure the occasional ticket is cheaper than paying for parking. Still, either the ramp-up would have to be very substantial (my best guess, given the level of enforcement I saw, would be $200 for all tickets after 4 in the time frame). My experience was that I saw some cars in the *same* after day after day...and *rarely* saw tickets on them. Far less often than once a week. No wonder they do it, even if they were ticketed once a week, under the current structure, they'd pay only $1500 in fines in a year, versus at least $2400 for a $200/month garage pass. I don't see meters with no additional enforcement resources changing this calculation much.

by Ms. D on Apr 22, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

Excellient posting and good comments! Wish I could have attended (the event was rescheduled from much earlier when a severe storm forced what was first planned).

As something of an aside to the main thrust of this posting and its comments, I find the term "enhanced RPP" seems to have, at least from the perspective of residents of ares where that exists, *less* RPP than would otherwise be the case, just one side of the street. Truth in labeling would be something like "Partial RPP".

by Lindsley Williams on Apr 23, 2013 7:44 am • linkreport

Enhanced RPP is not less RPP. One side of the street remains the same as it always has - unlimited parking with RPP and 2-hour limit otherwise. And the other side of the street is parking for people with RPP stickers only.

It excludes 2-hour parking from one side of the street - that means more parking for residents.

by MLD on Apr 23, 2013 8:50 am • linkreport

To effectively allocate parking spaces, what is needed is an app that identifies open spaces and their respective locations and prices in the driver's vicinity. This will also help to greatly reduce traffic by eliminating the throngs of cars circling around looking for spaces.

by Chris S. on Apr 24, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

All good points. As a Cap Hill resident there are a couple of issues that have been overlooked, IMHO.

First, I do pay for parking. I pay for a sticker that goes in my window, that I pay a couple of hundred dollars for every two years. So parking isn't free for anyone, including people who pay thousands a year in property taxes to live in DC.

Second, we need better enforcement of visitors to residential neighborhoods--meaning commuters who have figured out that one $50 ticket every couple of weeks beats $20 a day at a Metro parking area or hundreds a month in parking garage. Simply put, they save money by clogging up residential areas within 5 blocks of a Metro. And don't even get me started on same area 'local' commuters--folks who drive from one side of a Zone to get close to a Metro, park (with their Zone sticker) all day, then drive back home.

I use Parkmobile and like it a lot. No more quarters.

Agree 100% with a parking app that shows where open spaces are.

Agree 100% on better enforcement of parking violators. Personally, I believe in stronger enforcement in residential areas over commercial--someone shopping for 4 hours helps DC business, while someone parked in front of your house for 4 hours doesn't help a DC resident. Everyone forgets, so keep the first violation at $50. Track tickets better. Second violation in the same month, $500. Third violation in the same month--tow the car.

Funny, suddenly that 20 bucks a day at a Metro lot isn't that bad.

by Bob M on Apr 24, 2013 4:13 pm • linkreport

Just to correct a few points, Bob.

First, your parking sticker doesn't cost you "a couple hundred" dollars every 2 years. An RPP permit is $35/year. It should be more, but most of the fee you're paying every 2 years is for the inspection ($35/2 years) and registration ($74/year). The registration fee is similar to what I've paid elsewhere, the inspection fee is less than for other areas that require inspections. I find none of this onerous, as someone who owned a car in DC for about 5 years.

RPP violations are $30, not $50.

Parking at a Metro station costs $5 or less/day. Private garages downtown charge $20+/day or ~$200/month for a permit. Some private garages around non-downtown Metros charge more than Metro, but still less than $10/day, some charge less. You can get a permit to park for a month in a private garage at my Metro for $65/month, or just over $2/day or $3.25/work day. When you add it all up, some far-flung commuters might be spending over $15/day to park and take Metro, but the parking alone never costs CLOSE to $20.

But I agree that more agressive ticketing of violating commuters will push them to comply, obviously. Right now, violating is less costly on average, but it doesn't have to be that way. There's an argument to be made that, in mixed-use and commercial areas, parking should be available to business patrons to some level (depending on the neighborhood). But when it comes to fully residential areas like where I lived, and it sounds like where you and Hillman live/d, there's no reason to give commuters and tourists a "pass" over residents. The only reason they're parking there is because it's cheaper to pay the occasional ticket than a garage fee, and they don't WANT to take Metro. {Do something unpleasant to them}, on that front, ticket them up so that congestion is relieved and residents can park if and when they need to. If they could walk the 3 or 4 blocks to work or 6 or 7 blocks to the Metro after parking near my home, they could just as easily amble from a garage onto the Metro or from a garage nearby to their office.

by Ms. D on Apr 25, 2013 12:20 am • linkreport

There are plenty of parking solutions, some technical some procedural. I would like to see something that is simple to understand, and generally recognizes that the street belongs to the public at large. If you don't like parking in Dupont Circle, move to a less crowded neighborhood, because you're in the wrong area for what you want from a location. In Columbia Heights, there is row house after row house with no parking pad in the back, but plenty of reserved and empty spaces in front thanks to the ERPP. Meters, no meters, that's just the technology. Technically we could charge everybody on the street, for every minute they are parked, and never use a meter again.

Cities are dense and parking is scarce, especially in the areas where people want to live. This is a fact of life in a popular neighborhood. Why not forget the $35 pass and just charge by the minute?

by Eric on Apr 30, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

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