Greater Greater Washington

Parking


Most Ward 2 neighborhoods oppose visitor parking passes

Most of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in DC's Ward 2 have passed resolutions saying they don't want a free visitor parking placard program in their neighborhoods. The commissions went on record on this issue up to a year ago, but last week, transportation officials announced that they'll expand the program citywide anyway.


DDOT decided not to listen. Photo by sokabs on Flickr.

Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans also opposes the plan. He citing the opposition of "most of the ANCs" in his ward, while saying he only has gotten a few messages from constituents who support the program.

Georgetown's ANC hasn't passed such a resolution, but that doesn't mean they support it, either. Its chair, Ron Lewis, told residents and the media that "this came as a total surprise to us." Lewis has been working for years with Georgetown residents and DDOT parking planners to find agreement on a set of parking proposals that everyone would support.

Shortly before DDOT's announcement, the agency's planners in charge of parking, Damon Harvey and Angelo Rao, left or were fired. Harvey and Rao had led two parking town halls in Georgetown and dozens of meetings of an ad hoc Georgetown Parking Working Group made up of residents and business representatives. I was involved in these meetings, and all parties felt that the group was very close to a set of consensus proposals after years of negotiation.

Free visitor parking passes for all Georgetown RPP holders was never a serious proposal in these discussions, and community leaders communicated concerns about expanding these passes into Georgetown several times.

We've been here before

Last year, a similar process played out. DDOT spokesperson Monica Hernandez told reporters that the agency intended to expand the trial citywide. In response, ANCs throughout Ward 2 passed resolutions opposing the idea and sent the resolutions to DDOT.

For example, here is Dupont's ANC 2B resolution from last October.

DDOT ultimately pulled back and did not expand the program to these neighborhoods in 2012. Rao promised to devise a replacement system before this fall. However, with no new program on the horizon, DDOT announced it would offer visitor passes to all neighborhoods by October 1 and proposed regulations making that possible.

You can provide feedback on DDOT's expansion of the visitor parking program through the mandated 30-day comment period for all such regulations. To tell the agency how you feel about their regulations expanding free visitor parking placards citywide, email publicspace.policy@dc.gov before September 8.

Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 

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I joke about how I am too much of a hot potato to get hired in a planning position by DDOT. I understand that Damon Harvey left for the private sector, that's not atypical. (E.g., the guy who handled car sharing and bike sharing originally left to go work for Car2Go.) I didn't know about Angelo.

Anyway, knowing that parking planning is a no win situation, maybe I'd be perfect for the DDOT position...

by Richard Layman on Aug 15, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

I would guess it's not popular citywide, but your title is disingenuous if your data consists solely of Georgetown and Dupont.

by Andy on Aug 15, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

your title is disingenuous if your data consists solely of Georgetown and Dupont

According to Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, every Ward 2 ANC except for Georgetown passed resolutions opposing the expansion of the visitor parking pass pilot into their ANC.

by Ken Archer on Aug 15, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

I'll rephase- you'd have a much stronger and credible argument if you went beyond Jack's turf.

by Andy on Aug 15, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

OK, my ANC (6C) wrote to DDOT this year opposing annual passes. And if it weren't for the timing of the DDOT Register notice (requiring comments before the Sept ANC mtg), we would almost certainly vote to send comments opposing the latest proposal.

by 20002ist on Aug 15, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

Most of the opposition to the new VPP stems from a singular fear that people will abuse the system and give or sell their placards to non-District commuters.

This fear, generally lacking actual evidence that such abuse actually occurs, seems to be overtaking discussion of a program that otherwise does have a number of very positive benefits for people who use the existing visitor passes for their intended purpose.

by Scoot on Aug 15, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

Scoot: The thing is that the abuse hasn't happened in large part because the program is not in place in the neighborhoods with the highest risk of this happening.

by David Alpert on Aug 15, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

Scoot: The thing is that the abuse hasn't happened in large part because the program is not in place in the neighborhoods with the highest risk of this happening.

That statement is circular reasoning.

You are saying that abuse has not occurred because the VPP has not been implemented in neighborhoods where it would likely occur, which assumes that there are neighborhoods where it would likely occur if implemented.

But we lack the evidence -- or even a very persuasive argument -- to suggest that abuse would likely occur, to say nothing of whether it actually does occur.

by Scoot on Aug 15, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

Have to agree with Andy. Saying "most neighborhoods" is overselling it a bit. And when you counter with "every Ward 2 ANC..." as your evidence of wider opposition only increases the perception of a NW bias.

That said, I certainly don't support it in my neighborhood either (Capitol Hill) and your criticism of DDOT's process here (or lack thereof) is spot on.

But I'd imagine large swaths of non or limited Metro accessible Wards 5, 7, and 8 will probably have no issue with this policy and even support it.

by Tim Krepp on Aug 15, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

He only said most in Ward 2. The article is about Ward 2, one of the primary places (along with northern Ward 6) where something will change. Jack Evans made a comment about Ward 2 which triggered the article. Maybe the headline (which Ken didn't write) should have said "Many Ward 2 neighborhoods" but that would have been a more boring headline.

by David Alpert on Aug 15, 2013 4:26 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, There has been abuse in the wards where the VPP Pilot has been put into place, but it is difficult to monitor. Individuals cannot easily collect enough information to make effective complaints (the permits have no indication of the general area where the host lives), and DDOT has not been collecting data about the extent to which VPPs are used in neighborhoods near schools and Metro stops, and determining whether the driver is likely visiting a nearby resident or using a VPP possibly registered to a resident at the far end of the ANC. In my experience, it is not that unusual to watch someone get out of a car with a VPP in the windshield and walk to the Metro station. Enforcement personnel drive or walk the streets near Metro regularly, checking for vehicles without RPP and VPP that might be there for more than two hours, but they do not seem to collect information on the VPP permits that are being used in this area and whether they are registered to nearby residents.

To the extent that DDOT evaluated any of the pilot programs, they only asked about whether the residents using VPPs found them more convenient than going to the police station to get a visitor permit. DDOT did not collect any data on abuses, such as residents offering VPPs for sale, or posts on the listserv asking to buy or rent a VPP (and I have seen such posts), or any data on the impact on the availability of on-street parking for residents in the high-demand areas.

It seems that before going from Pilots in several wards, to a city-wide program, including the areas where renting or selling a VPP might be even more tempting and where there is a larger impact on other residents, there should have been a thorough analysis of how the program worked in the Pilot areas, and whether there are other safeguards that would have been helpful.

Failure to collect data is not proof that there have been no abuses.

by OtherMike on Aug 15, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

Failure to collect data is not proof that there have been no abuses.

Quite true. But I'm not arguing that there haven't been any abuses.

You say that there have been abuses, then you say that it is difficult to obtain information on abuse because the permits have no indication of the general area where the host lives.

So how can you be very sure that abuse is occurring? Other than a hunch?

As you know there is no law prohibiting someone from getting out of a car with a VPP in the windshield and then walking to a Metro station, nor is that in and of itself an example of abuse.

by Scoot on Aug 15, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

@David, Until your comment, I didn't know that the intended focus of the article was only Ward 2. In that light, both the article itself and Ken's initial response in the comments make a lot more sense.

I don't think "Many neighborhoods oppose visitor parking passes" is such scintillating prose that a boring modifier would ruin it. The article (which is quite good) is about Ward 2; the headline would be stronger if it reflected that.

by Tim Krepp on Aug 15, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, The Visitor Parking Permit is intended to be used by visitors to local residents in RPP zones, to allow the visitor to park for more than two hours near the resident’s home while they visit (or work) at the host’s residence. I am not sure how using a VPP (which seemed to be in the sole possession of the visitor, not at the host’s residence) and getting on the Metro is not an abuse, since clearly that permit isn’t being used for visiting a resident. Certainly, the observer does not know whether the permit was sold, rented or provided as a favor, but it certainly isn’t being used for its intended purpose and it is affecting the other residents of that area. That is why DDOT should have been doing a complete study of the utilization and impact of the pilot program.

by OtherMike on Aug 15, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

TimK: Sure, what the heck, I changed the title.

by David Alpert on Aug 15, 2013 5:22 pm • linkreport

Ack! Now it's so boring!

On the other side, good call on whoever picked the photo!

by Tim Krepp on Aug 15, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

The Visitor Parking Permit is intended to be used by visitors to local residents in RPP zones, to allow the visitor to park ... while they visit (or work) at the host’s residence.

The Permit is intended to be used by guests of local residents.

The DMV defines a "visitor" as someone who visits a District of Columbia residence. However I don't think that means that the visitor must be in the residence for their entire visit. That would be absurd - especially because the permits are good for 15 days.

By your interpretation, if I obtained a visitor permit for my parents to come for the weekend, and I showed them my apartment and then we all got on the Metro to go do dinner, then I would be abusing the system.

by Scoot on Aug 15, 2013 5:38 pm • linkreport

By your interpretation, if I obtained a visitor permit for my parents to come for the weekend, and I showed them my apartment and then we all got on the Metro to go do dinner, then I would be abusing the system.

No.

It's pretty clear from the objections people have been raising that the abuse is giving the pass to someone who's going to use it for daily commuting. Quit being constantly purposefully obtuse.

by MLD on Aug 15, 2013 5:50 pm • linkreport

This debate illustrates exactly the problem with the system.

People have one set of uses in mind — someone drives to visit a friend, or a home health care worker has to come take care of an elderly client, or parents come in from out of town.

But then the ANCs and Ken and I and others worry about another set of use cases: someone drives into a residential neighborhood and parks to go to work at a nearby office building, or someone uses the pass to drive in from the suburbs, park near Metro, and ride to work.

The problem with the system is it's very hard to distinguish between these two, especially the first one.

I live a couple blocks from office buildings. Unless officers sit around following people, is there any way for DPW to know that a person who comes and parks on my block every day is our nanny working in our house (allowed), versus a worker in a nearby office building I've made a deal with to use the pass (abuse)?

There are a LOT more jobs right near residential streets in Ward 2, as well as 6E (Shaw/MV Triangle) and 6C (NoMA), which also haven't had the passes before, than the places that have had the passes before. (And the Capitol doesn't count because everyone gets free parking there.)

It's a totally different dynamic in these new areas, which is why these are the neighborhoods where ANC commissioners opposed expanding VPPs as is to their areas.

by David Alpert on Aug 15, 2013 6:23 pm • linkreport

Seems like another instance (as least as regards Ward 2) where public input was sought and they received a unanimous opinion.

And then they promptly ignore the overwhelming input.

by Tom Coumaris on Aug 15, 2013 7:51 pm • linkreport

My ANC (6B) was not in the pilot program, but some neighbors asked for and received the VPP (don't know what they said to get one.) These neighbors have started renting rooms and their basement apartment to short term renters via Airbnb. It's these visitors that are using the passes now to park their cars on our street-I guess this is a legal use.

Re: nannies, workers in your home, etc., my feeling is that they are just like any other workers in this city and should commute like everyone else-via Metro or bus. I know I pay a premium to my contractor to cover his parking tickets, but that's the cost of doing business in the city where parking is not free. On my block most nannies drive and the employer picks up her ticket when she gets one.

In addition, when the pilot areas of Capitol Hill (those streets south of Penn closer to the stadium) first received passes, several neighbors openly posted them for monthly rent on Craigslist to those workers at LC and the Capitol who did not have free parking. I remember seeing a dozen or so such ads. The passes were close to market rate, around $100-125/mo. from what I recall. I'm sure it's easy to find a buyer without Craigslist too. I've lived on my block for almost 20 years and this is the worst I've ever noticed the parking to be. The block stays full of cars all day.

by Gina A on Aug 16, 2013 7:22 am • linkreport

Little understood is that the primary use of these passes is for household workers. Maybe this isn't the case in ritzy Georgetown, but here in Mount Pleasant, many residents are at their jobs all day, and depend on people to come service their houses or care for their children after school. Without visitor passes, what are such household employees to do? Past DDOT policy was "they're commuters, make them take the bus".

The expansion of the program from Ward One to the rest of the District presumably came about because of the great popularity of that program here. Five years it's been in place in Mount Pleasant, and it is enormously popular among residents. Are we the only residents in the city who depend on household help? And it should be noted further that Ward One has the highest population density in the city.

As for selling such passes, that's explicitly illegal, and better we should police such selling than toss out the whole program.

by Jack on Aug 16, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

Little understood is that the primary use of these passes is for household workers.

Fairly certain it is generally understood that this is one of the reasons for having the program.

As for selling such passes, that's explicitly illegal, and better we should police such selling than toss out the whole program.

Or design a system that reduces the ability to sell the passes. Which is what people have been arguing for and DDOT has failed to do. That is the complaint.

Coupon books, some kind of identifying number on the pass connected to a drivers license, or a nominal fee for the pass would all be barriers that would reduce the likelihood of someone selling their pass.

by MLD on Aug 16, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

Scoot needs to visit Boston and it's surrounding jurisdictions (cambridge, Somerville, etc.) where the paper visitor parking passes (the same system as being proposed in DC) are regularly abused with impunity and results in near doubling of the number of cars on any given street.

I lived in the greater Boston area for 5 years and there was a cash trade in parking placards.

Ideas are one thing, actual experience another.

by name on Aug 16, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

As for selling such passes, that's explicitly illegal, and better we should police such selling than toss out the whole program.

You can't just say something is illegal and expect good enforcement of it, however. Systems have to be designed so they can be easily enforced.

Abuse of disabled parking placards is a prime example. Abuse is rampant, yet enforcement under the current system is difficult because of the burden of proof involved in exposing the fraud, as well as the level of resources required to catch the fraud in the act. The solution is to remove the free parking benefit from disabled placards, thereby removing the benefit to the fraud. All may park, all must pay.

Now, maybe you might consider charging for disabled parking to be 'throwing out the entire program,' but I do not.

These VPPs have the potential for the same kind of abuse. The program needs to be structured in a way that not only discourages abuse, but allows for quick enforcement in the case of abuse. Realistically, this means some form of payment should be required, whether that's pay-per-use coupon booklets or use of the pay-by-phone app, there are lots of options for how to implement such a policy.

by Alex B. on Aug 16, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

The "household" employee excuse is invalid. If you have a regular household employee, they can take public transportation or you can pay for them to park somewhere. If they absolutely must drive, then you just need to get a ROSA permit --that's what they're for.

I just went and got permits for my construction workers ( 3 trucks) the other day. The process couldn't have been easier. I got 2 day passes and was in and out of the police substation in 5 minutes.

Parking is scarce in DC. There isn't enough parking for residents, much less residents and every guest and employee you want to have over to your house for free. Your "entitlement" to free parking for visitors doesn't trump my purchase of a street parking permit.

by name on Aug 16, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

I'm not sure why the parking passes cannot have a unique issuance number that can be tracked to the (legitimate) recipient. That way, abuses could be monitored by both citizens and the government. I live on Capitol Hill, where it is easy to see the same people coming back to their cars each night, taking the visitor pass out of the windshield, and driving away.

In general, the rules are not made sufficiently clear to citizens. These passes are not meant to allow indefinite parking while, for instance, an out of state person leaves their car parked on a District neighborhood street while they go on vacation with a DC resident. Some of the "abuse" results from ignorance. Not an excuse, just an explanation.

by dcindy on Aug 16, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

If they absolutely must drive, then you just need to get a ROSA permit --that's what they're for.

No, that's not what a ROSA "permit" is for. A ROSA permit is to exempt you from getting tickets for not registering your car in DC. It doesn't do anything for parking restrictions.

The permits you got are essentially multi-day versions of the VPP, which lasts for a year. Why do your construction workers get to park there but someone who works in a home does not? I agree that there should be some cost to the VPP.

by MLD on Aug 16, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

Past DDOT policy was "they're commuters, make them take the bus".

I'm having a hard time seeing what's wrong with that policy.

by dcd on Aug 16, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

Your "entitlement" to free parking for visitors doesn't trump my purchase of a street parking permit.

Since the VPP does not guarantee a dedicated on-street spot for a visitor, it does not "trump" (i.e. override) an RPP. Both permit holders now have access to the same on-street spots. One permit holder does not have more access than another.

But perhaps that is the problem. Maybe we should place some limits on precisely where VPP holders can park. Or for how long. That way RPPs actually do trump visitor permits.

And I have been to Boston, Cambridge and even Somerville - I had a great time there!

by Scoot on Aug 16, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

Scoot - We have had these passes in Ward 5 for a couple years and they are serially abused. Not only are they serially abused, the program is set up so that DDOT and DPW can do nothing about it.

For literally TWO YEARS, I have been pointing out to Angelo and Damon, that a van with DC Tags was parked on my block overnight everyday displaying a VPP instead of an RPP in clear violation of the terms of the VPP which states that it's not to be used as a substitute for an RPP.

DPW could not issue a ticket though because the VPP exempted the holder from RPP enforcement during the day, and there was no ROSA violation because the van had DC tags.

More fundamentally though, I don't understand how blanketting the city with free parking is supposed to help alleviate the parking problems in the City. Also why do "visitors" get to park for free, but residents have to pay for RPPs? I wonder how Harriet Tregoning and Mayor Gray think this fits in to a vision of DC as a less car dependent city.

by Devoe on Aug 19, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

In general, the rules are not made sufficiently clear to citizens.

This does not necessarily mean there is a communication problem, however. If the rules are so complex that they cannot be easily communicated, perhaps the problem is with the rules themselves.

The post from Devoe above shows the problem: you need to write rules that are actually enforceable.

by Alex B. on Aug 19, 2013 10:44 am • linkreport

Oh and Scoot - it would be a good idea maybe to restrict VPPs to certain zones, however, DPW thinks that "VPPs" can be used in enhanced RPP zones, where the sign states that parking is limited to "Zone X Resident Permits Only."

Now one would think that because a "Visitor Parking Permit" is supposed to be used only by people who are not "Residents" that logically you would not be able to use a VPP in a zone that is limited to "Resident Permits Only," but according to DPW you'd be wrong.

I pressed the city attorney, Glenn Dubin, as to why the city is arbitrarily reading "Visitor" to mean "Resident," and received no response.

Suffice to say the VPP program is an ill-conceived mess.

by Devoe on Aug 19, 2013 10:49 am • linkreport

Abuse of VPP isn't just someone selling or giving the pass to a commuter to park for free on the street. In Ward 3, it seems to be a way for some residents to avoid registering their out of state vehicles in DC entirely. In the past the VPPs have been mailed to every household on an RPP block, including every apartment unit as well as every single family house. Judging by the vehicles I've seen with VPPs displayed day in and day out (and evenings, too), it's been used to get street parking without going through the DMV registration process. ROSA is supposed to police this, but it's pretty ineffective. Maybe the new requirement that the VPP is requested, rather than being automatically mailed, may reduce abuse, but I doubt it.

by Alf on Aug 19, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

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