Greater Greater Washington

Parking


Logan Circle could have a solution to visitor parking woes

In neighborhoods with streets restricted to resident-only parking, how can visitors and household workers park when they need to? The Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2F) recently endorsed giving residents a "coupon book" of passes to give visitors.


Photo by NCinDC on Flickr.

This is the best solution for areas of DC where parking is tight. Logan Circle joined the growing number of neighborhoods where one side of every street is reserved for residents only. This makes parking much more available for residents, possibly at the expense of local businesses and houses of worship.

But this arrangement also creates its own problem: if a family member is visiting by car, or a home health worker needs to drive in to care for a resident, what do they do?

In some other neighborhoods, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) mailed out placards, one per household, which the resident can give to the visitor to display on the dashboard. But for neighborhoods like Logan Circle, this would represent an enormous temptation: if you don't need your pass, sell it to someone who works downtown and they can suddenly park in residential zones.

That is why ANCs in Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, NoMA/H Street, and other mixed-use neighborhoods vehemently objected when DDOT tried last fall to expand the visitor placard system citywide. Earlier this month, Logan's ANC instead endorsed the idea of a booklet, where people get a limited number of passes:

Commissioner Cain moved that the ANC endorse a Visitor Parking Program for all residents living within the boundaries of ANC 2F and at a Resident Parking Permit (RPP) eligible address. The proposed program shall consist of a coupon booklet containing 10 individual coupons for temporary visitor parking. Each coupon shall be valid for seven (7) days and may not be reused. Residents must opt in to the program. Each program participant may receive one coupon booklet per year (through the end of FY14). The motion was seconded and approved by the Commission (7-1).
This is a much better idea than the all-year visitor pass. Over a year ago, DDOT parking manager Angelo Rao said he thought the city should set up some kind of visitor pass system, and he was under the gun to implement something by fall 2013. For whatever reasons, which almost surely include internal agency policies and bureaucratic inertia, instead nothing happened. Maybe now there can be some momentum for a real solution.

There are still some questions to work out and some ways to improve the plan.

This proposal would make passes each good for one week. That's not so bad, though it would make more sense for passes to work for a single day, and simply offer more passes. Some people have a housecleaner who comes once a week all year. Under this plan, they would get 50 days' worth of passes, but couldn't use them once a week for 50 weeks. Why not? How about a book of 50 day passes instead of 10 week passes?

One big question: what do people do if they need more passes? Some people might get passes from their neighbors, but it also would make sense to let people purchase more booklets. The rate can be low enough that it's not extremely expensive, but high enough that it keeps the numbers of cars parking in the neighborhood from overwhelming the resident-only space, and also deters a resident from selling booklets to a commuter.

The ANC did not work out a way to get more passes; Matt Raymond, a member of the ANC, said that they, Councilmember Jack Evans, and DDOT have to work out details like this.

Another question is who gets the passes. Do people with cars and people without cars alike get them? Does a household with 2 drivers get the same number as an apartment of a single person? What about basement rental units? What about illegal basement rental units?

Raymond said the commission was split on this issue, and said, "When we discussed restricting it to Ward 2 permit holders, we admitted it was somewhat arbitrary, but there was sentiment (I among those who felt this way) that there needed to be some way to restrict them rather than a no-holds-barred approach."

"Ward 2 permit holders" are people who have a car registered with a residential parking permit in the area. That is probably not a good criterion, because a person who has no car will have visitors just as much as a person who has a car. On the other hand, it's a dense neighborhood with a lot of people, and ten week-long parking passes for every person could bring in a lot of cars.

If people can buy more coupons, then one good way to deal with this is over time to lower the number of passes in the first, free book, while letting people buy more. That would discourage over-use, and DDOT could adjust the size of the initial book and the price for more until the demand doesn't overwhelm the neighborhood supply of spaces.

Will this program (or an even better day pass version with the chance to buy more books) become reality, and even expand to other mixed-use neighborhoods? DDOT has had a years-long track record of promising to do something about parking and then failing.

Walt Cain, another ANC 2F commissioner, said, "My understanding is that the new crew at DDOT is not in favor of visitor parking generally, so it will likely be an uphill battle to actually get the program put in place."

DC Councilmember Mary Cheh's Committee on Transportation and the Environment is holding a hearing on parking Wednesday, January 29 at 11 am. Perhaps this, and the opportunity to apply it to more neighborhoods, will come up for discussion then.

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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This would be a welcome change. They have this sort of system in Chicago, and when I lived there, it was a godsend for things like moving trucks and visitors.

I would make them easier to get, though - in Chicago you had to visit a police station; why not just mail them out after online requests?

And agreed on not limiting them to permit-holders. I don't own a car, but sometimes I need to rent one for something the next day. Allowing me to park it outside my house overnight would be a pretty small burden.

by LowHeadways on Jan 24, 2014 10:20 am • linkreport

Welcome to what Arlington has been doing for nearly a decade.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 24, 2014 10:31 am • linkreport

Just send a freakin visitors pass, so when my plumber or HVAC guy visits I can put the darn thing in his vehicle window. I don't want any stupid coupon book, opt-in process, or any other urban adventure in micro-managing. If you plan to drive to Logan Circle to go shopping, or "worship," you will need to pray very hard for space no matter what nonsense the parking pass brain trust comes up with.

by kob on Jan 24, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

Some people might get passes from their neighbors, but it also would make sense to let people purchase more booklets. The rate can be low enough that it's not extremely expensive, but high enough that it keeps the numbers of cars parking in the neighborhood from overwhelming the resident-only space, and also deters a resident from selling booklets to a commuter.
An alternative method might be to install devices that allow visitors to pay for parking. I think other cities might have found some way to do this. Perhaps we could ask around for ideas.

Or I guess we could continue to insist that public space be free for use by some people, but not everyone, and then bend over backwards to allow those people to designate other people who can also use the space for free. Clearly, that's a lot more reasonable.

by Gray on Jan 24, 2014 10:50 am • linkreport

+1 Gray

by Michael Perkins on Jan 24, 2014 10:53 am • linkreport

Yes, I've also wondered why in this day in age we can't just meter every block (not just the commercial ones) and give residents a sticker that exempts them from time limits/paying (for the first car).

That and RPP is designed to prevent commuters from parking and taking metro to their office. It seems great at doing that. Less great at how to handle things once your neighborhood becomes a destination in its own right.

by drumz on Jan 24, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

Why can't we meter every block? Because the need for parking in RPP areas for longer than two hours isn't that great. Putting in meters all over the place that would barely get used would be a waste.

A coupon booklet is a WAY lighter lift than putting in meters all over the place.

by MLD on Jan 24, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

Why can't we meter every block? Because the need for parking in RPP areas for longer than two hours isn't that great.

Metering every block is a stretch, but there are plenty of areas where more blocks should be metered but exempt permit holders, particularly on side streets near neighborhood business corridors.

For example, you have meters along 14th Street. Add meters along all of the side streets (some have them now) and allow residents to park there with a permit (as they do now) and non-residents to plug the meter. This would be far more efficient than the current system where non-residents cruise the RPP blocks searching for a space so they can get their two free hours before RPP kicks in.

by Alex B. on Jan 24, 2014 11:09 am • linkreport

I do think this is something that needs to be solved by paid parking everywhere eventually. With the machines that are now being used that print tickets for a whole block, it seems much easier. But since everyone has smartphones, do we even need those things? Can we just tie a phone to a car and then key in our numbered spot and pay the price? I'm sure there are barriers to this but in the long term I think it will be better than a complicated and unfair zone parking system like this.

by AIB on Jan 24, 2014 11:10 am • linkreport

Fair enough. I'm just trying to see if there is something relatively simple that goes beyond "only residents can park here" and then is superconfusing for anyone else.

Cash also seems to be a better medium of exchange than time/knowledge of how to use that time (see: people's attempts to improve "no parking" signs).

But that all goes back to a large question of "how should RPP operate and to what purpose?" which is a much broader question than what's addressed here.

by drumz on Jan 24, 2014 11:14 am • linkreport

And yes, Alex B said exactly what I'd propose.

by drumz on Jan 24, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

The program is made way too complex. A coupon price should be set, based on a reasonable estimate of the average parking time and the street parking rate. Residents can buy as many coupons as they choose, up to a maximum that indicates car ownership and the necessity for an RPP, or with an increasing price that disincentives abuse.

@kob:I don't want any stupid

Sure. Nobody does. What is your solution? Free parking for everyone?

Why not let your HVAC guy pay for his parking?

by Jasper on Jan 24, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

Seconding Michael. This whole discussion has been bizarre to me because there is a very workable model right across the river that nobody ever talks about.

In Arlington -- at least as it was a few years ago -- anybody can get a booklet, not just car owners. I forget whether you have to request it or they just mail it to you, but I'm pretty sure there was no charge.

by Gavin on Jan 24, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

@Gavin: As a resident of a community developed under a site plan, I'm excluded from resident permits, visitor permits, or visitor one-day passes, so it's not "everyone" but "everyone that lives in an eligible property".

by Michael Perkins on Jan 24, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

@ Jasper

Yup, free parking for everyone, and I don't own a car.

I liked the fact that I received a pass in the mail, and when an emergency repair was needed, I would grab the pass, run downstairs, give it to plumber. Simple, effective. Now, what? I'll have order parking passes on-line and in advance and make some calculation about how many might be needed in a year. And of course, whipping out the plastic is part of the drill. And will these coupons expire after a year? (Of course they will, and unused coupons will be wasted money.)

The only thing that will truly free up parking spaces are decisions by residents to give up their vehicles. Focus on mass transit improvements.

Pricing the passes does not change at all my incentive or need for them.

by kob on Jan 24, 2014 11:50 am • linkreport

Just allow pay-by-phone parking during RPP hours. You want to park without a permit? Fine. Cost is $2/hour.

by Adam Lewis on Jan 24, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

@kob:
The only thing that will truly free up parking spaces are decisions by residents to give up their vehicles.
Yeah, price would have no effect. It's really too bad that people are equally willing to pay $5 to park for an hour as they are to park for free.

by Gray on Jan 24, 2014 12:07 pm • linkreport

This is ridiculous. I live in a Logan Circle building exempt from obtaining RPP because it is on a commercial street. My friends and family barely visit because it is so difficult to park in the neighborhood (yes--they drive; I can't expect my in-laws to take public transit or bike from Fredericksburg). Now, residents that can have an RPP pass may potentially also have visitor parking passes, but I can't. Don't I have the same needs for visitors (family, friends, contractors, cleaners)? The one-side-of-the-street resident only restrictions have already taken too many spaces away from the use of visitors to the area, now there is a proposal to allow those that have RPP, and access to those spaces, to also have visitor parking permits! But, I can't. So their visitors are better, more privileged than mine. Love it. The ANC--especially Commissioner Cain--will support building proposals in Logan Circle with relief from any required parking because "people these days don't drive" but then support special visitor parking permits for a portion of the Logan Circle population because their visitors need parking spaces. Does not make sense.

by ZoomerDC on Jan 24, 2014 12:12 pm • linkreport

@ZoomerDC, If you check the RPP database, you will find quite a few addresses on commercial streets eligible for RPP. The process for applying for RPP is on the DDOT web-site, including the provisions for determining whether a residential or mixed use building on a commercial street is eligible.

by OtherMike on Jan 24, 2014 12:22 pm • linkreport

@ kob:Yup, free parking for everyone

Which means: free parking for none.

I'll have order parking passes on-line and in advance and make some calculation about how many might be needed in a year.

My brother lives in a neighborhood where they have these coupon booklets. You get a few for free each year, and can buy more as you wish. It works very simple. Just fill in the car tag and date, put it in, and you're done. Just as fast as paying at a parking meter.

by Jasper on Jan 24, 2014 12:23 pm • linkreport

Non-car owners need visitor parking passes just as much, and probably more than car-owners, and it would be extremely unfair to make visitor parking passes only go to car owners. I am car-free, but I occasionally need a car, in which cases I rent or borrow a car. Thanks to RPP in my neighborhood, I can't park in front of my house without a visitor parking pass.

by Jameel on Jan 24, 2014 12:44 pm • linkreport

I'd be pretty damn livid if my government told me people who drive can't visit me only because I, myself, don't own a car. If you want everyone to have to pay into the system, allow people who don't have a RPP pass to pay $35 for the visitors passes (despite the fact that it's wholly unfair that some people would pay $35 for the benefit of parking their car 365 days/year AND a visitor's car for 70 days/year while another person pays that same price for the benefit of 70 days/year).

by 7r3y3r on Jan 24, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

My housekeeper has nowhere to park when she comes to my million dollar rowhouse

#logancircleproblems

by Nick on Jan 24, 2014 3:52 pm • linkreport

@Nick: Not from the point of view of the housekeeper, it isn't.

by alurin on Jan 24, 2014 3:58 pm • linkreport

@Zoomer- You can currently get a visitor's 2 week pass from police just like anyone. Takes 2 minutes at the station and they only want ID and which ward, not proof you have RPP.

The anti-progessive problem with the coupon book is people who car-share/rent. A provision must be made for those who rent cars a lot to not have a big burden placed on rentals. Otherwise, as pointed out, Arlington has been doing this for quite a while successfully. Time for DC to re-invent the wheel on yet another matter.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 25, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

Isn't the coupon book perfect for people who car share or rent a lot? You can park for 2hrs if you need to, or you can bring your coupon book along and use a coupon to park for longer?

Kind of a moot point now that Zipcars can also park in any RPP or metered spot for however long they want, but good for traditional rental cars.

by MLD on Jan 27, 2014 8:33 am • linkreport

Couldn't residents just use a computer or mobile app or a 1-800 line to report the plates of the visitor's vehicle exactly during the visit? No additional meters necessary, just some zone signage with instructions. In other words, your visitor parks, you enter the license plate into the database, and the parking officer checks the cars against that database.

by Maia on Jul 10, 2014 5:15 pm • linkreport

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