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Talk to Jim Graham about parking

Do you live in Adams Morgan, U Street, Columbia Heights, or Mount Pleasant? If so, Councilmember Jim Graham needs to hear from you on Thursday evening about parking policy. Graham is holding an evening community roundtable on his one side of the street parking bill.

Photo by Mr. T in DC.

Last year, when the Council was first considering the performance parking pilot, Graham held another community roundtable. Almost all of the speakers echoed a similar refrain: "I get home from work at 7, 8 pm and there's NO PLACE TO PARK!"

Those frustrations are real, and it's good for Graham to hear them. However, there's no way to make parking easier for everyone. If the spaces are full, someone is using them. If we change the rules to facilitate parking for one group of people, others will then find parking more difficult. Graham's bill includes some good changes and some bad changes. It's important to consider the needs of everyone before moving forward.

Furthermore, parking policy affects more than just those who are parking. Non-drivers sometimes have guests come to visit by car. Cars affect pedestrians and cyclists. In 2000, 47.4% of Ward 1 households did not own cars. With all the transit-oriented development since, it's very likely that over half of Ward 1 households today don't own cars. However, parking hearings typically attract mostly drivers. It's easy for an elected official to assume that the opinions he hears at such a hearing reflect those of all voters.

Help balance out the participation in Thursday's roundtable. Graham needs to hear not only from car owners, but other residents as well. The hearing starts at 6:30 Thursday evening at the Columbia Heights Community Center, 1480 Girard St NW. If you can testify, call Maria Puig-Monsen at 202-724-8195 this afternoon to sign up.

Tomorrow, I'll review some of the provisions of the bill and suggest some topics to mention during your turn to speak. However, a detailed policy recommendation is not necessary to testify. It'd simply be helpful for Graham to hear from a wide range of Ward 1 people, both car owners and non-owners.

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


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CM has publicized this hearing on the Adams-Morgan listserv as a hearing to 'protect parking'. I've twice posted a question in response to his post, but have yet to get an answer. Perhaps someone going to the hearing can ask this question?

Re: Night-time Public Hearing/Ward 1/Protecting Residential Parking


With all due respect, I don't understand how issuing more stickers and passes is protecting parking. It will only increase the demand for the limited parking that is out there, meaning you'll have more cars looking to park in the same number of on street spots ... especially at only $15 a year. I understand that there is a lot of unused parking in garages in places such as under DC USA. At
only $15 a year people would be crazy to give up trying to park on streets and instead pay for parking in places such as at DC USA. Perhaps increasing the residential parking sticker to a price point better reflecting the true cost of
that parking would shift some of these parkers over to these now underused garages ... and free up more on street parking for those not willing or not able to pay what the garages costs. That would ensure that all parking options are used, and garage parking spaces aren't left unused while more and more people attempt to park on the street.


--- In, Jim Graham wrote:
> Dear Friends,
> Ward 1 residents -- even with RPP permits that cost them $15 -- are tired of
> getting parking tickets because they can't find a place to park in their own
> neighborhood.
> That is why I have introduced a bill to protect parking for residents. The
> bill has been referred to my committee.
> My bill will:
> · Allow every Ward 1 resident with a D.C. registered vehicle to get a
> Zone 1 parking sticker (regardless of whether you live on a presently RPP
> zoned block).
> · Restrict one side of residential streets as exclusive Ward 1 RPP
> parking.
> · Make a visitor pass available to every Ward 1 household. This pass
> would allow your guests, babysitters, caregivers, etc., to park legally on
> RPP restricted blocks.
> I have scheduled an evening public hearing on this bill. I want to hear
> whether these ideas make sense in Ward 1.
> The hearing will be more convenient for residents to participate.
> Here are the details:
> *WHEN:* 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 25, 2009
> *WHERE:* Columbia Heights Community Center
> 1480 Girard Street NW
> Contact to sign up for testimony --* *Maria Puig-Monsen, 202-724-8195,
> mpuigmonsen@...
> Bests,
> Councilmember Jim Graham
> --
> I typically answer emails before 9 AM on weekdays. If you email me after
> that, it is likely that you will hear from me the next weekday. If there is
> a need to communicate prior to that, you may wish to call me.
> Jim Graham, Councilmember, Ward One, 1350 Pa. Ave., NW, #105, Washington, DC
> 20004. 202-724-8181; 202-724-8109 (fax).
> Chairman, Committee on Public Works and the Environment (including alcohol
> regulation). Main Committee Number: 202-724-8195. 1350 Pa. Ave., NW, #116,
> Washington, DC 20004.
> Website:

by Lance on Jun 23, 2009 1:34 pm • linkreport

Drive around and look at the tags that are parked after hours, the issue is not so much car vs. not car as the fact that we are all subsidizing parking for visitors and people who have out of state tags but live in DC and commute by car to work and so don't get caught by the usual enforcement stuff. I'm not sure I understand this proposal correctly, but if it means 24/7 ward 1 only zones on one side of every street then I'm for it, though I'm not sure how it would be enforced -- if there are going to be city employees walking the streets enforcing laws late at night, I'd prefer that the laws in question be the youth curfew, gun laws, public consumption, etc...

Heck, maybe if more of the weekend out of state crowd used the garages they would get mugged less as they stumble back to their cars.

by TJ on Jun 23, 2009 3:06 pm • linkreport

I'm very much in favor of this proposal. CM Graham is doing the right thing by his constituents. It makes perfect sense to delineate commercial and residential areas within neighborhoods. The current policy favors out-of-staters and cheaters who do not register their cars.

Also, think about who "needs" street parking in residential neighborhoods. Visitors to local businesses have metered parking, valets, and garages if they choose not to use transit.

Families (like mine) with kids don't need cars most of the time, but when we do, it's mission critical and parking near home is essential for the car to have any value -- loading and unloading groceries, furniture, tired/sleeping kids.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jun 23, 2009 4:18 pm • linkreport

With all the transit-oriented development since, it's very likely that over half of Ward 1 households today don't own cars.

Or not. The rate may have dropped, precisely because Ward 1 had a lot more transit-dependent, lower-income residents before the gentrification of the last 10 years. For every Salvadorean family that no longer lives in Mt Pleasant, a group house with 4 young professionals with four cars ('to get groceries!) now exists.

if you look at a recent TPB report, Car ownership actually had an upturn (everywhere else it went down) in the region. My guess? Gentrification - people moving into dense urban areas, but still brining their cars with them,.

by AA on Jun 23, 2009 4:21 pm • linkreport

As one of those group house dwelling young gentrifiers who brought my car with me for weekend trips and the like (usually not grocery shopping, but I'll gladly drive to the suburbs for my monthly Target run rather than deal with half the staple items being out of stock and the surly staff at SovieTarget in Columbia Heights), I'm certainly contributing to the car ownership rate, but so what? I never drive in rush hour, almost never make trips within the district unless something that I can't carry on my back is involved, and rarely drive alone. I'm not saying I'm constitutionally entitled to park on my street just because I own a car registered there and pay $15, but if anyone is allowed to park there I think it's reasonable to be able to expect to be somewhere near the front of the line. The handicapped and elderly can certainly have priority over me, but cruising the neighborhood on a Saturday evening after hiking and seeing 50% or more out of state plates gets a little frustrating, as does watching some of my neighbors head out to work every day in cars with VA plates.

by TJ on Jun 23, 2009 5:40 pm • linkreport

@TJ: +1 Amen, bro (or sis). Well said.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jun 23, 2009 5:45 pm • linkreport

@TJ Double Amen

and I personally have nothing but contempt for those who cry about the "economic impact" of not having sufficient curbside space for the suburban nightclubbers so they can exercise their god-given right to drive home drunk at 3am. the loss of that 6% transfer tax from out-of-state plates is a huge economic loss in DC.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 24, 2009 12:51 am • linkreport

On the subject of parking in ward 1. Could they eliminate all street parking on U Street? Preparatory to adding a dedicated streetcar lanes there.

by Steve on Jun 24, 2009 10:50 am • linkreport

TJ/Ward 1,

Parking in a city is expensive. Personnally, I don't see that private expense as one that should be borne by the taxpayer. People should be responsible for paying for their own parking needs ... be it by buying a place with a parking space or by renting a parking space. Curbside space should be reserved for 'all of us' to use. I.e., that curbside space should be for you to use when you're out shopping or visiting friends out of your neighborhood, and vice versa the curbside space out in front of your homes should be available for when your friends come to visit or others from other neighborhood (or outside of the District) come to shop or dine in your neighborhood. In a healthy economy there's an expectation of finding parking readily available near where one needs to go ... Just like you, TJ, expect to finding parking available when you go out to the burbs to shop, so should others coming here. And since that curbside space is paid for by all of us (i.e., it's construction cost as well as maintenance is paid for by the tax payer), that space should benefit us all ... and not be privatized by turning it into a private longterm storage option. Ward1 Guy, you make a good case for why some of us require having nearby parking available to us. However, you don't make a good case as to why the taxpayer should be providing that space to you and why you can't go out and get it yourself ... at market rate. Personnally, I found myself moving (and buying a new place) some years back precisely because I didn't have parking at my old place ... and their was a waiting list a mile long for an available rental space in nearby buildings. Which of course brings us back to why we need MORE and not less off-street parking ... especially underground parkinbg so that we don't get the ill effects of surface lots in an urban area.

In sum, no, I don't think any of us has the right to expect the taxpayer to provide us long term parking near our homes, that should be our own responsibility. The limited curbside space we have in this city should be available for shortterm parking needs by all of us since it is all of us paying for it. And yes, I acknowledge, we don't have off street parking for everyone to be able to park off street ... But, if that could change if parking minimums for new construction were increased rather than lowered as GGW is proposing.

by Lance on Jun 24, 2009 11:52 am • linkreport

here's a good summary of how performance parking works in Ward 6:

around the waterfront because of the numerous cafes they have RPP until 12 midnight 7 days. (RPP is more than self-funding). of course the effective cut-off is 10pm, 2 hours before RPP end time, as it's effectively 6:30 now.

the unique aspect of Graham's proposal is to give RPP to all residents. this would include residents of present and future residential developments not in RPP zones. the issue becomes whether future developments should provide parking they need or can use RPP.

there's a legitimate difference of option among smart growth advocates over whether new developments should be forced to provide for their own parking needs or whether making parking unbearable for everyone will force people, including residents, to stop using cars. Arlington which is a national example of smart growth and many smart growth areas take the first approach. Arlington has changed to 24/7 RPP with no stickers for new developments and a new requirement of 2 spaces per unit in developments. Prospective residents of those developments are informed they will have to provide their own parking for any new vehicle they bring in.

Most residents use parking mostly for storage for cars they do need on infrequent occasions, but not all residents are blameless. I know of one couple who had two concrete pads behind their house they rented to out-of-state plate holders for $200 each. They kept their own plates and legal residence in Delaware to avoid both the 6% transfer tax and state income tax and drove to work every morning and returned after 6:30. Kalorama has an amazing number of Delaware "residents" and expanded RPP will put a crimp in their style.

I'd suggest that residents who can't certify that they don't have their own parking, whether a concrete pad or an owned or leased space shouldn't qualify for RPP but it probably wouldn't make much difference. Letting new projects use RPP instead of providing for their own parking needs is going to make a huge difference and I'm not sure the desired no-cars solution is near.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 24, 2009 12:30 pm • linkreport

The problem is Traffic, not car ownership. As TJ points out many residents do need a car but use it infrequently and contribute very little to congestion or pollution. DC is one of the most polluted cities, almost entirely from traffic coming in and out of the city.

While giving equal preference to business patrons may be pro-business, let's not pretend that it's pro-environment or smart growth. (The city's tendency toward 100% lot occupancy and forcing homeowners to have concrete pads instead of yards is also leading to environmental disaster in our neighborhoods).

From a green perspective in this terribly polluted city it's very important to give preference to residents who use their cars infrequently.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 24, 2009 1:48 pm • linkreport

Lance, I'll made one philosophical argument using the usual bit from Mumford: "The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar, in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle, is actually the right to destroy the city." But putting that aside, the legal, cultural, and planning precedent in DC is that residents enjoy some form of preferential street parking rights in their neighborhood. This is not about the ideal setup, this is about the particular form that these preferential rights take. The present system in ward 1 frees up spaces left open by commuters for daytime business patron and visitor use, the question here is whether to keep doing that, extend the hours like in ward 6 because business hours in ward 1 are not just daytime, or put in a policy that would only put half the non-metered street parking in the two hour pool and leave the rest for resident use only 24/7. The latter option would give residents what they want, provide a means for a crackdown on registration/tag cheaters, and possibly make the current system a little more organized as most long term parkers like me would end up on one side of the street.

by TJ on Jun 24, 2009 2:19 pm • linkreport

@Lance: It's not a question of money. If you let me buy one of the spaces right in front of my house, I will write you a check right now. Name a price. That particular space is worth much more to me than it is to anyone else.

Now, as the Coase Theorem goes, there is no efficiency argument in favor of or opposing granting me (and my neighbors collectively) that property right as opposed to granting it to someone else, like say, the owners of Busboys and Poets or the Lincoln Theater. I'm willing to negotiate the cost of RPP's, but I can't see why you wouldn't designate residential spaces for residents and commercial spaces for business patrons and employees.

Also, your post makes it sound like taxpayers and residents are two different groups of people! The truth is, there is pretty substantial overlap, enough to justify granting some limited property rights for resident parking.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jun 24, 2009 3:17 pm • linkreport

Ward 1, in my personal opinion, it's a matter of 'making better use' of the limited parking we have ... i.e., making it 'more efficient' for all of us. When we're running an errand, or going out to dinner, or doing any non-recurring activity ... and we have to use a car (i.e., it is too far to walk/bike,etc), then having available street parking near where we are going is a good thing. Otherwise, we get there and we end up circling the block or just end up going home ... making it real hard to do anything other than your regular routine (which you can plan for) such as going to work or going home. And THAT is the the thing I am trying to point out. When you are going to have to park while at home or at work, you know in advance 'where' you're going to be parking and you know you're going to be doing it 'a lot'. HENCE, you can PLAN for that ... i.e., you can rent or buy a spot. (And yes, that means we need more spots such as new underground garages). By planning where you can (i.e., home, work, and other 'longterm and recurring' purposes) we can free up our very limited street parking area for what is was orginially intended ... i.e., to allow people to go about their business. It was never intended as an area for people to store anything there ... When first planned, one would have brought their horse/carriage to a stable/carriage house after one got to their destination. They might have left their horse/carriage in front of a store, but only for the relatively short amount of time they planned to be there. The public space worked well then and people were able to get around to do their business. But then with automobiles people found they could just leave their cars longterm wherever they happened to stop (i.e. cars didn't need to be fed and watered) and that's when our public space started being claimed for what are really non-public uses.

If we all were to get off street parking, everyone would be better off. There would be plenty of streetside parking for our daily needs, and cars when being stored (such as by those who only use them on weekends) would be in storage areas less important to our daily doings than the curbside in front of our homes and businesses. It would also force more underground contstruction of garages and hence drop the price of offstreet parking by increasing the supply of it.

And you'd know that when people came to visit you from outside the neighborhood, they'd actually be able to park. Is that that bad?

by Lance on Jun 24, 2009 4:30 pm • linkreport

Under the new parking rules DC is mailing out a visitor parking pass for residents to loan to guests.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 24, 2009 4:35 pm • linkreport

Tom, Yes, I'd heard that. Wanna bet how many of these end up being sold to the people with the out of state plates?

by Lance on Jun 24, 2009 6:19 pm • linkreport

Lance I agree that the guest permit is a particularly bone-headed idea certain to be abused.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 24, 2009 6:30 pm • linkreport

And Ward1 guy, I forgot to mention. Wouldn't it be nice to know there's always parking available in front of your house to drop off your groceries or pick up your family ... without your having to double park out in the street hoping a big wide truck isn't going to come by? Let's start using our curbside for access to our properties as it was intended and stop using it as storage space. Let's each become responsible for providing our own storage space and quit 'stealing from the public space' to suit our immediate needs. Long term, we're all better off if people stop storing there cars at the curb.

by Lance on Jun 24, 2009 10:53 pm • linkreport

And how do we ensure that the curbside space doesn't get used for 'storing' stuff? Easy. We do like the movies. First 3 hours are free ... and after that you pay for ALL the time you were there ... at market rates. So, you keep your car there for 2 hrs and 59 mins and you pay nothing, zilch. Leave it there for 3 hrs and 1 min and you pay $15 ... leave it there for 4 hrs and 1 min and you pay $24 ... etc. (i.e., the minute you go over the 3 frees hours, you start paying market rate going back to the minute you parked there).

by Lance on Jun 24, 2009 10:59 pm • linkreport

Lance, I admire your idealism, but I'm not sure where in Ward 1 you propose to build the acres of new underground garages that would be required for what you propose. The reality is that Graham is talking about moving parking policy in a more pro-resident direction, whereas you're talking about making parking more pro-business and pro-visitor.

I also find it laughable that you think there's any trip within DC that starts and ends within ward 1 for which you HAVE to use a car. Sure, those of us with cars do occasionally go get something heavy, as TJ points out, and there are the elderly and handicapped to think about, but "too far to walk/bike?" Where are you going out to dinner, Fairfax? Even ignoring transit, there's nowhere in this little city of ours that is too far for anyone healthy enough to ride a bike in the first place to bike to.

Finally, given your obvious wish to have taxpayers internalize the cost of parking, it tickles my heart that you think that the parking policy at gallery place cinema (the only one I know of in DC that gives you free parking with validation) is ideal. Do you have any idea how massively subsidized by taxpayer funds that development was?

by Mike on Jun 25, 2009 9:39 am • linkreport

Lance,I cannot build off street parking because I have not alley access. Should I pave my garden and lobby for a curb cut on street that is heavily travelled by pedestrians? Or should I instead lobby for shared community parking dedicated for residents who live in row houses in a historic district?

Parking for nearby clubs and restaurants and other businesss is very reliable and that won't change. DCUSA has more parking than it needs. Places like Giant and Whole Foods and Harris Teeter have their own lots. The Reeves Center parking spaces go unfilled while club-goers enjoy the free spots vacated by residents who dared to vacate a spot and not return in time to claim it back.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jun 25, 2009 10:12 am • linkreport


Most of us who live in the Washington metro area don't confine ourselves to just one ward ... or one city within the metro area. We have a metro area stretching 50 miles across (or more) and most residents of that metro area go to various places ... most of which are not easily accessible by public transit (if at all.) To base parking policy on the assumption that people should confine themselves to one ward ... or even to one single city ... is bad public policy. It segregates the people of these parking-underserved areas from the larger metropolitan area which is not parking underserved. It creates the inner city ghetto of which we spoke of in an earlier post.

And no, my post is NOT anti-resident and pro-business and visitor. My post is PRO resident. In order for residents to be able to participate in the life of the entire metro area, it cannot be parking-underserved. Yes, we need storage spots for people to park their cars while at home and we need access to our homes and businesses (i.e., curbside areas where people can 'stop' or 'short term park'.) Our residents need both in order to live a 21st century existence. You are willing to sacrifice one or the other in order to have free/cheap streetside parking. The reality is the parking is NOT free. If the city did the right thing and made people pay for the parking they use, then we'd have more parking being built to accomodate everyone willing and able to pay for it. And we wouldn't have groups and individuals all fighting for that very limited 'free parking' on the street which the city is handing out. And THAT is the essense of the problem. We need to stop handing out free parking. CM Graham's proposal is going in the wrong direction. It gives the illusion of handing out more free parking. Of course, we don't have any more free parking to give out than what we already have (i.e., the street side parking), but his proposal gives false hope for those looking for it. It's not a solution ... just a 'feel good' measure.

by Lance on Jun 25, 2009 11:11 am • linkreport

The real issue in Graham's proposal:

Performance parking in DC is a train that's already left the station and I think there's a city-wide bill in the works. I've been lobbying Jack for something in Ward 2 a lot sooner.

What Graham wants to change is to give RPP to everyone, including new developments. This goes down the road of diminished or no parking in new developments. Will DC stick with the normal smart growth policy that new developments must provide for any new parking needs they cause or go with the local fringe that seeks to make parking so miserable that cars disappear.

A space used by a resident generates maybe 2 or 3 auto trips per week. A space used for 2-hour business patron parking can cause a couple hundred auto trips into DC a week. From an envirnomental and traffic congestion aspect there's no contest.

DC residents have shown an admirable adaption to curtailing use of their cars and using transit, biking, and walking. Making sometimes necessary car ownership for them unbearable should not be the reward. The problem is clearly the suburban auto mindset that insists on driving into and around DC for every trip and using free parking. Charging them market rate to park is reasonable on the visitor side.

But at least in Ward 2, we cannot afford more new developments that don't provide for whatever new parking they bring in.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 25, 2009 11:14 am • linkreport

I meant round trips from ward 1, not trips within the ward. My bad.

by Mike on Jun 25, 2009 11:21 am • linkreport

Ward 1 Guy, read Mike's 9:39 post.

i.e., There's no reason you can't pull up in front of your house and drop off your groceries and your kids, and then drive a block or 2 or 3 or more ... and park your car in an underground garage. Of course, if you really want the convenience of on-site parking, then just move. Get yourself a house or apartment with on-site parking. Why do you think you should have the right to use the curbside space for storing your car ... when the better and higher use is for people to shortterm park there and to use it for loading and unloading? Like Mike said, there's no reason you can't walk a bit ... and if there is, then move to a location where you don't need to ... a location with on-site parking. Either way, you shouldn't have the expectation that you can just 'take' public space to solve your problems/needs. I bet if they charged $1,000 a month for that curbside space in front of your house (i.e., the performance parking fee), you'd consider the other options I've listed ...

by Lance on Jun 25, 2009 11:45 am • linkreport

Lance, you just don't seem to get that most of us don't see facilitating car-based travel within the city as the "best and highest use" of curbside parking in residential areas. I can't think of a successful urban area in the US or elsewhere that does. Believe me, I'd love to see extensive underground garages and use the freed up curbside space for transit/bike lanes and yes, some metered parking, but let's get real, there just isn't enough off street parking in ward 1 to make this a feasible option. I know your solution is just market market market, pay pay pay, but that's simply not a politically realistic possibility.

by TJ on Jun 25, 2009 1:18 pm • linkreport

TJ, If we let the market decide what is 'best and highest use' by instituting performance parking (i.e., by making people shoulder the full load of what it really costs to occupy a space long or short term), then we don't have to worry about 'what most of us see as the best and highest use'. If we let the market decide, then we all get a vote ... we vote with our dollars. And under that scenario, I'm willing to bet you that people would vote to use off street parking for their long-term, recurring needs (or get rid of their cars altogether), and to use the curbside space for short term needs such as access to homes, businesses, restaurants, etc. Why? Because people are willing to pay more for the 'occasional expense' (e.g., driving out to dinner) than they are for the longterm recurring expense that they try to keep at a minimum (and are better able to keep at a minimum because they can plan ahead ... and in bulk). This might result in more room for transit and bike lanes, but I don't think you'd find it happening on the curbsides themselves because egress and ingress to a property (any property, be it residential or commercial) is a fundamental right. (I.e., there are legal barriers to blocking that access.)

by Lance on Jun 26, 2009 10:20 am • linkreport

I always thought it was legal to park motorcycles perpendicular to the curb. They take up less curb space and won't fall onto the sidewalk if bumped.

But I just got a $20 ticket for "FAIL TO PARK PARALLEL." Has DC law changed? It will leave even fewer parking places.

by shannon ferguson on Nov 11, 2009 10:35 am • linkreport

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