Fenty budget raises Ward 2 parking meters to $3/hr
Mayor Fenty has released his proposed Budget Support Act, the annual package of changes to laws that implement the budget. One of the most significant changes not previously reported is that parking rates in most commercial areas of Ward 2 will rise to $3 per hour.
The new rates will affect commercial streets around L'Enfant Plaza, downtown, Penn Quarter, Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Golden Triangle, Foggy Bottom, West End, and Georgetown. Some of those neighborhoods have meters that are currently $2/hour, while others have meters that are 75¢/hour.
All 75¢/hour meters citywide will also rise to $1. Unlike the $3/hour change, that part was announced and reported when the budget came out.
Here is the parking section of the BSA; the list of streets getting $3/hour meters starts on the third page, page 185.
Is this a good idea? Probably not.
You read that right: I just declined to endorse a parking fee increase. The problem with this change is that it applies new rates across the board, without apparent regard for the demand at those meters. If all the parking on a street is getting filled up, then the demand exceeds the supply, and raising the rates is a great way to generate some revenue (ideally for the local neighborhood). But that's not always the case.
According to some Dupont business owners, since rates in that neighborhood rose to $2/hour, parking spaces on several streets are now rarely or never filled. Raising rates on streets that don't fill up is counterproductive. Instead of better utilizing a scarce resource, it simply makes that resource underutilized. Depending on how much demand falls off with the higher rates, a hike could even decrease total revenue.
Setting meter rates properly requires some analysis of the occupancy levels and demand. Ideally, we'd know the occupancy rate for every block, for every hour of the day. We don't know that information now, but DC could get a good estimate by looking at the total revenue generated for each block of meters and comparing it to the number of hours those meters are in operation.
The higher rates also magically end at the Ward 2 line, such as applying to 14th Street up to U Street but not U Street itself or 14th up to Florida. Parking demand is not appreciably higher one block south of U Street than one block north. Is this because Jim Graham, Ward 1 Councilmember, has oversight responsibility over transportation, including parking?
$3 per hour also means a driver would need a whopping 24 quarters for two hours. Pay by phone is starting today in Dupont Circle and parts of downtown, which mitigates that problem, but most of the affected meters won't be supporting credit cards. It'd be wise to ensure that pay by phone and/or credit card meters go into any affected areas before rates rise any further.
It's also really silly that DC law codifies the parking rates in legislation as opposed to administrative regulations. The Budget Support Act would add ten pages of laws that enumerate 139 street segments to have $3/hour meters.
Instead, DDOT should have the power to set rates citywide. Perhaps the budget could give DDOT a set revenue target and authorize it to adjust meter rates as necessary to generate that much revenue. They might not do it perfectly, but it would at least provide more flexibility than the current system which requires Council action to adjust.
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