Goodbye evening parking time limits, hello technology pilots
Late on Friday, DDOT announced a number of small changes that move parking policy in DC a few steps forward.
At meters in "premium demand zones," parking time limits won't apply after 6:30 pm. Drivers still have to pay for parking after that time, but can park for any amount of time. Premium demand zones include Adams Morgan, Georgetown, Chinatown, U Street, Friendship Heights, downtown, the Mall, and the waterfront area.
Update: DDOT emphasized that the time limits will remain in the ballpark and Columbia Heights performance parking pilot zones.
This is really great news. Parking time limits make little sense when your customers are out for a night of entertainment. It is better to have parking availability driven by appropriately set prices rather than force the turnover that time limits produce at a time when turnover isn't as desirable.
Time limits are expensive to enforce, requiring near-constant supervision by parking control officers. If the city enforces time limits too aggressively, the perception is that the enforcement is too harsh. But if the enforcement is too lax, then spaces are not available for use. By enforcing meter payment only, enforcement is easier and ticketing is somewhat more objective: you either have paid or you haven't.
One effect of this change is that where meters still take quarters, drivers will need a lot of them. Another effect could be that some spaces become too scarce once some people start parking for the whole evening. Five new technology pilots around the city will help with both occupancy tracking and easier payment. Many of these new meters are pay-by-space, and some include occupancy sensors allowing real-time and accurate measurements. Hopefully DDOT will put this to good use to adjust pricing based on demand.
For the National Mall area of Independence Avenue SW (in front of the Smithsonian Castle and art gallery buildings), and the newly opened Barracks Row parking lot (underneath the freeway), DDOT will be using Parkeon pay by space meters that also have a pay by phone option.
Pay by space is where the driver enters the number of their space in the meter, instead of having to put a receipt on the dashboard ("pay and display") like the current multispace meters. This is slightly more convenient by avoiding the need to return to the car with a receipt, and it offers the option of adding more time by cell phone.
However, when used for curbside parallel parking, it requires officially dividing the spaces by painting lines on the street, which forces greater separation between cars than is possible without lines. On the other hand, because the number of spaces is fixed, figuring out the occupancy ratio is easier.
Another feature touted on the vendor website is the ability to add time to your parking space from any compatible meter in the city with your space number.
The lot is right near my work, so I'll be riding over periodically to see how this works, and I'll request occupancy data from DDOT to see how the pricing is going. The initial pricing on the meter was the same as the on-street spaces which are much more convenient. I expect the lot to have low occupancy compared to the street, but there might be enough demand to fill them both.
For the Friendship Heights area, DDOT is testing pay-by-space meters with occupancy sensors by Duncan Solutions. The vendor website lists the ability to program the meters remotely, allowing adjustment of time limit policy or pricing without visiting each meter, something that is a limitation for implementing performance parking.Cale Parking Systems USA. The vendor website does not offer much informtion about the pay by license plate option, and I have not heard of this technology through industry magazines like Parking Today or other parking related blogs (yes, I am a huge parking nerd). I assume that DDOT will address issues with privacy associated with using your license plate number. DDOT says that enforcement of spaces will use handheld or car-mounted devices.
For the Ballpark area, Reservoir Road NW and Foggy Bottom, DDOT appears to be moving away from having installed parking meters by partnering with ParkMobile to provide pay-by-cell or pay-by-app (iPhone or Blackberry only, no Android yet).
Pay by cell phone offers a lot of user convenience. You don't have to carry cash or change, you can add time from your phone, your phone can call or text you when your time is about to expire, and some systems allow you to call or text when you're done so the meter can stop running.
This requires no infrastructure other than signs giving the instructions for how to call in and pay. Multispace meters are expensive, which restricts the areas it can be used. Therefore, pay by phone is ideal for areas with lower traffic, or residential areas where neighbors would like to charge non-residents to park, but keep parking free for residents and therefore bringing in lower amounts of revenue.
When Donald Shoup, the parking guru and author of "The High Cost of Free Parking" last came to DC to speak at the National Building Museum, he got a chance to talk directly with the DDOT parking staff. Maybe it's a coincidence that DDOT is changing what they use to control parking from pay and display with manual occupancy counts to pay by space with occupancy sensors, which is better for implementing performance parking.
Dr. Shoup and I had lunch together with Mrs. Shoup soon after his meeting with DDOT, and we discussed the DDOT performance parking pilots. He said that part of the problem DDOT was having with the performance parking pilots was the manpower required to visit all of the parking meters to change the signs and programming when the rates change.
The new parking meter pilots show that DDOT is willing to experiment with a lot of different meter technologies at once. Some of these technologies are a perfect fit for easier implementation of performance parking, like pay-by-space including occupancy sensors. Hopefully, DDOT will use these technologies to learn about how people react to changes in parking pricing for implementation throughout the city.
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