Greater Greater Washington

Raise residential parking fees on second and third cars first

Last Thursday, the Washington Post reported that as part of his final effort to close the city's budget gap, Adrian Fenty is considering doubling the fee for residential parking passes. This is not a bad idea, but a better one would be to raise RPP fees for the 2nd and 3rd car.


Photo by slack13 on Flickr.

We charge a laughably small fee for street parking: $15 a year. Only in the world of cars is it considered reasonable that private individuals are able to squat their personal property on 180 square feet of public property and only pay 4 cents a day.

Doubling it does seem like a quick and easy way to raise revenues while spreading the pain pretty thin. But it would be a failed opportunity. Before we consider raising the fee for households with one car, we ought to raise it for houses with two cars, and raising it even more for houses with three or more cars.

See how this would play out in a parking-challenged neighborhood like Georgetown: According to the 2000 Census, there are roughly 4,936 cars in Georgetown. There are only 4,640 households in Georgetown. Of those households here's how the car ownership breaks down:

  • 20% of households have no car
  • 57% of households have one car
  • 23% of households have more than one car
You might think that since only 23% of households have multiple cars, they can't be causing much of the parking shortage. But that's wrong. Almost half (46%) of cars in Georgetown are owned by households that own more than one car.

If every household with more than one car got rid of just one car (keep in mind some households have five cars), there would be 1,200 fewer cars in Georgetown, a drop of 21%. If even just half the multi-car households got rid of just one car, there'd be 528 fewer cars in Georgetown, an 11% drop. That means more parking spaces for others and less traffic.

To flip it around: how many more cars would be in Georgetown if every no-car or one-car household followed the model of multi-car households? 7,164, an increase of 46%. There is simply not enough parking to accommodate that, and, besides, our streets would be completely gridlocked.

Essentially, these multi-car households are taking more than their "fair share" of street space and can do so simply because the majority of people don't do it. Moreover, they only pay an extra $15 per car to do it. (Yes, registration costs $72 a year, but everyone pays that regardless of whether they're entitled to a Residential Parking Permit or not). That's not right.

Thus, before we raise everyone's permit costs, we should focus on the multi-car households first. For discussion purposes, lets consider this structure: $15 for the first car, $30 for the second, $45 for the third, and so on. How does this add up?

If we simply doubled the rate for everyone we'd generate roughly $148,000 in fees from Georgetown car owners. If we went with my proposal, we'd generate $197,000 in fees. If in adopting these higher fees we caused every multi-car household to give up one car, we'd still generate $163,000 in fees from Georgetown.

By adopting this fee structure, we'd raise more money for the city and possibly lower the number of cars on the street, thus decreasing traffic and improving parking availability. And moreover it would simply be a more fair way of allocating a scarce public resource.

Some may argue that this is unfair to households that simply have to have more than one car. Such households probably do exist. But I doubt it's the majority of multi-car households. Many have more than one car simply because it's so cheap to keep two cars. Moreover, we're still only talking about a fee of one tank of gas a year. If there is one major flaw in this proposal, it's that it doesn't raise the fees high enough to actually affect behavior. But for now, at least, it would point us in the right direction and, of course, help close the budget gap too.

Last week the Zoning Commission lobbed this exact proposal to Karina Ricks of DDOT. Ricks responded that it would be difficult to administer right now since they do not have great records distinguishing different households at the same address. Thus a basement apartment appears as the same address, and would be charged more. Additionally, when people move they don't always update their car's registration promptly, meaning the new occupant would pay more.

My solution to this problem would be to charge a higher fee for all cars appearing to be at a multi-car household. Therefore instead of charging $30 for the second car, the city would charge $22.50 for each. This would motivate the car owners to update the city's records. Pitting car owners against the bureaucratic record-keeping machine is unfortunate, but again, we are only talking about an extra $7.50 a year.

Ultimately I believe we will have to make 2nd and 3rd RPPs much more expensive, but fixing the record-keeping systems would be a prerequisite to such a change. Until then, a modest increase in fee rate for those households that put a larger burden on our roads is the least we should do.

Cross-posted at Georgetown Metropolitan.

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Topher Mathews has lived in the DC area since 1999. He created the Georgetown Metropolitan in 2008 to report on news and events for the neighborhood and to advocate for changes that will enhance its urban form and function. A native of Wilton, CT, he lives with his wife and daughter in Georgetown.  

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Agree. It should be noted that San Francisco charges about $100 for their RPP and in California, fees like this are legally required to be based on the actual administrative cost of the program.

So unless you want to argue that the DC government is vastly more efficient than SFO, the $15 RPP fee is a big giveaway to DC car owners.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 21, 2010 10:31 am • linkreport

More comparisons:

Amsterdam, with about as many inhabitants as DC, charges between €12 (on the outskirts) and €182.40 (on the canals) for citizens. Companies pay up to €291.84 per year. Parking for handicapped people is free, but you still have to get a license.

http://www.cition.nl/main.php?obj_id=924768645

In Brussels (similar size again), an on-street parking permit is €10 per year, but several limitations apply. Your street address has to be at a spot where paid street parking exists in front of your door. It has to be your car. You have to prove residence (which is a serious limitation in Brussels, as it houses the Flemish, Brussels regional, Belgian and EU parliaments, of which the members and staff do not wish to or can not claim residence). And you only get one permit per year, per family.

http://www.brussels.be/artdet.cfm?id=4987&

In practice, most Brussels apartment buildings and condos have small (very tight) parking lots on or near the place.

London seems very complicated and Paris seems to be €3 per week (~€150 a year), if you're willing to risk on street parking (they park by bumping into spots - what are bumpers for?)....

by Jasper on Nov 21, 2010 11:31 am • linkreport

As for DC, it could tie parking fees to the average income in each ward. Clearly, people in Georgetown can afford to pay more than people in wards 7 & 8.

by Jasper on Nov 21, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

Alexandria charges more for each successive car at an address. Perhaps Ricks could ask them how they do it.

by jim on Nov 21, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

I agree with Michael. They should charge at least as much as it costs to administer the program. Otherwise, all taxpayers are essentially subsidizing the parking program. Crazy.

I totally agree with the intent of the post, but would argue that the fees should be much higher. How about $25 for the first car, $100 for the second and $500 for each additional car. Now that might affect some behavior.

by Steve O on Nov 21, 2010 11:55 am • linkreport

@ Michael,

If the administrative effort in San Francisco is as complicated as Jasper relates it is in Europe, or Topher proposes for us here, I can understand why they'd have to charge $100 RRP fee to cover it.

As it currently stands in DC, if you want an RPP sticker you get asked that when you go to renew your registration. If you do, the clerk just pushes a button and 'voila' there it comes along with your registration for a $15 fee. Extra adminstrative effort? The time it takes the clerk to ask the question and push the button ... Maybe 50 cents?

by Lance on Nov 21, 2010 11:55 am • linkreport

@Jasper Clearly, people in Georgetown can afford to pay more than people in wards 7 & 8.

Wow ... what an assumption. You want to tell that to the your average basement apartment GU student?

by Lance on Nov 21, 2010 11:58 am • linkreport

@Steve O: Alexandria charges $30 for the first car, $40 for the second, $100 for each additional. A seven car household (there is -- or at least was -- one in Old Town) pays $570 a year.

by jim on Nov 21, 2010 12:10 pm • linkreport

For twice in a two-week period, I agree again a bit with Lance's comments (while also believing raising the second and third car fees considerably would be a good idea in principle).

If we're trying to raise more money simply based on wealth, I think the income tax is probably the most efficient way to do that, and advocating soaking the rich on parking fees, independent of congestion or other public policy seems a bit classist, and just unnecessary.

Re: the costs of running the program, I agree it should at least break even. I wonder if $15 covers the cost or not -- I also wonder whether the enforcement breaks even or not?

One possible solution to resolving the data/registration complication Topher mentions: why not just allow one car per person, and then skyrocket the rates after that? $15 for a person's first. $1000 for a person's second. Define "person" as an 18-year-old with a DC driver's license (to avoid listing children to avoid the penalty). That would target family households with more than two cars and singles with more than one car. And it would eliminate the crazy registration hassles and not penalize tenants in group houses, etc. Start here, and if it doesn't raise enough money or reduce enough congestion, then look at other means.

If they implemented the program as I indicate and then want to still reward families or group houses for owning fewer cars, perhaps they could work out an income tax deduction for households that prove they should get a discount. This shifts the burden from DC to the residents and might be seen as a reward, rather than a penalty. Structure it so that any such tax deduction is way more than paid for by the overall revenue from the increased second-car fee.

by Joey on Nov 21, 2010 12:22 pm • linkreport

Here's how I would break it down:

1. Raise the base parking permit rate to a minimum of $50.

2. Make permits for all subsequent vehicles more expensive by 30% per car (e.g. 130% of base rate for second car, 160% of base rate for third car, etc.).

3. Tie all parking permit rates to linear size and gross vehicle weight (GVW). The base rate would apply to "city size" cars, like the Smart, Mini, and most compact, 3-door cars and small wagons (e.g. Honda Fit). For a larger car (e.g. full-size sedan, small SUV or sport wagon), charge 150% of base rate. For large cars (e.g. full-size station wagons, full-size SUVs, full-size pickup trucks and almost all vans that carry 7-or-more people), charge 215% of base rate.

This last bit is crucial: we need to encourage car owners to buy cars that are practical for the area where they reside and are used. For example, a full-size SUV (e.g. Chevy Suburban) has little practical use in an urban setting such as DC. It is difficult to maneuver and park in most areas, and the amount of parking space it takes is the equivalent of 1.5 mid-size vehicles (or up to 2.5 subcompact vehicles).

This isn't punishment of car owners, per se, rather a reflection of the reality of the DC streetscape and its inherent shortcomings and necessities.

by Rudi on Nov 21, 2010 12:23 pm • linkreport

@Rudi, what it is is punishing people who may not have the same needs and desires as you.

by Lance on Nov 21, 2010 1:18 pm • linkreport

I think we are ignoring two important distinctions:

Isn't part of the problem (probably more in burleith/glover park) student/young professional housing -- where 5 people share a house (and each have cars?).

And while it works for Georgetown and a few other places, not sure if the rule should be applied district-wide.

That being said, the primary advantage of this tactic is it won't change consumer behavior that much. And yes, the idea for charging more for larger SUVs is brilliant. Anyone who owns one in Georgetown should be taken out and shot.

by charlie on Nov 21, 2010 1:34 pm • linkreport

@Lance, it's quite the contrary: it's facing reality. So many people live in an unrealistic dream of "I can have whatever I want with no consequences." But reality seldom ever matches this fantasy.

In many parts of DC, there is little-to-no off-street residential parking matched with a shortage of on-street parking for cars that people believe they "need." Therein lies the rub: people believe that they need a full-size sedan (e.g. Audi A8, Chrysler 300, Lincoln Town Car), even if they seldom carry more than just the driver. And these cars take up tons of linear curb space and need additional space fore and aft to get into and out of a parallel parking situation. People with these cars are not using curbside parking to its highest level of efficiency, in effect taking away parking spaces from fellow residents - why shouldn't they pay a premium for taking up space?

Think of it this way: if you own a larger house or larger piece of land, you pay higher property tax. Why shouldn't there be a similar sliding scale for on-street parking space? It might get people into a mindset where they actually think about practical ramifications of their choices before taking the plunge - it's a skill that is increasingly lacking within our culture.

Encouraging responsible behavior is worth the cost, in my book.

by Rudi on Nov 21, 2010 1:34 pm • linkreport

Only in the world of cars is it considered reasonable that private individuals are able to squat their personal property on 180 square feet of public property and only pay 4 cents a day

That statement is hyperbole at best. Today's Metro section in the Post talks about about a tug anchored for a coupe of years in the Potomac. The tradition of leaving your things on public property is thousands of years old. See for example, the Institutes of Justinian's discussions of the rights along tidal shorelines (which were then the primary avenues of commerce). Anyone was entitled to beacj a boat, or even construct a cottage (typically a fish house) on the public beach. And of course the tradition of grazing the commons implies not only parking--but even feeding--your herd of sheep or cattle.

Efficiently allocating the public space is sometimes important and you are doing a great job of putting those ideas forward for consideration. But I think that a bit more understanding of the status quo that you seek to improve would make success more likely.

The idea of $15 for the first car and more for each successive car has a certain logic, but it also has overtones a sin tax rather than efficiency.

The most efficient thing to do would be to simply abolish the residential zone parking sticker altogether. If parking is that valuable, it matters not who consumes it. But that is a nonstarter, so the next best option is to limit this sticker to one per person. How many people really need more than one car, live in an area with restricted parking, and can not find a place to keep that other car most of the time? Why should the city lose hundreds of dollars in parking revenue so that they can save hundreds of dollars in parking space rental?

If that is really not doable, then the best approach is to charge (say) $100 for that second car, and give a rebate of $85 (i.e. $15- $100) to those who have no residential permit. And as others have pointed out, the sole legitimate purpose for these stickers is to park near your own home, so the zones need to be much smaller and the tags unavailable to people who live in areas where parking is unrestricted.

by Jim Titus on Nov 21, 2010 1:47 pm • linkreport

@ Lance: Wow ... what an assumption. You want to tell that to the your average basement apartment GU student?

Yes.

1: Since when do you care about Georgetown students? Most of them aren't residents anyway.

2: Georgetown students do not need cars if they live in Georgetown. They need transit and CaBi stations. Why would you prefer them having parking permits as opposed to transit and bikes?

3: If their parents can afford near $40k in tuition and a basement in Georgetown, they can afford $100 a year for parking. Certainly more so than the poor and unemployed in ward 7 & 8. Non-affluent students can not afford to live in Georgetown. They live in Vienna and metro in.

by Jasper on Nov 21, 2010 1:49 pm • linkreport

If there is one major flaw in this proposal, it's that it doesn't raise the fees high enough to actually affect behavior.

You can say that again. Who's going to decide whether to have or not have a second car, for an extra $15 a year? I'm all for the idea of high costs for this sort of thing, but you really have to tie it to income if you want to be fair, or provide cost reductions for some people, and then it gets administratively very complicated.

The current system (make permits practically free) does implicitly include an element of progressive pricing, since people with more money are relatively less inclined to deal with the hassle of street parking and more inclined to just pay for off-street parking. So you're using congestion to serve a function that could alternatively be performed by variable income-based pricing.

by David desJardins on Nov 21, 2010 2:03 pm • linkreport

I live by myself and I have one car, so according to this I'm not using more than my fair share of parking, and it should only be $15 for me. But if I decided to get a roommate who also had her own car, we would suddenly be using more than our fair share, and one of us would need to pay more. You would be punishing people who live with others. Household size varies, and situations vary, and you are basically arguing that if people live together they should share a car.

Having a car in the city is already an expensive pain in the ass. Few people keep extra cars around that they don't really need. If there are two cars, it means two people use them -- or they anticipate needing their own cars in the future. I might spend a year in a situation where I don't really need a car, but I can't afford to "get rid" of my car when the next year I would need to buy or lease a new car. $30 isn't going to change those calculations.

The fees you propose aren't too high, so I don't think it would be an injustice or anything. But it will not change behavior at all.

by CL on Nov 21, 2010 2:20 pm • linkreport

Rather than convoluted mathematical permutations based on car size, location, income, and whether you drive the Gospel of Smart Growth approved "right" car, how about simply double the RPP permit fees for everyone and save an unnecessary headache and political fight.

by Fritz on Nov 21, 2010 2:44 pm • linkreport

@CL, well said, and you bring to light the consequences of trying to micromanage others lives using the assumptions that come out of your own life (i.e., your own needs and desires). Over the years I've known more than a few individuals in your situation. I actually work with someone now who I think has 3 roommates in his house. He needs to work in Herndon, another roommate I think works in Alexandria, etc. etc. Now under what some folks on here consider 'smart growth', they're using less resources by sharing one house rather than each of them renting their own place. Yet, also under what is being mistaken for 'smart growth', they're now going to be penalized for doing so ... Because someone is trying to micromanage how we act.

Personally, I don't think curbspace should be available for 'car storage' purposes in an urban environment. It's highest and best use is for allowing 'access' to stores and homes and restaurants and businesses. It's for having a place to leave your car on a shortterm basis when you're doing the unexpected, the once off, or infrequent kinds of things like visiting friends, going to a restaurant, seeing your doctor. In my opinion, I'd make the curbside parking free, but limit it to something like 3 hrs at a time. And I'd tell people who had a car that it was their responsibility to figure out a way and a place to 'store' it when they're at home or at work. That the curbside is a public good whose highest and best use isn't as a place for you to keep your car when you're not using it, but as a place for the rest of us to keep our cars when we are are using them.

But given that no one is going to do that, and we're going to let people use the curbside to store their vehicles, let's not make this thing anymore complicated than we need to. Adding complexity to this will unwittingly result in adding unfairness to someone somewhere because you or I can't possibly imagine all the scenarios in the world that could come about ... Group house of singles, 'communes' of married couples (believe it or not I know of at least one that still exists in Dupont ... they used to be common here 30 years ago), or a Martian from Mars needing a place for his spacecraft ;)

Even the car size thing is adding a complexity that may make matters unfair. Should the family with a mother and a father (or two mothers) and 4 kids be punished because they've choosen a mini-bus (only 1) for the whole family instead of each of the adult drivers choosing to get a smart car ... which collectively would take up a lot more space than the minivan?

We can't know all the reasonings (nor should we) to 'fairly' allocate when we seek to 'social engineer' society along our beliefs and value systems. And know, it (how we decide who parks at the curb and for how much) can never be completely 'fair'. But, at least if we keep it simple, we're less apt to be purposely unfair to more people ... people who happen to have different needs and different desires than us.

by Lance on Nov 21, 2010 3:05 pm • linkreport

But, at least if we keep it simple, we're less apt to be purposely unfair to more people ... people who happen to have different needs and different desires than us.

I don't think the simpler system is any less likely to be unfair. Charging everyone the same can be grossly unfair, if some people have much more wealth (thus a much lower marginal value of money) and so they buy up resources they will mostly waste, because the money doesn't make much difference to them, while people with much less money who could make much better use of the resources can't afford to do so.

That said, I don't think you can justify more complexity here, but only because of the cost of administering a more complicated system.

by David desJardins on Nov 21, 2010 3:49 pm • linkreport

@Jasper re: Georgetown students (could also apply to AU, GWU and Howard):

1: Since when do you care about Georgetown students? Most of them aren't residents anyway.

True, and regarding GU students in particular, they are ineligible for out-of-state reciprocity permits that are available to all out-of-state registered cars via DCDMV. So if a GU student has a car, they either rent and off-street parking spot or get re-registered in DC - or go without a car, which is the typical setup.

2: Georgetown students do not need cars if they live in Georgetown. They need transit and CaBi stations. Why would you prefer them having parking permits as opposed to transit and bikes?

Exactly. There is a CaBi station at the main gates to GU, but not one on the north side of campus, where the biggest conflict between students and residents occurs. And to many GU (and AU, GWU and Howard students), the "practical world" doesn't extend very far from campus. Mention going to a concert at, say, The Birchmere, and GU students will say "that's a long way from here - how will I get there?"

GU has CaBi, they have buses (the G2 and D6 service campus directly, with many others within a few blocks, and GUTS connecting campus to the Dupont and Rosslyn Metro stations) and they are within walking distance of almost all of life's necessities. Few of them need a car - those that do are usually grad students or those with internships that are off the mass-transit radar.

3: If their parents can afford near $40k in tuition and a basement in Georgetown, they can afford $100 a year for parking. Certainly more so than the poor and unemployed in ward 7 & 8. Non-affluent students can not afford to live in Georgetown. They live in Vienna and metro in.

Here's where I disagree with your assumptions, Jasper.

First, few students enter GU without some sort of loans or other financial assistance. Sure, there are the affluent students whose families can afford the $42K tuition and subsequent room & board without assistance, but the majority can't.

And very few GU undergrad students live more than 1/2 mile from campus, given the immersive nature of an undergraduate education. Furthermore, the university strongly encourages the students to stay close to campus - the furthest you'll see most students go is Rosslyn, which makes the assumption of "living in Vienna" a bit far fetched.

Non-affluent undergrad (and a handful of grad) students - most of whom, I stated earlier, are on financial aid or have loans - live on campus. The grad students are the most likely commuters, which is to be expected from folks older than 21 or 22 who want more independence. And yes, they'll use mass transit, bicycles or carpools to get to campus.

And GU undergrad students will use CaBi, WMATA services, taxis, private bicycles, Zipcars and their own two feet to get from point A to point B. Some will go to the trouble of getting DC tags and a RPP, though most won't. And I'm sure the same can be said for AU, GWU and Howard.

by Rudi on Nov 21, 2010 4:15 pm • linkreport

@David desJ if some people have much more wealth (thus a much lower marginal value of money) and so they buy up resources they will mostly waste, because the money doesn't make much difference to them, while people with much less money who could make much better use of the resources can't afford to do so.

It's an interesting thought you throw out there ... But we should recognize that in most cases the statement 'so they buy up resources they will mostly waste' is by and large false. Let me explain ...

Some of the wealthiest people I've ever known are also the most frugal people I've ever known ... not wasting a penny ... keeping their thermostats low, driving cars that hold their value, not spending a penny they don't need to spend. From life experiences, I'd almost say that there is a reverse correlation between being wealthy and being wasteful ... inspite of all the incentives for the less wealthy to be more frugal. And you know, that's often how people end up being wealthy ... or becoming poor in very short order if they are fortunate enough to have inherited wealth ... but not the good sense to keep it ... as the saying goes. I've heard people complain that for example, a speeding fine of a couple hundred dollars isn't going to keep someone who drives a Maserati from speeding if he wants to ... But while that's true, I've found the people most apt to need a fine to remind them that speeding can kill, aren't usually the folks driving a Maserati ... And if they are ... well, it usually doesn't take too long for these folks to self destruct in some way or other anyways ... What was it James Dean was driving?

In any case, I think your theory that you need to charge someone wealthier more for the same service or good simply so that they don't 'waste it' doesn't bear the scrutiny of examination.

by Lance on Nov 21, 2010 4:18 pm • linkreport

@Lance: Some of the wealthiest people I've ever known are also the most frugal people I've ever known

Anecdote is not evidence. Wealthy people spend much more, on average, on luxuries than poor people, that is pretty obvious. Zero Maserati sales are to poor people, yet someone is buying those cars.

I have come to know a lot of people with tens of millions of dollars, many with hundreds of millions, a few with billions. Some of them are more frugal than others. None of them are as frugal as the elderly person living on $1200 a month. This shouldn't surprise anyone. If the wealthy people you know are really the most frugal people you know, this just illustrates how you really don't know any poor people.

Some European countries do have sliding income-based scales for things like traffic tickets, and that is an improvement on the US system. I can get a $500 ticket and just ignore it (or hire a $1000 lawyer to fight it). The same ticket can be a huge life-changing event to someone living on the edge. Certainly the same fine doesn't have the same deterrent effect for different members of society.

I am wealthy but I have sympathy for poor people. You are apparently comfortable and you lack sympathy for poor people. It's not surprising that with our different perspectives we come to different conclusions. But the facts are the facts, you aren't entitled to choose different facts or just make stuff up.

by David desJardins on Nov 21, 2010 4:39 pm • linkreport

@David, The amount you have to spend does not determine whether you are frugal or not it's how you spend what you have

from www.m-w.com 'characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources'

The guy buying the Maserati may indeed be frugal given the state of his resources while the elderly person living on $1200 a month may not. That Maserati may be his well deserved toy, while the elderly person might be spending half that $1200 at the betting parlors. The pool of their available resources doesn't determine their level of frugality.

It sounds to me like you have always been wealthy and hold some guilt for tha,t which you deal with by assuming that just because your wealth came to you by no actions on your part, the poverty of others comes to them similary through no action (or inaction) on their part. We're all not responsible for where we are.

Yes, I am comfortable now, but that has not always been the case. And yes I know that part of getting to be comfortable was learning frugality. I remember a friend telling me to always put away a set percentage from your paycheck into savings because 'you have to pay yourself first, and then you'll not only be able to provide for yourself, but to help others too.' That concept prior to then to me was completely foreign to me. And at the time living pay check to pay check as my parents had always done, and even put away that 5% from my check seemed like an impossibility, but I did it. And because of that I learned to make more responsible decisions. And looking back now, I realize that that was the best piece of advice I ever received. That small amount put into savings gradually grew, and though not a lot, it allowed me to wheather economic storms and then eventually take advantage of financial opportunities when they presented themselves. I know people who didn't do that and now complain that the world hasn't been fair to them. They never got the message that they had to pay themselves first.

by Lance on Nov 21, 2010 8:13 pm • linkreport

@ Rudi: Non-affluent undergrad (and a handful of grad) students - most of whom, I stated earlier, are on financial aid or have loans - live on campus.

On campus students do not need a car. Furthermore, they do not qualify for on-street parking in Georgetown anyway.

As for off-campus students: I know plenty that live way beyond Rosslyn. In fact, I've only known one that actually lives in Rosslyn, and he is supported by his wife. Rosslyn is still too expensive for most students. Court House is getting there. Clarendon, Ballston are ok. So are Pentagon City, Crystal City and (non-old town) Alexandria. As I've said, students with loans can not afford to live in Georgetown.

@ Lance: Your missing reply to my direct questions for you is noted. You do this more often. You come in with loud objections. Someone comes back with a set of strong arguments, and you ignore them, only to continue fighting other things.

Seriously, rich people are frugal? Remember though that being frugal is a choice. Poor people do not have the choice to be frugal. For them it's called being on a tight budget. Poor people wish they could afford to be frugal.

by Jasper on Nov 21, 2010 8:42 pm • linkreport

@Jasper, I don't bother to answer you because I see that you never take the time to try to understand what people are saying to you. You have your own pre-conceived notion of what you want to believe and if someone tells you something which falls outside of that, it's like you never heard it. As an example, you say:

Poor people do not have the choice to be frugal. For them it's called being on a tight budget. Poor people wish they could afford to be frugal.

Did you not read a word of what I just wrote above?

by Lance on Nov 21, 2010 8:53 pm • linkreport

@Jasper:

Okay ... I'll answer your questions one by one:

1: Since when do you care about Georgetown students? Most of them aren't residents anyway.

This is gratuitous to the conversation and simply meant to inflame the discussion.

2: Georgetown students do not need cars if they live in Georgetown. They need transit and CaBi stations. Why would you prefer them having parking permits as opposed to transit and bikes?

Why do you think you have a right to be telling them how they should be excersing their transit options. It sounds like you've lived in a socialist society (socialist in European sense) long enough to not value much the importance of individual decison making and responsibility. There could be lots of reasons why they need a car. For example, not everyone can afford to fly to go home. But most importantly, it's simply not your business or anyone else's business to thell them that they need to use CaBi or transit, or whatever.

3: If their parents can afford near $40k in tuition and a basement in Georgetown, they can afford $100 a year for parking. Certainly more so than the poor and unemployed in ward 7 & 8. Non-affluent students can not afford to live in Georgetown. They live in Vienna and metro in.

You have no idea whether these students parents are paying their tuition or whether its all student loans (most students' educations are financed that way incidentally), or whatever. Living in a university location, especially in a city like Washington, can be as much a part of a college education as the actual classes and textbooks.
But again it's not your business to decide where they should live just like it's not your business to decide how they should transport themselves.

Now, you see another reason why I don't bother to answer you much?

by Lance on Nov 21, 2010 9:04 pm • linkreport

Could Jasper or Lance please clarify why poor and unemployed residents of wards 7 and 8 would need a residential parking permit? Aren't unrestricted parking spaces fairly close by in virtually all residential areas in these wards?

by Jim Titus on Nov 21, 2010 10:06 pm • linkreport

@Lance: The guy buying the Maserati may indeed be frugal given the state of his resources

Use whatever euphemisms you like. The point is the same, the person with more money is much more likely to buy something even if he has limited use for it, while the person with less money may have to go without the same thing even when he has great need of it. Because people have different marginal utility of money, fixed pricing of community resources doesn't allocate them for maximum benefit. Sometimes that's the best we can do, anyway. Sometimes it isn't.

by David desJardins on Nov 21, 2010 10:57 pm • linkreport

Clearly, people in Georgetown can afford to pay more than people in wards 7 & 8.

Obviously, a household that has multiple cars, even in wards 7 and 8, can afford increased permit fees.

We also already charge a sliding scale for parking registration fees based on car weight, so this serves to increase charges for larger cars and SUVs.

by Tyro on Nov 22, 2010 12:06 am • linkreport

Somehow I thought that the proposal by former mayor Anthony Williams had been enacted and the higher fees on second and third cars were in effect.

His rates were 25, 50 and 100 for cars number 1, 2 and 3 (to same owner, not "household").
Story on the proposal made in 2006 linked below.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/16/AR2006011601057_pf.html

It seems the idea was broached again in 2009 and now in 2010.

by fred on Nov 22, 2010 12:20 am • linkreport

I like the idea that car size (length) should matter. Why should a smart car pay the same as a full sized pickup, when you can fit 3 smarts in the space of the truck?

It doesnt have to be too complicated, Im not proposing we charge by inch. Simply have 3 buckets of car sizes.

Small = $15
Medium = $25
Large = $35

And for the 2nd car, just add a $10 premium

Small: $25
Medium= $35
Large = $45

3rd car could see a $20 premium.

This is still quite cheap. While some suggest we should go straight to $100, that will never fly. No point having the entire fare increase die because we were too "greedy".

It would be much smarter to establish the fees and then put in a mandatory 5% increase per year, rounded up to the nearest quarter-dollar.

by JJJJJ on Nov 22, 2010 1:28 am • linkreport

Not either or. Should be and/and. The basic residential parking permit fee is priced far too low. God, in Georgetown, the permit is worth at least $2,000. Charge $50 or $100 for it. And charge much more for additional permits.

In Toronto, the fee is dependent on whether or not the household has access to off site parking, but is as much as not quite $50/month.

From http://www.toronto.ca/transportation/onstreet/index.htm

6 & 12 Month: Permits are issued to residents only on a six months basis although permits for two consecutive terms are available. Terms are from December to May and from June to November. All permits issued during a term will be effective until the end of that term.

Permit fees vary according to a priority system based on need as reflected below:

No access to on-site parking for resident's first vehicle:
$13.15/month plus GST / HST
No access to on-site parking for resident's second and any subsequent vehicles:
$32.87/month plus GST / HST
Resident does have access to on-site parking (permit is for convenience):
$46.02/month plus GST / HST

by Richard Layman on Nov 22, 2010 7:00 am • linkreport

@ Lance: 1: This is gratuitous to the conversation and simply meant to inflame the discussion.

Oh boy, since when do you object to inflaming debate? It is all you do? Secondly, you often argue that students pov should not be taken into account because they are not residents. At least in your ANC role.

2: Why do you think you have a right to be telling them how they should be excersing their transit options.

Transit options that students yearn for and you constantly oppose?

It sounds like you've lived in a socialist society (socialist in European sense) long enough to not value much the importance of individual decison making and responsibility.

Very suggestive, and half correct. You know where I am from. You also know that I have admitted regularly that I have been completely bribed into transit love by getting free transit as a student from my lovely socialist government (despite being everything but a socialist). Which is completely opposed to the free car society that most American kids grow up in. And are bribed by.

However, there is not reason to couple that to lessons about personal responsibility and decision making. Quite frankly, it is preposterous to suggest that Europeans do not care about personal responsibility and decision making. Especially considering your own European roots.

it's simply not your business or anyone else's business to thell them that they need to use CaBi or transit, or whatever.

Yet you've made it your business through being an ANC leader and C100 member to (try and) have a lot of influence over how other people should live. Cognitive dissonance anyone?

3: You have no idea whether these students parents are paying their tuition or whether its all student loans (most students' educations are financed that way incidentally), or whatever.

Actually I do. Having worked with students at Georgetown and GW for a combined 6 years now, I think I know the situation of Georgetown and GW students pretty well. How does that match up to your experience with students? And yet, you do have an influence on their transit options by your constant opposition through your ANC work and general influence in Georgetown politics. You force people to make certain choices by demanding parking permits stay cheap and transit pays for itself.

But again it's not your business to decide where they should live just like it's not your business to decide how they should transport themselves.

If it is not my decision, why should it be yours? You're no student either. And again, you have made it your business to decide for other people by being involved in an ANC and C100.

Now, you see another reason why I don't bother to answer you much?

It's usually because I ignore you Lance. You react way more often to my comments than I do to yours.

by Jasper on Nov 22, 2010 7:57 am • linkreport

The assumption in this tract is that increased second-car RPP fees would persuade owners to reduce the number of cars owned. "If every household with more than one car got rid of just one car (keep in mind some households have five cars), there would be 1,200 fewer cars in Georgetown . . ."

What should be obvious is that an annual fee of $50 or $100 is not about to get anyone to reduce car ownership (especially in Georgetown!). Owning a car costs $5000 to $10,000 a year. Who cares about an additional fifty bucks a year?

Here in Ward One, half of all households own no car. The principal deterrent against car ownership here is not the cost, and certainly not the annual fees, but the difficulty in finding curbside parking. Invoke increased RPP fees, and people will just pay the fees, complaining, to be sure, but not giving up their cars.

Scaling the fees to automobile size -- length -- so that owners pay more for using more space -- now that's a good idea.

by Jack on Nov 22, 2010 9:13 am • linkreport

This is a bad idea, apparently crafted by someone without family responsibilities. The number and size of cars a family owns depends on its needs -- a global decision that takes into account many things like mileage, parking, errands, work and school commute, the number of passengers that are carried, car pooling needs (e.g., taking your kids' friends to soccer practice), etc. City-dwelling people already have enough incentive -- maintenance and insurance -- to get rid of the second car, and this fee is small compared to those expenses. This is just a gimme on those that really need more than one car. And most of these people live in the outlying wards, and have much less money as those that live in Georgetown.

by goldfish on Nov 22, 2010 9:56 am • linkreport

Hence the logic of limiting the number of residential parking permits (as we know them) to one per licensed driver. People have well-settled expectations in most areas that they are allowed to park a car on the street--but no one can reasonably assume the right to park a fleet on the street.

Topher's suggestion of (for example) a $30 fee for an additional car should logically be structured as an annual parking fee for additional cars being offerred at a discount, not just another residential parking sticker. Over time, that extra permit should approach the market rate for an annual permit to park, which is location-dependant. People who convert a garage to something else should logically pay for the resulting externality.

Topher's suggestion that this be based on household rather than driver is probably not the best step in the short run, both because of all the ways of defining household, and because people currently view the auto priviledges as driver-dependent rather than parcel dependent. Given 10 years notice, it might transition to parcel-dependent; making it depend on family structure would probably be illegal discrimination. Maybe it could be 2 residential permits per house, which would tend to only affect outliers. (Apartments are another question.)

by Jim on Nov 22, 2010 10:04 am • linkreport

The fee for the residential sticker should be related to the cost of providing that service. What is the cost? My guess is parking enforcement, and road maintenance. This does not increase extra amounts if one owns more than one car.

It strikes me that certain people got annoyed with how difficult it can be to find parking in their neighborhood, and noting that some families own more than one car which sit in same place for quite awhile, said, "this is not fair that they can squat their two cars when I need a space." So actually they are trying to make easier parking for themselves without have to buy an off-street space.

by goldfish on Nov 22, 2010 10:16 am • linkreport

Someone — maybe Gregg Edwards — suggested limiting the cheapest passes to one per *2* licensed drivers. That seems like a fairly good approach, the more I think about it.

by David Alpert on Nov 22, 2010 10:20 am • linkreport

You gotta luv it ... those advocating for this position are essentially saying 'yeah, we know it'll bring in a minimum of taxes, and yes, there are definitely smarter ways of doing that, but THIS allows me to tell people they should live exactly like I live, because that's how I make myself feel important'. A lesson book out of Wells' playbook.

by Lance on Nov 22, 2010 10:28 am • linkreport

(Full disclosure, I have a car in the city)

Allow me to state the obvious. Taking away subsidies for car owners, paid for by non-car owners is not "restricting freedom" nor "forcing others to behave the way you want". Charging extra would be, but if you one is getting a $1K handout from your neighbor's pockets to buy Beanie Babies, it isn't "restricting your chosen Beanie Baby lifestyle" to suddenly only get a $900 handout.

Street parking is a commodity in major cities. We could eliminate all restrictions, and let everyone scrum for it. This would effectively drive people out of cars, because residents of an area would suddenly find themselves battling everyone for space. So the natural order in most of the city would be car unfriendly...the RPP is already created to skew the natural market to be more car friendly.

Now, in order to enforce this skewing of the market to drivers, we need fleet of parking enforcement people. We need signage to cover. We need parking court to process the tickets, appeals, etc. Since we've decided to skew to cars, we need street cleaning, snow removal, etc...to make sure the curbside space is clear to park. All of which is paid out of general taxation (tickets defray some but not all of this), or in other words, is subsidized by everyone regardless of car ownership. This leaves aside the fact that the basic infrastructure is covered out of general taxation.

Meanwhile, high volume users are not only subsidized by non-users, but also subsidized by lower volume users as we have an "all you can eat flat rate" pricing structure. If you drive a Smart you pay the same as the folks with an Imperial Canyonero with the Olympic sized pool option package. And shouting in a whiny voice "but I have kiiiidz" isn't a response...families also buy more food, clothes, etc...and I don't see us demanding that Giant offer a one flat price per shopping cart.

It's a very simple matter. The RPP in and of itself is a market skew to towards car ownership. The low pricing then makes this intervention heavily subsidized, and the bigger the vehicle the bigger the subsidy. And again, slightly reducing a subsidy is not "restricting freedom", freedom continues to be allowed as before...you just have to pay a little bit of your own cost.

One a side note, responding to Lance is pointless. As noted, he contradicts his own arguments. He is basically a guy who wants to live in "Ye Olde Colonial DC", with ready auto access to anything. Period, end of subject. Anything that gets in the way of that, and long timers running things is bad...and any argument, regardless if it contradicts itself is to that end. Given that, debate is a waste of time.

by John on Nov 22, 2010 10:43 am • linkreport

John: you claim that car ownership is subsidized, but do not provide data to back that up. Furthermore, you do not consider that good transportation is in everyone's best interest, no matter how they get around: that is the reason why roads are paid for by taxes.

by goldfish on Nov 22, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

The rates are definitely low, but I guess all the fees collected by the city improperly handing out citations for legally permitted vehicles helps make up for it.

by Scoot on Nov 22, 2010 11:09 am • linkreport

Some of y'all are really going off the rails with complicated schemes to charge people a few extra pennies a day on the premise that it will shape behavior. At that price, it won't.

There are two alternative goals here: discourage car ownership or charge an equitable price for the service.

If you want to discourage car ownership (or at least street parking), you need to jack the rates way up. When I had to rent a parking spot for $100/month, it made me seriously reconsider whether I needed a car. $50/year isn't going to do that.

If you want to charge an equitable price, it should be an equal fee per car, rather than schemes looking at cars per household. Imagine 5 people live in the same building and each has a car. If that building only has one address, should each car after the first become disproportionately more expensive? Imagine instead the same people living in the same building, but each unit has its own address (Apt. 1, Apt. 2, etc.). Now they each pay the same rate per car. Why should there be a discrepancy? Plus, a car uses the same amount of space regardless of who owns it: if I own zero cars but my neighbor owns two, shouldn't the total charge be the same as if I owned one and my neighbor owned one? Charge a flat rate per pass, i.e. per car, starting with the first.

by Gavin on Nov 22, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

@Gavin; I think you're neglecting the real goal. It is revenue. When the city has a $200 million dollar deficit some thing are going to get expensive.

I don't think anybody is going to be losing their cars in Georgetown over this. The problem is scaling it out over the city.

Slightly off topic, but I am curious if car-usage decreases when you park on the street vs. parking in a dedicated spot/garage. I know I was more likely to use my car knowing it had a garage spot waiting for it, rather than looking for parking.

And I think the defects you are describing are really part of the design: the long held plan to get multiple person households out of Georgetown.

by charlie on Nov 22, 2010 11:26 am • linkreport

The argument that room-mates are treated unfairly in this tiered fee structure is pretty weak. Room-mates evenly split an uneven consumption of resources all the time because doing so is just easier than figuring out who is using the most resources and who is using the fewest resources and charging them accordingly. Anecdotal evidence is one thing, but how many residences in DC are occupied by three or four renters who each need a car? The statistics are just not on the side of that scenario, considering that fewer than 40% of District residences drive to work alone and slightly more than half of renter-occupied residences have no car at all. I think the proportion of renter-occupied units where each renter is forced to drive to work alone is fairly small and should not be steering the course of city policy.

by Scoot on Nov 22, 2010 11:58 am • linkreport

@goldfish -why should I subsidize others' percieved "needs" for more cars just because they chose to have a big family when my own choices led to a small family? I resent your sense of entitlement based on differences in freely made choices involving both perception of "needing" more cars and family size. We're not talking about a basic life need like foodstamps to feed kids. We're talking about paying for on-street parking in a city filled with other options than driving.

Owning a car and driving are privileges for which responsibilities are attached. Paying for parking is one of them.

by Tina on Nov 22, 2010 12:42 pm • linkreport

Based on many of the comments here, is it really fair then to criticize Gary Imhoff when he says devotees of the Gospel of Smart Growth are simply trying to make car ownership and usage as difficult as possible in DC? Clearly a fair number of posters are trying to use RPP rates as a method of social reorganization so as to get the "right" results. And people like Imhoff resent it.

by Fritz on Nov 22, 2010 1:35 pm • linkreport

is it really fair then to criticize Gary Imhoff when he says devotees of the Gospel of Smart Growth are simply trying to make car ownership and usage as difficult as possible in DC?

The total number of parking spaces is fixed, and they are going to be used, so nothing proposed here would make car ownership or usage more difficult, overall. The policies people are discussing would simply affect how those resources are allocated---any change would be better for some people and worse for other people.

by David desJardins on Nov 22, 2010 1:50 pm • linkreport

There is no fee that would ever pass any kind of laugh test that could possibly influence behavior.

The costs of just owning and operating a car in DC far exceed any possible RPP fee that could be enacted: insurance, maintenance, gas, and of course, parking tickets. Even $500 (which would never happen in a million years) is only a fraction of those costs.

Additionally, it's unfair and penalizes households that have more than 1 adult driver. Group houses, multiple family homes, families with driving teenagers? Why should people who actually live in higher-density situations, which I though we wanted, be penalized?

In any event, whatever they do will have no effect on the number of cars in DC or traffic or parking, but will basically raise taxes for some DC residents. Same as everything they do.

by Jamie on Nov 22, 2010 1:58 pm • linkreport

In any event, whatever they do will have no effect on the number of cars in DC or traffic or parking, but will basically raise taxes for some DC residents.

Of course, it will also lower taxes for some DC residents, by an exactly equal amount, since every dollar collected this way doesn't have to come out of other revenues.

by David desJardins on Nov 22, 2010 2:00 pm • linkreport

Tina -- You depend on motor vehicle transportation, even if you do not own a car. The city exist because of good mobility; the street network is a common good.

Let people figure out the best way to meet their needs, whatever they may be. Trying to figure it out for them, well, leads to all sorts of unpleasantness.

The residential permit should be based on how much it costs to deliver that service, which is proportional to how many cars one owns. If more money is needed then the fair thing to do is raise taxes on everybody.

Families with children get huge tax subsidies, of course. But that is a different subject.

by goldfish on Nov 22, 2010 2:05 pm • linkreport

@goldfish-1) I own a car. 2)the discussion is RPP, not delivery trucks, taxi's etc. 3)Yes, the streets are a common good and, as you said, transportation that benefits the most good is the best. So why did you say in another comment that "some people" just have a hard time finding parking because others are parking extra cars they seldom use and those "some people" just want it to be easier for them to park, and thus want to raise the cost of the RPP? Isn't ability to park part of the transportation you are touting? (rhetorical: it is.)

If you're clogging up the street with two extra cars you seldom use then YOU are adversely affecting ease of transportation for others.

by Tina on Nov 22, 2010 2:20 pm • linkreport

The residential permit should be based on how much it costs to deliver that service, which is proportional to how many cars one owns.

Why can't it also be based on the ability to pay? That's how the income tax works.

by David desJardins on Nov 22, 2010 2:22 pm • linkreport

Parking is a scarce public resource. Asking people who use more of that resource to pay more seems eminently reasonable to me. It's no different than a power company using an inverted rate structure.

by jcm on Nov 22, 2010 2:26 pm • linkreport

@goldfish there is no car dealership, insurance company, mechanic, gas station or ticket-writing cop and private parking Co.s- all the (visible and immediate)costs of car ownship -who gives breaks to anyone b/c of the number of kids they have. Owning car is a privilege, not a right.

by Tina on Nov 22, 2010 2:26 pm • linkreport

ditto jcm

by Tina on Nov 22, 2010 2:29 pm • linkreport

Tina: I do not have extra cars -- I wish I did. But if you want to get more street parking by increasing the fee, then the fee should be the same no matter how many cars you own. (Some folks do not need that first car.)

To be effective, the fee must be high enough to compare to private parking -- my guess is that kicks in at about $1000 per year. Short of that, this is just an example of (needless) irritation on productive, tax-paying residents, a fee that they would not have to put up with if they move to the suburbs. These are not the sort of people we should be looking to annoy.

by goldfish on Nov 22, 2010 2:33 pm • linkreport

@goldfish-why do you object to an inverted scale of the type jcm suggested? Do you disagree that on-street pkg is a scarce (in many places) public resource?

If you think DC needs to entice and bribe people to stay in the city with cheap (even subsidized) on-street pkg for their 2nd, 3rd and 4th cars then I think you have not been paying attention.

by Tina on Nov 22, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport

Yes it is a scarce resource, but I do not agree with using the tax code to allocate it. Nor do I feel that I should be telling my good neighbors, whom I compete with for parking, how many cars they should own -- I respect that they know what is best for their needs.

Due to the cost of insurance and ownership, plus the headache of maintenance, people living in the dense parts of the city with "extra" cars get rid of them. (This I know from personal experience.) Hence I do not think that parking for "extra" cars in the city is a big problem.

by goldfish on Nov 22, 2010 2:59 pm • linkreport

@ goldfish . Short of that, this is just an example of (needless) irritation on productive, tax-paying residents, a fee that they would not have to put up with if they move to the suburbs.

Arlington:
For the period beginning July 1, 2007, there will be a fee of $20.00 for each of the first two Vehicle-Specific Permits and a fee of $50.00 for the third vehicle-specific permit

Alexandria:
As of 2010, the fee for the residential parking permit is $30 for the first vehicle, $40 for the second vehicle, and $100 for each additional vehicle.

by jcm on Nov 22, 2010 3:05 pm • linkreport

jcm -- Examples of foolish policies elsewhere do not justify their use.

by goldfish on Nov 22, 2010 3:09 pm • linkreport

The tax is what you pay when you register your car. Not every car owner buys a RPP but every car registered pays a tax. The RPP is a useage fee.

The RPP is a fee for the privilege of parking on the street. Your neighbors use less and more other public goods than you too, like water. They pay more and less depending on their useage; above ceratin cut points each gallon costs more. I'm sure you don't tell your neighbors how much water to use. Whats the difference in the finite resource of on-street parking? Why shouldn't more users pay more for the finite resource?

by Tina on Nov 22, 2010 3:11 pm • linkreport

^Why shouldn't those who use more/person pay more for the finite resource?

by Tina on Nov 22, 2010 3:14 pm • linkreport

Remind me again how much we charge for bicycles for the privilege of parking on the streets and sidewalks?

Or how much we charge cyclists for the privilege of using their bikes on city streets?

by Fritz on Nov 22, 2010 3:15 pm • linkreport

The DC water rate is constant with respect to volume; it does not change on the amount consumed. If RPP is a fee as you say, then it should be administered as such, based on the cost to deliver the service. It does not increase out of proportion to the number of cars a person owns.

by goldfish on Nov 22, 2010 3:24 pm • linkreport

goldfish, then the DC water rate is badly structured. Look at how electricity is charged, there are buckets with rising costs per bucket.

by JJJJJ on Nov 22, 2010 3:57 pm • linkreport

"Look at how electricity is charged, there are buckets with rising costs per bucket."

There's also a reason for that. It's called demand side management, the goal is to reduce the number of additional power plants that need to be built. Unless I am much mistaken, there is no enormous expenditure that would be required once the number of RPP permits exceeds some value. In fact there is no expenditure at all.

Street parking is self regulating. I really don't understand why anyone (least of all people who are trying to find ways to get people out of cars) would care one way or the other about "solving" this problem.

In many areas of the city, supply exceeds demand. In those few dense neighborhoods where that's not true, it is self regulating. At the margin, some people will decide it's too much of a pain to park and get offstreet parking or lose their car.

In the worst parking parts of the city, like Adams Morgan, people still have cars. Your paltry fee is no match for the difficulty people currently endure parking every day, you think a few bucks will change someone's mind who already thinks it's worthwhile to park on the street there everyday?

So anyway, shouldn't you guys be favoring rules that make it more difficult to park? Like relaxing restrictions? Jacking up the fees just makes car ownership easier for well-off people, who tend to have more cars anyway, if it has any effect at all.

by Jamie on Nov 22, 2010 4:04 pm • linkreport

In these comments I see loads of reasonable ideas about tailoring the price to the demand and allocating the fees in some "equitable" manner.

But I see nothing about the supply conditions. In Georgetown, sure, high prices could be justified because there's not enough parking. But why should someone living off in the far reaches of the city (say Spring Valley, Barnaby Woods or Colonial Village, or other areas of the city where parking spaces are plenty) be paying high prices for what is not really a scarce resource?

The "cost" of providing the space is primarily an opportunity cost. The street is already paved and unless the plan is to dedicate the parking lane to an additional traffic lane, there's little fiscal cost to allowing parking (signs, enforcement--yes). So the reason to impose a fee is to allocate a scarce resource. But if the resource isn't scarce, why jack up the fees?

by ah on Nov 22, 2010 4:54 pm • linkreport

@ah, just for the record, parking enforcement and signs are not a cost. They are a huge revenue generator.

We can debate the merits of the all day long, but everyone knows it has nothing to do with parking availability, equity, or anything else. It's just theater, another regressive tax.

If the fee went to $100, so what? That's just the cost of your first ROSA ticket if you don't get the sticker. Or a month of insurance. If you're lucky. Probably more like 2 weeks of insurance, for your typical 20-something living in a group house, who is most likely to be affected. Never mind gas, service, car payments...

There is just no place this fee could land between "absolutely ridiculous and will not fly," and "will not have any effect on people's car ownership."

by Jamie on Nov 22, 2010 5:06 pm • linkreport

@Jamie

Something can be a revenue-generator and still lose money. Revenue is simply money-in, not a measure of net profit.

I realize that's not what you're getting at. I think the term you're looking for is either profit or net income.

by Alex B. on Nov 22, 2010 5:14 pm • linkreport

@Alex B. Yes. I understand the difference.

Do you really think that the total parking enforcement operation in DC is anything other than highly profitable?

by Jamie on Nov 22, 2010 5:22 pm • linkreport

The total parking operation is much more than the RPP system. The total operation includes all the meters as well as other non-RPP restrictions.

I don't know what the profit/loss is for the RPP program. However, I wouldn't be surprised if the costs to operate are higher than you lead on. Some paint the RPP program as pure profit, and that's certainly not the case.

by Alex B. on Nov 22, 2010 6:05 pm • linkreport

There's also a reason for that. It's called demand side management, the goal is to reduce the number of additional power plants that need to be built.

That's not the actual reason for variable tier pricing of utilities. If you just wanted to reduce demand, you would raise the cost for everyone. Variable tier pricing exists because most Americans (although obviously not all, judging from the comments here) believe that charging a somewhat lower price to people who are using as little power as possible but are so poor that if they paid the average price they would have to freeze in the dark, and a somewhat higher price to people who are so wealthy they just leave everything on all the time and think nothing of it, produces a more just outcome.

by David desJardins on Nov 22, 2010 10:22 pm • linkreport

The 'progressive' electric rates results in 5 roommates (or a family of 5 ... or whatever) paying more per kilowatt hr than the 5 individuals who each rented their own place . How perverse!

by Lance on Nov 22, 2010 11:15 pm • linkreport

@ David, why do you sound so angry at people with more than average wealth ?

by Lance on Nov 22, 2010 11:18 pm • linkreport

why do you sound so angry at people with more than average wealth ?

That's easy. Because you have a hearing problem. The same reason everything sounds wrong to you.

by David desJardins on Nov 22, 2010 11:19 pm • linkreport

@ ah Neighborhoods where parking isn't scarce shouldn't be in the RPP program. There are lots of areas that don;t have any permits, and thus wouldn't be affected by the increase.

@ Jamie If parking were self regulating, we wouldn't have an RPP at all.

by jcm on Nov 23, 2010 7:55 am • linkreport

"If parking were self regulating, we wouldn't have an RPP at all."

That doesn't mean anything. We have RPP because of politics: politics of neighbors who think someone who's not entitled to it is using their space; politics of the city wanting to force people to change their tags when they move to DC.

There is no residential zoned parking in Manhattan. They have meters, and everything else not specifically marked illegal is fair game except for street sweeping. Do you think it's easier to park in Manhattan than DC? Why do you think they have no zoned parking there?

by Jamie on Nov 23, 2010 8:20 am • linkreport

I think comparing DC to Manhattan is really dumb. We have RPP because parking is not self regulating, and the residents of DC wanted some regulation.

by jcm on Nov 23, 2010 8:44 am • linkreport

"I think comparing DC to Manhattan is really dumb"

Why? It's absolute proof that parking is self regulating.

Parking is obviously far more difficult in Manhattan than DC. Yet they have no restrictions other than meters in business districts. Why wouldn't they want regulation far more than we do, since parking is that much harder?

So what is the result of a situation where you have a fixed supply of a resource and it's unregulated, like Minhattan?

Many people don't have cars.

"Regulating" parking just means that you are inventing a way to allocate it when demand exceeds supply. The problem with this, which should be obvious from this discussion, is that there's no "fair" way to distribute a limited resource. Who gets priority? Why should residents have priority over visitors and service people, who are obviously there to serve residents? Why should people who live in a home with one driver get preference over homes with multiple drivers? If you think that people in Adams Morgan have a right to park in front of their houses, why don't you have any sympathy for people who live in Chinatown where all parking is metered?

Whatever methodology you choose will be unfair to someone. Every neighborhood is different. All these attempts to ensure that everyone can have a place for their car do is create complex rules that, in the end, won't work in places where demand exceeds supply.

The force of "parking being difficult" is far more powerful than any administrative construct or fee.

by Jamie on Nov 23, 2010 8:53 am • linkreport

It's dumb because DC isn't anything like Manhattan. Comparing two things that are nothing alike is dumb. Peoria doesn't have RPP, either. So what? Lots of cities do have RPP.

Residents have preference because they pay property taxes. The city has an interest to keep those residents paying property taxes. One way to do that is to make it easier for them to park their car on the street. Because street parking is a shared scarce resource, it requires regulation.

by jcm on Nov 23, 2010 9:20 am • linkreport

"Comparing two things that are nothing alike is dumb."

Uh, ok. So basically you don't think that looking at how parking is handled in an extreme case has any relevance to a city that is trying to figure out how to handle parking problems?

"Peoria doesn't have RPP, either. So what?"

Does Peoria have a parking problem? If demand is less than supply, then it's totally irrelevant.

"Lots of cities do have RPP."

I am aware. That doesn't mean it's the ideal solution for us. It doesn't mean it works perfectly for them.

"Because street parking is a shared scarce resource, it requires regulation."

That is a premise and a conclusion with no argument that links them. Your entire response to what I've said is "that's dumb" yet you haven't made any coherent points.

"Residents have preference because they pay property taxes. The city has an interest to keep those residents paying property taxes."

If you think this is a reason for giving preference to residents for parking, then you must also believe that property values are higher where parking is easier.

Where do you think parking is most difficult in DC? Where do you think the highest property values in DC are?

It's exactly the opposite. The highest values per square foot are in places like Dupont Circle, U Street, and Adams Morgan, not exactly places you think of as having easy street parking.

Property values are highest in areas of highest density, which obviously increases demand for parking, and are also correlated with proximity to metro stations, good public transit, and services -- actually, things that make it less necessary to own a car.

by Jamie on Nov 23, 2010 9:30 am • linkreport

@goldfish-If RPP is a fee as you say, then it should be administered as such, based on the cost to deliver the service.
this is a point of view I respect, and concur with. All that other nonsense about "needing" more vehicles because your family is bigger with the tacit implication of "deserving" more because of this "need" is just irksome.

I think there's a rationale for rewarding low users of the finite resource in the way David Alpert suggested above, by giving a "discounted" RPP rate to cars with >1 driver attached to them, i.e. one car with proof that>1 driver is insured to drive it, or something.

by Tina on Nov 23, 2010 9:34 am • linkreport

@Tina, the problem with any approach like this is it quickly becomes too complex to manage in any functional manner, if it was even fair. Nor is there any point. At the end of the day, anyone who needs a car is just going to pay whatever price is required.

As I said before there is no price point for an RPP permit that would both pass the political laugh test (e.g. over $100 or so) and also be enough to discourage anyone from getting one, given the fact that it already costs thousands of dollars a year to own a car.

Do you really think that the average car owner, paying $1000-$2000 a year in DC for insurance, $50-$100 a month in gas, $300 or so a month for a car payment, or a bunch for maintenance if their car is older, really would blink at paying $100 more a year if they actually needed that car?

Likewise, would anyone pay all those costs now if they didn't actually need their car very much?

All these rules would have zero effect on parking while creating yet another bureaucratic nightmare. Once you accept that politically, the RPP fees could never be more than a tiny fraction of the cost of car ownership, the only thing that has any effect on people's decision to keep a car in the city is it being too hard to park where they live.

by Jamie on Nov 23, 2010 9:42 am • linkreport

I'm not sure I would call Manhattan completely unregulated for parking. To my understanding they have pretty strict rules about having to move your car during certain hours (alternate side parking) and that those regulations are such a pain in the ass that some people hire someone just to move their car.

It's rationing by inconvenience rather than price or fiat.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 23, 2010 9:46 am • linkreport

@Michael Perkins - that's street cleaning, once a week. We have it too, not everywhere, but probably everywhere that parking is any kind of problem.

The point is that even though the demand/supply problem is far worse in Manhattan, people aren't leaving their cars in the middle of the road because there's just nowhere to park. It is self regulating.

by Jamie on Nov 23, 2010 9:50 am • linkreport

@Jamie-it does seem like a lot of virtual ink over something not that important. I got into it b/c the attitude I interpreted in goldfish's first comment irritated me so. However, I do think the fee could easily be doubled or tripled to help pay for all road costs. It would still be a small % of all the other costs of car ownership.

by Tina on Nov 23, 2010 9:51 am • linkreport

I think Arlington does this smarter. For a block to join an RPP zone, 60% of the residents have to sign a petition, and then the staff has to survey and find that the street is more than 75% full, and more than 25% of the people parked have to come from outside the zone.

So a block only can be RPP if the residents request it and the evidence is that the block needs it.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 23, 2010 9:55 am • linkreport

@Tina, I agree that the fee could easily be increased and people would pay it. But the premise of this post was that it could reduce car ownership. I think that's a completely illogical conclusion.

If we're just using this as another way to make some money, then fine, I won't dispute that. Indeed, raising a fee that pretty much everyone who currently pays, will continue to pay, would indeed raise money.

We could also raise our gas tax, which I think would be a much more reasonable way to extract money from car owners.

by Jamie on Nov 23, 2010 9:56 am • linkreport

@Michael Perkins - I like that better then the way DC does, which is simply a petition of (I think) more than 50% of the block.

The trouble with Arlington's approach, though, is that people perceive that their block is full of nonresidents because they have out of state plates.

In reality, it seems very unlikely to me that in most places, there would be many cars parked that don't belong to residents or their visitors.

A survey of license plates would simply tell you that, because the street is unzoned, many people didn't bother to change their registration.

RPP restrictions are certainly effective at getting people to register their cars, and I have no problem with that as an outcome. But I think most people care less about what licence plate is on the cars on their block, then they do about how many cars are on their block.

When I live in Mt. PLeasant many years ago, over a few years, each block that had been unzoned when I moved there became zoned. As each one went down, the unzoned blocks got harder to park, causing them to get their blocks zoned. In the end, every block was zoned, and of course now parking is evenly distributed again, but it's no easier than it was before anywhere was zoned. There are more DC plates but just as many cars.

by Jamie on Nov 23, 2010 10:01 am • linkreport

@Jamie: Arlington's parking manager told me that the same thing happens in Arlington. I think the big difference is that our RPP zones are intended to mitigate the effects of specific point demand generators like a Metro station or high school, and eventually by creating RPP blocks far enough you exhaust people's desire to park and walk to the Metro station.

In DC the conditions are different, in that it's dense enough that there's a sea of generators, rather than point sources.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 23, 2010 10:20 am • linkreport

there are still point sources though, like the zoo around Woodley and south Cleveland Parks. big prob.

Also I still think there's some "fairness" in rewarding people who use the resource less.

Anecdotes; in my RPP zone one of my neighbors has two vintage cars that he keeps parked on the street under tarps. They never move. Thus those parking spots are never freed up. Why should all the neighbors and/businesses' customers be deprived of parking so he can enjoy his hobby using the public street scarce parking? Same neighborhood: New neighbor moved in. No off street pkg. For 3 months parked his hummer on the narrow street. Not only did it take up a ridiculous amount of linear space it stuck out width-wise blocking 1/3 of the narrow street. It was more than annoying, it was safety hazard for everyone trying to cross the street whose view was blocked, including that of drvirs. He eventually got rid of it or got private parking.

It just seems these two users who pay the same price for an RPP as everyone else are getting a resource unfairly/ using it in an unintended way.

by Tina on Nov 23, 2010 11:04 am • linkreport

@Tina - the only thing that this would change is that the vintage car guy would pay a few bucks more. I seriously doubt he would lose his cars. As of course another household that legitimately owns and uses the same number of cars, because they had several adult drivers living there. They would be penalized for their smaller footprint: the same policy that rewards people for having fewer cars, rewards people for having fewer residents in a household, which is something that we WANT in cities. But it wouldn't get those cars off the street, that's for sure.

The use of the resource can never be "fair." Someone who drives to work every day will only use it 12 of 24 hours, does that mean they should pay less? Now you're rewarding people who drive more often, which I would think is the opposite of the goal of "smart growth."

It's just impossible to be "fair." First and foremost, there are two conflicting goals: getting people out of cars, and making it easier to own and use a car.

This is why I think parking works best when it's just not regulated. The harder it becomes to park, the more incentive there is for people to get rid of cars. And it's absurd to argue as jcm does that parking problems cause the city to lose residents, because that is completely the opposite of what we see in reality. The most dense, most popular, most expensive parts of the city are obviously the hardest to park as a factor of the higher number of residents per parking spot.

The only good reason to make parking easier is for businesses, hence meters that force turnover.

I do think that there are some situations that warrant a special approach, such as substantial changes to the use of an area, like near Columbia Heights metro. But there are certainly plenty of places where you've got little or no residential parking, yet lots of people live, such as Chinatown. And that fact somehow does not make them unpopular.

by Jamie on Nov 23, 2010 11:14 am • linkreport

@Tina: what I wrote yesterday at 10:16, that apparently offended you:

It strikes me that certain people got annoyed with how difficult it can be to find parking in their neighborhood, and noting that some families own more than one car which sit in same place for quite awhile, said, "this is not fair that they can squat their two cars when I need a space."

...and then you wrote how irritated you were at the squatters, above.

Just what I said: You are trying to make easier parking for yourself without having to buy an off-street space.

by goldfish on Nov 23, 2010 11:32 am • linkreport

indeed its a conundrum. One reason people drive more is that infrastructure doesn't exist for other modes for a lot of destinations even within the city (Yet?).

by Tina on Nov 23, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

"One reason people drive more is that infrastructure doesn't exist for other modes for a lot of destinations even within the city (Yet?)"

How many areas where parking is very difficult meet that criteria? The most popular, most densely populated parts of the city, naturally, are those with good public transit infrastructure and services.

I am not about making choices for people, though. People should make their own choice. So rather than trying to regulate who gets to park what in a given area, why not just let people make that choice themselves?

Everyone will have a balance of convenience, cost and necessity based on where they live that determines whether or not they have a car or how many they have.

And certainly how easy it is to park will influence some people's decision about where to live, but clearly that's not more important than everything else, for plenty of people, since it's clear that areas where parking is hard are also in high demand.

That's why I think the only good reason for special consideration is substantial changes in use in a short time, like near columbia heights. People could legitimately argue that the deal changed after they moved there. But this rationale gets less and less reasonable as time goes on. Nobody in Adams Morgan should ever complain: they knew the deal when they moved there. Parking has sucked for at least twenty years.

by Jamie on Nov 23, 2010 11:39 am • linkreport

goldfish, you also touted how roads & cars are importnant for transportation, and that parking is part of that. I agreed. I pointed out how the comment you quote from yourself above contradicts your assertion of transportation as important vis-a-vis parking. Look, you came off first "whining but I have kidz" as another commeter put it, then you asserted parking was important for transportation and shouldn't be made more difficult b/c "productive" people will leave the city (implying no one who's car free is "productive and tax-paying"), then you contradicted that saying its no one's business if parking is made more difficult by people using more of it because of their "needs" and never freeing up spaces while attempting to conflate that use with income tax breaks for dependents. You finally got to something coherent and apropos with the statement about covering the costs and by pointing out that marginal increased costs in the RPP aren't going to cause too many people to give up a car.

BTW, we have an off-street parking spot.

by Tina on Nov 23, 2010 11:50 am • linkreport

"Regulating" parking just means that you are inventing a way to allocate it when demand exceeds supply. The problem with this, which should be obvious from this discussion, is that there's no "fair" way to distribute a limited resource.

The problem with your argument is that every alternative, including your preferred "free for all", has some level of unfairness. E.g., handicapped parking is a form of regulation. Are you against that? It takes parking away from able-bodied people to give a preference to handicapped people. Some of them could do fine without it, in some circumstances. It leads to empty spots being unused when they could be used by someone else, often in prime locations. We still do it, because we as a society (perhaps not including you) mostly agree that it increases fairness. That doesn't mean it's perfectly fair.

Is residential permit parking more or less fair than free-for-all parking? Different people will have different opinions. In a democracy, the people decide.

by David desJardins on Nov 23, 2010 1:22 pm • linkreport

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