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DDOT will adjust meter rates, use money for neighborhoods

DDOT has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on neighborhood improvements thanks to the performance parking zones, and new reports on the Ballpark and Columbia Heights performance parking districts propose adjustments both up and down for meter rates.

Photo by mzarro on Flickr.

DDOT has collected almost a million dollars from parking meters in the ballpark performance parking district to date. Over $800,000 has been spent or dedicated for projects including BigBelly Solar waste collection systems, benches, historic district signs, and bike racks.

In 2011, with revenue generated by performance parking, DDOT plans to install three or four Capital Bikeshare stations, install an information kiosk at the Eastern Market metro plaza, and perform a transportation study for the Capitol Riverfront district, which will include a study of the M Street corridor for streetcars.

In the Columbia Heights area, DDOT has collected $52,000 from meters and is going to dedicate funding to traffic calming sidewalk bulb-outs, replacing concrete and brick sidewalk surfaces, and upgrading foundation walls. DDOT has also provided funding to streetscape projects for Park Road and the Farmerss Market.

The legislation to create the performance parking districts requires that DDOT periodically measure occupancy and adjust prices if blocks are too full or too empty. In the past, DDOT has been reluctant to follow through, but in this new round, they will. Some crowded areas are getting parking meter price increases, and some crowded areas will stay the same.

DDOT found that the parking lot underneath the Southeast Freeway on 8th Street SE in Barracks Row only collects about a dollar a day per space, and proposes reducing the price to 75¢ per hour. This is an appropriate change, and should allow people parking in the area a cheaper option than parking on the main commercial street.

DDOT should also consider increasing the time limit for this lot to four hours until 5 pm and unlimited afterward. That would encourage people with longer anticipated stays to use it, thus leaving the more convenient spaces for people with shorter term needs.

Although many areas in the performance parking zone had measured occupancy above 100% (made possible because of illegal parking and smaller than average cars), DDOT does not propose increasing the meter rates in many areas where the occupancy is high.

For some blocks near the ballpark, between M, South Capitol, and 2nd streets and the Southeast Freeway, DDOT proposes increasing the rate. This is a big improvement from the last performance parking report for this zone published in 2009, where DDOT recommended raising prices for blocks having high occupancy, but specific blocks were not identified and the prices were not adjusted.

The report lists this area having maximum occupancy only at 86% during Nationals ball games, but that is actually the figure for all blocks, including resident permit parking. To improve understanding of their recommendation, DDOT chould list in a separate table the metered blocks and their occupancy, and whether they have been included in the proposed price increase.

For some areas with very high parking occupancy, such as 8th street and Pennsylvania Avenues SE, DDOT is not raising rates. An official responsible for parking policy told me that they wanted to avoid adverse impact on District businesses during the economic downturn and had attempted to use other means such as time limits to manage occupancy rather than adjusting price.

It appears that using time limits is not having the desired effect, because the blocks are all showing excessively high occupancy, and my visits to the area during the busiest times have confirmed that parking is very scarce in the area. DDOT is working on building community support for performance parking so that price adjustments can be implemented.

The local stakeholders are concerned about the effects performance parking is having on local resident permit parking blocks. The DDOT official pointed out the importance of being sensitive to the local community's opinions, and I understand that, but I'll also note that right now the visitors looking for parking on residential blocks are those that don't want to pay for parking combined with those that are willing to pay but cannot find a metered space.

If DDOT increases the prices on crowded blocks, at the very least the people willing to pay can find a space, and the extra money collected can help fund enforcement on local resident blocks. Once pay by cell is implemented more fully in the city, the closest resident permit blocks could be changed to resident permit blocks with visitors also paying by cell or walking to the main street to obtain a pay and display receipt.

In the Columbia Heights performance parking zone, DDOT found that all the multispace meter blocks had occupancy rates above 85%, which should lead to higher meter prices in the zone. DDOT proposes extending the meter hours in the zone to 10 pm, and increasing the prices on some blocks to $2.50 for the first hour, and $3.00 for each subsequent hour, with a two hour limit before 6:30pm and three hour limit after 6:30pm.

This would be the highest street parking rate in DC. In the last performance parking report for this zone, DDOT recommended increasing the parking meter rates and hours, but the recommendation lacked specifics.

At a public meeting in 2009, DDOT's Damon Harvey stated that the adjustment would happen only after the streetscape project was complete, which it now is. The current report calls for making adjustments in April 2011. For the Columbia Heights performance parking zone, DDOT should be commended for now following through on adjusting rates according to occupancy, as the performance parking pilot legislation demands.

The report lists occupancy for each block as a number of spaces, number of cars parked on average and the maximum number of cars. This is a big improvement, which I recommended after the last performance parking report came out. However, to the extent that DDOT can communicate more information about parking, the occupancy should be reported as an average and a 90th percentile occupancy, which eliminates that problem that reporting a maximum might cause if the maximum is an extreme outlier.

Based on high occupancy, DDOT plans on expanding multispace meter installation to the waterfront area on Water Street and Maine Avenue. DDOT will also look into adjusting the rates based on curbside occupancy as it does elsewhere in the zone.

DDOT is getting closer to performing all the actions required by the performance parking legislation. They're measuring occupancy, reporting the data, recommending rate changes, and spending the money locally. However, in many areas with high demand, prices are not increasing as they should.

Compared to the previous performance parking reports, I would say this report is a big improvement. Reporting the data on a block-by-block basis is tedious but important. The money is being spent on local improvements which help the pedestrian and cycling environment, and everybody becomes a pedestrian once they've parked. Unlike the previous report, which called for vague increases in prices, this report specifies what blocks will have changes and what the prices will be.

It should be noted that DDOT is running one of the only parking systems in the US where the occupancy is measured and reported, and the prices are actually being adjusted. The other such program is in San Francisco, and that program is supported by a fairly substantial federal grant.

Here are some recommendations for the next report:

  • Reinstate the table showing the revenue collected and how it is being spent
  • Separate out the occupancy table between blocks that have multispace meters and those that have other parking controls
  • Make a recommendation concerning the price for every multispace meter block
  • Obtain community buy-in to follow the variable price policy on very crowded commercial streets like 8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
Michael Perkins serves on the Arlington County Transportation Commission, though the views expressed here are his own. He lives in Arlington with his wife and two children. 


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I wonder if DDOT could build and sustain political support by labeling all the amenities funded by the parking revenue.

by Eric Fidler on Mar 24, 2011 12:30 pm • linkreport

This is a lot of data.

(and you might want to edit the format of the last paragraph).

Before I attack the Shopian theology, let me ask one reasonable question: how do you determine how many cars should fit on a block?

And here's another thing: the benefits:

BigBelly Solar waste collection systems,
historic district signs
bike racks
three or four Capital Bikeshare stations,
install an information kiosk at the Eastern Market metro plaza
perform a transportation study for the Capitol Riverfront district
dedicate funding to traffic calming sidewalk bulb-outs
replacing concrete and brick sidewalk surfaces upgrading foundation walls. provided funding to streetscape projects for Park Road and the Farmerss Market

Now, out of that list only a few strike me as "benefits". Bikeshare, bike parking, new sidewalks.

The rest are just other DDOT priorities that are being sold as benefits. And I thought the $100,000 BigBelly was about reducing labor costs, not helping neighborhoods.

If I was a merchant worried about customers, very few of those help allay my concerns.

by charlie on Mar 24, 2011 12:32 pm • linkreport

@charlie: DDOT uses a standard car length.

I'd prefer if the money could be spent on things like repairing sidewalks, cleaning, graffiti removal and stuff like that. DDOT told me they have a stakeholder group for vetting ideas. They're also open to suggestions.

by Michael Perkins on Mar 24, 2011 12:38 pm • linkreport

@Eric Fidler,
I was going to suggest the same thing. Maybe a sign that talks about "benefits for X neighborhood" or something along those lines.

by Canaan on Mar 24, 2011 12:43 pm • linkreport

@Perkins; but what is a standard car length? We argued before about the 85% standard, which was based on car lengths in 1972. Today's cars are shorter, but with SUV in the mix a bit harder to park.

I think its important because over 100% is also a sign of parking efficiency. One big pet peeve I have is the enormous amount of space wasted between cars. One of the few advantages of multi-meter is you can fit more cars into a given block.

by charlie on Mar 24, 2011 12:44 pm • linkreport

The idea of variable rates/hours is great but is only effective if people know the rates/hours before they make a decision on how to get to a certain place. All of the information on rates/hours/policies should be available on an online map, so for example, I could know exactly how much I would have to pay and how long I can park in a given block at a given time. Even if they can't do that for the entire city, they could at least do it for chinatown, the CBD, georgetown, and the surrounding areas.

by Falls Church on Mar 24, 2011 12:45 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church,

I agree. The lack of information on parking prices is what scares a lot of people into hunting for free parking on back streets and for avoiding parking garages as well. There are a number of decks downtown that charge $5 for the entire night (cheaper than the $8 for parking on the street for four hours), but I have to look them up online ( before I drive in, lest I land at a $15/night garage by mistake.

If pricing information were more easily accessible, everything would be more efficient.

by Joey on Mar 24, 2011 1:12 pm • linkreport

"An official responsible for parking policy told me that they wanted to avoid adverse impact on District businesses during the economic downturn and had attempted to use other means such as time limits to manage occupancy rather than adjusting price."

This official either is lying or he's not very bright. Yes, paying a higher price for parking in a particular area might deter someone from patronizing a business in that area. But it's much less of a deterrent than not being able to find a parking space at all. In any area that's even close to 100% occupancy, raising parking prices should help local businesses, not hurt them

by Rob on Mar 24, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

Why not have the meters communicate and adjust rates automatically based on supply and demand?

If drivers know the minimum will be .50 cents/hour and the maximum will be $5/hour, drivers will soon figure out that empty streets = cheap parking and busy streets = expensive parking.

Not only do automated meters maximize the revenue stream, it also eliminates most human intervention which is plagued by politics, bureaucracy, and red tape. This method responds to the market automatically as opposed to DDOT guessing.

It will also help local businesses. High traffic areas get more turnover and more turnover = more customers. Low traffic neighborhoods attract customers due to their cheaper parking.

Sounds too easy.

by cmc on Mar 24, 2011 1:25 pm • linkreport

I would like to see Columbia Heights install meters for bike lane parking on 14th Street too. This could be a valuable new stream of revenue given the number of cars which use this area.

by aaa on Mar 24, 2011 1:32 pm • linkreport

@cmc: That's exactly what San Francisco's new parking meters do. See

We should be using the same system here.

by Rob on Mar 24, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

I'm no parking wonk, but it galls me to no end when I attend Nationals games and see the on street parking spaces nearest the stadium on Potomac Avenue and 1st Street with No CARS PARKED. Either the City does not permit parking in perfectly good spaces when the demand is highest or they are charging the same or more than for similar parking in the adjacent private lots. That is City revenue being _____ed away. These blocks are not even listed in the study, based on my cursory review. What gives?

by SAS on Mar 24, 2011 2:02 pm • linkreport

Why anybody would pay to park on the street in Columbia Heights when there is a giant cheap garage is beyond me.

by Adam L on Mar 24, 2011 2:03 pm • linkreport

There is no parking allowed on 1st St SE south of N or along Potomac Avenue during games. Traffic flow/security/etc/whatever.

by JD on Mar 24, 2011 2:05 pm • linkreport

@Rob - Those meters sound great in principle, but how transparent is the pricing? It's not very efficient (in many senses of the word) if you don't know the price until you've parked, gotten out, and prepare to pay. Only then do you find out it's $10/hour, so you decide to move . . .

The problem is the level of parking on the street isn't likely to provide an indicator in most instances. To optimize the price it would try to create modest vacancies of about 10-20% of spaces, but that means there will usually be 10-20% of spaces vacant. Only if they're nearly empty will one know that the market clearing prices is 0, and only if they're entirely full will one know the price is sky high (not that it matters, since there's no space).

by ah on Mar 24, 2011 2:59 pm • linkreport

@ah: It's been a while since I read about SF's system. But if I remember correctly, they have a web page and a smartphone app that tell you (in real time) how many spaces are available on any particular block and what the price is.

by Rob on Mar 24, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

@Adam L
Many people choose to park on the street instead of use the DCUSA mall garage because it's extremely difficult and time consuming to get in and out of. Also, if you happen to ride a motorcycle or scooter you're prohibited from using the garage. My request for reasoning behind the motorcycle prohibition was met with a flat out lie - they claimed that inductive loops used for the garage boom couldn't be calibrated for motorcycles.

by ontarioroader on Mar 24, 2011 5:48 pm • linkreport

Bulbouts were recently installed on the revamped 18th Street between Mass. Ave. and U Street. I've always thought they were a great idea, but these are different from the ones I've seen before (e.g. S Street NW in the 900 block) ... these extend not only into the parking lane but also into driving lanes ... And I'm not sure that's making it safer for pedestrians. When I drive into the intersections I no longer can stop back where I used to, because of the bulb out which narrows the driving lane (and subsequently visibility whenever peds are standing on these extensions into the roadway), I now need to almost pull into the street I plan to either cross or turn on to. And THAT would seem to make it more dangerous to pedestrians who should be able to expect the driver to stop before the cross walk ... 'cept that if the driver does, he/she can't see the cross road he's approaching ... so, even if he/she first stops behind the crosswalk, he/she has to creep forward before attempting to cross the intersection whenever pedestrians are on these 'peninsulas' obstructing vision ... which of course is the worst time for a driver to have to do this ...

Any thoughts from others on this?

by Lance on Mar 25, 2011 12:18 am • linkreport

And I thought the $100,000 BigBelly was about reducing labor costs, not helping neighborhoods.
How many did we get?
BigBelly Solar
The units, which are manufactured in New England, aren't cheap: They cost $3,100 to $3,900 a pop or lease for $70 to $90 a month, depending on purchase volume.

by Dan Maceda on Mar 25, 2011 11:32 am • linkreport

And I thought the $100,000 BigBelly was about reducing labor costs, not helping neighborhoods.

The BID does a lot of the trash collection. The Big Belly lets them do that cheaper. Since the BID funding is a very local tax, that means there is more money for other things - including more trash collection. So, it does help the neighborhood.

by David C on Mar 25, 2011 12:10 pm • linkreport

Why drive when you could use the CaBi share program! No paying for the meter and ticket problems if you use the bike share!

Can my community get at least one CaBi spot?
We have wrote several letters and made telephone
calls to get a rack in my community!

We would Love to have one in the Kingman Park Community! ANC 7D01 Right near Benning Road NE and Oklahoma Ave. NE!

I have a membership and can not even use it my community!
I have to use it while I am at work!

CaBi please share the Love in Kingman Park Community!
(Kingman Park - SMD 7D01 is Benning Rd to C street, 19TH street to Oklahoma Ave)

by Lisa on Mar 25, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

First, very nice analysis of the performance parking policy in DC. In San Francisco, they received a grant to do performance pricing using data gathered with (expensive) sensors. Whether gathered by sensor or by interns, it needs to be accurate and comprehensive. It then needs to be accurately and adequately mapped preferably in an online format easily read and digested. Once armed, the local planners/transportation mavens need chutzpah, cojones, big breasts, or whatever to confront a populace emotionally and irrationally attached to free parking (it's like taking away a lottery - nobody really wins, but everybody likes to think they could) But once prices rise in some areas and fall in others and nobody's grandma starves to death and no children go missing, then, maybe, people will begin to get it. But you can't be chickenpoop about it. And it sounds like the transpo officials are succumbing to political fear/pressure -- "we can't raise rates during a recession because more customers might actually find parking in front of our businesses" -- of course it doesn't make sense that's the nature of irrationality. But we overcame polio, we put a man on the moon, and we will charge drivers more to park in Columbia Heights!

by harry panther on Mar 26, 2011 3:11 am • linkreport

I see now that they have finally reduced the 8th street parking lot price to 75 cents per hour.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 11, 2011 1:45 pm • linkreport

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