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Posts about Parking Meters


DDOT's newest performance parking program will be its best

In May, DDOT will launch its most robust performance parking experiment to date. The program, called ParkDC, will significantly change how people park in Gallery Place: the cost to park a car on some of downtown's most in-demand blocks will rise or drop according to demand.

Photo by Payton Chung on Flickr.

ParkDC's boundaries will stretch from 11th to 3rd and from E to H Streets Northwest.

Under the performance parking program, DDOT will use cameras and sensors to measure when parking spaces in the designated area are occupied and when they're empty.

Each quarter, the agency will measure that data against a target occupancy rate of 80-90% (or about one empty spot per block) and adjust how much it costs to park in a given spot accordingly. It's possible that prices will change more frequently after the first few quarters, and DDOT will assess ParkDC's overall impact sometime before the end of 2016.

A map of where ParkDC will go into effect. Image from DDOT.

Charging market rate for parking will make sure there are enough empty spots for people who need them while also eliminating an oversupply. That, in turn, will cut down on the congestion that comes from people driving around looking for somewhere to park.

ParkDC is based in part on the success of SFpark, which was introduced to several busy areas in central San Francisco in 2011. An evaluation of SFpark showed that the program made streets better for everyone, with 30% fewer miles driven, 23% fewer parking tickets, 22% less double parking, and 43% less time wasted looking for parking. The average price for parking even fell by 4%. Compared to control areas, buses ran faster and retail sales grew more.

The local business improvement district supports ParkDC: in its press release, businesses touted the project's ability to make parking "easier to locate" and cut down on double parking and drivers circling for spaces.

ParkDC will be DDOT's best parking effort to date

DDOT has tried pilots on Capitol Hill, H Street, and Columbia Heights. They were less successful than supporters hoped because DDOT did not have a cost-effective way to measure occupancy. It also didn't put forth a schedule for updating the meter rates, nor a timeframe for evaluating effectiveness.

For each of these pilot areas, DDOT only reported occupancy data publicly twice, and it hasn't changed prices in some places even when the data show they're either too crowded or empty.

ParkDC's real-time cameras and occupancy sensors, along with a pre-announced schedule, make the program smarter and more responsive.

According to Soumya Dey, DDOT's director of research and technology transfer, ParkDC will use a number of methods to gather occupancy data. A traditional "hockey puck," transaction data from the meters, historical data, cameras, and law enforcement data are all among the ways DDOT will know how many people park, and when, on each block. Dey said the hope is to use fewer embedded sensors, and to evaluate which method is most cost-effective.

Dey said that once the program is up and running, the public will be able to view spot occupancy in real time on DDOT's website or its app.


When you raise parking rates, the 'why' matters

Arlington County may raise its parking rates, which would make it easier to find space. It'd be a welcome change, but it may happen for the wrong reasons.

Photo by Niall Kennedy on Flickr.

At a budget work session last week, county staff floated the possibility of extending on-street marking meters' operating times by one hour and upping the hourly price by $.25. It's a move that's long-overdue in the county—even Leesburg, VA charges more.

The reason Arlington is considering the raise, though, is because it needs to close a budget gap. That sends a message that on-street meters are for collecting revenue when their real purpose is to regulate traffic and space.

Parking meters are for making sure there's somewhere to park

Parking meters came about in the 1930s as a way to make spaces in front of stores available to multiple people throughout the day. While meters provide revenue, their real benefit is that they ensure access as well as cut back on the congestion that comes from driving around to look for an open space.

Most downtowns have changed since the parking meter arrived. People used to go downtown for visits to the bank or pharmacy, which are open in daytime hours. Now, successful downtowns, like Clarendon and the 23rd Street strip in Crystal City, are destinations for evening entertainment. Parking demand really peaks around dinner time.

When parking meters stop running at 6 pm, they aren't doing their job. The most convenient parking is priced too low given its demand, and that means a dearth of available on-street spaces.

Failing to adapt meters to this shift in usage has caused a lot of problems for Arlington. Customers looking to quickly grab take-out or drop off dry cleaning have to waste time circling the block to look for a spot, which can lead to them double parking or taking their business elsewhere.

Also, drivers who are distractedly searching for parking are a danger to pedestrians.

If meter rates are set appropriately, garage spaces will end up being cheaper than metered spaces so more people will seek them out and see how much oversupply of garage parking we actually have.

Charging market rate for parking makes parking predictable

In his book The High Cost of Free Parking, Donald Shoup says the solution is performance parking. Performance parking is a system where parking's cost and enforcement hours match demand for spots in the given area. Adjusting prices will mean there's always one or two open spaces on every block.

San Francisco has a performance parking initiative that has shown remarkable benefits. DC is starting its own performance parking program, parkDC, in Chinatown and Penn Quarter.

Arlington's Master Transportation Plan calls for a pilot of performance parking, but the county has never put it into effect. That's likely due to concern over pushback from businesses, as many skate by on thin margins and are very concerned about the possibility of losing customers because of expensive parking. But in Seattle, expanded meter enforcement has actually resulted in more revenue for downtown restaurants.

When parking is more convenient and predictable, customers can head to businesses confident they won't have to waste time searching for a place to park.

To offset the perception that performance parking would harm a commercial district, Shoup recommends dedicating some or all of the revenue performance meters generate to investments in the surrounding area. In Arlington, funds could go toward landscaping, streetscape projects, special events, or perhaps replacing the tax that currently funds business improvement districts.

Regardless of how the board comes down on the proposal at hand, performance parking is long overdue in Arlington. The county should work with residents and the business community to make it happen. Underpriced on-street parking is too harmful to Arlington for it continue.

Billing parking as a revenue generator sends the wrong message

If Arlington does raise its parking meter rates, it should be clear about the purpose of the new charges. Simply raising meter rates as part of the budget discussion dumps parking policy in with political quagmires. It makes people think of metered parking as just another tax when, in reality, it's a tool for making efficient use of curb space and for creating a functioning market for convenient parking, which is in limited supply.

Pricing on-street parking properly is good for everybody. Everyone has times when they aren't in a hurry and would happily save a few bucks by parking in a less-convenient garage, and everyone has times when they're running late and would happily pay a premium for a spot that's quick and convenient. Right now we don't get to make that choice because the most convenient spaces are actually cheaper than the less convenient ones.

To answer the question "Do we need to raise meter rates?" you don't need to know whether you have a gap in the budget. You need to know whether there are spaces available on the street for somebody in a hurry. Raising rates as part of the budgeting process, along with not charging them at the busiest times, sends exactly the wrong message.

Michael Perkins contributed to this article.


Events roundup: Parking and zoning and budgeting, oh my!

Over the next two weeks, you can learn about plans for transit on I-66 and for meters on the Mall, speak up on WMATA's budget and the DC zoning update, and see a play with us in Arlington.

Photo by F Delventhal on Flickr.

Come see Clybourne Park with us: Join us to go see Clybourne Park, an award-winning play about gentrification in Chicago, this Sunday, February 9. We'll have an open discussion with the show's director, the cast, and some GGW contributors after the show.

The show begins at 2:30 pm at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center, located at 125 South Old Glebe Road in Arlington. The theater is about a mile from the Ballston and Virginia Square Metro stations and accessible by Metrobus routes 10B, 23A, 23C, and 4A, or ART route 41. Purchase tickets here.

Talk about parking meters on the Mall: The National Park Service has plans to help fund a new Circulator bus route by adding parking meters to free parking on the National Mall. On February 11, NPS will hold a public meeting to discuss the parking meter proposal at the NPS National Capital Region Headquarters Cafeteria, at 1100 Ohio Drive SW beginning at 6 pm.

See the future of White Flint: Montgomery County wants to transform Rockville Pike from a suburban strip to a new downtown. Hear how the county's working with property owners, local businesses, and residents to make it happen during a lunch talk with Lindsay Hoffman, executive director of community organization Friends of White Flint.

The event is this Wednesday, February 5 from 12:30 to 1:30 pm at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street NW. The talk is free, but you need to register.

Last chance to speak out on DC's zoning update: The last round of public hearings on a rewrite of DC's 50-year-old zoning code begin this Saturday, February 8 and continue throughout the week. Interested in testifying? Attend the meeting for your ward and speak your mind. The hearings are first come, first served, so be sure to sign up early. The Coalition for Smarter Growth has a guide for signing up here.

The ward-by-ward schedule is below:

  • Wards 1 & 2: Thursday, February 13 at 6:00 pm, DC Housing Finance Authority building, 815 Florida Avenue NW.
  • Wards 3 & 4: Tuesday, February 11 at 6:00 pm, Wilson High School Auditorium, 3950 Chesapeake Street NW.
  • Wards 5 & 6: Saturday, February 8 at 9:00 am, Dunbar High School Auditorium, 101 N Street NW.
  • Wards 7 & 8: Wednesday February 12th at 6:00 pm, Dept. of Employment Services, 4058 Minnesota Avenue NE.
Tell Metro how to spend its money: Metro is looking for feedback for their next round of improvements. Next on their list: eight car trains, station upgrades, and priority corridor bus routes. There are still four chances to come out to one of their public hearings, where you can learn about Metro's current projects and then provide suggestions on those projects or anything else on your mind.

The schedule of remaining hearings is below. All meetings begin at 6 pm with an information session, followed by the hearing at 6:30 pm:

  • Monday, February 3: Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, 2616 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in DC, two blocks from Anacostia (Green Line).
  • Tuesday, February 4: Montgomery County Executive Office Building, 101 Monroe Street in Rockville, two blocks from Rockville (Red Line).
  • Wednesday, February 5: Arlington Central Library, 1015 North Quincy Street in Arlington, three blocks from Virginia Square (Orange Line).
  • Thursday, February 6: Metro headquarters, 600 5th Street NW in DC, two blocks from Gallery Place-Chinatown (Red, Green, and Yellow lines).
You can visit WMATA's website for more info, including how to register to testify and how to submit written comments. Can't make the hearings? Provide your comments through this online survey.

Improve transit options on I-66: The Virginia Department of Transportation is exploring options to improve transit on I-66 in Fairfax and Prince William counties. They will be holding a public meeting to talk about the results of their recent environmental impact study and share ideas and suggestions for transit improvements. The second and final meeting is tomorrow, February 4 Wednesday, February 5 at 6:30 pm. It will be held at the Wyndham Garden Hotel, at 10800 Vandor Lane in Manassas.


Here are four ways to make parking meters on the National Mall a success

The National Park Service is proposing to add meters to areas of the National Mall and memorial parks where parking is currently free. With a thoughtful plan, meters should make it easier to find parking on the Mall and improve access to its important sites.

Non-NPS meters on the Mall. Photo by Jeremy Caesar on Flickr.

A few key steps can help the meter program be successful: setting meter rates and times based on demand, offering convenient payment options, helping people locate parking and transportation alternatives, and being transparent about how meter revenue is spent.

Embrace performance parking: Meter rates need not be the same everywhere on the Mall. In areas and at times where parking is widely available, there is little reason to charge for it. But in places and at times where parking is scarce, the Park Service should set prices to manage its availability by encouraging parking turnover and alternative modes of transportation.

The Park Service already seems to anticipate this to an extent. The proposal would only add meters in some areas of the Mall, not everywhere (for instance, not at Hains Point). Presumably, NPS has selected these areas because parking demand is highest there, although it would be helpful for the Park Service to confirm this.

Likewise, NPS says that the meter rate, and the days and hours that meters are in effect, will be "similar to DC's parking rates adjacent to" the Mall area. That suggests that NPS will set Mall rates to be comparable to city meters nearby, but maybe slightly higher or lower based on demand. NPS also states that the times meters operate will include an evaluation of demand.

As with parking in other parts of the city, it may make sense for different areas of the Mall to charge different rates or operate for extended hours. To best manage the availability of parking, the Park Service should regularly review data from parking meters to determine whether rates and times should be adjusted.

Make it easy to pay: Drivers will be more willing to pay for parking if it's simple to do so. The days of quarters-only parking meters are gone. Thankfully, NPS says it plans to use meters with multiple payment options. In addition, signage on the meters should clearly explain charges. The Park Service should also plan to ensure that meters are kept in working condition.

Help people find a spot: Helping drivers to locate a parking spot will reduce the sting of introducing fees. The Park Service should evaluate whether current signage could be more effective at directing drivers to parking areas. For instance, if a person can't find an available spot in one parking area, is there a sign directing them to the next place to look? Perhaps meter data could even be used to provide real-time information about parking availability through a mobile website or app.

Furthermore, providing information about transportation options is a good way to encourage visitors to get to the Mall without needing to park. In addition to the planned Circulator bus service, the Mall is now home to several Capital Bikeshare stations.

The Park Service should be sure to publicize those options in its maps and websites and provide wayfinding tools on the ground. And in the longer term, NPS can support Metro's proposal to add a Metrorail station in East Potomac Park by 2040.

Be transparent about revenue: The most important reason to meter public parking is to manage its availability. Generating revenue can be an additional bonus for the Park Service, but it should not be the overriding concern. Being transparent about meter revenue will help people trust that meters were installed for the right reasons, not just to squeeze visitors.

For instance, the Park Service says that meter revenue will help pay for Circulator service, but doesn't say how much of the funds will go to that purpose or whether some of it might be spent elsewhere. The Park Service should annually disclose how much it raises from metered parking and explain what it does with those funds.

Street space in DC is scarce, especially around one of the city and nation's biggest attractions. Done right, bringing parking meters to the National Mall will allow more people to visit and enjoy it.


Park Service plans to put parking meters on the National Mall and use the money for a Circulator

The long years of having no public bus, or only an expensive $27 Tourmobile, to get around the National Mall may soon come to an end. The National Park Service is now planning to fund a Circulator bus route in part through adding parking meters on the Mall.

The meters will be the multi-space kind and will go along the roads under NPS control and which allow parking. They will charge $2 an hour, likely including weekends and holidays, according to news reports.

Today, all of that parking is free. In many areas, like Constitution Avenue, workers in nearby buildings show up early and grab the spaces all day. That might be a good deal for those people, but it doesn't help anyone reach the Mall and isn't the best use of the spaces.

This has been in the works for years. For a long time, the Tourmobile was the only option to get around the Mall. NPS had a long-standing exclusive contract which prohibited any other transportation service.

That meant that when DC first launched the Circulator bus, it couldn't use the internal roads on the Mall. Nor would NPS allow any signs on the Mall pointing visitors to the buses.

In 2011, the Park Service terminated its contract with Tourmobile, and began talking with DC officials to create a Circulator route. DC wasn't ready to launch it back in 2011, but this year they are, and NPS is now getting ready to add the meters.

There is a public meeting at 6 pm on February 11 to discuss the plan.


Ask GGW: Do you have to pay to park here?

If signs say that you can park but must pay on one section of a street, while parking is illegal until 6:30 pm on another section, do you have to pay on that second section after 6:30?

The 800 block of 17th Street, NW has these parking signs along its length, in this order (plus another one farther to the left, at the corner, which isn't relevant here).

It's clear you can't ever park to the right of the rightmost sign (that's at the corner). It's also clear that between the left and middle signs (and to the left of the left sign), you can park from 9:30-4 on weekdays, but have to pay the meter.

You can also park after 6:30 pm in that zone, but have to pay. The 2-hour time limit doesn't apply, so you can park for 3½ hours, but have to pay $7 to do it.

But what about between the middle and right signs? You can't park from 7 am to 6:30 pm, and can stand only outside rush hours. Both restrictions expire at 6:30, but the "pay to park" rule seem to only apply left of the middle sign, since the middle sign has a leftward-pointing green arrow.

Drivers probably should have to pay in both zones after 6:30, since it would be a little silly to have half the block be free in the evenings while the other half is not, but at the moment, the signs don't seem to require that.

On a recent evening, a few drivers tried parking in the apparently-free zone, and an enforcement officer ticketed the 2 cars closest to the middle sign, but not the others, which is particularly odd.

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