Posts about Parking Meters
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The District's aggressive multi-space parking meter program has replaced thousands of antiquated single-space meters. The new multi-space equipment is a big improvement, but maintenance problems may hamper its usability.
The multi-space meters have been a quick, economical, and customer-friendly way to improve both the city's parking situation and its streetscape. On average each multi-space meter replaces nearly 8.5 single-space meters. Thousands of ugly, oft-broken single meters have been replaced thanks to these new tools.
Unfortunately, the new meters are not immune to breakdowns of their own.
I have noticed that over a third of the multi-space meters along my usual walking routes need maintenance. One meter was completely malfunctioning. The electronic displays are the biggest problem. Often they fail to fully show some digits. Other times they are too dim to read at all.
These problems make it difficult to purchase the desired meter time even for regular users. Visitors unfamiliar with the machines or who have less than optimal vision will be even more challenged.
When it didn't appear to me that problems reported online were being resolved I contacted John Lisle, DDOT's public information officer, to determine the timeline for meter repairs and the response to 311 tickets. He said that single-space meter issues must be resolved by the contractor within 3 days. For multi-space meters, the contractor must resolve reported problems on the next business day.
During the previous 12 months there were 283 service tickets opened on the 18 meters that I had observed. This equates to 1.3 complaints per meter per month.
At the time of my inquiry a few weeks ago there were no open tickets on any of those meters. However, there were several meters with display problems.
Perhaps the contractor does not consider a moderately non-functioning display to warrant replacement. From the perspective of a meter user, I think it definitely does.
Following my inquiry with DDOT several of the displays were replaced. DDOT deserves credit for following through. From what I can tell, only 2 of the meters I regularly observe still have serious display problems. Both are on the west side of Wisconsin Avenue between R Street and 34th Street.
DDOT noted that the meter maintenance contract is up for renewal this coming year. It will be put out to bid in the coming weeks. If the current contractor isn't maintaining the city's meters adequately then perhaps they should be replaced. The contract renewal process will offer a good opportunity for the city to consider its options.
Councilmember Jack Evans says he wants to roll back parking meter rates and hours of enforcement in commercial corridors, including Georgetown, because of complaints from businesses and residents in his ward. But after speaking to organizations representing residents and businesses in Georgetown, I found no support for Evans' proposal.
The proposal passed out of Evans' Committee on Finance and Revenue by a 3-2 vote, and he frequently points to these complaints in defending the $5.2 million measure. He told the Examiner, "I get consistent complaints about the parking meters everywhere I go in my ward from residents. I can't go into a restaurant without the owner coming out to complain about the cost of the parking meters."
Despite this, neither the Georgetown BID nor the manager of the largest group of Georgetown restaurants support the proposal.
The Georgetown ANC and Citizens Association have passed no resolutions and sent no letters to Evans requesting reductions in either meter rates or enforcement hours. In fact, the ANC has been working with DDOT for a couple years to put in place a performance parking pilot that would increase parking turnover and availability by charging market rates at meters.
Jennifer Altemus, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG), told the Current (large PDF) in supporting a parking pilot that "We need to see more spaces open up in a timely fashion."
The change would induce more visitors to drive and to park for longer periods, which means more drivers seeking fewer available spaces and circling the residential blocks for free parking spots where CAG's members live.
Many have assumed that businesses are behind the plan, but the opposite appears to be the case, at least in Georgetown. The Georgetown BID has passed no resolution and sent no letter to Evans asking for the reductions. In fact, the Executive Director of the BID, Jim Bracco, told us, "We remain a proponent of performance parking and having rates and meter hours that can make garages more competitive."
The manager of the largest restaurant group in Georgetown, Paul J Cohn, has also not asked Evans for the reductions. Cohn runs Capital Restaurant Concepts, which includes J Pauls, Paolo's, Old Glory, Neyla and Third Edition, among other restaurants.
Cohn told us that "enforcement should not end at 6:30pm, because enforcement leads to turnover of spots." He does support reducing meter rates, but only if enforcement is stepped up to ensure that turnover goes up and doesn't go down as a result. Turnover, for Cohn as for all organizations representing Georgetown, is the goal.
While Evans is citing the complaints and requests of his constituents in defending the rollback of meter rates and enforcement, whoever is asking for this appears to be talking to Evans and no one else.
I asked Evans on Monday to meet with Topher Mathews, David Alpert, and myself (all constituents) to discuss his proposal, but have yet received no reply.
Some constituents are starting to complain that Evans, in his handling of Hardy Middle School and meter rates, is basing public policy on the complaints of a small number of vocal residents who don't well represent his constituency.
Evans introduced legislation in March appointing Patrick Pope as principal of Hardy based on complaints he received from parents upset that Michelle Rhee transferred him.
The complaints of a minority should obviously be heard and addressed. But sometimes that requires affirming the goal sought by constituents while meeting that goal through different means.
That's what Council Chair Kwame Brown did with regard to Hardy Middle School in telling the Current that "Regardless of parent opinions on Mr. Pope, DC Public Schools has a process for principal selection" and that "the result will be a stakeholder-driven selection of a candidate who will bring the community together and work to propel Hardy Middle School to new levels of achievement."
Evans should affirm the goals of whoever is complaining to him in Ward 2 that it shouldn't be so hard to find a parking spot and to avoid a fine. However, he should address those complaints through a policy that will actually achieve these goals.
One of the best solutions for Georgetown is one we have advocated for a long time: market-rate performance parking using pay-by-cell and multi-space meters that make it easy to avoid fines. This is the best system to increases turnover and availability of parking spots in the District. It will help both residents and businesses in Georgetown, unlike Evans' misguided proposal.
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