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Posts about Performance Parking


Amid scandal, don't lose sight of Gray's policy achievements

The charges filed yesterday against Vincent Gray's former assistant campaign treasurer will surely reinforce the image in many voters' minds of a scandal-plagued mayor who has accomplished nothing for the District. The scandals may be real, but his administration has also racked up some important achievements across the government.

Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.

Instead of halting progress or even reversing course on bicycle infrastructure, streetcars, and education reform, the Gray administration is strengthening DC's commitment to these innovations. It has set clear priorities for traffic safety, performance parking, and sustainability, helped unem­ployed residents get jobs, and restored the rainy-day fund instead of spending it down.

None of this justifies any of the alleged illegal acts that happened in the campaign, but neither is this unimportant.

Ultimately, Gray's mayoralty will leave a lasting effect on the budget and city services, and residents, whether they voted for and endorsed Adrian Fenty (as I did) or Gray, should care a great deal about what the capable people in the administration, unconnected to the campaign or any campaign finance, are doing.

We've also yet to find out whether the mayor himself was part of any illegal activity or knew about it. Based on what we know thus far, it appears that Gray made some very poor choices about whom to trust early on. Since then, he's replaced most of these poor hires with better staff, who are better at sharing the administration's positive accomplishments, such as:

One City One Hire

The administration's program to help unemployed residents find jobs has now suc­cee­ded in getting employers to hire 3,000 unemployed District residents in the past year.

There are numerous obstacles to getting people into jobs, but employers' lack of trust in DC's jobless has been among the most intractable. One City One Hire officials work to restore this trust by personally vetting resumes of unemployed DC residents and asking employers to consider a couple of handpicked resumes for each opening.

Some feel that this is what the Department of Employment Services (DOES) was supposed to be doing all along. This is technically true. It's also true that DC Public Schools are supposed to be properly educating our children. We shouldn't withhold credit where credit is due when DCPS or DOES fulfills its mission.

Sector-specific economic development

Under previous administrations, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development was concerned almost exclusively with real estate deals. Although targeted real estate deals are important, only Mayor Gray has really invested in developing other sectors that are strategically important to the city.

The Mayor's broader focus has produced new positions critical to the city's economy, even if the officers filling those positions often operate behind the scenes. For example, newly hired DMPED officials regularly meet with leaders of the technology, government contractor, and health care communities to align identify ways DC can support these strategically important sectors.

A newly reconstituted Workforce Investment Council, whose executive director Alison Gerber was recruited from the Aspen Institute, has made it clear that workforce development dollars must be targeted to high demand sectors. As a result, for the first time, workforce development in DC is no longer scattershot, with the Gray Administration targeting key sectors.

DOES has cut off funding to several training providers whose training wasn't aligned with these sectors. A new Workforce Intermediary will ensure that the needs of hospitality and construction employers are addressed by training providers.

Continued capital investments without raiding city's reserves

DC residents were aware of the many capital improvements made under former Mayor Fenty, but fewer were aware that Fenty drew down the "rainy day" fund of $700 million to pay for some of these improvements.

Mayor Gray has continued the pace of capital improvements, with renovations of Takoma Education Campus and Woodson, Cardozo and Anacostia High Schools. While maintaining the pace of the previous Administration, Mayor Gray has managed to replenish our reserve fund, bringing it up to $1.1 billion.

Sustainability plan

If you haven't seen the objectives Mayor Gray set for 2032 in his Sustainable DC plan, then you should take a look. These objectives should provide the basis for numerous DC government initiatives over the next two decades covering issues as diverse as our food supply and obesity, along with transportation, tree canopy, and waste.

For some these strategic plans and objectives may seem mere feel-good talk, but these objectives matter. Historically, DC government has looked to such comprehensive plans and small area plans in designing legislation and framing countless policy debates in subsequent years.

Cameras and parking

Study after study proves that traffic cameras save lives. Mayor Gray significantly expanded traffic cameras in this year's budget, a politically courageous move that will continue DC's trend of lower and lower traffic fatalities.

While the DC Council created visionary pilots in performance parking, the previous administration never made it much of a priority to adjust meter rates to manage curbside space effectively. The Gray administration has expanded performance parking and made it clear this is a priority.

Continued momentum in education reform, streetcars and bike lanes

Some predicted that education reform, the streetcar and bike lanes would stop under Mayor Gray. Let's be clear: that hasn't happened. Mayor Gray has increased the investment in streetcars, pledging $100 million in capital funds starting last year.

The pace of bike lane construction slowed a bit at first, but DDOT is now putting in bike lanes on many streets throughout the city, and is on track to build the L Street track this summer and M street soon after. He even vociferously defended Capital Bikeshare over Twitter to skeptical New York reporters.

Finally, Mayor Gray has continued the process of education reform, despite the fears of many DC residents. Teachers are still being evaluated and sometimes fired based on performance, not on seniority.

The Gray administration's education reforms have included important initiatives which haven't received the same attention and publicity accorded the teacher firings. The administration has already made strides toward improving our special education system and opened multiple Early Stages centers aimed at early identification of kids with special needs. These investments have reduced by 20% the number of children bused, at DC's expense, to non-public special education, saving significant money.

I'm not nominating Mayor Gray for sainthood, but residents need to reexamine the fairly widespread belief that the administration is not getting anything done. While Adrian Fenty was very good at getting press attention for his actions, this administration is acting more quietly.

We should condemn any illegal behavior from the campaign, but we must also give the mayor and his staff credit for the ways the administration is making DC greater for the long term.


Cheh makes better bus service a priority in DDOT budget

If performance parking works, it could raise needed funds to make DC's bus lines more efficient and more attractive to ride. DDOT will get the authority to bring performance parking citywide, but DDOT will now have make the program succeed before there's any money for buses or local neighborhood projects.

Photo by Daquella manera on Flickr.

The DC Council's Committee on the Environment, Public Works and Transportation approved their version of DDOT's budget yesterday. They agreed with Mayor Gray's request to let DDOT set up performance parking anywhere in DC, beyond the 3 zones where it exists today.

When performance parking raises extra money, it will go partly to projects in local neighborhoods and partly to make bus service more efficient. But if DDOT doesn't follow through on performance parking, local neighborhoods and buses could get nothing at all.

Performance parking money goes to neighborhoods and bus priority

Mayor Gray had proposed ending the practice, which the original performance parking pilot zones established, of putting some parking money toward projects in the local neighborhood. The committee restored that in part. Now, if a performance parking zone raises extra mone over its "baseline" revenue from before performance parking, half of that money can go toward transportation projects in that neighborhood.

In other words, if DDOT extends meter hours or raises rates, half of the extra revenue from that change can go to local projects. Before, just setting up a performance parking zone meant that 75% of the total revenue, including the preexisting revenue, went to the neighborhood (though, in some cases, some of that revenue had to pay for new meters). The neighborhoods with performance parking got to spend some money right off the bat, even if DDOT never tweaked meter rates and hours. And in some of the zones, DDOT took a painfully long time to do so.

What about the other half of the money? The committee's budget probably dedicates that to bus priority improvements.

While DDOT needs to do its utmost to make the H Street streetcar a success and lay the groundwork for future lines, streetcars won't go everywhere and won't magically solve all of DC's transportation problems. The District spends $190 million per year to subsidize on bus service, yet many buses spend a lot of time in traffic and many people don't want to ride a bus that's not the Circulator.

Reducing bus delay could save a lot of money and draw more riders to the bus system. The many Metrobus line studies came up with countless recommendations for how to make service better: moving a stop across the street, changing a turn signal to help buses through a rough spot, improving enforcement to avoid illegal loading, adding a bus lane, and so on.

Funds depend on DDOT implementing performance parking

A dedicated pot of money will push DDOT to move ahead with these important changes. These projects won't have to compete with others for money. That assumes there is money, though. Before any money goes to bus improvements, WMATA gets about $30 million for existing bus operations. The CFO's office estimates that DC's meters today will almost cover that. DDOT is upgrading old meters to newer ones with better technology that break less and therefore are less likely to lose revenue; the WMATA payment also assumes that those upgrades continue.

If DDOT goes ahead with the upgrades and then starts managing its curbside space more efficiently, the meter revenue will surpass the $30 million mark. Local neighborhoods and bus priority projects will get funded. If the meter upgrades get delayed and DDOT doesn't tweak rates and hours, it could fall short, and both neighborhoods and bus priority could end up with nothing for the year.

An amendment from Tommy Wells at the markup specifically asks DDOT to make bus priority improvements on downtown segments of H and I streets a top priority for the money. WMATA has said that this congested area forms a major bottleneck for bus routes from all parts of the District; bus lanes here could do the most to reduce delays. A consultant is currently studying traffic operations along H and I, and their report will help DDOT design the lanes to best move bus traffic and minimize the amount of extra delay for drivers.

To help get performance parking moving downtown, the legislation specifically instructs DDOT to work on performance parking with DC Surface Transit, the business-led group that was been instrumental in bringing in the Circulator and promoting the streetcar. DCST and downtown businesses have been eager for performance parking.

Other changes in the budget

The budget also takes steps to restore the pedestrian and bicycle enhancement fund, which pays for a number of smaller pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects. In addition, $100,000 comes from the Committee on Libraries, Parks, Recreation and Planning to fund a new volunteer Trail Ranger program, similar to one in Denver. The money pays for a grant to an organization like WABA to manage that program.

The committee asked DDOT to use federal funds to redo the streetscape on Florida Avenue between 2nd and 10th Streets NE. Florida Avenue is wider here than elsewhere, but the sidewalk is far too narrow even though it adjoins the growing NoMa district and Gallaudet students often walk along the road. DDOT has already acknowledged in an earlier study that the sidewalk needs to be better here.

Finally, the budget takes a little bit out of transportation to fund a few of Cheh's other priorities, including a program encouraging food stamp recipients to buy food at farmers' markets ($50,000), help fund the Office of Campaign Finance ($100,000), and a tax break for a homeless services organization ($10,800).

A good budget gets better

Mayor Gray's original DDOT budget was an excellent proposal. It funded the streetcar, preserved Metro service, and took the very significant step of pushing for performance parking citywide. Gray made it clear that he stands behind initiatives that enhance walking, bicycling, and transit.

The way the budget used parking meter revenue was the biggest issue council staff had with the budget. The Mayor's proposal sent all parking meter revenue straight to WMATA. It's great to fund transit, but the problem with this approach is that DC doesn't just give more or less to WMATA as money is available; its commitment gets set in the WMATA budget.

Far more money comes from the general fund for WMATA, and a small amount from meters. As meter revenue increased, it would just have replaced general fund support. That would have only fueled the criticism that performance parking is just a way to raise money.

Perfromance parking is best when local neighborhoods also get a benefit from meter changes, and when money goes toward improving the other ways shoppers, diners, office workers and others can travel to an area besides driving and parking. The commitee's budget restores that nexus. Money DDOT raises from changing parking will directly help fund programs that make neighborhoods either easier to get to or more attractive.

This budget recommendation will next go to the entire council as part of the overall budget debate. The council should preserve what the committee has done.


Fix all of Dupont's parking problems tonight

DDOT officials will meet with residents tonight to discuss parking in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. After the meeting, anyone will be able to park directly in front of their homes, offices, or stores, for free, without circling.

Photo by sethladd on Flickr.

Oops, it's not still April Fool. But there is a parking meeting tonight.

Dupont Circle, like most of DC's busy neighborhoods, has far more demand for parking than supply of on-street spaces. Right now, we allocate the limited resource of spaces in one way. The meeting will discuss whether to allocate them in a different way.

Today, people who don't live in the neighborhood can park on any residential block for up to 2 hours during weekdays and for unlimited time evenings and weekends. This means that around the commercial corridors, especially hot spots like Lauriol Plaza at 18th and T, parking is very scarce.

I used to live near there and parked on the street. When I had to move my car for street cleaning, it would usually take under 5 minutes mid-morning to find an alternate space, but coming home from a car trip on a Saturday night or Sunday morning could mean a 20-30 minute quest for a space.

Residents in this and other spots are understandably interested in change. They'd like a less daunting parking experience. Plus, if the residential blocks are supposed to prioritize parking for residents, why are we giving it to diners?

More importantly, why should this parking be free? Parking in garages isn't free. At the meters on 18th, it's not free (except Sundays). Free parking on residential streets just encourages people to circle the neighborhood for a long time to save some money.

DDOT could pursue a few options.

Reserve parking for residents of all Ward 2 neighborhoods. A simple approach would be to set up the same arrangement Jack Evans has suggested for Logan Circle: Designate one side of every street for holders of Zone 2 stickers only. A related option, with similar pros and cons, would be to extend Residential Permit Parking hours later into the night and to weekends.

These options would free up a lot of parking for residents, though with so many residents in the area, it still wouldn't guarantee that anyone would be able to park on any given block.

There are also a few downsides. For one, people often have contractors, housecleaners, friends, family members, and others who don't live in the area drive to visit residents. In other wards, these parking changes went hand in hand with visitor passes. Each household got one, and any car sporting a pass counted as a resident.

In Ward 2, there would be too much abuse. If every resident got a pass, many would sell them to people who want to drive jobs in the ward. DDOT monitors Craigslist and other sites for people selling passes, but the temptation and potential profit would be far higher for Ward 2.

Another downside is that it would also encourage more driving from neighborhoods like Georgetown, which happen to be in Ward 2, at the expense of drivers from U Street or Adams Morgan in Ward 1 or other DC neighborhoods. If we are dedicating parking to residents of a neighborhood, then it should actually apply to residents of that neighborhood, not them plus others who by accident of legislative line-drawing live in the same ward.

Reserve parking for actual Dupont residents. DDOT could reserve one side of the street as above, but also give out new 2B stickers to residents of the ANC 2B area. Only drivers with those stickers would get the new privileges.

Reserve parking, then "sell" the excess. Any of these schemes to reserve parking may overly limit parking especially at lower demand times. Should we just leave part of the street empty much of the day? DDOT could also reserve one side of each street, or even both sides, but also let drivers pay for some of the extra space.

It's too expensive to install multi-space meters on each block, but now that DDOT has ParkMobile, it could offer these spaces through that service. Just put up signs that say something like, "Reserved for cars with 2B stickers only, OR pay $5 an hour for this space at ParkMobile."

DDOT would set the price at a premium level. This parking is primarily reserved for residents, but others can use it too if they want to pay the higher rates. If they don't, then use a garage, or arrive by Metro, bus, bike or foot.

Set meters to a market rate. There are a number of meters in the neighborhood. At night, they're usually all full. During the day, they're often not very full at all. If a more rigorous analysis bears out this anecdotal evidence, DDOT ought to raise rates at night and lower them during the day. That could bring more drivers in to patronize businesses middays, when the neighborhood is only moderately busy, and generate more revenue at night, when people will fill up the spaces regardless.

DDOT and ANC commissioners will likely support approaches which have support at the meeting and oppose those which don't. Some good ideas for 17th Street's streetscape got thrown out because a majority of people at a community meeting opposed the idea. If you live in the neighborhood, it's important to try to attend.

The meeting starts at 7 pm in the Foxhall Room of the Hotel Dupont, which is on Dupont Circle at New Hampshire Avenue on the north side. Go in the New Hampshire main entrance and turn right to reach Foxhall.


H Street getting performance parking in March

Parking on H Street NE will continue costing 75¢ per hour from 7 am to 6:30 pm but increase to $2 per hour until 10 pm, under a performance parking program DDOT plans to launch in March.

Photo by Agent Relaxed on Flickr.

Damon Harvey, DDOT's parking operations manager, and Councilmember Tommy Wells are co-hosting a meeting tonight to discuss the plan. It's 6:30-8 pm at Sherwood Rec Center, 640 10th Street, NE.

According DDOT's report, drivers will be allowed to park during the day for up to 2 hours, but there will be no time limit after 6:30. In addition, as at other performance parking zones, new restrictions will limit one side of surrounding streets, from G to I Street, 3rd to 15th, to drivers with Zone 6 parking stickers only.

Adjust rates regularly

The most important element of making any performance parking zone succeed is actually adjusting the meter rates up or down depending on demand. It took some time for DDOT to get data on occupancy rates in the existing performance parking zones, but even then, they didn't adjust meter rates very quickly or very often.

Performance parking depends on actual market-rate meter rates to succeed. It's not just a strategy to charge more money, but gives drivers a promise in return: You'll be able to find a space, even if it's more expensive.

DDOT Director Terry Bellamy argued at last year's oversight hearing that the ballpark district isn't the best place to try performance parking. Demand fluctuates so greatly around the baseball schedule. In Columbia Heights, Harvey argued against making any changes until streetscape construction concluded.

On H Street, the streetscape is done and demand is less dependent on specific events, so this is a good opportunity for DDOT to demonstrate that it can, and will, actually make a performance parking zone work by truly adjusting meter rates to match demand.

Charge for non-resident parking on neighborhood streets

DDOT can make the pilot work even better with one more simple change: Let people park on the neighborhood streets, but charge non-residents for the privilege.

A major objective of performance parking is to reduce circling. Just park at the meter for a few bucks instead of driving around looking for free spaces. But as long as one side of every street remains free for visitors to park, and both sides of streets more than a block away from H Street, many people will still try to find a spot in the neighborhood.

Now that DDOT has very successful pay-by-phone technology, they can easily put up signs on residential streets saying, "Drivers without Zone 6 stickers must pay with ParkMobile." Set a rate on the side streets that, like on H itself, ensures that every single space doesn't fill up.

With this, DDOT can apply such a restriction to both sides of the street, not just one. Residents will enjoy a high likelihood of finding spaces near their homes, and the neighborhood can raise extra revenue to pay for more improvements like more Capital Bikeshare stations, trash compactors, or maybe real-time screens.

Who's a resident?

Restricting parking on one side of each street to "residents" further exacerbates the silly effects of the current, large parking zones. A resident who lives 2½ miles away in Southwest Waterfront or Shaw will be able to park on residential blocks of H Street for free, while a resident of southeast Trinidad might be prohibited from parking 2 blocks from home.

Georgetown currently restricts parking to Zone 2 residents only on certain blocks for the O and P Street reconstruction. That made it really easy for me to park there one day I drove to Georgetown, but giving Dupont or Logan residents special privileges is not the point. If a policy is supposed to help residents park near their homes, then it should only apply to actual residents of the area.

It's long past time to set up zones that match actual neighborhoods, rather than the arbitrary and too-large ward boundaries. The Mayor's Parking Taskforce (that's Mayor Williams) recommended doing this 8 years ago (section 4.4.1).

An H street performance parking zone presents a great opportunity for DDOT, to demonstrate that it can capably manage a performance parking zone and achieve the policy objectives of ensuring some availability and reducing circling. Its stewardship of the other two zones has disappointed, but this zone lacks many of the obstacles of previous zones.

Given DDOT's reluctance in recent years to actually follow through on implementing its performance parking policies, it would be helpful for area residents and supporters of performance parking to attend the meeting tonight. It's at Sherwood Recreation Center, 640 10th Street, NE, from 6:30-8 pm.


Prices affect parking less than San Francisco expected

Perfomance parking has not has as big an impact as was expected in San Francisco. Even with high rates, popular blocks still fill up, and other blocks remain under-filled even at low prices.

Photo by niallkennedy on Flickr.

SFPark is an innovative, federally-supported performance parking pilot program. But it will adjust meter rates in its seven pilot areas this month—the third adjustment since the program's launch in 2010.

Each time San Francisco has adjusted the rates, the spread between the least expensive and the most expensive blocks has increased. After this latest adjustment, parking rates will vary from a low of $0.75 up to $4.25/hr. To date, the most crowded blocks have typically continued to be crowded even after adjusting the prices upward, while under-occupied blocks have not filled up even after dropping the price.

If the pricing spread continues to widen, parking on some blocks in San Francisco will be a considerable bargain compared to spaces even one block away. One particular block in the Civic Center area is $0.75/hr while the next block is $3.25/hr until noon, and then $3.75/hr from noon until 3pm.

At Fisherman's Wharf, parking can range from $1.50/hr to $2.75/hr within a few blocks as proximity to the tourist attractions in the North increases. In the Marina area, a one-block difference could mean paying $1.50 more for an hour of parking.

Even these steep price differences don't seem to be causing the cheaper blocks to fill up. Blocks in the program that end up below their target occupancy will again have their prices reduced during the next round of adjustments.

San Francisco is collecting data about congestion relief in the areas targeted in the SFPark program. It appears we've learned several lessons already.

This performance parking experiment is demonstrating that on high-demand blocks, drivers are very insensitive to price increases. The experiment is also showing that parking demand is highly localized, with price differences of as much as 100% continuing even through two adjustment cycles.

On the other hand, there's still more to learn.

Even if blocks are missing their target occupancy, performance parking could still be having a positive effect. Are the prices leading to a higher turnover in available spaces? And if so, are the available spaces leading to a reduction in drivers hunting for parking, as the theory suggests?

Are there other factors that could be influencing the success of the program at changing parking demand, such as the size of the pilot zones or their proximity to non-pilot zone areas? Or do city administrators and performance parking advocates need to fundamentally reexamine assumptions about performance parking systems?

According to project advisor Donald Shoup, the project report will answer these questions later next year. The things planners learn in San Francisco could have a big impact on the way we think about and design parking and parking policy.


Neighborhood-based prices could fix DC's residential parking

The District's one-size-fits-all approach to residential parking results in inefficient allocation of a scarce resource. Tailoring prices by neighborhood for the city's residential parking permit (RPP) program could make the system more responsive to the unique needs of individual communities.

Photo by slack13 on Flickr.

When DC introduced its RPP system in the 1970s, it was designed to ensure that residents had access to street parking in their neighborhoods. Residents could petition the city to enforce 2-hour only parking on their block with an exemption for vehicles issued a zone permit. The parking zones coincide with the boundaries set for each of the city's eight wards.

For more than 30 years, this parking permit regime has worked well to prevent commuters from parking on residential streets. However, the system was never designed to allocate scarce street spaces efficiently among neighborhood residents.

Today, over 200,000 vehicles are registered with the RPP program. In many neighborhoods where residential street parking is restricted, open spaces are still nearly impossible to find, especially at peak times. To fix these ongoing problems, DC should learn from the experiences of Seattle, Washington and set more granular prices for RPP stickers.

Data provided by the DMV reveal that over 70% of the nearly 280,000 vehicles registered in the District are part of the RPP program. An additional 3,255 reciprocity permits are issued to diplomats, military personnel, federal appointees, and temporary residents.

Of the total number of RPP permits issued, 75% are assigned to residents of wards 1, 2, 3, and 6. That probably comes as little surprise to residents of those wards who rely on street parking. The overly large parking boundaries do little to prevent same-ward drivers from parking far from their homes, and the low $15 annual cost per permit effectively encourages residents to keep their cars on the street.

Proposals to help alleviate parking woes have included longer enforcement hours, instituting resident-only parking (thus eliminating 2-hour parking for visitors), increasing the number of parking zones, and metering more street spaces near commercial areas. However, these fixes by themselves are merely band-aids.

The fact is that in much of the city there are just too many cars looking for too few spaces, yet changes to the RPP system appear to be near-impossible. Seemingly innocuous steps to alleviate parking demand, such as a proposal earlier this year to charge higher permit fees for multiple-vehicle households, draw intense opposition from some members of the council. What can break the deadlock?

Last year, the City of Seattle implemented a new parking system that increased the number of parking zones (they now have 40 such areas) and started charging households graduated permit fees based on the number of vehicles. But not all residents pay the same rate. Permit fees in each zone range from free to a maximum of $65 every two years in high-demand areas, more than double DC's rate.

The most opposition to DC's plan to charge higher multiple-vehicle permit fees came from representatives of wards that have the least number of RPP holders, which indicates that a one-size-fits-all approach may no longer be viable. Under a system akin to Seattle's, DC would be able to more subtly address the unique needs of individual neighborhoods.

Councilmembers, understandably, do not support higher fees for residents who are not contributing to the parking problems in other neighborhoods. This new proposed system may be more politically viable. Residents of wards without street parking problems would likely see no change to their current permits, and may even see a reduction in fees.

While parking rates would probably not change significantly in half the city's wards, parking-scarce neighborhoods would likely see higher graduated permit fees. Those rates should be priced to better reflect the actual demand for street parking to encourage car owners to find alternate spaces for their vehicles.

As a result, the demand for off-street spaces may rise and developers should be allowed to construct those additional spaces, if they so choose. The key is to find the natural equilibrium in parking demand, rather than keeping fees artificially low.

In order to efficiently price permit rates, the city needs a comprehensive count of the total number of zoned parking spaces. DDOT currently only tracks the total number of RPP blocks, rather than individual spaces. It may be possible to quickly complete this task by asking current parking enforcement officers to count the number of spaces as they work their beats. It would then be possible to better compare vehicle registrations and permits in a given area with the total number of available spaces.

Combined with other proposed actions to reduce the size of the city's parking zones and heightened enforcement, tailoring prices for each community, as Seattle has done, may be the best way to efficiently allocate a scarce public resource among residents.


Georgetown businesses and residents don't support Evans' parking meter rollback proposal

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.

Who is complaining to Evans? Photo by mdanys on Flickr.

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.


Evans would spend millions making parking and traffic worse

Councilmember Jack Evans is trying to repeal almost all proposed tax increases in DC's budget, as expected. On top of that, he wants to spend $5.2 million to make parking cheaper or free in the busiest areas. This may seem like a boon for those who park in these areas, but it's not. Traffic will get worse and it'll become harder to park, not easier.

Photo by Wayan Vota on Flickr.

Evans' Committee on Finance and Revenue voted 3-2 for a committee report which rolls back almost all tax increases in the Mayor's proposed budget, for a cost of $101 million, including the proposed increase in parking garage taxes.

It doesn't recommend ways to find that money in a budget that already decimates social services. Lydia DePillis reports Michael Brown and Marion Barry voted no, meaning Evans, David Catania, and Muriel Bowser must have voted for the recommendations.

Evans' amendments maintain the $1 Circulator fare and restores the ballpark-related community benefits fund. On top of that, Freeman Klopott reported yesterday that they would reduce parking meter rates from $2 to $1 per hour and make meters free after 6:30 pm downtown and in several other neighborhoods, including Georgetown.

Evans apparently feels that letting people who drive downtown for a $50 dinner save $2 on parking is one of the best uses of $5.2 million in this year's very tight budget.

When I go downtown, I usually either take Metro or bikeshare. But occasionally, I'm going to a meeting and then have to hike out to the suburbs afterward for a doctor's appointment or something. In those instances, I'll drive and park for 1-2 hours.

I've actually found it refreshingly non-stressful to do this. On the spaces on F and G streets, I've generally actually been able to find a space without a lot of circling or headache. Paying $4 for the 2 hours to attend a DC Council hearing is a trivial amount, less than the sandwich I might get afterward.

The only time it was annoying was when closing the car door created a breeze which flipped my multispace meter receipt upside-down, and I got a ticket for "P281 FAIL TO DISPLAY MUL SPACE METER." (I paid the ticket and will be more careful next time.)

If Evans lowers the rates, some people will drive and park who weren't doing so now. It's basic economics. More people driving and parking means I'll have a harder time finding a space, and so will everyone who drives and parks downtown on the street today.

It's foolish to spend $5.2 million to make traffic worse and make parking harder.

It's even more foolish to spend $5.2 million to make traffic worse and parking harder when there are so many other budgetary priorities, like keeping homeless people from dying and much more.

There may be some neighborhoods or blocks where the rates are too high. If the spaces are never being filled up, then we're probably charging too much, and it'd be reasonable to lower the rates if they money is available. But Evans' committee report does not base its conclusions on an analysis of parking occupancy. The only such analyses that exist are for the performance parking zones. And having the Council adjust meter rates by legislation during budget season is not the way.

Instead, Evans should create a performance parking zone, empowering DDOT to adjust rates and directing them to set them properly for each block. If DDOT hadn't squandered much of the last few years ignoring its performance parking pilot zones, there might be a stronger case for this today; hopefully the "parking czar" Tommy Wells funded will finally get this program on track.

Klopott also quoted Evans calling those who want parking to be easier and traffic to be lighter "anti-car." Does that mean Evans is "anti-schools," "anti-poor," "anti-police" and "anti-Metro" since he is choosing to spend $5.2 million on this instead of those other things?

He's up for reelection next year, and seems to feel that pandering to the complaints of constituents on this issue is a priority. If you live in Ward 2, please email Evans and complain about something more important than parking meter rates, or email Kwame Brown and ask him to ignore Evans' meter rate and tax suggestions when crafting his budget proposal.

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