Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Performance Parking


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 monththe 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.


Shoup, Ricks, and Perkins discuss parking on Kojo

The Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU is hosting a discussion about variable-rate "performance" parking in the District, featuring Donald Shoup of UCLA, Karina Ricks from DDOT, and myself, beginning at noon.

Dr. Shoup. Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Dr. Shoup is the author of "The High Cost of Free Parking." Ms. Ricks is Associate Director for the Policy, Planning and Sustainability Administration, which includes parking policy.

We will be discussing the two performance parking pilot districts near the ballpark and Columbia Heights, the new performance parking pilot in San Francisco, SFPark, and other parking management improvements in DC and around the world.

Listen live here. Call in with questions to 800-433-8850 or tweet them to @kojoshow.

Update: The archived audio is here.


Wells would keep Circulator fare, expand CaBi, and more

Tommy Wells would like to keep the Circulator fare at $1, add 40 more Capital Bikeshare stations, hire needed people at DDOT including a parking czar, set up performance parking on H Street, fund green alleys, and more. Increased residential parking fees, including for households with extra vehicles, and some higher fines will pay for these priorities.

Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.

These are some of the recommendations in the draft budget report from the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, which Wells chairs. The committee oversees DDOT, the Department of Public Works, the DMV, WMATA, and a few others, and the report covers budget changes to those programs.

The recommendations include:

Expand CaBi faster. $2 million in capital funding would fund 40 more Capital Bikeshare stations in the core and in more peripheral neighborhoods.

This would add to the 25 already planned and other stations that private developers or federal agencies will pay for. In total, DDOT says this will allow the system to double from its original size within 2 years of the September 2010 launch.

Fund green alleys. Many alleys have crumbling surfaces and greatly need repair, but there hasn't been much money for this in recent years. $1 million would fund a new Green Alleys program, picking some alleys to rebuild with permeable paving, energy-efficient LED lighting, trees, and more.

Keep Circulator fare. Wells is proposing to keep the Circulator fare at $1, rolling back Mayor Gray's proposal to make it $2 cash and $1.50 with SmarTrip. Downtown businesses argued that it would cut ridership substantially, perhaps even reversing all or most of the expected revenue gain. The Circulator is also going east of the river, and some felt it wasn't right for it to finally go there and double in price at the same time.

The funding for this comes partly through use of one-time funds at WMATA, so the Council will have to look at the Circulator fare again next year. Wells wants that to happen once the Council has reviewed and approved DDOT's plans for longer-term Circulator expansion.

Semi-replace 7th Street Circulator. The north-south Circulator is still going away. To partly make up for it, WMATA is creating a 74 bus to travel between I Street NW and the Southwest Waterfront along a route similar to that part of the Circulator's, and extending the V8 bus, which connects Minnesota Avenue to Southwest, along 7th Street to downtown as well.

Hire ward planners, development reviewers, and parking czar. Wells also wants to restore six positions at DDOT which have been vacant for some time. Gray's budget cut most vacant positions entirely. The six positions include three ward planners, for wards 2, 3, and 5. The ward planners made sure that all DDOT projects in a ward fit together well, and provided useful points of contact for the communities involved.

DDOT also needs to staff up its development review department, which looks at planned developments and zoning filings and encourage developers to effectively accommodate pedestrians and bicycles, consider good stormwater management, and include Transportation Demand Management programs. Wells would add 2 positions for this.

The final and most exciting staff position is a parking program manager, or "parking czar." DDOT's parking program has been a tremendous disappointment for years. The performance parking pilot zones didn't see the kind of experimentation that the legislation asked for. Some neighborhoods have wanted performance parking but haven't been able to get it.

DDOT has been mailing out free visitor parking passes in several wards, which leaves large opportunities for abuse. They have promised for years to set up a better system, but haven't. If they can get a good parking program manager, DDOT can finally be the national leader in parking policies they once seemed to be, but got eclipsed by San Francisco and other cities.

Start performance parking on H Street. Wells would create a third performance parking zone, around H Street NE (G to I Streets from 3rd to 15th). Residential streets in the area would become resident-only for one side of the street, as in the other zones, and meters set to achieve 10-20% available spaces.

Protect neighborhood RPP funds. The performance parking pilot zones dedicate most of the revenue raised to local neighborhood improvements, giving residents a stake in the success of performance parking. Gray's budget took this money away to use as general revenue; Wells wants to restore it.

Maintain traffic enforcement officers. The proposal would restore 5 traffic enforcement officers cut in Gray's budget. There are plenty of places where enforcement can make pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers all safer by stopping dangerous behavior. Also, DDOT wants to do more to stop parking in loading zones, bus stops, and handicap placard abuse.

Keep "sweepercam" tickets. Gray's budget eliminated the "sweepercam" system, where street sweeping trucks automatically photograph vehicles illegally blocking sweeping and DPW can send them tickets. Without this, DPW would have to have people manually enforce the sweeping.

Also, as the report points out, the cameras allow DPW not to ticket anyone parked in a sweeping zone after the actual sweeping has finished, whereas if officers did it manually, they wouldn't know and would still ticket those cars. The committee report restores $300,000 for this program.

Create a DDOT enterprise fund. When DDOT lost its "unified fund," it lost some ability to dynamically fund innovations without going through the Council first. Budget staff at that time talked about creating a special fund with some money that can go to such programs. Wells' proposal moves Capital Bikeshare advertising revenue into this fund, along with truck weight fees, multispace meter advertising, car sharing fees, loading zone permit fees, and a few others.

And more. Wells' proposal also funds a "bait bike" where officers place a bike which looks ripe to steal, and watch to catch people who try to steal it. $50,000 will also go to the Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation for neighborhood parks. Gray's budget cut the $10,000 annual funding each for the Bicycle Advisory Council and the Pedestrian Advisory Council; Wells is restoring both.


How will Wells and his committee pay for all this?

Errors in the budget. Some money comes from finding mistakes in the budget. For example, Gray's budget office moved a lot of DDOT positions from the capital budget over to the operating budget. That's mainly an accounting issue; the jobs are still there, but some categories of spending went from large amounts to zero and other categories went from zero to big. Upon scrutinizing all of this, Council staff realized that some of the jobs had been moved over twice, leading to double-funding in the budget.

Higher and graduated RPP fees. A big part of the increase comes from a longtime GGW recommendation: increasing RPP fees, especially for households with multiple cars. DC's fees for resident parking permits are remarkably low, at $15/year. Renting any other chunk of space anywhere in the city costs far more. San Francisco charges $98/year, for example.

Under Wells' proposal, RPP fees will increase to $35/year, except for seniors 65 and older who will only pay $25/year. Once the DMV finishes a computer upgrade to support it, additional permits for each household will cost $50/year for the second and $100/year for additional permits beyond that.

Fines for repeat parking offenders. Fines for parking in residential areas beyond the 2 hours allowed, or for parking in resident-only areas, would increase for repeat offenders. The fine now is $30, except $60 around the ballpark during games only. The $30 fines would remain $30 for the 1st and 2nd tickets someone receives in a single calendar year, but become $60 beyond that.

Reciprocity fees. Congressional, military, Presidental appointees, and some others are allowed to have reciprocity permits, getting the benefits of registering cars in DC including RPP permits but without actually becoming DC residents. They pay $10 annually for this, while students have to pay $338 and temporary residents $250. Wells proposes increasing the reciprocity fee to $50.

What's not included

WMATA, fully. Gray's budget slightly increased DC's contributions to WMATA, but DC was still $10.422 million short of the level needed to avoid service cuts. Wells found another $6.265 million, and is asking the Council to consider the other $4.157 million as a council-wide priority in the next phase of the budget process.

Each committee first considers its own budget, and moves around money within that area, raising related revenues if desired to restore programs. Then, the whole Council looks at further cuts or restorations broadly; the remaining WMATA gap will be one of them.

Street sweeping inspectors. Gray's budget cuts the numbers of officers enforcing street sweeping rules. Wells said in this morning's markup that he wanted to increase the numbers, but unlike with the DDOT traffic officers, the CFO wouldn't certify revenue from these officers, so the Council would have to come up with more revenue to restore them.


The committee report also touches on some other topics which aren't line items in the budget, but which have budgetary implications. It asks DDOT to organize a task force to look at long-term transportation funding as gas taxes decline; to try to implement Circulator expansions even sooner than proposed; to add more efficient streetlights; and more. DDOT has also promised to conduct a transportation study on M Street SE/SW.

For DPW, the committee asks them to aggressively push fleet sharing, especially to replace older vehicles; to come up with a strategy to increase recycling; and to publish more information on costs that Wells has been asking for.

The committee had its markup session scheduled for 10 am, but as of this writing didn't have enough Councilmembers present to make up a quorum. Assuming it passes the markup, this will get agglomerated with the budget reports from the other committees.

The full Council will then take up the WMATA funding issue and other larger priorities from other areas. Issues outside of transportation, like the proposed income tax increase for people making over $200,000 and cuts to human services, will be debated at the full Council level.


Market-rate parking comes to SF. What can DC learn?

San Francisco is ready to roll out demand-responsive parking prices, a move that the city hopes will reduce congestion and allow transit vehicles to move faster.

Photo by niallkennedy on Flickr.

San Francisco will adjust parking meter and garage parking prices based on measured demand. The District has a similar policy for adjusting prices in the Columbia Heights and ballpark "performance parking" districts. Unlike the District, San Francisco clearly described the method they will use to make the adjustments.

On-street metered blocks will have prices vary by time of day, in three or four daily meter periods. Though some meters open earlier and others run later into the night, all meters will change between the morning, afternoon, early evening, and late evening periods at the same time for customer convenience.

Some blocks serve the mid-day office crowd, while other blocks serve daytime tourists, other serve shoppers parking later in the day, and others late night entertainment.

The citywide meter periods will be

  1. opening (either 7am or 9am) to noon
  2. noon to 3pm
  3. 3pm to 7pm
  4. 7pm to closing
Most San Francisco parking meters operate from 9am to 6pm, some from 7am to 6pm or 7pm, and some from 7am to 11pm. Rates will remain the same within each individual meter period. If the time you pay for is within two different meter periods, the meter will prorate your charge accordingly.

For each block side and meter period, officials will adjust on-street meters according to the number of cars parked on that block during that period. If more than 85% of the spaces are taken, the price will increase. If fewer than 65% of the spaces are taken, the price will fall.

The city is simplifying the rate system for municipal garages and will eliminate many special rates such as flat-fee evening parking. Instead, all garages will have an adjustable hourly rate for the different periods. Monthly and daily rates will be based on multiplying factors by the hourly rates. For example, a monthly parking permit might be made available for the cost of 10 full days of parking.

The city will adjust prices no more than once a month and will publish new rates a week in advance on the SFMTA and SFpark websites.

San Francisco is going to be the big test of whether a city can handle adjustable rates. The city already has the parking sensors, computer tracking equipment, dedicated staff, and political will.

Communicating the process for adjusting prices in advance is an important step DC neglected when rolling out its similar demand-based performance parking program. Admittedly, DDOT did not have Federal funding to purchase occupancy sensors, they did not appear to dedicate full-time staff, and the approval for parking rate adjustments appears to have been influenced by neighborhood approval, rather than market demand.

The District should borrow from San Francisco and communicate a clear policy for how often parking meter occupancy will be observed, and what occupancy levels will result in changes to meter prices.


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.
Support Us
DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City