Photo by CascadeFoto.
Recently several DC pols have issued some proposals that could significantly impact Georgetown’s transportation mix. Some of the ideas are good, others bad.
Let’s start with the good.
Up until Chris Ziemann left DDOT last year, Ward 2 had a dedicated DDOT planner. This position can coordinate transportation projects across the ward. Further it can lobby DDOT on the ward’s behalf and bring a unified vision across multiple projects and neighborhoods. Unfortunately since Chris left, the position has remained empty and Mayor Gray recommended it simply be cut completely. Councilmember Tommy Wells, however, proposed that this position–as well as the vacant ward planner positions for Wards 3 and 5–be filled again. This is a good proposal.
Additionally, Wells proposed creating a position titled Parking Czar. This individual would spend all his or her time addressing the parking issue. In particular, this person would bring life back to the stalled effort to bring performance parking to DC. This is something that GM has lobbied to bring to Georgetown for a while. In short: right now we price street parking too low and as a result visitors troll the neighborhood looking for free parking rather than simply driving to the pay garages. This increases traffic, encourages people to leave their car parked for as long as possible and makes it more difficult for residents to find a parking spot near their homes. By raising the price of parking enough that there is always at least 10-15% of the street spaces open, we can encourage more turnover. Plus, the additional parking fees will get plowed back into the neighborhood in the form of streetscape improvements, and the like.
Having a parking czar will make it much more likely that such a policy can come to Georgetown.
Finally, speaking of parking, Wells proposed raising the cost of obtaining multiple residential parking permits per household. This is also a policy GM has lobbied for before. Under Wells’ proposal, the first RPP would cost $35 (up from the paltry $15 now). A second RPP would cost $50, and a third would cost $100. (right now it’s just $15 per car no matter how many are registered to the same address). If one house is hogging up all the street parking on a block, at least they’ll pay more to do so, and overtime it would discourage such multicar households.
Also, Wells proposed keeping the Circulator rate at $1.
But here’s the bad.
Our councilmember and neighbor, Jack Evans, has proposed to slash the meter fees in Georgetown (and downtown) from $2.00/hr to $1.00/hr and to make parking free after 6:30 pm. Why is this bad? Because if you have a shortage of a good (in this case, open parking spots) the last thing you want to do is make that good even cheaper. It is the complete opposite of performance parking and it is totally illogical. Evans told the Examiner “I know the anti-car people will say, ‘[higher meter fees are] working, it’s working,’ But I get too many complaints [from restaurant owners] for it to be working.”
Evans will soon learn that peoples’ ability to complain about parking is bottomless. If it’s not the price they’ll complain about, it’s the availability. That’s why we need someone to be a parking czar to look at the problem scientifically and decide the best way to allocate street parking in a way that benefits the most, not the loudest.
It’s important to note that it very well may be that meter fees are too high in some places and/or at some times, including some places in Georgetown. The test is how full the spaces get. If they are too full, for too long, they’re too cheap. But if they’re too empty, for too long, then they’re too expensive (or there’s too much of it at that location). GM doesn’t think the parking fee should be higher in all places at all times, just where and when the demand is too high. But Evans’ proposal leaves no room for flexibility.