Should There Be A Georgetown-Specific Parking Permit?

Georgetown leaders have been long contemplating bringing performance parking to Georgetown. Part of that proposal would involve setting aside certain blocks of parking for residents only. But such a plan raises an interesting issue, one that applies to our current system as much as it would apply to a performance parking system: should there be a Georgetown-specific residential parking permit?

As it is now, any resident of Ward 2 can get a Zone 2 residential parking permit (an “RPP”). This enables a driver to park for an unlimited amount of time in spaces that would otherwise require you to move your car after two hours. This includes just about every on-street parking space in Georgetown except on the commercial strips.

The vast majority of the parking spaces are probably occupied by Georgetown residents. But there is nothing preventing any Ward 2 resident from parking his or her car in Georgetown all day. And if spots are set aside as resident-only under a new parking scheme, with the permits as they are, it would mean residents of Dupont, Foggy Bottom and downtown would be able to still use those spots.

So what about making a new RPP just for Georgetown? This would undoubtedly make it easier for Georgetown residents to find parking, but it would have some draw backs. Most obviously, if there were a new RPP carved out for Georgetown, it would likely mean that Georgetowners would be unable to park unlimitedly in the rest of Ward 2. GM knows of at least a couple people who drive to work in Dupont or downtown and park in Zone 2 spaces all day. But is their desire to park for free downtown worth more than making it easier for residents to park closer to their homes?

There are examples of smaller residential parking zones like this. For example, the city of Boston has a neighborhood parking permit program similar to DC’s except that instead of 8 large zones, the city is broken up into 21 different neighborhood zones (for reference, DC is actually a bit larger in landmass than the city of Boston). More nearby, Arlington also has much smaller residential parking zones than DC’s.

In the end, whether this would make sense depends on data that we simply don’t have. Namely, on an average day how many cars parked in Georgetown with a Zone 2 sticker are from outside the neighborhood? If it’s very low, then this is probably a change not worth making. But it could be high, or more likely, it could be high along specific blocks. And moreover, if Georgetown does adopt a program of setting aside blocks for resident-only parking, the need to limit who qualifies as a resident may increase, particularly on blocks near the commercial areas.

None of this argument is Georgetown-specific, by the way. If it makes sense here, it probably makes sense in other neighborhoods like Cleveland Park or Capitol Hill. So none of this is about saying Georgetown is special or should be treated differently. It really comes down to this: If the purpose of residential parking stickers is to make it easier for residents to find parking, shouldn’t the residential zones reflect neighborhood boundaries, not ward boundaries?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Should There Be A Georgetown-Specific Parking Permit?

  1. andy

    Great idea – Seattle does the same thing. Since street parking is a public good, the city should do what it can in it’s power to make sure that the city is getting a resonable amount of revenue (current permits are too cheap) and developing policies that encourage sustainable city living (mass transit versus private cars).

  2. James

    There are two main reasons why a Georgetown-specific resident parking pass (RPP) should be adopted. First, the purpose of RPP is obviously so that residents have a preference to enable them to park near their homes. Currently, the RPP for Georgetown encompasses all of Ward 2, which extends past the Convention Center. It distorts the purpose of RPP to enable residents from this extended area to park in Georgetown on an unlimited basis like residents of Georgetown can. This reduces the ability of Georgetown residents to find parking near their homes. Second, it is problematic to quantify exactly how much residents from other neighborhoods in Ward 2 park in Georgetown, because RPP passes for Zone 2 do not distinguish between Georgetown residents and residents of other parts of Ward 2. However, one specific parking problem in the East Village is that there is a noticeable morning influx of cars parking during normal business hours on Monday-Friday. Since residents of the East Village normally park near their homes overnight, it is logical to assume that this influx is largely attributable to cars operated by residents of other neighborhoods within Ward 2 who are using their Zone 2 RPP passes to commute to the East Village, to avoid pay parking, and to walk to work in surrounding areas like the West End. (These people are far less likely to park in the West Village, because the walk towards the West End, Dupont, etc. is longer.) Also, residents of the East Village sometimes see motor vehicles with Zone 2 RPP that they don’t recognize as belonging to their neighbors for extended periods of time and sometimes indefinitely. Different parts of Georgetown face somewhat different parking problems. Any performance parking pilot for Georgetown needs fairly to address parking problems that exist throughout Georgetown, which includes the East Village.

  3. I don’t know, I have some reservations.

    I live in West End, on 25th and Pennsylvania by the Trader Joes. I do have a car which I park on the street, and I have to sometimes have to park it in Georgetown because of the parking situation in my own neighborhood.

  4. RobRob

    The Boston example is interesting to me, as a former resident of both that city and Cambridge (a separate municipality). Cambridge issues city-wide resident parking permits, allowing a resident of any neighborhood to park in any resident-only parking zone across the city. As someone who often worked from home, I can attest to the fact that finding parking on the resident-only streets was usually much easier during the day when people had driven to work than in the evenings when everyone was home.

    This has the effect of providing additional free parking for residents (of Cambridge) during the day, leaving non-residents to park at metered spaces. As a revenue driver, I’m not sure this was the most effective approach, but it does allow for more efficient use of the “public good” of on-street parking during periods of slack demand (again, for residents).

    Of course, on street cleaning days, all bets are off.

  5. RNM

    If you want to park in front of your home….then move to a suburban enclave with a driveway.

    Parking in Georgetown today is vastly easier and better than it was a decade ago. Some great effort was put in by local leaders to create and “find” more spots on the streets for residents to park. There was a need for easier parking, and the leaders of the day carved out more parking and greatly reduced pressure. Also in my time here, the RPP for GU students with out of state plates was eliminated, again reducing demand for spots by holding them for DC residents (fair disclosure, I had a RPP as a GU student).

    Which brings me to the great discomfort I have when city services and resources are denied to city residents and taxpayers based on their street address in the city. Why shouldn’t someone from Ward 8 be able to park in Zone 2? Do they not also pay taxes, are they also not residents. Again this feels like more “keep them out” talk. Keep out businesses the “let the eat cake” class don’t want…keep out certain elements of people (possibly racially as well as class based) by limiting the types of establishments that can exist…now we don’t want to let people even park on our streets. Can’t decide if we are building a prison compound to keep us in or keep them out. Again, if you want to live in a walled off enclave…move to the suburbs.

    Nobody likes coming back with a car full of gear (say like my return from a beach vacation last night) to struggle to find a spot near their home to unload. However, isn’t this a very mild inconvenience to deal with for all the great benefits of living in a CITY? If it isn’t, then you may have reached that time in life where the siren song of the suburbs is calling.

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