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?