Lively Discussion on Parking Last Night

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Last night DDOT hosted a meeting with the community to discuss parking. The meeting came out of a long series of discussions that have been going on for years between representatives of the ANC, CAG, and the BID to address the parking situation in Georgetown.

As expected the meeting was lively and well attended. After a short introduction by DC’s parking Czar Angelo and his colleague Damon Harvey, the crowd of about 40-50 was broken up into three discussion groups to tackle three topics of challenges: residential parking, parking for commercial establishments, and institutional parking.

The bulk of the crowd (and GM) gravitated to the first group, where opinions were strong although not always in agreement.

For instance, early on in the discussion, someone suggested the creation of a ANC2E-only parking permit. Under such a scheme, only those who live in Georgetown or Burleith would get the benefit of unlimited parking in those neighborhoods. As it stands now, anyone who lives in Ward 2–which stretches all the way to the Convention Center and down to Southwest DC–can park without restriction in ANC2E.

Lots of heads nodded in approval for that proposal. But then one member piped up, essentially, “Hey I like parking in Dupont. If our zone is reduced, then I can’t drive and park there unrestricted.” Some other heads then bobbed in approval of that, and cited the distance to the Metro. Others then responded, hey if you want to go to Dupont, take a bus. It’s not like there’s any parking anyway.

And that pretty much set the tone for the evening. Lots of impassioned opinions, with nods of agreement often followed by rebuttals.

Probably the most contentious issue was that of the idea of making the side streets pay-for-parking. Some of the objections to the idea were to the aesthetics of not wanting physical meters on the side streets. That, in fact, is not a likely proposal anyway. Any plan for pay-for-parking in the side streets would involve the use of pay-by-cellphone, which only necessitates the signs be changed.

But some objected to the very idea of making people pay for parking on the side streets. ANC Commisioner Tom Birch gave a impassioned statement against it, citing difficulties he’s had in getting contractors to come to his house, among other complaints. But there were voices for the idea too (including GM) such that there was really no consensus in either direction.

While there were these disagreements, there were ideas that most supported. For instance, increasing parking enforcement was popular, with one resident suggesting enforcement officers getting a cut of the tickets like they do in his native city of London. GM can immediately think of more than several reasons why that’s a terrible idea (and the word corruption would be featured frequently in those reasons) but it’s unlikely to be adopted here anyway.

Cracking down on out-of-state registered cars parked in the driveways of group homes was a popular suggestion among Burleith residents. Many seemed to think charging more for additional parking permits-per-household would make sense (an idea GM has long championed). Others seemed to like the idea if permitting people to park in front of their own garage.

As for the other discussion groups, GM was unable to circulate over to them since he had to run back home for familial duties. But GM expects they were similarly productive.

DDOT will take these observations back with them, and continue their discussions with the working group to generate a plan, hopefully this year. It won’t be a plan that everybody likes, but it will certainly be one that came from many (many) discussions of the issue.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Lively Discussion on Parking Last Night

  1. RobRob

    Seems like a lot of these complaints and proposals are based anecdotal data that are, in fact, fairly knowable. I mean to say, are out-of-state cars parked in the driveway of a group home (cough, GU students, cough) really affecting the parking situation on side streets? Are visitor passes really causing the streets to be clogged with non-residents? How many cars would be removed from the side streets (therefore freeing more spaces) if DC significantly raised the registration fee for second or third cars?

  2. Dizzy

    But GM expects they were similarly productive.

    Is that sarcasm, Topher? Because based on your description, it doesn’t sound particularly productive at all :)

    I’m not sure how “Cracking down on out-of-state registered cars parked in the driveways of group homes” is supposed to work. Driveways are private property, n’est-ce pas? On what grounds would the city be cracking down on people parking out-of-state cars on private property?

  3. Topher

    Come on Dizzy, you know conversations full of disagreements can be productive!

    As for the out of state parking issue, it was brought up less in the context if street parking and more in the context of lamenting the conversion of back yards into parking lots. Of course making them register wouldn’t address the parking issue. But I do think there’s merit to insisting that cars based in the District be registered here. I remember when I first moved to Arlington and got a ticket for parking my car with CT plates in a private lot within weeks of moving there (I didn’t get fined since I was still in the grace period). VA collects a car tax, so they have a motivation for catching cars “garaged” in VA without registering. Cracking down on illegally “garaged” out of state cars in DC would make more sense if couple with a sharp increase in the RPP fee (which I also support).

  4. Mary Jane Spelman

    O T D _ But, thanks; ;this looks interesting – However, dear G’twn has now, it seems a combination bowling alley, restaurant/bar, complex in what used to be G’twn Mall. Oy Vey…

    Cleaning out closet and came across an old schmata and – had J. Peterman label.!!!!!

    To be continued…….

  5. Dizzy

    Topher,

    Well, you know, university students are supposed to be able to get reciprocity and not have to change their state of registration. It just so happens that the residents surrounding Georgetown and American are white/wealthy/influential enough to get those students exempted from it, whereas if you attend GW, Howard, Trinity, etc. you’re safe. I’ve made my peace with preventing students from getting RPP, but I think it goes way too far to say that students at Georgetown and American cannot keep/garage their out-of-state cars on private property when students from any other school can. You show me a compelling city interest justifying that sort of arrangement.

    http://dmv.dc.gov/service/obtain-reciprocity-permit-temporary-residents

    As for conversations full of disagreements being productive: that’s true, but only in the event that some sort of consensus was reached, someone’s mind was changed, or someone learned something they don’t already know. You didn’t report any evidence of any of that, beyond a consensus in favor of stricter enforcement (i.e. get those other people off my street so I can park my car!).

  6. Topher

    @Dizzy
    $$$

    Students at GW and AU, etc., have to pay a bunch of money for those reciprocity stickers. I’m indifferent to the prohibition on GU students getting a reciprocity sticker. If they live on campus, they’re not allowed to have a car anyway. And it they live off, they can just register. I don’t think there’s any right to a reciprocity sticker. It’s a relief the city can choose to grant to students, but it’s not something I think students have any basis to get indignant over. So just like any non-student, in Georgetown off campus students have a choice to register or not. I think the city has a financial interest in insisting that all residents receiving the benefit of our roads pay the registration fee. I realize that this is inconvenient for students, who are probably not sticking around and who are probably not on the car’s title, but so be it. I don’t think making car possession convenient for students is a particularly important goal for the city.

  7. Dizzy

    Topher,

    I’m not sure I understand your point. My question is, on what basis does the city decide that Georgetown and American students do not have the right to get reciprocity (putting aside RPP) while students of other schools do? Making car possession convenient for students is not a particular important goal for the city, and should not be, but discrimination on the basis of enrollment status is an area of concern.

    Also, as you well know, it is not true that “they can just register” and ” just like any non-student, in Georgetown off campus students have a choice to register or not.” Because as you said, many of them are not on the car title and are not the primary insurer. DC recognizes students to be a special class of temporary resident that is eligible for reciprocity for these specific reasons, just as military personnel, Congresscritters, and presidential appointees are. The question is regarding the fairness of DC recognizing only students at some schools in this way and not others, for no reason other than the influence and whims of surrounding neighbors.

    The $$$ paid for it is irrelevant as long as it is across-the-board.

  8. Topher

    Dizzy,
    First if all, there’s no prohibition specifically on what school you attend, but rather what neighborhood you live in (and Foggy Bottom is included in the prohibited list). A GU student can live in Glover Park and get a reciprocity sticker. And a Howard student living in Georgetown can’t. Obviously GU students are more likely to live in Georgetown, but there’s still a difference. If having a car is so important to a GU student, then live in Glover Park.

    And the way you describe it actually argues that the people who are really being treated unfairly are those who live near Howard, or Catholic etc. but don’t have the political pull to have reciprocity privileges suspended for their neighborhood.

    Again, I don’t see a fairness issue for some students getting a car-related privilege from the city and some not. And if there’s some need for consistency, I’d rather see the student reciprocity program be scrapped entirely. Because, again I don’t think making it easier for students to have cars is a worthy goal of the city.

  9. Dizzy

    “I don’t see a fairness issue for some students getting a car-related privilege from the city and some not.”

    Arbitrariness, based solely on the income and political influence level of an area’s residents, is a pretty glaring sign of unfairness when it comes to public policy. But you benefit from it, so hey, no unfairness here, clearly :/

    Scrapping it entirely would indeed be more equitable than the current state of affairs, but it exists precisely because there is a compelling logic and argument for not requiring certain classes of temporary residents (including students) to change their car registration, which can impact all sorts of things back home (voting eligibility, parents’ tax status, etc.).

    I concede your point that the letter of this particular restriction is based purely on geography, rather than matriculation, although the disparate impact is pretty obvious.

  10. Dizzy

    Also, to state the obvious: the fact that encouraging ease of parking/driving/car ownership is not a city goal has no bearing on the fairness question. If the demographic group excluded from reciprocity or RPP were racial, religious, sexual, etc. I have to think your reaction would be different. It is not city policy to make driving easier for Latinos, Catholics, or bisexuals either, but excluding them from a policy on the basis of those identities would be wrong indeed. I understand, though, that even as liberal as you are, you cannot quite bring yourself to identify students as a group similarly warranting protection from arbitrary discrimination, regardless of what the DCHRA says. It’s ok, you’re far from the only one.

  11. Topher

    But Dizzy, your analogy doesn’t quite hold. This isn’t a case where the city established a policy generally applicable, then excluded a protected group. It create a policy specifically applicable to a protected group, then reduced the application of that policy aimed at a protected group. For your analogy to hold, the city would have to specifically grant a protected class a benefit, then selectively remove it.

    Here’s an analogy that does meet those rules ( and relates to parking to boot). Say the city decides to allow double parking outside churches on Sundays. But then some neighborhoods get together and complain enough to the city for the city to decide to exclude those neighborhoods from the double parking allowance.

    In such a situation, where religious expression is at play, there’s no doubt we’re dealing with a protected activity and class. But no one seriously would consider that curtailment to be an infringement of the DC Human Rights Act, let alone the first amendment. Sure from the church’s perspective it’s unfair that they don’t get to get the benefit of a policy that benefits churches in other neighborhoods, but the disparity is acceptable.

  12. Dizzy

    But Dizzy, your analogy doesn’t quite hold. This isn’t a case where the city established a policy generally applicable, then excluded a protected group. It create a policy specifically applicable to a protected group, then reduced the application of that policy aimed at a protected group. For your analogy to hold, the city would have to specifically grant a protected class a benefit, then selectively remove it…Sure from the church’s perspective it’s unfair that they don’t get to get the benefit of a policy that benefits churches in other neighborhoods, but the disparity is acceptable.

    Yea, you’re totally right, TM. I’m sure if DC established a program of affirmative action in government hiring for African-Americans, but then chose to exclude the ones living in Congress heights and Deanwood because their neighbors think they’re loud and obnoxious, that would be totally kosher.

    The biggest difference between students and a particular group of churchgoers is that the latter very well might sue and win, whereas the former never will, barring someone wanting to take on the DC government pro bono.

    Anyway, the point that you miss when you support policies that screw specific groups over because ‘hey, at least it’s making driving harder for someone!’ is that in doing so, you are in fact making car possession more convenient for those not excluded (i.e. Georgetown residents). You see this with other policies like making certain streets “no entry except residents” and zoning certain blocks Zone X only at all times. Yes, you have some effect of making driving more of a pain for the people excluded, but that effect is nowhere near as strong as the incentive residents get to drive and have cars because everyone else has been banished from their road/block. Measures that make it only convenient for Georgetown residents to drive/park in Georgetown will, naturally, incentive driving for Georgetown residents.

    Which is, of course, the point. Surely you don’t think Georgetowners are supporting these measures because they want to discourage driving and car ownership writ large, as you do. No, they want other people’s cars (and buses) to get out of the way of their vehicles, which they feel should get priority because they paid eleventy million dollars for their stately rowhouse. Going along with them on this… well, I won’t say you’re a useful idiot because you’re not an idiot, but you are being useful to a set of interests whose transportation vision is ultimately quite different from yours.

  13. Pingback: Would You Be Interested in a Georgetown-Only Parking Permit? | The Georgetown Metropolitan

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