Georgetown Leaders Considering Performance Parking

Georgetown Leaders Considering Performance Parking

Is something like this in Georgetown's future?

The Georgetown Current reported yesterday that various Georgetown leaders have been meeting recently to consider revamping Georgetown’s parking regulations. According to author Carol Buckley, members of the ANC, the BID and CAG are part of the ad hoc group.

The article indicates that among the options the group is considering is the concept of performance parking. Actually, they didn’t use that term exactly but the substance of the proposals mentioned amount to a type of performance parking.

GM laid out his out vision of performance parking for Georgetown way back in March. In a nutshell: performance parking attempts to price street-side parking in a way to discourage long-term use of the space. Cities using this approach raise the parking meter price high enough to ensure that there are always a decent number of spaces open. If people want to park longer term, they are encouraged to use the pay garages, of which Georgetown has plenty.

In Georgetown, it would also call for a change to neighborhood parking. A plan could introduce metered parking to the side streets. This would help avoid simply moving more cars from M and Wisconsin to the back streets instead of to the garages (or better yet, the bus). Those concerned about the unattractiveness of meters in front of their homes could hopefully be satisfied with the new multi-space meters or even with signs that instruct drivers how to pay by cell phone.

Detractors will accuse the city of just trying to grab more revenue. And to some extent that’s true. But there’s no such thing as cheap or free parking. You either pay with your time or your money. If the city ends up with more money that can be directed towards improving transportation (or securing long term funding of the Circulator) all the better.

As long as Georgetown’s mandarins are considering revamping parking in Georgetown, GM would like to point them to another of his posts where he showed that a small minority of households contribute a disproportionate share of cars to Georgetown’s streets. Only twenty-three percent of Georgetown households have more than one car, yet they own forty-six percent of all the cars in town. For that reason, Georgetown should work with DDOT to make the second, third or fourth residential parking permit (“RPP”) for each household significantly more expensive than the first. That money should also be directed to improving transportation through Georgetown.

We cannot build any more supply of parking spots in Georgetown. If we want to improve the parking situation, we must reduce demand.



Filed under Parking, Transit

10 responses to “Georgetown Leaders Considering Performance Parking

  1. Rob

    Twenty-three percent have more than one car, yet own 46% of the cars in town? Doesn’t that just imply that there are as many two-car households as there are zero-car households?

  2. GM

    Actually, the exact number is 20% of Georgetown households don’t own a car. If everyone in Georgetown followed the lead of the multi-car households, there would be about 4,000 more cars in Georgetown.

  3. I realize this post is old but I just saw it linked from city desk.

    I am curious about the negative connotations that some associate with multi-car households.

    It is reasonable to assume that in most cases where two cars are registered to a single address, that there are two adult drivers living in that household. I am sure there are exceptions but I doubt there are that many households with more cars than drivers in a place where parking is challenging.

    So “following the lead” of the multi-car households means “having more than one adult who drives regularly” in the household. In effect you are criticizing people who have chosen to live with another adult.

    From the standpoint of overall footprint, sharing a household with another adult, be it a roommate or a partner, is good. The fewer square feet consumed per person means fewer resources per person, such as electricity and heat, and higher overall population density, which is certainly a good thing for any number of reasons.

    Why not criticize apartment buildings? They surely put far more cars on the street per foot of frontage compared to a single-family house with two cars. Sure, they may take up a lot of parking, but they take up a heck of a lot less land and natural resources compared to the same number of single-family homes that would be required to house each of them alone.

    In my mind the extra car on the street for a single household is hardly representative of an irresponsible or selfish person, it’s quite the opposite. The alternative would be one less taxpaying resident of DC, or their car would just be parked somewhere else if they lived alone in DC.

  4. GM

    Jamie those are fair points. Let me address them one by one.

    But first let me state that attempting to decrease multi-car households in Georgetown is not part of the proposals being considered. So everything I say below has nothing to do with the proposals. Repeat: my ideas on changing the permit process are absolutely not going to part of any reform discussed in the article above.

    -Most multi-car households are multi-adult too.

    You’re probably right. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of three car households have only two adults.

    -Criticizing multi-car households is the same as criticizing multi-adult households.

    That’s just not accurate. First of all, I’m not criticizing multi-car households so much as trying to limit their numbers.

    Secondly, in Georgetown the majority of multi-adult households do not own multiple cars. Only twenty percent of Georgetown households have more than one car. Yet more than 50% of households in Georgetown have more than one adult. Stated differently: of multi-person households, 60% own only one or no car.

    Thus most households with two adults either share one car or get along with no car at all.

    -Isn’t it better to have multi-person dwellings?

    I absolutely agree with you.

    -Isn’t it inconsistent of you not to criticize apartment buildings for taking up so much parking as a proportion of their streetface?

    That’s a fair point. I agree with you that it is on balance better from an environmental perspective to have apartment buildings (not to mention other perspectives as well) despite the fact that they might lead to more cars per street address.

    But I don’t think it’s inconsistent to “criticize” (which I don’t think I’m doing) single family homes for having multiple cars without doing the same to apartment buildings.

    For one thing, the environment benefit of apartment buildings is significantly more than the benefit from having two adults in a single family home. Second it’s a lot less reasonable to ask apartment units to share a car the same way you could expect single family home residents to do the same. Plus apartment buildings create more demand for mass transit which benefits drivers and non-drivers alike. Moreover, rental units (which mostly includes apartments) are almost three times more likely to have no car at all than owner occupied households are.

    -In my mind the extra car on the street for a single household is hardly representative of an irresponsible or selfish person, it’s quite the opposite.

    I didn’t say it was selfish or irresponsible. But right now there are about 8,000 adults living in Georgetown, yet there are fewer than 5,000 cars. Clearly there are other alternatives for those 3,000 people other than moving out.

    The only reason the parking situation in Georgetown isn’t absolutely catastrophic is because those 3,000 adults either share a car or don’t have access to one in the first place. By increasing the cost for one household to own more than one car, we may be able to increase that 3,000 number and in turn improve the parking situation significantly.

    Not everyone is willing or able to share a car. But on the margins there may be enough. The technique of jacking up the cost of parking permits to discourage car ownership is not novel in DC. DC charges college students $338 a year to get a temporary parking pass.

  5. I understand the the principle of the idea behind an escalating scale for parking privileges in a single household, but I think it is unfair and wouldn’t be effective in practice.

    A single individual in a single household pays the lowest rate for their car. Each additional individual pays a higher rate.

    If each of the adults registering a car at one address lived at three different addresses, they would all pay the lowest rate.

    You are being penalized for living at the same address as someone else. I won’t go so far as to say it would discourage cohabitation since I doubt anyone would make such a choice over a few bucks, but it’s like the marriage penalty on your taxes. I don’t understand why people who do in fact make this choice should be penalized, especially when you consider the good things that we as a society get when people do that. (As far as a couple in a townhouse versus apartment living, sure, apartment living is far better, but two people in a townhouse is twice as good as one person in a townhouse).

    Whether or not someone “could” share a car because they live in the same household doesn’t seem important to me. Everyone has the right to choose to own a car or not, and keeping car in the city is already very expensive in and of itself (insurance not the least of the costs). I can’t believe that a couple hundred dollars on top of that would really change anyone’s mind.

    This also imposes a burden on people living in group houses who may be no more able to decide to share a car than two people on the same block. They just live in the same house but have no relationship to one another.

    At a minimum this penalty should apply to cars registered under the same name, not household.

    I guess at the end of the day I really doubt a lot of people would change their minds about owning a car in DC because of an added fee. It costs easily a thousand dollars a year to insure a typical car in DC, and that’s just the beginning of the cost of owning a car. It just seems like it would be another gouge.

    My position on the difficulty of parking has long been that it is a self-regulating resource. When parking becomes too difficult, at the margin, some people will get rid of cars, secure offstreet parking, or move. Imposing fees or creating burdensome parking restrictions doesn’t change the balance — the moment parking became easier, someone at the margin who didn’t own a car before (because parking was too difficult) might decide to get one. And the ugly side is that imposing high fees is regressive and hurts lower-income people a lot more than higher-income people.

  6. Oh.. college students don’t pay taxes in DC. I have no issue there, gouge away.

  7. GM


    Your views are definitely consistent with the mainstream. I readily admit that my views are not going to sway many people.

    But a few more points I’ll make are this:

    Yes, if two people living in two separate houses move in to one house and keep two cars the impact they have on the environment is lower. But you’re forgetting that somebody is moving into that now empty house. If they bring a car the situation is 50% worse than it was at the start.

    I also reject the idea that it is unfair to charge more. Personally I think it’s unfair to non-car owners that citizens get to keep a huge piece of their property on public land for a mere $15 a year. I’ve got a lot of stuff in my apartment that I’d like to store somewhere else. Do you think the city would be willing to rent me 75 square feet of public land for $15 a year? I doubt it.

    The fact is that the RPP cost is significantly below its real market value. That’s why we have a parking problem in the first place. Say every year we auctioned off the exact number of RPPs to ensure that parking was just plentiful enough that people could easily find a space whenever they wanted. Do you really think the price would only be $15? I don’t.

    So no, I don’t think it’s unfair to make people pay a closer-to-market price for the privilege of keeping their property on public land, especially when the land in question is scarce.

    Although I do agree with you that using the price of time and aggravation rather than dollars is one way to allocate parking. But it results in aggravated people talking about all that time they spent finding spots. That aggravation has a knack for dominating debate.

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