Parking Reform Q & A

Paring Reform Q & A

As mentioned here and at the Georgetown Current, leaders in Georgetown are considering developing a proposal to be sent to DDOT to reform the way in which on-street parking is administered. GM has laid out his own vision for such a program, but that vision is presented from a top-down perspective. What would be the actual experience of residents and visitors in the ultimate system? While GM certainly doesn’t speak for the leaders who are considering reform, he is familiar enough with the likely result to produce a Q & A to address residents’ concerns.

Will I have to pay more to park my car in the street?

No. While parking reform would likely call for the installation of meters or other devices on the residential blocks, these would not apply to residents. That bears repeating: Georgetown residents would not pay a cent more to park where they already park for free.

The theory behind performance parking is that you make it expensive enough to park on the street that at least 15% of the parking spaces are free at any given time. By making it more expensive for visitors to park on Georgetown’s residential streets fewer of them will decide to do it. They will either come a different way or park in a pay garage. The focus is on changing visitors’ behavior, not residents.

What would the system look like to a driver?

To a resident, the system would look no different than it is today. On the residential blocks you would be able to park in any open spot for free and keep your car there indefinitely.

To a visitor, however, it would be a lot different. Throughout most of the blocks bordering the commercial streets, parking meters would be added. These meters would be priced high enough that it would be expensive to keep your car there for a long time. This price would be set at whatever level it took to encourage enough turnover that at most times at least 15% of the spaces are free.

Also, on some streets parking on one side of the street would be reserved for residents only. Finally, on the streets that have less of a parking problem nothing will be different for residents or visitors.

So does that mean I’m going to have parking meters in front of my house?

Maybe, but not the old fashion kind. To the extent that there is a physical meter on any street, it would be the green multi-space kind found on M St. like this:

In fact, they’d probably be even smaller. And on most blocks there would only be one, which could be placed in the most unobtrusive location.

But even that might prove too unpopular in Georgetown. To address that concern, DDOT is now experimenting with a pay-by-phone system where you call in to pay the meter. The only addition to the streetscape would be a new parking sign.

So would this make it easier or harder for a resident to park?

Ideally it would be easier, at least for the most part. The whole point of performance parking is to encourage more turnover of parking spaces and to have 15% of the spaces open at any one time. This would mean that at any one time you should be able to find a spot on any street.

The reality is that if on a given street all the spaces are generally taken up by residents’ cars, then these reforms won’t make much of a difference since they aren’t addressed at the residents. But it is very unlikely that they’d make it any worse. And chances are that by increasing the cost for visitors to park across the neighborhood, there will simply be fewer visitors’ cars parked on residential blocks. That would likely improve the parking supply even on streets where almost all the spots are taken by residents already.

But what about my guests?

One tricky issue for any parking reform would be how to handle guest parking. Do we make them pay like any other visitor? Do we give residents a guest pass? It’s unclear what the answer to those questions would be in Georgetown. It is unlikely that we’ll do it like they do it by the baseball stadium, where residents are given an open ended guest pass. There is simply too much concern that such passes would end up on Craigslist were they given out for Georgetown. Some hybrid system based upon temporary passes would likely be the system chosen for Georgetown.

One possible system would be for residents to be able to go online and print out bar-coded temporary passes. Either these passes could come with a price tag or we could simply set a periodic limit. This would hopefully eliminate the threat of creating a black market.

Will I be able to buy or rent an on-street parking space?

No. A writer to the Georgetown Current recently suggested this idea. While it is an interesting proposal, it is not on the radar screen and DDOT is very unlikely to accept it. In GM’s opinion it would not be a particularly workable system. If one person “bought” a space on a block, everyone would have to. The end result would be a much less efficient allocation of space.

So are you saying that these reforms would only be a good thing for Georgetown residents?

Yes! While the issue of parking meter aesthetics and guest passes need to be ironed out, the overall majority of the possible changes in parking reform would benefit Georgetown residents.

Again, any possible reform is still remote. But if Georgetown residents embrace the concept, the likelihood of reform increases significantly.


Filed under Cars and Parking, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Parking Reform Q & A

  1. Rob

    Would residents be exempt from the meters? If not, then the performance parking would affect those who drive and park on the commercial streets (to shop, for example).

    If not, then residents would just take the pay spaces (for free) and reduce the effectiveness of the performance pay scheme.

    It’s still a good idea, but reducing the number of resident automobiles would probably have a more significant effect.

  2. GM

    Yes, residents would be exempt from the new meters. (they’d still have to pay for the meters that exist currently, like those on M and Wisconsin.)

    Perhaps an ideologically pure performance parking system would exempt nobody from the new meters, but that would never fly here and nobody is suggesting that we do that. Besides, if we made residents pay for the meters, after burning DDOT to the ground they would probably drive to work more to avoid paying to keep their car at home, which isn’t a good thing.

    So yes, the exemption from meters for residents would theoretically limit the plan’s effectiveness. But a system without the exemption would be hugely unpopular and a clear example of the medicine being worse than the illness.

    Personally I would like to reduce the number of residents’ cars by making it a lot more expensive to own two or more parking permits per household. But few people agree with me and it is absolutely a political non-starter. For that reason it’s not even being considered as an option.

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