Photo by Matt Hurst.
Those of you who read the Georgetown Metropolitan regularly may remember a series of meetings held earlier this year about parking. The intent of these meetings was to suss out what problems Georgetowners have with parking and to then design possible solutions.
Some ideas were batted around. They included requiring visitors to Georgetown to pay to park even on the side streets. The idea was that people drive up and down our streets looking for street parking because its free. Put a price on it, and people may choose garages instead, thus cutting down on traffic and making it easier for residents to find parking. Other proposals wouldn’t require any payment to park on the side streets, but would require visitors to use a system like Park Mobile to “check in” so that ticket enforcement for time would be easier.
One key element to any proposal like this was the need for some sort of a visitor parking permit. This way the guests of residents would not be subject to the new fees or restrictions.
Other parts of the city, like Ward 3, already have a system like this. Every year, every resident with their own residential parking permit gets a visitor parking pass (VPP). When displayed in a car, that car gets treated like a resident’s car. So far, so good for residents, right? In less dense neighborhoods, that’s probably true. But in a neighborhood like Georgetown, that is a recipe for widespread abuse.
What is the value of a VPP to employees who work in Georgetown? Considering that monthly garage rates can be hundreds of dollars, a VPP could be worth as much as $1,000. It’s inevitable that VPPs will be sold and abused this way.
Every local leader who had worked on the parking project reached this same conclusion: blanket VPPs make no sense for Georgetown, particularly if they’re given away for free to residents. When the city does that, residents will accept just about any fee in exchange for a VPP.
The consensus among those working on this project was that some sort of a coupon system was necessary. That way you’d be given some fixed number of day passes. Say, maybe, 20. Go over, and either you couldn’t use it anymore, or maybe you’d have to pay for more. This would significantly reduce, if not eliminate, abuse.
That was where the parking task force was moving towards. But apparently the two employees in charge of the effort were fired. Now DDOT is making the absolutely idiotic decision to expand the VPP program city-wide, including Georgetown. Any other parking reforms for Georgetown appear completely dead. So all we’ll get is more out-of-state drivers parking on the side streets because they’re willing to buy VPPs on the black market.
Yes, having a pass will be convenient for residents. But once the system begins to be abused, that convenience will no longer be worth it. Particularly since a much better system was on the table!
This is a move of an agency completely out of ideas and bereft of leadership. DDOT director Terry Bellamy should be fired immediately.