Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh has proposed to increase the price of residential parking permits, with high fees for additional cars. The permits, known as RPPs, allow residents to park all day on streets within their zone (which typically matches their ward). They currently cost $35. Under Cheh’s proposal the first RPP in a household would cost $50, and the second would cost $75, a third $100, and any additional one $150.
This is a change long needed. Charging $35 a year for practically unlimited parking on public property is insanely cheap. It is another example of how cars have completely warped our perception on what is fair and equitable. What would you expect to pay to the city to rent 100 square feet of public property to store some other piece of personal property? Would it be 10 cents a day? Because that’s the deal car owners get.
And it would be one thing if, as most car-owners think, everyone was exactly the same in terms of car use. But that’s not remotely the case. Nearly 40% of DC households own no car at all. But the real issue is that a small handful of households take a hugely disproportionate amount of spaces due to them owning three or more cars. Under the current law, one household could own ten cars, and still only pay 10 cents a day per car to take up half a block’s worth of parking.
GM explored how this dynamic plays out in Georgetown ten years ago. The numbers are probably not significantly different today:
In Georgetown [the percentage of households with two or more cars] is 23%. What does that mean? There are only a handful more households that have two or more cars than there are households with no cars.
And what effect do these multi-car households have on the overall population of cars? They represent 46% of all cars in Georgetown.
So nearly half the parking spaces in Georgetown are taken by fewer than a quarter of the households. (Yes, a minority of cars are parked off-street. But for every garage or alley there’s a curb cut taking away up to three useable spots).
What if these multi-car households learned to live with just one car? The number of cars in Georgetown would fall by 25%.
And if just half the multi-car households gave up just one car, there would be 529 fewer cars in Georgetown…We need to finally introduce some rationality to our discussions of cars and parking. We need to stop assuming that everyone drives and we need to realize that we’re not all in this together equally. Some are taking more than what is sustainable, yet they may also be the ones making the loudest complaints. This is a crucial point. If every household followed the lead of the multi-car households, there would be 80% more cars on the street. That would be a crippling amount of cars.
It took ten years, but the city is finally moving to pressure the few to stop taking so many spots from the many.