Category Archives: Parking

Council Reverses Ill-Conceived Visitor Pass Policy

Photo by Matt Hurst.

As GM wrote back in August, DDOT proposed a terribly ill-conceived policy shift regarding visitor parking passes. The plan was to expand the pilot visitor pass program city-wide. While this would probably be welcome in neighborhoods like the Palisades, it would be a disaster for neighborhoods like Georgetown.

GM wasn’t alone in criticizing this policy. The ANC and CAG expressed reservations. And several councilmembers also came out against the policy. And in fact, as reported by the Current this week, the council jumped in to reverse the policy.

The previous policy will continue for now. For Georgetown that means that no annual visitor passes will be available. If you have a guest and need a pass, you need to go to the police station and request one. Continue reading

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DDOT Adopts Idiotic Visitor Parking Policy

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.

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Would You Be Interested in a Georgetown-Only Parking Permit?

Photo by Matt Hurst.

As DDOT considers making changes to the way street parking is managed in Georgetown, one idea that gets batted around a lot is to create a new residential parking zone just for Georgetown.

The idea would be to replace our current Zone 2 stickers with a Zone 2E sticker (covering all of ANC 2E, including Burleith). No longer would people from the rest of Ward 2 be able to park all day in Georgetown. But there’s a catch, no longer would Georgetowners be able to park all day in the rest of Ward 2.

This change is premised on the suspicion that many Ward 2 residents from outside Georgetown come here and park all day. Specifically, the assertion is that office workers drive over from Dupont or points east and fill up the side streets. Is there any truth to this? GM hasn’t a clue, but he knows some Georgetowners who do the opposite and they would also be affected by this change. Continue reading

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Georgetown Waterfront Park is Kinda Popular

Stop by the Georgetown Waterfront Park on a weekend someday soon: it’s completely packed. And no wonder why, it’s an absolutely beautiful park and people are responding well to it. There must have been at least 500 people there on Sunday when GM walked through.

Children are particularly drawn to the fountain:

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Should There Be A Georgetown-Specific Parking Permit?

Georgetown leaders have been long contemplating bringing performance parking to Georgetown. Part of that proposal would involve setting aside certain blocks of parking for residents only. But such a plan raises an interesting issue, one that applies to our current system as much as it would apply to a performance parking system: should there be a Georgetown-specific residential parking permit?

As it is now, any resident of Ward 2 can get a Zone 2 residential parking permit (an “RPP”). This enables a driver to park for an unlimited amount of time in spaces that would otherwise require you to move your car after two hours. This includes just about every on-street parking space in Georgetown except on the commercial strips.

The vast majority of the parking spaces are probably occupied by Georgetown residents. But there is nothing preventing any Ward 2 resident from parking his or her car in Georgetown all day. And if spots are set aside as resident-only under a new parking scheme, with the permits as they are, it would mean residents of Dupont, Foggy Bottom and downtown would be able to still use those spots. Continue reading

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The Georgetown Post Office and Performance Parking

Photo by Wayan Vota.

Last week, GM briefly mentioned that he thought the ideal solution for the Georgetown Post Office garage situation would incorporate performance parking. GM thinks that deserves a bit more explanation. That’s because the Georgetown Post Office is a perfect example for why we need to bring performance parking to Georgetown.

The Dominant Parking Theory

The theory that dominates most parking planning is the same one that came about in the mid-twentieth century. It calls for all new developments to provide at least a certain amount of off-street parking spaces. More often than not, these spaces are offered for free.

It’s not hard to understand the thinking behind this theory. If a building is plopped down in the middle of a neighborhood, without enough off-street parking, the users of this new building will quickly use up all the street parking, thus hurting all the users of the existing buildings.

How That Theory Is Playing Out in Georgetown

As described last week, Eastbanc is proposing to build a new office building behind the historic Georgetown Post Office on 31st St. Eastbanc proposes to build 18 underground parking spaces. This parking would be accessed from the existing south driveway of the Post Office.

The urge to insist on more parking, as some Commissioners expressed, is consistent with the dominant parking theory. Commissioner Skelsey stated “this is an office building. There’s no Metro, people are going to drive.” Eastbanc defended the amount of spaces, estimating that there would be a space for every 750 or so square feet of office space (downtown buildings have a typical ratio of more than a thousand square feet for every parking spot). Thus, Eastbanc was assuring the neighborhood that the old users would be protected from the new users.

If the conversation went on even longer, the question of whether to charge the employees to use the parking may have come up. The natural response based upon the dominant theory would be of course not to charge the employees. If you charge them then they may simply park in the neighborhood.

Given the fact that so much (essentially) free parking is so close to the Post Office–they only need to move their cars every two hours, annoying but not unheard of–pursuing the current strategy simply makes sense.

Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way

Performance parking (championed by UCLA Professor Donald Shoup) stems from the simple observation that street parking is too cheap. Garages in Georgetown charge anywhere between $4.00 to $12.00 an hour. Street parking is either free (in the two hour zones) or $2.00/hr at meter spaces. Since street parking is so cheap compared to what the market rate is for commercial parking, it is quickly used up. Performance parking merely suggests raising the cost of street parking just to the point that some spaces are always available.

GM has laid out his plan for performance parking for Georgetown. It would call for most streets near Wisconsin Ave. and M St. to become metered. Residents would be exempt from the meters (there are a host of reasons why that is the right choice but the main two are that the neighborhood wouldn’t accept the opposite and if residents aren’t exempt it would create an additional incentive to drive to work, which isn’t a worthy goal). All non-residents would be required to pay to park on the side streets just like on the main streets. The rate would ideally be set at whatever rate it took to discourage enough drivers from parking on the street such that at least 10 to 15 % of street parking spots are open at any given time.

How It Would Affect The Georgetown Post Office Project

Around the Post Office there is a mixture of metered spaces and two-hour zoned spaces. If the new building were built with zero parking, it is likely that some portion of the employees of the new building would in fact park on the street. They would have to move their cars every two hours. But it’s not that easy to enforce two hour zones and at least some workers would figure that they can be less diligent and simply pay the occasional $50 parking ticket. That’s acceptable compared with the monthly parking rates in Georgetown, which vary from $210 to $300 per month.

Those with Zone Two stickers can simply leave their cars parked all day.

With performance parking, those options would be gone. Metered parking would cost more per day than simply getting a monthly garage space. And meters are a lot easier to enforce than 2 hour zones; it doesn’t take multiple observations by a meter maid. Also, those with Zone Two stickers would not qualify as residents (unless, of course, they are Georgetown residents).

There are seven garages or parking lots within two blocks of the Georgetown Post Office. There is no need to create a new one. Particularly since the driveway can only accommodate one lane. That block of 31st St. is already frequently backed up. There is simply not enough room for cars to maneuver around each other, as would be necessary with the current plans.

Eastbanc has been quick to say they’ll be happy to build whatever parking the neighborhood demands. It’s a shame and it’s not in line with Anthony Lanier’s views on pedestrianism and city planning. While some are working behind the scenes to bring performance parking to Georgetown, it probably won’t be here until it’s too late for this project.

As a result, we’ll end up encouraging more driving and creating more congestion all because we’re stuck in an outdated theory.

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Raise Parking Fees on Multi-Car Households First

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that as part of his final effort to close the city’s budget gap, Adrian Fenty is considering doubling the fee for residential parking passes. This is actually not a bad idea at all. We charge a laughably small fee for street parking: $15 a year. Only in the world of cars is it considered reasonable that private individuals are able to squat their personal property on 180 square feet of public property and only pay 4 cents a day.

So doubling it does seem like a quick and easy way to raise revenues while spreading the pain pretty thin. But it would be a failed opportunity. Before we consider raising the fee for households with one car, we ought to raise it for houses with two cars, and raising it even more for houses with three or more cars.

See how this would play out in a parking-challenged neighborhood like Georgetown: According to the 2000 Census, there are roughly 4,936 cars in Georgetown. There are only 4,640 households in Georgetown. Of those households here’s how the car ownership breaks down:

  • 20% of households have no car
  • 57% of households have one car
  • 23% of households have more than one car

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