The Future of Parking Arrives in DC

This image explains how D.C. will charge different rates for each spot, under the new system. Image: DDOT
D.C. will charge different rates for each spot, under the new system. Image: DDOT

Something pretty remarkable is happening with DC parking policy. The city has begun a sophisticated program based on the work of economist Donald Shoup: meters with prices that adjust to demand, at that time, in that location.

Naturally, there’s been some sensational media coverage about how smarter parking meter prices amount to “surge pricing” a la Uber. David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington explains why the hysteria misses the point. The system should end up saving residents time and even money, in some cases:

If you try to park on the street in the Gallery Place/Chinatown area of DC today at a busy time, you might be circling for 20 or 30 minutes. This program will make parking much more predictable and less stressful.

DC is running an experiment, called ParkDC, based on a successful pilot in San Francisco and similar programs elsewhere. There, as here, parking on the street is extremely difficult to find at busy times, but is far, far cheaper than in a garage.

Because of this, people end up circling for 10, 20, 30 minutes looking for the elusive cheap space, and in doing so, add considerably to traffic congestion, not to mention getting frustrated.

People who need to run a quick errand or drop something off can’t park, and since garages generally gear their pricing toward all-day or all-evening parkers, it’s very pricey to park for a very short time.

The solution is obvious, at least if you’re an economist: Price parking according to supply and demand. Raise the price when demand is high, and drop it when it’s low.

This encourages people who want to park for a long time to use a garage, while giving people who need quicker and shorter parking a chance. Reduce the circling and speed up traffic for everyone.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Black Urbanist says the most important thing about cities is how they make people feel. And The Urbanist reports that Seattle has adopted a new development fee aimed at expanding affordable housing.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The Price of Parking: Let the Free Market Decide?

|
The Wall Street Journal ran a piece this weekend by Conor Dougherty on the municipal move toward charging more for parking. It’s available online to paid subscribers only, but here’s a taste: As anyone who has ever circled the block for a marginally better spot knows, parking is an American obsession. It occasionally boils over […]

Apartment Blockers

|
Alan Durning is the executive director and founder of Sightline Institute, a think tank on sustainability issues in the Pacific Northwest. This article, originally posted on Sightline’s blog, is #9 in their series, “Parking? Lots!” Have you ever watched the excavation that precedes a tall building? It seems to take forever. Then, when the digging […]

Curb Appeal

|
Alan Durning is the executive director of Sightline. This post is #15 in the Sightline series, Parking? Lots! Imagine if you could put a meter in front of your house and charge every driver who parks in “your” space. It’d be like having a cash register at the curb. Free money! How much would you collect? Hundreds […]

Details of the Mayor’s Residential Parking Permit Proposal

|
Potential residential parking permit stickers, curbside regulations, and David Yassky. Here are some more details about the residential parking permit program proposed today by Mayor Bloomberg and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan: A residential parking permit (RPP) plan will be included in the congestion pricing legislation that will be introduced in the City Council and State […]