Photo by Agent Relaxed on Flickr.

Parking on H Street NE will continue costing 75¢ per hour from 7 am to 6:30 pm but increase to $2 per hour until 10 pm, under a performance parking program DDOT plans to launch in March.

Damon Harvey, DDOT’s parking operations manager, and Councilmember Tommy Wells are co-hosting a meeting tonight to discuss the plan. It’s 6:30-8 pm at Sherwood Rec Center, 640 10th Street, NE.

According DDOT’s report, drivers will be allowed to park during the day for up to 2 hours, but there will be no time limit after 6:30. In addition, as at other performance parking zones, new restrictions will limit one side of surrounding streets, from G to I Street, 3rd to 15th, to drivers with Zone 6 parking stickers only.

Adjust rates regularly

The most important element of making any performance parking zone succeed is actually adjusting the meter rates up or down depending on demand. It took some time for DDOT to get data on occupancy rates in the existing performance parking zones, but even then, they didn’t adjust meter rates very quickly or very often.

Performance parking depends on actual market-rate meter rates to succeed. It’s not just a strategy to charge more money, but gives drivers a promise in return: You’ll be able to find a space, even if it’s more expensive.

DDOT Director Terry Bellamy argued at last year’s oversight hearing that the ballpark district isn’t the best place to try performance parking. Demand fluctuates so greatly around the baseball schedule. In Columbia Heights, Harvey argued against making any changes until streetscape construction concluded.

On H Street, the streetscape is done and demand is less dependent on specific events, so this is a good opportunity for DDOT to demonstrate that it can, and will, actually make a performance parking zone work by truly adjusting meter rates to match demand.

Charge for non-resident parking on neighborhood streets

DDOT can make the pilot work even better with one more simple change: Let people park on the neighborhood streets, but charge non-residents for the privilege.

A major objective of performance parking is to reduce circling. Just park at the meter for a few bucks instead of driving around looking for free spaces. But as long as one side of every street remains free for visitors to park, and both sides of streets more than a block away from H Street, many people will still try to find a spot in the neighborhood.

Now that DDOT has very successful pay-by-phone technology, they can easily put up signs on residential streets saying, “Drivers without Zone 6 stickers must pay with ParkMobile.” Set a rate on the side streets that, like on H itself, ensures that every single space doesn’t fill up.

With this, DDOT can apply such a restriction to both sides of the street, not just one. Residents will enjoy a high likelihood of finding spaces near their homes, and the neighborhood can raise extra revenue to pay for more improvements like more Capital Bikeshare stations, trash compactors, or maybe real-time screens.

Who’s a resident?

Restricting parking on one side of each street to “residents” further exacerbates the silly effects of the current, large parking zones. A resident who lives 2½ miles away in Southwest Waterfront or Shaw will be able to park on residential blocks of H Street for free, while a resident of southeast Trinidad might be prohibited from parking 2 blocks from home.

Georgetown currently restricts parking to Zone 2 residents only on certain blocks for the O and P Street reconstruction. That made it really easy for me to park there one day I drove to Georgetown, but giving Dupont or Logan residents special privileges is not the point. If a policy is supposed to help residents park near their homes, then it should only apply to actual residents of the area.

It’s long past time to set up zones that match actual neighborhoods, rather than the arbitrary and too-large ward boundaries. The Mayor’s Parking Taskforce (that’s Mayor Williams) recommended doing this 8 years ago (section 4.4.1).

An H street performance parking zone presents a great opportunity for DDOT, to demonstrate that it can capably manage a performance parking zone and achieve the policy objectives of ensuring some availability and reducing circling. Its stewardship of the other two zones has disappointed, but this zone lacks many of the obstacles of previous zones.

Given DDOT’s reluctance in recent years to actually follow through on implementing its performance parking policies, it would be helpful for area residents and supporters of performance parking to attend the meeting tonight. It’s at Sherwood Recreation Center, 640 10th Street, NE, from 6:30-8 pm.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle.