Resident-only parking sign in SW. Image from Google Street View.

Jack Evans has proposed a new parking restriction to limit parking in Logan Circle to residents. That could be a worthwhile policy, but will it help residents of Logan Circle find parking, or just give special privileges to residents of Georgetown and Kalorama? It depends on the details.

In the performance parking zones in Columbia Heights, Capitol Hill, the ballpark area, and soon H Street, only residents (and their guests) can park on one side of each block. This has been a successful element of performance parking zones that coupled the restrictions with market-rate meters.

In 2010, Jim Graham decided to offer neighbor­hoods in his ward the option to similarly restrict parking, but without a corresponding market-rate pricing component. The DC Council passed his bill, and now individual ANCs are deciding whether to opt in or not. Mount Pleasant’s ANC 1D has decided not to join, in order to assist businesses in the neighborhood.

Now, Jack Evans seems to have jumped on the bandwagon. According to ANC commissioner Nick Barron,

Evans is proposing a pilot program for at least part of ANC 2F that would make one side of a street for Residential Parking Permit (RPP) holders only for at least six days a week. The opposite side of the street would remain unchanged, with two-hour time limits except for RPP holders. I believe street sweeping rules will stay in effect.

Logan residents who would want to exempt their street from the pilot program would have an opportunity to do so, provided they supply a petition signed by a majority of residents on that block stating they do not want their block participating in the program. There would likely be a time limit on when such a petition needs to be provided.

If the program is successful in ANC 2F, it could be rolled out District wide.

This program could be a fine approach, though I’d prefer it to come as part of a performance parking package. Either way, though, to make it succeed requires one key element: Making sure it actually applies to Logan Circle residents and not, say, residents of Georgetown or Kalorama.

Currently, all DC residential parking permits apply for an entire zone, which almost always corresponds with ward borders. There’s no good reason for the zones to be so large; many other cities have smaller zones, and ward boundaries are fairly arbitrary, given that they need to move every 10 years to reflect changing populations even though the boundaries of communities don’t shift.

Logan Circle is (now) at one edge of Ward 2. If this program also applies to all of Ward 2, it will amount to a major parking giveaway to people in Georgetown, Kalorama, Dupont and Foggy Bottom, at the expense of drivers living north of U Street (which is in Ward 1), Columbia Heights (also 1), Shaw (which is now in Ward 6), Mount Vernon Triangle (also 6), Bloomingdale and Truxton Circle (5), and other neighborhoods which are closer to Logan Circle than Georgetown and Kalorama.

In fact, Georgetown and Kalorama residents can already drive to Logan Circle and park near the Green Line all day with their Ward 2 stickers. This policy could exacerbate the practice as well.

Proposed post-redistricting ANCs for Ward 2. Image from the DC Office of Planning.

The stated purpose of the RPP system is to help residents park relatively near their homes, not to give residents of certain neighborhoods special priority to park near a special set of other neighborhoods. If this program is to actually advance such a goal, it must apply to a smaller zone.

The new ANC 2F could form an appropriate such zone. Give new “Zone 2, subzone F” RPP stickers to drivers living in the 2F boundaries. Limit the one side of each street to those holding these stickers. To avoid hurting people who live right next to the boundary, DC could also give the permits to anyone living, say, within 500 feet of the zone boundary.

This policy may also reserve spaces for residents so well that the spaces aren’t filling up on all blocks. In that case, as I suggested for H Street, the legislation should let DDOT offer the extra space to non-residents for a fee, and dedicate some of the money to local improvements that help local businesses.

That’s cheap and easy to do with the new pay-by-phone systems. All DDOT would have to do is put up signs that say, “Reserved for holders of 2F permits; others pay by calling 800-xxx-xxxx or at parkmobile.com.” The rates for this space should be high enough that it doesn’t just fill up the blocks and make space too scarce for residents once again.

Finally, why 6 days a week? Presumably this excludes Sundays. But Sunday is one of the days parking is in demand in Logan Circle. Given all the churches, it’s actually the day of most demand, but there’s also demand to park for the restaurants and shops as well. If the policy is going into effect, it should apply all the time, as the similar restrictions in other neighborhoods do.

ANC 2F is hearing about Evans’ plan at its meeting tonight, which starts at 7 pm at the Washington Plaza Hotel on Thomas Circle.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. 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. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.