Photo by sethladd on Flickr.

DDOT officials will meet with residents tonight to discuss parking in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. After the meeting, anyone will be able to park directly in front of their homes, offices, or stores, for free, without circling.

Oops, it’s not still April Fool. But there is a parking meeting tonight.

Dupont Circle, like most of DC’s busy neighborhoods, has far more demand for parking than supply of on-street spaces. Right now, we allocate the limited resource of spaces in one way. The meeting will discuss whether to allocate them in a different way.

Today, people who don’t live in the neighborhood can park on any residential block for up to 2 hours during weekdays and for unlimited time evenings and weekends. This means that around the commercial corridors, especially hot spots like Lauriol Plaza at 18th and T, parking is very scarce.

I used to live near there and parked on the street. When I had to move my car for street cleaning, it would usually take under 5 minutes mid-morning to find an alternate space, but coming home from a car trip on a Saturday night or Sunday morning could mean a 20-30 minute quest for a space.

Residents in this and other spots are understandably interested in change. They’d like a less daunting parking experience. Plus, if the residential blocks are supposed to prioritize parking for residents, why are we giving it to diners?

More importantly, why should this parking be free? Parking in garages isn’t free. At the meters on 18th, it’s not free (except Sundays). Free parking on residential streets just encourages people to circle the neighborhood for a long time to save some money.

DDOT could pursue a few options.

Reserve parking for residents of all Ward 2 neighborhoods. A simple approach would be to set up the same arrangement Jack Evans has suggested for Logan Circle: Designate one side of every street for holders of Zone 2 stickers only. A related option, with similar pros and cons, would be to extend Residential Permit Parking hours later into the night and to weekends.

These options would free up a lot of parking for residents, though with so many residents in the area, it still wouldn’t guarantee that anyone would be able to park on any given block.

There are also a few downsides. For one, people often have contractors, housecleaners, friends, family members, and others who don’t live in the area drive to visit residents. In other wards, these parking changes went hand in hand with visitor passes. Each household got one, and any car sporting a pass counted as a resident.

In Ward 2, there would be too much abuse. If every resident got a pass, many would sell them to people who want to drive jobs in the ward. DDOT monitors Craigslist and other sites for people selling passes, but the temptation and potential profit would be far higher for Ward 2.

Another downside is that it would also encourage more driving from neighborhoods like Georgetown, which happen to be in Ward 2, at the expense of drivers from U Street or Adams Morgan in Ward 1 or other DC neighborhoods. If we are dedicating parking to residents of a neighborhood, then it should actually apply to residents of that neighborhood, not them plus others who by accident of legislative line-drawing live in the same ward.

Reserve parking for actual Dupont residents. DDOT could reserve one side of the street as above, but also give out new 2B stickers to residents of the ANC 2B area. Only drivers with those stickers would get the new privileges.

Reserve parking, then “sell” the excess. Any of these schemes to reserve parking may overly limit parking especially at lower demand times. Should we just leave part of the street empty much of the day? DDOT could also reserve one side of each street, or even both sides, but also let drivers pay for some of the extra space.

It’s too expensive to install multi-space meters on each block, but now that DDOT has ParkMobile, it could offer these spaces through that service. Just put up signs that say something like, “Reserved for cars with 2B stickers only, OR pay $5 an hour for this space at ParkMobile.”

DDOT would set the price at a premium level. This parking is primarily reserved for residents, but others can use it too if they want to pay the higher rates. If they don’t, then use a garage, or arrive by Metro, bus, bike or foot.

Set meters to a market rate. There are a number of meters in the neighborhood. At night, they’re usually all full. During the day, they’re often not very full at all. If a more rigorous analysis bears out this anecdotal evidence, DDOT ought to raise rates at night and lower them during the day. That could bring more drivers in to patronize businesses middays, when the neighborhood is only moderately busy, and generate more revenue at night, when people will fill up the spaces regardless.

DDOT and ANC commissioners will likely support approaches which have support at the meeting and oppose those which don’t. Some good ideas for 17th Street’s streetscape got thrown out because a majority of people at a community meeting opposed the idea. If you live in the neighborhood, it’s important to try to attend.

The meeting starts at 7 pm in the Foxhall Room of the Hotel Dupont, which is on Dupont Circle at New Hampshire Avenue on the north side. Go in the New Hampshire main entrance and turn right to reach Foxhall.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). 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 in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.