Photo by davereid2.

DC will end its practice of giving delivery companies a break on parking tickets, the Examiner’s Kytja Weir reported this morning. Councilmember Jim Graham found out about the practice at a recent hearing, and asked the DMV to end the program, which they estimate will raise another $120,000 per year. Instead of just fining delivery companies more, we should find a better solution, like loading zones or performance parking.

DC isn’t the only city that reduces commercial tickets in bulk. In New York, for example, UPS, FedEx and other delivery vans get parking tickets almost every day, because they simply can’t find parking spaces near their deliveries. Obviously, it makes no business sense to circle for half an hour for each delivery. They can’t deliver most packages any other way, though many firms do use bicycles for smaller and lighter packages. These delivery vans, a vital part of the city’s operation, just park at the corner or double park, and rack up the tickets. The city regularly reduces the fines.

If a vital service like delivery trucks are getting tickets constantly, so much that the DMV feels they deserve a break, that tells us there’s a problem with our parking system. Instead of keeping the discount or ending it, let’s make it easier for the trucks to actually find spaces. Not only is it fairer, it should also reduce the congestion that comes from double parked trucks. Illegally parked trucks are everywhere in DC. They force cars to squeeze into fewer lanes and block bicycle lanes and crosswalks.

Meanwhile, most of the time that truck is right next to a single parked car which carried a single person to the area. That car is taking up that space for hours, or even all day. The truck, meanwhile, might park 20 times in an hour. It needs the space much more than the single person in the single car does.

There are two possibilities. One is to create a lot more loading zones, especially in commercial areas. One loading zone could serve a large number of vehicles and uses over a day, instead of a small handful of single-passenger cars. Graham has introduced legislation to try to improve loading zones, and the zoning update has studied loading regulations as well.

The other, better but more complex solution, is to price curbside parking to encourage turnover and maintain some vacancies. Delivery trucks would usually be able to find a space fairly close to the delivery. And instead of a $100 ticket almost every day, delivery companies would surely be willing to pay a couple dollars in meter fees on each and every stop.

Perhaps DC gets more money by keeping parking rules restrictive and charging high fines. But residents and businesses pay these costs one way or another through higher delivery prices. It’s fairer to simply collect the revenue more directly, like through taxes. And the double parking brings a cost to DC in added congestion and reduced safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.


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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.