Photo by phot0matt on Flickr.

DDOT’s new parking manager, Angelo Rao, genuinely wants your input on parking in DC. Please give him your thoughts through an online survey, and please try to attend one of the upcoming “Parking Think Tanks.”

The “Think Tanks” are public meetings where residents talk directly to DDOT officials about their thoughts on parking issues. DDOT has already had 3, at Judiciary Square, Minnesota-Benning, and Anacostia. 3 more are coming up, in the West End on Wednesday 10/3, Tenleytown on Thursday 10/4, and Mount Pleasant on Saturday 10/20.

You don’t have to live in the specific neighborhoods to attend; that is just where the meetings are located. It is very helpful if you can make it. Parking meetings often primarily draw residents who park on-street near their homes. They definitely deserve to be heard, but so should residents who don’t own cars, who occasionally use car sharing, who sometimes drive to busy neighborhoods for dinner, who have kids, or whose business involves traveling to many neighborhoods, sometimes by car, and many more.

The survey asks if you live on a block with Resident Permit Parking (RPP) and if you or guests use the visitor placards (VPP) DDOT has been piloting for the last few years. It also asks about whether you or your guests use bicycle parking. For each topic, the survey solicits your comments on what might not be working and any suggestions.

Use books of day passes for visitors

Feel free to say whatever you’d like on the survey, but I would encourage residents, especially those in denser neighborhoods, to ask DDOT to find a better solution than the annual visitor placards. Mailing an unlimited-use annual pass to every household is dangerous. We already have heard stories of people who don’t need theirs giving them to other people who commute. It is likely to bring in more cars competing for already-limited curbside space, and creates an entitlement that will be very hard to reverse in the future.

On our last parking discussion, commenter ah made a sensible suggestion: a booklet of day “coupons.” Each household receives one, and can get more; the best system would be to charge some fee for additional books. This could work with an actual, physical book, or an electronic system that keeps track.

In neighborhoods where parking is relatively plentiful, these extra books can be fairly cheap. In higher-demand areas, they could cost more, in order to keep the number of visitors to a manageable level that preserves parking space for others.

Books also give more flexibility than placards. What if you have 2 guests, or a whole bunch for a party? With a coupon book or the electronic equivalent, it’s easy to give multiple coupons to multiple guests. Books could also solve many of the problems with firefighters and teachers needing to park: make them eligible to buy books as if they were residents.

Make performance parking work, for real

Over 4 years after the DC Council set up performance parking, DDOT has been very slow to adjust meter rates based on demand. The latest budget requires DDOT to expand performance parking citywide.

They need to make it work in Columbia Heights and the ballpark district, where it started, and on the newer zone on H Street. They need to set it up downtown and in Georgetown, where many have been clamoring for performance parking in places where people circle far too much to find a space.

Fix RPP’s intra-ward commuting and limited hours

The Resident Permit Parking (RPP) system has generally achieved its goal of preventing people from driving into neighborhoods to commute, with a few exceptions. Some commuters drive to other neighborhoods within their own ward and park to use the Metro.

As demand rises in commercial corridors and performance parking sets meter rates more appropriately, people will try harder to park on residential blocks. DDOT has responded to this by reserving one side of many streets for residents only and lengthening RPP hours, though this creates new obstacles for people having dinner parties.

A simple market-based solution can work here too: Charge for non-residents to park outside RPP hours on resident blocks that have high parking demand. The pay-by-phone system can make this easy. Just charge more than the meters in the nearby commercial corridor. If space is available, people will prefer to park near the businesses they are going to. Unused space in the residential blocks can help meet the demand and raise revenue for neighborhood needs at the same time.

An RPP sticker still costs the same in any neighborhood in the city, but the relative supply and demand is not the same. A better RPP system would price stickers by neighborhood, based on that neighborhood’s individual needs and circumstances.

What other methods do you think DDOT could employ to better manage its limited curbside space in a way that helps everyone?

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.