Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

DC residents say they rely on street parking, don’t have a lot of competition for street parking, and are open to reduced parking requirements, according to the results of a recent survey from Councilmember Anita Bonds.

On Tuesday, Bonds released the results of her survey about parking in DC. Respondents answered questions about how many cars they owned if they owned any, their experiences finding street parking, and their opinions on proposed changes to the Residential Parking Permit (RPP) and Visitor Parking Permit (VPP) system.

Some of the results are a little surprising, while others seem to confirm suspicions about street parking in the District. But we still have a very incomplete picture of DC residents’ experiences with parking.

One question asked how many cars are in your household. 51% of respondents said they had only one car, while 25% had two cars and 18% of respondents do not own a car at all. This suggests car owners were disproportionately represented in the survey, because the number of car free households in DC is closer to one-third.

Since the survey was mainly about parking permits, it makes sense that someone who is car-free wouldn’t fill it out. But the council should also try to learn about how car-free individuals feel about parking, since it’s part of an overall traffic policy that affects everyone.

It appears that changes to on-street parking will affect a lot of people. Over 70% of respondents said that they either solely rely on street parking or a mix of private and street parking. Half said they have permit parking on both sides of their street, while one-third said they don’t have permit parking on their street at all.

However, respondents don’t consider parking availability a major issue. More than half of the respondents said that they “rarely” or “never” feel that “businesses, corner markets, churches, or other non-profits interfere with [the] ability to find adequate street parking” near their homes. 28% said that they “sometimes” feel that it happens, while only 13% said it “always” happens. It would be interesting to know where the respondents who said “rarely” or “sometimes” live, and if they’re concentrated in certain parts of the city.

Results on the Visitor Parking Program (VPP) are more mixed. Half of respondents said they had used VPP in the past six months, and 57% received their pass in the mail instead of going to the police station to pick it up, as was the case before. 70% said that they would prefer continuing to pick up their passes in the same manner. This suggests that the city should give people lots of different options for getting visitor permits.

Respondents disagreed on whether the city should eliminate parking minimums, but are interested in the idea. The Office of Planning originally proposed removing parking requirements throughout DC, but will only recommend doing so downtown. At least a third of city residents support the idea outright, while 25% are still unsure, but say they could be open to it.

The survey doesn’t tell us everything. Many of the questions rely on feelings instead of more quantifiable measures. We also don’t know how many people took the survey. I’ve asked Bonds’ office what that number is, but they haven’t responded. Since the survey was taken only by people who chose to, there’s a self-selection bias, so these results should be taken with a grain of salt.

However, the survey shows that residents’ opinions on parking are fairly mixed, and that they may be open to changes. It indicates the potential for greater support for serious parking reform, which conventional wisdom says would face significant political obstacles at the DC Council. With this in mind, it’s time to collect even more detailed and rigorous information about how and where DC residents park their cars.

Canaan Merchant was born and raised in Powhatan, Virginia and attended George Mason University where he studied English. He became interested in urban design and transportation issues when listening to a presentation by Jeff Speck while attending GMU. He lives in Burke.