Photo by cizauskas.

At a community meeting last night, residents of the Southwest Waterfront, Near Southeast/Capitol Riverfront, and Barracks Row areas discussed the progress of their performance parking zone and how to spend the first $247,000 in revenue available to the neighborhood.

DDOT’s Damon Harvey emphasized (rightly) that the primary purpose of a performance parking program is not to generate lots of revenue, but to ensure some parking availability, especially around businesses. However, the revenue is a “positive byproduct.”

So far, the program has brought in $1.4 million in revenue. Under the law, 60% goes to pay off the multispace meters, which cost about a million dollars in all ($7,150 each) and which are on track to be completely paid off by March. 20% goes to the DDOT general fund, and the remaining 20% is available for “non-automotive” improvements to the neighborhood. So far, that’s $288,809.34.

A task force composed of residents, business representatives, church officials and others has devised a proposal to allocate this revenue to projects such as new bike racks, wayfinding signs, large map kiosks at Metro stations, a heritage trail connecting Barracks Row and the ballpark neighborhood.

Map of proposed improvements. Green = bike racks, red and blue = wayfinding signs,

orange dot = large map, orange line = proposed trail. Image from DDOT. Click to enlarge.

The money will also pay for some new technology. $15,000 will buy 10-12 large 19-20” digital screens, which will go around the ballpark and Barracks Row. DDOT will be able to program information to appear on individual or multiple screens, such as wait times for bus and Metro, parking availability, ads for local businesses, and even Amber Alerts.

At the suggestion of Tommy Wells’ chief of staff Charles Allen, they will spend $10,000 to lease ten “big belly trash cans,” which include self-contained, solar-powered trash compactors. Instead of the BIDs having to empty trash cans multiple times per day, these devices will store more trash and keep it free of rats, saving money in cleanup. Allen added that other cities like Boston and Philadelphia are deploying hundreds of these around the city, and if successful DC may follow suit.

Finally, the group proposed grants to CHRS for the circular historic district signs and to the Capitol Riverfront BID for better lighting in the New Jersey Avenue underpass. JDland has more details about the proposed improvements and their cost.

Community and business leaders spoke passionately in support of making the neighborhood more walkable and bikeable. Involving them in choosing the projects through the task force was an effective way to build support and really make sure the neighborhood had a stake in the project.

Whether because of the task force, Tommy Wells’ leadership, or just overall trends in the city, there was strong support for the idea that making businesses successful depended on making the streets more pleasant for residents and visitors arrive on foot, bike, and transit as well as drivers, rather than the conventional wisdom among many business owners that “everyone drives” and that more lanes and more parking are the only answer.

It’s also definitely helpful to have some revenue. In Columbia Heights, the program had only raised $14,000 by July, mainly because they never set rates approximating market prices. Having a quarter million to play around with changes the dynamic a lot.

DDOT has recently completed their analysis of occupancy rates in both Columbia Heights and the ballpark. Next, I’ll talk about the programs’ successes and failures and neighborhood reactions.

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.