Photo by Michael P.

Do you agree with this statement?

The District of Columbia should give out a free parking space worth between $960-1440 per year to out-of-state commuters on a first-come, first-served basis, in an area where a parking space sells for $1,800 per year.

I did a study of free parking on M Street SE near the Navy Yard. The parking restriction on this block face is a three-hour time limit, with no meter. There is a commuter lot with empty spaces immediately adjacent to this block face offering $8 per day parking.

My research confirmed that most of the vehicles were out-of-state commuters parking all day, contrary to the posted three-hour time limit. 93% (26 out of 28) of the vehicles observed had out-of-state plates, and 75% (21 out of 28) parked at least from 7:30 AM to 1:30 PM. (Vehicles could have left and returned before the second survey. I did not record relative position or mark tires or anything crazy like that. I think it’s more likely than not that they parked all day.)

DDOT just installed new multispace parking meters on this block face, but there are many like it in the area (for example, 7th Street between M and I Streets, SE, Virginia Ave between 7th and 9th Streets, SE, and others).

Each of these parking spaces is worth, by my estimate, at least $0.50-0.75 per hour ($4-6 per 8 hour workday) and could be rented all day for 240 working days per year. That’s potential revenue of $960-1440 per year, per parking space. The block face I observed had 14 cars parked during the first observation period, when it was completely full. That’s between $13,000 and $20,000 in foregone revenue, enough to pay for a $10,000 multispace meter within one year.

DC has at times requested a commuter tax to provide revenue for public services including street maintenance. Charging for street parking offers a way to increase public revenue by taxing non-residents, which is politically as close to a free lunch as it gets.

Complete data from the study is at

Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia.