Photo by namllih22 on Flickr.

At yesterday’s DDOT performance hearing, Tommy Wells pushed DDOT and interim director Terry Bellamy to be more active in managing DC’s two performance parking pilot zones, now over two years old. In the performance parking zones, the price of on-street meters should reflect the demand for parking in an area. By adjusting the price per hour, DDOT can ensure there’s at least one empty space per block. Wells stated that DDOT’s failure to implement performance parking in pilot districts has not given him confidence in their ability to extend the idea elsewhere, such as downtown. “We don’t seem to have been very nimble in changing the pricing structure,” Wells said. We’ve noticed this as well. Although DDOT has been able to collect data on parking occupancy through consultants and outside groups like the Council of Governments, the follow-through of turning that data into price adjustments has been lacking. According to Wells, we would have to see performance parking work well in the pilot areas before expanding it to other areas. Bellamy stated that performance parking was found to be a viable “best practice” for parking management in the District, and that he had reviewed a draft parking occupancy report, the second such report in almost three years of performance parking operation. Bellamy also basically stated that you would need staff to monitor spaces almost daily in order to deal with parking patterns around the baseball stadium. While that may be true to get the prices exactly right, previous data released by DDOT indicate that there are blocks that are constantly underutilized or overutilized that could benefit from price adjustments. However, that has not happened. Wells pushed DDOT to look hard at the data that was already collected and “see whether this was something you want to do.” Based on the law, DDOT doesn’t even have the right to decide not to do it. The implementing legislation, the Performance Based Parking Pilot Zone Act of 2008, states in part that “the Mayor shall adjust parking fees to achieve 10 to 20% availability of curbside parking spaces” in the ballpark zone. Performance parking is one of the few self-funded improvements to transportation in the District. Unlike bike lanes, new bus lines or improvements to Metro service, performance parking won’t cost DC any operating funds. Implementation of a good performance parking plan will reduce cars hunting for parking spaces, and therefore will reduce congestion in dense commercial areas. DDOT needs to measure and report parking occupancy more often than twice in three years, and once they get the occupancy data, they need to actually change the prices in accordance with the law, not just make recommendations and then sit back. The District is cited as a leader in performance parking, by having these pilot districts. The original 2-year pilot already ran out, though the DC Council recently passed legislation to extend it indefinitely. It’s a shame the original pilot period passed before a single meter was changed based on measured demand. DDOT should collect and review the data on regular schedule, actually implement appropriate parking price changes, and report on their actions, all as required in the law.

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.