Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Councilmember Jim Graham was not pleased with the District Department of Transportation this morning. As much as a genial-looking, round-faced man with large thick-rimmed glasses and a bow tie can glower menacingly, Graham did just that. “The implementation of [performance parking in Columbia Heights] has been very slow,” said Graham. The legislation enabling performance parking was passed in March, but significant portions of the program have “no sign of any progress” or even progress reports.

The performance parking law requires DDOT to post signs on every residential block pointing drivers to the large taxpayer-funded DC USA parking garage, including the prices of parking there ($1 per hour for the first four hours). But instead, DDOT only put up a few standard P-in-a-blue-square signs along the major streets near the garage. Why? According to Karina Ricks, head of DDOT’s Policy and Planning group, those signs follow the standards in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. If I understand correctly, DDOT basically ignored the law’s specification of the type and number of signs to install, and instead simply put up a smaller number of signs from their manual. Whether a sign with parking rates on every block is necessary or not, it boggles my mind that DDOT can simply decide to blithely disregard the law passed by the Council and do something different, simply because it’s standard industry practice.

Graham was equally disappointed with DDOT’s slow progress on the Adams Morgan taxicab zone. “For four months, DDOT has known about the integral importance of signage” in the zone, but has “completely flubbed” implementation. According to Graham, activating the zone was delayed two weeks ago because signs were not up; today, there are still not enough signs. “What is the problem with DDOT creating simple signs?” asked Graham. Ricks did say that signs will go up next week, but that hardly mollified the Councilmember.

“When we can’t get implementation of what I’d describe to be ministerial details, it makes me wonder about the Deptartment’s ability to do complicated things like the 11th Street Bridge,” said Graham, “when they’re sitting on millions of dollars of capital authority, or the streetcar project in Anacostia. We don’t have so much as a budget even though we have a $20 million reprogramming request.” Graham, as oversight chair, has asked DDOT how they will spend this additional $20 million (and where the new alignment will be, what the ridership projections are, and other numbers), but DDOT hasn’t provided anything. “We’re going to have oversight hearings like you wouldn’t believe in February,” he warned.

So what is going on with performance parking in Columbia Heights? DDOT has finally gotten the multispace meters they need, and will be installing them in the next few weeks. They expect to set meter rates a little above the $1/hour at the large garage, to encourage drivers to use that garage. The existing meters already limit parking to one hour in some areas and two in others, but without multi-space meters, DDOT can’t track how much money they are getting from any particular space. Meanwhile, in Capitol Hill and the ballpark area, where multispace meters have been up since March, DDOT will be conducting a public meeting on Wednesday, November 19th to discuss how to use the money. I wonder if DDOT has told anyone about that date. It’s also the date of one of DDOT’s three public meetings about priorities for the regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP); the first two of those meetings, last week, were first emailed to neighborhood lists the day before the first one.

Each multi-space meter, by the way, costs $7,140 to purchase and install. The Capitol Hill meters have brought in about $233,000 in revenue since March, though that includes some blocks that already had meters. Under the performance parking law, DDOT can keep 20% of the revenue for meter maintenance, and the local neighborhood gets 60% of the incremental revenue earned over and above the prior meter system. In two weeks, we’ll find out how much Capitol Hill money is available and how it might be spent. As for Columbia Heights, we’ll have to keep on waiting.


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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.