Photo by Wayan Vota on Flickr.

Councilmember Jack Evans is trying to repeal almost all proposed tax increases in DC’s budget, as expected. On top of that, he wants to spend $5.2 million to make parking cheaper or free in the busiest areas. This may seem like a boon for those who park in these areas, but it’s not. Traffic will get worse and it’ll become harder to park, not easier.

Evans’ Committee on Finance and Revenue voted 3-2 for a committee report which rolls back almost all tax increases in the Mayor’s proposed budget, for a cost of $101 million, including the proposed increase in parking garage taxes.

It doesn’t recommend ways to find that money in a budget that already decimates social services. Lydia DePillis reports Michael Brown and Marion Barry voted no, meaning Evans, David Catania, and Muriel Bowser must have voted for the recommendations.

Evans’ amendments maintain the $1 Circulator fare and restores the ballpark-related community benefits fund. On top of that, Freeman Klopott reported yesterday that they would reduce parking meter rates from $2 to $1 per hour and make meters free after 6:30 pm downtown and in several other neighborhoods, including Georgetown.

Evans apparently feels that letting people who drive downtown for a $50 dinner save $2 on parking is one of the best uses of $5.2 million in this year’s very tight budget.

When I go downtown, I usually either take Metro or bikeshare. But occasionally, I’m going to a meeting and then have to hike out to the suburbs afterward for a doctor’s appointment or something. In those instances, I’ll drive and park for 1-2 hours.

I’ve actually found it refreshingly non-stressful to do this. On the spaces on F and G streets, I’ve generally actually been able to find a space without a lot of circling or headache. Paying $4 for the 2 hours to attend a DC Council hearing is a trivial amount, less than the sandwich I might get afterward.

The only time it was annoying was when closing the car door created a breeze which flipped my multispace meter receipt upside-down, and I got a ticket for “P281 FAIL TO DISPLAY MUL SPACE METER.” (I paid the ticket and will be more careful next time.)

If Evans lowers the rates, some people will drive and park who weren’t doing so now. It’s basic economics. More people driving and parking means I’ll have a harder time finding a space, and so will everyone who drives and parks downtown on the street today.

It’s foolish to spend $5.2 million to make traffic worse and make parking harder.

It’s even more foolish to spend $5.2 million to make traffic worse and parking harder when there are so many other budgetary priorities, like keeping homeless people from dying and much more.

There may be some neighborhoods or blocks where the rates are too high. If the spaces are never being filled up, then we’re probably charging too much, and it’d be reasonable to lower the rates if they money is available. But Evans’ committee report does not base its conclusions on an analysis of parking occupancy. The only such analyses that exist are for the performance parking zones. And having the Council adjust meter rates by legislation during budget season is not the way.

Instead, Evans should create a performance parking zone, empowering DDOT to adjust rates and directing them to set them properly for each block. If DDOT hadn’t squandered much of the last few years ignoring its performance parking pilot zones, there might be a stronger case for this today; hopefully the “parking czar” Tommy Wells funded will finally get this program on track.

Klopott also quoted Evans calling those who want parking to be easier and traffic to be lighter “anti-car.” Does that mean Evans is “anti-schools,” “anti-poor,” “anti-police” and “anti-Metro” since he is choosing to spend $5.2 million on this instead of those other things?

He’s up for reelection next year, and seems to feel that pandering to the complaints of constituents on this issue is a priority. If you live in Ward 2, please email Evans and complain about something more important than parking meter rates, or email Kwame Brown and ask him to ignore Evans’ meter rate and tax suggestions when crafting his budget proposal.

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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.