On Monday, the DC Council will consider Jim Graham’s proposal to raise DC on-street parking meter fees (except in existing performance parking zones). $1/hour meters would become $1.50, and 50¢/hr to 75¢. Also, Saturday parking downtown would no longer be free.
The Council will almost certainly use that to restore the deep cuts in housing programs like Housing First, which moves homeless people into their own housing. It’s been very successful so far, but the Council cut funds to move more people into their own housing due to the budget shortfall.
Coincidentally, Chicago just set up even larger increases, but they had to privatize their off-street parking meters to do it, foregoing much of the potential revenue. As Matt Yglesias explains, the higher rates can themselves bring positive benefits to Chicago in addition to the money.
Outside of performance parking zones, DC’s rates are too low, and higher rates will increase turnover, making parking more available. Still, higher parking rates in commercial areas do also affect businesses by scaring away some shoppers. That’s why Donald Shoup argues for dedicating all additional revenue to improving the streetscape, transit, bike parking, or other amenities that make it easier for people to still shop in these areas without driving.
Right now, DC needs these important housing programs, and I support raising meter rates to fund them. But DC should also not abandon or postpone its programs that will empower residents to shop without cars. We still need the Circulator to U Street, Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan and
to the Nationals ballpark. And DC should move with all deliberate speed to build a streetcar network, perhaps with they money they could save by not widening the 11th Street Bridge.
Finally, once tax revenue starts rising again, we should resume properly using tax money, instead of meter money, for the housing programs. Then we can ensure that as people pay for parking, they are also paying for improvements that make it possible not to drive and park at all.
Want to testify? The hearing is at 10 am Monday, in Room 500 of the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue. To sign up to testify, email or call Maria Angelica Puig-Monsen (202-724-8195 or firstname.lastname@example.org) by 5 pm today.