D.C. transportation department sets goals for parking program


The DDOT agenda lays out a schedule for changing  parking rules in 2013. (Michael Williamson — The Washington Post)

The District Department of Transportation has published a Parking Action Agenda designed to shape the future of street use for both commuters and city residents.

This isn’t a new set of rules and regulations, but rather an approach to managing the crowding on D.C. streets. The DDOT report starts by acknowledging that “parking issues have been flash points of tension between neighborhood residents and neighborhood institutions, between business owners and adjacent communities, and around new development.”

This parking report follows Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s release of his Sustainability program, with its goals on managing travel within the District over the next two decades.The Parking Action Agenda sets these goals for 2013:

  • Evaluate ways to update the Residential Permit Parking Program.
  • Create a new, more flexible Visitor Parking Pass program.
  • Enhance parking opportunities for people with limited mobility.
  • Improve turnover for on-street parking in congested areas.
  • Establish better communication with the public on parking issues and clarify agency responsibilities.
  • Increase online parking services.

Why the tension?

Drawing this from the Sustainability program: The District government’s goals are to keep the city’s current population happy, healthy and mobile while planning for the addition of several hundred thousand new residents over the next two decades. They can’t all be driving cars and providing street parking for visiting friends and family. The District just isn’t making new streets to accommodate the cars.

Some suburban commuters suspect that the result will be a war on the cars they bring into the city every work day. But many D.C. residents also are concerned about any program that would further reduce their own prospects for finding convenient parking.

So now you get the picture: Nobody’s going to be happy.

The Agenda

Here’s the DDOT program for 2013, based on the goals listed above.

For this spring:

  • Begin a Curbside Management Study that will evaluate potential changes in the residential parking system.
  • Propose revisions to the Visitor Parking Pass Program.
  • Present revised proposals for how and where people with limited mobility can park. (Some will recall last year’s fiasco with the red-top meters for people with disabilities, a perfect example of a parking policy that made no one happy.)
  • Propose expansions in the Performance Parking Program, which imposes special parking rules in neighborhoods where entertainment and sporting activities put extra stress on street parking.
  • Finalize a new policy on commercial truck loading and unloading to ease street congestion.
  • Present a new policy governing tour bus parking.

For the summer:

  • Finish the Curbside Management Study.
  • Implement a new program governing neighborhood parking for contractors.
  • Expand the Performance Parking Program.
  • Implement the revised program for commercial truck loading and unloading.

For the fall:

  • Implement the revised visitor parking program.
  • Implement the revised program to help people with limited mobility find parking.
  • Implement the revised program for tour bus parking.

Given the history of parking policy changes and the controversy surrounding them, it will be nothing short of miraculous if the city can stick to that schedule.

Meanwhile, transportation officials will be working on other aspects of the program, including ways to expand information about parking services and give the public notice about major parking restrictions, clarify agency responsibilities for parking services and expand online service.

The transportation department promises more public engagement, but there already has been a long discussion period and many public meetings to reach this point. In December, Angelo Rao, chief of the department’s parking program, led a discussion in which city residents raised concerns about loosening requirements that apartment buildings provide off-street parking, street parking during church services, parking congestion on neighborhood streets near Metro stations and removal of parking spaces to create bike lanes.

I heard similar concerns about the District’s parking plans when I spoke last week with the D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations. Members fear that the Gray administration’s efforts amount to a car-grab, making it impossible for them to retain ownership of private autos. They see the administration as way too concerned about the needs of newcomers at the expense of people who committed their entire adult lives to the District.

Other resources:

The Parking Action Agenda as a pdf.

The Sustainability program.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.

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