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D.C. raising parking meter fees, extending enforcement hours

By Robert Thomson
Sunday, January 10, 2010; C01

On cold and windswept Water Street SE, Terraine Wiggins and Dion James were beginning a process Wednesday that will affect thousands of drivers.

The District Department of Transportation workers placed a ladder against the parking regulation signs near the waterfront and then pasted decals over the lines stating the hours and days people must feed the meters.

One new decal reads "10 PM," indicating the extended nighttime hours for pay parking. The other decal reads "Mon -- Sat," indicating that the city's longtime moratorium on most Saturday meter enforcement is ending.

Wiggins, James and their co-workers are supposed to repeat that conversion more than 100,000 times by Jan. 19, adjusting all the signs on streets affected by new parking policies. Other city workers are updating the meters governing the District's 17,157 pay parking spaces. Their decals need to reflect the new days and hours, and the city also is completing the conversion of most meters to the new maximum rate of $2 an hour.

This is what you need to know about D.C. street parking.

The basics

-- Parkers will pay $2 an hour in the premium zones. That's 14,749 spaces in commercial districts, entertainment areas, streets near Metro stations and other centers where people congregate. Meters for the remaining 2,408 spaces will charge 75 cents an hour.

-- Payment will be required on Saturdays at all metered spaces. There was a moratorium on this in most parts of the city. The problem, DDOT says, was that people were staying for a long time at these free spaces on Saturdays. So the District government has lifted the moratorium to encourage drivers to move and let others park.

-- Payment will be required until 10 p.m. in many of the city's high-demand areas.

Rationales and protests

Municipalities increase parking rates and enforcement hours to raise revenue, improve access to local businesses, entertainment areas and institutions; and ease traffic congestion. The first reason, more money, is pretty straightforward. Access is improved when parkers are encouraged to limit their stays or to park in a garage. That creates turnover on street spaces. Turnover also eases traffic congestion. Fewer drivers wander the streets in fruitless searches for open spaces.

That's what DDOT says in explaining the city's plan.

John B. Townsend II of AAA Mid-Atlantic doesn't buy it. "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau," he quoted from Genesis, recalling how Jacob tricked his father, Isaac, by disguising his body to resemble his brother.

To Townsend's ear, the District is trying to finesse a revenue increase by claiming the policy will ease parking and reduce congestion. The fee increases and extended times might backfire on the District by making suburban restaurants and entertainment centers more attractive to people who otherwise would have visited the city.

Nighttime enforcement

Sports fans and others familiar with the city's night life know that meters in Georgetown and around Verizon Center already require evening payments. There are 538 metered spaces in those areas. The revisions will add eight areas where payment will be required until 10 p.m., for a grand total of 7,417 late-night pay spaces in the city.

1: Adams Morgan: 18th Street NW from Florida Avenue to Lanier Place and Columbia Road NW from 16th Street to Wyoming Avenue.

2: Georgetown Historic District: M Street NW from 25th Street to 38th Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW from Water Street/Whitehurst Freeway to Whitehaven Parkway.

3: Penn Quarter/Chinatown: an area of Northwest bounded by 16th Street, Massachusetts Avenue, Louisiana Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue between Fifth and 15th streets.

4: U Street NW corridor: Georgia Avenue/Seventh Street to 18th Street.

5: Downtown Central Business District: the area of Northwest bounded by M Street, 12th Street, Constitution Avenue and 22nd Street.

6: Maine Avenue and Water Street SW

7: The Mall: the area bounded by Constitution Avenue NW, Third Street, Independence Avenue SW and 23rd Street.

8: Van Ness Street NW: from 40th Place to Connecticut Avenue.

Meter conversions

Many meters were converted in 2009 to the $2 premium parking rate approved by the D.C. government. But the conversion of the remaining 3,522 premium spaces is being completed in these zones.

-- U Street NW: 900-1700 U Street and the cross streets.

-- Adams Morgan: 18th Street NW, Columbia Road NW and side streets.

-- Howard University: U Street to Girard Street NW, Ninth Street to Second Street NW.

-- Glover Park: All areas with meters.

-- Georgetown University Hospital: Reservoir Road NW, Foxhall Road NW.

-- Georgetown: Side streets.

-- American University: Massachusetts Avenue NW, New Mexico Avenue NW.

-- Tenleytown: Wisconsin Avenue, Van Ness to Chesapeake streets.

-- Friendship Heights: Wisconsin Avenue NW, Chesapeake Street NW to the Maryland line.

-- Cleveland Park: Connecticut Avenue NW.

-- Woodley Park: Connecticut Avenue NW.

-- University of the District of Columbia: Connecticut Avenue NW.

-- Children's National Medical Center: First Street NW.

-- Catholic University: John McCormack Drive NE.

-- NoMa District: North of Union Station to Third Street NE.

Tips for travelers

-- Although the conversion of signs and meters is scheduled to be done by Jan. 19, it's important that you look at the sign and the meter when you park. That's what you go by to make the payment. Doesn't matter if it's Jan. 16 or Jan. 21, go by the rules posted for the block where you're parking. (If the sign has been converted but not the meter, go by the sign.)

-- Carry lots of quarters. The meter will swallow 16 of them for two hours of parking.

-- Remember, parking enforcement officers won't let you extend your stay, even if you come out and feed the meter again. You've got to move the car.

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