To provide readers with primary source information on issues affecting their lives, from time to time District Extra will publish excerpts of remarks, written statements, reports and other documents. Below are remarks from Dan Tangherlini, the director of the District's Department of Transportation. He outlined the city's parking policy in testimony before the D.C. Council earlier this month.

There are estimated to be 260,000 on-street parking spaces (includes both RPP [residential parking permit] and non-RPP) and 250,000 registered vehicles in the District. This might appear to be an appropriate balance, but when you consider there are about 185,000 single occupancy vehicles entering the District daily and many areas have a much higher demand than supply, you see there is an imbalance.

There is no question that in the District of Columbia, parking demand far outstrips parking supply. . . .

Below, I will discuss new initiatives for enhancing our efforts in this regard.

The current average meter rate in the District is $0.69 per hour. This rate is among the lowest hourly meter rates in the country and is completely insufficient to encourage parking turnover and efficient use of existing metered spaces. . . . Low meter rates have unintended consequences, such as encouraging some people to feed meters (decreasing turnover) while encouraging others to drive around searching for these low-priced parking spaces even when they are all occupied, thereby exacerbating congestion. Indeed, some experts estimate that up to 30 percent of traffic on urban streets is actively searching for curbside parking.

Today, it is not uncommon for people to drive to high-parking-demand areas because they know that curbside parking is cheap. However, upon arrival, they find all the meter spaces occupied. They won't find off-street spaces either because private operators cannot compete with the cheap meters. Off-street spaces that do exist are expensive -- encouraging drivers to keep cruising for the rare open curbside space. . . .

DDOT [District Department of Transportation] hired Howard University to gather parking occupancy rates and turnover ratios in key areas of the downtown and in some destination neighborhoods like Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park. Occupancy rates reflect the percentage of parking spaces occupied over a time period and turnover ratios indicate how many different vehicles park in a single space over time. Howard's data indicate that parking occupancy rates are frequently between 95 and 100 percent. This means that people arriving in these areas are likely to spend a considerable amount of time cruising for an available parking space.

To address this inefficiency, DDOT recommends that the Council adopt performance-based parking standards. . . . DDOT has recently contracted with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center -- research arm of the US DOT [U.S. Department of Transportation] -- to assist us in determining current industry standards and procedures for performance based parking. . . .

If the Council adopts Volpe's recommended occupancy rate of 80 to 90 percent, and surveys show that occupancy rates in an area are typically 70 percent, DDOT would lower parking meter rates and liberalize regulatory restrictions until occupancy rates rose to the desired level. On the other hand, if surveys indicate occupancy rates in an area were between 95 percent and 100 percent, DDOT could tighten RPP restrictions or increase meter rates until occupancy rates fell to the desired level. . . .

In low-demand areas, meters will be cheap and parking will be available. In high-demand areas, meters will be more expensive. This will encourage some to take transit, taxis or carpool -- and they will feel good about saving money. For those who are willing to pay the parking fee, they will feel good, too, because they are likely to find a parking space. In these areas, higher curbside meter rates might encourage private parking providers to provide short-term off-street parking -- thereby increasing the parking supply. . . .

The Mayor's Parking Task Force recommended implementing a progressive permit parking fee structure whereby each additional Residential Parking Permit (RPP) sticker per household would cost an additional amount. DDOT proposes a fee structure for implementation that would begin at $25 for the first permit issued to a household, $50 for a second household permit, and $100 for the third permit. DDOT then recommends limiting the number of RPP permits to three per household.

Dan Tangherlini