Washington confronts a serious residential parking problem. Fortunately for us, charging higher fees for residential parking permit stickers, as I have proposed, can go far toward resolving it — and help us build a more livable and walkable city.
In many neighborhoods, there is not enough parking for every household to use even one space on the street. Yet data show that some households park five, six, seven and even more cars on residential streets. As a result, some people literally have to organize their lives around timing when they get home to get a good parking spot or avoid using their cars because they don’t want to lose their spots. And drivers who have to circle their neighborhoods in search of parking create traffic and pollution.
Higher residential parking permit fees would allow households that legitimately need several cars to continue using street parking, but it would also encourage them to seek alternatives — including reducing the number of cars they use or using off-street parking in their alleys or garages. By assessing a reasonable fee on the privilege of occupying valuable parking space, Washington could accrue financial benefits and enhance our public transit options.
D.C. residential parking permits generally cost $15 each for an unlimited number of vehicles, and the mayor’s budget would increase that to $25. My proposal would charge each household $35 for a first sticker and, because many households have two adult drivers, charge an only slightly higher fee of $50 for the second. Only after the second car would the cost of a permit double to $100.
However, sticker rates at $50 or $100 a year would still be far lower than the cost for comparable uses of public space. Consider how much it would cost to get a permit to use a residential parking area for a year for a dumpster ($1,675), a moving container ($3,650), or a moving truck ($18,250). And you can go to Craigslist today and find alley parking spaces advertised for $250 a month — $3,000 a year!
Increasing parking permit fees would benefit all D.C. residents. My proposal would contribute an estimated $1.1 million to public transportation operations — about $670,000 to WMATA and $435,000 to the D.C. Circulator — enhancing transit options while reducing pollution and traffic congestion. The fees also would fund additional traffic control officers to help manage congestion and improve safety, an additional hearing examiner to reduce Department of Motor Vehicles wait times, and an initiative to free up residential parking spaces more quickly after street sweeping.
Without this parking fee increase, the mayor’s proposed budget would require service cuts at WMATA. That means the 37 percent of D.C. households that do not own a car and probably depend on Metro for their basic transportation would lose a city service, while those who own cars would continue receiving a tangible city benefit for only a nominal fee.
Transit riders are doing their part. Last year’s WMATA fare increase cost the typical bus rider an extra $115 a year and the typical rail rider $190 a year — far more than the average proposed residential parking fee increase.
Why would our city choose a lose-lose option when residential parking permit fees provide a win-win? The fees would free up parking, support improved transit and introduce renewed fairness in sharing the cost of valuable city land.
The writer, a Democrat, represents Ward 6 on the D.C. Council.