Washington, D.C. parking becomes demand-responsive

November 20, 2015

Washington, D.C. parking has been on the media radar for a number of reasons, perhaps most prominently among them a pilot initiative called ParkDC, which will adjust the prices of 1,300 parking meters via a demand-based system that will bounce time of day, location and other factors to calculate pricing.

Park DC map

Don’t call it surge pricing: DCPark’s active zone. Image from the Washington Post.

ParkDC is first targeting traffic congestion in one particular neighborhood, the busy Chinatown/Penn Quarter neighborhood. Pay-by-space parking in the area is available for 1,000 on-street parking spaces, which are each numbered. Drivers park in a numbered space, receive a four or five digit space number from the marker located at the parking space, and pay for their parking time by entering the space’s number at the curbside kiosk or entering the zone and space numbers using their mobile device via the Parkmobile app. (The app simply lets users enter their parking zone number to begin a parking session; it also sends notifications before the parking session expires.)

Similar to San Francisco’s dynamic parking initiative, SFpark, which uses smart pricing and adjusts meter and garage pricing up and down (from $0.25 to $18 hourly) depending on demand, Washington’s pay-by-space parking initiative is experimenting with changing the price of parking or the meter limits. As the Post reported, the district is testing surge pricing, which means drivers could pay as little as $2 to up to $8 per hour to park in Chinatown-Penn Quarter depending on how busy the streets are. Surge pricing doesn’t necessarily translate into consumer-gouging; take Los Angeles, where parking prices were actually reduced at 60% of the spaces within the system.

“By using pricing as a level, we are trying to balance the supply and demand for parking,” Soumya Dey, director of the DDOT’s research and technology transfer division, told the Post. “From a customer perspective, I think this is about making the parking experience improve. So they know where the available spaces are, they know how much they need to pay and the parking search time, the amount of time you spend to find an open parking space, improves.”

25% of the area’s traffic is due to cars circling, looking for parking; city officials report that the supply-and-demand strategy behind surge pricing will help address traffic. (Not everyone agrees. “It favors people who are well-to-do, well-heeled and who have expense accounts,” John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, told the Post. “This is what I call meter madness. . . . You’re discouraging people from parking and then you call it something else.”)

DC has also been passing out fewer parking tickets, as a result of app-based payment options available in the city. A Post analysis found that DC’s parking ticket tally has dropped by 300,000, thanks largely to the Parkmobile app, which launched five years ago and which the majority of street parkers use. (Over 50% of the district’s drivers who rely on on-street parking are using Parkmobile, or about 600,000 drivers monthly.)

Yet DC’s revenue gap is relatively small, just under 8%. (“While the number of parking tickets issued between 2011 and 2014 dropped by 15.1%, adjustments in fines charged for offenses limited the city’s losses. Revenue was off by just 7.7%, to $84,247,945, in fiscal year 2014,” reports the Post.) Other strategies D.C. is considering to address the revenue gap include raising parking ticket fines by $5 and expanding the metered hours for certain “premium zones,” located in the busiest areas in town.

Learn more about the ParkDC initiative.

Category: News, Uncategorized

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