The Washington D.C. parking nightmare: y u no have garages?

April 24, 2013

We’ve harped about D.C. before, but it’s not just us saying it – Washington D.C.’s parking is a nightmare and its transport a national shame; a report from Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute says it’s not just run-of-the-mill bad, it’s the worst in the country.

Part of the problem is baked into the pie. With the world’s densest concentration of lawyers, each of whom wants his/her own foyer, the area has to accommodate a huge number of commuters from surrounding areas, all in a city that tops out at six stories. To make matters worse, in the middle of an impoverished, crime-ridden city is nestled an unalterable core of historical landmarks, none of which are likely to be reconfigured with transportation in mind. Buildings like the Rayburn House Office Building might have been afterthoughts when they were built, but good luck changing much about them now.

Washington monument

Washington D.C.’s parking is still pretty cheap, which only means there’s less of it, but the city’s layout and Byzantine planning procedures make finding a place to stash your vehicle next to impossible (via VinothChandar).

As part of a panel discussion hosted by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Jeff Tumlin of Nelson/Nygaard provided fifteen surprisingly specific steps for solving the capital city’s nagging transport, parking and to some extent even housing problems.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a strong parking element to Tumlin’s suggested changes, including dumping residential parking permits, more accurate pricing, and an updated metering system that allows residents to pay using their phone or credit cards.

Some of the Shoupian staples for transforming Washington D.C. parking into something user-friendly are more structural than administrative, and Tumlin’s suggestions included those, too, including swapping in parking maximums for the onerous and expensive parking minimums that predominate.

Some of Tumlin’s suggestions are more aggressively suited to the specific character of D.C. commuting, though. One common feature of getting to work for thousands of residents: “slugging,” whereby drivers get access to High Occupancy Vehicle lanes by picking up riders at designated spots around the city and in Virginia.

Washington D. C., y u no parking garages?

Seriously, guys. We’ve been trying to figure this out for awhile.

Slugging has its own codes of etiquette and conduct – and, remarkably, it’s free, since drivers get to work faster by circumventing the slow lanes, and passengers get a ride in exchange: win/win.

Informal arrangements like these can be complemented by more formal ones like car2go membership. Tumlin notes that each car share eliminates “seven to 25 vehicles from the roads” – how this works we’re not quite sure, but it sounds like a surefire traffic reducer if it’s true.

We don’t often hear the arguments for parking minimums around these parts, and this article’s comments section provides some much-needed ballast. Amid the feverish and predictable ad hominem attacks are some real concerns.

One reader points out that parking spots disproportionally benefit the elderly and people with mobility issues, and eliminating parking means disadvantaging retirees and others, effectively pushing them into environments more conducive to what the reader sees as their best transportation alternatives.

Washington parking garage

The rare Washington D.C. parking facility. Via Mr. T in DC.

Others argue that municipal garages haven’t been adequately explored in enough D.C. neighborhoods, resulting in inadequate supply and motorists cruising endlessly for cheap on-street spots. We’re curious – does anyone know why D.C. doesn’t have more municipal parking garages? Do the city’s unusual architectural restrictions and regulations affect the kinds of parking that can be built?

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Category: Regulations

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