Pilot Parking Program Installation Begins in DowntownDC



Pay-by-space parking meter poles and numbered space markers are currently being installed on select streets in DowntownDC, one of the first signs of the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) parkDC pilot parking program being tested in Chinatown-Penn Quarter this year.

Markers or meters will number each of the 1,300 individual street parking spaces involved in the Chinatown-Penn Quarter pilot, which extends north from H Street to E Street on the south and west from 11th Street to 3rd Street on the east. This is the first phase of implementing demand-based parking, or multimodal value parking, which will enable the city to vary parking space rate rates throughout the day.

Would you like a less congested DowntownDC where street parking is easier to locate? What about an increase in the likelihood you’ll find a spot when you need one? That’s the ultimate goal of the program.

An oft-quoted statistic is that 25-30 percent of street congestion is caused by automobile drivers circling the block searching for street parking. That statistic is used to fuel the argument that better parking equals less congestion. But even if that statistic wasn’t exact, congestion in DowntownDC is inarguably affected by parking: street parking can be difficult to find during the workday, cars double-parked in front of buildings cause traffic delays and cars parked illegally block intersections.

DDOT’s parking pilot aims to help change the way everyone parks Downtown. The concept (multimodal value pricing) has been widely successful in areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles where parking search times and congestion have been reduced with implementation. There, and in the DowntownDC pilot, parking charges are assigned to individual spaces based on demand or “value pricing.” Through a system of monitoring, street parking prices will be raised in some areas and lowered in others in the hopes of drawing drivers to less congested streets to park and encouraging others to find alternate means of transportation.

As part of the program, real-time information on parking will be made available online. Visitors to Downtown will be able to go online or access an app and see parking availability and pricing by street in real-time. This should make it easier for drivers to find an open spot and will help them locate less expensive spaces that may be a few blocks away from the highest-congestion roads. 

Demand-based pricing is successfully used in many industries from hotel rates, to High Occupancy Vehicle lanes to Metrorail pricing. 

The first step in the parking pilot is making the 1,300 designated spaces into pay-by-space parking by installing numbered meter signs for each space, new parking meters where necessary and new machines where uses can pay for parking. (Under the new system, cell phone users will still be able to pay for parking by phone through ParkMobile).

Next, sensors will be installed in some spaces to monitor parking usage and the city will begin using CCTV cameras to monitor others. Information from those technologies, in addition to data from pay-by-phone users and the new meters themselves, will then be collected and analyzed and pricing will be adjusted based on demand.

DDOT estimates price changes will be rolled out this summer based on their first data collection and updated quarterly thereafter.

Parking revenue was balanced in the San Francisco and Los Angeles programs. The price decreased in a majority of the spaces affected.