It is not surprising that a considerable chunk of my commute is the series of laps around Georgetown I have to take before finding a curbside parking space. Some days I find one in a few minutes, but there have been days it has taken 20, even 30 minutes before finding a space. Even as valuable time ticks away though, there is one thing I, and many others, would not consider: going to a parking lot and plunking $14 for a space.
There are lots of spaces in Georgetown, over 3,000 according to BID Director Jim Bracco. The problem is that unmetered spaces in the residential part of Georgetown are more likely to be filled than the lots and garages. This can cause congestion when there is a large influx of residents, tourists and visitors in the neighborhood.
For Bracco, this is a problem.
“We have about 3,800 garage spaces. On weekends about 40 to 45 percent are available. People don’t like to pay for parking, so trying to park in the residential side can be a challenge,” he said. According to the BID’s website, there are 25 pay-to-park lots and garages.
“People will drive an extra five blocks so they don’t have to pay for parking. People from the suburbs might not know about garages,” said Citizens Association of Georgetown President Jennifer Altemus.
People who come to Georgetown aren’t as likely to park in the lots. Different groups are working to find ways to fill these lots and clear up the curbs.
For example, Vice President of EastBanc Philippe Lanier admits there is a “visitor aversion to going underground,” and that EastBanc is working to “find ways to correct this problem.” The garage in their building at 3307 M St. NW was “underutilized,” according Lanier. CB2, the furniture store that opened in the same building this April, offers an hour of free parking for every CB2 customer. According to CB2’s general manager, every CB2 store except for SoHo has parking so that shoppers can get furniture into cars easily. Since CB2 has opened, there have been fewer vacancies in the lot.
In addition to different deals that can be made with garages and lots, community leaders are working with the District Department of Transportation to find new ways to control curb space.
Damon Harvey of the D.C. Department of Transportation’s Policy Planning and Sustainability Administration at DDOT says “We have a lot of really new tools in our toolbox at DDOT. Performance parking is a tool. Smart meters are a tool. RPP enforcement is a tool. You don’t have to use have all of them.” According to Altemus, Harvey is the “parking guru” of Washington.
Currently, community leaders are involved in a working group discussing the idea of performance parking. According to Bracco, the group includes Jennifer Altemus and ANC Commissioners Ron Lewis, Ed Solomon and Bill Starrels.
“Performance parking” is a system that involves using parking meters to charge for parking at market rates to create vacancies on curbsides. This system is in pilot programs in Columbia Heights and blocks surrounding Nationals Park.
Smart Meters, at which drivers can use credit cards or even mobile devices to pay for parking, are also known as “green monsters” because the large machines allow drivers to print parking permits.