Starting today, Monday, Aug. 28, some metered parking spots directly in front of popular restaurants, entertainment venues, office buildings and shopping centers in Penn Quarter could rise to $4.74 an hour during busy times. A few blocks away, metered parking could be as low as $1.
This study in contrasts will be with us for the next three months, during the District Department of Transportation’s fluctuating “demand based parking” pilot program.
The goal is to reduce congestion and the time people take to go around the block looking for a parking place, explained Stephanie Dock, research program advisor and deputy project manager, in a phone interview with The Georgetowner. “We want to have at least one parking spot available in every block at all times.
“The idea is to allow drivers to be able to make smart choices about where to park — to plan before they go about where the best area will be for them to park,” Dock continued. Areas with higher parking-meter prices will encourage drivers to park for shorter periods of time and leave sooner, thus freeing up more spaces more frequently. Those who want to stay longer will find lower-priced parking areas nearby.
Depending on the area, the high-demand hours could be in the morning, afternoon or evening. But for most of Penn Quarter, researchers found that peak usage for all users is from around 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For areas close to Capital One Arena (the former Verizon Center), the evening hours at popular theaters and restaurants will also be considered high demand. “But if you’re willing to walk a few blocks, you can get a good deal,” said Dock.
Prices for Saturday meter parking in the area will also be adjusted to demand, but remain the same price the entire day. More challenging is the seasonality of some high-demand parking areas, such as near the sports and concert venue, according to Dock. “We need to look at how high winter demand affects the parking demand in some areas on certain days.”
The pilot area is situated between 3rd and 11th Streets NW and E and H Streets NW. “It was the perfect mix of office, museums, hotels, restaurants and shopping for us to research the idea of fluctuating meter prices based on high and low demand times day and night,” Dock said. The project has now reached its fourth and last quarter of fluctuating pricing, based on demand from the previous quarter.
Information about the changing parking prices in specific blocks is available online at parkdc.dc.gov. In addition, in areas with multiple parking meters (covering a half block or more), information will be posted listing the price per hour according to time of day and advising drivers when parking isn’t allowed due to rush-hour designations.
A special parking app is being developed so that drivers can look up parking availability and prices near or at their destination in real time. “It should be up soon at parkdc,” according to Dock.
At the time of the interview, the researcher was showing off D.C.’s fluctuating parking pilot project to a Global City Teams Challenge event at the Convention Center. “We’re all talking about how ‘smart cities’ work,” Dock said. “We have learned much from others and they are learning from us how to use occupancy detection technologies to research parking usage.”
The pilot program will come to an end in December, with probably one more price adjustment. “Then the data will be fully evaluated and it will be decided whether or not to continue with this study program in other areas,” Dock said. “We have the means to continue the project from city funds if it is decided to go forward.” The ballpark and other mixed-use neighborhoods such as Georgetown may be studied next.