The Council is in the process of approving higher fees for yearly residential parking permits. Instead of paying $35 per car, District residents will pay $50 for their first car, $75 for their second, $100 for their third and $150 for their fourth.
According to sponsor Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh (D), “the goal of raising the fee is to discourage people from taking up multiple street parking spaces in their neighborhood and potentially to reduce the number of cars in the city.” These are worthy goals, but does the Council really believe this is the solution?
Think about it: A resident who owns four cars will pay $375 annually instead of $140? Will that resident decide to get rid of a couple of cars to save $235 per year?
Most residents who own four cars can afford that extra fee, I imagine. Why would an extra $235 per year change their habit, if those residents already park their four cars on the street?
Finally, if they have four cars, the cost to the environment is probably not high on their list. I doubt the extra charge will sway their opinion. So again, I ask: does the Council believe this fee increase is a solution?
I doubt it.
My guess is that the increase is nothing more than the Council finding another avenue to take District residents’ hard-earned dollars necessitated by tougher budget times and slowing revenue growth. Yet, the Council keeps spending. The higher are a money grab, pure and simple.
I have a better idea.
Want to make our roads safer, decrease the number of cars on our roads and protect the environment? Then ban on-street parking. This is the policy solution that the Council is too scared to propose.
Studies have shown “on-street parking is also associated with increased crash risk compared to roads of the same category without on-street parking.” Whether it’s the narrow roadways, hidden pedestrians, or the additional moving cars, on-street parking makes driving more complex and fraught.
Removing on-street parking would allow for the creation of more lanes, including bus lanes, protected bike and scooter lanes. It would ensure that sidewalks are used exclusively by pedestrians. The extra space can be used for ridesharing/taxi drop-off/pick-up and mail and package delivery. It would not only improve the visually complex streetscapes, but also create room for those additional amenities our growing city needs.
Decreasing the parking supply decreases driving. Cities in Europe have been taking this approach for years. The theory is that people will not drive to a location if parking is difficult. If we abolish on-street parking, individuals will have no choice but to spend more money to park in a garage or choose a different mode of transportation. Other modes could include the Metro, the bus, bike, scooter or walking. Each would decrease that person’s carbon footprint and make the road safer.
I recognize that parking is “the third rail” of District politics. Residents love their residential parking permits. This is especially true in Ward 6, where an RPP allows residents to park anywhere from the Wharf, to Nationals Park, to Eastern Market, to H Street and Shaw. Ward 6 residents with one, two, three, or even four cars never need to pay for parking for shopping, dining, entertainment and everything in between.
So, maybe we start small.
Ban on-street parking within the Central Business District and on arterial streets. See if that makes those streets safer and decreases the number of cars using those roadways. If it works, expand the ban until DC becomes the first US city to ban on-street parking all together. What do you say?
Michael Bekesha has been a Ward 6 resident since 2010. He ran for the Ward 6 Council seat in November 2018. He, his wife Holly, and their rescue dog Sprocket live in Hill East. He identifies as an Urban Republican. He may be reached by email or on Twitter.