“This pilot will use the Chinatown/Penn Quarter area as a laboratory to test state-of-the-art strategies to make it easier to find parking spaces”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Joseph Leonardo

From DDOT:

“The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) recently announced the launch of parkDC: Chinatown/Penn Quarter, the multimodal value pricing pilot, which is expected to make parking easier and reduce congestion. The pilot will encompass all 1,300 metered on-street parking spaces in the area bounded by H Street, NW; E Street, NW; 11th Street, NW; and 3rd Street, NW. This pilot will use the Chinatown/Penn Quarter area as a laboratory to test state-of-the-art strategies to make it easier to find parking spaces and reduce congestion. The project will accomplish this by doing the following:

(a) Providing real-time parking-availability information so customers spend less time searching, and

(b) Changing parking pricing so more spaces are available,

(c) Making parking signage more easily understood.

The parking management strategies will also be applied to curbside spaces set aside for delivery vehicles, and motor coaches in the Chinatown/Penn Quarter area. Pricing for loading zones will roll out citywide in 2015, and this pilot will use pricing to help manage demand for these spaces.

“DDOT is committed to keeping its promise to the residents of the District of Columbia by delivering innovative projects and engineering that will help shape the future of transportation in the District,” said DDOT Director Matthew Brown. “Value-based pricing among other pioneering ideas are outlined in our moveDC plan, DDOT’s multimodal long-range transportation plan that is expected to create a city that’s more livable, sustainable, prosperous and attractive.”

Beginning early 2015, customers will begin to see new parking meters and signage. Multi-space meters will transition to pay-by-space instead of the current pay-and-display formats. Customers will now need to make note of their space numbers before paying, but they will no longer have to walk back to their vehicles to put the receipt in the dashboard.

DDOT will also be testing various parking space occupancy detection technologies in the area, including sensors, fixed cameras and movable cameras. The real-time occupancy information will be used to make price adjustments based on demand, and provide parking availability information to customers.

Customers can expect to see the first price adjustments in the summer of 2015. Based on typical usage levels, meter prices will be adjusted quarterly to encourage shorter stays on high-demand blocks and incentivize use of lower-demand blocks. In addition, to help inform their travel decisions, customers will be able to see where parking is available downtown, and how much it will cost, through an app and a website. Together, demand-based pricing and real-time parking occupancy information will make it easier to find spaces, reduce time circling, and help travelers choose the best mode to get downtown.

The pilot will be completed at the end of 2016 with a full evaluation of the project’s impact. Lessons learned from the pilot will help outline eventual deployment throughout the District.”

21 Comment

  • “Providing real-time parking-availability information so customers spend less time searching” — I have a bad feeling this is going to mean “Drivers will now be looking at their smartphones instead of the road while driving around looking for parking.”
    All of these changes (sensors to detect cars’ presence, etc.) sound pretty expensive to me. I wonder which private company is getting the fat contract to do all this stuff?

    • Yep – THIS. Instead of looking where they are going, drivers will now have a “reason” to be looking at their phones.

    • If it works, the pay-off is tremendous in time people spend looking for parking… which means people spend less on gas, have less emissions, and create fewer traffic jams by pulling to the side of the road. All big benefits for the public. Another words, a public good.

      • Yeah, but I foresee much whining from people accustomed to cheap parking who will drive to Gallery Place and be outraged at the idea that at a peak time, they might have to pay $6 an hour.
        (I don’t think the outrage is justified, but I definitely foresee it happening.)

        • I think the perceived/ possible outrage is a little justified. I don’t like the idea of performance parking because I think there should be more predictability in pricing. Also, I agree with some of the comments above, why give people more reasons to look at their smartphones while driving?? I find these technologies really ridiculous and unnecessary.

          • It generally ends up to be pretty predictable. There will be regular peak periods and occasional spikes when an event is at GP.

            I disagree that it’s unnecessary. Parking is generally underpriced (especially when it’s free) considering how valuable urban parking spaces are. By pricing it correctly (like any good, according to demand), you don’t have shortage and surplus issues. In short, it should make it easier to find a space if you’re willing to pay. And if you want a space at a peak period when that space is more valuable, you should pay more.

            Underpriced parking results in more car use, more cruising for spaces, more traffic, and a harder time finding a space.

            It’s important to note that when San Francisco did this same thing, the average price of parking went down.

      • Exactly. Something like 20% of urban traffic is people who have “arrived” but are cruising for a street parking space. San Francisco has done this already and it results in lower average parking costs for drivers and better space availability.

    • I was thinking more along the lines of the parking availability signs that they have in Europe.


      • Hmm… but isn’t that a tally of the available spaces in an actual parking lot/garage, rather than of available street-parking spaces?

  • I wonder how this is going to work. In a busy area like Chinatown, if an app says there’s an empty space on the street two blocks away, chances are it’ll be gone by the time you can get to it.

    • Accountering

      The idea is that the price is set up such that 15% of spots on any given street are taken. This may mean parking starts costing a more appropriate $4 or $5/hour, at which point you will be able to find empty spots.

  • I’m worried about the pay by space issue instead of using the non-delineated multispace meters. I feel like we could lose a spot per block which adds up to a lot of spaces. Whenever I go to a city with pay by space, the spaces always seem too large and leads to a couple extra feet per car on either side than would normally be there. Also, there’s going to be an issue with the Car2Gos fitting in between spaces.

    • This is true… but in fairness, D.C.’s metered parking was like that until not that many years ago (I can’t remember — 4 years ago? 5 years ago?) when they put in the multispace meters.

    • That’s true, but I think the parking availability and convenience you’d gain if they did this right would outweigh any lost spaces.

  • Sounds interesting. But also kinda complicated–unless there’s a passenger to help you, fumbling with your phone doesn’t seem so safe. I pretty much never drive/park in this area anyway. Why would I when there is an abundance of transit options in the vicinity?

  • What about motorcycles? We don’t take up full spaces, and in a pay-by-space model, will we be required to pay for a full space at $6/hr? In a pay-by-space area, we can easily fit between spaces or at the ends without taking away spaces from cars.

  • “Based on typical usage levels, meter prices will be adjusted quarterly…” Sounds like the price adjustments will be made quarterly and not in real time. If that is the case, this is not nearly as innovative as I thought.

    • Yeah – and that’s going to hurt the program. The gold-standard version of this is SFPark in San Francisco, and they used tiny sensors in each space that could report in real time when a car was there.

  • clevelanddave

    Agree with a lot of the comments: 1) Is a private company getting a percentage of the take? Seems like this experiment is going to be very expensive- the roads being torn up for sensors, new meters being put in, etc. 2) The pay and display system isn’t that old and was expensive to put in place. In fact DDOT is still transitioning to the pay and display system from meters in some parts of the city, such as City Center, that are actually in the experimental area. 3) It seems like this system to a significant degree is designed to discourage driving and will result in a de facto reduction in the number of parking spaces. In theory pay and display encourages maximized use of street parking spaces. Now an Escalade will take up the same size space as a Mini or a Smart car. That does not make sense. Why not just do pay and display with street sensors that shows open spaces and keep it at that? Did DDOT really look at a wide number of options?

  • What will happen with Parkmobile?

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