Higher parking rates debated for Georgetown, Adams Morgan

Ari Ashe, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – New parking rates could come to several popular destinations, including Georgetown and Adams Morgan, in late 2013 or early 2014, according to the D.C. Department of Transportation.

The agency is exploring whether to add performance parking to 12 locations, including the popular night spots.

Performance parking refers to a system where costs can be raised during peak demand periods.

For example, outside Nationals Park, street parking on game days begins at $2 for the first hour, then it jumps to $8 for the second and third hours.

The program also is in effect in Columbia Heights and H Street NE, although the prices are lower than outside Nationals Park.

“The idea is that we want to encourage a lot of turnover. Make each space usable by as many people as possible,” says Angelo Rao, parking manager for the District Department of Transportation.

“On a block of 20 spaces, you want three or four spaces available at one time, so that people don’t circle over and over again to find a space.”

Rao says the goal is to make sure 15 percent of all spots are free and available at any time, especially at busy downtown hangouts on the weekend.

DDOT met with Georgetown residents at a parking forum last month, and the agency plans to hold more meetings in March.

“If we can get the hard data about how people use parking spots in Georgetown, good sound criteria on how to use the sites, and get good feedback from the residential and business community, then it’s feasible it’ll be a candidate for performance parking in 2013,” says Rao.

However, not everyone likes the idea.

“The city is poised to generate, garner and glean even more money from hapless motorists from parking meters and from the parking fines it netted in 2011 ($92.6 million), if performance parking is expanded in the city through the installation of market-rate meters,” says John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs.

“Performance based parking is about plucking millions of dollars in additional parking revenue from drivers cursing and cruising the block in the nation’s capital, without D.C. ever solving the problem of the dearth of on-street or curbside parking.”

People walking along M Street in Georgetown on a recent Saturday night, where performance parking would go, agree that it’s a troubling idea.

“I drive a lot in the city, I live in the city, so I know the different parking rates and it does make it less appealing to come to Georgetown,” says resident Claire McAndrew.

“For me, when I hear higher prices for any reason, I’m going to stay away from there,” says Jamal Gray of Prince George’s County.

“It seems like a scam, but people are going to pay it anyway. They see it won’t affect the demand, so why not up the prices and increase the revenue,” says Jason Berto, who works at a Georgetown shop on M Street.

And while Rao admits it will generate extra revenue for DDOT, he argues the money will be put back to good use.

“The vast majority of parking meter revenue goes to WMATA (Metro) as a subsidy. With performance parking, 50 percent of the money goes to surface transportation of the WMATA system in the District. The other 50 percent goes to the neighborhood and business community, working with DDOT to decide on how to use the money,” says Rao.

A spokesman for Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans tells WTOP that he’s “very interested in parking matters in Georgetown and will carefully looking at any sort of proposal that DDOT has in that regard.”

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