Gray vs the Meters

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‘Pay for time’
courtesy of ‘afagen’

The first battle of the Gray administration is to…walk back meter fees?  Really?  In a week when the deficit could be rising to $100M? I mean, I hate the fact that I have to carry a couple rolls of quarters at any given point, but the answer here isn’t dialing back the meter fees.  The answer is moving to a telephone parking service across the city, like the various trials that are already underway in Foggy Bottom, Dupont and elsewhere in the city, where you can just call in a payment and adjust your meter payment without needing four pounds of quarters.  There’s another option, and that’s what Arlington has adopted with their iPark system where the city takes a deposit and you slowly (or quickly in DC’s case…) work through your credit while the city earns interest on the money already in their coffers.

Don’t dial back the fees when you’ve got a $100M deficit.  Make parking less painful, yes, but not less expensive.  Meters aren’t what drive people away, parking tickets are.

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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9 thoughts on “Gray vs the Meters

  1. Well, this could be in response to his electorate. There is a lot of change going on in DC right now and a lot of it is impacting people in wards 7 and 8 pretty roughly. The mere changes to the Metro and the DC Parking has made getting to work a pretty costly commute, and for those who make too much to qualify for the various discounts, this is taking money away from necessary things like food. I don’t know if this is what Gray had in mind, and really I don’t trust that he thinks this highly of his electorate, but its an angle on the story.

  2. I still believe there should be things such as a congestion charge as well as a reevaluation of the meter fees. Being a regular rider (as in MC) I’m appalled at how slapdash, not only are the MC parking fees are applied, but the fact more an more of the spots are disappearing, or in some cases, aren’t keeping up with the need for a few more spaces (two car spaces can service 8-10 MC’s) and can generate the same, if not more for the city. Why penalize us riders by chasing us away with meter fees and ridiculous time limits (we currently have to do the four hour shuffle in front of our building because of the Segway equipped meter maid targeting us, trust me she does…)

    I wouldn’t mind a congestion charge either… namely for the times I go through those areas are chosen carefully, and that it too, may reduce some of the cluster f*ck that is downtown. (well, that, and actually reevaluating the actual bus routes for optimization and sanity). If Gray and WMATA can get together on stuff like that, as well as the various BIDs, I’ll change my tune about his anointment as DC’s king for four years.

    Seriously, enforcing meters to 10:30pm is dumb …

  3. Enforcing meters to 10:30 in the evening is extremely frustrating, but more frustrating is that, while there is no limit after 6:30, the old meters won’t let you pay for more than 2 hours at a time (at least near the Newseum).

    DC would have happier drivers and less issues with an iPark system, but you have to remember that while those help with compliance of the drivership, ticketing of the same group accounts for a much higher part of city income. Get people to actually pay for meters (via phone system or iPark, etc) means less overall revenue.

    I hope this isn’t a “look I rolled back [taxes|fees|handing over your firstborn] without being funded move. That would be, well, Republican.

  4. @Tom, good info to chew on but before an assertion is made on what effect this will have to projected revenues, you have to look at what percentage of revenue is generated from parking meters versus parking tickets. Therefore, if parking tickets generate significantly more revenue the telephone parking system would likely decrease revenue by decreasing the number of tickets issued. It depends on what’s the bigger money maker. Anyone have any info on this?

  5. It’s not just about the money, though, Zesty, it’s about crafting a balance between the various issues at play here, between street congestion, proper metering and usage, and the benefit to local businesses.

  6. As Tom said, it truly is about trying to balance all of this… of which, I think DC has not done a good job of. I admit, I’m a commuter from the nether-regions… but I used to also live in the city. Overall, the only change I’ve seen in my 13 years is that traffic has increased, parking availability has decreased (on the street), Metro has gotten worse, and I’ve returned from being a metro rider to being on a MC. The convenience, frustration, reliability and economics haven’t balanced out (even with the Fed reimbursement of commuter benefits) for me to take advantage of mass transit. So, I’m left griping about parking and congestion.

    I think the city really needs to a complete top to bottom review and involve the surrounding jurisdictions and truly get a plan together, because the one, if they have one, that their using as a playbook sucks.

    Obviously, then you have to balance taxes, revenue from businesses, commuter/work locations, and the after-hours use of the city. I’m doubtful anybody has the capacity to do it properly.

  7. @Thoughts its not that simple. You can’t just raise a price on something, and change the rules, and expect to see that money as if everything else would stay the same.

    Look what happened with parking tickets – we jacked up fines and enforcement, yet revenues are way down. How could that be? Because people are contesting far more tickets, and surely some are taking their business elsewhere because of the excessive fines.

    Every action has a reaction. If you make the meters too expensive or inconvenient, people will use them differently, possibly by taking their business elsewhere.

    There’s a lot of interplay between meters, tickets, other transit options, and so on. It’s not just a given that this is an obvious way to make money, any more than raising the price of a parking ticket was.

  8. It’s also not a strict calculation of meter fees vs. parking ticket, Zesty- there’s also the issue of parking convenience encouraging people to continue patronizing the businesses they’re parking in front of, thus increasing receipts, taxes paid on said receipts, and need for paid staff to accommodate those customers.

    I personally have no objection at all to paying $2/hour to park on the street. That’s still competitive with evening garage fees, plus many garages close at a particular time while the street does not. I realize that my experience may not be the same as my fellow residents for whom this rollback is envisioned, but it seems like we’re usually assuming that people for whom parking fees are a burden are more regular users of transit anyway. (And that if they’re not, parking fees are intended to encourage them to be.)

  9. I think the problem with high fees isn’t the price itself, it’s how you must pay it. It’s not convenient, and you have to pay in advance.

    People use meters for errands. You don’t know exactly how long you will be there. You may decide to go to another shop. That’s fine if 50 cents gets you an hour, but if you have to pay 2 bucks to park for somewhere between 5 and 60 minutes, you aren’t so excited to just plop the money in there. But then you risk a ticket or possibly have to come back to feed the meter, which is annoying.

    Then, you have to use a machine to pay, sometimes putting a receipt back on your car, which may take about five minutes. If you’re only trying to be there for five minutes, that’s a lot of time.

    Since meter parking is supposed to encourage turnover, the extra time to use one of these machines also hurts the big picture.

    It’s not the money, it’s the equity. I don’t want to pay 2 bucks up front and feel cheated when I come back ten minutes later. Nor do I want to pay 50 cents for 15 minutes and worry about getting a parking ticket if my errand took a little longer.