Would You Support Resident-Only Parking?

There is a proposal being discussed for Georgetown to adopt some form of resident-only parking. It’s unclear whether the plan will come to fruition, but it’s worth surveying the neighborhood: is this something you’d like?

Resident-only parking works like this: On streets where available street parking spots are relatively scarce, one side of the block would be designated as reserved only for residents of ANC2E. That would be a change from the current situation where generally anyone can park in any spot, but (except at night and on Sunday) must move after two hours unless they have a Zone 2 parking permit.

The reservation for residents-only could be just during certain hours or it could be for 24 hours.

From a resident’s point-of-view, it would seem upon first impression that this would be an unalloyed good. One side of the street would remain the status quo and the other would be improved. However, if you think it through a bit, it wouldn’t necessarily work out that way.

If you assume that a certain number of non-resident cars are coming at a certain time (an assumption GM will contest a bit below) than this only changes wherethey park, not how much parking they need. The immediate consequence would be that parking on the non-resident-only side would become even more challenging, since all non-residents are segregated to that side. Maybe that’s not a big deal, but if it’s your side of the block, that could get a little annoying.

Second, given that the available spots to non-residents would be halved, the non-residents would be forced to search deeper into the neighborhood, away from the arteries, to find a spot. If you live on those blocks, you might see some negative changes.

Additionally, if you have guests or contractors, unless you get a guest pass, they will find it all that much harder to find parking on your block.

In essence, the overall critique of the proposal is that it is inefficient. By limiting the possible spots, without addressing the overall demand, you only push the problem around.

But that gets at the question of whether demand can be addressed head-on. Improving transit and encouraging its use obviously is one way to limit demand, and we should certainly be doing that. But let’s set that aside for now. Let’s just assume that there is a certain fixed level of demand to drive and park in Georgetown from non-residents. What we really are talking about, though, is not simply demand to drive and park in Georgetown, but demand to drive and park for free. It’s that demand that our streets current attempts, and fails largely to satisfy. And it is a demand that we can’t ever really fully satisfy.

That’s why efforts to address the parking demand from non-residents should focus on directing that demand towards paid parking. That is something that Georgetown has in abundance. But it fails to satisfy the overall demand because we offer too much free parking. That’s where a system like performance parking would fit best. In short, performance parking is where the cost of on-street parking is raised enough to reduce demand until enough spaces become available. If you want to come and park for a while in a neighborhood with performance parking, the incentives are correctly aligned to direct you into a garage or parking lot.

DC has explored performance parking in fits and starts. Several years ago, the city was even considering bringing it to Georgetown. But then DDOT fired the people in charge of the effort, and it died on the vine.

Now some are revisiting the issue and trying to get at least some of the possible measures adopted, such as resident-only parking. It would be, as a result, somewhat of a half-measure. But half-measures can be better than no measures.

So yes, comprehensive parking reform would be superior, but is it worth it to explore some less-than-comprehensive measures? What do you think?


As featured in The Georgetown Metropolitan