The free ride is over. By January 19, free Saturday parking will disappear. Instead, get ready to feed the meter once new parking signs are posted and meters are updated. Nighttime enforcement hours also will be extended so be diligent.
The changes, authorized by the FY 2010 Budget Support Act, will make it easier for more Downtown residents and visitors to find available short-term parking in commercial areas. How? By discouraging drivers who tied up free parking spaces from parking for long periods of time. They have made it difficult for others to find short-term, curbside parking to patronize local businesses. At the same time, the changes will help reduce congestion and pollution caused by drivers who circle the block for curbside spaces.
Expect to see two types of parking meter rates, down from four. Rates in the premium demand zones (which include the busiest commercial districts) will be $2.00 per hour, and normal demand zones will cost 75 cents per hour.
Too expensive? The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) says the premium demand zone rate is comparable to, or lower than, the rates charged in other major cities such as Baltimore, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia—where the rates can reach $3 an hour or more.
As for nighttime parking, enforcement hours will be extended from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm in Penn Quarter and Chinatown, both premium demand zones where on-street parking is often scarce. Enforcement hours for meters around the Verizon Center (601 F Street) already are in effect until 10:00 pm.
Other changes are coming. This year, DDOT plans to introduce several parking meter pilot programs, including pay-by-cell, in-car metering systems and solar-powered single space meters that take credit cards. Multi-space meters replaced many single space meters throughout the city’s commercial districts last year.
For more information about DC’s parking operations and policies, visit www.ddot.dc.gov.