Do you agree with this statement?
The District of Columbia should give out a free parking space worth between $960-1440 per year to out-of-state commuters on a first-come, first-served basis, in an area where a parking space sells for $1,800 per year.
I don’t. I went out and did a survey of vehicles parked on the North side of M Street SE, between 7th Street and Isaac Hull Ave, SE. Each morning around 7 am, I reviewed the cars parked there, and I repeated the survey around 1:30 pm*. I surveyed three days in a row, except the last day I was too busy around lunchtime so I did the survey around 4 pm. The parking restriction on this block face is a three-hour time limit, with no meter**. There is a commuter lot with empty spaces immediately adjacent to this block face offering $8 per day parking.
Is such a time-based restriction effective at deterring commuter parking? I conclude “no”, based on the data. I define an “all-day” parker as a vehicle that was observed parked at the study block face at both the morning and the afternoon surveys. Out of 76 individual vehicle observations, 52 were of all-day parkers (26 vehicles observed in the same location twice). I observed that at least 2/3 of the parked vehicles on the block face were parked “all day”** *. Of these 52 vehicle observations, 20 were of vehicles parked “all day” on two separate days. So the “all-day” parkers were a population of 5 people parking all day for two out of three days, and a population of 16 parked all day for one day (see summary table). There were additional cars that one could infer three full parking days, but the last observation was later in the day and these cars were not present for the sixth observation (these are in the table below under “5 observations”).
|Parked “all-day” once||Parked “all-day” twice|
The number of “repeat customers” for this block face seemed to confirm my suspicion that this block is used for commuter parking. For example, 11% of vehicles observed were present for 5 out of 6 observations.
DDOT just installed new multispace parking meters on this block face, but there are many like it in the area (for example, 7th Street between M and I Streets, SE, Virginia Ave between 7th and 9th Streets, SE, and others).
Each of these parking spaces is worth, by my estimate, at least $0.50-0.75 per hour ($4-6 per 8 hour workday) and could be rented all day for 240 working days per year. That’s potential revenue of $960-1440 per year, per parking space. The block face I observed had 14 cars parked during the first observation period, when it was completely full. That’s between $13,000 and $20,000 in foregone revenue, enough to pay for a $10,000 multispace meter within one year.
The population of out-of state plates was high. Out of 28 individual vehicles observed, 26 were out of state (93%), 11 each were from Maryland or Virginia (39%) and the rest were from four other states in the Union, two in the west, one in the northeast and one in the southwest (withheld for privacy).
DC has at times requested a commuter tax to provide revenue for public services including street maintenance. Charging for street parking offers a way to increase public revenue by taxing non-residents, which is politically as close to a free lunch as it gets.
A future post will document what DC could do with the parking revenue. I plan to take pictures of busted sidewalks, empty street tree boxes and various other ugliness in this area. I also plan to find all of the free street blocks in the Navy Yard area and produce a Google Map to help you find your free street parking until the District does something about it.
*The parking signs were until recently marked 3 hour parking, so anyone parked at both times was clearly in violation of the parking restriction, intended to keep commuters from keeping their cars there all day.
** DC just installed meters along this face but they are not yet activated.
***Vehicles could have left and returned before the second survey. I did not record relative position or mark tires or anything crazy like that. I think it’s more likely than not that they parked all day.