Summary: Having one price for on-street ballpark pricing causes the price conscious and the convenience seekers to want the same parking spaces. Varying the price by as little as 50 cents per hour for every additional block away from the ballpark would tend to cancel these effects out. The resulting prices are remarkably consistent with theoretical considerations and existing off-street parking lot prices.
View Larger Map
One of the big flaws in the ballpark performance parking district is that the pricing is the same for the entire ballpark district. North of the freeway, meters are $1.50 per hour with a two hour limit, south of the freeway they’re $1.00 for the first hour, and $1.50 for each additional hour with a three hour total limit. On stadium event days, the meters south of the freeway are $2.00 for the first hour, then $8.00 per hour for the next two hours, then two dollars for an additional hour with a four hour limit. Parking north of the freeway for a ball game wouldn’t make sense because the time limits are shorter than most events, and the walking distances are very long.
The problem with this is that demand for different parking spaces varies considerably by location. Here’s a model for differences in curb parking pricing based on distance from a single point parking demand generator. In this model, there is a base price for parking (per hour) next to the destination. Parking spaces more distant from the destination should be cheaper because they require the passengers to walk further to the destination. This model is based on the similar model in Don Shoup’s “The High Cost of Free Parking” in Appendix D.
We’re going to assume that vehicle operating costs over the short distances between potential parking spaces are negligible (less than 25 cents per mile over a maximum 1 mile radius). For a ballpark visit, the average duration of stay is assumed to be 4 hours, there are on average n=2 people in each car, people walk at w=2.5 miles per hour, and that each person values his time at v=$8.001 per hour (walking to and from the ballpark is neither particularly pleasant nor unpleasant, this is a lower bound). According to the model, the monetary cost of walking an additional d=1 mile is:
2*n*v*d/w = 2*2*8*1/2.5 = $12.80 per mile.
Considering that blocks in the ballpark are about 350 feet (0.06 of a mile) long, this means that for every block of distance people have to walk to a particular parking generator, they would be indifferent between walking or paying an additional $0.75-1.00. This is for the average case. Some people come in a larger group, and their time cost would be higher, some people value their time more, and some walk faster or slower than others. These variations will sort people by their preferences, with the people that have a high walking cost (people that value their time greatly, hate walking, come in large groups, or walk slowly) parking closer to the stadium, while people who have a low walking cost (don’t put a particularly high value on their time, like to walk, come alone or in pairs, walk quickly, etc.) would end up parking further away and saving money.
The way the stadium parking is set up now, with no difference in price, means that both the high cost and the low cost groups desire the same spaces close by, because there is no difference in price between the close, convenient spaces and the further away spaces. In other words, DC hasn’t given people an incentive to park further away.
For the off-street lots, that’s certainly the case, as the furthest away lot (HH) is only $15 per game, while closer lots are $20 (W or T) or $40 (the “Red Zone”) per game. Based on the three data points available ($15.00 at 3500 feet, $20.00 at 2500 and 3000 feet, and $40 at 1000 feet [home plate distances as the crow flies]), the distance-based parking rate difference for Nationals games is around $50.00 per mile, indicating that whoever came up with the prices believes either that people place a higher value on their walking time, that more than two people will typically come per car, or that people walk slower than 2.5 miles per hour. We can split the difference between their estimate and mine and say that $30.00 a mile is an appropriate walking cost.
Let’s take the price of curb parking immediately adjacent to the ballpark as the same as the adjacent lot ($40.00 per hour), and divide it evenly among four hours. That’s $10.00 per hour. There aren’t any curb parking spaces that close, so we’re going to have to adjust the rates at the closest meters based on their distance from the ballpark. At a rate of $30.00 per mile, the price should change by $1.50 per hour for each 1000 feet of distance we travel.
The closest meters are 1200 feet away, on Half Street just north of M. These meters should be at $8.00 per hour, just about what they are now (ignoring the discounted first and last hour).
Other example block face prices are shown on the Google Map above. Red is the most expensive at $8.00 per hour, and purple is the least at $5.00 per hour. The price that I selected ends up with similar prices between the meters and the cash lots with similar walking distances (with actual routes as opposed to straight line distances. For example, the meter price at 2nd and Canal per the formula is $4.00 per hour, which is close to the $20.00 per game in the lot. In order to discourage cruising, DDOT would likely want to boost the meter price slightly above the cash lot, or if the cash lot is going empty, reduce the price at the cash lot. Another example is the HH lot near South Capitol Street at the freeway, where the curb price should be $4.00 per hour and the whole game price in the adjacent off-street lot is $15.00. Because this is intended to be a “Performance Based” district, these prices should be confirmed by occupancy surveys during ballgames and adjusted as needed to make sure that people find a space where they want one and are willing to pay.
I have not been to the ballpark district during a game to take a look at the parking occupancy. Does anyone have any experience with what the streets look like at that time?
1: According to this abstract, walking costs are estimated between $4.00 per hour for low-wage employees to over $30.00 for high-wage earners (D. Harmatuck, Transportation Research Record 2007)