I’m starting a new parking survey of the 500-700 blocks of M Street SE, right near where I work. My goal for the survey is to find out when the peak of parking demand is for these spaces. My guess (in science class you might call this a “hypothesis”) is that the peak of demand is between 11:00 am and 12:00 noon, based on some TCRP reports I’ve read. I plan to take data once per day for a while. It only takes 10 minutes to walk out to that block and write down how many cars are parked on the 5 block faces in the area. I’ve already gotten some data confirming that there is not significant parking before 10am or after 3pm (unless the data is really, really weird and doesn’t follow a bell curve). Based on 7-8 data points taken so far, it’s starting to look like a bell curve, though the holidays usually have low demand and therefore I will be taking much more data than I would otherwise need.
This block has seen a lot of change, parking-wise, since it was used for my previous study about who parks in the Navy Yard area. The blocks used to be completely full of parkers from out of state that parked all day for free. Now, after DDOT installed and started enforcing rush hour restrictions, and turned on the multispace meters, the blocks are nearly always empty (or significantly below 50% capacity), and I see the same commuter out-of-state cars parking elsewhere in the area (still for free). I briefly chatted with one parker that was using a multispace meter, he stated that he was visiting the area for a meeting and would be parked about two hours.
Setting the meter prices right doesn’t always mean to raise the price. Sometimes, when demand is low enough, it means reducing or eliminating parking charges. Once I figure out when the peak of demand is, I’ll concentrate on getting data for that time period to make the case that the price is much too high. I expect that the answer is that there is no time of day where there is a need to charge for parking at all. I was able to look a couple of times when the rush hour restrictions were in place but the meters were not yet running, and the occupancy was around 50%, still lower than the targeted range of 80-90%.
The parking restrictions on these blocks are a 3-hour limit, no parking during morning and evening rush hours, and a charge of $1.00 for the first hour, and $1.50 each additional hour. The combination of these restrictions and nearby free parking probably reduce the market value of this on-street parking to near zero, something I will try to confirm through obtaining more data.
Of course I will keep you posted with what I find out, as well as attempt to discuss the results with the DC parking manager.