After a series of public meetings earlier this year on the city’s parking policies, Washington, D.C., has adopted one element—a revised visitor parking pass (VPP) program—that has some residents calling for the dismissal of Terry Bellamy, director of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).
The meetings were intended to address a variety of issues, including the abuse of the VPP program. In years past, the DDOT would mail free VPPs to all households that held a residential parking permit (RPP). (The RPPs are available for purchase to residents within those blocks included in the city’s RPP program.)
Neighbors contend, however, that the permits, which are good for a year, are being sold to commuters who are more than happy to pay for the right to park on side streets all day. A VPP holder would simply need to sell the permit at a price lower than what nearby garages charge.
The system has been in place for Wards 1, 3, 4, and 5, as well as the ballpark and Howard Theatre areas of Ward 6. Neighborhoods that are more dense, such as Dupont Circle and Georgetown, have opposed it, however. Residents there argue that, because their neighborhoods include offices and commercial areas, more are tempted to sell the VPPs to commuters.
Jack McKay, who represents the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) for Mount Pleasant, a less dense area, has pushed back, telling the media that abuse “has been insignificant, and residents, many of whom depend on household help and child care workers and day-nurse care, love the program.”
Starting October 1, it will be expanded to more areas, and residents with RPPs will have to request their VPPs online rather than receiving them in the mail. The passes will be valid until September 30, 2014, and will allow the holder to park for free for an unlimited time on neighborhood streets.
DDOT has said that the VPPs will be stamped with a holographic field, making it harder for forgers to duplicate the passes. They’ll also feature a special code that identifies where the passes can be used within ANC boundaries. Permit holders will be given a map of those boundaries, and violators could face a $300 fine.
Although D.C. council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who chairs the committee that oversees DDOT, has expressed relief that the VPPs will no longer be mailed en masse, she’s asked Bellamy to delay the program’s expansion. Cheh told the Washington Post that the city was “supposed to have an overarching, comprehensive plan about parking in general, of which the visitor parking passes were supposed to be a part. The whole thing was supposed to be thought through. That has not happened.”
Some have blamed the program’s troubles on Damon Harvey and Angelo Rao, the two managers formerly in charge of crafting a solution for the VPP program. Harvey recently left the DDOT to work for ParkMobile in Atlanta, while Rao was fired, suggesting organizational discord.