D.C. parking permit program (over)due for change

| May 7, 2013

Change can’t come quickly enough for Washington, DC’s parking permit program, Visitor Permit Parking (VPP for short).

Although the nation’s capital doesn’t occupy the number one slot in America’s list of cities with the worst traffic, it does make the top ten. The district logs an average work-commute time of 34.5 minutes, second only to the New York metro area.

Those commuters have to park somewhere, and residents fear at least some of them are abusing DC’s VPP program, which provides some residents with a free annual pass that they can lend to out-of-town guests. The pass allows visitors to park for longer than the two hours allotted to Residential Permit Parking (RPP) blocks. “It’s like candy,” said Angelo Rao, manager of the city’s parking and streetlight program. “Who wouldn’t want a free card to give to their visitors at all times?”

The RPP program was itself created in the 1970s to protect neighborhoods and ensure residents could park near their homes. Parking on those blocks included in the program is limited to two hours during certain times, except for those vehicles that display the appropriate zone RPP parking sticker. Residents can purchase a yearly permit sticker per vehicle for $15 and must prove that their vehicle is registered in the District of Columbia and that their address falls within an RPP block.

Of the city’s eight parking zones, the problem is especially acute in Zone 6, which encompasses parts of downtown, Capitol Hill, Penn Quarter, the Capitol Riverfront, and the southwest waterfront—or what some call the heart of Washington, DC. No wonder, then, that parking is at such a premium there.

Segways on D.C. street

Another proposed solution: take away all the cars – Segways for everyone! (This time we are joking…) From ~MVI~.

That residents of the area may be lending their passes out to out-of-town guests is only part of the problem, however. The city’s parking signage is notoriously poor. Even Rao admits it. “I swear you need to have your attorney with you to know where to park,” he told local radio station WTOP late last year. “ Doesn’t it feel that way? Let’s be honest. It is that way.”

When locals like Rao have trouble interpreting the city’s parking signs, then it must be equally bad or worse for visitors, who, by unintentionally violating parking laws, anger locals. Locals may, in turn, be unaware of exceptions like the VPP parking permit program and so grouse about out-of-state plates they see parked on their blocks for more than two hours.

Parking permit with spaces for plate, permit, space and expiration date

D.C.’s parking permit system is easy to game – participating residents get a permit they can hand out to anyone, and relies on the honor system to see to it that they don’t. We think they should assign permits to plate numbers. From Myparkingpermit.com.

DC’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) is reappraising the parking permit program and looking at improving the city’s parking signage, as well as other changes. The organization had hoped that the changes would be available for review by February or March, but public comments about the VPP were numerous. A draft proposal is now not likely till later this month or in June.

Those interested in learning more about the proposal are encouraged to email Rao at [email protected], or call him at (202) 671-1370.

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Category: Enforcement, Municipal, Parking

About the Author ()

Cielo Lutino is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. She has written for such publications as the L Magazine and Portland Monthly, and her literary nonfiction has appeared in journals such as the Los Angeles Review and Cold Mountain Review.

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