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parkDC: Penn Quarter/Chinatown Parking Pricing Pilot

Washington DC

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  • Fast Facts

    City :


    Time spent looking for parking


    Length of double parking stays

    Region : North America

    National GDP Per Capita (USD) : 62,606 (IMF, 2018)

    City Population: 702,455

    Year Implemented : 2014

    National Gini Index : 41.5 (World Bank, 2016)


    Technologies Utilized : Mobile applications, CCTV cameras, Fixed cameras, Time-lapse cameras, Sensors

    Funding Source : Federal Government (Federal Highway Administration)

    Project Cost :

    Project Savings :

    Planned Project Duration : September 2014 - November 2017

    KPIs : Number of city block sides where parking demand matched supply, Occupancy rate, Length of stay

  • Project Context and Overview

    Washington, DC has a population of over 700,000, and a daily floating population of 500,000 commuters and 125,000 visitors. Private vehicles are the most popular mode of transport, although Washington DC offers public transportation services and bike sharing programs. The influx of cars into the city inevitably leads to congestion and lack of parking supply in high traffic areas. Demand for pick-up zones and curbside loading zones has also increased due to the growing popularity of online shopping and ridesharing services.

    To remedy this, the city launched the parkDC pilot. ParkDC is based on a demand-based pricing system to efficiently manage curbside parking spaces in parts of the city’s downtown area. The demand-based system fixes prices based on the demand of parking areas at different times of the day and week. Areas with high demand have higher prices during peak-times to deter users from parking there or parking for a long time; areas with low demand have lower prices to attract more users. Parking signs and posters were updated to show the prices of parking according to the time and weekday. Parking information is also offered on two mobile apps, parkDC and VoicePark.

    The pilot had three main goals: (1) reduce time to find an available parking space, (2) reduce congestion and pollution, improve safety, and encourage the use of other modes, and (3) develop parking management solutions through a cost-effective asset-lite approach.

    The parkDC pilot adopted an “asset-lite” approach, which allowed them to gather data and evidence in a more cost-efficient manner. The city lowered costs by: demarcating parking spaces, basing the pricing system on larger areas instead of individual spaces, and combining multiple data sources to reduce the number of sensors needed. Data was collected through in-ground sensors, dome-mounted sensors, CCTV cameras, time-lapse cameras, fixed cameras, cameras with GPS, manual counts, license plate recognition technology, crowdsourcing applications, and payment and citation data.

  • Project Planning and Implementation

    The District Council put in place a favorable legal framework for the development of the parkDC pilot and other demand-based parking pricing initiatives. In 2008, the Performance Parking Pilot Zone Act was enacted, which allowed the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to establish demand-based parking pricing zones in the District. The Act was followed by a series of amendments in 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2016. The amendments expanded DDOT’s areas of authority and regulated the responsibilities of the Mayor in relation to demand-based parking pricing initiatives. For example, in 2017, DC adopted the Red Top Meter Program, which installed parking meters with red tops to indicate parking spaces for people with disabilities. Users are required to pay and are allowed to park for 4 hours (compared to the average 2 hours allowed).

    DDOT received a grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to develop the parkDC Pilot in 2012. Under DDOT’s direction, the parkDC project team developed a number of plans for effective implementation. The Program Management Plan addressed scope, cost, quality, resources, communications, and risk. The Concept of Operations Plans included a high-level document to be presented to all stakeholders, and which describes the implementation of roadway detection, parking detection, and variable pricing systems. The Communication Plan detailed an outreach plan, how to engage with stakeholders, and how to present the pilot’s final results to the public. The Data Collection Plan indicated what data was collected and how it would be used to measure the performance of the pilot. The Parking Pricing Business Rules specified how to adjust rates for different users and parking spaces.

    The pilot took place between some of the most popular areas of the District, within the Penn Quarter and Chinatown neighborhoods. The area has a mix of private businesses, office spaces, museums, courthouses, federal office buildings, residential spaces, and tourist destinations. It also serves a number of transportation modes including personal vehicles, commercial vehicles, public transit vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. The varied land use and diverse modes of transportation make it the ideal location for a parking pilot program.

  • Project Results

    The pilot enabled drivers to more efficiently look for parking spaces and know where parking was available. City block sides where demand matched supply increased by 10%. Occupancy in low demand blocks increased by 12% and the users’ length of stay increased by 14 minutes during weekday evenings.

    Overall, users reported spending 7 minutes less to find parking. The number of users who reported that parking signage and posters were easy to understand increased by 15%, indicating greater user satisfaction. It was also noted that the length of double parking stays at loading zones decreased by 43%, from 131.4 minutes to 74.4 minutes. Time spent circling for parking decreased by 15%. Congestion in the area notably decreased and now aligns with district-wide trends.

    The pilot did not negatively impact businesses in the area. Other modes of transport were not significantly affected by the implementation of the pilot. However, the pilot’s impact on safety could not be determined.

    In the following years, DDOT hopes to expand demand-based pricing parking to more areas in Washington, DC, demarcate more curbside parking spaces, test alternative data collecting technologies, and conduct research for management of non-metered parking spaces.

  • Recommendations for Transfer

    Washington, DC established a strong and favorable legal foundation to put the parkDC pilot project in place. Other cities who are interested in demand-based parking pricing initiatives should follow similar steps, as well as clearly delineate the responsibilities of the local officials involved.

    Using parkDC’s asset-lite’s approach can be a viable option for cities with budget limitations.

    Similar systems have already been implemented in other places of the United States, including Los Angeles (LA Express Park), San Francisco (SFpark), Seattle (Downtown Seattle Parking), and Indianapolis (ParkIndy).

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