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Keep paying D.C. meters at night

The District Department of Transportation wants to make sure you're clear on the new rules for parking at night in metered spaces. What changed on Friday was this: In many areas, motorists no longer face a time limit after 6:30 p.m. What didn't change is this: They still must pay to park.

Many drivers told me the rules that took effect in January were confusing, so I hope I'm not making matters worse in trying to explain this latest modification, but here goes.

In January, the District extended the hours and days of parking meter enforcement in the busiest parts of the city and raised the prices at most meters.

The D.C. government wanted to make more money, but it also wanted to manage parking better. Having drivers wander around looking for a parking space is one of the leading causes of traffic congestion in cities. If a city gets the pricing and the time limits right, it can encourage turnover in spaces.

The District Department of Transportation dubbed those busiest areas the "premium demand zones." They include: Adams Morgan, the Georgetown Historic District, Penn Quarter/Chinatown, the U Street NW Corridor, the Downtown Central Business District, Maine and Water Streets SW, the Mall and Wisconsin Avenue NW from Van Ness Street to Western Avenue. (It's a huge area. If you're in the central city, you're most likely in one of those premium zones.)

The most common complaint I heard was that drivers didn't want to be hauling all those quarters with them to pay for $2 per hour parking. The transportation department has been introducing a string of pilot programs offering different ways of paying.

The second most common complaint was from people who wanted to eat dinner or go to a show and hated the fact that the new rules extended two-hour parking limits till 10 p.m. in these premium zones. That made it real difficult to park on a Foggy Bottom street and walk over to an event at the Kennedy Center, for example.

Mayor Adrian Fenty heard such complaints, and the District announced Friday that motorists can now park for as many hours as they want after 6:30 p.m. -- that is, as long as they still pay for the parking up till 10 p.m. The meters in these areas have been updated so they can take more of your money to give you more time.

If you're still with me, I may yet lose you here: In the Ward 6 and Columbia Heights Performance Parking Pilot zones, nothing has changed. In those very high demand areas, which include the neighborhoods near Nationals Park, there is no change in the parking time limits.

Questions?

By Robert Thomson  | June 29, 2010; 6:56 PM ET
Categories:  District, Driving, Transportation Politics  | Tags:  DDOT, Dr. Gridlock, parking meters  
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