Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Still Not Smelling Like ROSA

In yesterday's post I criticized the ROSA program in DC, which targets people without DC tags on their cars, and parking restrictions in general.

A couple commenters responded with a few different arguments, generally with the point that other places have similar or worse parking enforcement policies. I dispute this.

First and foremost: DC is unique in the United States in that it is a city that operates as a completely independent jusidiction from the suburbs and surrounding areas. Every single person who does not physically live in DC, does not have DC tags on their car.

These poeople are not our enemies. They work, play, shop and have friends who live in DC. They have reasons for needing to park on a regular basis in our city that are not only legitimate, but necessary for the functioning of our economy, our very lives. Your housekeeper, your girfriend, your mother, your dog walker. Any of them could live in a different state and need to park their car at your home. Yet we have an intricate web of rules for various types of visitor permits that are confusing and laborious to comply with.

What About New York

The only place that I can think of that has anything in common with DC geographically is New York City. While certainly a higher percentage of the metropolitan area probably lives in New York than in DC, the same situation exists: a lot of people living in New Jersey and Connecticut work, play, and do business in New York City. And, like DC, New York City is a huge tourist destination. They want people to visit.

So how does New York deal with this? Does New York City outlaw anyone without New York plates from parking in the city?

Umm, no. Quite the opposite, in New York, there are no residential considerations at all. Everyone has the same parking privileges, everywhere. If there isn't a "no parking" sign, you can park there. There are no crazy rules about being observed twice in one month, which apparently visitors are supposed to deduce.

Apparently, they have figured out something DC has not: that we actually depend on people from other states for our economy. They are our friends, coworkers, contractors, and we want them to be able to park in our city without having to jump through hoops. Parking is not something that should be hoarded, reserved so that everyone is guaranteed a spot in front of their house - it's something that's needed just as much by the people who do not live in the city as by those who do.

New York also does smart things to increase the availability of parking, the very concept of which seems to paralyze DC, such as:

1) New program has meter rates that vary based on demand at the time

2) Allowing parking right up to the intersection at "T" intersections on one way streets - in DC, regardless of the configuration, you can't park within 25 feet of a stop sign.

Hey, look at that!! In NYC, you can park in places where it makes sense that you should be able to park. In DC, you can't park within 25 feet of a stop sign or intersection no matter what. But luckily we've got ROSA to help with the parking problem instead - because who needs those pesky workers and visitors?

Boston? Chicago? er... Anywhere?

Boston has spots designated for visitors in areas with residential parking restrictions. There is no ROSA-like program.

Chicago lets you buy daily parking passes for use in RPP zoned areas online!! How cool is that? You can also buy books of 30.

In Chicago, like DC, RPP covers certain residential only during certian hours. Unlike DC, their web site even lets you figure out if a specific area has restrictions. And course it is possible to get visitor passes in some reasonable manner, and you won't be ticketed for parking more than once a month where the regulations are not in effect.

Further unlike DC, motorcycles and scooters may park in RPP zones without displaying an annual or visitor residential parking permit which makes absolute sense since they take up so little space. Not so in DC.

I could go on, but it seems clear the DC is unique in the ridiculousness of its parking laws.

Is There Anywhere Quite As Backwards As DC?

If anyone is aware of a major metropolitan area, or indeed any jurisdiction, that has parking regulations that can result in ticketing of a legally registered car that is not in violation of the posted parking restrictions, please let me know. I am not aware of any.

ROSA is the worst. There are a hundred other things wrong with DC's parking rules, like the visitor pass policy, the zone parking permits (which you can't get if your street is not zoned), the list goes on... but other cities have stupid things like that too.

But where else on earth can you get a ticket when you're in compiance with the posted parking regulations?

Probably Hazzard County, but I doubt anywhere else.


Anonymous said...

Maryland and Virginia residents contribute absolutely nothing to the upkeep of our streets and highways, and we're not getting state funds either from Albany like NYC does.

We also don't have a Port Authority that MD or VA contribute to for the upkeep of our bridges to VA--that bill is covered by DC as well.

The Federal Government has ruled against DC taxing out-of-DC commuters for the wear and tear that they put on our roads every day, so it seems that ROSA is our only means of recourse to get SOME money into DC coffers from MD and VA drivers.

And I don't really see how someone's boyfriend/girlfriend sleeping over, or their maid getting paid under the table is really bringing a ton of money into the District.

Jamie said...

You really don't see any benefit to people who live outside this city coming here?

You think that all of DC's businesses would be just fine if only DC residents patronized them?

Well, I guess there's no point in arguing with you if you really don't understand that the city does not exist in isolation from the rest of the metropolitan area.

As far as boyfriends/girlfriends, that isn't about revenue. That's about LIFE. A lot of people, actually, would like to have the ability for people to visit them.

Anonymous said...

I don't see where people get this whole idea that MD and VA residents, and visitors don't pay DC taxes. The highest taxes in DC are their restaurant, parking, and hotel taxes which are designed to tax people who don't live here.

Jamie said...

@Anon 6:28 - amen.

Also, on the idea that we don't get funds that other cities do from the 1st Anon commenter, I agree, it's unfair. And totally irrelevant to how we choose to handle parking.

When you create a hostile environment for visitors, people tend to visit less often. That means they spend their money somewhere else.

Whatever revenue DC sees from these policies -- if it's even being taken from non-residents in the first place -- is almost certainly more than offset by the fact that people will go somewhere else to spend their money. And open their businesses.

Shocking revelation for you:

If you can't park anywhere near places like U Street (which has few if any parking garages) without getting an expensive ticket, and it's not convenient for you to metro there for whatever reason, you will GO SOMEWHERE ELSE INSTEAD.

Anon OP said...

Frankly, I find MD and VA's ambivalent attitude toward the strain their residents put on DC's infrastructure to be much more hostile than handing out the occasional parking ticket to people who can't be bothered to pick up a visitor's pass...

And let's say that the District stops handing out $100 tickets. Are all of those people going to eat that much more often at DC restaurants to make up for the loss of revenue? I doubt it.

Jamie said...

@Anon OP: Like the previous comment. I may even agree with your sentiment, but what bearing does that have on the question of, is the policy good overall for dc? It's still cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Here is some compelling evidence that supports what seems obvious to me - that it is not good.

Parking-ticket revenue declines - Washington Times

... an odd effect, don't you think, of all the fines increasing and the ROSA program beginning a couple years before?

"John B. Townsend II, spokes- man for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the drop could simply be because motorists now know that the odds of getting a ticket are likely in the District -- where there are 175,000 more vehicles than parking spaces on any given day."

In other words - people are not coming to DC as much.

"Parking and red-light fines also are relatively small revenue sources compared with the District's income, property and sales taxes, Mr. Singer said."

Hmmm. Doesn't that fact make it seem really stupid to jeopardize the sources or revenue that ARE significant by imposing ridiculous parking fines?

"The [declining] 2006 revenue and ticket totals also show an apparent disconnect between the city's [aggressive] parking enforcement crews and the end result of their work"

Shocker. Then:

"Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham suggested there's an alternative to the parking crackdown: a commuter tax, which is used in other cities but the District has long been barred from collecting."

Oh, so you're not even denying that this is all about money anymore? Didn't you notice in 2007 that IT DOESN'T EVEN INCREASE REVENUE?

"Graham pointed out that 70 percent of citations are given to nonresidents. He said the increased enforcement will result in an additional $12 million for the city."

Except that the increased enforcement this year is all about street sweeping, which will get mostly residents anyway.

Isn't this all just really stupid?

Anon OP said...

Stupid, yes. But getting all riled up about the tribulations of a bunch of Ballston douchebags getting parking tickets on the BMW 3 series they got for graduation, or out-of-town college students who shouldn't be bringing their cars to the city anyway isn't really a productive focus for what are clearly significant issues that DC faces as a city without a state.

Jamie said...

Well, yeah, I agree about this issue it isolation. I'm not riled up about the ballston douchebags in particular.

But this is symptomatic of DC's long history of making policies that take what could be the greatest city in the US, and making it so very hard to live here.

The population of DC in 1950 was 800,000. This has steadily declined to a low of about 565K in 1998. Since then it has started rising, but very slowly, to only about 592K last year. We are still 200K below the maximum sixty years ago.

At a time when DC is finally seeing people move back in, which is vital for improving neighborhoods with empty homes and increasing the tax base, the last thing we should be doing is giving people reasons not to live in DC.

So I really don't give a crap about the out-of-staters in general, but when this policy is high on the list of complaints people have about living and visiting DC - which it is -- you can bet the bottom line is affected.

Anon OP said...


Hey, but as long as we're holding up NYC as an example of traffic laws that make more sense, at least we in DC can make right turns at a red light.

Anonymous said...

First time I've heard NYC parking regs implied to be sane.

Ask people who live there, and you'll find pretty uniform hatred of parking rules, and DC-like aggressive enforcement of every last jiggle and tot, not just on commuters but on everyone driving a car.

Oh, and you cannot park right up to a stop sign, thankyouverymuch. Were that were true.