You Can Order VPPs for 2015 Now

DDOT has opened up its system for ordering 2015 Visitor Parking Passes.  Go here and select “Pre-register for a 2015 VPP” at the bottom of the page, then follow the prompts.  If you have a problem with your address, call DDOT at 202-671-2700 and talk with a staff person.

The addresses in the system were cobbled together from several different DDOT databases and don’t seem to have been “synchronized.”  It is inevitable that some addresses people enter and the form in which they enter them will generate various types of error messages.  When I did my request, I simply entered my address as “# Street name Type SE” and my address popped right up.  Others have been told to enter just the # and Street name without any caps or punctuation.  This is the minimalist method of querying databases.  If you want to fiddle with the system, go right ahead.  But, my suggestion is to simply call the DDOT number and let the staff person figure it out for you.

The website also has a link to complete information on the VPP system.  Eligibility is explained in full there or you can go to my VPPs Change. Somewhat. article and read point #5.

VPPs Change. Somewhat.

DDOT has proposed rules for the annual Visitor Parking Pass (VPP) system that was first introduced in 2007 in some parts of DC.  Most residents within ANC6B became eligible late last year.  On September 9, ANC6B will be voting on comments on the proposed rulemaking recommended by the 6B Transportation Committee.  See the Committee’s September report for details.

Here’s some important information about current and future VPPs:

  1. The current VPPs show an expiration date of September 30, 2014.  However, DDOT has extended this expiration date to December 31, 2014.  The agency will be mailing a postcard notice of this to all households who received FY2014 passes.
  2. In the future, VPPs will be issued by calendar year.  Thus, the next VPP will be for the year 2015.
  3. DDOT will not automatically mail out any 2015 passes. Everyone who wants one will have to “opt in” by requesting a 2015 pass either by telephone (202) 673-6813 or online.
  4. You cannot apply for this 2015 pass until the proposed rules are finalized … sometime in October.  If you apply too early you will receive an FY2014 pass (if you don’t already have one).  If you still want an FY2014 pass, order it soon.  UPDATE 9/26: DDOT will accept requests for 2015 passes starting on October 1 and plan to mail out 2015 passes in December.
  5. Ward 6 residents who live on a Resident Permit Parking (RPP) block are eligible for a VPP but only one will be issued per “housing unit” defined as “a single family home (attached, semi-detached, or detached), a residential unit in a condominium, a residential cooperative unit, a residential unit in a flat, or a residential apartment in an apartment building.”  (If the website VPP request system rejects your address, call the number above or the one on the home page of the website and a staff person can probably approve it as long as it’s a valid address.)

Other Permits  The proposed rulemaking includes a section on on Temporary Home Heath Care Provider Parking Permits and Temporary Visitor Parking Permits.  Both of these permits exist now and there are no changes in them; DDOT has included them in the proposed rulemaking so that all similar parking pass systems are in one place in Chapter 24 of Title 18 of DCMR.  The Health Care permit is obtained from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  The Temporary Visitor permit is, as most know, obtained from MPD and is valid for up to 15 days.

Enforcement et cetera  At a meeting with DDOT on the VPP proposed rulemaking, I was told that Parking Enforcement officials (Department of Public Works) will soon carry devices enabling them to scan the ID# on a VPP to determine if it is valid.  Currently, DDOT sends information about reported and voided stolen or lost VPPs to DPW but it is not clear that parking enforcement officers use the information in any way.  I was also told that 2015 VPPs will be mailed to the name of the person applying rather than “current resident.”  That person will, then, become responsible for assuring that their VPP is not used fraudulently.

NOTE:  This posting is an edited version of a Beat26 Newsletter I sent out to subscribers on 9/8/2014.  See Contact Me above If you wish to be on that email list

It’s All About Parking?

As an ANC Commissioner I spend most of my time on parking.  Parking passes, parking enforcement, parking signs, parking this, parking that …

So it is not a surprise to me to see that the recent 6B committee votes in support of the Office of Planning’s draft proposal to remove minimum off site parking requirements in certain zoning categories has caused a storm of protest.  Some of it is quite understandable because residents have come to depend on public space to park their cars.  But some of it is off the mark based on a misunderstanding of the proposals.  Some of it is a bit elitist: I’m inside; now shut the door and don’t let anyone else in.  

These new zoning proposals, of which parking is just one of many issues, are intended to set the stage for the next 40 years of development in DC.  We have trouble predicting what technology will be available years ahead to facilitate the movement of people and goods but we do know that we can’t continue to add vehicles to our roads.  Two really good related reasons why: increasing congestion and increasing pollution.  Plus climate change.  So, yes, an objective of some of the proposals is to reduce the impact of vehicles on all of us now and in the future and one way is to make parking them less attractive.

So, the proposals simply remove existing minimums for new developments, be they one house or multiple units in an apartment building.  A large portion of 6B is in the Capitol Hill Historic District.  Nothing changes for this large area under these new parking proposals because historic district residential zones are already exempt from the off site requirement.  In any case, removing minimums does not mean developers won’t provide any off street parking.

But, changing zoning is not enough.  City officials need to do more.  The current Residential Permit Parking system is sorely in need of an overhall.  Why do we let an unlimited number of vehicles per household pay $35 per year for permits to park curbside?  This, when renting an offsite private space might cost $100 or more per month?

We also need to build more attractive, efficient, reliable transit systems.  Under the MoveDC initiative to plan DC transportation 30 years out, maybe we will do that.

Some think I am “anti-auto” because I don’t own a car and, thus, don’t fully understand the frustration of seeking a parking space.  Not true.  I haven’t owned an automobile for over 40 years.  I sold my beloved racing green TR-4 back when I lived at the base of Russian Hill in San Francisco.  One day I realized that I wasn’t moving my car but, rather electing to walk or take transit to where ever I wanted to go because I didn’t want to have to search for a parking space when I returned home.  When I factored in the cost of that car that mainly sat curbside, I sold it.  And, have been car-less since.  I understand frustration.  What I don’t understand is why frustrated DC “parkers” don’t do what I did.  And, I did it long before people dreamed up neat alternatives like Zipcar, Car2Go, Uber, and so on.

I know that everyone can’t give up their automobiles.  But, more could.


Transportation Moves on The Hill

Maybe it was setting up and chairing a 6B Transportation Committee in 2011 that opened my eyes to the slew of transportation projects affecting Hill denizens.  Maybe there is a recent spurt in such activity and I would have noticed anyway.  But, spurt there is!

If you drive, bike or walk around or through Capitol Hill, get ready for some near- and long-term changes.  And, lots of studying.

We should all be aware of the 11th Street Bridges Project; it has been underway for several years now.  But, what changed in late 2012 and will be ongoing in 2013 and 2014 is a focus of the work on the Capitol Hill side of the Anacostia River.  Once the fourth vehicle lane and a pedestrian/bike lane of the Local 11th Street Bridge is completed in Spring 2013, the bridges themselves will be done.  What then remains is making all the new connections, removing old ones, and converting a portion of the SE Freeway into a boulevard.

The conversion will be fascinating to watch, I think, (it’s a big trench to fill) but cause commuters used to the SE Freeway/Sousa Bridge route between DC and MD some headaches until they learn the new I695 to I295 route via the 11th Street freeway bridge.  Between January 22 & 25, the SE Freeway between 8th Street SE and Barney Circle was reduced to one lane eastbound.  As of January 31, the route will be closed for 18-20 months while the roadway is filled to raise it to local street elevation.  Eventually, there will be an signalized intersection at 11th Street SE.

Linked to the Bridges Project is the upcoming Barney Circle NEPA Environmental Assessment.  Under this EA, the balance of the SE Freeway conversion to a boulevard will be designed and Barney Circle and environs will be redesigned.  Of course, studying and deciding does not constitute “doing” so one of the big questions for all the studies mentioned here is funding availability.  The date of the first public meeting on the Barney Circle project has been set for Thursday 21 February, 630pm to 830pm, at Payne Elementary School, 1445 C Street SE.

Pedestrians who crisscross Pennsylvania and Potomac Avenues and 14th Street SE going to and from the Potomac Metro and the many Metro bus lines, should definitely get involved in the Pennsylvania-Potomac Avenue Intersection Pedestrian Safety Study.  This kicks off with a public meeting on 31 January at Payne Elementary School, 1445 C Street SE, from 630pm to 830pm.  The study of alternatives follows on the heels of previous attempts to solve the problems.  Those who drive through these intersections on a regular basis will also want to know how various options that eventually will be proposed may affect their current routes.  [Update: Presentation materials from January 31 meeting are available on above site.  Officials expect to complete the study by Summer 2013.]

For a year or more, the community has been engaged in the CSX Railroad’s proposed Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project.  CSX is proposing to widen and deepen the existing 100-year old tunnel that runs between 3rd Street to 12th Street SE, basically underneath Virginia Avenue SE and Virginia Avenue Park.  The rationale is to enable CSX to run double-stacked cars through the tunnel in both directions to handle expected increases in freight traffic once the new Panama Canal opens in 2015 or so.

The NEPA process for this VAT project has been underway since September 2011 and rumor has it that a draft EIS (originally scheduled for late 2012) will be released in early 2013.   So far, five public meetings have been held during which construction alternatives have been narrowed down from 10 to 4.  All 4, one of which is a “no-build” alternative, will be fully evaluated in the draft EIS.   Running separately but concurrently with the EIS evaluation is a “Section 106” process that will evaluate the historic preservation impacts of the construction.  A public meeting will be held on the draft once it is released and everyone will have a period of time (30 days? 45 days?) within which to provide written comments.

Last year ANC6B finally convinced DDOT to “do something” about the pedestrian hazards created by excessive speeding along 17th & 19th Streets SE.  DDOT conducted a 17th & 19th Street Safety Improvement Study and did so in record time over the Summer of 2012 with the participation of many residents.  At the final public meeting in September 2012, participants fully supported the draft conclusions.  ANC6B voted unanimously to support the draft plan at its October 2012 meeting.  Now, the pressure is on to make sure the funding is available to make the many sidewalk, parking, and intersection changes dictated by the study.

More narrowly focused than any of the above is an ANC6B request for DDOT to study vehicle traffic patterns on 4th & 5th Streets SE between East Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue SE.  The problems here include backups on southbound 4th Street during commute hours that encourage drivers to use 2-way 5th Street, which is not designed as an arterial, as an alternative.  This study is being done by DDOT staff (as opposed to a DDOT contractor) and 6B awaits the results with suggested solutions.

Sometime this year, DDOT will establish a Management of Traffic (MOT) plan for the construction of the Hine project (due to begin in Fall 2013).  This MOT will determine, among other things, truck routes on and off the site and through Capitol Hill, which sidewalks can be closed and under what circumstances, and any road closures.  Along with the directly affected merchants and residents, ANC6B will be involved in the design of the MOT.

Somewhat peripheral to those living within 6B borders but central to SE residents and businesses within 6D and the Capitol Riverfront BID, was a study DDOT conducted in 2012 on along M Street SE/SW.  This study has been completed but is just a preamble to a more detailed NEPA process on transit needs for the area.  Meanwhile, some of the short-term solutions identified in the study may be implemented.

Once people in vehicles get where they are going, they need a parking space. DC’s Department of Transportation has just completed a series of Parking ThinkTanks to gather thoughts from residents and businesses about parking.  The Parking Summit document lists a long catalog of issues; many old but some new.  But, where does DC go next with this?  It is not clear to me at this time.

On top of all this … DC just announced a MoveDC project to “develop a bold and implementation-vision for our city’s transportation future.”  The first public meeting–a MoveDC Idea Exchange–will occur on Saturday 9 February at MLK, Jr. Library from 930am to 300pm.

In the meantime, 6B’s Transportation Committee has identified several issues it may consider in 2013.  Among them are: parking enforcement, sidewalk repairs, the effect of the new 11th Street bridges on traffic within 6B, Bike share stations, and dangerous intersections and speed camera requests.

So, what’s your transportation issue?




Residential Parking Near Barracks Row

The growth of restaurants and taverns along Barracks Row is a positive development for Capitol Hill but has created various problems for residents living nearby.  Solving these problems will take, I think, a multifaceted approach.  As part of that process, Commissioner Norman Metzger (ANC6B03) and I (ANC6B04)–with invaluable help from Commissioner Garrison–have been discussing with DDOT some options to change the residential parking scheme near Barracks Row.  Attached is a document that lays out the results of those discussions to date.  We are releasing this “Draft Proposal on Changes to Residential Parking in Blocks Near Barracks Row” to generate a conversation with affected residents.  So, please let us know what you think.

Update (Jan 16): With one exception, all the many comments I have received on these proposals came as direct replies to my Beat 26 email.  Here is a preliminary summary: (1) general support for lowering the parking fee for the city Lot under the freeway, plus many other suggestions offered on ways to encourage people to park cars there and away from residential areas, (2) general support for extension of the Zone 6 Only area to, say, 11th Street SE on the east, and (3) general support for extending RPP hours to later in the evening.  Plus … an offering of a myriad of other options.

Draft Proposal on Parking Near Barracks Row Jan2011