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Preliminary results from DC's multifamily parking study: there's too much parking

The District Department of Transportation and the District Office of Planning are conducting a survey of parking utilization, which will be completed in early 2015 and help inform future developments.
The study kicked off this year and will be complete by early 2015. The collected data will be put on a free, map-based website that is expected to be ready by early 2015 for use by the public, developers, ANCs and government agencies.
“We expect to develop a robust model of predictive parking utilization throughout the district,” said Jonathan Rogers, project manager for the study.
Parking utilization is defined as the number of parking spaces on site that are occupied versus the total number of parking spaces on site. Put another way, how many parking spaces are available versus parking demand?
The project is taking a two-fold approach to collecting data. Rogers aims to interview a ballpark figure of 100 to 150 property managers for information on the number of units and number of parking spaces used in their bulidings. He is also conducting a count of the number of parking spaces in private garages and lots throughout the District.
Rogers says the website will be interactive. Users will be able to find local parking information like availability and cost, and predictive scenarios as well. “What happens if transit comes to an area? What if the area gets more jobs?” he says. “The website is not only for the present but the future.”
The District study is based on a similar survey conducted a few years ago by King County in Washington State, an area that includes Seattle and its suburbs. Paid for by the Federal Highway Administration, “it put out the tools to look at parking utilization. It was cutting-edge research and it filled an important void,” said Rogers.
The District is funding the local study. The genesis, says Rogers, is the amount of development going on in the District, coupled with the fact that the existing parking data and tools were either outdated or based on a suburban collection model.
“They weren’t useful resources for urban situations,” he says. “There was a data gap we intend to fill.”
Parking has become a contentious issue. “Everyone is coming at it from their own process,” Rogers says of developers and neighbors who have different agendas and government agencies whose goal is to make the right decision about parking. Since building parking spaces is expensive (and more so in the District than in the suburbs), developers don't want to build more parking than necessary, but neighbors often have concerns about the loss of street parking or congestion on their streets.
Two zoning boards in the District have a say over parking. One is the Board of Zoning Adjustment that hears parking variance requests; the other, the Zoning Commission, which reviews planned unit developments, which often including parking provisions.
“They want the decisions they make to be correct, based on data and not have a negative impact,” says Rogers.
Moreover, the Office of Planning will use the study data “to inform parking-related discussions,” he said. The study may also support, or at least inform, the minimum parking reductions proposed in D.C.'s endless zoning-code rewrite.
So far, Rogers has interviewed 40 of the roughly 150 property managers. A preliminary finding is that the number of parking spaces available in garages and lots is higher than the number of spaces used. 
“It’s an interesting finding,” he said, “and one similar to what King County found.”

Read more articles by Barbara Pash.

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