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City to Extend Visitor Parking Pass Program

By Brady HoltCurrent Staff Writer

Residents in all sections of the city will next year join the District’s visitor parking pass program, in which each household on a Residential Parking Permit block receives a placard that waives two-hour parking limits.

D.C. Department of Transportation spokesperson Monica Hernandez said that the passes will become available citywide on Oct. 1, 2013. The agency’s director obtained the authority to expand the program under recent emergency rulemaking, which also renewed the permits for areas already participating.

Wards 3, 4 and 5, along with portions of wards 1 and 6, have already been using the visitor passes, and the program expanded to include all of Ward 1 this month.

The passes supplement those available at police stations, which are designated for specific cars at specific times.

Though generally popular for their convenience, visitor parking passes have been controversial in some neighborhoods. Residents’ concerns have focused on potential abuse of the passes, and their ability to increase parking congestion.

For instance, Ward 1 got parking passes only as part of D.C. Council legislation, with advisory neighborhood commissions granted the right to opt out. The Adams Morgan area joined the program only after heated debate and a nearly split vote from the neighborhood commission in April.

Hernandez said she didn’t know why there was no public deliberation about expanding the visitor parking pass program citywide, but she emphasized that the agency will seek input on its implementation from residents and other stakeholders over the coming months.

In June, Transportation Department officials had asked the D.C. Council to hold off on other changes to parking policies, such as parking passes for contractors, pending a comprehensive review of the visitor pass program. Newly hired “parking czar” Angelo Rao also said then that the agency was preparing to study the city’s entire parking inventory and collect public comment from a series of “think tank” meetings, which kick off Tuesday.

Hernandez said the citywide expansion of the visitor passes doesn’t mean the details of the program are settled. “At this point, we’re exploring things,” she said. “We’re certainly looking for people to voice their thoughts, opinions, questions, about this and the whole parking program.”

Among the items that remain undetermined is whether advisory neighborhood commissions, like in Ward 1, will be able to vote to opt out of receiving the passes, Hernandez said. Andrew Huff, spokesperson for Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, wrote in an email that “as seems to be the protocol citywide, we would look to the ANCs in Ward 2 to gauge interest and support” for visitor passes.

Hernandez said now that the agency has the authority to send out the passes, it can work on improving the program. “The idea was, let’s have a tool in our box that we can tweak if and where necessary,” she said.

This article appears in the Aug. 22 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.