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Fund National Mall Upkeep with Parking Revenue?

The Washington Post editors get behind the idea of paid parking on the streets within the National Mall, to support improvements and upkeep for what is currently a dire situation. A letter to the editor last week suggested the idea, born out of observations that employees and business-goers to Mall buildings were snatching up the spots instead of visitors. Here’s an excerpt:

End the practice of free parking. We called a spokesman for the National Park Service, which controls the Mall; the spokesman at first pooh-poohed the idea — and then called back to say that paid parking is being considered. That’s good news, because the proposal makes a lot of sense from both fiscal and environmental standpoints……. There are some 1,200 spots, mainly along Jefferson and Madison drives between 3rd and 14th streets and along Constitution Avenue west of 17th Street. That could generate as much as $4 million a year if the park service were to adopt the same formula of meter fees as the city employs.

This would likely be a drop in the bucket compared to the $350 million in deferred maintenance on the Mall, but it is a practical way to draw some money, espeically if Congress continues its failure to recognize just how much the Mall needs a total makeover. (The core area of the Mall receives over 10 million visitors per year, much more than the 3 million expected at the Capitol itself and its $621 million visitor center Congress funded.)

Even better, a paid parking policy would encourage users to take transit to the Mall, and reduce the pressure to provide parking by putting a market rate on it. (Our article on parking in parks suggested such a strategy last year for significant city parks.)

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One Response

  1. This is an excellent idea. There have been several studies and a great book – http://www.amazon.com/High-Cost-Free-Parking/dp/1884829988 – written about the actual high cost of having free parking in urban areas. In a nutshell, we should probably be charging market rates for our on-street parking spaces and not allowing people to park for free or virtually nothing at all.

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