Surge parking rates coming to parts of DC

Drivers in one of the busiest parts of D.C. may be stunned when they see the changes coming to some parking meter rates. The D.C. Department of Transportation is looking to implement what is known as "surge pricing" for parking meters in Chinatown and Penn Quarter--and it won't be long before the new rates become a reality.

Changes could come as early as this coming spring to some locations--including a stretch of 7th St. NW near the Verizon Center. A total of about 1,300 street spaces would be part of the "surge zone."

Currently, meters in that same zone are $2 an hour for parking, a fee drivers can pay by credit card or via app. But when the pilot project starts during peak demand--which includes late afternoons and evenings--what is currently a $2 per hour fee could soar as high as $8. And yes, that's per hour.

As you might imagine, many drivers say they think that's ridiculous.

Many people who spoke to FOX 5's Tom Fitzgerald on Monday said they didn't even know there were changes in the works. The adjustments are part of the August amendment to the 2016 budget plan. D.C. officials claim it will all lead to greater turnover of spots, and more opportunities for drivers to park--as well as a reduction in the amount of traffic caused by drivers circling and looking for spaces.

Because there are different levels of traffic on different days, the key to the surge pricing will be smart parking stations. They know how many cars are parked at any given moment, as well as the size of the current supply of open spots, which will determine whether the price goes up, or down.

AAA's John Townsend says he has tracked this issue for years. He calls the pilot program a "regressive tax" that will amount to a small business killer. He says the city writes 1.8 million parking tickets a year, and generates between $80 and $90 million in parking ticket revenue each year, and between $40 and $50 million in parking meter fees.

The city has invested $1.5 million in this technology. Townsend says no city spends that kind of money unless they think they'll be able to make a big return on their investment.

DDOT released the following statement to FOX 5:

"One of our top priorities at DDOT is to address traffic congestion throughout the district. We are doing that through the use of technology, innovative ideas and best practices gleaned from across the country. The Penn Quarter-Chinatown Parking Pilot is just one such example. The pilot includes an examination of demand pricing at approximately 1,000 metered on-street spaces.

Under the model, parking rates can increase or decrease. The price adjustments will be made using a data-driven approach and adjusted quarterly. DDOT expects the first price adjustment in 2016. An app will be developed to let people know in real-time where the available spaces are and how much they cost.

It is anticipated that the program will significantly enhance customers' parking experience by providing them with information on parking availability and cost, reduce the amount of time it takes to find an open parking spot, and reduce roadway congestion by eliminating the need to circle around the block to find an open parking space."