OCTOBER 22, 2018

Five Reasons parkDC is Seeing Success

parkDC/Washington, DCCurbside space in a congested neighborhood is a scarce and valuable resource.

Not only do residents, visitors and commuters share a common need for parking, but curbside space plays a pivotal role in the way that people and goods move through a city. Delivery vehicles, transit buses, taxis and ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft are all vying for open spots to conduct efficient business and retain happy customers.

To maximize a limited resource, cities have begun to manage access to parking through demand-based pricing, a data-driven approach that updates parking pricing in real time to increase availability, mitigate illegal parking and reduce overall system congestion.

Demand-based pricing is effective – but the challenge lies in the assets required. The process typically requires placing a sensor in every on-street parking space, an option that isn’t financially sustainable or practical at a large scale.

From 2014 to 2017, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in Washington, DC, piloted parkDC: Penn Quarter/Chinatown, a program that tracks data in a new way to create a demand-based pricing system at a lower cost. This week at the National Parking Association Convention and Expo, Kittelson staff are excited to watch the District accept the “Innovative Organization of the Year” award for parkDC, a leading voice in the global conversation around sustainable parking solutions.

parkDC Paves the Way for Cost-Effective Performance Parking

More than a million commuters, visitors and residents utilize the District’s curbside parking to meet their daily needs. With networks experiencing high demand across the city, the need for parking solutions is clear.

DDOT saw the importance of piloting an “asset lite” program that would mitigate costs and be sustainable enough to expand to other neighborhoods if proved successful. Kittelson was excited to work with Conduent and DDOT to develop and implement parkDC, which captures and predicts occupancy using fewer assets in the field. Instead of placing a sensor in every parking space, the effort determines occupancy using spatial and temporal sampling, including partial sensor coverage, payment data, fixed and portable cameras, computer vision algorithms and other data inputs. This blend of data sources measures parking demand at a lower cost.

DDOT piloted the program in the Penn Quarter and Chinatown neighborhoods. At the end of the pilot, the number of block faces at target occupancy (70-90% in use) increased by 31%. Parking availability increased on high-demand blocks, and underutilized spaces found more takers. Data showed that the amount of time vehicles spent cruising for a spot decreased by as much as 15% during all time periods on weekdays and weekends.

Five Elements of Success

Why is the parkDC pilot program working so well? Our team has identified five core features of its success.


DDOT developed price changes based on the prevailing District-wide base price for on-street parking. On high-demand blocks, occupancy stabilized as the price to park went up. On low-demand blocks in the eastern portion of the pilot area when DDOT increased time limits in addition to lowering prices, the blocks experienced a 12% increase in occupancy during weekday evenings, and a 14-minute increase in length of stay during weekday evenings.


DDOT kept the public, policymakers, and other stakeholders informed about the progress of the pilot. Press releases, public presentations, DDOT’s project website, social media channels, and other outreach tools helped DDOT raise awareness and collect feedback from residents, commuters, community leaders and business representatives.


Information about parking availability can help customers find an open parking space and enhance customer experience associated with finding a space. Two mobile apps, parkDC and VoicePark, developed as part of the pilot, provide customers with real-time information about parking availability and pricing.

Time Limits

DDOT increased time limits in the evenings and on weekends in portions of the pilot area where demand was especially low to make those areas more attractive to parking customers.


Understanding real-time parking availability typically requires expensive data-collection technology. DDOT took a methodical approach to identify the right mix of data-collection technologies to support the demand-based pricing program with a strategic selection of assets that blend to deliver data without the high cost of a sensor in every parking space.

Through parkDC: Penn Quarter/Chinatown, DDOT is directly influencing customers’ ability to find and pay for parking. Kittelson is excited to play a role in continuing this momentum.

Demand-Based Parking Solutions: What’s the Future?

There are many reasons why demand-based parking remains on the rise. The use of demand-based pricing allows agencies like DDOT to more fairly manage curbside space and better utilize public space through a targeted, data-driven approach that helps balance supply and demand.

Demand-based pricing provides a crucial piece to the puzzle when it comes to managing congestion in vibrant, busy cities. The act of searching for high-demand parking spots (circling for parking, and double parking) directly contributes to downtown congestion. By increasing available parking and making it easier for customers to find spaces, demand-based pricing programs help alleviate congestion.

Additionally, demand-based parking has a positive impact on driving safety – leading to less circling and fewer unsafe maneuvers – and the data-driven approach is key for telling a clear story of why parking pricing decisions are being made.

Our team is committed to thoughtfully testing alternative technologies and employing data-driven solutions to meet the parking needs of today’s cities. Learn more about Kittelson’s work in operations.