About the Program Review
- Why was a program review started?
The County Manager initiated a review of RPP, with the endorsement of the County Board for two reasons:
- In the few years prior, residents had submitted an unusually large number of petitions to get RPP restrictions. However, when staff studied parking on these streets, most did not meet the program’s criteria.
- The County had granted RPP restrictions in one Arlington neighborhood, which then upset nearby residents. Resident arguments for and against the restrictions in this neighborhood highlighted long-standing disagreements about the program’s fairness and purpose.
These events indicated that residents wanted the program to manage parking in ways that the program was not designed to do, and that a review of the program was needed.
- How did staff engage the public in developing the proposed RPP program?
Staff began in the summer 2018 by asking the public about on-street parking in residential areas, in general. Through a series of pop-up events and an online comment form, staff identified major themes about RPP from the more-than-1,600 responses received.
In the fall of 2018, staff hosted a series of three community forums organized around the themes identified with over 200 people in attendance (for details about the forums, view). The forums helped staff get insights into what the public thinks works and does not work about the program, discover areas of agreement and disagreement, and identified additional topics that were not apparent during the initial public input.
Using the insights from the forums, staff developed a household survey with a consultant in Spring 2019. Survey invitations went to 60,000 County households, and about 4,500 residents answered questions about their perceptions of the RPP Program, as well as preferences for the future of the RPP Program (for details about the survey view)
- How would the proposed RPP program differ from the current program?
The proposed program:
- Expands the number of households eligible to petition for restrictions and join the program
- Links the maximum number of annual permits that households in RPP zones can receive to whether that household has off-street parking and reduces the maximum number each household can receive.
- Provides more options for short-term visitors and service providers
- Introduces a limited number of permits for elementary, middle and high school employees as well as employees who work at group homes
- Raises permit and pass fees to end general tax support for the program while offering a discount for low-income households
- Changes the petition process by removing the “out-of-area” test while raising the thresholds for parking occupancy and the share of households supporting the petition
For more information, view the description of the proposed program and administrative procedures.
- How has the purpose of the program changed?
The purpose of the program has become broader over the years. In 1972, Arlington established the RPP program to prevent commuters from parking in neighborhoods. However, limiting some residents from getting RPP restrictions put on the streets where they live, and keeping them from obtaining permits to park on streets with RPP restrictions, goes back at least as far as the early 1990s.In 2002 and 2003, the County Board created new RPP zones in a residential area without a commuter parking problem, and defined vehicles belonging to residents of some apartment buildings as “from areas beyond the neighborhood.”
The proposed program manages both resident and non-resident parking by eliminating the out-of-area test for petitions, continues restrictions for both evening and weekend hours and continues to restrict residents of site plan and use permit buildings from receiving RPP permits.
- Does the proposed program impact existing zones?
Yes and no. Restrictions would remain on the streets where they are in place today and for the hours during which they are in place today. However, the metered two-hour parking and the maximum number of permits that each household would be able to get would apply to all RPP zones.
Additionally, where two different RPP zones border one another, the proposed program would replace the signage one block in either direction of the zone so that residents with permits and passes from either of the two zones could park on those streets. This change would provide more flexibility for residents who live at the edge of a zone. It would also simplify the current practice of giving some households at the edge of a zone permits for both zones.
- When would changes to the RPP program take effect?
If adopted by the County Board in January, the proposed changes would take effect for the program year that begins on July 1, 2021. New fees and limits on the number of annual permits that a household can obtain would begin with the annual renewal period in spring 2021.
Two changes would require replacing RPP regulatory signage: 1) allowing two-hour paid parking and 2) creating “transition” streets where permits from two zones are valid. The County would attempt to have all RPP regulatory signs changed before July 1, 2021, but the volume of work may require more time to complete. Existing signs would be enforced until they are replaced.
The schedule for offering permits to school staff would need to be determined.
In order to allow staff to focus on an orderly transition to the new program, staff would begin accepting petitions for new restrictions or changes to existing restrictions starting after the annual renewal period ends in July or August of 2021.
- Would this new policy still restrict commuter parking?
Mostly. Almost all commuters would be restricted from parking on streets during the hours of restriction because they would not be able to get permits or passes.
Some elementary, middle, and high school employees would be allowed to obtain permits so that they can park in RPP zones, as would employees of congregate living facilities located in RPP zones. As before, construction workers working on properties within the RPP zone, but who drive vehicles without the name of a company, would continue to be eligible to receive short-term permits.
- What changes have been made to the eligibility to participate in the program?
More households would be eligible to petition for restrictions on their street and, if granted, participate in the program.
All housing types would be eligible, except for buildings built by Site Plan, Unified Residential Development, Unified Commercial Mixed Use Development, Commercial Centers Form-Based Code Use Permit, or Neighborhoods Form-Based Code Use Permit approvals would not be eligible. Most new apartments and condos are built through these kinds of approvals.
- Why excluded residents living in buildings approved by site plan and certain use permits from participating in the program?
Developers who build homes with site-plan and certain kinds of use-permit approval can receive permission to build fewer parking spaces than the Arlington Zoning Ordinance requires, especially when those buildings are close to Metro. Excluding residents of these buildings limits the possibility that developers would—in order to save money—build less parking than they think their future residents will want, expecting that these residents would just park on County streets.
In general, Arlington residents are also more likely to support new townhomes, apartments, and condos if the residents of these new buildings do not park on the street. Excluding residents of site-plan and use-permit approved buildings then minimizes opposition to housing construction needed to fulfill housing production goals.
Permits and Passes
- How many permits could a household receive under the proposed program?
Households with off-street parking of any kind (a driveway, a carport, a garage, or a parking lot) would be able to receive up to two permits. Households without off-street parking may receive up to three.
- What type of permits would be available to eligible households?
Under the proposed program residents would apply for a vehicle specific permit, a FlexPass, or a combination of both up to the two- or three-permit cap. There is a limit of one FlexPass per household.
Like today, residents would also be able to apply for up to five booklets of 20 short-term-visitor passes, each good for three days.
People who own a home in a RPP zone but do not live there may apply for one landlord pass.
- Why make fewer permits available to residents with off-street parking?
Some Arlingtonians think it is unfair that residents with multiple off-street parking spaces can enjoy RPP restrictions. Also, survey responses indicate that people with RPP restrictions are more likely to park on street, rather than in the off-street parking that they have.
However, the Arlington Master Transportation Plan recognizes that—regardless of whether someone has off-street parking—that residents expect that “on‐street parking for their vehicles and those of their guests should be available for their use in the general vicinity of their residence.”
By tying the maximum number of permits that a household in an RPP zone can receive to the availability of off-street parking, the proposed program is a compromise between these two viewpoints. It also encourages residents to use the off-street parking that they have.
- Why lower the maximum number of annual permits from four (4) to two (2) or three (3)?
When the County introduced the current cap of four annual permits (three vehicle-specific permits and one FlexPass) per household, staff intentionally picked that number because it was larger than the number of vehicles that almost all households in the County had at the time. Setting a cap above the number of vehicles that almost all households own means that there is little incentive for households to use the off-street parking that they have; lowering the cap encourages households with multiple vehicles to use their off-street parking, leaving space for others.
Some residents believe that it would be better to make the number of permits unlimited but make the cost of permits much higher so that residents would be encouraged to park on their property. However, residents in the RPP program preferred managing parking by reducing the number of permits available over increasing prices.
Finally, limiting the number of permits available per household helps mitigate the potential impact to parking availability that would come from new households joining the RPP program under the expanded eligibility rules.
- How many households would be impacted by the lower permit cap?
Many households that buy annual permits would not be able to obtain as many as they do now. Using records from the FY2019 RPP administrative database, staff estimates that about 2,400 single-family detached households (or 44% of all households living in single-family detached homes that bought permits that year) buy more permits today than they would be allowed to obtain.
Staff is less certain about residents that live in townhomes, duplexes, apartments and condos in RPP zones, but estimate that anywhere from 300 to 500 (or 18% to 28%) of residents who buy permits and live in a duplex or townhome would not be allowed to get as many permits as they get under the current program. For residents of apartments and condos who buy permits, anywhere from 60 to 250 (or 3% to 13%) would not be able to get as many permits as they get now.
- Would residents with out-of-state vehicles be able to get permits?
Yes. Like today, as long as a vehicle is registered with the Arlington County Commissioner of Revenue at an address within an RPP zone, a resident would be able to obtain a permit for that vehicle.
- Why give permits to school staff?
When the County has approved school construction or expansion, some residents have supported schoolteachers and staff parking on neighboring streets because it leaves more space on the site for ball fields and green space. However, under the current program, neighbors can later ask for RPP restrictions that keeps school staff from parking on those streets. Allowing some teachers and staff to get RPP permits preserves the bargain between more green space and more parking on neighborhood streets.
Generally speaking, streets with RPP restrictions are less than half-full on weekdays, which means that there is capacity for some to park on street during the day. When Household Survey participants were asked who they might consider allowing to park on RPP streets, school staff and teachers were the most popular after service providers and landlords (click here for more details).
- Would the types and maximum number of visitor passes changing?
No. Households would still be allowed to receive up to five (5) books of twenty (20) short-term visitor passes per year. Households that choose to purchase a FlexPass would also be able to give the FlexPass to guests.
- How does the proposed program accommodate people working at my home?
In addition to the FlexPass and short-term-visitor passes, there would be options for people who provide home services to park in RPP zones.
Like today, vehicles providing home services in the RPP zone that are clearly marked with the organization/company’s name (e.g., FedEx, Verizon, etc.) would be exempt from restrictions. Good-in-all-zones permits would also be available for home-health aides, social workers, and others who routinely make service calls at homes.
Finally, the proposed program would formalize the existing practice of providing construction contractors who are working at a property within the RPP zone (and who do not have a vehicle marked with a company logo) with temporary permits.
- Would visitors be able park for a limited time without a permit/pass?
The proposed program would allow anyone without a pass or permit to park on RPP-restricted streets for up to two hours while restrictions are in effect. To make it easier for Arlington County Police to enforce the time limit, people parking without an RPP permit or pass would have to pay a fee through the ParkMobile service or by displaying an EasyPark device. No parking meters would be installed, but the rate would be the same as the County’s other short-term parking meters (currently $1.75 per hour).
- Would the fees for permits and passes change?
The fees for all residential permit passes would increase to cover the cost of the program.
The FlexPass and the first book of short-term visitor passes would no longer be provided free of charge. There would be a 50% discount on the FlexPass, Landlord Pass, vehicle-specific permits, and short-term visitor passes for eligible, low-income households.
Fees would be assessed each year and would go up or down depending on the cost to deliver the program. For the first year, the proposed prices would be:
- FlexPass and Landlord Pass: $40
- Vehicle-specific permits: $40 for the first permit, $55 for the second. For households that may receive three permits, $65 for the third.
- Short-term visitor books: $5 for the first book and $10 for each of the subsequent four (4) books.
- Good in All Zones permits: $40
- Temporary Contractor Permit: $10 for three months
- School staff and congregate living facility staff permits: $40
- Why not pay for the program out of general taxes?
The proposal has the program fully supported by user fees, not general taxes, for a few reasons:
- RPP is a voluntary program that restricts many and excludes some of the public from using a public resource.
- Only about 10% of County households are in an RPP zone.
- Even with expanded eligibility, the proposed program would remain unavailable to many residents.
- How would low-income residents be accommodated?
Residents who qualify for the following programs would be able to obtain a 50% discount on the cost of a FlexPass, Landlord Pass, vehicle-specific permit, and short-term visitor pass book:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Women Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
- SSI/SSDI Supplemental Security Income
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP),
Residents would need to submit proof of eligibility with their application for permits and passes.
- Why not price permits and passes so that they cost more in high-demand areas and less in low-demand areas?
Staff considered this as other communities have done.
However, when staff asked residents about how they want the program to manage parking, residents preferred capping the number of permits over using higher prices. Also, changing RPP permit and pass prices with demand would complicate the program and require more resources to implement, maintain and administer.
- Would the proposed program’s fees fund alternative transportation modes?
No. The proposed program’s fees would be set to cover the cost of administering and enforcing the RPP program only.
- I live in an RPP zone. If more households would be eligible to petition and join the program, won’t it be difficult for me to find parking on my street?
Possibly. This question is difficult to answer because:
- Even if households become eligible under the proposed program, not all of them would want to petition for restrictions. In the 2019 Household Survey, only 12% of residents in apartments or condos who did not already live in an RPP zone said that they wanted RPP restrictions; about 37% of residents in townhomes or duplexes and 17% of residents in single-family-detached homes said the same.
- Residents who want RPP restrictions may or may not be able to convince enough of their neighbors to support a petition.
- Some residents petition for restrictions on streets that do not meet the County’s occupancy requirements, and so their households are not added to an RPP zone. In recent years, about 64% of petitions resulted in the County granting RPP restrictions.
- If restrictions are granted, not everyone in the program would buy permits or the same number of permits.
- Lowering the maximum number of permits that a household in an RPP zone can get would likely encourage residents to make more use of their parking lots, garages, carports, or driveways. This could free up on-street parking spaces.
- Would letting anyone park in an RPP zone for two hours without a pass or permit make it harder to find parking?
Possibly. However, on the streets with RPP restrictions that staff studied, parking spaces are generally less than half full during the day. On the few streets that already have two-hour parking for people without a permit or pass where the County collected occupancy data, occupancy is sometimes higher by a few percentage points. This indicates that more spaces would be parked during the hours of restriction, but on those streets, the two-hour parking is free, so occupancy would likely not get as high as it is on those streets.
Allowing anyone to park for two hours without a permit or pass would give people visiting or working at homes in a RPP zone another option, when getting a visitor pass is not practical. Some people going to nearby businesses may choose to park on restricted streets for two hours, but since the parking would be paid, there would be no monetary incentive to park on a street with RPP restrictions instead of on a street with meters. Also, requiring payment would make it easier for Arlington County Police to enforce the two-hour limit.
- Would the program ensure that I can park in front of my home?
No. Attempting to ensure that only the resident of a particular home can park in front of that home would require keeping on-street occupancy very low, which would lead to an inefficient use of street parking. By allowing anyone with a permit to park on the street, there is flexibility for residents and visitors to park close to their destination. Street parking is owned by the County for public benefit and reserving it for a particular household would contradict that mission.
- How would the proposed program impact people with disabilities?
As with the current program, the proposed program makes no special provisions for people with disabilities. Arlington County offers a separate program through which residents with disabled placards and license plates may request that the County reserve an on-street space. Learn more about this program on our website under the heading “Residential Streets”.
- The Board lets developers build apartments and condos with fewer parking spaces than the Zoning Ordinance requires. Why should the people who live there get RPP permits and passes?
The Board only allows builders to construct new housing with fewer parking spaces than the Zoning Ordinance requires under the following permit processes:
- Site Plan
- Unified Residential Development
- Unified Commercial Mixed–Use Development
- Commercial Centers Form-Based Code Use Permit
- Neighborhoods Form-Based Code Use Permit.
Buildings approved in these ways would not be eligible to petition for RPP.
- How would the petition process change in the proposed program?
In the proposed program, 80% of the households on a block would need to sign in support of a petition for restrictions, up from 60% today.
To qualify for restrictions, the County would need to find on multiple occasions that more than 85% of the parking spaces on the petitioning block are occupied, up from 75% today. The proposed program would eliminate the 25% “out-of-area” test.
Also, petitions would need to include households from both sides of the street for an entire block, intersection to intersection (or from intersection to end of street). This would be different from the current program, where all households within a 100-address block petition (e.g., 1800 S Example St to 1899 S Example St).
- Why does the proposed program raise the occupancy threshold and remove the “out-of-area” test?
The RPP program has long required that the County find 75% of the parking spaces on a block are occupied and that 25% of the spaces are occupied by vehicles not registered to a nearby address (or are “out-of-area”) in order to grant restrictions.
The proposed program removes the 25% “out-of-area” test because the Department of Motor Vehicles and County Commissioner of Revenue data sources used to determine that a vehicle is “out-of-area” are not completely accurate for that purpose. For example, a vehicle may belong to a resident of the street petitioning for restrictions, but the owner may not have the vehicle properly registered. Also, if someone from out of town is visiting a home on the petitioning street when the County studies the parking on that street, then the vehicle would be counted as “out of area” even though they are there to visit a resident.
Removing the out-of-area test, while keeping the overall occupancy threshold at 75%, would make RPP restrictions easier to obtain and change the balance between “maximizing on‐street parking utilization with the residents’ desire for convenient on‐street parking” called for in the Master Transportation Plan. Increasing the occupancy threshold to 85% while removing the 25% out-of-area test would be a way to maintain that balance.
- Why would the petition signature threshold be higher?
The RPP program is controversial; some residents think that the program is essential to making parking convenient, while others see it as an improper way to restrict access to public space. Also, once restrictions are granted, they are likely to remain for a long time. For these reasons, the proposed program would require that nearly all residents on a block support a petition for RPP restrictions.
Enforceability of RPP Restrictions
- Would the hours of enforcement of existing RPP zones change?
No. The hours of enforcement for existing RPP zones would only be changed through a petition from residents.
- Would the amount of enforcement increase as part of the new program?
No. The frequency with which police patrol and ticket for RPP violations depends on police resources and operations, which are not part of the review.
- How would the policy changes make enforcement easier and reduce permit abuse?
This proposed program attempts to balance residents’ desire for a program that is flexible for them and their guests with the understanding that a flexible program is harder to enforce.
Permit abuse and enforcement were frequent topics of discussion during the County’s engagement in 2018. However, in the 2019 Household Survey, only one in four residents with RPP restrictions on their block wanted the County to simplify or reduce the types of permits that we offer in order to make the program easier to enforce. When asked whether they want a program that’s flexible or easy to enforce, half of residents in the RPP program said they preferred flexibility.
The proposed program keeps visitor parking options flexible, even though the FlexPass and short-term visitor passes are easy to sell or give to someone who does not live in the zone. By reducing the maximum number of permits per household, each FlexPass would be more valuable to the resident, which may prevent the selling or giving of the FlexPass to others not visiting the home.
- Why not get rid of the FlexPass to cut down on people selling or giving them to people who shouldn’t have them?
Eliminating the FlexPass would make parking more difficult for residents who use this pass appropriately to have a frequent visitor or in-home employee that uses the FlexPass to park.