National Park Service Plans to Put Parking Meters Around Mall

Officials aim to increase visitor numbers by getting rid of free parking and adding a bus route.

By: Benjamin Freed

Parking along much of the Mall is free, at least for those drivers lucky enough to nab a spot, but it won’t be for much longer if the National Park Service has its way. The park service plans to install parking meters around the Mall later this year in an attempt to increase visitor numbers and encourage tourists to use public transportation, including a new Circulator bus route.

Currently, parking is free along Madison and Jefferson drives, a stretch of Constitution Avenue, Northwest, Ohio Drive, and three parking lots in West Potomac Park. But at a February 11 public meeting, the park service will share its plans to install parking meters in those locations, affecting about 1,900 spaces in total.

Park service officials believe that by charging for parking, they will encourage more turnover and bring more people to the parks, monuments, and museums that line the Mall. The meters, which could be installed after six months of public engagement, would be “pay-and-display” units, in which a single meter covers multiple parking spaces and can also be replenished via smartphone apps. Many blocks throughout downtown DC and Georgetown are already outfitted with the devices.

The parking meters would be followed up in 2015 with the re-introduction of a Circulator bus line around the Mall. The Circulator service used to run a Mall route on summer weekends through 2011, but the bus was cancelled due to low ridership.