Staff Editorial: D.C. should limit parking meter fees for farmers markets

The Petworth Community Market operates on Saturdays from May to November at 9th and Upshur streets NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/May 2015)

D.C.’s farmers markets are a valuable neighborhood amenity. They provide farm-fresh produce and other goods, and they serve as a venue for community-building. That public benefit is why the District doesn’t charge its usual public space permit fees to farmers markets, provided they serve customers who pay through government assistance programs.

But the District’s generosity doesn’t extend to parking fees. If a farmers market occupies a street with parking meters, the market must pay the meter’s hourly rate for any space that it’s blocking. Especially after the city increased its meter rate to $2.30 per hour last summer — up from $2 on busy streets and a mere 75 cents in many other locations — markets quickly began feeling the pinch.

At least one, the Petworth Community Market on Upshur Street NW, scaled back its entertainment options and warned that it might have to shut down due to the city’s high parking meter fees.

We fully endorse a D.C. Council bill authored by Ward 4 member Brandon Todd and co-introduced by five of his colleagues that would cap a farmers market’s parking meter fees at $50 per day. While a weekly farmers market operating year-round would still owe $2,600 annually, that’s a significant improvement over the $8,841.69 assessed to the Petworth market in 2017.

The $50 daily rate recoups some of the cost associated with lost parking spaces, but it also allows farmers markets greater flexibility to spend their sometimes limited budgets on more than just meter fees.

Farmers markets already provide a great civic benefit to the city. The District doesn’t also need to milk them for parking meter revenue.