Why weekend parking is still free
Among the bazillion ideas submitted for public discussion during the Metro budget hearings was a proposal to charge for parking on weekends at the Metro lots and garages. On the editorial page of Thursday's Post a writer questions why the transit authority decided not to do that.
This is the letter:
Metro's free-parking blunder
Metro is raising fares at the front door and letting money go out the back door.
On Sunday, my husband and I drove to the Shady Grove Metro parking lot to board the Red Line for downtown Gallery Place. We paid the new 18 percent higher fare and six hours later returned and left without being charged the $4.75 parking fee. This is usually the case on weekends and late at night. Does this make any sense?
Could it be that Metro does not want to hire personnel to staff the parking lots? Come on. In this technological world, they aren't really needed. The present signage is clear: You need a SmarTrip card to exit the parking lot. If this is really a problem for those without SmarTrip cards, put in a credit card machine. It would pay for itself in time.
I don't relish paying $4.75 if I don't have to, but look at the big picture: When Metro is raising rates because of budget deficits and a safety record that worries many riders, I wonder why management ever lets people park for free. Metro management needs to look beyond fares as the answer to budget deficits.
Julie A. Trueman, Germantown
DG: Metro would love to make more money. Board members and staff were virtually begging the public to present ideas on how to squeeze some more cash out of any part of the system.
The staff did consider the idea of charging on weekends but decided that if Metro did that, it could wind up losing money. Their thinking illustrates some of the difficulties of setting prices for transit services.
Staffing the parking areas. After all these years, many people still get in the exit line at the lots and garages without realizing they need a SmarTrip card, or in some cases a credit card, to make their payment and get the gate to open. Plus, the exit machines sometimes break down. Whenever Metro charges for parking, it needs to have parking personnel available to handle such problems.
Parking at some stations might cover the personnel costs, say at Greenbelt on an afternoon when there's a Nationals game. But systemwide, it wouldn't be worth it.
Why not drive? If people calculated that they had to pay for parking on weekends, then pay for a round trip Metrorail ride, many would figure out that it's cheaper to drive. The District enforces its parking meter rules on Saturdays in many areas, but not on Sundays. So driving in might not only be cheaper but also easier. Metro would get no revenue at all from people who see it that way.
Metro did just raise the price of reserved parking by $10, to $65 per month, because the demand was there.
Note on parking: Metro does have plans for a long-needed fix in the parking system. The transit authority is going to greatly expand the number of stations where drivers can use credit cards, as well as SmarTrip cards, to pay for parking. Right now, only a half dozen stations have an exit lane that accepts both types of payments. They are Anacostia, Franconia-Springfield, Largo, Vienna, Shady Grove and New Carrollton.
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