Common complaint: Busted or baffling meters
I've already got a bunch of letters responding to my column about Metro's upcoming decisions about fares and service and my Commuter page story on the changes in the D.C. street parking rules. Here's one about the parking situation that reflects a common concern. I'll publish more here and in upcoming columns.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I live in Southwest Washington and bike to work and to most events in the evening, unless it's very cold or rainy. I have noticed the dramatic increase in meter fees, and would accept this reluctantly were it not for the fact that the system has some serious faults: Many of the machines are out of order and those that work are difficult to use.
A couple of weeks ago, I parked on 9th Street NW (Chinatown) and had to visit three parking machines before I found one that worked. I even had to ask a parking enforcement agent where I could find one, since those close to the car were out of order. By the time I got back to my car (about 10 minutes later), I had gotten a ticket from a colleague of his, which of course enraged me.
Yesterday, I parked on 10th Street NW (intersection E Street), and the machine close by the car was broken (a credit card was stuck in it) but the second machine I visited worked. However, the machines have a manufacturing problem: They ask you to push the credit card all the way in, but if you do, so little of it remains outside that it is nearly impossible to pull it back out.
And if your fingers are frozen stiff or sweaty -- both common occurrences in DC -- it is impossible to do this quickly as one is urged to do by the machine. And so the transaction is canceled, causing great consternation. I had to ask a man, who had fatter fingers and a a stronger grip, to help me pull out my credit card.
I just spent two years in Miami and there they have excellent machines that not only spit out your credit card when it has been read, but also allow you to pay by cellular phone, requiring no hassle with cards or quarters. Maybe bureaucrats in DC should have done their research better before investing in what I presume is a very expensive new system that is proving to be very frustrating to many of its users.
-- Isabel Hagbrink
The District, aware of how many people are bothered by the condition of the meters, is planning some pilot projects that will test convenient and user-friendly parking systems of the type found elsewhere in this country and overseas. Look to see some in use later this year.
The D.C. government had approved various changes in the street parking system over the past year that require changes in the meters and the street signs. The District Department of Transportation figured it had better get on with making those changes and didn't want to have to change the 100,000 street signs and 17,000 meters more than once in a short period of time, so it went ahead with the current plan.
January 11, 2010; 9:26 AM ET
Categories: Driving | Tags: DC traffic, District Department of Transportation, Dr. Gridlock, parking enforcement
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