D.C. parking garages can be costly, but public-space options are the sore spot

Robert Thomson
Columnist January 17, 2013

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your readers love to grumble about Metro, including parking problems at its stations. Other parking venues are no bargain, either. My son went to a college interview on a Sunday and parked on G Street NW, only to get dinged $15 for a stay of less than an hour.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region. View Archive

He says that the rates were posted in such a way that you could see them only after taking a ticket and entering. Even if he missed something, that’s an outrageous charge. Maybe other readers would love to inundate you with horror stories of private-enterprise parking.

Fenwick Anderson,
Takoma Park

DG: Private parking on a Sunday in downtown Washington near Metro Center is limited. Within a few blocks, it’s possible to park for as little as $9 for an hour, but it’s also possible to get charged as much as $21 for an hour.

Some Web sites allow you to comparison-shop for parking in the District, as well as other cities, and have mobile versions. One site, BestParking.com, showed me that a Sunday driver parking for an hour near Times Square in Manhattan could pay $29.

I rarely hear from travelers complaining about the cost of private parking lots and garages in the District. They save their anger for public parking and, in the District, that means the street meter rates. The anger is directed not so much at the rate but at the need to carry so many quarters, for those who don’t use the credit card or cellphone payment systems.

The District charges $2 per hour in its premium parking zones, which include the central business district. Street parking is free Sunday, if you can find it.

Sunday parking also is free at Metro’s lots and garages, and it’s usually plentiful. But then you have to deal with the train schedule disruptions caused by the weekend track work. Some travelers tell me they would rather drive, even if they wind up paying for parking.

best Bus to BWI

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I don’t recall you ever mentioning the best travel deal in Montgomery County, the Intercounty Connector bus that goes from the Gaithersburg park-and-ride lot to Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport.

It leaves every hour on the hour and stops at the Shady Grove Metro station, the Georgia Avenue park-and-ride lot and a couple of other places on the way to BWI. It’s $5 unless you are a senior; then it’s $3.20. It takes about an hour to get to BWI.

At BWI, it makes stops at the various airline entrances. For the fare, you avoid the cost of paying for BWI parking and the hassle of getting the shuttle bus from the parking area to the terminal.

And, if you live along the Shady Grove branch of Metro’s Red Line, it’s a quick trip to Shady Grove to get the bus. This bus takes me about the same amount of time to get to BWI [as driving] and costs far less than paying for parking at BWI.

Jim Clarke, Rockville

DG: The Maryland Transit Administration operates several express bus routes that take advantage of the lightly traveled Intercounty Connector, but the most popular one with the travelers I hear from is this BWI route, No. 201.

Other stops along the way to the airport are the Burtonsville park-and-ride lot, the Dorsey MARC station and Arundel Mills mall. The eastbound buses depart Gaithersburg from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Westbound departures from the airport to Montgomery County start at 5 a.m. and end at 11 p.m.

The schedule is slightly reduced on weekends and holidays. The eastbound trips to the airport are still 4 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the eastbound trips from BWI are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Day light, night light

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It seems to me that the daytime driving lights being installed on today’s automobiles are a safety hazard.

Too many of the drivers of these automobiles see their dashboard lights illuminated and think their lights are on, when only those daylight driving lights are really on. So they are driving around at night with no taillights on. Of course, they don’t bother to read the book that comes with their new car, which explains this.

Lee Harrington, Silver Spring

DG: Not all cars have lights that are automatically on during daylight, and it’s not clear what effect the lights have in traffic safety. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released in 2008 reviewed data on several relevant types of crashes and concluded that daytime running lights had no statistically significant effect on them.

The dashboard indicator should serve as a warning to drivers that they need to turn on their headlights when it gets dark, but some might be confused by it — at least, at first. It’s difficult to see how a driver could get around for very long at night without realizing there was a problem with visibility. Aside from lacking taillights, the daytime setting is dimmer.

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local