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Metro Plans to Charge For Redskins Parking

Service May Accommodate Nationals Fans

By Leef Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page B05

Metro officials say free parking for Redskins fans at the two Blue Line stations closest to FedEx Field may be about to end.

Under a proposed pilot program, Metro would charge $25 for non-Metrorail riders leaving the Largo Town Center and Morgan Boulevard stations during specified times on game days.

T. Dana Kauffman says he wants a Metro plan for late Nationals games. (File Photo)

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Washington's sports teams were the topic of much discussion at yesterday's Metro budget committee meeting, where members also advanced a plan to expand the current budget by $1.2 million for extra service during the Washington Nationals' 40 home games at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium this fiscal year.

Both proposals will go before the full Metro board for a vote Thursday.

The two Metro parking lots under discussion opened Dec. 18 within walking distance of FedEx Field. And as at all Metro parking lots, parking is free on weekends.

But officials said game-day use will cost them money for security and maintenance, and they expressed concern that Metro riders -- the lots' intended patrons -- will be squeezed out.

Together, the lots have 2,700 spaces. The estimated net revenue based on renting the spaces for 10 paid parking events is $160,500 to $363,000.

Officials said the $25 charge is the "market rate" for Redskins parking at other lots near the stadium. Officials said they plan to extend the fee to other large-scale events at FedEx Field, using ticket sale information and other formulas to gauge when to charge for parking.

Here's how it would work under the proposed plan:

SmarTrip Farecards would be used to determine who must pay for parking.

Officials said Metrorail riders would be defined as customers whose SmarTrip cards recorded a rail trip of at least one station within two hours of exiting the Largo Town Center Station -- which is 1.4 miles from the stadium -- or the Morgan Boulevard Station -- which is nine-tenths of a mile from FedEx Field. If you met the criterion, you would pay nothing.

Non-Metrorail riders would be defined as any customer whose SmarTrip card did not record a rail trip two hours before exiting a station parking lot.

Officials said the parking restrictions would be in effect at both stations starting three hours before an event at FedEx Field and ending two hours after each event ended.

Officials acknowledged that the fee could be circumvented.

"You could beat the system," said Ray Stoner, Metro's director of parking, adding that loopholes already are evident. "That's why it's a pilot. We could always change the system to require a longer parameter of stations" -- that is, stiffen guidelines to prevent someone from parking at a lot, hopping on the Metro for a quick one-stop ride and then walking to the stadium without paying for parking.

The committee also considered changes tied to Washington's new baseball team.

The Nationals' season opener is April 14, and Metro officials estimate that 40 percent of spectators -- the stadium has 43,000 seats -- will take the train. They are pursuing a deal with the Nationals, who they say are obligated under Metro's operating policy to pay for additional service if extra innings push a game past time for the last train.

"Baseball is the most notoriously unpredictable in sports in terms of the length of a game," board Chairman T. Dana Kauffman said. "I worry it's going to be our fault if a game runs past midnight and no one's [providing service]. I'd like to have a plan."

If no deal is struck, Metro officials said, spectators would be alerted before the last train left the Stadium-Armory Station at 11:50 p.m. weeknights.

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