Snow from Washington's blizzards still blocking Metro parking

By Nicole Norfleet
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Some Metro commuters needed a little bit more than luck to find a parking spot Tuesday: They needed a shovel.

At one point, as many as a quarter of Metro parking spaces were unusable because they were packed with snow.

For residents who have spent more than a week digging out of their own driveways, the morning commute was a reality check.

"Being disappointed would be an understatement," said Aaron Kahn, a trial lawyer who parks at the Shady Grove garage. "I had assumed that with almost a week, Metro would have cleared out the lot."

Kahn had to shovel out a space and parallel park his Hyundai on the seventh floor of the garage. He didn't have much choice: The garage was nearly full, except for the third floor, which had plenty of empty reserved spots, he said.

Metro operates more than 40 parking facilities, 22 of which are multilevel garages with exposed upper decks. Because of weight restrictions, heavy equipment such as bulldozers can't be used on the top level, said Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel. Snow can't be dumped off the sides of the decks, because it would hinder parking on the lower levels. Instead, cleanup crews have used pickup trucks and carts to tackle the remnants of a record-breaking storm season.

The snow-removal teams have been working since the weekend, Taubenkibel said, adding: "They are working as quickly as they can."

Stephen V. Chiusano wasn't impressed.

In an e-mail to Metro officials, Chiusano said it looked as though at least a third of the sprawling Greenbelt lot that he uses was covered with snow Tuesday morning.

"If people have issues, then they need to let us know," Taubenkibel said about complaints. Besides working on garages, crews will continue to check other parking facilities, he said.

By midafternoon Tuesday, Metro had cleared out more than half of the affected garages, he said.

In preparation for the worst, some commuters are formulating a Plan B.

On Tuesday, Marijke Smith, who has been commuting in the area for 13 years, parked in one of the reserved spots at Glenmont, without a permit.

Asked what she will do if the top level of the garage isn't clear Wednesday, she replied, "Maybe I'll take the bus to the Metro or bring a shovel."

Metro officials couldn't say whether all parking facilities would be cleared by Wednesday but noted that maintenance crews would be working through the night to clean up the top levels of garages.

"People need to be patient because there is a tremendous amount of snow out there," Taubenkibel said.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company