Automobile commuters who would like to avoid the high costs of parking and the hassles of traffic by leaving their cars in the boonies and riding the subway downtown will have to search hard for boonies around the 17 Metro stations opening next Friday.
Only one of the new stations - Stadium-Armory - comes with a parking lot attached. The rest of the stations are in established residential or business areas that are already overrun with automobiles.
That doesn't mean, however, that motorists aren't going to try to beat the system. Officials in Arlington County, the District of Columbia and at National Airport are all concerned that drivers will attempt to park close to the Metro, preferably for free, where there are no public parking places.
That is already happening on the operating five-mile Metro, especially around the Rhode Island Avenue station and to a lesser extent around Union Station. Metro has a 300-car parking lot at Rhode Island Avenue that is filled by 8 a.m. every day, despite the $1 charge per car.
Nonetheless, both there and around Union Station, commuters continue to drive from Northeast Washington and the Maryland suburbs and search out parking spaces on neighborhood streets. Commuters have done the same thing for years in Old Town Alexandria and around Chevy Chase Circle to catch express buses.
The Stadium-Armory parking is not as convenient to the Metro Station as it might be, but it is well within the walking distance many commuters are willing to tolerate for the privilege of parking in front of somebody's front yard. Day-long parking will cost $1.
The entrance to the 1,200-space Armory parking lot is on the north side of East Capitol Street, just east of the Stadium and west of 19th Street. The lot is most easily reached by crossing, the East Capitol Street Bridge, round RFK Stadium and following the sign to East Capitol Street.
Drivers who are willing to battle the Metro construction around the Benning Road Bridge can cross the Anacostia there, turn left on Oklahoma Avenue (the first light) and continue south to East Capitol Street and into the lot. If the commuter demand becomes great enough, Armory officials said, they will open more gates to the parking lot and perhaps even open more parking lots in the expanses around RFK Stadium.
There will also be a short-term parking lot for mid-day users and handicapped individuals immediately adjacent to the north portal of the Stadium-Armory station.
D.C. officials were delighted two weeks ago to win a court test of their neighborhood parking ordinance, which in effect prohibits day-long street parking for nonresidents in certain designated areas. Most of the area between the Capitol and the Stadium-Armory station will, in time, probably fall under such an ordinance.
Those much-oppressed residents of South Arlington, faced with the Pentagon on the north, Crystal City on the east and Shirley Highway on the west, wish they had it so good. A similar day-long neighborhood parking ban has been declared unconstitutional in Virginia, and Arlington County is appealing the matter to the Supreme Court.
Until (or unless) Arlington wins that one, however, some Shirley Highway commuters are sure to find the Pentagon City subway station, sitting half a block south of the U.S. 1 off-ramp on Hayes Street in the middle of an empty field. There is no parking, but there is a lot of empty real estate around.
"People who work at the Pentagon try and park there all the time right now; we know they're going to jump up on the curbs and park in the mud to get to that subway station," said Henry Hulme, Arlington's transportation director.
The Pentagon parking lots themselves are carefully controlled in a military manner and are chock-full during the day. Parking around the other heavily impacted Arlington Metro stations - Rosslyn and Crystal City - is hard to get and expensive even today. Prices are comparable with those downtown, and legal, long-term on-street parking is difficult to find.
National Airport, at the other end of the Stadium-Armory subway line, is a traffic planner's and motorist's nightmare even without the added impact of a Metro station. Day-long parking at the airport costs $3.60 now, and airport officials say they are prepared to run it much higher if necessary to keep commuters out and air travelers in.
Even if parking isn't available, traffic will increase in the areas around many Metro stations because of what planners call "kiss n' ride" where a spouse delivers a spouse by car to the train station then drives away. Kiss n' ride parking places are located at Rhode Island Avenue and are being installed at Stadium-Armory and will be opened sometime later there.
People who live within reasonable driving distance of Metro stations may well create their own unofficial kiss 'n ride traffic jams on streets around Metro stations. Likely candidates are stations at Pentagon City, Crystal City, Rosslyn, Eastern Market, Potomac Avenue and Stadium-Armory.
For those who live farther out, Metrobus has been running free parking lots and express buses on most of the major transportation corridors to downtown for several years and many rush-hour commuters take advantage of them.
The fringe lots and their locations: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Soldiers Home (Irving Street and Michigan Avenue NE); Carter Barron Amphitheater (16th and Kennedy Streets NW); South Capitol Street (at Firth Sterling Avenue), and Columbia Island (on the Virginia side, off the George Washington Parkway between the 14th Street and Memorial Bridges). MARYLAND
Montgomery Mall Shopping Center (at Westlake Drive and Westlake Terrace); Wheaton Plaza Shopping Center (at University Boulevard near Viers Mill Road); Korvettes Fringe Parking Lot (on Rockville Pike south of Montrose Road); Prince George's Plaza (at west end of shopping center, near East-West Highway and Toledo Terrace); Belair (Bowie-Belair, at Rte. 197 and U.S. 50); A.B.C. Drive-In (On Indian Head Highway, north of Palmer Road); Eastover (on Audrey Lane, west of Indian Head Highway); Oxon Hill (at Oxon Hill Road and Indian Head Highway), and Penn Mar (at Marlboro Pike and Pennsylvania Avenue). VIRGINIA
Tysons Corner (on Watson Street near Rte. 7 and Chain Bridge Road); Vienna (at Locust and Glyndon Streets); East Falls Church (at Lee Highway and Westmoreland Road); Springfield Plaza (at Keene Mill Road, west of Backlick Road); Springfield Park and Ride (on Industrial Road, east of Backlick Road), and Shirley Plaza (On Edsall Road, west of Shirley Highway).