There is one thing that the commuters and residents involved in the Arlington parking ordinance case agree on - and there probably isn't more than one - it is that the county could have done a better job of planning.
"I feel that the county board, when they approved construction of the buildings in Crystal City, should have had enough foresight to insist on enough parking spaces," said George A. Riscili, a Navy Department engineer who organized the opposition to the ordinance.
It is not that the commuters particularly bear any ill will to the people on whose streets they park, explained some commuters. What the issue boils down to for them is that they have few other places to park and no workable public transportation. They feel entitled to park on the punlic streets they helped pay for.
"I live exactly six miles from my garage to here," said Riscili, who lives near Mt. Vernon."It took an hour and a half by bus to get here, and I had to get out on the street by 5:30 a.m., make three transfers and walk about a mile," he said. "In the car I can do it in about 15 minutes."
That was when there was bus transportation. Since he started working in Crystal City in 1970, the bus service has been cut off. "They said there weren't enough passengers to justify bus service. I'm left stranded," he said. Nor were there fellow employees nearby with whom he could carpool, said Riscili.
Having determined that he must travel by car, Riscili was confronted with the fact that there were few parking spaces in his building, with most spaces reserved for car pools and little commercial parking nearby. That left the streets of the nearby neighborhood.
"We paid for the streets. In a democracy everybody ought to be treated alkie," he said. Riscili helped collect money to fight the parking prhibition on commuters when it was imposed, a process which has become costly as the issue has worked its way up to a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The first time, it took $1,800. The second time, $1,350," he said.If the court decides to hear the case, Riscili said he expects it will take about $2,700 to argue against the county there.
Riscili is less active now in raising funds to challenge the ordinance. Much of the work is now being handled by Henry Itkin, another Navy Department employee. "Before I got interested in the case, I parked out on the street," said Itkin, who now parks in a friend's driveway. "These are public streets paid for by public funds. Nobody can say it was any more their funds than anyone else's. Why shouldn't we be allowed to park on the streets?"
Like Riscili, he believes the county could have planned better.
"I don't think the country did a very good planning job when they put the building there. It's very congested and there's no public parking area," he said.
Itkin lives in Rockville. "I discovered it would take two and a half hours by bus, and I have to be at at work by 7 a.m. The first bus comes by the house at 6:30 a.m., so I can't take the bus. It takes less than half an hour by car," said Itkin, who is in a three-person carpool.
Relations between commuters and residents have been strained and worse. Itkin said that he had his radio antenna bent and had been threatened by a resident when he and a colleague were passing out literature to help raise money to challenge the ordinance.
"I feel a lot of the residents' commplaints were unjustified. They concocted a lot of things that weren't true," said Riscili. "One of my fellow employees, they used to fill his gas tank with dirt. That happened for a few consecutive weeks. Then he got a lock installed. I used to be accused of littering the streets when I out handbills on the cars."
"There were people who arked too close to driveways, causing inconvenience," he conceded. "On the other hand, residents used to park in front of houses in such a way as to occupy two spaces, so commuters couldn't park." The recourse with illegally parked cars was to call the police, he said, "not to take it out on the rest of the commuters."
"There was a lot of animosity between residents and commuters," said Riscili. "They didn't want us. They wanted out tax dollars, but they didn't want out cars. Apparently the county felt that way too," he said.