With the imposition of commuter parking restrictions on Capitol Hill this week, the District's residential parking program has a strong hold throughout the city. Parking is now resticted in 11 neighborhoods - three more may be added by the end of the year - and the commuters who oppose the parking ban have given up in the District courts.
For the residents of congested neighborhoods, the commuter parking ban apparently has worked well. From Georgetown and Capitol Hill to outlaying neighborhoods such as Friendship Heights and Pleasant Park, resident can easily find parking spaces in the daytime where before they were scare or nonexistent.
But the commuters who formerly parked on the streets, the parking restrictions impose a heavy cost in time, money and inconvenience. That was graphically illustrated on Capitol Hill this week, where scores of workers, many from the Library of Congress, shifted from their cars to Metro.
"It's costing me money, as it's going to be a problem," said Richard Sharp, a reference librarian who had to give up his car pool to the Hill and take Metro. "This morning, the bus and rail trip took an hour and 10 minutes. Normally the drive takes 35 minutes," he said.
Sharp and several other library workers complained that public transportation was insufficient for commuters, particularly at night. Many library employees get night shifts ending at 9:30 p.m. The parking ban, which imposes a two-hour limit on commuter parking, is effective until 6:30 p.m., so the late workers cannot park on the streets when they come to work at 1 p.m.
"There's public transportation in at 1 o'clock, but there's no public transportation out at 9:30," said reference librarianFrancis Reynolds, who lives in Arlington. The library has suggested that employees park at the Stadium-Armory lot, take the Metro to work, and go back to the lot during their dinner hour to pick up their car. "That's just not a very good way for public servants to spend their dinnerhour," said librarian Jim Gilreath.
Another reference librarian, Southeast resident patrick Frazier, is circulating a petition to mayor Walter Washington opposing the parking restrictions. He complained that the parking ban was simply a convenience for "people in rich neighborhoods . . .They want the privilege of in-town living and automobile ownership, and now they want the privilege of parking all day on a public street and excluding the rest of us."
Many Capitol Hill commuters seem to have been parking on the streets despite the ban, apparently with the intention of moving their car every two hours to avoid getting a ticket, and the streets nearest the Capitol had few empty spaces. Carnell Gilliam, a mail carrier on east Capitol Street, said he saw Hill office workers "trotting in and out" of their buildings to move their cars.
Designed to relieve congestion and pollution, the residential parking program allows residents of the designated neighborhoods to park on the street all day, while visitors mustlimit their daytime parking to two hours on any one block. Residents' cars are identified by a $5 sticker from the Department of Motor Vehicles."
The program initiated by the city council in late 1974, had been stalled for more than a year by a court injunction obtained by Georgetown merchants and students. The plan's opponents called it unconstitutional and unfair and commuters claimed it would make it more difficult for them to work in the District.
But following the decision by Superior Court Judge William E. Stewart Jr. in June reversing a preliminary opinion by former Superior Court Judge Charles Halleck that the ban violated equal protection of the law, the opposition gave up in the courts. Neither the Georgetown merchants nor the Georgetown University medical school students who originally contested the ban have appealed the decision they lost at trial.
Peter Hairston, bureau chief of the D.C. transportation department's parking division, said that his office has been receiving "a pretty favorable reaction." He said a few businesses have complained, but most commuters are slowly adapting to parking restrictions as they are pushed out of one residential area after another.
Strict enforcement of the parking ban in the first few weeks it becomes effective in a neighborhood has convinced commuters that they can't park on the neighborhood streets any more. There is a $5 fine for violating the parking ban. And the city council adds more blocks to the restricted areas whenever commuters move out of neighborhood and into one without parking restrictions.
The effect. Harison said, has been that commuters are deciding to park on lots or take mass transportation once the free neighborhood parking spaces are declared off-limits. Meanwhile, shoppers and residents have found it easier to park and move around in the daytime.
The ban is imposed whenever more than half of the residents of a block sign petitions asking for it, a parking study shows that their block is usually congested, and the mayor and city council approve the designation after public hearings. Approximately 15,000 cars are covered in the 11 neighborhoods that qualify now, and three more neighborhoods may come under the plan if petition efforts succeed.
Often imposition of the parking and in one neighborhood has simply shifted the congestion to nearby neighborhood, Hairston said. When that happens, the new blocks can - and do - request and get the parking ban on their blocks too.
For example, congestion in the Foxhall Village area used to depend on proximity to Georgetown University. "The farther you got from Georgetown University, the less impacted the blocks were," Hairston said. After the parking ban, the congestion moved to previously uncongested blocks farther away from the school, but now those blocks are also restricted.
Other neighborhoods have become congested when commuters have parked near a bus stop or subway station. There, commuters probably will find it easier to get on at a stop farther out or to park farther away. Commuters who live in Maryland near the District line and search for a parking place in restricted residential blocks of Friendship Heights and Pleasant Park.
Shoppers haven't been affected by the parking restrictions because of the two-hour limit. Hairston said. Because police can't check the streets every minute, the two-hour limit effectively allows someone to park for considerably longer than that, he said, adding, "In the long run, it should be helping the businesses. That's been the case in the Friendship Heights area where they originally had mixed emotions."
The benefits for residence and retail businesses, however, come at the expense of commuters. Hairston said he has received several requests from businesses for parking permits, which he has turned down. And he acknowledged that commuters are finding their trip to work longer and less convenient.
Hairston said mass transportation is available in each of the neighborhoods that qualify for the parking restrictions, but "there's no question about it taking longer, especially when the commuter may have to make a transfer."
"You have to weight the values," he suggested. "You have to realize that many of these neighborhoods have been inconvenienced for years, too. We've never come out and said that using mass transportation would make it easier or cheaper." But he said commuting time on mass transportation to one of the neighborhoods with restricted parking should normally take no more than 45 minutes.
The ban now exists on all or most of the blocks of these neighborhoods: Walter Reed. Friendship Heights, Sheridan Kalorama, Glover Park. Burleith, Georgetwon , Foxhall Village, Foggy Bottom, Capitol Hill, Gateway and Pleasant Park. Citizens and advisory neighborhood commissioners in Adams-Morgan. Dupont Circle and New Southwest, meanwhile, are gathering petitions.
The Adams-Morgan residents are concerned because they cannot park across Connecticut Avenue in Sheridan Kalorama, and the Dupont Circle and Southwest groups are concerned about parking congestion. Hairston said the new neighborhoods could qualify for the parking restrictions by the end of the year.