Two years ago, Virginia Carter had to pay $10 extra to get furniture delivered to her home on Greeley Boulevard in the West Springfield neighborhood of Fairfax County. The delivery truck had to return to Carter's home on a Saturday because automobiles of county commuters blocked her driveway on the weekday the truck first came.
A year ago, Carter said, she called the police to tow another commuter car that had parked in her driveway.
"The guy was in such a hurry to catch the bus he left his car in my driveway and dashed off," she recalled.
In the time between these two incidents, Carter said she has cleaned up beer cans and debris from car ashtrays that have been dumped where commuter autos have parked.She said the commuter parking has downgraded the neighborhood she has lived in for 12 years.
Buses bound for Crystal City, the Pentagon and downtown Washington pass Carter's residence. She is one of hundreds of Fairfax County homeowners who live on streets located near or on major commuter bus routes into downtown Washington. Lacking other facilities, commuters find these streets convenient places to park.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this week discussed a county police department proposal to establish a permit parking program that would keep commuters off these streets. They decided to ask the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation to study the proposal before the county takes any action.
The problems involved in setting up a permit parking system, however, make it appear certain that no solution will be found for at least a year.
"I could go on naming street after street where commuter parking is a problem," said Fairfax Police Capt. Edward Wingo, who helped develop the police department's proposal. "It seems the parking is at its worst in Springfield and Annandale, but it's a countywide problem."
The proposal would restrict parking between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. to only neighborhood residents whose cars bear decals with the license tag and serial numbers of the car and the name of the streets where they live. A fee would be charged for the permit.
Neighborhood residents who want restricted parking would have to submit a petition to the member of the county board of supervisors who represents their district. Fairfax County Police Chief Richard A. King would have the final decision over whether to restrict parking.
The program would be similar to those in the District of Columbia and Arlington.
"It would be such a blessing to have something like that happen," Carter said. "Since the bus stops have been here, maybe five or six years, it's been a nightmare."
But authorization for the program would have to come from the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation, and the department "just doesn't choose to get into it," according to Donald Keith, director of the Fairfax VDH&T office.
"We have always maintained that the highways are maintained by the highway user, not the person who is parking there," Keith said. "If they're after us to put up signs that say Jane Smith can park here but John Doe can't, yes, we would have problems with that."
Keith said the county would need enabling legislation from the General Assembly to gain the authority to establish a permit parking system without the help of the VDH&T.
The permit parking system also could cause problems for Metro by possibly reducing ridership on the buses.
"On one hand we're trying to encourage country residents to ride the buses, then when they do, we're telling them they can't park anywhere in order to catch them," Wingo said.
"You can see both viewpoints on this problem, and somebody, sometime has got to take an aggressive approach to solving it because it's only getting worse. Personally, I think opening up a lot of church parking lots to commuters would take care of some of it."