Metro Board Chairman and D.C. City Council Member Jerry A. Moore Jr. says he is not dismayed by some adverse public reaction to the District's comprehensive parking plan-a plan designed to reduce air pollution, discourage one-to-a-car commuting and invrease residential parking spaces.
The lastest indication of the squeeze placed on some citizens came last week, when the Department of Transportation announced that it would calm down its aggressive three-month-old program of towing illegally parked cars. Many irate Washingtons-and some City Council members-had complained there just were not enought legal spaces to go around.
Moreover, some felt, the stepped-up program originaly aimed primarily at commuters was beginning to snare too many city residents. Some of the tickets cost $25, and the fee for towing is $50.
"Naturally, you're going to have a few who are unhapp about it," a confident Moore said this week, indicating that many of the disgruntled could be habitual illegal parkers. "Overall, I think the public has been splendid about it."
In the past half dozen years, the city has instituted a number of mearsures to help ease the traffic flow and to encourage the use of public transportation-more measures than may sometimes be realized:
Last year, a brigade of 50 full-time civilian ticket-wrtiers was hired to supplement police efforts. Later, a squadron of tow trucks was added. Towing fines and the number of immobilizing "boots" placed on cars were incresed, all as an effort to get rid of th downstown congestion caused by cars unlawfulluy parked all day in metered spaces.
In 1976, the city enacted a residential parking program that bans all-day commuter parking in areas where residents complain they have no place to park their vehicles. An estimated 1,400 city streets-10 percent of the District's street parking space-are now under the restrictions.
Before home rule, there was no parking tax in the city. Now the tax is 12 percent, and, in most cases, is passed on directly to the consumer.Legislation has already been introduced to raise that tax to 25 percent.
City employes who once recevied reduced rates when parking at private lots near the District Building and the Municipal Center must now pay commercial rates. Mayor Marion Barryhs 1979 legislative package proposes that private employers providing reduced rate parking be required to charge their emploes commercial rates as well.
The number of parking meters on city streets has doubled in the past five years, according to Transportation Director Douglas N. Schneider Jr.
The city, through the zoning commission, has also approved fewer parking spaces for new buildings located near subway stations, and has urged the White House-successfully it seems-to end the practice of the federal government providing free and low priced parking spaces to many of its employes in the Washington area.
(Ironically, the City Council and the mayor have retained their free parkin spaces outside the Distict Building.)
Transportation Director Schneider had no figures on the success of the program when asked about it early this week. But he said it looked like the effort was working.
"When you're in a period of (economic) growth, you could end up with more (traffic) anyway. I don't know if we can say yet that the growth of automobile use has been reduced," Schneider said. "But I think it has."
Loading zones are clearer downtown, traffic flows faster, metered parking spaces are easier to find and many residents can now park in front of their houses, he said. Still, some complain that the new measures make it tougher for city residents who must drive because public transportation in their areas in inadequate.
Some area transportation officials are not as optimistic as Schneider.
"I don't think it's been successful at all from what I see," said H. Joseph Rhodes, deputy director of the American Association of Highway and Traffic Officials here, blaming primarily the federal government, which has control over many of the parking spaces in the District. "If you can't make it work in Washington, you can't make it work anywhere."
Albert A. Grant, director of transportation planning for the Council of Governments, said District policies do not contradict one another, but that each is only "nibbling away" at the problems. "One of the problems is a stronghold that the private industry has on parking in the city," Grant said.
If the city had a municipal-run parking business, it could, in its own lots, offer the kind of direct disincentives to commuting that are not offered now Grant said. That would include steeper rates for all-day parkers and lower ones for short-term parkers.
The last time such an agency was discussed was before home rule, and the proposal was buried on Capitol Hill through an effective lobbying effort by the city's private parking owners. There has been no serious consideration of such legislation since, and, of course, parking lot owners are regular contributors to political campaigns in the city.
The get-tough plan has one final potential for economic suicide. If the city gets too zealous in its efforts to cut down on parking, lenient suburban jurisdictions could become more desirable locations for the kind of businesses the District government is trying to lure and retain in the city, according to D.C. transportation planning director James Clark.
"What we're afraid of," Clark said, "is that we go ahead of the suburbs and this is perceived as being unfair or unneccessary. We could then, in fact, lose the (economic) magnetism we want to have."