Metro riders who have battled the coin-operated parking-lot gates at the Rhode Island Avenue and Fort Totten stations are going to find parking meters there in the near future.
The Metro Board budget committee yesterday approved the expenditure of $112,000 to buy 641 parking meters for those two lots, which are almost always full by 8 a.m. All-day parking costs $1 and drivers must throw coins into an exact-change basket to escape to the lots in the evening.
The same rate for 12 hours would apply if meters were there today, but the Metro Board is considering an increase at most stations to $1.25 for 12 hours.
Metro is not responsible for the fees or the operation of several lots near subway stations. Arlington County owns the lot on top of the Courthouse station; Montgomery County owns one near the Silver Spring station; the D.C. government owns one near the Stadium-Armory station, and a private developer owns the lot on top of the Pentagon City station.
Parking meters are just one of several ways Metro is considering to collect parking fees. The committee also approved a suggestion by Metro General Manager Richard S. Page that a private parking contractor be hired to operate the lots at the new Blue Line stations of Capitol Heights and Addison Road, which will open Nov. 22. The contractor selected from the nine who have submitted proposals will decide how to collect the fees.
Page told the committee that a long-awaited Metro study on parking lots and how to run them will be completed March 1 and will analyze a number of possibilities including gates, meters, monthly permits and people-manned booths.
Data collected at Metro's existing parking lots will be used in the report:
Metro has coin-operated gates at most of its lots now and parking meters at only one, the little-used Minnesota Avenue lot.
The transit authority owns 4,811 all-day parking spaces at 11 stations. By the time the planned 101-mile subway system is completed, it is estimated that Metro will have about 50,000 parking spaces at 35 stations and a parking revenue potential of around $20 million annually.
However, there is no comprehensive plan on how best to operate those lots, and much of Metro's experience has been irritating at best to its riders.
The coin-operated gates were first introduced at Metro's biggest lot, which is at the New Carrollton station. It was soon discoverd that the gates had to be monitored by attendants because the gates occasionally malfunctioned and because some people avoided paying by driving over curbs or even through the gates.
Vandalism has also been a problem with the gates. The coin vaults on several of the parking gates have been broken into, according to Frank McNulty, Metro's parking lot expert. There have been few incidents of vandalism with the parking meters at the Minnesota Avenue lot, McNulty said.
In a related matter yesterday, the committee asked for a study on permitting all-day parking at the Takoma station, which has only 82 spaces. A well-organized neighborhood coalition of Montgomery County and District residents has kept parkers out of that lot before 10 a.m.