Recently, as the result of a flat tire, I joined the commuting public and began riding the Metro from Silver Spring to Washington. To my amazement, by taking the Ride-On bus from Kensington to Silver Spring and hopping on the subway, I could save more than $2,500 a year compared with driving and parking downtown -- a 60 percent savings.
However, after missing the bus on a few occasions, I decided to drive to Silver Spring and park in one of the nearby garages with meters. I tried to get a parking permit (for $30 a month), but the waiting list was better than 300 cars long. So I parked right next to Metro and plunked my nine quarters in the meter, believing that the meter had to be active only until 5 p.m. Everything was fine until I got a ticket on my car at 5:45 and was rudely informed that the meters ran until 6.
I asked why there weren't any 12-hour meters in the garage, since the building is right next to the Metro. The Montgomery County meter enforcers politely told me that they needed to save some parking spaces for patrons of other buildings. But I have noticed that the other buildings already have garages built into them.
I was told that there are 12-hour meters on Silver Spring Avenue, a 15-minute walk from the Metro, and that a shuttle bus to the subway comes around every 15 minutes. These 12-hour meters cost 35 cents an hour, or $3.50 for 10 hours (the equivalent of parking in a Bethesda garage with no time limits or in-out restrictions), rather than the 25 cents an hour the nine-hour meters next to the subwaycost.
Either type of meter costs 80 to 110 percent more than the garage parking permits. I thought it was supposed to work the other way around -- where you get a discount for volume usage.
Furthermore, there are no change machines in any of the garages -- why should the county assist us in avoiding parking tickets?
Finally, the garages with nine-hour meters are next to empty; surely they could accommodate more commuters with monthly permits, commuters who, I might add, are also taxpayers in Montgomery County.
The message is loud and clear: you will pay a ridiculous premium if you drive to Silver Spring and commute to Washington. No wonder Metro has trouble attracting new riders.
HOYT J. CONNELL Kensington