"Parking is becoming a much more difficult, valuable and costly commodity," said a recent Arlington County report, pointing to shortages of spaces in commercial and residential neighborhoods. The study linked the problems to the county's "increasing urbanization."
In Rosslyn, fees have risen at major garages, which sometimes charge daily rates as high as those in downtown Washington, and curbside parking has become increasingly difficult to find. In Crystal City garages have waiting lists for reserved spaces, and some commuters drive to work early to park on the streets.
These trends partly reflect a widespread refusal by commuters to use mass transit, according to the study. In Crystal City, the study said, only 14 percent of the employes traveled by bus or subway. In Rosslyn, the rate was 21 percent. Officials once had predicted that 40 to 45 percent would use mass transit.
Residential communities such as Ballston also face parking shortages, largely because car ownership has increased far more rapidly than expected. Officials said parking is inadequate along commercial sections of Lee Highway, Columbia Pike, Glebe Road and Washington Boulevard.
A survey by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce cited parking as "the No. 1 problem plaguing small businesses," said Bob Reade, the group's executive vice president. Some residents also have expressed alarm. And county officials have said changes in zoning requirements and other measures may be necessary. FAIRFAX
Shortages of parking spaces at Metrorail stations have caused mounting concern among Fairfax County officials as the subway system prepares to open an Orange Line extension to Vienna in June. Parking has sparked neighborhood controversies in several other areas, including Fairfax City.
The Metro lots at the two-year-old Huntington station normally are filled by 8 a.m., and officials have predicted that most of the new lots at Orange Line stations will be jammed. Metro recently added 223 spaces at Huntington. "It helps, but it doesn't help enough," said Fairfax Supervisor Joseph Alexander.
After a recent battle, the Fairfax City Council voted 4 to 3 to approve a developer's proposal to build a garage in the city's historic downtown area, overriding objections from residents. ALEXANDRIA
"Old Town Alexandria has parking problems very similar to Georgetown," said Alexandria City Council member Robert L. Calhoun, who helped draw up a recent report recommending controversial changes in parking regulations.
As in Georgetown, spaces along Old Town's streets often are jammed, while high-priced garages and lots usually have room. Residents such as civic activist Marjorie Scott complain that they cannot find spaces near their homes when they come back with bags of groceries or other packages to unload.
"It's hard to come up with a compromise," Scott said.
Business owners contend that parking problems discourage customers. A recent survey by the Old Town Business Association found growth in retail sales lagging behind inflation. "We think the major factor is the parking," said Jean Thompson, the association's chairman.
The report by Calhoun and council member Patricia S. Ticer recommended higher meter rates, tighter enforcement, expanded nighttime restrictions and other moves to reduce long-term parking by commuters on Old Town's streets and allot more spaces for residents and shoppers.
The proposals, which include levying a hotly debated $5,000-a-space fee on new and expanding businesses that add to Old Town's parking crunch, have sparked objections from other council members and from businesses. The suggested fee "would be absolutely deadening," said Thompson.
Under the plan, some commuters would have to park in higher-priced, less-convenient garages and lots. "In the short term," said Calhoun, "it may put a squeeze on long-term parking. That's just too bad." Eventually, he warned, the problems may spread to areas outside Old Town, such as Arlandria and Del Ray. MONTGOMERY
"If you come in after 8:30, you probably will not find a long-term space available in Bethesda," said Montgomery County parking chief Joseph Tracy. "Parking is very, very tight."
Bethesda's parking problems, considered the most severe in Montgomery County, have been attributed to intensive development and the 1984 opening of Metro's Bethesda station, which did not include parking facilities. A garage to help accommodate Metro riders is expected to open in 1988.
The 3,225 all-day spaces in Bethesda's 18 county-owned lots and garages normally are filled, and officials say Bethesda's private garages are crowded.
"The supply is not adequate," said Jim Goeden, lobbyist for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce. "It's literally 100 percent filled."
County officials have offered sizable discounts on parking rates for car pools and have expanded the county-run Ride-On bus system in an attempt to ease congestion. The county is raising meter rates, partly to discourage commuters from driving. Nevertheless, several new and expanded garages are planned.
Parking problems have increased in other areas, including Silver Spring, Rockville and Friendship Heights. Most of the county's Metro lots are filled. "Silver Spring is now undergoing a big building boom," said Tracy. Parking "will get tighter." PRINCE GEORGE'S
Parking lots at Prince George's County's Metrorail stations are packed. Complaints have increased in congested communities such as College Park. And county officials have warned that parking problems may spread as development expands.
"There are serious parking problems in the area inside the Beltway," said Joe McGee, executive director of the county's parking authority. The agency plans a countywide study of the issue. Without adequate planning, MeGee warned, the county could risk becoming "a sea of asphalt."
Metro lots have posed the county's chief problem so far. "There's a shortage of parking at all five Metro stations," said county transit administrator Dee Allison. The lots "turn away people every morning. You have to get to New Carrollton by 7 to get a parking place."
At times, park-and-ride lots used by Metrobus passengers have been crowded. Last year, bus riders' cars filled an Oxon Hill lot and spilled over onto access roads. Officials said the congestion eased in January when the county opened another lot nearby.
Parking has become a troublesome issue in older communities that were designed for fewer cars, such as College Park and Hyattsville. Officials said new garages are being considered in these areas. METRO
Twelve years ago, Metro officials estimated that more than 100,000 parking spaces would be needed at subway stations when the rail system is completed. Today, only about 14,000 spaces are available, and most Metro lots are jammed.
"There's no question that we're losing some riders because of lack of parking," said Robert A. Pickett, Metro's assistant planning director. "It was said that the demand [for parking spaces] was going to far exceed the supply. We've seen that."
When the Orange Line extension opens June 7, the number of spaces at Metrorail stations will increase to nearly 19,000. Under current plans, Metro will have about 30,000 spaces when the 103-mile system is finished in the 1990s. An additional 21,000 spaces have been proposed, but no funds are available to provide them.
The shortage of spaces has been attributed to scarcity of suitable land, neighborhood opposition to parking lots, political objections to traffic increases and high costs of building garages.
"No one wants a large parking lot in their neighborhood with the accompanying increase in auto traffic, congestion, safety problems and the various pollutants such as noise and dirt," a 1978 Metro report explained.
Metro officials recently proposed raising parking fees in an attempt to encourage more commuters to travel to subway stations by bus. But the plan was scuttled by suburban politicians. In an experiment, Metro doubled its parking rate at the Grosvenor station to $2 a day. But the lot still fills up.
Metro plans to make room for about 700 more cars by painting narrower spaces at its lots this year. The authority soon will test a proposal to set aside spaces for car pools at a few stations. Parking facilities at New Carrollton are scheduled to be expanded next fall to offer 600 more spaces.
Metro's low parking fees, $1 to $1.25 a day at most lots, have contributed to the problem, some officials argue. The rates make it cheaper for commuters to drive to Metro stations than to go there by bus. At Twinbrook, moreover, the $1-a-day Metro lot attracts federal employes who work nearby but do not ride the subway. THE DISTRICT
The number of parking spaces in Washington's congested, rapidly developing downtown area has increased in recent years, according to city officials. But most spaces are filled.
On downtown streets, the number of metered spaces rose from 4,990 in 1977 to 6,160 in 1984. The increase may partly reflect the installation of meters at previously unmetered spaces, officials said, but many new spaces have been provided.
Parking spaces and bus zones have been shortened to accommodate more metered spaces for cars. Obsolete no-parking and loading designations were removed. Two years ago, restrictions were eased on about 150 spaces in a section of the downtown area east of 15th Street NW in response to complaints from merchants.
The number of spaces in downtown garages and lots has increased in the last few years after a decline, according to data compiled by the D.C. Department of Public Works and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
The total dropped from almost 72,000 in 1974 to 65,000 in 1980, as garages and lots were torn down for development projects, officials said. By 1984, the number of spaces had climbed to about 67,700, with more garages opening in new buildings. Officials said further increases may have occurred since then.
Nevertheless, development has attracted more cars to the downtown area. City parking chief Frederic R. Caponiti said that only 4 percent of the metered spaces in the western part of the downtown area were found to be vacant during a survey last year, compared with 8 percent in 1977.
Despite these trends, city and parking industry officials said, some spaces remain available at most downtown garages. But many business owners term parking inadquate. "It's tight and critical," said Wes Potter, vice president and general manager of The Shops at National Place, an F Street NW complex. "It does hurt."
In other congested neighborhoods such as Georgetown, city officials said, most parking spaces on the streets are filled. Garages in Georgetown are crowded at lunchtime, officials said, but many garage spaces are available at night and on weekends for visitors who are willing to pay to park.
"The fact of life in the city is that there is no free parking," said Caponiti. "That's just not the nature of center cities anymore."