Free parking on the Mall (if you are lucky enough to find a space) is about to vanish. Metered pay parking is soon to start amid the cluster of museums, monuments and memorials that symbolize the city and the country.
Operation and enforcement of metered parking, based on 90 multispace pay stations, is scheduled for June 12, the National Park Service said Friday.
According to Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst, the meter program involves “approximately 1,100 parking spaces.” All of them “have been free up until now,” Litterst said. Most have a three-hour time limit, he said.
In an announcement, the Park Service said it had awarded a contract to Parkeon for installation of the meters on streets and in parking areas on the Mall, the great expanse of green space that covers the territory from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and includes other areas to the north and south.
The cost of parking under the metered system will be $2 an hour, with the rate in effect from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, including weekends and holidays, the Park Service said.
One benefit expected by the Park Service is more-frequent turnover of the limited number of spots available in an area that lures visitors from all over the United States and the rest of the world, as well as the Washington region.
The Park Service said it also expects the meters to encourage visitors to use public transportation. It is also anticipated by the service that the pay system will provide revenue to create affordable transportation for visitors and to improve the existing system.
In its announcement, the Park Service hailed the Mall route of the D.C. Circulator bus system. The route began two years ago as a cooperative venture of the Park Service, the D.C. Department of Transportation and D.C. Surface Transit Inc.
At a cost of a dollar a ride, the route offers affordable public bus service to 15 stops that are within easy walking distance of many of the Mall area’s most popular monuments, museums and memorials, the Park Service said. The agency said it expects its share of the cost of running the buses to come from revenue generated by the meters.
Metered parking was recommended in the Mall Plan, the Park Service said, and has undergone public review and was a subject of comment from the public.
In its announcement, the Park Service gave a list of roads and streets where metered parking will begin. They are: Constitution Avenue NW between 15th and 22nd streets; Independence Avenue SW between 15th Street and Maine Avenue; Jefferson Drive SW; Madison Drive NW; Ohio Drive SW between 23rd Street SW and Inlet Bridge; Parkway Drive NW; and West Basin Drive SW.
In addition, the Park Service said, metered parking will go into effect in parking lots including those at the Tidal Basin (off Maine Avenue SW); on Buckeye Drive SW (next to the tennis courts in East Potomac Park); and Lots A, B and C on Ohio Drive SW in East Potomac Park.
So, it appears that change is coming to one of the last places where the idea of the land of the free extended to parking. If, of course, a Mall visitor was accompanied by lots of good luck.