Our View: Can we stay longer, please?


Imagine heading to Old Town on a Saturday to shop with your family, or to a bar to watch some college football games with friends. What are you supposed to do if you want to stay longer than two hours? Move your car, apparently.
There are several schools of thought regarding the plight of parking in Alexandria. With the recent hike in meter prices to $1.75 an hour, it seems like no one is happy not even officials at City Hall who will have a little more breathing room with the budget because of it. Just because they enacted it, doesnt mean it was fun.
Residents complain about people gravitating toward their city-issued spaces, businesses complain about losing business (and quarters) and visitors dont want to spend even more money than they planned to enjoy the citys busiest district.
Some business owners, especially retailers, say theyve lost business since the rate hike, and that they werent consulted before the change was made. Such a statement is a little unfair, as the City Council held public meetings and work sessions on the issue earlier this year. However, of the business owners that were consulted directly, only one was a retailer. The process should have been better vetted with a more diverse range of stakeholders.
People dont visit Old Town just to take a peek inside Restoration Hardware or Christmas Attic; they come for the day, or even the weekend. Old Town is a destination a dense assortment of shops, bars, restaurants and recreation opportunities that couldnt be covered in a day let alone the two-hour limit allotted by metered and unmetered spaces.
Whats done is done, but that doesnt mean it cant be improved. The citys Department of Transportation and Environmental Services should look into diversifying time limits throughout the shopping district.
Currently, parking in Old Town consists of metered spaces and unmetered residential spaces, most of which have two-hour limits. Residents, of course, can park in their zone for as long as they want without being ticketed. Increasing the metered time limit to three or four hours would allow visitors here as patrons to have a reasonable amount of time without being scared back to their car and out of town. Longer metered times would almost certainly necessitate installing meters with credit card capability, as few people could or would be willing to carry around four hours worth of quarters.
Sure, it would cost more to park longer. But at least visitors would have options. Besides, with another budget deficit likely, the revenue-raising parking fees wont decrease any time soon.
And of course, the best way to avoid parking stress is to abstain from using a car at all. Bike, walk, run or take public transportation and eliminate the need for complaining altogether.