Your View: City must manage parking better

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Your View: City must manage parking better
(File photo)
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By Chris Hubbard, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
The writer of “Alexandria needs cap-and-trade parking” (August 13) suggested that residents be limited to one car per family for street parking. Besides being rather presumptuous, the writer apparently doesn’t recognize the source of the parking problem.

If one looks at Old Town streets late at night on a weeknight, one will see plenty of street parking spaces available, meaning there are plenty of spaces for residential on-street parking. But if one looks at the streets on a Friday evening at about 7:30 p.m., one will see no available street parking and many cars cruising for a space. At the same time, if one looks in the public parking areas one will see there are plenty of available spaces there.

Why is this the case? The short answer is because of the city’s poor, bordering on negligent, mismanagement of on-street parking. The city manages street parking against the industry standard. It is well known from parking research that free parking attracts more cars over transit riders and pedestrians, which in a pedestrian-oriented place like Old Town is, at a minimum, a nuisance and could be dangerous as cars cruising for street parking invite collisions with pedestrians.

In addition, cruising invites more air, water and noise pollution. Further, it is unfair to residents who pay for on-street parking but many times can’t find it and are in effect paying for visitors to park. And using cars is costly to society in the forms of accidents, deaths, injuries, property damage, pollution, illnesses, and road building and maintenance. Hence, it is not ethical to unnecessarily encourage car use, but it is particularly egregious and ironic for a pedestrian-oriented place like Old Town to do so.

What is the industry standard for street parking? In Arlington, there is little or no free visitor on-street parking and the price is set to be equal or above that of public off-street parking, while residents can park for free with a sticker. The research shows this attracts more visiting transit riders and pedestrians and fewer cars. The cars that do come in go directly to the off-street public parking options rather than cruise the streets for parking. One doesn’t see fewer visitors.

Why does the city engage in these practices? A possible clue came in a recent rezoning for La Bergerie owners with their planned new location at Princess and North Washington streets — their off-street parking requirement was waived, which could mean their future customers’ cars wind up on the streets, to the peril of the neighboring residents’ parking availability. This site is not convenient to transit where the problem could be mitigated — it is 0.8 miles from the nearest Metro station.

Arlington requires a business be 0.2 miles from Metro to waive its off-street parking requirement. Alexandria seems to be favoring commercial establishment whims over the taxpaying and voting residents.

It is past time, particularly considering increased parking demands that are coming in the future from the waterfront development and casino visitors from National Harbor, that residents of Old Town get the attention of city councilors and the mayor through their votes on this issue.

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