Parking Plan Passes in Time for Nats’ Opening Day

Posted March 4, 2008 at 4:45pm

The D.C. Council approved new parking restrictions on Tuesday that will protect Ward 6 residents around the new Nationals baseball stadium and in Southeast Capitol Hill.

Visitors parking on residential streets in designated areas now will be limited to two hours from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. That’s a change from the current situation in which visitors enjoy unlimited parking on weekends and evenings.

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (D) introduced the legislation, and Mayor Adrian Fenty came out in favor of the proposal last week.

The bill passed unanimously on an emergency basis to get restrictions in place before opening day on March 30.

“For Ward 6 residents, their Zone 6 parking sticker means they’ll see little difference in how they park their cars, but with better management, they should find that visitors stick to the retail streets and the residents become the priority for residential streets,” Wells said in a statement last week.

The bill also allows the District Department of Transportation to tinker with meter rates on business thoroughfares in Southeast including Pennsylvania Avenue and Eighth Street, and in the area just north of the stadium — Virginia and New Jersey avenues, and I, K and L streets — where fans might be tempted to look for on-street parking during games.

DDOT has been installing new multi-space meters on those streets, and now will begin raising rates until it achieves adequate turnover of parking spaces.

The plan is for meters eventually to be placed on one side of residential streets, with Ward 6 residents retaining unlimited parking on either side and visitors having to pay for their two hours on the metered side.

But with the legislation passing just four weeks before opening day, DDOT will not be able to complete the whole project in time. That means that in the interim, parking enforcers won’t be able to rely on meters.

“It is going to be absolutely paramount for there to be enforcement,” said Andy Litsky, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who has worked closely with Wells. “We have to ensure that not only will they ticket, but tow. And that is what we are strongly urging the city to do.”

The Department of Public Works, which manages parking enforcement, has assured Wells that it will beef up its stadium and Capitol Hill operation.

“I’m supportive of the legislation, but with the absolute unwavering assurance that with those meters we will have concurrent enforcement,” Litsky said. “If we don’t have enforcement, all we’ve done is purchased $12,000 parking meters and put them on every block.”

The new parking policies and a map of the areas affected are available on tommywells.org.

The Nationals have launched a massive public relations effort to encourage fans to take the Metro to games. The team also is hyping its “Nats Express,” which will allow fans to park free at RFK Stadium and take a free shuttle to the new park. The shuttle will begin 90 minutes before game time and will operate continuously until 90 minutes after the final pitch.

Parking in lots near the stadium is available only to season-ticket holders at this point.