Wells Scores Big With Parking Plan

Posted April 1, 2008 at 5:07pm

Adding to the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day win on Sunday, city, transit and team officials proclaimed a second victory this week — a mostly smooth transit and parking operation for the debut of Nationals Park.

Metro ridership and use of the team’s free shuttle from RFK Stadium were high.

But another key element of the equation was the performance of Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells’ (D) new pilot parking plan for the area.

With non-Ward 6 residents limited to two hours of parking on most streets around the ballpark, the District’s Department of Public Works was out in full force ticketing and towing cars. The department reported issuing 716 tickets and towing 103 cars from the area during Saturday’s exhibition game and Sunday’s opener.

“Overall, what we heard was that the message of ‘Don’t drive. Take Metro,’ was heard pretty loudly,” said Charles Allen, Wells’ chief of staff. “Enforcement was strong. We’ll continue to monitor it, but we like where we started off.”

Andy Litsky, an Advisory Neighborhood commissioner who worked with Wells’ office on the parking plan, said he had not heard major complaints from residents.

An informal game day survey of the parking situation near the stadium on Sunday night showed a mixed performance on enforcement.

Some non-Ward 6 cars parked the entire game with no ticket, while others were towed or received tickets ranging from $15 to $30.

One car spotted right across the street from the stadium in a no-parking zone was ticketed for only $20 — well short of the $35 the Nationals were charging for their limited number of parking spaces.

“For a standard violation … we should most definitely ramp that ticket up,” Litsky said. “If somebody can drive in from Maryland and get only a $20 ticket, then why the hell not do it?”

Rick Shapiro, a management consultant from Northwest, decided to drive to the game and had a parking experience that supports the message Wells is trying to spread among fans.

Shapiro and a friend from Virginia circled the ballpark, but said the parking restrictions and presence of city tow trucks led them to the Barracks Row area in search of legal parking.

They wound up parking at Ninth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast. The spot was just outside of the area with restricted hours and enhanced enforcement, making it legal and free. But it was a 20-minute walk from the ballpark.

Shapiro said he heard the warnings from the team and city to take Metro but was running late and decided to drive.

“As in lots of things in life, you have contingencies. But Metro is definitely the way to go,” he concluded.

One idea discussed but not included as part of Wells’ parking plan was to create a subzone within Ward 6 to keep residents from parts of the ward far from the stadium from parking near the ballpark when attending games.

Bill Phillips, the president of Friends of Garfield Park, said he noticed a number of fans parking across from the park, located at Second and F streets Southeast.

“Then you go look at their cars and see that they’re Zone 6. They’re perfectly legal,” Phillips said.

He said the creation of a subzone would be discussed again as neighborhood and city officials evaluate how Wells’ parking plan worked.

Before the game, a handful of fans were waiting along Barracks Row for Metro’s N22 bus, which connects Union Station to the Navy Yard via Eighth Street Southeast.

Jim Mifund and Lissa Provenzo, a couple from Gaithersburg, Md., took the Metro to Eastern Market and ate at The Ugly Mug on Eighth Street Southeast before the game, then walked to the park.

The area around the stadium is so undeveloped that Barracks Row and Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast contain the nearest bars and restaurants.

“We’d definitely prefer something closer,” said Provenzo, who works in financial services, “but we’re adventuresome.”

Fans lined M Street Southeast after the game for the free Nats Express shuttle back to RFK, and a handful walked down M and then north on Eighth Street.

Cars along Eighth Street were littered with parking tickets.

But as a reward for their 20-minute walk, Shapiro and his friend returned to their legally parked car on Pennsylvania Avenue with nothing on their windshield but a business card from a cleaning service.

“Standard Cleaning got me, but the D.C. police didn’t,” Shapiro said.

Although Opening Night went smoothly, Litsky cautioned that residents will continue to monitor the city’s performance. He pointed to the Nats’ return home next week.

“The big test comes next Monday,” Litsky said. “It will be the first home game on a weekday night during rush hour. I think at that point we’ll have real shakedown and figure out what the true situation will be.”