Middle Ground Sought on Parking Limits

Posted May 16, 2008 at 3:02pm

Parking restrictions on Southeast Capitol Hill are likely to be relaxed for nights and Sundays as part of revisions to a pilot parking plan that took effect in March.

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (D) has gathered feedback at meetings over the last few weeks, concluding with a meeting of Barracks Row business owners on Thursday. The community is set to deliver a final proposal on parking changes to the city by the end of the month.

The pilot plan extended paid parking to nights and weekends on Barracks Row and Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast.

Charles Allen, Wells’ chief of staff, said that while early reviews have been mostly positive, businesses have offered differing opinions depending on their hours of operation and clientele.

“The [weekend] daytime dealers think it’s great. Parking spots are turning over,” Allen said. “Some of the evening restaurants and pubs are saying, ‘Dear God, this is horrible.’

“We’re saying that this is a pilot and we’ll make some changes.”

Allen said most of the business community is in agreement that the night restrictions need to be relaxed. The challenge will be figuring out what time free parking should begin. Currently, there is a fee until midnight.

“There’s no reason for enforcement to go up until midnight or 10 p.m., especially on weekdays,” said Cristina Amoruso, executive director of Barracks Row Main Street. “We don’t have that kind of traffic.”

Allen said bar and restaurant owners are frustrated enough that they have yet to see an uptick in business from fans attending games at the Washington Nationals’ new ballpark; they don’t want parking tickets discouraging the customers they are getting. And the two-hour parking limits aren’t conducive to eating dinner or bar-hopping.

Amoruso said businesses are likely to support ending enforcement around 6 p.m. or 8 p.m.

Doing so would bring up the issue of Nationals Park, which is within walking distance of Southeast Capitol Hill.

The pilot plan was designed in part to prevent outsiders from clogging side streets while attending Nationals games. Allen said his office has heard few complaints from ballpark-area residents.

Regarding weekends, Allen said, businesses are in strong agreement that a revision is needed. The Saturday restrictions have succeeded in stopping people from parking for free all day to visit Eastern Market, he said, but businesses see little need for meters on Sundays and are likely to recommend cutting them off.

So while the plan isn’t perfect, he said, it’s better than before — and is subject to revision.

“We could go back and say we’ll have no management and have employees park outside all day for free,” Allen said. “The flip side is we are over-managing in some places. We need to find the middle.”