Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Neighborhoods with Metro garages feel parking squeeze

Record ridership means lots are filling up and commuters are turning to community streets

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There were 12 days in June where more than 800,000 riders hopped on Metro trains, nearing the transit system’s one-day ridership record of 850,636 set four years ago on the day of President Ronald Reagan’s funeral procession.

Officials with the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority say increasing gas prices and tourism are at play in the high volume, and some residents living near Metro stations aren’t happy with the impact on their communities.

As more commuters use Metro, more cars need parking spaces. With station lots and garages already cramped, nearby neighborhood streets are absorbing the overflow.

Residents of the Garrett Park Estates-White Flint Park are feeling the pressure.

‘‘It creates a nuisance in the neighborhood,” said Jeff Derogatis, of Aurora Street. ‘‘I have a wife and now a toddler, and when she was pregnant we had to park far away from the house sometimes and it wasn’t fair to us.”

The Grosvenor station has 1,700 parking spaces. In June, the station averaged 6,121 riders each weekday, according to Steven Taubenkibel, Metro spokesman.

The end-of-line Shady Grove station has more than 5,700 parking spaces. And in June, the station averaged 15,000 daily riders.

June 25 saw the second-highest number of riders in Metro’s history at more than 846,000, said Taubenkibel. More than 200 million riders used Metro trains during the last fiscal year, which ended June 30.

‘‘At most of end-of-line stations, parking is a premium,” Taubenkibel said. ‘‘Parking has historically been a challenge as the system has gotten older and ... we’ve carried more and more people each year.”

There is a total of 57,000 parking spaces at stations throughout the Metro system, he said, meaning one parking space for every 14 commuters last month.

Derogatis spearheaded an effort last year to implement permit parking on his street near the Grosvenor station. Permits were approved by Montgomery County last year and now residents can pay $30 for a two-year permit. Cars without permits can park for only two hours.

Linda Amendt, resident of the Brownstones at Wheaton Metro townhouse community, said her neighborhood is experiencing similar problems around the Wheaton Metro station.

‘‘Parking around the Wheaton area has tremendously gone up on the side streets,” she said. ‘‘You see people parking their cars and rushing to the Metro every day.

The neighborhood also has permit street parking for homeowners, but those spaces fill up as quickly as the side streets, Amendt said.

‘‘We’re trying to increase the awareness of the public garage on Amherst Street. It seems no one wants to use the Metro garage because it can be a bit dark at night,” she said.

Natalie Goldberg, a long time resident of Garrett Park Estates, said that there are mixed feelings about the parking situation.

‘‘Some people don’t mind, but our neighborhood is an older one and there are homes that do not have off-street parking, so it is certainly affects a number of people,” she said. ‘‘I’ve noticed that there are more cars that are parking here especially since Metro raised their [parking] rates.”

Metro parking fees went up from $4 to $4.75 for daily commuters and monthly parking permits increased from $35 to $45.