- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Drive, park in a garage and go about your merry way.

That’s solid advice now that parking meter fees in the District have jumped sky-high and the region’s transit system is scheduled to begin implementing an ambitious fix-it plan on Metrorail this weekend. The maintenance plan is going to take more than a year to complete, while the increase in meter fees took effect Wednesday.

All parking meter fees are now $2.30 — regardless of the day of the week, the time of day or the location. Holidays recognized by the D.C. government are the only exception for the general public (and there’s a tip sheet for you in a bit).

The big bugaboo is the 14 elected officials who perch in City Hall. See, the mayor and the 13 members of the D.C. Council can park practically whenever and wherever they choose without fear of the dreaded meter patrols trolling for expired meters.

Raising the cost of living is what localities like D.C. do when it has a beer budget but champagne taste. In fact, any excuse to raise fees and taxes will do to pay for rising spending habits. In this case, D.C., Maryland and Virginia officials failed to carry out routine maintenance, allowed the Metrorail system to stretch beyond its means, refused to sufficiently raise fares, risked safety precautions and doled out raises to Metro employees. About $10 million of the $40 million the city will collect from the meter fees will be funneled to Metro.


SEE ALSO: D.C. Council committee advances $15-an-hour minimum wage legislation


For those of you who do not get it, people who drive to and from work, or to and from school, or to run errands are paying extra for transit services you aren’t using. I’ve been trying to warn you for some time that D.C. is as anti-motorist as they come — and forthwith are a few examples for those of you motoring around our DMV region.

This is something Virginians should consider about the $2.30 an hour parking meter rate. You’re headed to the National Mall to meet your sweetie. The Metrorail fare from the Ballston Station in Fairfax County to the Smithsonian in D.C. is only $2.30 one way this Saturday, before the fix-it plan takes effect Sunday. The average price for a gallon of regular gas is $2.186. You make the call.

Next up, Maryland — a real goodie. You and your handsome hubby want to take the kids to zoo on Metrorail. From the Rockville station to Woodley Park-Zoo costs $3.60 per head. Easy math: $18 one-way, $36 round-trip. Driving and parking at the National Zoo: $22. The average price for a gallon of regular gas is $2.336.

And now drumroll, please D.C. Dad promised to spend all-day Saturday with your four kids and two nieces at the Zoo so you can get some “me” time. Splendid. Metrorail from Brookland/Catholic University to Woodley Park-Zoo is $2.20 per head one-way. Round-trip in toto: $30.80. Zoo parking: $22. The average price for a gallon of regular gas is $2.521.

D.C. has been discouraging people from driving for decades, beginning with an onerous tax vehicle owners have to pay to park on the street — something the city calls a Registration Parking Permit, which costs $35 per year. The city upped the ante with bicycle and bus lanes, and by eliminating parking spaces with bicycle rental racks and spaces exclusively for taxicabs, and parking spaces designated for commercial use only.

What’s more, if you drive, it’s often smarter to park in a garage for, say, $12 to $15 than risk getting caught at an expired meter or by revenue-generating meter maid. Bang: $25 ticket. Or, for example, the only legitimate meter spot you found was for two hours, but your happy hour/dinner/after-dinner cognac and cigar gathering lasted four hours. The meter maid left her calling card on your windshield.

Sound advice: Ditch Metro if you can over the course of the Safetrack project, drive yourself, and park in a designated lot or garage.

Call it a yearlong DMV Stress Relief Plan.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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