- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

It is hard to find parking on the Washington area's snow-packed streets, but there are plenty of available spaces in local garages.
The region's biggest snowfall since 1996 has transformed the garages into virtual ghost towns. Since the storm, many commuters have left their cars at home and used public trains and buses.
Business was so slow yesterday that at one parking garage near the Brookings Institution on Massachusetts Avenue NW, attendants stood on the street to solicit customers.
"Snow is not the parking industry's best friend," said Andrew Blair, president of Colonial Parking Inc., a Washington company that operates 165 garages in the District, Maryland and Virginia.
The volume at Colonial's garages was down as much as 90 percent Monday, when the region began digging out from the weekend storm. The garages were operating at about half their normal levels Tuesday, Mr. Blair said.
"This is going to be a long week for us," he said.
Most garages have two kinds of customers: commuters who pay a monthly fee for a reserved space, and drivers who use a space for a day or less. Because the monthly customers pay up front, the garage owners haven't lost money from their business.
But they have taken a hit from the loss of daily business.
"We spend a lot of time, resources and money to get our garages open, and then no one comes," Mr. Blair said.
A spokesman for Central Parking Corp., a Nashville, Tenn., company that operates 4,000 parking garages and lots in the United States and abroad, said business is down sharply at its 140 Washington-area facilities.
The company spent $800,000 on snow removal during the first three months of its fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, said Richard Jonardi, the spokesman. It expects to spend even more during the next quarter, he said.
"The weather has been our nemesis this year," he said.


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