- The Washington Times - Friday, May 9, 2003


   D.C. officials said yesterday that they are committed to allocating additional parking in the city for tour buses, but said drivers must agree to park in the lots provided.
   Rick Rybeck, deputy administrator for policy and planning with the D.C. Department of Transportation (DCDOT), said the city set up a task force dedicated to finding additional downtown parking for tour buses.
    “One new area they have located is on Maine Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets,” Mr. Rybeck said.
   He said that the city has found available lots before, but drivers didn’t use them because of the cost.
   “We once found a lot under Southeast-Southwest Freeway where drivers could park and it cost $15 a day, but they wouldn’t park there.”
   Mr. Rybeck said the task force, a partnership of DCDOT, the D.C. Council, the National Capital Planning Commission, the Downtown Business Improvement District and the Washington Convention and Tourism Corp., was developed two years ago, but only began its work in November.
   Mr. Rybeck said the Volpe Center — a research arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation — hired by the task force as a consultant, has submitted its draft plan for developing additional parking locations.
   “In the summer we will take that to the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and residents and develop a management implementation plan,” he said.
   A D.C. law, written by D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, prohibits tour buses and Metro buses from illegally parking on city streets and standing with their engines running. In March, the city raised fines for both offenses from $20 to $500.
   “We should keep the $500 fine because it has finally gotten [the] attention [of bus drivers], but it is incumbent upon the city to find parking alternatives,” Mr. Evans said.
   He said residents and businesses in Southwest have complained for years about exhaust fumes and noise from buses idling in front of their homes and shops. He also said that Northwest residents in the Woodley Park and Cleveland Park neighborhoods continue to complain about buses idling in front of the National Cathedral.
   “I understand the bus drivers want to park in a place close to their drop-off points where they can let the bus run, but from my point of view I have to side with residents and businesses,” Mr. Evans said.
   The Washington Times yesterday reported that tour bus drivers in the District, trying to avoid the higher fines, are forced to continuously drive through the downtown streets.
   James D. Payne, 56, a bus driver for 35 years, said the fear of the higher fine has led to more buses on the streets.
   “Some of these tours are three to four hours and the buses are on the road the entire time,” he said.
    Some of the drivers said the constant parade of buses downtown could explain two pedestrian deaths in recent days.
   On May 1, a bus struck and killed a 7-year-old boy in front of the International Spy Museum at Ninth and F streets NW; his mother suffered serious leg injuries. An elderly woman crossing a street in Rosslyn on Tuesday morning was struck and killed by a commuter bus.
   The president of the American Bus Association said it would be wrong to blame the two deaths on the parking issue.
   “But what can be addressed is the need for the city to come up with adequate parking solutions,” said ABA President Peter J. Pantuso.
   Mr. Payne questioned why parking is not a priority in a city where tourism is the largest contributor to the economy.
   One option being considered is a lot on South Capitol Street east of the Anacostia River at the end of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, but it has to be paved and some restrooms and other amenities have to be made available for drivers, said Bill Dowd.
   Mr. Dowd, director of planning and implementation for the planning commission, said the task force is studying best practices from other cities.
   Mr. Payne suggested that buses be allowed to park at meters, a practice sanctioned in Virginia.
   “If a 40-foot bus takes up three to four meters, why can’t we park there if we feed them like everybody else?” he said.
   But Mr. Rybeck said that in the District, where the population rises by more than a million people during the day, and where residents, workers and visitors all vie for parking spots, “that is not an option.”
   The District’s transportation Web site, ddot.dc.gov, lists available bus parking. Several of the tourist sites refer drivers to parking areas at Union Station and limited on-street parking downtown.
   But construction at several places, such as the Kennedy Center next to Rock Creek Parkway and Ford’s Theatre at 10th and F streets NW, has eliminated parking spots usually reserved for buses.
    And the federal government has removed parking near the FBI headquarters, the Capitol and other federal buildings because of homeland security concerns.
   

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