- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

Redskins fans who want to avoid paying any parking fees on game days at FedEx Field in Landover could be out of luck this fall.

Metro officials said yesterday that they want Redskins fans to pay a $25 fee for parking in their lots — the same amount that the Redskins charge fans to use the stadium lots. Parking at Metro lots now is free on weekends and federal holidays.

The board’s budget committee approved holding a public hearing in late April or early May on the proposed fee, which would only be in effect during events at the stadium and would not apply to Metro riders.

Agency officials want to conduct a pilot program in which motorists will be charged to park at the Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center stations, which are both within walking distance of the stadium. Pending approval from the full board, the pilot program will be implemented in August.

The initiative was proposed to “charge folks that do not ride the rail system,” said Ray Stoner, manager of Metro’s parking program. Motorists who have SmarTrip cards with a train trip on it will not be charged.

“If you’re a Redskins fan and you pull into the Morgan Boulevard station, you’re going to have to have a rail ride on your SmarTrip card or you will have to have $25 on the card to exit the lot,” Mr. Stoner said.

So what if passengers try to make an end run around the parking charge by taking a $1.35 ride from Largo to Morgan, then walking the 0.9 miles to the stadium?

“We’re going to monitor that,” Mr. Stoner said.

If it becomes a problem, Metro will try a different strategy to define ridership.

Metro is still smarting from commuters who figured out a perfectly legal way to get around parking charges by running their SmarTrip cards down to a negative balance. That forced a policy change taking effect next week, requiring a sufficient amount to cover parking fees be on any card used to exit the lots.

In December, Metro opened the Morgan and Largo lots, which have a combined estimated 2,700 parking spaces. To discourage non-Metrorail users from filling the lots, the agency’s staff wants to charge “market-rate” fees to park in the lots during major events at the stadium.

The pilot period would give Metro officials substantial statistics on whether continuing the rates change is feasible, Mr. Stoner said.

The change would net Metro about $363,000 a year, Mr. Stoner estimated. The funds would offset $177,000 in expenses for staffing and maintaining the lots during events, particularly for police officers to ensure safety.

Last fall, a Prince George’s County appeals board voted to overturn a ban on pedestrian access to certain roads near the stadium on game days, giving Redskins fans the option to walk to games from nearby lots.

Also yesterday, the budget committee approved plans to add $1.2 million to cover extra service during the Washington Nationals’ 40 home games at RFK Stadium, which are scheduled in Metro’s 2005 fiscal year.

The money will cover the cost of running six-car trains after the games and 13 new staff positions, said Jim Hughes, Metro’s director of operations and planning.

During yesterday’s meeting, board members asked Mr. Hughes what would happen if a night game ends after Metro closes. Mr. Hughes said the Nationals would have to pay the additional cost for Metro to stay open, although there isn’t any current agreement with the team.

Christopher Zimmerman, a board member from Arlington County, said he is worried that the system will be blamed for customers possibly becoming stranded after a late-ending game.

“Baseball is the most notoriously unpredictable of major sports [concerning] the length of the game,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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