LETTER TO EDITOR: Parking Challenges in Old Town, Shopping Center
One resident says he rarely goes to the College Park shopping center and plans to host fewer house parties because of parking restrictions and new meters.
Eighty-five percent of Patch polltakers said they hate the new parking meters installed at the College Park shopping center, because they're either too expensive or too confusing.
One of those frustrated residents, Chris Tennant, shared his parking frustrations with Patch in a letter to the editor. He said he rarely visits the shopping center because of the meters, and he plans to host fewer house parties because of parking restrictions in Old Town.
First of all, regarding the specific issue raised, viz., the new parking meter system in downtown College Park, it is abominable! It was inconvenient enough when we had those old meters, which I strongly objected to, especially as a College Park resident. In fact, it was rarely, if ever, that I frequented the shopping center after those old meters were installed, but, now, with the new meters installed by the money-grubbing College Park authorities, I refuse to frequent the shopping center at all, unless I do so on foot. And, quite frankly, I think that a LOT of individuals will also stop using the center for the same reason, which is going to hit business very hard there. I realize that similar measures are being/have been introduced elsewhere, especially in DC, but again, with that comes a decline in local business. I used to go into DC frequently, especially to Georgetown, to go to a movie and have dinner but, after the harsh restrictions placed on parking in the area, it became impossible to do both and, sometimes, to even do one of those activities. And, of course, if one wants to shop, one can no longer do so leisurely, which again results in a decline in business.
As for what to do regarding the downtown shopping center, I feel that there should at least be an initial two-hour free parking limit, which would provide ample time for people to shop or have lunch/dinner in the shopping center, just as is the case in the non-metered section of Zone 6. As for on-street parking on Route 1, that is another matter altogether and I see no problem with charging for parking there, but with a NORMAL meter! Oh, and did I mention City Hall? Messing with those meters when we have to run in and do business with the city? Give us a break!
All of which leads me to an even larger complaint with respect to parking in College Park. Residents of College Park are issued annual stickers that permit them to park on non-metered areas of streets at any time in their designated area or zone, which, in the case of Old Town, happens to be Zone 6. However, those not having a parking permit for a specific zone are allowed to park for only two hours in the area and only up until five o'clock in the afternoon, which, as far as I know, is applicable seven days a week! However, based on the totally confusing parking signs in the area, it is virtually impossible to figure out what the rules of the game really are.
All that is bad enough! But the fact that I cannot throw a house party or host visitors because they are not allowed to park for more than two hours nor beyond five in the afternoon on what appears to be every single day of the week is really discouraging! Yes, yes, I know. We can go up to City Hall and buy one-day parking stickers for our guests, but why should we have to do that?!! As far as I'm concerned, it's just another money-grubbing scheme on the part of College Park to fill their pockets with money, and fill them, they do, for if one exceeds that two-hour limit by even a few minutes, he or she gets stuck with a hefty fine! There have been many times when I insisted on paying my guest's fine because I felt responsible for having forgotten to warn them about parking restrictions in College Park.
All of which leads me to yet another issue regarding parking meters and spaces. Until recently, I used to schedule my house parties and social events for Saturday or Sunday night because at least my guests could park free in the metro parking lot next to my house at the corner of Old Calvert Road and Columbia Avenue and not have to worry about being ticketed on those nights. However, it seems that new parking meters have been installed in the metro lot, along with new signs that are as vague as the old ones, even more so, in fact, since the old parking meters clearly stipulated WHICH hours you are allowed to park in the lot AND which hours you have to PAY for, which boiled down to free parking in the metro lot on Saturday and Sunday. What I need to know now is: what do the new signs imply? I have read them several times and THINK – but correct me if I'm wrong – that it means that we now have to pay to park in that lot at ALL times.
All in all, parking regulations and the overuse of metered parking in the area do not make College Park an inviting place to visit or even to live. The thought of throwing a house party, even on weekends, is now so daunting that I will probably curtail that activity considerably, since I would be able to invite only guests who can take the metro to my place. Moreover, as I stated earlier, my trips up to the local shopping center, which doesn't have all that much to offer to begin with, are not even worth bothering with, as I can go to Beltway or PG Plaza or even down to the Hyattsville Arts District and not have to put up with all that nonsense. Yes, I know that's a hassle too, but it's College Park that loses out in the long run.
In short, a fairer and friendlier system, not entirely based on how much money one is able to extort from both residents of and visitors to College Park, needs to be developed if the Old Town area is to become a more inviting place to live and do business.
Writer/Consultant and former UN Program Officer, MENA and CEE/CIS/Balkan Regions