Tackling the perennial parking problem

June 10, 2012

BY PAULA MINAERT — Soon, city residents and visitors will find it easier to park when they go to Elevation Burger, Wet Your Palettes or any of the other newer businesses that line Route 1.

The lack of adequate parking in that area has led to many complaints from both shoppers and business owners ever since the resurgence of that commercial district. The problem has only intensified with last month’s opening of Spice 6 Indian restaurant at the Shoppes at Arts District Hyattsville.

In response, the city has recently initiated two plans that will almost double the number of parking places nearby.

“We’re re-entering the street parking business on Route 1,” said Jim Chandler, director of community and economic development.

Flashing road signs along the busy thoroughfare are alerting drivers to one of the coming changes: on-street parking during off-peak hours. (Peak hours are weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.) Already available south of Gallatin Street, it will extend to include the stretch between Gallatin and Madison streets sometime this month. This plan will add 61 on-street parking spaces to the 46 already there.

However, the added parking will also mean that drivers will have only one lane in each direction rather than two – which might pose a challenge to parallel parkers.

The city also will redevelop three vacant and underutilized parking lots it owns close to Route 1, on Farragut, Jefferson and Hamilton streets. This work, set to begin this month, will bring an additional 121 spaces to the 143 spaces currently in the lots.

Parking is at a premium at the Shoppes at Arts District Hyattsville. Photo courtesy T. Carter Ross.

Parking is at a premium at the Shoppes at Arts District Hyattsville. Photo courtesy T. Carter Ross.

Overall, the plans will increase the city’s parking places on and near Route 1 from 189 to 371. As with the current parking on Route 1, drivers will have to pay: the on-street parking will have meters and the lot parking will have boxes to accept payment.

And there’s more: there’s a chance a parking garage will go up right off Route 1. According to Mayor Marc Tartaro, the city is actively negotiating with some property owners to acquire land there for parking purposes. Plans call for first a parking lot and then a parking garage to be built on the parcel, located on Hamilton Street east of Route 1.

“I see the garage as being two to three years down the road,” said Tartaro, “depending on funding and parking demand. We won’t pursue building a garage if a parking lot is adequate.”

The state of Maryland has passed a bill giving a grant of $250,000 to the city for the purpose. The city would have to match the grant.

Residential parking

But some councilmembers are concerned that expanding and emphasizing paid parking near retail will impede monitoring neighborhood violations. Paula Perry, Ward 4 councilmember, has often spoken at council meetings about the difficulties people have finding parking near their homes.

“In my neighborhood we have too many cars and not enough spaces in front of homes to park them all,” she said in an interview. “These neighborhoods were built when people owned one car. They weren’t built for the number of cars people have now.”

Tartaro said that limited residential parking is a problem across the city. He said he wants to see a city-wide parking policy, which would start with a pilot program in a single neighborhood. A survey there would determine how much parking is available, and could be used to develop a policy for both resident and guest parking.

“It would be a uniform policy across the city, though it may be implemented differently in different neighborhoods,” he said.