Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WTF? I mean, WTFingF? Vienna Metro Parking

I have several times in the past used the Metro at Vienna. It's the one furthest west, and the one that you need to take if you want to avoid the I-66 eastbound parking lot on a rainy morning. I have discussed before how mystifying it is to me that no one builds more parking, and charges for it.

Well....I got there Tuesday, at 9:15 am. Didn't find a space, drove around. Very nearly got hit, twice, by different people who were doing about 45 mph in the parking garage and making left turns without looking if someone was coming straight. One of them blew her horn at ME! (I made no gesture, or sound, other than a look of mild surprise, which I thought was an understated reaction, by the standards of the Angus / Mungowitz apoplexy-for-small-slights scale).

Parking appeared to be totally free. No parking attendants, the bars at the entrance and exit booths were raised. So, every space was full, in every lot and every garage.

Now, this makes no sense. Consider:

1. We subsidize the Metro already....a LOT. The argument for why parking should be subsidized is that "we" (really? no one asked me) "we" want people to use the Metro. (Me? I want them to walk...through the woods....and chiggers on their tingly parts)

2. Since it's free, people use it....too much. Charge something.

3. At a minimum, have some spaces, extra spaces, where you charge something. A LOT, if necessary, to make sure that there are SOME spaces available, for a high price. Who would be deterred by high prices? Those who could most easily find a ride, or take a bus. Who would use high-price parking spaces? Those who have the highest value of time, or the most urgent errand. Who would benefit? Well, imagine sorting people by their need to park. The last person who parked free on that day is likely nearly indifferent between parking and taking a bus. Having that person take the bus is a tiny cost. The next person who could have parked, at (say) $2/hour must really need to park, and ride. And the revenues of the system would go up, and the required subsidy (see above) would go down.

4. To be fair, there IS an alternative. you can park at the meters, outside. And, there were several meters available. Dozens, in fact. All you need is (I'm not making this up) $1 coins. Do you happen to have several of those? Like, six or eight, in your pocket? I sometimes get a $1 coin, and have 1 1$ coin, until I can foist it off on the next loser I buy something from. Now, lots of places (LOTS of places; that's a parking joke) have those stands where you put in your credit card, and pay, and get a receipt, and put it on your windshield. Even if you had to walk
50 yards to one of the machines, at least it is POSSIBLE to park there. The nominal price of these meters, as it stands, is $1 per hour. The actual price is effectively infinity, since NOBODY CARRIES F*****G 1$ coins.

So, I walked to the Metro station, bought my ticket with a $10, got 5 1$ coins in change from the machine, walked back to my spot, and put $5 worth of coins in the machine. I got back 5 hours and 45 minutes later, and there was a parking ticket disintegrating in the rain on my windshield. (There had been a 40 minute delay while something was cleared off the track, but I might have been late anyway. I hope they were clearing the remains of the guy who decided parking at Vienna should be free, and that he got hit while explaining some commuter why we need more subsidies, so parking can be free, so we get more riders, so we need more subsidies).

Two solutions, one from me, one from my lovely wife.

1. (mine) Lose the meters, which are electric and expensive. Install those machines that take credit cards. Charge $10/day, fixed rate, or $1.50 /hour.

2. (hers) there is plenty of free parking available, right out on I-66. You can leave your car there from 7:30 am til at least 10 am, and no one would notice, because there is no traffic movement. Sure, after 10 am you might get towed. But think how CONVENIENT it is.


Rolo Tomasi said...

Parking is not free. They leave the gates up so that people who don't find a parking spot in the morning don't have to pay to get out. They'll be lowered later in the day. I don't know about Vienna, but if you take Lee Hwy to Gallows to the Merrifield station there is a private garage behind some apartments. If you park in any metro parking you need a "SmartTrip" card (except for one exit at each end station i.e. Vienna) which costs $10 (it shows $5 on it but there's a hidden $5 cushion for the train only).

As to the honking, welcome to Virginia, motto "Virginia is for Lovers (of honking horns and shitty driving)" At least you didn't get the three minute hold down honk.

prison rodeo said...

"The actual price is effectively infinity, since NOBODY CARRIES F*****G 1$ coins."

Which ought to beg a question: Why not? There's plenty of evidence that coins of that denomination can "work" (see, e.g., Europe). The $1 bill introduced in 1862 was worth around $20 in 2008 terms; put differently, a $1 bill today makes as much sense as a $0.05 bill would have in 1862.

I say keep the meters, get rid of the greenback. (And eliminate the penny while we're at it...).

Anonymous said...

The parking is $4.25/day in the garage. As an earlier commenter said, the gates are only up in the mornings when the lots are likely to be full.

You can drive about one-third of a mile west (from the north garage) and park in front of the high school for free on the street. Of course, then you have to walk, but if you arrive after 9:00 AM you'll probably get there faster by parking and walking than looking for a parking spot in the garage and/or doing your little $1 coin relay race.

And they do have some spots for which they charge more - all those reserved spots that require long-term contracts.

Rolo Tomasi said...

Those long term reserve spots are normal fare after 10am. When my girlfriend goes to her internship she gets to the metro about 11ish and always has a spot right up front.

John Q Public said...

i won't pile on in mentioning that parking is not actually free. i guess what your experience really shows is that they can charge more for parking from the folks who actually use the service, reducing subsidies.

Vienna was the closest for me when i lived in the area (in the 90s). and the place was always full by 9am. i think they have another garage on the other side of 66 now, but i'm sure that's full, too.

Adam Dynes said...

Love the commentary on $1 coins. If I had to choose between Canada's healthcare system or their use of $1 and $2 coins (that's right...they have $2 coins), I'm not sure which one would be worse for my well-being.