Costly perks and inefficiencies Downtown parking crunch


RECENT ARTICLES by Wiley Hall III and Doug Birch in The Evening Sun and The Sun have addressed the issue of VIP parking in the downtown Baltimore area. This issue, and other parking and transportation issues, should be addressed by city government officials as a source of revenue for fiscally troubled Baltimore.

For too long, reserved parking has been a coveted perquisite for city officials and others. This perk is costing the city quite a bit of money, as well as the good will of Baltimore citizens who see this privilege freely dispensed.

As Councilman Tony Ambridge pointed out in Doug Birch's article, accessibility to City Hall, "Speaks to the efficiency of the job to have the ability to come and go quickly." Yet for many other city employees, such accessibility, which would help them do their jobs better, is not available. In this regard, the city is its own worst enemy. Many of the vehicles parked at reserved spaces and downtown meters are city-owned.

We all hear that Baltimore is in bad shape financially. The time has come for our elected officials to take the initiative and cut this kind of "pork barrel" largess. The area around City Hall should be returned to its citizens. Having City Council members park close to City Hall does serve a purpose; we can see who is at work!

In many areas downtown, the reserved spaces go under-used. How many times are spaces reserved for the "Orphan's Court" or the "Director of the Film Commission" found occupied by their rightful permit holders?

In other instances, the metered spaces available are used by vehicles displaying handicapped license plates. Near the Wolman Building, where citizens pay parking fines, taxes, water bills and apply for miscellaneous permits, it is possible to see the same vehicles are observed every day during working hours, monopolizing the short-term metered spaces and designated handicapped permit spaces.

Having a handicapped tag on one's car does allow parking without paying at meters, for the term of the meter, yet these vehicles are rarely, if ever, ticketed. Parking at a 30-minute meter all day, without penalty, causes the city to lose revenue from the meters and from fines for violations. Moreover, handicapped citizens with business to transact in the Wolman Building are prevented easy access.

Of course, parking for handicapped drivers should be provided. One solution would be to reserve two to four accessible and convenient parking spaces on each block for handicapped parkers. However, these spaces should be metered, with meters that accept a variety of coins placed at a convenient level for handicapped drivers, and they should offer a reasonable rate for parking. Handicapped parking for city employees could be provided in a central location with shuttle service to City Hall and other city buildings.

Other abuses exist in downtown parking. The metered lot at Holliday and Saratoga Streets is purportedly a "commuter" lot until 9:00 a.m. Yet rarely is more than one passenger seen to depart from a vehicle bearing a commuter permit. Since this lot is one of few locations where four- and 10-hour meters are available, drivers needing to park and get to work by 9:00 a.m. play tag with parking enforcement personnel almost every morning.

Many who use this lot work as field representatives for city departments; monthly parking arrangements are not appropriate for these workers, yet daily rates at downtown garages are not financially feasible. A central lot with an attendant could admit vehicles with three or more occupants for parking at a reduced rate and would eliminate the abuse of this arrangement. A responsible car pool program could go a long way toward reducing the number of vehicles downtown.

These downtown parking problems show a disregard for frugality and efficiency in city government as well as an indifference to the needs of citizens and those employed downtown. Much could be done to increase revenue for the city and make the downtown area, particularly near the public areas of City Hall and the Wolman Building, more accessible.

Mary Sloan Roby is a resident of East Baltimore who works downtown.

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