Friday, September 19, 2008

LESSON LEARNED, NEVER PARK IN TAKOMA

Dear Metro,

You really let me down today. Wow. After this hard week—the failing economy, blundering government, and seemingly endless workweek*—you dealt a harsh blow. Simply put, Metro, you failed me.

My sister and her husband live across the street from your Takoma Park station on the red line. They live across the street from the station in a heavily populated area with little parking. I know because your parking lot denied my patronage this morning forcing me to circle the area, desperately looking for parking.

 

You claim that “All 42 stations offer daily or hourly parking…” You also note that “Thirty-five stations offer reserved parking, in which customers purchase permits to park in reserved spaces. “ I can see how this might lead to reservation-only parking at the Takoma Park station, but this is not a station with reserved parking and does in fact, offer public parking. Just not when I need it.

 

Apparently you are defining “daily parking” under very broad terms. Apparently daily parking at Takoma Park station begins at 10 a.m., and good luck to anyone who needs to go to work, school, or avail themselves of your transit services in the morning. Nevermind that overnight parking in Takoma ends at 7 a.m. Nevermind that every unmetered parking space is for “2A permit holders,” the luckier residence of the neighborhood. Your parking lot is full of meters, despite Metro’s long ago move to mandatory SmartTrip cards. You wisely offer two ZipCars and have cleanly separated the Kiss and Ride lot from the parking lot, but you are burdening the citizens by forcing hourly meters with inconvenient rules. Is it because the lot is full? Because I’ll be honest: if the lot had been full of commuters I wouldn’t have been upset. Instead the failure would have been mine.

 

So what do you want your riders to do? Because right now you’re alienating anyone who needs your services in Takoma before 8 a.m. Cheers! You hate commuters. And students. And anyone with a livelihood or needs before mid-morning. What’s with the hate? Where do you think we’ll go?

 

I’ll let you know where I went. I went around the block. And then I went into every side street I can find, even knowing that Takoma was built with these archaic parking meters. Even knowing that among these beautiful houses and independently owned businesses were capitalistic shadows lurking in the well manicured foliage. I circled the blocks for fifteen minutes before I decided that the sudden stopping, desperate U-turning, and hyperventilating was going to make me very late for work. Fifteen minutes may not seem like a lot—especially with your low bus rating and your frequent delays—but I’d like you to know there are a lot of repetitive driving paths that can be accomplished in fifteen minutes. I’d tell you how many times I circled but I want to ask you to get into your compact car at 7 a.m. on a week day and look for parking in Takoma. I want you to suffer, too. I will make it easy: I traveled every road and crossed every intersection before making a decision.

 

My decision is costly. I parked at the end of a street under a permit parking sign. You will find a copy of my inevitable parking ticket with the formal, polite, and mature letter next week. I know you won’t pay it, but I want you to know how my heart will sink when I retrieve my car after a long arduous work week. I hope the ultimate recipient of my letter has a son, daughter, brother, sister, wife, husband, or best friend who is in college, recently graduated, or struggling financially. I hope the ultimate recipient of my letter has worked hard to get through his or her career and understands the difficult burden of loans, burgeoning credit, and the looming fears of debt. Unless you or someone you know has had to work through difficult times you don’t understand that a seemingly insignificant parking ticket is another significant monetary payment. I have loans. I have bills. I have commuting fees. I thought taking the Metro from Takoma Park would save money but the fine on my ticket will surpass the money lost by driving to work and driving back.

 

I want to remind you that I’ve been your advocate for years. For 22 years, in fact. I’ve ridden every line, visited every stop, and encourage friends to avail themselves of your services. I’ve rallied on this blog for better funding, and I’ve told others that the better people in the city have been found in your stations. They are your security guards, your employees, and some of your passengers. But they are clearly not your developers of upper management. You need to fix this and you need to pay my parking ticket.  

 

I wish things between us could be better, Metro. I want to continue to love, admire, and respect you. But you’re making it hard.

 

Sincerely,

Katherine

Lifetime Rider.

 

*You noticed, right, Metro? Everyone, for their own individual reasons, seemed to have a hard week. I know you did. I bet your friends did, your just-out-of-college children, your husbands and wives. My compatriots have operated under the agreement that if we’re all a little more patient we can support each other. But you did not do that.

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