On April 4, while I was parking my car next to City Hall on Fairfax Street, I saw that nearly all of the parking spaces were filled with 13 city vehicles. It appears that the staff wants ready access to their vehicles (to the detriment of the general public), rather than parking in the designated area under City Hall. I have monitored this situation over a long period of time, and it only has gotten worse.
Although it is no secret that parking in Old Town is at a premium; parking reductions are freely and routinely granted for every new development. In addition, two existent large parking lots are endangered; the Strand with 100 parking spaces (which will eventually become a park), and the King Street Metro with 66 parking spaces, to be converted into a bus queuing operation.
All told, with these projected losses coupled with other parking reductions, the city has yet to offer any innovative parking solutions.
When I moved into Old Town Alexandria in 1985, I had only one major requirement, which was to have a parking space. If this were not the case, I would have remained in suburban Fairfax County. Without a dedicated parking space (which is not a possibility for many Old Town homes), I would have had to search for parking on the street, which can be a daunting experience when laden with shopping bags, or when returning late from work. Finding a parking space is also a common problem for visitors to Old Town.
Although tourists can park at a meter, a parking lot, or in one of the residential parking areas, there are strings attached. First, meters offer only two hours of parking in most cases, especially meters east of Alfred Street. This is insufficient time for an enjoyable shopping and dining experience, you will need to pick one or the other. Next, parking lots and garages often charge huge fees, which is a disincentive for parking at these locations. Most non-expense account visitors will seek out free parking spaces in one of the residential areas, which diminishes opportunities for residential parking.
Potential visitors to Old Town who are aware of these parking constraints will factor in these parking issues, and will likely take their business elsewhere, while those who encounter this parking issue for the first time are less likely to return. The City Council should consider parking to be a strategic objective which is not to be waivered away, but to be dealt with for the good of business and the citizens. To do other than this is to further inhibit the goose who is laying those golden eggs.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet