Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Enforcement t.b.d.

It's been a while since I've talked at all about the local train station where my rail commute begins and ends each day, and that's probably because there's never that much to say about it. I've got my system for finding a parking space figured out, I know what time I absolutely must leave the house by in order to catch my regular train, and other than a brief period at the beginning of the summer when a newly opened barbecue joint was rolling a little cart down to the platform every afternoon in an effort to hawk pulled pork sandwiches to detraining workforce participants, really nothing ever changes.

Obviously this is one of my classic stem-winders where I establish the as-you-already-know exposition just so that I can drop the bombshell that SOMETHING HAS CHANGED. Indeed. And I'm fairly curious to see how this one is going to play out.

I'm generally on autopilot in the morning, from the time I back out of my driveway to the time I get to my parking space. I always go to the same parking space, and it's more or less always open and waiting for me, a feat I manage by virtue of the fact that it's not one of the more desirable spaces in the parking garage. The entrance/exit to the garage is level 1, which doesn't have very many spaces to begin with. By making almost a full circuit around level 1, you come to a ramp which leads to level 2. Level 2 is basically prime parking, because (stay with me here) level 1 is half underground, the two streets on either side of the garage running slightly uphill to where they meet the railroad tracks. So the platform is actually accessible from doors on level 2. If your main goal is to avoid stairs and elevators altogether, level 2 is where you want to park. So I usually drive a half-lap around level 2 without slowing down, to get to the ramp that goes up to level 3. And then I do almost a full lap (because it's one-way traffic inside the garage) to get around to the side of level 3 where the stairs are, and that's where I park. Not always the exact same spot every day, but out of those half dozen or so spots closest to the stairs there's usually at least one spot open. I get out of my car, go down the stairs, and out to the platform. I don't have to think about it first thing in the morning, and I don't have to strain my brain remembering where I parked in the afternoon. That's the way I like it.

This morning, despite being on auto-pilot (perhaps even moreso than usual, still half-asleep in mourning for the passage of the three-day weekend), I noticed an official-looking sign right at the street entrance of the parking garage. I skimmed it as I drove past it, and noticed that it said level 2 would now be reserved for mid-day hourly pay parking. I didn't notice if it said effective immediately or starting on such-and-such a date, although as of Labor Day is probably not an unreasonable guess. Anyway, it used to be that level 4 was for mid-day hourly parking, with the lower 3 levels intended for residents who display yearly parking permits obtained from the city. On days when I ran late and caught a different train, the three levels for permit-holders would often be full and I would have to pay to park in one of the spots on level 4, so I was certainly aware that such dual-use of the parking garage existed. And I thought the system made a pretty good amount of sense: in the morning, a bunch of commuters are just trying to get a spot and catch the train, some of them potentially cutting the timetable a bit close (ahem) and so they parked closer to the entrance-exit. Anyone who drove down to oldtown for lunch or shopping in the late morning or early afternoon could probably spare a few minutes to drive all the way up to level 4 and then ride the elevator or take the stairs back down.

But apparently that is no longer the case! I have no idea what kind of city council lobbying was required to convince the authorities that it's the midday patrons of oldtown eateries and boutiques who deserve the primo parking spaces directly adjacent to the doors leading to the sidewalk and the platform, and that the VRE riders can park all day a level or two above them, thanks. But that seems to be where we are now. All right, then.

As I outlined above, this really doesn't affect me, because I never used to park on level 2 anyway. Or, I should say, it didn't affect me today. My regular parking space was waiting for me, same as always. I also passed a lot of cars on level 2. Really it looked like any other Tuesday morning at the parking garage. So maybe the new rules haven't gone into effect yet. Or maybe they have, as of today, but not a lot of people noticed or bothered to read the sign at the entrance. If it's the latter case, then there are going to be several dozen really peeved commuters who get off the train late this afternoon and find parking violation citations tucked under their windshield wipers. And that in turn will no doubt lead to those several dozen people definitely being sure to park up on level 3 tomorrow, once ticketed twice shy and all that. Or, heck, maybe every one who gets a ticket today will stand together in solidarity and civil disobedience and keep parking on level 2 because change is bad and they won't be pushed around! Time will tell, I suppose. I may be parking on the roof of the garage before the year is out. I will report back with updates as warranted.

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