ABA & AAA implore leaders to address DC parking crisis (March 25, 2015)
The leadership of the American Bus Association and AAA Mid-Atlantic implored government leaders Tuesday, March 24, to address the impending parking crisis that will hit Washington, D.C., during the peak tourism season. The groups urged planners to add parking near the National Mall for the millions of people who will visit by bus and car over the next several months.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival marks the unofficial annual kick-off to the tourism and tour bus season in the nation’s capital. ABA and AAA Mid-Atlantic say that long-term solutions are needed to provide centralized parking solutions for the Cherry Blossom Festival, other events and the day-to-day influx of visitors.
Not only do our out-of-town guests need to be treated better, but the motorcoach, travel and tourism industry generates billions of dollars a year in economic impact for the entire region. Yet, parking for motorcoaches remains scarce, and earlier discussions for motorcoach parking lots have been shelved.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is expected to draw as many as 1.5 million tourists and generate as much as $160 million annually in total economic impact. It also brings in one of the highest volumes of motorcoach activity in the calendar year. Statistics from Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments indicate that, during the spring and summer, the region averages 1,100 buses a day filled with as many as 50 people coming to visit the magnificent sites in Washington, Virginia and Maryland. Overall, the motorcoach, travel and tourism industry generates more than $5 billion a year in total economic impact for Washington and the surrounding region, including Maryland and Northern Virginia.
Yet many of the motorists and motorcoaches venturing into the nation’s capital during the tourist season are forced to run a gantlet of parking rules and parking enforcers. Potentially compounding the problem, the National Park Service has said it is considering plans to remove the limited number of free parking spaces for visitors and tourists and install multi-space parking meters. Many of these spots near the Tidal Basin are used by motorcoaches to park or drop off and pick up passengers.
“Through the year, but especially during the next several months, tens of thousands of people each day will arrive on motorcoaches and visit the wonderful sites and attractions in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia,” said ABA President and CEO Peter J. Pantuso. “But our region has big challenges when it comes to providing adequate parking for motorcoaches. There are just not enough places to park while our guests are out of the motorcoach dining, shopping and exploring the area’s attractions. We join with our colleagues at AAA Mid-Atlantic to call on government leaders to begin a discussion about how our industry, elected officials, and other stakeholders can find long-term solutions to this problem.”
ABA and AAA Mid-Atlantic aren’t alone in calling for solutions to the intractable parking woes. Some relief could be on the way if a group of architects, historians and preservationists gets its wish list fulfilled. The National Coalition to Save Our Mall has proposed the National Mall Underground project, a multi-purpose parking garage and flood water protection facility that would be located underneath the National Mall. The Coalition says the underground vehicle parking facility would provide “over 1,000 spaces for tour buses, school buses and tourist vehicles, in order to provide access and relieve congestion and pollution.”
A recently released report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments also addressed the parking issue. The study confirms what tour bus operators and the motorcoach industry have known all along: the lack of parking, coupled with insufficient curbside space near major attractions, not only generates traffic congestion but also raises safety concerns when are passengers are forced to board in already-tight travel lanes.