At the request of area merchants, shoppers in Chevy Chase will be able to pay for parking at individual meters by their cars at least through the end of April.
The Lexington & Fayette County Parking Authority had intended to replace the individual meters along the 800 block of Euclid Avenue and along a nearby stretch of East High Street with four computerized pay stations. Each pay station is expected to take the place of about 10 individual meters.
Instead, the parking authority has agreed to a two-month monitoring period in which shoppers have the option of paying at the individual meter or at the computerized stations, which are called Pay & Display meters.
At the end of April, the parking authority will decide whether to keep or remove the meter heads.
The idea is to see whether there is increased use and acceptance of the Pay & Display meters, said Gary Means, executive director of the parking authority. "Is it trending upwards, the acceptance, or did we just hit a brick wall and no one wants to use them?"
In addition to the observation period, the parking authority has agreed to conduct a small-area parking study of Chevy Chase.
The study will be used to take an inventory of available parking in the area, determine parking turnover rates and help identify places where employees can park.
It will be the first small-area study conducted by the parking authority at the request of a neighborhood. It should be completed in early April.
The parking authority has been very cooperative and sensitive to the issues of the Chevy Chase merchants in initiating the parking study and running a dual parking system for two months, said Urban County Councilwoman Cheryl Feigel, whose district includes Chevy Chase.
The observation period was a "great compromise," Feigel said. "I'm really pleased that he was willing to do that because I do think that the Chevy Chase retail area is different. It's not like a mall or downtown. People go there because it's convenient."
Area merchants objected to the Pay & Display meters, saying they would take away from the convenience of shopping in Chevy Chase.
Shoppers are used to parking directly in front of a store, stepping in, doing their business and then stepping out, said former Councilman Bill Farmer Jr., a partner in Farmer's Jewelry on Euclid.
With the Pay & Display meters, drivers would no longer be able to pay for parking right next to their cars. Instead, they would have to walk to the computerized station, pay and then return to their cars to put a ticket on their dashboards before heading to their destination.
The Pay & Display meters were activated about two weeks ago. The parking authority doesn't have enough data on the usage of the stations yet.
The parking authority will have employees out in the Chevy Chase area to introduce people to the Pay & Display meters and to help those who might need assistance, Means said.
It's odd that the parking authority has decided to educate motorists about the Pay & Display stations just as the monitoring period is beginning in Chevy Chase, Farmer said.
The parking authority's education effort is a sign "they still intend to make us go to the stations whether we like it or not because if you run both side by side until April 30, the meters will win hands down based on usage," Farmer said. "People still want convenience, not a lesson in how to park in Lexington."
Farmer said he has seen very few people use the Pay & Display stations since they have been activated.
"I'm hoping for a good outcome for the merchants in Chevy Chase and I think a good outcome is for the Pay & Display meters to go away," Farmer said. "People are creatures of habit. Ours is a true pedestrian area and people want to walk as short as they can."
When Means met with the Chevy Chase merchants about the meter situation, one of the issues discussed was the lack of available parking for employees.
Employee parking is particularly an issue for those who work in Ashland Plaza, where the Starbucks is, Means said. "There's healthy business going on over there, which is nice, but employees are not supposed to park there per the landlord. They really want it to be for customers only."
Those employees used to park at meters, but with the parking authority's increased enforcement they have stopped doing that, he said.
The study will help determine whether there are areas where parking is under-utilized, Means said.
In areas where parking is under-utilized, options include speaking with the owner about setting aside or selling parking spaces for employees, he said.