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Committee Carves Out 900+ New Parking Slots
By Rich McManus
On the Front Page...
As a prescription for the impending parking crunch, NIH's ad hoc parking advisory committee has identified five new temporary parking areas grassy fields that can be graveled relatively easily and has converted to "stacked" parking five existing lots that have not heretofore hosted aisle parking. The newly configured lots debut on Monday, Sept. 22 and create room for more than 900 vehicles. "But we still expect something of a shortfall (in total parking availability) come October, so we are urging employees to consider alternatives to driving every day to work," said Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research and chair of the parking committee.
The graveled lots which will return to their natural grassy form once the crunch is over in a year or so, assures Gottesman are all on the campus's east side and were identified during a late-July bus tour of campus by members of the parking committee. Three are in the immediate vicinity of the National Library of Medicine: on the front lawn, or Pike side, of the library, beside Center Dr.; adjacent to the vehicle inspection tent on the library's back lawn; and just north of there, adjacent to Bldg. 32. Two larger lots will lay roughly on either side of the Metro station: the larger one, with space for 171 cars, is just north of Bldg. 17, a Pepco electrical power substation, and behind Bldg. 21; a slightly smaller lot will occupy the old natural amphitheater that used to host NIH's Outdoor Film Festival, behind Stone House (Bldg. 16).
Existing parking lots that have not yet been staffed by attendants from Colonial Parking, Inc., but will soon be used for stacking are: lot 41B-C; the P1 level of the ACRF garage; lot 10H on the south side of the Clinical Center; lot 21B, known colloquially as "the pit," near Bldg. 21; and 31B, just outside the B-wing entrance to Bldg. 31.
These newfound parking slots are but one of a host of solutions to a temporary crunch to be ameliorated by the construction of two new parking garages by late 2004 brought on largely by new construction on campus, including erection of the two new parking garages. According to Stella Serras-Fiotes, director of facilities planning with the Office of Research Facilities, construction of the stormwater management facility, the North Drive vehicle entrance and Lab 33 with its 1,250-car garage is scheduled to begin in late September and will eliminate over 800 parking spaces near Bldg. 31. Construction of the 900-car MLP-9 near Bldg. 10 will begin in December and cut another 200 spaces.
Just after Labor Day, the parking committee added 200 parking spaces at Mid-Pike Plaza and extended shuttle bus hours serving that lot; added 200 NIH-dedicated spaces to the Twinbrook Metro lot; extended shuttle bus hours to both Executive Plaza and Rockledge rental buildings; and designated as "campus drop-off points" four areas the Bldg. 31 lots near Garden Dr. and Cedar Ln., the entrances at Wilson Dr. and the Pike and South Dr. and Old Georgetown Rd., and the "kiss-and-ride" lane near the Metro station.
The Transhare program of subsidized public transportation for NIH'ers has grown to 4,600 subscribers, reports Tom Hayden, transportation planner in the Office of Research Facilities. "There isn't any ceiling on the number of employees who can take advantage of this option, so we always welcome more," he said.
He urged that, during this time of increased construction on campus, employees "be very vigilant to look out for pedestrians and bicyclists. And they should also tune their radios to 1610 AM for the latest parking information."
Gottesman said his committee is working closely with the executive officers at each institute and center to consider more use of telework and telecommuting, whereby NIH'ers can either work from home or from offsite hubs connected by computer to campus. They are also examining broadening the availability of Alternative Work Schedules, which ease the number of days employees must report to campus. The group has even looked into how NIH schedules its meetings, to determine whether more flexible scheduling can result in fewer campus visits.
"People need to realize that if they can change their schedules just a little bit, it will make a huge difference" in reducing parking pressure, Gottesman said. His committee has suggested that each employee who currently drives to work find an alternative at least once every month. "And if only half the employees use alternative modes twice as often, that'd be great too," he quips. "We're going to see how committed people are" to solving the parking squeeze communally. "We'll also be keeping a close eye on what's happening," he added, suggesting there could be tougher alternatives in the offing if the current appeal to NIH'ers' sense of civic virtue fails.
"We really want to discourage the sense that, 'Oh, NIH will take care of the problem I don't have to do anything myself.'"
Gottesman wants to engage the entire NIH community in a common effort that will yield benefits to all. His committee is in the midst of a media campaign to alert employees to commuting options. This includes flyers on vehicle windshields and in office hallways, regular email updates, stories in the Record and a special parking web site at http://parking.nih.gov. He also encourages submission of potential solutions from the many bright minds on campus. "Every idea we've discussed in our committee has in some way echoed concerns that have come to us via emails and calls from employees," he said. "We're getting a lot of good ideas."
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