Linthicum merchants shoo O's fans Light rail parking squeezes out customers

August 22, 1993|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Staff Writer

Shortly before the first bat was swung at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Opening Day, merchants in the Shipley-Linthicum Shopping Center area spotted a problem.

Baseball fans.

Fans eager to board light rail, which stops in back of a convenience store across the street, parked their cars in the shopping center's lot, taking spaces from customers.

"People were ignorant enough to park right in front of your business," said Chuck Pumphrey, who owns two businesses in the center, including Pumphrey's Variety Store.

The merchants went to their landlord for help. A few weeks ago, they got it.

Yellow and red "1 Hour Customer Parking Only: No Light Rail Parking" signs were posted on the center's parking lot off Camp Meade Road.

That shopping center wasn't the only one where light rail riders parked, nor the only one to view signs as a possible solution. Across the street, merchants in the Linthicum Plaza put up red and white "Customer Parking Only" signs.

"It isn't too bad any more," said David Fajerski, who helps a friend run Line Drive, a baseball card and comic book shop in Linthicum Plaza.

Mr. Fajerski pointed to the construction of a 780-space parking lot at the Cromwell/Glen Burnie light rail station in June as a big reason why. Until the station opened, Linthicum was the light rail system's southern terminus.

"Before the Cromwell Station, it was horrendous," he said. "There was no parking at all."

The problem was especially vexing during day games. Cars would fill up what few slots the plaza's small lot has, then start lining up along its sides. Across the street at the center, merchants would watch their customers search fruitlessly for parking in their own, somewhat larger, lot.

At the Shipley-Linthicum Shopping Center, merchants said, lack of parking wasn't as much of a problem as where people would park -- out in front, in the prime spaces directly off Camp Meade Road.

"Probably nobody would have complained if they had parked in the back. But that's 20 more steps. Everybody's lazy. Nobody wants to walk," Mr. Pumphrey said. "There should have been a parking lot if they're going to have a station."

Customers "would just try to find the closest parking and then complain when they came in," said Mr. Pumphrey's daughter Sharon, who runs Chuck's deli.

Ms. Pumphrey asked employees to watch for people parking in front of the deli who would hop out with a seat cushion or other baseball paraphernalia tucked under their arms.

"We would try and nab them," Ms. Pumphrey said. "We would run out the door and ask them to move their car." They would, with no fuss, she said.

"I think people just didn't think," Ms. Pumphrey said. "They weren't aware how important it was for us to have our front spots."

There had been talk of building a parking lot for light rail riders in back of the Exxon station across the street, where the Linthicum Plaza sits, said Bill Insley, who owns Your Shoe Service at Shipley-Linthicum Shopping Center. But buildings were built on it instead.

The MTA had planned to build a 70-space lot in the area, said Diane Rosborough, a spokeswoman for the Mass Transit Administration. But the Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association didn't want it.

Improvement association President Gerald Starr said residents feared a light rail lot in the residential area would clog traffic.

The community doesn't have space commensurate with that of the North Linthicum station about a half-mile down Camp Meade Road, which includes parking for 162 cars, or that of the nearby Cromwell/Glen Burnie Station, which is in an industrial area, Mr. Starr said.

LTC Residents on streets near the two shopping complexes said their blocks mostly have escaped the parking crunch.

"If they have an Orioles day game, there'll be some," said Janet Schmidt. Weekend games usually bring a couple of cars, perhaps six or so during day games, she said.

L She and others said game day riders have not been a problem.

L "I think it's because nobody realizes we're here," she said.

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