Parking woes in Ellicott City Howard County: Historic district shouldn't do anything to reduce the number of people who visit it.

September 22, 1998

SUCCESS sometimes comes with problems. There's so much weekend business at restaurants and shops in historic Ellicott City that it's often difficult to find a parking space. That's frustrating not only to motorists but to merchants who can't sell anything to a moving target.

Some restaurant owners want to freeze out new businesses so the parking problem won't increase. They have asked the county to stop granting liquor licenses to new restaurants.

That drastic measure would do more harm than good. Instead of trying to reduce the number of attractions that bring people to Ellicott City, proprietors should propose ways to improve parking.

Restaurants and shops should make sure their patrons know about the nearby courthouse parking lot. Its 265 spaces are empty when court isn't in session.

A weekend shuttle runs from the lot to Main Street every six minutes. Businesses should provide discounts and other incentives that encourage use of the shuttle.

There are 82 spaces at the parking meters along Main Street and another 515 spaces in the six parking lots that dot the historic district. That's not much to serve the 15,000 people a month who visit Ellicott City.

A solution that will have more impact than the shuttle bus is needed. One possibility is a parking deck, but it wouldn't be cost-effective to build one that is little used except on weekends.

Deputy Planning Director Marsha McLaughlin says discussions are under way with Baltimore County officials to bring more tourism to the entire Patapsco Valley, including Oella and Elkridge.

A successful plan would bring enough people to the district throughout the week to make a parking deck feasible. In the meantime, parking at the courthouse lot must be promoted. If it becomes filled, a weekend shuttle might be added to run from lots in the county government complex.

Pub Date: 9/22/98

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