Sloppily parking drivers can feel free on shopping center lot, with one big exception

TRAFFIC TALK

March 05, 2006|By JODY K. VILSCHICK

Two weeks ago, Kimberly Banholzer complained about selfish parkers who took up more than their fair share on often-crowded parking lots.

This week, Bill Perigo says that if you want to park with impunity, do so in a shopping center's lot. Although it might infuriate your fellow shoppers, there's not a whole lot anybody can do about it. And the person parking poorly won't have to shop around for an excuse.

Why? Because, as Mr. Perigo noted, Howard County's parking regulations apply to municipal parking areas rather than shopping center lots.

"The definition of `public parking area' is normally for a municipal parking area, [such as] downtown Ellicott City," he said. "I believe there also should be a law for the same on commercial private property [such as] at the big-box shopping centers."

On a municipal lot, or with street parking such as in areas of Ellicott City, you can't park in a way that impedes traffic or conflicts with the directions of a police officer or traffic-control device - or outside the lines designating a parking space, according to Howard County Code Section 21.222.

The only regulations that do apply to shopping center parking lots are in Sec. 21.234, which allows a property owner to put up "no parking" signs that are the same as municipal signs and enforced as such. This regulation does not cover parking between the lines.

Finally, Mr. Perigo complained about people using handicapped-designated parking spaces.

"It also used to bother me when people would pull up `just for a second' into a handicapped parking space, for their convenience," he said. "The Blockbuster video in the Long Gate shopping center is a good example [of where this frequently occurs] - people pull into the handicapped spaces just to return movies."

Zach Smith shared his complaint.

"My mom has a handicapped sticker, and so she parks in the handicapped spot," he said. "It [angers] me when people who don't have a handicapped sticker park in the handicapped [space] anyway. Sometimes, the handicapped spaces are almost entirely filled with people who shouldn't be parking there."

This is covered by the local regulations, Mr. Perigo said.

And the good news? It is also enforceable on private commercial property. So park in multiple spaces if you must when you visit Target or Home Depot - so long as one of them is not set aside for disabled drivers.

Va. 511 e-mail service

The Virginia Department of Transportation launched a new 511 e-mail alert service two weeks ago, giving subscribers real-time traffic information. The subscription service can send traffic information via text messages or e-mail.

"Through the new 511 e-mail alert system, travelers can now be informed of road conditions the second VDOT knows about it," said Connie Sorrell, chief of system operations for VDOT.

Although this isn't much help for most Marylanders, commuters to the other side of the Capital Beltway, take note: Subscribers can select which roads their alerts will cover. But a heads-up: Fees for text messages may apply depending on the subscriber's text message provider.

Traffic alerts and traveler information in Virginia can also be obtained by dialing 511. In areas where 511 is unavailable, dial 00-578-4111. TTY users can call 711 to obtain these services. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511 Virginia.org.

511 Virginia has the latest information on weather conditions, road construction and traffic incidents, as well as lodging, food and gas. The system provides information on all of Virginia's interstates and most major primary roads. 511 has been available statewide since last February. Callers also can transfer to the Kentucky and North Carolina 511 telephone services for travel information in both states. The number is available in 23 states.

It would be nice if Maryland could offer something similar.

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