Sunday, July 29, 2012

How many ways to pay in DC?

So we recently took a quick day trip to Washington DC on a weekend to see some of the memorials and parts of the Smithsonian. Should have been a fairly quick drive to the outskirts where we were going to take the Metro into the city. We've done the trip before and it's usually a pretty good trip. However, on this trip, things went sour fairly quickly. We got to the metro station to find that it was having a problem and therefore non-operational. There was the option of commuting via bus to another metro stop and going into the city from there or driving in ourselves. The idea of having to take a bus to another metro stop (rather than into the city directly) and still having to pay the money to do so did not appeal to us but I didn't have a map to know where to go into the city - a city that I personally hate driving in because the city streets seem to have been laid out by a hyperactive schizophrenic with no sense of direction.

Yet I didn't have much choice. I recalled that L'Enfant Plaza is near the Smithsonian so just needed to figure out how to get there. On a Saturday, provided I could find a parking spot, I could actually avoid any parking fees and now I would be able to avoid the metro fees, too. Which is probably just as well since my taxes clearly weren't enough to help ensure the smooth operation of the metro in the first place - probably because they're being used to pay for the waste and inefficiency so endemic to the city and the government that it hosts. So, using my Android, got the address I needed and mapped out the drive which was only about another 10-15 miles beyond the metro station.

Once I got to L'Enfant Plaza, I received my next surprise - parking was no longer free in this area. If it had been, I'm sure that I would have fond no available parking spots. Instead, there was a plethora of spots available and, once I found a spot, realized that I had no spare change to put into the parking meter. However, in the spirit of the government, er, city finding additional ways of fleecing its citizens and visitors, they have now set it up where you can pay your parking fees using your smart phone. While I am normally a proponent of utilizing technology to create efficiency, I was simply annoyed that what used to be free parking on Saturdays was no longer and they were finding new ways of making people pay. While I have a smart-phone and can do this, there are still many people who don't and this is just another annoyance to trying to visit the city - a city that hosts the federal government that represents us all and for which we pay to maintain it with the taxes that it imposes on us. Yet, in order to visit it, we continue to pay in other ways.

Before I go too far into that rant, let me continue on with my little story. So, after spending 10 minutes setting up an account on  my Android, I find that I can only park for two hours in that location. If I want to stay longer, I have to move my car (again!) and then pay again using the same method. So, I could only go so far from the vehicle to ensure that I had enough time to get back and move it without being ticketed. Which meant that we would be unable to visit the Jefferson Memorial (which was the one thing I wanted to go see that day!) and could only spend limited time at the Smithsonian museums. So, we went to the Air and Space Museum and had a quick lunch before I took the kids to to looking at some of the exhibits. Then I took them back to my better half who went with them while I went back to move the car and pay for another two hours. And, two hours later, I thought I might be able to renew the parking without moving the car again - but couldn't connect to their application this time. So, instead of most of the day enjoying my day in DC, I spent it paying for a failed mass transit system and parking that previously had worked fine. Exactly where do my taxes go?

Maybe it's not such a big issue and this is just the way of things. Perhaps I am just being too demanding and should lower my expectations. It is possible that I am just blowing up a minor annoyance into something far more significant than it should be. However, I believe that there is a growing failure on the part of a leadership that claims to represent us and yet the evidence instead indicates only serves its own interest. But instead of whining about it here, I should spend more time looking for ways to help fix the problem. I just hope that others will feel the same way and there is yet a way to a viable solution for the entire country and not just the entrenched leadership.

And I'll stop my rant now...

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