Wishful Thinking

Otis White has an interesting take on a dispute between the Washington Nationals and D.C. The team wants a big parking lot built in ...
by | July 28, 2006

Nats_parking Otis White has an interesting take on a dispute between the Washington Nationals and D.C. The team wants a big parking lot built in a hurry to accommodate fans as soon as its new ballpark opens. The city wants to do things more cautiously, integrating parking more attractively into the area.

I note that Otis and team officials repeatedly refer to a best case scenario -- or maybe it's the worst case -- wherein fans are frustrated by inadequate parking when there is a sell-out game.

But how often is that going to be a problem? The team's new ownership has made some smart marketing moves that have helped attendance pick up over the past couple of weeks. For most of this season, though, the Nats have been lucky to draw 15,000 people a game.

Last year, Governing's sage editor Alan Ehrenhalt published a column about this very problem. Institutions are always building too much parking based on scenarios that they will be filled to the brim constantly:

"Think how odd that is. If I were building a hotel, and I knew that I could fill 200 rooms on the busiest day of the year, but only 50 on an average day, I wouldn't build 200 and leave three-quarters of them empty most nights. I wouldn't open a restaurant so big I couldn't fill it up except on Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve. It's only when it comes to parking lots that planners and local governments insist on invoking a concept as foolish as maximum capacity."