16 Hour Limit Imposed at BWI Rail Station

A $50.00* charging session? Steep penalty at BWI Amtrak garage.

(*Note: ChargePoint App says $50.00 maximum.) Post updated July 14, 2015.
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If you are planning to plug in your electric vehicle at the BWI Rail Station to go away for a few days on Amtrak, read the fine print on the signs because you may be hit with a huge ChargePoint bill to use the “free” charging stations there.

Apparently, in an effort to discourage drivers from plugging in and leaving on overnight trips, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has limited the parking at the EV charging stations at the BWI MARC/Amtrak Rail Station to no more than 16 hours. Vehicles that are still plugged in after 16 hours will be billed $2.00 per hour via ChargePoint according to a small sign above each EV charging spot.

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On Saturday July 11, 2015 around 11:00 AM, there was a Chevy Volt parked in one of the EV charging spots. The crawling display on the ChargePoint station indicated that it had been plugged in for about 53 1/2 hours or since 5:30 Thursday morning. The driver of the car had accumulated over 37 hours past the 16 hour limit and had ostensibly racked up $74.00 in fees. Mercifully for the Volt owner, there is a maximum of $50.00 according to the ChargePoint App.

One could argue that the fee charged after the 16 hour parking restriction shown on the sign is essentially an automated parking fine collection. But who sets the amount of the fine? Is it a county or state legislative body? Or is it some bureaucrat with access to the ChargePoint account at the Maryland Transit Administration who has the ability to program the fees?

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Now maybe the Volt driver should have paid attention to the sign that read: 16 HR PARKING ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING ONLY. But if an ICE car had parked there instead, what would have been their penalty? Likely less than the $50.00 that the Volt driver was charged.

To put it in perspective, Howard County, Maryland passed a law against “ICEing” an EV charging spot. In response to a Public Information Act request from PlugInSites, the County revealed that only one citation had ever been issued and that fine was for $35.00. In other words, this charging station user, paid more money in penalties than all the fines ever collected in Howard County for ICE cars blocking charging stations.

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Some have said, why not expand to have 120v outlets for long-term travelers. The fact is, that each of the charging stations here has two available ports, an L1 and an L2. Unfortunately, the stations were installed in front of five adjacent spots which only leaves room for five or maybe six cars able to access the ten ports. Some EV drivers have gone to this garage recently expecting to plug in while taking a multi-day trip on Amtrak and when confronted by the new 16 hour limit, parked in a regular parking space instead of plugging in. How is the Amtrak rail station different from charging at the Airport parking garage for a few days? MTA needs to rethink this policy and/or add more charging ports to meet the demand.

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