Board to Vote on Rate Hike at Ballston Parking Garage

by ARLnow.com February 6, 2012 at 3:59 pm 7,410 129 Comments

(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Parking rates at the Ballston Public Parking Garage could be going up soon.

The Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote over the weekend on a proposal to increase extended and weekend parking rates at the 2,800 space garage, which is adjacent to Ballston Common Mall.

Under the proposal, the rate for parking less than three hours or parking after 6:00 p.m. will remain $1. On weekdays, rates for parking more than three hours will increase between $0.50 to $2.00. The most dramatic rate hikes, however, will be felt by those who park at the county-owned garage over the weekend. The $1.00 weekend flat rate will be eliminated in favor of a continuation of the weekday variable rate, which tops off at $10.00 for all-day parking. (See table, left.)

The rate for monthly parking contracts will also increase under the proposal. The 5 day/week rate will increase from $77.00 to $105.00, and the 7 day/week rate will increase from $104.00 to $145.00.

Daily parking rates at the garage have not changed since 1994 and monthly rates have not changed since 1996. County staff estimate the rate hike will generate an extra $1 million per year, which will be used to help pay off the bonds that financed the garage’s purchase and renovation by the county in the mid-1980s.

The staff report notes that just over half of the garage’s current operating budget goes to paying the contract employees who work at the garage, who are paid a living wage per county policy.

If approved by the County Board, the new rates will go into effect on May 1.

  • Good Grief

    Lame! $1 parking was the only reason to visit the Ballston Mall.

    • Captain Obvious

      Except it’s still going to be $1 for under 3 hours, which is the max time any sane person would want to be at that mall, or anywhere else in Ballston.

      • Hope

        Not true Captain Obvious…if you are grabbing dinner and a movie 3 hours is not enough. I hate to shop, so those are the main reason I visit Ballston Mall.

    • Lucy

      I agree, but the chart shows that the rates after 6 PM will stay the same. Only before 6 PM and staying over 3 hours will most people be affected by the changes, leaving out commuters.

    • Chris Slatt

      If you’re going after 6pm or staying less than 3 hours you’ll still pay $1.

      It’s the first rate change since 1996.

      • Good Grief

        On weekends, going from $1 a day to up to $10, thats a significant hike.

        • Brian

          Yes, this KILLS me. I can’t believe they’re hiking it up that much!!

      • bb

        However, if you stay one minute past midnight, it’ll cost you an extra dollar. I wonder what this means if they change it. I saw a movie there the other weekend and we were charged $2 due to getting to the exit gate at 12:01…

  • jim

    County board are scumbags

    • JohnB

      -1 ad hominem

  • Stacy

    How do we provide input on this proposal? The weekend change is going to be a big problem, especially for folks going to Sport & Health and Kettler.

    • Sam

      I’m at Kettler three times a week, including playing in league games. I’ve never been there more than 2-2.5 hours. For the most part, I don’t think this will affect most of us that frequent Kettler. Three hours is a long time and if people are there that many times for more than 3 hours, they should probably buy a monthly pass.

  • Marilyn Walker

    I think it will hurt the merchants. There are plenty of other places, where, if you are getting in the car anyway, you might as well keep going and park free.

  • Allie

    It seems like this would deter an already-thin weekend crowd at the Mall, which could use any help it can get.

    Is there any news on redevelopment efforts for the Mall? I’d be happier hearing about a rate increase if it went side-by-side with news on how this can become an actual functioning place to shop.

    • not your bro

      Who spends more than 3 hours at a mall, even a great one? It’s also accessible by metro.

  • Southeast Jerome

    But the federal reserve told me there is no inflation!

    That 36% increase in the 5-day/wk monthy pass sure looks like inflation.

    • Farnsworth

      Yeah, they are really sticking it to the two monthly packages. And the 4 hour weekend rate is the next highest jump.

    • Ren

      That’s only private sector inflation.

      Fees and tax hikes are exempt from such maths!! 🙂

    • R. Griffon

      They told you there was no inflation since the mid 90’s (the last time rates were raised)?

      Then they lied.

  • 1234

    Raise the price of parking at a mall that nobody goes to anyway? Brilliant!!!

    Maybe it would make a good streetcar stop . . .

  • Brian

    What is ‘living wage?’ I assume that is more than minimum wage. There’s a way to cut costs, bring what the attendants are paid in line with all the other similar workers in the region.

    • Josh S

      Living wage – calculated separately from mimimum wage and used by various localities around the country. Essentially, it is the minimum wage necessary to live at a certain minimum standard given the actual cost of living in that area. Created in recognition of the fact that minimum wage will barely allow anyone to live in the poorest areas of the country, let alone an area like DC where the cost of living is quite high. I don’t know what the wage is ARlington is, but D.C.’s living wage is currently $12.50 an hour or something like that.

      • Southeast Jerome

        Will there be enough to give a “living wage increase” to the people that park at this garage on a monthly basis? Since they are increasing their fee 36%?

  • Josh S

    Long overdue. The incredibly cheap parking here is a major waste. The market will easily absorb these increased prices. If not, tear it down and put something there that is worth the land it occupies.

    • mickey644

      Another fool who doesn’t understand Econ 101. Raise rates on a garage that supports a mall that already doesn’t do well? Wonderful….just like taxing the rich! We are mobile and can park anywhere

      • Josh S

        Your motley attempt at a rebuttal clearly misses my second point. If the parking garage cannot support prices that are equal to what prevailing market rates are, then it is a failing business and should be allowed to fail. If the nearby mall then fails as a result, so what? Replace both with businesses / services / residences that won’t fail and meet what the market desires.

        • SouthPikeGuy

          OK, if we also get to let Metro fail, and the streetcar fail, and the Artisphere fail. No more subsidies, they need to succeed with their own business models and on their own revenue. Deal?

          • Southeast Jerome

            AMEN Mr Friedman

          • Josh S

            You score points here, I’ll concede that. However, I would counter by pointing out that certain goods and services are more appropriate and natural to be provided by the government. Certainly your two public transportation examples fall within that group. The Artisphere probably does not, although I think it was a reasonable effort on the part of county staff to think creatively, make best use of the situation, etc.

            Running a parking garage I think is clearly beyond the scope of what local government should be doing (unless maybe the garage serves a local government facility of some sort). This really is why I think raising rates is a no-lose proposition. First, as I have said, I think the market will bear this increase in prices with nary a hiccup. But, if it didn’t, then you’d have a great excuse to sell the dang thing and perhaps even get the whole place torn down and redeveloped.

          • Econ

            There are many examples around the country of local government managing the entire parking system within a district (street parking, garage parking). There are some good aspects to this such as the ability to have clarity in what the rates are, standard signage, and some have those systems with electronic signs that tell you how many spaces are available at each garage. It happens a lot with older districts that have had standalone muninciple garages added by the gov. We can’t really do that here since most of the parking is owned privately.

            As to the broader point of the ‘market’ – if we had a totally free market with absolutely no government subsidies (including roads, bridges, tunnels, street lights, garrisons in the middle east, etc) – there should be little doubt that the living arrangement that would naturally fall out of that given our current population is compact, walkable cities mostly around natural tranport hubs such as rivers and ports along with privately funded mass transit that shuttled people to and from these compact settlements. “Sprawl” is an innefficient living arrangement only made possible with heavy government subsidies.

          • Quite selective in your choice of subsidies to cut. Metro has to fight it out in the free market, but local road construction & repair still gets a 100% tax subsidy?

        • Burger

          Under such…tear it down view, who would you keep the Kettler Ice Rink that currently sits atop said publicly owned parking garage.

          And the rate hike has nothing really to do with the Mall but people that park in the Mall and take Metro into the city on the weekends.

          • Southeast Jerome

            What about the people that park there on a monthly basis? Or the people that go and see a movie there on the weekends?

      • ArlRes

        The point missed in the Econ101 presentation is that the County currently owns the parking garage, not the mall. So, either the County can subsidize the mall with taxpayer dollars by not raising parking rates as has been the case, or the mall can perhaps offer some sort of parking validation if they want to incent shoppers.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        You are missing the point, that’s the counties goal – to put the mall out of business so they can re-develop this into a high rise with appts and condos.

        • SoMuchForSubtlety

          That would be awseome. The only good things about that Mall are the movie theater and ice rink. Otherwise its completely outdated and needs to be redeveloped.

    • SouthPikeGuy

      What? The market will easily absorb it. Or maybe not. If not tear it down.

      Great way to cover all your bases.

      • Josh S

        Well, I stand behind my prediction that the market will easily absorb these proposed costs. I don’t find this parking garage or mall to be as empty and desolate as most people here make it out to be.

        • OldTimer

          They will get monthly Parker’s from new dev across the street(s) whose employers subsidize up to $230 parking fees monthly, so a bargain to employers.

          • CW

            Ding, ding, ding – we’ve got a winner. They’re not going after mall shoppers.

          • OldTimer

            Been around the block a time or two. Bet they narrow the spaces a tad for some extra spaces and also offer “reserved” spaces like they do in Crystal City for 2x regular monthly rate.

          • Doodly

            The new developments have ample parking underground.

          • OldTimer

            uh huh.

          • CW

            Right, but that’s how competing on price works. You undercut them. Also see point about commuters to D.C., as well as workers in other buildings nearby.

          • Doodly

            Well I guess we will have to wait and see what the new garages charge their tenants for monthly parking. I don’t buy that this is some adversarial market move by Arlington against the parking contractor in a brand new development.

          • Burger

            or driving to the mall and taking the Metro into work in DC.

          • OldTimer

            hmmm. Makes sense.

          • Southeast Jerome

            Do people really do that?

            $77/month for parking at the mall.
            $102/month metro from Ballston-Faragut

            On an aftertax basis- cant see why that many people would drive–>park at the mall–>then metro downtown.

            Doesnt make any sense. It’d be cheaper and faster to just drive downtown all the way.

          • Josh S

            Well, depending on where you would want to park downtown, that would still be cheaper, and perhaps easier on the nerves. Downtown garages can easily cost $13-14 a day.

          • dk

            $13 or $14 a day? Try $20 in many places downtown.

            Also, many people have a transit subsidy that would pay for the $102 metro cost. $77 a month in transportation is a steal. Why have not been doing this?

          • Burger

            Monthly parking at International Square is $260


            It would likely not be faster to drive downtown given traffic if you are not HOVing.

        • Burger

          The mall is empty – even the movie theater is low end…the parking lot is not though.

    • Rick

      What do you propose they do with that hockey rink up top Josh?

      • Mr T

        either a car free diet club or a shelter for exiled rodents of DC?

        • Rick

          I was speaking in terms of what would happen to it if we bulldoze the garage for not performing

      • Josh S

        I don’t propose anything. It’s not my problem.

        But I guess you’re right – the relatively recent addition of the rink probably assures that structure isn’t going anywhere soon. Which brings us back to my first point – this increase will be absorbed by the market without anyone noticing a difference.

  • dallynd

    The $10 proposal is ridiculous. Tack that on to the movies (about the only reason to go there) and I’ll go elsewhere.

    • zzzzz

      How many hours do you spend at the movies? If you park for less than three hours on a weekend day, the cost is the same. If you stay for 4 hours, it’s an increase of $2. If you go at night, the cost does not go up.

  • debbie

    The only reason to go there was the movie theatre. If the parking goes up by $2, I’d rather drive to Potomac Yards and pay nothing.

    And if the price for parking varies based upon how long I’m staying, I won’t stick around to grab a bite to eat after the movies. I could drive to Shirlington instead.

    Someone is really not thinking this one through. If you want to raise the price, do it but keep a flat evening/weekend price to encourage Ballston and the surrounding businesses as a destination.

    • nunya


    • jslanger

      I think they have the rate increases backwards–why jack it up so much on the weekends? I know the main time I make it there (mostly for movies of course) is weekends. And the cheap parking makes it the best draw…but as noted above, if you’re gonna charge a significant increase for me to go to a 2-3 hr movie, forget it.

      However, I do find it amazing that the price hasn’t been increaed in 15ish years? Someone was sleeping on the job there (Not that I minded, of course).

  • mickey644

    PLEASE explain a “living wage” including benefits for a total that we can understand!

  • Ballstonian


  • SouthPikeGuy

    Aside from the impact of the increases, why do they need extra revenue to service their debt? Why are they not refinancing the bonds to take advantage of lower rates now? Why is revenue falling short to service the bonds? Why not just shift $1 million from somewhere else in the budget?

    • Chris Slatt

      Perhaps because they haven’t raised rates in 16 years, but expenses have gone up…

      • SouthPikeGuy

        So, how about letting it stay the same another 10 years? Why is 16 a magic number?

        Now, does anybody have an actual answer to my questions?

        • Chris Slatt

          It’s all in the board report. The garage was supposed to be self-sufficient. The current income is no longer on pace to pay the bond obligations, maintenance, etc.

      • Good Grief

        How many years has it been?

        • R. Griffon

          2012 – 1996 = 16

          Math is hard.

          • MayorOfWestover

            I heard it was 16 years. Can you verify that?

          • Good Grief

            Sarcasm is harder

      • Obvious

        I am shocked that you would be on here defending the County’s actions.

        • Josh S

          But it’s such a minor action, really. And Chris was simply stating fairly minor circumstances. I am shocked that you are shocked.

    • Southeast Jerome

      Most likely reasons: Unions, poor financial knowledge, Covenants, more reasons to tax their citizens but call it something else, cant pay for this with anything else because saving $$ for the trolley line to nowhere, board members need a raise so they can move to the Village

  • What A Guy:

    Will Ovi and the Caps ride the Metro to practice at Kettler to avoid the parking fee?

  • HockeyWife

    They cannot raise the rate unless they install automatic ticket booths. The workers at this garage are the worst in the area. Routinely, on Friday nights, there is a very long line to get out of the one open exit. I don’t understand why they only have one exit open on a busy evening and then, to make it worse, at the one open exit, usually only half of the booths are open. It is very frustrating. I don’t want them to raise the rates, but if they do, the MUST make improvements for the customers!

    • John Fontain

      When exiting the garage onto N. Randolph Street, there is often a line 10 cars deep waiting to pay the sole attendant to get out the garage. I laugh as I drive to the far right lane, insert my credit card to pay the $1 parking charge, and exit without any wait.

      Why people don’t use the credit card only lane is beyond me.

      • Doodly

        I like this idea. They should install more machines and cut down on their labor costs. Dump half the contractor staff.

        • Josh S

          When was the last time anyone encountered an efficient or competent parking booth attendent anywhere?

    • drax

      Are you sure the automatic booths are any faster?

      • OldTimer

        Bet they exude more personality than cashiers.

  • ArlingtonWay

    Ballston is a dying mall, sadly.

    • nunya

      Ballston has been dying for 20 yrs.

      • OldTimer

        So have I… so have I.

        • Ballston Resident

          (OK.. that was funny)

  • JimPB

    Shouldn’t the revenue from parking fees fully pay off the bonds for the construction of the garage and the updating and operating costs?

    • Burger

      Probably not. The county likely rolled over the bonds to pay for current needs just like most other municipalities have done with respect to infrastructure projects.

  • Skeptical

    I can’t believe the number of people bellyaching about the concept of paying a living wage to people doing a job that I wouldn’t do if there were anything else available, and I bet you wouldn’t either.

    The jump to $10 maximum during the day on weekends is sharp, and the whole plan probably needs to be rethought to distribute the impact a little more fairly, maybe seek some merchant subsidies in the area, but for crissake, what can you name that doesn’t cost more than it did sixteen years ago? Unlike Artispheres and the like, a parking garage in the middle of town is something people actually need and use. I can’t believe they’ve held the price down this long.

    If I want to park and go to a museum downtown in the middle of a weekend day, well, I’m thinking that at the average length of such an excursion, it’ll cost me five dollars instead of a buck. If I’m with a friend who splits the parking fee, that’s two-fifty each. Why is this a crisis?

  • ArlingtonCountyTaxpayer


    The money raised is use solely to operate the garage and pay of the debt.

    SO the question shouldn’t be OMG THESE RATES STINK —

    The Question should be:
    Why do we all of a sudden need so much money. The County has argued that once the hockey rink opened that we were FINALLY able to adequately service the debt on the garage. So why all of a sudden this gouging?

    SHOW ME THE MONEY!!! Where is it needed?

    and yeah, i would dumb the staff. they are incompetent even by parking garage attendant standards.

  • Econ

    The garage seems pretty full on the weekends. But, are they going to the mall ? Yes, they are going to the National Mall. Ballston parking garage is widely known as the place to store your car when you are a tourist going to the MALL and the Smithsonians on the weekend. Maybe they are trying to discourage that a little bit.

  • Ballston Resident

    The proposed increases are reasonable. Where else can you park near a Metro that cheaply? Now, if someone will just tear down the adjacent mall and start over again… that would be awesome!

    • Brian

      Cheap parking was a benefit to coming to Ballston. I see this as a very bad sign of things to come. It’s the only decent parking in Ballston. All the other garages charge even more.

  • MC

    Most people wrongly assume that the majority of the cars parked here are shoppers at the Ballston Mall. I would guess only a third of them are, and they can easily live with 3 hour parking, even if they see a movie. It won’t hurt mall patronage at all, but will impact people who drive and park there to visit an office building, or take the Metro into town. Glad to see the County looking to get more value out of the garage, especially as the large block across the street fills out.

  • Rick

    Cutting the .50 may speed things up, do away with change completely. They could learn a thing or two from Pentagon City, letting you pay in the mall and going right out.

    • Just the Facts

      “Learn a thing or two from Pentagon City” about operating a parking garage?!? Have you ever been there on a crowded weekend? Easily 20 minutes to get out of the garage. ACPD routinely gets dispatched there for disputes between drivers trying to get out or for drivers claiming to be “held against their will.”

      Whatever they do w/ the Ballston garage, DO NOT model it after Pentagon City…

      • charlie

        now you are making stuff up.
        if you prepay you zoom out.
        i go there all the time on the weekends. never had a problem.

  • M.B.

    If I was on the County Board, I would vote to let all parking lots fail and never fix the roads so that people would stop using cars. Cars are yucky. I would allow chickens and then without cars people will soon need horses, mules, yaks, etc. to travel around Arlington.

  • Rory

    So if I park at the mall at 9 pm on a friday, then go hit the bars, and get my car the next morning will I owe $10 or $1?

    • drax

      Just take a cab to the bars like you did to get home after you were drunk.

    • Brian

      You will pay $11.

  • thecharlesriver

    That mall sucks anyway. I was in there last weekend and it was like walking around a funeral parlor. The stores are poorly managed, over-priced, and lacking in inventory. No wonder it attracts so many low-life’s.

    • jackson

      Low-lifes are attracted to over-priced stores with no inventory?

      • Josh S

        Hey. Watch the use of reason around this guy. It just confuses him and when he gets confused he gets REAL grumpy…..

        • drax

          “I was in there last weekend”

          “it attracts so many low-life’s.”

          Whatever you say, charlesriver!

        • thecharlesriver

          LOL. You mean like getting REAL grumpy and buzzing around the forum with smarmy remarks directed at others? Yeah…that’s what “I” do. LMAO.

      • thecharlesriver

        Low-life’s hang around in there all day being low-life’s…..stealing, drug dealing, and loitering.

        • thecharlesriver

          Oh…and that is “reason.” It’s just that coming from the privileged and sheltered world that is yours…you couldn’t understand that possibility.

    • Lauren

      Agreed. Truly a horrible mall.

  • DL

    Ballston is currently the best weekend option for parking and taking the metro into DC. If they raise the rates to $10 we may as well drive to DC and pay to park closer to our destination.

    • Brian

      Exactly why this is a bad idea.

  • Connie

    I’m OK with this. As long as 100% of the extra money goes to the school budget. It is time to start fixing the school capacity problem in Arlington.

    • thecharlesriver

      Get it from the parents.

    • jim

      they get over 1/2 my money anyways… have the parents pay more. seriously.

  • Westover Leftover

    More Government lies.

    Turn on the Way Back Machine and you will recall the promise that parking rates would never be over $1.00.

    And that Route 66 would not be widened.

  • ballston

    This is the only mall I know where you have to pay to shop. Just one of many reasons it is dying.

    They should focus more on getting rid of the management of the parking first. I have caught the attendants trying to inflate the charge (stealing) multiple times. I have reported them to management and they are still there.

    • ballscrossingurface

      i guess you’ve never been to pentagon city…

      • jim

        you can park across the street in the pentagon lot for free on the nights and weekends.

    • Just the Facts

      What do you mean by, “This is the only mall I know where you have to pay to shop.”?

      If you mean it’s the only mall with paid parking, then you don’t even have to leave Arlington to prove you wrong. Pentagon City has paid parking.

      • FreeCar

        How is this possible ? Isn’t free parking in the Constitution ?

    • arlingtonliver

      have you not been to Pentagon City mall? you pay to park there too…normal practice in other city area malls ive lived in as well.

  • Arl Fan

    Here’s the thing – maintainign the $1 rate for shorter parking stays is clearly a decision to continue to subsidize the mall. But I’ve always thought it’s not designed quite right, and if rates are going up significantly, it ought to be fixed.

    3 hours is obviously designed for people going to the movies or to Kettler, and it works well as long as you are *only* going to the movies or to Kettler, with maybe a bite to eat in the food court before or after. But just an extra 30 to 60 minutes would let you eat at a sitdown restaurant – in the mall or within a couple blocks – or hang out in one of the bars for a drink, in addition to your main activity.

    At 3 hours, it’s just a little too hurried to do it now. 2 hour movie, plus 15 minutes advance arrival for seating, plus leaving a few minutes to get back to your car, leaves you feeling just a little too rushed to stop in at Chevy’s or Union Jack’s, etc., especially given the unpredictable, sometimes-long lines to exit the garage.

    • huh?

      If you cannot afford the extra dollar for parking when you go out for a movie and dinner night, you really shouldn’t be going out to a movie and dinner.

  • Lauren

    I am a monthly parker – and if this goes into effect I will no longer be a patron at this parking garage — will start taking the bus! Also, on weekends, i’ll go to Tyson’s Corner. I refuse to pay extra for access to a crappy mall, and $28 more a month to get to the metro. With metro fare hikes on the horizon, this just adds to the cost of my commute. forget it.

  • Dan
  • Just The Facts

    Did anyone even look at rates in the area?

    The county has an out of date parking rate list from Aug. 2010 (so you can assume these prices have increased)
    Hourly $3.50 to $5
    Daily $6.50 to $9
    Monthly $85 (most around $100) to $240 (reserved)

    I mean I like paying just a buck – but @ $77 to $105 for monthly is still a good deal and most likely below market… though if I was payinga 36% increase I’d not be happy.

  • Jeff

    I am a monthly parker and if this passes they will be losing my business.

  • jim

    no more going to ballston on the weekend. plenty of other options. thanks arlington county.

  • Hockey Parent

    The County Staff Report that the reason for the increase is three fold: 1) Paying a living wage which is defined as “higher” than union wages in the County Staff Report; 2) Maintenance cost and 3) paying off the bullet financing in 2017. Increased costs for 1 & 2 are a given. The living wage ordinance is law and you would need to change the law to seek relief. Operating costs are up, look at your current costs for operating your home and car. The third reason is debatable. The financing for the garage was financed with $22.3MM in bonds in 1984. Of that amount $8.8MM is a bullet facility meaning that it comes due at one time in 2017. At that time the County will be faced with a decision. Use funds from other sources to pay off the $8.8MM debt or refinance. Staff is recommending that the proposed rate increase be provided so that in 2017 there will be funds necessary to pay off the bullet. If Staff recommendations are accepted in 2017 the garage will be debt free and the County “could” reduce the parking rates at that time to a level to cover just the operating and maintenance and a reserve for future repairs. Who thinks that the County will lower the rates in 2017? One of today’s alternatives is for the County to minimize the increase in today’s rates, keep the economic incentive of below rate parking to spur commerce at the shopping center and refinance a portion of the bullet in 2017 and remove the temptation of what to do with the parking revenue that is no longer needed to fund the debt service in 2017


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