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Peter’s Take: Can the County Board Find a Place to Park?

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

At its November 18 meeting, the County Board is scheduled to vote on new policies relating to parking requirements for certain new residential construction projects in Metro corridors.

The proposed policies include the following features (among others):

  • Lower parking minimums closer to Metro station entrances than for areas farther from those entrances
  • Allowances for developers to substitute bike parking, carsharing, or investments in Capital Bikeshare for fewer parking spaces
  • Lower dedicated visitor parking minimums

When this column was submitted, the County Manager’s Report and Recommendation on this agenda item 47 had not yet been posted on the website.

Discussion

In last month’s ARLnow.com story about these proposed new policies, one of the most up-voted comments (25 up-votes) was:

The staff proposes “Minimum parking requirements for market-rate units ranging from 0.2 to 0.6 spaces per unit depending on distance from the nearest Metro station entrance (ranging from 1/8 to 3/4 of a mile).” But if you look at the staff’s own study (page 8), parking demand ranges from 0.6 to 1.2 spaces per unit depending on distance from the nearest Metro station entrance (ranging from 1/8 to 3/4 of a mile).

In another comment, Chris Slatt, chair of the Transportation Commission, countered:

  • If you never let anyone try a parking ratio below 1.0, then you never get data on what occupancy rate you end up with below 1.0.
  • It’s a minimum. Nobody [is] forcing anyone to build 0.3 spaces per unit.
  • If the alternatives are properly managed…then people with cars will self-select to the buildings that provide more parking.

Some Rosslyn-Ballston corridor civic associations sided with the skeptics. The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association opposed (letter, 11/13/17) any new mandatory minimum standards, arguing for lower limits only on a case-by-case basis.

The Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association suggested (letter, 11/07/17) that the Board amend the staff’s proposal by setting all minimum parking ratios to be at least 0.5 spaces/unit.

There may be a case within all (or portions) of either or both Metro corridors (Rosslyn-Ballston and Crystal City) for reduced mandatory minimum residential parking requirements. But, it is unclear on the current record whether lower uniform minimums make sense for all projects, or what offsets (e.g. bike share or mass transit investments) should be adopted in any specific case.

If the County Board decides to enact lower specific numerical mandatory minimums within either or both Metro corridors, residents close to new developments may suffer from an incremental increase in street parkers near their homes (thus denying them proximate parking).

Such residents should be shielded in an appropriate way, for example by stricter non-permit parking limits. These might allow non-permit visitors to park only for four hours duration, after which tickets would be issued.

Finally, the County Board should explicitly state that any decisions it might make regarding the two Metro corridors do not set any precedent for other locations, such as the Lee Highway corridor, that lack comparable proximity to Metro and have completely different traffic patterns.

Conclusion

The county should enact any new mandatory minimums on an experimental basis, with the presumption of approval only on a case-by-case basis for individual projects.

The county should not enact any policies that would drive existing home owners out of vehicles by making it difficult for them to park near their homes.

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