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County could start changing parking prices along two Metro corridors next year

To find a parking spot in Ballston, go during the daytime, avoid Wilson Blvd and Fairfax Drive, and consider parking in nearby Virginia Square, which has many empty blocks.

To park in Clarendon, good luck finding a spot on Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Generally, there are more spots south of Washington Blvd but be on the lookout: spots can open up quickly as people do not stay parked in Clarendon for long.

These are some tips to glean from new county data collected in the first phase of a state-funded performance parking pilot study. But the data, collected from some 4,500 sensors in parking spaces along the Rosslyn-Ballston and Richmond Hwy corridors, does more than help people find parking spots on busy weekends.

It also demonstrates that, on average, only a third of people pay for parking when they come to these corridors. The county says this information will help it pinpoint the neighborhoods with the lowest parking compliance and focus its limited parking attendants there.

Parking compliance in October 2023 (via Arlington County)

The installation of sensors and data collection made up the first phase of a pilot program that will eventually use variable pricing and data to improve the availability of metered parking. County staff used these sensors to find differences in parking availability by hour, block, day of the week and neighborhood.

“These differences we need to take into consideration when we are making our pricing recommendations,” says Marietta Gelfort, a planner with the county’s parking and curb space management team in a recent video.

The next phases of the project will see actual changes in parking prices. These changes will happen once every three months but, the county emphasizes, will not trigger across-the-board meter rate hikes or surge pricing.

For the pilot to move forward, next county staff need Arlington County Board to change prices along the study corridors administratively — without County Board permission each time. They are gearing up to request this authority early next year for the duration of the pilot, set to end in early 2026.

A request to advertise hearings on this proposal could come this January, followed by a public hearing by the spring of 2024, Dept. of Environmental Services Parking and Curbspace Manager Melissa McMahon told ARLnow.

Once staff have this permission to alter prices, they will communicate changes to the public whenever those changes occur.

Price differences already influence parking behavior in Arlington, according to Dept. of Environmental Services communications specialist Nate Graham.

“Sunday occupancy is highest across the board, which illustrates that even today’s metered prices shape demand and behavior to some extent,” he tells ARLnow.

Transportation commissioners are “very supportive” of the pilot but, on the topic of pricing, suggested recommended stepped up enforcement of accessible parking spaces if these prices differ from non-accessible spaces.

“The greater the discrepancy in pricing between ADA and non-ADA spaces, the more drivers use fake ADA
tags,” the commission said in a letter to the County Board last month.

Eventually, as part of the pilot, the county will make parking spot and pricing data available on two mobile-friendly tools so people can research spots and costs in real time.

There will also be signs showing where spots are available, how many and for how much.

Third-party parking apps showing available spaces using county sensor data (via Arlington County)

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