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Free2Move car in D.C. (courtesy photo)

One minute after midnight this morning, car-sharing company Free2Move ended its services in Arlington over issues with parking in the county.

It marks a short-lived run in Arlington for the European company, which launched its services in July 2019 after expanding into D.C. in October 2018.

Free2Move, which offers free residential and metered parking to members, says its attempts to renew this parking arrangement were unsuccessful. As a result, users can no longer start or end their trip in Arlington, although they can drive through the county.

“Over the past few months we have been working with the City of Arlington to renew our permits to operate in Arlington,” the company told members in an email, mistaking the county for a city. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to renew the permit and we were notified today by the City of Arlington to cease our operations in the area.”

The service said it’s not pleased with the result of the negotiations.

“We understand for many of you this will come as difficult news and it’s not one Free2Move is happy about,” the email said. “We have enjoyed being part of the community and supporting our members with their transportation needs.”

The county department that’s responsible for car-sharing programs has a different account.

“Carsharing provider Free2Move notified the County on Sept. 17 that the company would be unable to commit to obtaining the required insurance to operate within Arlington County this year,” a Department of Environmental Services spokesman said. “Although Transportation staff worked with Free2Move representatives during the last several months to help them meet the requirements for their permit, the company instead decided to no longer provide services in Arlington.”

A number of users reached out to ARLnow to share the word of the service ending. Darsh Suresh, a three-year resident of the Rosslyn area, said he’s saddened by the news, as he relied on these cars for short trips he can’t make by transit.

“I usually take Metro or the Bus to commute or get around, but having Free2Move has made it easier for trips to other areas, such as driving to visit family in Loudoun County,” he said. “It’s one of the primary reasons I haven’t gotten my own car. I’m very disappointed at this surprise announcement, and hope that the county government and Free2Move can come to an agreement to keep service operational in Arlington.”

The news got some traction on Twitter from transit advocates, including Aaron Landry, who oversaw the brief operations of German car-share company Car2Go in Arlington.

The full email from Free2Move is below.

To our community,

As you are aware, as part of our Car Sharing service Free2Move offers all members both residential parking and metered parking at no cost to you. Over the past few months we have been working with the City of Arlington to renew our permits to operate in Arlington. Unfortunately, we have not been able to renew the permit and we were notified today by the City of Arlington to cease our operations in the area.

What does this mean for our members? Starting at 12:01am on September 30th you will no longer see vehicles listed on our app in Arlington for rent. Trips can continue to be started in DC and drive through Arlington but you will no longer be able to end your trip in Arlington.

Additionally it will be the members responsibility to adhere to all parking regulations and costs in Arlington. We understand for many of you this will come as difficult news and it’s not one Free2Move is happy about. We have enjoyed being part of the community and supporting our members with their transportation needs.

If you have any questions please reach out to our customer support team.

Thank you,

Free2Move

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Parking along N. Ivy Street near Clarendon (courtesy of Abigail Brooks)

Abigail Brooks and her husband moved into their new home on N. Ivy Street, which was built in 2020, in April of this year.

Since then, she says they’ve been stuck in a Residential Permit Parking program quagmire. While they live on a street that is in an RPP zone, they have not been able to get their address approved for a permits, meaning the couple could get ticketed for parking on their own street.

“Our house was built along with two others and it is only ours that is not showing correctly for parking,” she said. “I have tried different forms, emails, calling, etc. and still cannot get this resolved.”

Brooks said she has also found some people with the same issues through the gym to which she and her husband belong.

“A couple of us did new construction at the same time so we’ve shared lessons learned, timelines, etc.,” she said.

In a months-long email back-and-forth with the parking team, provided to ARLnow, county staff repeatedly said the Brooks’ address is not eligible for the program. Even an attempt to get a county real estate appraiser to confirm her home’s assessment information and thus parking permit eligibility was unsuccessful.

But Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet found that Brooks is correct: her home should be eligible.

“The resident is likely facing this issue because of a technical problem we’re experiencing that is preventing us from adding newly created addresses to our database,” he said. “This problem only affects newly created addresses… not existing addresses.”

The problem — affecting four households that the county knows of — was first identified in June 2021, but staff had a workaround in the database. That workaround stopped functioning in mid-July, Balliet said.

“We anticipate having the problem fixed by next week,” he said.

Until this issue is resolved, Balliet said residents can fill out a paper permit application and pay the permit fees in-person at county government headquarters. Staff will manually add the resident’s parking permit order to the system.

Brooks said it is unfortunate that she couldn’t get the same answer from the county.

“If they had responded and explained the issue, I would have understood and stopped bothering them for it to be fixed,” she said.

She praised other county functions for finding ways around the issue.

“Utilities, trash, recycling, etc. found workarounds for the issue we had with our address and personally ensured we got what we needed,” she said. “The real estate assessment team also were trying to be so helpful during the parking situation and we really appreciated how much they followed up with us to see if there is anything they could do to help resolve.”

Earlier this year, the county approved a number of changes to the Residential Permit Parking program. After considering paid, two-hour parking in RPP zones, the idea — which elicited public outcry — was nixed, but the program was expanded to make some multi-family properties, like apartment buildings, eligible.

Although the changes are in place, county staffers are still focused on renewing resident and landlord permits and passes for the 2021-2022 program year. They are still not processing petitions to establish new permit parking zones; the creation of new RPP zones has been frozen since the summer of 2017.

“We are finalizing updated petition procedures that incorporate changes the County Board adopted in February,” Balliet said. “We look forward to releasing those to the public in the coming weeks.”

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(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) A pair of Columbia Pike businesses say they’re planning to leave when their leases are up due to parking challenges at a county-financed garage.

Lost Dog Cafe and Joule Wellness Pharmacy both tell ARLnow that relatively high and confusing parking fees in the garage are costing them thousands of dollars a year in customer business. The owners of both say they will not be renewing their leases when they expire come 2023 and 2024, respectively.

“This parking issue has made it so untenable,” says Lost Dog Cafe franchise owner Jim Barnes. “We link this to our sales and our sales are not good. There’s a correlation with this parking lot.”

The parking garage, located at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, is owned by Ballston-based apartment developer AvalonBay. However, it was built based as part of an unusual 2006 agreement with Arlington County.

The county contributed $2.96 million to its construction with the promise of receiving 45% of parking revenue as a form of payback every month going forward, according to the “public parking development agreement” obtained by ARLnow.

It is one of only two parking garages in the county that has an agreement of this nature, county officials confirm, with the other also along Columbia Pike, at Penrose Square.

The agreement does not specify a duration for which the county will continue to receive the parking revenue and county officials declined to provide an “interpretation” of whether that could mean into perpetuity.

They also didn’t specify how much revenue the garage generated for the county in 2020.

The parking garage is owned by AvalonBay and was acquired by the company with its $102 million purchase of the since-renamed Avalon Columbia Pike apartment building — formerly the Halstead Arlington — in 2016.

While this agreement had been in place for a decade and a half, initially signed by a different developer, a majority of the issues for the businesses started in March 2020, just days before the pandemic began to hit Arlington.

That’s when, according to Lost Dog and Joule Wellness, the parking machines were turned on and enforced for the first time in years.

Lost Dog Cafe, a franchisee of the original in Westover, moved into 2920 Columbia Pike in May 2009. At the time, Barnes said that parking was free after 5 p.m. and on weekends, which he says was an adequate compromise. A large portion of their customer-base came when parking was free anyway, with the garage able to earn revenue at other times, he says.

When AvalonBay purchased the building, notes Barnes, those restrictions went away and the parking machines were turned off. Enforcement also stopped.

Then four years later, with little notice according to the businesses, the machines were turned back on, enforcement restarted, and parking fees were being charged 24/7. The machines require drivers to pay for parking in advance, and anyone who fails to do so — or who overstays the amount of time they paid for — gets ticketed or towed.

A sign outside the garage advertises a parking rate of $1.75 per hour, which can be paid via a cash-only machine inside the garage. Barnes claims the machine “has never worked” and “steals people’s money.”

Drivers can also use the ParkMobile app, but poor cell phone reception in the garage makes that difficult, and the app charges $2.25 for the first hour.

“Customers cannot use their phones to access it infuriating them and they simply choose to no longer come to our business as a result,” Barnes said.

Paid street parking is available nearby, but is limited. Parking on surrounding neighborhood streets, meanwhile, often requires a residential decal, and nearby parking lots are restricted to other businesses and their customers.

AvalonBay, in an email to ARLnow, disputes Barnes’ version of events, writing that parking was being collected prior to March 2020.

“Equipment had been in place and parking revenue was collected prior to March 2020,” writes a company representative. “In March 2020, an updated parking system was installed with the County’s approval.”

Barnes, however, says that he received “no notice whatsoever” about the change or any updates.

The management of Joule Wellness Pharmacy, which opened its Pike location in early 2014, said they did receive notice, but it was only two to three weeks prior to the change. What’s more, they said there’s no mention of paid parking in their lease.

“There was not no mention of that in our lease,” says manager Alex Tekie. “And in fact, we’re told parking is free for us and our employees and for customers coming on the retail side.”

Tekie and pharmacy owner Winnie Tewelde tell ARLnow they now shell out nearly $800 a month in parking, mostly so employees can park in the lot.

They’ve talked a lawyer about the situation, but grew weary of paying even more money to fight the parking changes against a large, publicly-traded developer.

“We got exhausted. Drained,” says Tekie. “It’s David vs. Goliath.”

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Paid, two-hour parking will not be included in Arlington’s updated Residential Permit Parking program.

The County Board unanimously approved significant changes to the program during its meeting on Saturday.

The new program expands RPP program eligibility to multi-family buildings — excluding those approved via site plan — and grants permits to households based on how much off-street parking they have. Residents will be charged for some previously free permits, which according to the county, will end support for the program from general tax funding.

The Board ended up nixing a county staff recommendation to allow those from outside a neighborhood to pay for limited-time parking in zoned areas.

“Removing the two-hour [paid parking] is the big change that we have done,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said. “I was reading 196 pages of letters. We listened, and I think that is a big important step. Folks should hear that that is the biggest change.”

A county report and public letters indicate many residents pushed back on this specific proposal, which also divided members of the Planning Commission. County Board members cited enforcement challenges, given that vehicles without permits may actually be parked legally.

“Enforcement is too difficult right now,” Board member Libby Garvey said. Visitors will still be able to park in zoned parking if given a pass from an eligible resident.

While two-hour visitor parking was removed, Board members drew attention to the expansion of eligibility to multi-family buildings.

“One of the major reasons to reevaluate and reenact this program in Arlington [is] because it discriminates on the basis of housing types,” Board member Katie Cristol said. “I do feel confident that these amendments are going to make this program [fairer] and more consistent with our values in Arlington.”

She said the changes will leave the county better off than when the County Board repealed a RPP zone to put an end to a years-long dispute between Forest Glen and Arlington Mill residents, which pitted apartment dwellers over single-family home owners in an area with limited street parking.

The vote comes after a three year review of the program, during which new RPP applications were suspended. The program was originally established in 1972 to regulate parking in residential neighborhoods near Metro stations and commercial centers. Although the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the program in 1977, the program has been criticized recently for excluding people who live in apartments and condos.

About 10% of Arlington households are in current RPP zones, according to the county.

Public forums set for last spring were canceled due to the pandemic. Rather than reschedule them virtually, county officials concluded the review, citing equity concerns. A new period of public engagement began as the county geared up to propose the changes to the County Board in January 2021.

In December, the County Board deferred a public hearing until February to allow residents more time to look at the proposal.

Under the newly adopted program, all housing types can petition. However, those who live in residential buildings approved via site plan — as well as certain other types of mixed-use developments, plus Form Based Code developments along Columbia Pike — will be ineligible to apply for permits or petition for the program.

The county will require 80% of neighbors on a block to support a RPP petition, up from 60%. The county no longer needs to find that at least one-quarter of on-street parking is occupied by people from outside the area. Instead, it would need to find that more than 85% of spots are occupied.

“It’s really hard to tell what is an out-of-area vehicle,” county transportation official Stephen Crim said. “This out-of-area test is what causes many petitions to fail.”

Households with off-street parking are eligible for two annual permits (down from four), and households without it can get four permits.

For one permit, households can stick with the annual permit or opt for a FlexPass — a dashboard placard that residents and their visitors can use. All households can get up to five short-term visitor passbooks, which provide up to 300 days of parking each year.

The county will be charging for the FlexPass and the first book of short-term visitor passes. The first vehicle-specific permit or FlexPass is $40. The second, third and fourth vehicle-specific permits will cost $55, $65, and $150 respectively.

Low-income households that qualify for state and federal assistance programs will receive a 50% discount on passes.

Photos via Arlington County

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Proposed changes to Arlington’s Residential Permit Parking program, including a pay-to-park option for short-term visitors, will go before the County Board next week — with a caveat.

On Monday members of the Planning Commission hammered out the kinds of changes to the program that they want the County Board to consider. The matter is set to be taken up during the Board’s meeting on Saturday, Feb. 20.

The commission recommended a case-by-case approach to paid, short-term parking in neighborhoods — currently not an option in places where parking is restricted to residents and their guests only during certain hours —  as members were divided on whether to include it at all. Some support it across all neighborhoods with RPP programs and others support the possibility of neighborhoods requesting it. A few oppose it full-stop.

“I can’t do this to my neighbors,” said Commissioner Denyse “Nia” Bagley, who opposes pay-to-park entirely.

Vice-Chair Daniel Weir said the two-hour parking meets “a whole host of needs” and unanticipated circumstances that “all fall under managing parking,” from when people go to nearby restaurants or visit friends. Short-term visitors would be able to legally park without a pass or permit and payments would be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device.

The RPP program was originally created as a response to commuters parking in residential neighborhoods near Arlington’s Metro stations and commercial centers. It survived a legal challenge that reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977, and later expanded to numerous neighborhoods around the county. Neighborhoods must petition for RPP zones, but in many cases those who live in apartments and condos are excluded from receiving permits, raising equity concerns.

The commission also recommended allotting on-street parking permits to household units based on whether they have off-street parking, such as driveways or garages. Households with off-street options can get up to two permits, one of which could be swapped for a FlexPass, a dashboard placard that can be used by residents or their visitors.

Residents without off-street parking are eligible for up to four on-street permits, one of which could be swapped for a FlexPass.

According to a county staff report presented to the commission, the cap is higher than what was previously proposed, “in response to concerns that unrelated adults (who may have more vehicles than a family household) sharing a home without off-street parking in an RPP zone could face an unnecessary hardship.” Still, it’s lower for those with off-street parking than the current program.

“The current program allows for up to four (4) permits, one (1) FlexPass and three (3) vehicle specific permit decals,” a previous staff report said. “Many households already in the RPP program would not be able to obtain as many permits as they do today Lowering the cap encourages households with multiple vehicles to use their off-street parking, leaving space on the street for others.”

The commission did not tweak the expansion of parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes. In response to concerns about enforcing paid parking, commissioners unanimously voted to include language stipulating that parking enforcement should be on par with metered parking elsewhere in the county.

These potential changes come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted. The review concluded last fall, kicking off a new period of public engagement as the changes wound through county processes.

The changes went before the County Board for the first time in December, when Board members decided to delay a public hearing to give the community more time to digest the changes.

At the time, the County Board approved an amendment allowing residents to buy a third or fourth parking pass at a higher cost, after hearing from families who suddenly had adult children come home due to the pandemic, in addition to homeowners who said the program would force them to widen their driveways.

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(Updated 02/08/21) The Arlington County Board has scheduled a public hearing on proposed changes to the Residential Parking Program for its regular meeting on Feb. 20.

But Board members are open to pushing off the hearing further to engage more people and give residents more time to digest the changes.

Board member Christian Dorsey said the Board is merely advertising a public hearing and the proposed changes to the program are not drastic.

“This is an evolutionary update, not a revolutionary one,” he said. “While it’s a complicated program, the degree of change is not as difficult.”

A delayed public hearing may mean implementation is deferred to the 2022-23 fiscal year, especially if the County staff is expected to do more public engagement, said Stephen Crim, the RPP review program manager.

“Some people will be unhappy no matter how we do this program,” Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “We are really trying to balance what is fair and what is right and provide flexibility.”

The proposed changes come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted. Among the changes, County staff are recommending adding a pay-to-park option in restricted residential zones for short-term visitors, while expanding who can petition for Residential Permit Parking restrictions.

Residential areas with RPP restrictions would have paid, two-hour parking so that short-term visitors can legally park without a pass or permit. Payments will be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device, instead of pay stations.

Staff also recommend granting more parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes, and reducing the number of permits that households can receive based on whether they have off-street parking such as driveways or garages.

During the meeting, the County Board approved an amendment that would allow residents to buy a third, or even a fourth, parking pass at a higher cost.

The added flexibility came after the board heard from families who have suddenly had adult children come home due to the pandemic, along with renters, homeowners who rent out rooms and homeowners who said the program would force them to enlarge their driveways.

Another concern expressed by some: whether the county can effectively enforce the modified parking restrictions, with hourly parkers added to the mix.

With the public hearing pushed from January to February, the Board members asked residents to think about the program over the next two months.

“This is a very complex program,” Garvey said. “For anybody who is just now looking at it, they need more time to digest even what we’re doing right now.”

So far, the public engagement process has mostly drawn out homeowners who currently benefit from the parking program, but not the apartment- and condo-dwellers who are generally excluded from it, a few Board members pointed out.

“Aurora Highlands has been well-represented in the public comments,” Board member Matt de Ferranti said. “The people who might benefit from this in terms of apartment buildings aren’t here.”

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(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Arlington County staff are recommending adding a pay-to-park option in residential zones for short-term visitors, while expanding who can petition for Residential Permit Parking restrictions.

These are two of the changes to the program staff are proposing that the County Board adopt. The changes will be reviewed and refined before the Board votes early next year, and come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted.

“We are attempting to make compromises between disparate viewpoints and disagreements about how the program should be structured,” said Stephen Crim, the RPP review program manager, who fielded questions from residents during a virtual Q&A session last week.

Residential areas with RPP restrictions would have paid, two-hour parking so that short-term visitors can legally park without a pass or permit. Payments will be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device, instead of pay stations.

The benefit of paid parking over free, time-limited parking in residential zones — as is in place in parts of D.C. — is that “we make the parking easier to enforce for the police and make it more likely to be enforced regularly,” Crim said.

Permit and pass fees would be raised to pay for 100% of the program’s costs, whereas 40% of the costs to administer and enforce the RPP program currently come from general tax funding. Discounts on permits and passes would be available to low-income households . 

Staff recommend granting more parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes, as well as reducing the number of permits that households can receive based on whether they have off-street parking such as driveways or garages.

Staff propose to remove the “out-of-area” test from the permit process, which requires would-be RPP zones to have a preponderance of commuters, shoppers or other people from outside the neighborhood taking up street parking spaces. Crim said that change is a way of “shifting the program into a more general parking management program.” 

Currently, the county needs to see that a block has 75% of spaces are occupied, of which at least 25% are occupied by out-of-area vehicles.

The RPP program has sharply divided residents. According to a recently released report, some of these divisions occur along the lines of race and class, as permitted residential street parking is disproportionately available to white, affluent Arlingtonians.

Residents of most apartment buildings are currently not eligible to receive RPP permits. More will be eligible under the proposed changes, but many will still be shut out if their building was approved by the County Board via a site plan or certain types of use permits.

Residents can see if their address currently qualifies for a permit through this link.

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If you live in the right type of home in the right place, Arlington County will reserve street parking for you and your neighbors for much of the day.

But the Residential Permit Parking program is under review and a county staff recommendation on whether it should continue as currently conceived is expected soon.

The review has dragged on since it was launched in 2017, when the county put a moratorium on approving new permit parking zones, and was further delayed by the pandemic. County officials, however, now say they’re going to skip holding more public engagement meetings on the topic, either virtual or in-person, and move forward with the aim of County Board action in January.

Meetings had been planned for the spring, but were cancelled due to health concerns. A county spokeswoman says county staff decided against additional meetings due to equity concerns.

“Staff looked into holding the dialogues online but decided that holding online dialogues would not be an adequate replacement,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien told ARLnow. “There are tools for holding the dialogues online, but there are challenges to bringing together a diverse group of Arlingtonians for a meeting of three hours or more online.”

“An inclusive group of participants at the dialogues would be especially necessary because residents are divided on the RPP program,” she continued. “The County could have waited until in-person public meetings resume but continuing to delay the RPP Review increases the chance that decision-makers will see the feedback currently captured as out-of-date. Delaying the review also continues the moratorium on petitions for new or modified restrictions.”

There are few issues that raise local passions like parking, and the RPP program has sharply divided residents.

The program started in the early 1970s, when Aurora Highlands residents successfully petitioned the Arlington County Board to approve restrictions that would keep Crystal City commuters from parking in the neighborhood. The county won a Supreme Court challenge to the restrictions and gradually expanded the program to other neighborhoods.

Eventually, residents of new apartment buildings and condos were excluded from the program, as access to street parking became a sticking point with neighbors of proposed new developments. And neighborhoods well away from Metro stations and office districts started getting approved for restrictions.

The tide started to turn against the program a few years ago, as more neighborhoods sought to add parking restrictions, raising questions about the fairness of reserving increasingly large portions of the public road network for the vehicles of certain residents.

Last year, the County Board repealed some RPP restrictions in the Forest Glen and Arlington Mill neighborhoods, which apartment residents said made it difficult to park in the neighborhood for those who do not work a traditional 9-5 job. The decision was contentious, however.

A recently-released report on the RPP review process includes comments from surveys that further reflect the divide.

“It doesn’t seem fair to me who is eligible now. Higher density homes with less curb space should be eligible as single family homes,” said one resident quoted in the report.

“The County should NOT make apartment, condo, and townhouse residents eligible for parking permits because it will encourage more cars and further overcrowd parking resources,” said another.

The report notes that the population eligible for RPP skews whiter and more affluent than those who are not eligible. White residents are 84% of the population in RPP zones, compared to 76% of the population outside of RPP zones. Households making $200,000 or more are 32% of the population in RPP zones, compared to 19% in non-RPP zones.

Furthermore, only 25% of those enrolled in RPP live in multifamily buildings like apartments and condos; by comparison, 71% of Arlington’s overall population lives in multifamily housing.

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Amid the pandemic, Arlington County is sifting through which planning processes are ready to continue moving forward and which ones are being delayed.

The County recently announced that it is still moving forward with plans for updating guidelines for development in Pentagon City, a relatively time-critical issue with Amazon’s permanent HQ2 under construction nearby.

The county’s Lee Highway planning process is also moving forward, with public workshops fortuitously wrapping up before the pandemic hit Arlington. Like the Pentagon City plan, the Lee Highway process is endeavoring to shape how new development takes place along the corridor. The central theme is, over time and through land use policies, replacing the car-focused strip malls along the corridor with clusters of mixed-use development that could bring in more housing, particularly affordable housing.

“Since the Plan Lee Highway public workshop in February, the County’s planning team synthesized what they heard and shared those results with the community late March,” Jessica Margarit, a spokesperson for the Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development said. “Using that input, they have been busy developing the Neighborhood Character Report and the Cultural Resources Survey report. They anticipate publishing these by the end of July.”

Those closely following the Resident Permit Parking (RPP) Review project, though, might be disappointed to learn that project has hit some delays. The RPP restricts on-street parking near Metro corridors and other high-demand areas to residents and their guests during certain times of the day. The program has been criticized for favoring single-family homeowners over apartment dwellers, many of whom don’t have access to the same permits.

Staff had started planning for open houses and discussions early this year, but those plans were waylaid by the pandemic.

“The Residential Permit Parking Review project has been delayed due to the pandemic,” said Katie O’Brien, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services. “The County had to postpone the deliberative dialogues and open house that were scheduled for early spring 2020. Staff is in discussion with leadership on how best to proceed given the current situation. An update will be posted on the project website once we have more information.”

Image via Arlington County

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(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) The “How’s My Driving” cycling safety app is planning an event in Arlington tomorrow to collect data on bike lane violations.

App co-creator Mark Sussman told ARLnow that a team of about 40 people are gearing up to hit streets in Crystal City, Ballston, and Rosslyn on Thursday to count the number of times vehicles block bike lanes. The volunteers will track the bike lane violations on S. Crystal Drive, Fairfax Drive, and N. Lynn Street by reporting blockages through the app, which will share the data through a live dashboard.

“Crystal Drive and Lynn Street are just consistently blocked,” said Sussman. “The problem is that we don’t understand the size and the scope of the problem.”

Video recently posted to Twitter shows multiple stopped vehicles blocking the Crystal Drive bike lane. An Arlington County Police tweet from this summer showed a similar violation on Crystal Drive leading to a traffic ticket.

Sussman and his partner and co-creator Daniel Schep, a software engineer, are hoping data collected by volunteers tomorrow during the morning and evening rush hours and lunchtime can help fix that.

Currently, only app users in the District can report violations through the app and see how many other violations the driver has racked up on that vehicle — courtesy of a bot that fetches the DMV data. But Susan and Schep have been eyeing expansion into Arlington for months as the app gained popularity and people began reporting violations across the Potomac, too.

The pair say they’re hoping Thursday acts as a demonstration of what kind of real-time data officials could have access to if they contract with “How’s My Driving” in the future.

Volunteers are also out collecting bike lane blockage data today in Pittsburgh. Previously, people helped with a data collection day in D.C. which yielded 700 violations, and another one for bus lane blockages that tracked 300 violations.

“When you get that amount of data, patterns really start to emerge. You can use that data in aggregate both for enforcement purpose and transportation planning,” said Sussman.

However the app creator emphasized that these data collection days are not designed for enforcement purposes, and act as more of a proof of concept.

“No one is getting citations. No one is reporting to authorities,” said Sussman. “The data is only reported in aggregate in a presentation to the county. It would never be used to call out for specific vehicles.” 

“The overall effort is not to shame or expose particular violators,” he added. 

Photo by Sal Ferro

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Even a large, electronic sign in Crystal City telling drivers there is “no stopping in bike or traffic lane” doesn’t seem to be deterring some from doing just that, right next to the sign.

But Arlington County Police are backing up the sign’s message with citations.

Photos posted by the police department on Wednesday show officers ticketing a driver stopped in a bike lane on Crystal Drive — as a cyclist pedaled by in the travel lane — near the Chick-fil-A restaurant.

The high-visibility enforcement in Crystal City has been happening for at least a week.

On social media, several people cheered word of the continued enforcement this week.

“As someone who bikes in Crystal City — YEAH!!” said one.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!” said another.

https://twitter.com/Mr__Amac/status/1154186824048435202

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