While road repaving season has kicked off in Arlington, crews are working on local roads for another reason.
They are installing traffic sensors in and marking some 4,500 parking spots in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Pentagon City-Crystal City corridors.
The spots and hardware are the foundation for a three-year, $5.4 million state-funded pilot project testing out a new way to manage parking availability and pricing, dubbed “performance parking,” which kicked off earlier this year.
Currently, parking is at a fixed rate and people have to find spots once they arrive at their destination, which can lead to double-parking or going somewhere else to, for instance, grab a meal.
Using existing meters and keeping the Parkmobile payment platform, the pilot intends to smooth out competition for convenient spots by directing people to cheaper options farther away. Prices would also vary based on time of day.
Arlington County will have a phone-friendly website with real-time availability and pricing data, which may also be accessible from some third-party apps. This information could help people plan where to park ahead of time, decreasing cruising time.
The pilot “is data-driven, using technology to better understand existing park utilization,” Melissa McMahon, the parking and curb space manager for Arlington County, told the Planning Commission this week. “We are actively managing parking supply to make parking more convenient and to reduce the negative impacts of hard-to-find parking.”
To get started, the county has to understand how people use on-street parking right now. Crews are delineating discrete spaces where, currently, it is a free-for-all between two signs, and installing one sensor per space.
Later this year, these wireless, battery-operated, in-ground sensors will start sensing when and for how long a car occupies a space. They will communicate that to “wireless gateways” located on traffic signal poles, which will relay that data to a central network server. That data is converted into a dashboard that county staff will use to make parking decisions.
Once it has enough “existing conditions” data this fall, the Dept. of Environmental Services will pick a range of prices, which it aims to bring to the Arlington County Board for approval this December. After that, for the next two years of the pilot, DES will request permission to change prices once per quarter to see the impact on driver behavior.
“This project does not create dynamically or fast-changing metered pricing,” McMahon said. “It won’t be uncertain on a day to day basis. If you’re going into a neighborhood routinely you’ll have a sense of where the lower price spots are and where the higher priced spots are.”
She said the goal is not to increase overall meter revenue, and blocks with lower rates may cancel out those with higher rates.
Next month, Arlington County will hold a community event to kick off a three-year parking pilot program that prices parking by demand in a few highly trafficked corridors.
This is the first official step forward since the Arlington County Board accepted a $5.4 million grant from the Virginia Dept. of Transportation for the “performance parking” program.
The pilot would electronically monitor parking space usage alter parking prices based on the day, time and the number of people competing for a metered parking space along the Rosslyn-Ballston and Crystal City-Pentagon City corridors. It would also give drivers real-time information on spot availability and price.
In the meeting description, Arlington County says the three-year pilot project could “improve the user experience for metered parking spaces in two key commercial and residential corridors in Arlington.”
“Join the project team for a Community Kick-Off meeting to learn more about the pilot project, the technology we’ll be using to inform the project, and share your input on the pilot project’s goals to help us understand your priorities for metered parking spaces in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Route 1 corridors,” per the website.
According to the event page, meeting attendees will be able to:
- Learn about the pilot’s background and purpose
- Get briefed on the status of metered parking in the two Metrorail corridors
- Learn what technology will be used and what data will be collected, and how this will inform the project’s next steps
- Get a first look at a demonstration site
Arlington County Board members approved the program in late 2020 after hashing out concerns from some opponents about how this would impact people with lower incomes. Members were convinced by the case staff made that lower-income people are less likely to have one or more cars and could save money on parking by choosing to park on less-popular streets and for shorter time periods.
Ultimately, however, the pilot project is intended to sort out these concerns and “map out any mitigations that are necessary,” parking planner Stephen Crim said at the time.
Project proponent Chris Slatt said at the time that variable-price parking ensures that spots are generally available where and when people want them. He pointed to the city of San Francisco, which found that the program made it easier for people to find parking. This reduced double parking, improved congestion and lowered greenhouse gas emissions.
An online Q&A about the project lists as goals, “Drivers spend less time looking for on-street parking” and “Vehicle miles travelled resulting from on-street parking search or ‘cruising’ are reduced.” That will come at a cost, though, as parking rates are increased in busy areas.
The virtual community kick-off meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 23 from 7-8:30 p.m.
The Thanksgiving holiday will mean closures of county facilities.
Arlington courts, libraries, community centers, vaccine clinics and government offices will be closed on Thursday and Friday. Thursday will also be a rare weekday off day for hard-working trash collection crews, who will resume collections a day delayed on Friday and Saturday.
Additionally, parking meters will not be enforced during the holiday.
From the county website:
Arlington County Government offices and services are operating on modified schedules for the Thanksgiving holiday, Thur., Nov 24, and Fri., Nov. 25, 2022.
Trash/Recycling/Yard Waste Curbside Routes – No collection Thursday. Thursday routes run on Friday, Nov. 25; Friday routes run on Saturday, Nov. 26.
Parking – Permit parking is always in effect unless specifically noted on the sign. Meters are not enforced on holidays.
All Arlington Public Library locations will be closed early at 6 p.m. on Wed., Nov. 23, and will be closed Nov. 24-25 for Thanksgiving.https://t.co/FD9DRa62eL
— Arlington VA Pub Lib (@ArlingtonVALib) November 23, 2022
Prolific parkers in Arlington will soon have to ditch their EasyPark devices.
The company that owns the battery-operated parking payment device — a precursor to app-based parking payment services — is ceasing operations in the U.S. and service will end in Arlington on Monday, Feb. 28, according to the County Treasurer’s Office.
“We sincerely regret to tell you that EasyPark has ceased operations in North America and terminated its contract with Arlington County,” the treasurer’s office said in an announcement yesterday (Monday). “This message is to let you know what this change may mean for you, if you continue to use your EasyPark device in the coming weeks.”
Locals can refill their devices in-person at the Treasurer’s Office until Feb. 28, after which time they can still use the device to pay for parking until the balance reaches $0. Refills will not be possible after the last day of this month.
Folks can also bring working devices to the Treasurer’s Office and receive a refund of the remaining balance until Feb. 28. Broken devices cannot be replaced and broken devices with money on them cannot be refunded.
The Treasurer’s Office warned that continuing to use the device after Feb. 28 may complicate contesting a parking ticket. Drivers can no longer rely on a technical support team to verify a proper device for use as proof in a ticket appeal.
Going forward, on-street parking payment options include the ParkMobile app, which launched here in 2014, and traditional parking meters.
Arlington County began offering the battery-operated devices in 2015 as an alternative to paying at a parking meter or with a phone. EasyPark succeeded the iPark devices, which Arlington stopped selling after the manufacturer declared bankruptcy in 2013.
It appears bankruptcy almost came for the company that owns EasyPark USA: On Track Innovations (OTI). The company lost significant revenue during the pandemic and filed for bankruptcy, but those proceedings ended when Nayax — an Israeli platform that provides digital, cashless purchasing options to retailers — acquired OTI for $4.5 million.
The announcement encourages people with questions to call the Treasurer’s Office Customer Service team at (703) 228-3702 or email [email protected].
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Dog Pee Causing Parking Meter Problems — From the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services: “Pooches, please: Take your aim game to more rustic targets. You’re jamming the parking meter coin doors.” [Twitter]
GOP Gov. Nominee on HQ2 — “[Republican nominee for governor Glenn] Youngkin supports Amazon’s big HQ2 project in Arlington, but argues he ‘would have cut a heck of a better deal.'” [Axios]
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With COVID-19 cases declining and 31% of the local population fully vaccinated, more people appear to be out and about in Arlington, according to recent county parking data.
Arlington County logged more than 266,500 and 263,000 parking meter transactions in March and April, respectively — the highest these numbers have been since October when cases started mounting for the second time in 2020.
The figures are one indication that Arlington has returned to a level of activity last seen in Arlington late last summer when case numbers were low and the state lifted many of the restrictions on daily life.
While parking numbers have recovered from the second and larger wave of coronavirus, the road to pre-pandemic parking levels may still be a long one. The transactions this spring are roughly 40% lower than they were in the spring of 2019.
The parking transaction trends appear to be the inverse of COVID-19 cases in Arlington.
Parking transactions dropped dramatically between October to November, during which time coronavirus cases started rising. Parking transactions bounced back in March and remained at similar levels in April; meanwhile, COVID-19 cases have reached their lowest point since October.
Today, the Virginia Dept. of Health reported only five new cases in Arlington, after nine new cases were reported yesterday — the first two-day stretch of single-digit new cases in the county since Sept. 1-2.
Arlington’s recently-adopted budget projects parking revenue getting close to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the 2022 fiscal year, “but there is a lot of uncertainty about that assumption,” parking manager Stephen Crim said.
The county has a long way to go to recover lost parking revenue, which plummeted from a 2019 peak of nearly 500,000 transactions in August to fewer than 60,000 transactions in April 2020.
If the revenue trends from April continue into May and June, however, parking revenue for the second quarter of 2021 could surpass the $1.4 million that the county logged through March, county officials say.
“A return to pre-pandemic levels will depend not only on how quickly jurisdictions lift restrictions on places like restaurants but also on how comfortable people feel going back to their usual activities,” Crim said. “Also, there may be medium- or long-term changes to the way people shop, socialize and conduct business meetings, which could affect parking in Arlington, just like everywhere else.”
In February, Gov. Ralph Northam rolled back a 10 p.m. alcohol curfew for restaurants to midnight, and by mid-May, he is expected to raise the caps on venue capacity and social gatherings, while lifting the curfew on liquor sales. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cleared Americans to be outside without a mask in most situations. Soon after, Virginia followed suit.
Although transactions levels are lower, the overall patterns of where people park are generally similar to pre-pandemic patterns, Crim said.
“A quick look at some of our meter data indicates that areas that were popular pre-pandemic remain popular today and areas that were less popular are still less popular,” he said.
He did not indicate whether the county expects a new pilot program that prices parking by demand along Metro corridors — approved by the County Board in December — will impact parking transaction rates.
Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services will be conducting the performance parking pilot to improve parking management, “regardless of the overall number of people who want to park in Arlington,” Crim said.
“We started planning for this pilot well before the pandemic struck and we don’t see the pilot as an opportunity to shore up revenue,” he said.
Charts compiled by ARLnow using data from Arlington County and Virginia Department of Health
The County Board approved a test of surge-price parking in Arlington on Tuesday, after discussing the potential impacts on people with lower incomes.
The $5.4 million project is funded by VDOT, and the funds are expected to cover everything from developing to installing the needed parking software and hardware. Drivers will find this new type of parking on the streets in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Crystal City-Pentagon City corridors.
The program, also known as “performance parking,” was pulled from the Saturday meeting over concerns about how this would impact people with lower incomes, parking planner Stephen Crim said during the Tuesday recessed meeting.
“I don’t have all the answers to all those concerns,” Crim said. “The grant we are asking you to approve would pay for us to do the design and planning work that allows us to consider how people with low incomes, or racial minorities, need to be considered, and map out any mitigations that are necessary.”
The Board’s first equity consideration should be who has cars, Crim said. The program will mostly affect those who own one or more cars — namely, Arlingtonians with relatively higher incomes and households headed by white people, he said.
Rather than charging everybody the same price, this program could give drivers more chances to save money if they need to, by parking on less-popular streets at lower rates than currently offered, he said.
“Rates may go up on some blocks, but it may go down or stay the same on other blocks,” he said.
The higher prices on busier streets encourage turnover, which would also benefit this same group, he said.
“Those who are disadvantaged often lack money, but they also have time pressures that privileged individuals do not have,” Crim said. “We see performance parking as an opportunity to give benefit to time-pressed drivers of all backgrounds.”
After Crim spoke, County Board members told him they were comfortable moving forward.
“I’m so glad we’re doing a pilot,” Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “It is a complicated tool that can be used for good or ill, and we want to use it for good.”
The issue drew one public speaker concerned about equity. Alexandra Guendert said the new prices will be unpredictable, making it hard for people to budget trips.
“To think that $5.4 million to essentially create a system to get the rich better access to parking is disheartening,” she said.
The prices will not be as prone to hourly fluctuation as prices for Uber and Lyft, Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt, who supports the pilot, said during the public hearing.
“People are able to know before they go what that parking may cost, depending on where they find it,” he said.
With the County Board’s blessing, the next step will be to engage the public and start developing a system that detects how full parking spaces are, Crim said. After the system is installed, it will start collecting data to fill out a database, which will be used to analyze occupancy and ultimately determine future prices.
Eventually, the County will be able to publish real-time information on spot availability.
Work on the new system along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor is expected to start kick off during the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
A successful pilot could motivate other municipalities to follow suit, VDOT told the County in 2018. If people ultimately do not like it, the County could turn off the pricing function of the system but still collect data, which would be valuable for drivers and the Board, noted Crim.
“Parking is important to many people, but we frequently don’t have as much data about parking as we do about other matters, such as traffic volume, speed, transit ridership, so on,” he said.
Arlington County is expected to pilot a program that prices parking by demand along Metro corridors.
The proposed $5.4 million program, funded by VDOT, is slated to be considered by the County Board this weekend.
Staff recommend that the Board accepts the state funding and approve the pilot that would alter parking prices based on the day, time and number of people competing for a spot. It would also give drivers real-time information on spot availability and price.
The grant has been approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board and staff included the project in the 2021 fiscal year capital improvements plan, a county staff report says. The County will not have to match state funds.
“The Commonwealth’s recognition of the innovative nature of the project… serves not only as a recognition of the relative level of risk, when compared with a traditional highway or transit project, but also of the project’s promise and potential transferability to other locations in the Commonwealth,” said the county staff report.
In other words, the state is willing to take a chance on the system in Arlington, and should it succeed other communties follow Arlington’s lead.
Demand-based parking, which county staff call “performance parking,” is being piloted in a few cities across the country, including D.C.
The District Department of Transportation said this program, which was tested over the course of four years in Penn Quarter/Chinatown, “was largely successful.” It provided real-time information on spot availability and was able to lower or raise prices, which encouraged turnover and, as a result, increased the number of available spots.
Proponents say surge price parking reduces the number of cars on the road and lightens congestion caused by people circling blocks looking for spaces. At the time, critics said that D.C.’s surge-price parking would hurt low-income people looking to visit popular destinations.
The County Board last reviewed the idea for this system two years ago, when the board gave staff the green light to apply for “SMART SCALE” funding — to the tune of $6.1 million — to pilot the project.
If Arlington was chosen, those funds would not have been available until July 1, 2024. But the reason staff included the project in this year’s capital improvement plan is because the state gave the county a new offer.
“In the fall of 2018, during the application evaluation process for SMART SCALE, the Commonwealth, through one of the Deputy Secretaries of Transportation, approached Arlington County and asked if it would accept funding from [VDOT’s Innovation and Technology Transportation Fund] instead of SMART SCALE,” the county staff report says. “ITTF was designed specifically for cutting-edge projects like Performance Parking that advance the state of the practice in transportation.”
Work on the new system along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor is expected to start kick off during the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
“A total of $700,000 is anticipated to be used for FY 2021,” the staff report says. “The balance of funding will be used in FY 2022 and FY 2023… These funds will be used for design, installation, testing, and deployment of a pilot hardware and software system.”
Keep an eye on the meter if you’re parking on the street in Arlington today — some changes to county meters just took effect.
You’ll now need to feed the meter from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, a two-hour extension of the old meter timeframe.
Prices are also jumping up a bit. Rates at meters set aside for short-term parking, or any parking less than four hours, is going up a quarter to $1.75 per hour. Any parking for more than four hours will now run you $1.50 per hour, up from $1.25.
Parking ticket fines will also rise a bit, jumping from $35 to $40 per offense.
The County Board signed off on these changes as part of its budget for fiscal year 2019, which meant they officially took effect yesterday (July 1), even though meters don’t run on Sundays.
In all, the county hopes to raise an additional $4 million each year through these changes, in order to help offset some of the financial pressure Arlington is feeling at the moment. County staff also envision these tweaks bringing the county a bit more in line with the higher parking prices of neighboring jurisdictions, as well as increasing parking turnover in high-demand corridors.
This change marks the first increase in Arlington’s parking meter fees since 2015.
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Photo by Anna Merod
The county manager’s proposed 2019 budget includes new parking meter rate hikes.
Short term parking, defined as less than four hours, would go up a quarter to $1.75 per hour. Long term parking, more than four hours, would also go up a quarter to $1.50 per hour.
Currently, drivers only have to feed the meter in Arlington between 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Under the proposed budget, the times would change to 8 a.m.-8 p.m., or an additional two hours of metering for a total of 12 hours a day, six days a week.
The increase would add about $3.775 million per year to the county’s coffers, with $1.575 million in anticipated revenue from the rate increase alone and an additional $2.2 million for the hours extension.
In a budget document, county staff note that the increase would “encourage more frequent turnover in parking space during hours of greatest demand” and would be “more consistent with other rates and hours in the region.” It would also, of course, raise revenue at a time when the county is facing a significant budget gap.
The proposal comes less than three years after the County Board approved parking meter rate increases, which raised rates a quarter across the board. In 2011, a rate hike brought the long-term parking cost per hour up to $1.
Parking ticket fines will also rise, from $35 to $40 per offense, leading to just over $236,000 in revenue per year.