One minute after midnight this morning, car-sharing company Free2Move ended its services in Arlington over issues with parking in the county.
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.”
I worked w/Arlington County on the free-floating carshare permits and am proud car2go was the first company to use them. Arlington County became one of the best partners in North America and did carshare permitting right. I strongly doubt Free2Move is telling the full story here. https://t.co/1z5WHl8kMs
— Aaron Landry (@s4xton) September 29, 2021
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.
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.”
APS Getting EV Buses — “Arlington Public Schools (APS), working collaboratively with the County’s Department of Environmental Services (DES), will receive a $795,000 grant from the state, to be spent on three fully electric buses (EV buses) that will replace three with diesel engines. The EV vehicles, each with a capacity of some 65 passengers, will be equitably assigned to routes throughout Arlington. Currently there are no EV buses in the APS fleet of 200. The vehicles slated for replacement each travel some 8,000 miles a year.” [Arlington County, Gov. Ralph Northam]
No PARK(ing) Day This Year — “PARK(ing) Day is an annual international event where the public collaborates to temporarily transform drab parking spaces into small parks… Due to continuing COVID-19 issues, Arlington County will not participate in 2021 PARK(ing) Day. We hope to welcome participants back in 2022.” [Arlington County, Twitter]
USS Arlington to Help in Haiti — “The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) departed Naval Station Norfolk to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to Haiti in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) led mission, Aug. 17.” [Navy]
Arrests in Ashton Heights Armed Robbery — ” The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is announcing the arrest of three suspects in an armed robbery that occurred during the early morning hours on Wednesday, August 18… At approximately 1:08 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a robbery that had just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the two male victims and a witness were sitting at a bus stop in the 700 block of N. Randolph Street when the three suspects approached.” [ACPD]
Arlington Org Deals with Afghanistan Fallout — “The young women of Ascend were used to spending their days doing yoga, preparing for mountain climbing excursions and teaching women at mosques in Kabul how to read… After the Taliban swept through Afghanistan this week, retaking control after two decades as the Afghan government collapsed, most of Ascend’s participants have been sheltering at home in fear of reprisal. Some have destroyed documents that would associate them with the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit group, and are pleading for assistance from its leadership to help them find refuge in other countries.” [Washington Post]
Arlington Bishop Talks About Trans Youth — “The topic of transgenderism is discussed routinely in the news, on television shows and in schools. This prevailing ideology — that a person can change his or her gender — is impacting Catholic families, too, said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington… Burbidge knows many will be criticized and ostracized for their belief that men and women cannot change their sex, but he asks the faithful to speak out anyway. ‘We cannot be silenced. The mandate to speak on this issue clearly and lovingly is greater than ever,’ he said.” [Catholic News Service]
On Sunday, the university wrapped up two weeks of construction that turned the concrete parking lot at 2807 N. Glebe Road into a green space. Now, Marymount leaders envision the school community using the space for recreation and picnics.
“As students, staff, faculty and their families enter Marymount, they’ll now be greeted with a beautiful lawn devoted to bringing our community together,” said Marymount University President Irma Becerra.
Marymount originally had a grass lawn in front of the Main House, but that was paved over in May 2000 to accommodate the growing number of students who need a place to park. Now that the university has two parking garages, Marymount said it no longer needs the lot.
Those employed by the university have embraced the change already, according to Barry Harte, the school’s treasurer and vice president for finance and operations.
“Bringing back the beloved recreation area has sparked overwhelmingly positive feedback from our staff and faculty. This change is important not only to our students and their families, but also to the greater Arlington community of which Marymount is proud to be a part of,” said Harte.
In a press release, the university said the lawn will help the surrounding community by absorbing storm water runoff and improving water quality.
The front parking lot previously hosted a seasonal weekly farmers market. Organizers announced earlier this summer that the market was permanently closed, encouraging local residents to go the new Cherrydale Farmers Market instead.
Marymount plans to hold a picnic on the lawn to celebrate the start of the academic year this coming Monday, Aug. 23.
Two decades ago, Marymount University paved paradise and put up a parking lot on its main campus in residential North Arlington.
“This restores that area to how it looked prior to May of 2000, when the lot was created to supply additional parking for the University,” spokesman Nicholas Munson said.
Construction began Monday and is expected to be completed around Sunday, Aug. 15, depending on the weather, he said.
Marymount added the surface parking lot to accommodate a growing school community at the Main Campus. Today, Marymount’s Blue and White garages now provide “ample parking” for the community, he said.
“Once it’s completed, Marymount will provide more recreational space for students while creating a positive impact on our physical campus environment,” he said.
The project is being paid for with capital funding.
Other upcoming campus projects include transforming “The Lodge,” a historic structure on the Main Campus, into a welcome center for students, families and visitors. Marymount also plans to reorient the front entrance so that fewer cars can access the campus core, making it more pedestrian-friendly, and to create a “student hub” in Rowley Hall “to promote a new community space for Marymount Saints to gather.”
The university also has a campus along N. Glebe Road in Ballston.
(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.”
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
County Offering New Walk-Up COVID Testing — “Arlington County is launching a mobile, no-cost to patients, walk-up testing service in partnership with Quest Diagnostics. The mobile testing command center will open Tuesday, March 9, at 1429 N. Quincy Street, replacing the current drive-through testing site at that location. It will operate at that location for two weeks, Monday-Friday from 9 A.M – 4 P.M. Then it will move to new locations on a two to three-week rotational basis to offer walk-up COVID-19 testing throughout the County.” [Arlington County]
BID: National Landing is ‘Over-Parked’ — “Right now, we’re over-parked. We [were] originally built during a period that prized the automobile, but we were also fortunate enough to grow into a Metro system, and a number of other modes opened up possibilities for growth and development that are truly sustainable. What we’re seeing with new development is a ticking down of parking requirements. So we are focused on being a transit-oriented community, a multimodal community. The future is not cars.” [Smart Cities Dive]
County to Extend Ground Lease on Its HQ — “Arlington County and JBG Smith (JBGS) have entered into a letter of intent to restructure the ground leases of 2100/2200 and 2300 Clarendon Boulevard and the theater parcel in the Courthouse Plaza complex. The County owns the land under these three properties while JBGS owns the buildings. The LOI agreement states the County will provide JBGS the option to extend the leases from the current expiration in 2062 to 2119. Under the current leases, annual rent paid by JBGS to the County has varied significantly, ranging from $100,000 to $3.9 million. The new agreement would modify the annual lease payments to fixed rates and will include a one-time lump sum of $18 million paid by JBG Smith upon execution of the leases.” [Arlington County]
A major redevelopment proposal in Rosslyn is facing pushback from those who think it doesn’t do enough for cyclists and pedestrians.
McLean-based Jefferson Apartment Group is proposing a 27-story mixed-use residential complex with 424 units at 1901 N. Moore Street, replacing the 1960s-era RCA building. Two towers will be connected at the top by a penthouse and at the base with ground floor retail.
But as the project moves through the public review process, some have expressed concerns a number of transportation-related issues: the proposed unprotected bike lanes along 19th Street N., the project’s parking ratio, and the pedestrian experience along the block.
These three topics are likely to resurface during a follow-up Site Plan Review Committee meeting on Monday, March 15 — and perhaps later this spring, when the project will go before the Planning Commission and the County Board.
“We’ve been identifying issues, responding to citizen comments, and having very good discussions with surrounding community groups,” said Andrew Painter, an attorney with land use firm Walsh Colucci, during the first SPRC meeting last month.
Staff members are considering some protections for the proposed 19th Street bike lanes in response to public input.
“It may be possible to provide an additional level of protection in one direction” on the block from N. Lynn to N. Moore streets, said Principal Planner Dennis Sellin, adding that staffers “don’t see the capacity to do it in both directions.”
Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said 19th Street N. has enough traffic to qualify it for protected or buffered bike lanes.
Another hot issue was the parking ratio of .625 spaces per residential unit. Jefferson is proposing 290 total spaces, split among 265 residential spaces, 15 retail and 10 visitor spaces, according to a staff report.
“The goal is to right-size the garage to meet the market demand but not provide extra that incentivizes people to drive,” Painter said.
Although the proposal is within county guidelines, Sellin said “we would certainly accept a lower ratio.” The minimum is .2 spaces per unit but the lowest Sellin said he has seen proposed is .38 spaces per unit.
North Rosslyn Civic Association representative Terri Prell said people, particularly the elderly, still need cars for tasks such as grocery shopping.
“You have to understand this is a residential community, not a business community,” she said.
Lowering the ratio would attract people who want to lead a car-free lifestyle, Slatt said, asking for data on space utilization rates.
The parking needs to be built partially above ground due to “particularly dense rock” and Metro tunnels. To conceal the parking above the retail and below the residential units — and add public art — the architect is exploring adding graphics by local artists, said architect Shalom Baranes.
The Metro tunnels add another complication: a longer expected demolition process.
It'll take about 3 months to dismantle the existing RCA building. Developer says that's because they're over the Metro tunnels.
"They do frown upon explosions over their tunnels."
— Stephen Repetski (@srepetsk) February 12, 2021
As for the pedestrian experience, some members were concerned that the block will be too long and there will be no opportunities for cutting through it. Sellin said the block is comparable to others at 400 feet long.
SPRC Chair Sara Steinberger said knowing the length “may not change the community’s feelings on what feels like a longer stretch of block when you have large buildings covering a greater area.”
In 2017, Weissberg Investment Corp., which developed the RCA building in the 1960s, filed plans to redevelop the RCA site — but those plans were put on hold indefinitely in 2018. Jefferson started filing application materials in May 2020.
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
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.