Arlington, VA

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  

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Morning Notes

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]

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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.

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.

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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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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.

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on accepting a grant to implement a performance parking pilot in Arlington’s Metrorail corridors.

Performance Parking is a proven approaching to managing parking supply to make parking more convenient. It uses technology to measure parking demand, and over time matches the price of that parking to demand, ensuring that parking is generally available where people want it, when people want it.

How Does it Work?

When trying to understand how performance parking works, it’s helpful to look at an existing example while keeping in mind that there are many ways to customize a performance parking implementation plan to fit each community. One of the most well-known and well-documented examples is SFPark in San Francisco.

The SFPark pilot installed in-pavement parking occupancy sensors across 7 parking management areas which included about 25% of the city’s on-street spaces.  Approximately every 8 weeks, the city adjusted parking rates for each block based on average parking occupancy of that block, according to the following formula:  blocks that saw 80-100% occupancy the rate was increased by $0.25, blocks where the occupancy was 60-80% the rate was left alone, blocks where occupancy was 30-60% the hourly rate was decreased by $0.25, blocks where the occupancy rate was below 30% the hourly rate was decreased by $0.50.

These pricing adjustments were made approximately every 8 weeks.  Unlike something like Uber’s Surge pricing, these are not sudden, real-time changes – they are slow, deliberate changes made over a period of months with clear, predictable signage.  Over time they find the true intersection of the parking supply and demand curves and ensure that parking is available on each block when people need it.

What does it Accomplish?

SFPark made parking easier to find.  The amount of time that blocks achieved the target parking occupancy (60 to 80%) increased by 31% in pilot areas, compared to a 6% increase in control areas. The amount of time that blocks were too full to find parking decreased 16% in pilot areas while increasing 51% in control areas.

SFPark saved people time.  In SFpark pilot areas, the amount of time most people reported that it took to find a space decreased by 43%, from about 11 ½ minutes to about 6 ½ minutes.

SFPark reduced greenhouse gas emissions.  Due to reduced time spent circling for a parking space, drivers went from generating about 7 metric tons of ghg emissions per day looking for parking prior to the pilot to about 4.9 metric tons of emissions per day after the pilot.

SFPark reduced double parking.  Double parking increases dramatically as convenient parking gets harder to find.  In SFPark pilot areas, double parking decreased by 22% compared to a 5% decrease in the control areas.

SFPark reduced congestion and improved transit speeds.  Due to a reduction in drivers circling for spaces and the reduction in double parking, peak period congestion decreased and transit speed increased in the pilot areas.

SFPark lowered average hourly parking meter rates.   Over the course of the SFPark pilot, the average hourly rates at meters dropped from $2.69 to $2.58.

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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 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.”

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It’s a sight that still stands out for its oddness: a huge parking garage normally packed with cars, almost totally empty.

Six months ago, at the springtime height of the pandemic in Arlington, ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott embarked on a photo essay project to document some of the eerily abandoned office and retail parking garages in Arlington.

At the time, there was just too much news to report and we never ended up publishing the photos. Until today.

Above is a look back at the empty parking garages of Arlington, amid the coronavirus lockdown. Below are Jay’s recollection of the assignment.

When I look through these pictures of empty parking garages, taken back in April and early May, I remember how it felt to be in them: cold, lonely, nervous. Despite being public garages, they were closed because of the stay at home order. Nobody was going in the buildings around them, and without cars the weirdness that is an underground parking garage or a multi-level above-ground garage is reduced to its basic elements: concrete and columns.

These parking garages might be getting more use now, six months later. And maybe one day they will have bike races in them again. One can only hope.

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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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