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A Cherrydale vape shop has closed less than a year after opening.

L.A. Leaf opened last spring, stocking a variety of CBD and vape products. Now, however, the store’s interior is empty and its phone number is answered with a dial tone.

The store is the latest in a string of businesses to pop up in one of the retail bays at the base of the condo building at 3800 Langston Blvd, only to shutter a short time later.

In 2015, Kite Runner Cafe, a critically acclaimed Afghan restaurant, closed after just two years in business. Gaijin Ramen Shop took over about two months later, likewise earning some local accolades and 4.4 stars on Google before closing in 2022.

Next door, House of Steep, a tea house and “foot sanctuary” that offered foot soaks and massages, lasted six years from 2012 to 2018. A Subway, meanwhile, survived seven years before closing in 2019, making way for L.A. Leaf.

Jim Todd, president of the Cherrydale Citizens Association, argued that poor accessibility may contribute to closures at this location.

“I think for a number of years, it just suffered from insufficient parking options,” he told ARLnow.

Metered street parking beside 3800 Langston Blvd is limited, and while the building has some retail parking in the back, Todd believes it could be advertised more obviously.

He also believes the county could do more to improve nearby crosswalks.

One of two crossings leading to the building lacks flashing beacons. The county instead provides pedestrians with a reflective “see me” flag to ensure motorists notice them.

Cherrydale, which has a neighborhood plan of its own, was not included in Plan Langston Blvd, a county initiative that passed in November with the goal of expanding public transit, housing and commercial development along the major road, while making it less car-centric.

Public parking was a sticking point, with some advocating it be included as a goal in order to support for existing small businesses. The plan encourages below-grade parking for new developments, shared parking across adjacent parcels and surface lots tucked away from the main road.

“[The county] basically is unwilling to admit that what makes retail successful is adequate parking,” the president said, arguing that large parking lots are key to the success of several nearby strip malls on the other side of the boulevard.

A recent county report, by contrast, argues that lower parking minimums could help spur investment in some local businesses. The report claims that requiring too many parking spaces for establishments such as fitness centers can deter investors from filling vacant space.

Though 3800 Langston Blvd currently lacks open businesses, at least one establishment hasn’t given up hope on the location.

As we reported in January, Burger Billy’s Joint is on track to open next door to the shuttered L.A. Leaf. It has yet to announce an opening date.

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Gold’s Gym in Ballston (staff photo by James Jarvis)

Looser parking requirements could encourage more gyms and shops to fill Arlington’s commercial real estate vacancies, the county believes.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously voted to have staff research possible changes to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance and advertise requests to amend it. In addition to slashing parking minimums for gyms, the county is considering whether to allow parking lots to designate more spaces for compact cars.

Public hearings about these requirements are scheduled to take place in April. The county argues some of the regulations — set decades ago — may be outdated and an aggravating factor for Arlington’s rising commercial vacancy rate.

For instance, Arlington fitness centers must offer five times more parking spaces per square foot of floor area than other retail or service businesses. This is more restrictive than requirements in Alexandria and Fairfax County and, according to a report, a holdover of transportation patterns from the 1960s.

“The minimum parking ratio for athletic and health clubs is a standard set decades ago and does not reflect current land use and development patterns, public transportation access or regulations in Arlington,” the report says.

County staff noted that many potential office tenants look for nearby fitness facilities when selecting a location. Fitness centers also tend to attract establishments such as spas and physical therapy centers.

“Minimum parking ratios… can derail an athletic or health club from filling high demand, ideally located vacant space,” the report says.

The document also argues that the county should reconsider a 2002 regulation that disallows compact car spaces in areas “that were assumed to have a high turnover.” This includes retail stores, grocery stores and medical and health care facilities, as well as anywhere “where there is likely to be a large number of elderly [people].”

“Staff believes this prohibition is worth reexamining,” the report says.

Finally, another county report argues that loosening off-street parking requirements could help some shopping centers and small commercial sites attract new tenants. It notes that current parking regulations, as well as insufficient shared parking within commercial and mixed-use districts, can create barriers for businesses.

“This is especially true when multiple businesses are required to use the available parking on-site with limited capacity,” the document says. “Expanded shared parking regulations can be an effective measure to help address similar on-site parking deficiencies.”

All of these initiatives are part of a larger effort to combat Arlington’s high commercial vacancy rate. In another bid to boost Arlington’s commercial resiliency, the Board authorized public hearings for April about whether to loosen restrictions on large media screens in outdoor areas.

Later this year, the Board is expected to discuss guidance on office-to-apartment conversions as well as potentially simplifying the major and minor site plan amendment process, which landowners must navigate when repurposing or renovating large development projects.

Within the next several months, Board members are also expected to consider plans to facilitate changes of use within existing buildings and adopt a more flexible ordinance around signage.

Other possible ordinance changes concern storage uses at office buildings as well as the process for repurposing underutilized parking spaces.

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ART buses move through the Quincy site in the Virginia Square neighborhood (via BVSCA)

There is a new twist in the stand-off between Arlington County and neighbors over bus parking on a county site in North Arlington.

Arlington County recently dropped litigation against three neighbors and the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, who tried to use the Board of Zoning Appeals process to block the county from parking 29 Arlington Transit (ART) buses on a county lot near Washington-Liberty High School.

The parking is a temporary arrangement while a new ART bus facility is built in Green Valley. The Arlington County Board allowed this when it approved a special exception use permit in the spring of 2022.

Nearly two years ago, the county zoning administrator determined the Dept. of Environmental Services could park the buses on the site — a requisite step for obtaining a use permit. One resident appealed the decision but a county staff member rejected it. A week later, the county sued him, his wife, a third resident and the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, alleging he used the BZA process improperly to block the parking use.

The defendants say the county sued them preemptively and that the bus activity would seriously undercut their property values and quality of life.

“This could and should become a case study in how not to run a county government and then considering your role you and not considering your unique role as owners of the site and how your actions may affect neighbors,” said Maurya Meiers during public comment on Saturday, when the Arlington County Board reviewed the special exception permit for the site.

A BZA appeal had been filed on Meiers’ behalf two years ago and she is named in the lawsuit, per meeting materials and court documents.

Some residents came to the defense of their neighbors and their legal plight.

“It’s a SLAPP [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation] suit: a use of superior resources to haul citizens into court wear them down and demoralize them, perhaps even beggar them lest they become too vociferous and their concerns about pollution, noise and other avoidable nuisances, such as those which this permit enables,” said neighbor Thomas Viles. “So far your lawsuit has accomplished nothing expensive as it was it proved insufficient to shut these voters up.”

Indeed, Arlington County says it dropped its suit because the BZA is now set to hear the appeal case built by neighbors who live in homes overlooking the parking lot. The hearing will determine whether the county zoning administrator acted properly or if her decision runs afoul of zoning ordinances, a site plan and a 1985 deed of covenant.

Viles says the BZA agreed to take up the appeal after hearing about the suit in ARLnow.

“When they did learn, however, the BZA repudiated [county government] for having kept them in the dark,” he said.

This fracas is obliquely referenced in a resolution the BZA passed last September, directing the zoning administrator to avoid this situation again by sharing all appeals with members regardless of their merit.

“The BZA has never authorized any person to decline to accept an appeal on the BZA’s behalf,” the resolution says. “County staff did not consult the entire membership of the BZA before declining to accept any appeals of a zoning administrator determination, nor did County staff inform the BZA of its communications and actions in regards to any appeals filed between March 7, 2022 and the date of the adoption of this resolution.”

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Scenes from the 2023 Arlington County Fair (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Post-pandemic, the Arlington County Fair has seen a strong uptick in attendance and with it, new challenges to tackle.

Before 2020, attendance averaged at 65,000 people, according to fair board chair Matt Richard. Between the fair’s reopening in 2021 and the 2023 fair, attendance grew from 85,000 to 150,000.

“Coming out of the pandemic, people just wanted to do stuff and do stuff that was outside,” he said, noting that adding a beer garden, more rides and free entertainment, as well as stepping up outreach and marketing, all drummed up interest.

“We didn’t expect it to grow as much as it had. It just requires more logistics,” he added.

That could look like more shuttles to the fair, at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds more parking restrictions in the neighborhood as soon as this year.

The fair is down one of its shuttles because of construction at the Arlington Career Center, the location from which it departs. This year, Richard would like to secure attendance parking at (and a shuttle from) the Sequoia Plaza parking lot along Washington Blvd, used by the Arlington County Dept. of Human Services and Arlington Public Schools.

Another change could be more parking restrictions. Fewer parked cars on neighborhood streets would offset increased WMATA and Arlington Transit bus traffic during fair week, when the buses take different side streets to avoid fair-related street closures.

“The fair is an exciting event for Arlington and our neighborhood wants to continue to work with fair board to ensure their event runs smoothly,” says Arlington Heights Civic Association co-president Brian Sigritz. “We appreciate the board has been willing to meet with us and discuss our ideas about how to improve the fair.”

If parking restrictions were to increase, Sigritz said residents also want more advance notice of road closures and parking restrictions, clarity about who is affected and the quick distribution of event parking permits to impacted residents.

In addition, they are concerned about speeding and congestion on side streets, which Sigritz attributed to the rerouted WMATA and Arlington Transit buses.

One previously mulled change, moving the fair, is not on the table.

A few years ago, the fair and Arlington County staff studied alternative locations to Thomas Jefferson Community Center and the middle school, including Long Bridge Park and Virginia Highlands Park.

Rides could not fit in the Long Bridge parking lot, however, due to its configuration and height restrictions near National Airport. Virginia Highlands Park, meanwhile, had few viable options for the fair’s indoor component, potentially creating a “disconnected” fair, Richard said.

Also, surveyed residents generally preferred keeping it where it was. The fair stayed put.

“The end result was that TJ was the best option and probably will continue to be the best option in the foreseeable future,” Richard said. “If you drive around Arlington, there are not a lot of places to put it.”

Beyond logistics, the fair board is also figuring out how to host more than 100,000 people a year as a volunteer-run operation. The board is comprised of 18 volunteer members and, surrounding the week of the fair itself, event volunteers log some 600 hours.

“This is a 150,000 person event. At what point does a professional event management team have to start getting involved in really running this?” Richard asked.

Volunteers are ideal for finding sponsors and entertainers, picking the beer for the beer garden, and executing the competitions — but not as well-equipped at handling parking and security, he said.

The fair board is discussing ways to delegate these responsibilities to the Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation and police department through a new Memorandum of Understanding.

“We as a board want to leave the fair in a place where, if the board dwindles to 10 or eight, the county is in a position to make sure it is executed and the board has people to lean on,” he said.

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

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

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

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

Parking compliance in October 2023 (via Arlington County)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third-party parking apps showing available spaces using county sensor data (via Arlington County)
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Visitors to the Ballston Public Parking Garage this month may have noticed the absence of parking ticket kiosks and gates.

They were replaced with a new contactless parking system last month on Oct. 16.

If The county intended the change to improve the customer experience at the garage, which has garnered some negative online reviews over the past couple of years, but some users say they have found the new system confusing or restrictive.

Instead of getting a ticket at a gate, drivers entering the county-owned garage at 627 N. Glebe Road now park and then pay at a kiosk, online or through an app. There is a 15-minute grace period after entering the garage when parking is free, however, the new system keeps track of those in the facility by recording license plates upon entry.

Once parked, users can pay with cash or credit card at one of the many kiosks in each elevator lobby, after entering their license plate number and selecting an exit time. They can also pay through the Parking.com mobile app or by scanning a QR code that redirects them to a payment portal.

Here, users must enter their cell phone and license plate number, choose an exit time, and provide their credit card information, postal code and email address. This method, however, charges a 35-cent service fee.

In addition to creating more payment options, the county hopes the new system will “improve customer experience” by offering garage users the flexibility to add extra time as needed and stores their information for future transactions, says Melissa McMahon, the county’s parking and curb space manager.

Removing physical gates and automated ticket machines has allowed the “operations team to focus on customer experience and enforcement, rather than mechanical equipment malfunctions,” McMahon told ARLnow.

Several anonymous tipsters raised concerns about the poor internet connection inside the garage and the system’s reliance on smartphones.

“God forbid you don’t have a cell phone,” one tipster said.

Anticipating some confusion about the changes, McMahon said the county sent out letters to local community stakeholder groups and posted flyers throughout the garage. During the first month post-installation, garage staff were also posted around the facility to help users navigate the new system.

Still, several people said that the changes caught them “off guard.”

“Instead of a ticket at entry/exit, you are supposed to pay via the web (entering license plate into a form) or at a machine,” one tipster told ARLnow via email. “Luckily, there was a security guard sitting in the lobby off Level 3 asking people if they had paid and, if not, directing them to the machine. I know others did not realize they had to pay since the arms at the entry/exit lanes were all up.”

The same person who raised concerns about smartphone access also said the fliers were in “tiny print and difficult to understand.”

Individuals with concerns can contact the new garage operator, Chicago-based SP Plus, which provides a customer helpline and email support. County staff regularly visit the garage to “observe operations, talk to staff and customers, and work with garage management on refinements to improve customer experience,” says McMahon.

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National Airport is set to get some sweeping changes intended to make it easier to get around, park and rent a car.

DCA’s convenience for Arlington residents is a major selling point but the airport has its downsides, including traffic jams of sometimes epic proportions.

Prompted by such issues, and a projected increase in travelers, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which operates National Airport and Dulles International Airport, has spent several years mulling how to reduce traffic and meet future demand.

It proposes to realign roads and improve signage, while building a new public parking lot. Immediately south would be a new multi-use facility for a rental car center, with more parking and corporate office space.

“The proposed improvements are needed to address congestion along the Airport roadway network that affects safety, while also addressing space constraints for employee and public parking, rental car facilities, and the Airports Authority administrative offices,” a report says.

The proposed new multi-use center and roadway configurations at National Airport (courtesy MWAA)

MWAA proposes changes to several roads and ramps that unfurl from the airport access road connecting drivers to Crystal City and Route 1.

This includes realigning West Entrance Road to “allow for clear, concise wayfinding that would help reduce the need for drivers to make quick decisions and maneuvers in short periods of time,” the report said.

Another change includes widening a ramp for northbound traffic traveling onto the GW Parkway so drivers have more merging distance. Rapid-flashing beacons and other signage would be added to improve safety for those crossing the onramp via the Mount Vernon Trail.

A new pedestrian path from the Mount Vernon Trail to the airport would replace an existing tunnel that will be displaced during the work.

One road would connect to the future public parking lot in what MWAA calls a “connector garage and ground transportation center.” This is sandwiched between existing garages and the future proposed multi-use center. Just south of the building, there will be a new staging area for ride-share cars.

The airports authority projects it will take some nine years to make all these changes. It underscored, however, the need for them in a presentation during a meeting last night (Tuesday).

The litany of issues at DCA in need of addressing (courtesy MWAA)

Despite the Covid-era drop in travel rates, the airports authority says travel is rebounding and passenger rates may exceed pre-2020 levels by this year or next year.

It predicts current public and employee parking will not meet this future demand. Currently, its 8,909 public parking spaces across three facilities and 3,200 employee spaces across several lots are at capacity or hard to access.

The rental car center, meanwhile, is small, “operationally inefficient” and also projected not to meet future demand. By building a new center, with room for corporate offices, MWAA can move out of leased space in Crystal City and into a rent-free facility.

MWAA nixxed two other alternatives before landing on its current proposal. One would have relocated the multi-use center farther south.

One other option would relocate the multi-use center farther south (courtesy MWAA)

Another option would not have included any parking in the multi-use center. MWAA concluded neither would reduce traffic congestion, enhance safety or improve wayfinding.

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On Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved plans to redevelop the Arlington Career Center on Columbia Pike.

Arlington Public Schools will be building a new 5-story Career Center building at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive to house students in vocational courses, such as veterinary sciences. Also set to be built: a standalone 4-story parking garage.

Plans to update the building have gone through many iterations over the years and were most recently reprised last February in a process fraught with concerns.

In the end, four of the five Board members voted in favor of the $180 million project, with Takis Karantonis dissenting. The new facility will have capacity for up to 1,619 students.

The vote came after they heard, and in some cases echoed, concerns from representatives of civic associations and citizen commissions, as well as neighbors. Before Saturday, the Planning Commission was also divided, voting 5-4 two weeks ago with the chair abstaining after a weighty pause.

Board members who greenlit the project justified their decision using variations on the saying “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

“The cost of the pursuit of a delay and the pursuit of a more perfect project are so high and the project brought before us — though not perfect — when delivered in its full vision… is going to be indeed a spectacular addition to an area that I think of as my broader neighborhood,” Board member Katie Cristol said. “And, more importantly, a home befitting of the incredible education happening within it.”

Some of the neighbors who spoke say they support the idea of the project and say they are not seeking perfection at all.

“The current APS plans, while ambitious, cut corners in ways that are unacceptable to the community and contrary to the our shared vision of a safe and equitable Arlington,” a coalition of leaders of civic associations along Columbia Pike said in a letter.

Top concerns from neighbors included the future of open space on the site and the environmental commitments of the proposed building. There were calls for sidewalks, undergrounded utilities and fencing that match those at other schools in Arlington, as well as a more forward-thinking solution to parking than a stand-alone, above-ground garage.

Former Arlington County Planning Commissioner Stephen Hughes said in a letter to the Board that the county should have deferred approving the use permit until APS addressed these issues.

“The Career Center site deserves to be the ‘Jewel of the Pike’; however, any claim of that today is disingenuous at best,” he wrote. “APS has failed for over a decade to address facility planning in a comprehensive way and besides the inclusion of the existing facilities on the [General Land Use Plan], we have no planning guidance to rely on with APS facilities.”

APS and the School Board intend to retrofit the current Career Center for the Montessori program now housed in the former Patrick Henry Elementary School. This building, in turn, would be torn down and turned into a green space.

Some people wanted these commitments included in the use permit that went before the County Board on Saturday. Otherwise, they say, no legal document binds APS to executing this vision and — absent funding and a plan — the Pike will lose a baseball diamond, basketball court and open green space with no commitments to recover them.

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3108 Columbia Pike (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Arlington County is gearing up to raze a three-story office building on Columbia Pike this summer and turn it into a parking lot.

To get started, the Arlington County Board needs to kick off public hearings to consider the land-use changes needed for the new use. It is slated to do so on Saturday.

“These subject approvals will facilitate the final steps needed to demolish the existing building and construct the proposed interim surface parking improvements, including the review of construction plans and issuance of permits,” according to a county report.

Parking is a temporary use for the site, which the county bought last year for $7.55 million.

“Arlington County acquired the office building at 3108 Columbia Pike in March 2022, after it was identified as a potential site for a future Columbia Pike branch library and for potential co-location of County Board priorities, such as affordable housing,” the county report said.

The adopted 2023-32 Capital Improvement Plan, however, “anticipates completion of a new Columbia Pike branch library no sooner than 2028 at the earliest, thus presenting opportunities for a temporary use on the site in the interim,” it continued.

The county already determined it cannot save the office building and repurpose it.

“While the site is developed with a vacant, three-story office building, through due diligence completed prior to acquisition, the County determined the building is not fit for re-use and should be demolished,” the report said.

If the hearings are authorized on Saturday and the Board approves and the project, which could happen next month, the Dept. of Environmental Services will demolish the building this summer.

Doing so will expand the number of parking spaces from 63 to 92, per the report, fewer than originally anticipated. The county expected to add 58 spaces for a total of 121, according to a county document from last year.

For now, DES intends to lease the parking to Arlington Public Schools.

“The County has identified an expanded surface parking lot as a recommended interim use, which could support parking needs for the Career Center Campus during its redevelopment project, or accommodate other public parking needs before future redevelopment of the site,” the report said.

The Arlington School Board approved designs for the new, $182.42 million campus last October. Most of the funds were included in the 2022 School Bond referendum, according to an APS webpage.

“The project will now transition into the Use Permit phase and the new Arlington Career Center will be completed in December 2025,” the webpage says.

A letter included in the use permit APS filed for the Career Center in February said the site will accommodate 1,619 students. The site will also fit 775 Montessori Public School of Arlington students for a total of 2,394 students, per another document in the filings.

Students expected in the future Career Campus site (via Arlington County)
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Residential Parking Permit sign in Arlington (staff photo)

Residents will have to wait until May to apply for a permit to use on-street parking in their neighborhood.

Two weeks ago Monday, Arlington County opened up applications for its Residential Permit Parking program. RPP restricts parking in certain residential areas near commercial corridors, typically allowing residents and their guests to park during the day while those without permits have to look elsewhere.

Some one hundred applications were processed, but within hours some residents began experiencing issues.

A few reached out to ARLnow, frustrated about the platform timing out and otherwise not handling their requests.

The county informed RPP households on Wednesday, April 5 that it would be pushing back the start of the application season to the week of April 10, which was last week. Yesterday (Monday), the county told ARLnow it now aims to resume the online application process on the first of May.

“We are still working with our vendor to resolve technical issues with the online permit application system,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien said. “Due to these unresolved issues, we are now targeting the week of May 1 to have our RPP renewal applications available online.”

The vendor is Conduent, she said. The New Jersey-based company was previously a unit of Xerox.

“We apologize for the continued delay but want to make sure that the system functions correctly for our customers,” O’Brien said, noting that customers will be receiving an update as well.

Normally, the county would begin checking for updated parking permit stickers for the 2023-24 season on July 1. With the delays, enforcement will be pushed back to Aug. 1 “to ensure that RPP materials will get to customers well ahead of when they’re needed.”

Last year, some residents reported not getting their materials ahead of the start of enforcement. They were worried they would be ticketed for not having documentation, though they said they had applied and paid for the stickers. Arlington County issued some temporary tags that people could use until their materials came.

Residents need to apply in advance to allow for enough time for the materials to be printed and sent out, but some were impacted by a delayed printing order, ARLnow was told at the time. Last year, the application process was also delayed, to allow extra time to fine tune what was then new software.

For those wishing to place orders immediately, in-person application and renewal services are available in Room 214 at the county government headquarters, located at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, O’Brien said. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Installing sensors and marking bumper-to-bumper boundaries for the County’s upcoming Performance Parking pilot (via Dept. of Environmental Services/Twitter)

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.

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