It’s been a total of 37 days since Reston Town Center’s Boston Properties forced the once popular town center into paid-for-parking with, according to Gaurang Shah and Maria Lam, some of the highest paid parking rates in Northern Virginia. The launch date of January 3rd, 2017, brought new parking rates to the once free RTC garages at $2 for the first hour and going up by roughly $2 every hour after that until a maximum charge of $24 for 12 to 24 hours. The rate for street parking, which has a two-hour limit, starts at $3 for the first hour and jumps to $6 for the second hour meaning for the max 2-hour parking, you’re looking $9 (kiss those Jackson mojitos goodbye).
Reston Businesses Suffering
The “sudden” spike in parking costs (the paid parking concept has always been an intention for Boston Properties and Reston Town Center despite claims that it was implemented to stop commuters who ditch their vehicles for metro access hogging up parking spaces) has not only turned off paying customers, but it’s also angered restaurant and store owners. According to ABC7, “Dozens of business leaders met at Vapiano Restaurant starting at 3 p.m. Monday to talk about what to do. Many say business was well down this January compared to January of last year, even though last January featured a blizzard that drove many customers away. Aaron Mervis, vice president of Big Bowl, says his restaurant was down 1200 customers this January compared to last.”
Across the board, Reston retailers are claiming 50% fewer customers than a previous blizzardy January from last year. And it’s not just the added costs that are causing the lack of foot traffic to store windows. It’s the insanely complicated parking app Reston forces would-be-parkers to download in order to leave their vehicles for a lunch out. “They say many customers find it confusing and don’t like that it encourages them to download an app.”
The spokesperson for Boston Properties, Rob Weinhold, says that 37 days in is too small of a window to judge how the paid model is performing. Boston Properties has told businesses that revenue generated from the parking garages will pay for things like infrastructure, landscaping, and events at the town center.
But according to more Reston business owners, RestonNow.com says, “Even businesses that appear on the surface to be doing relatively well, such as Potomac River Running, are actually not. ‘This weather is fantastic for us, so we’re having much higher sales than we normally would among our eight stores,’ said owner Ray Pugsley. ‘My other seven stores are up between 10 and 50 percent in the last 30 days. This store here is down 4 percent’.”
In another RestowNow article, the Bike Lane made a recent Facebook post saying its customers should not be forced to pay to shop there — and because that is now the case, they want to set up shop elsewhere.
“We believe in providing our customers with an amazing shopping experience and we do not agree with charging for parking. We are actively looking to relocate The Bike Lane in or around Reston and we will keep you updated about our future plans as they progress.”
It doesn’t look good for Reston’s new parking fiasco, but in the meantime, businesses are gathering together to explore their legal options. Red Velvet Cupcakes in Reston says “We’re not necessarily threatening a lawsuit, but we are saying that we can explore a few different avenues. The first one is going to be to all get under one umbrella, pitch in a little money and then see where it takes us.”
The Protest against Paid Parking
But aside from the hardship, the businesses are facing, locals are joining together to show their disdain for Boston Properties’ decision to make Reston a parking cash cow. Organized by Gaurang Shah and Maria Lam, there is a growing Facebook event for a protest march on Reston Town Center. Taking place on March 4th, the Park Free RTC (Protest) Facebook event says, “It’s been almost a month since RTC and Boston Properties has started Paid Parking and nobody is happy about that. Also, it is most expensive parking in Northern Virginia compare to any other malls and shopping centers. Now, Reston Town Center looks empty all restaurants, bars and local businesses are down. Reston town center parking has been free for years and it should be forever.
We will meet at Vapiano’s where you can check in and get your wristbands. We will update event with more details. Please spread words and invite as many as friends you can.”