Arlington lawmakers poised to pass parking meter hikes

ARLINGTON, Va. — Arlington lawmakers are poised to pass a measure to increase the cost at meters $0.25 per-hour, but could also reject another measure to extend meter hours to 8:00 p.m.

If approved, the rates at many short-term meters in Arlington would go from $1.25 to $1.50 per-hour.  Changes would go into effect in September.

“I personally am looking favorably upon the cost increase, which just makes us more competitive with the rest of the region,” says Arlington Board Member Jay Fisette.

“Anytime you raise a fee, people realize curb space and parking has a real cost for the community and you have to keep up with the market,” he adds.

On Thursday, the Arlington Transportation Commission voted unanimously to support the parking rate increase.  The group advises lawmakers on transportation issues, serving as a quasi-subcommittee.

However, the commission was split on the issue of extending meter hours.  The group recommended extending the hours on a 7-3 vote, although a few yes votes were predicated on policy makers using discretion and data to make decisions.

Currently, meters are on from 8 a.m. to  6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday.  Conversation revolved around what impact extending meters two additional hours would have on businesses in places like Ballston and Clarendon.

Both the Ballston Business Improvement District and the Clarendon Alliance support the meter rate increase, but oppose the meter hours increase until more data is available to show the benefit.

“I can definitely support an hours increase where we figured out that the business are still open and we’re willing to give people tickets for parking in front of people’s houses, but we’re not willing to charge people for parking on the street,” says Commissioner Michael Perkins.

Other supporters argued that increasing the hours at meters would be good for business because people park and remain at meters all evening at 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.  These supporters argue that when someone stays at a meter all night, it means other potential customers are circling to find open spaces and may give up and go elsewhere.  Parking officials and businesses often consider meter turnover a positive for business.

But opponents argued that people don’t like to pay to park.  If someone now has to pay for a spot that was free before, then customers might leave Clarendon or Ballston to spend their money elsewhere.  They also argued that there is not enough hard data available yet to demonstrate the need to extend meter hours.

“I would hold off on it, so staff can work with the businesses to see whether this is actually the most appropriate action to take because you may be losing a lot of customers for the businesses and county revenues in the process,” says Commission Bill Gearhart.

Despite the 7-3 vote, Fisette thinks the full board will end up siding with those like Gearhart.

“The (meter) hours are likely to be put off until we have a much more significant conversation about it.  I don’t know where the rest of the board is, and I will also be informed by what the commission says as well,” says Fisette.

Lawmakers are expected to take up both measures on May 16.



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