WASHINGTON — When Metro starts charging for parking on Saturdays in a few weeks, the Silver Line garage at Wiehle-Reston East will remain free.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to pull the garage out of the program, after previously failing to get an agreement from the Metro Board to keep all Metro parking in Fairfax County free on Saturdays.
“Wiehle station is really a great opportunity for us to continue to introduce people to the Metro on Saturdays by maintaining the free parking,” said Cathy Hudgins, Hunter Mill district supervisor and Metro Board member. “This is not an objection outright for all of the stations. … But at least until the [Silver Line] extension has been completed and some time there, I think this is still a good opportunity for us to introduce people to rail, and they get [to] use the free parking on Saturdays.”
The county has the authority to block the pilot program at Wiehle-Reston East because it owns the garage, even though Metro operates it, Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said in an email.
“Metro’s changes to parking fees and hours apply to Metro-owned garages and surface lots. The Wiehle-Reston East parking garage is owned by Fairfax County and is managed by Metro under the conditions set by the county,” she wrote.
Metro fully expects some version of the expanded weekday parking fee hours, Saturday parking fees and other efforts to squeeze more money from garages to continue in the budget year that begins July 1.
The pilot program testing the changes that begin Feb. 5 is designed to work out exactly how to apply the changes, and to identify a price point for weekend parking.
Fairfax County Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny estimates that about 700 cars would park at the Wiehle-Reston East garage each Saturday if the $2 parking fee were applied there. The weekday parking fee there is $4.95.
Other parking changes
On the Orange Line, the weekday cost to park at the usually empty West Falls Church lot will drop from $4.95 to $3 during the six-month pilot program, in an effort to draw more riders to the station.
Supervisor Linda Smyth hopes the word gets out on the change, because she does not believe many people are aware.
“I’m looking at things like the upcoming work on [Interstate] 66 when we’re really going to need to get people off of 66 and this may actually be a very good opportunity to get people back on Metro and into that parking garage as well,” she said.
The lower fee will also be tested in Landover, Maryland.
Elsewhere, Supervisor Jeff McKay wants to make sure the consequences of changes — like the significant expansion of stations with an additional parking fee for people who do not ride Metro — are fully analyzed.
Franconia-Springfield is one of the many new stations where the additional fee will apply, which could increase costs for Virginia Railway Express riders who park at the station.
While McKay was positive about the reasons for many of the parking changes, he wants to ensure parking fees do not deter riders from using the Metro system.