Metro to start Saturday parking fees in February

WASHINGTON — Metro plans to start charging for parking on Saturdays in February, General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Thursday.

The change, which will begin as a six-month pilot program, will apply at each of the system’s 36 stations with Metro-operated parking lots or garages.

“We’ve already started to move on that, so the plan is to go out to the public to educate them that this is coming in February. … We’re producing materials, signs and things like that, because we can’t just spring this on people, so the plan was to roll this out in the very near future to educate people that this is coming,” Wiedefeld told the Metro Board.

In planning documents this summer, Metro staff suggested that the initial Saturday parking fee be no more than $1 in order to collect data for future charging decisions. Metro will have staff monitoring operations at each garage.

It is one of six changes for Metro parking facilities approved by the Metro Board this summer.

“We are looking at variable pricing of our parking facilities, for instance … [and] expanding the weekday hours (to start charging drivers who exit after 7:30 a.m. rather than 9:30 a.m.). There are a number of things that we were going to pilot and others that we are just going to do,” Wiedefeld said.

Among that latter group, Metro is moving ahead with efforts to set up farmers’ markets or flea markets at Metro parking facilities on weekends or holidays. They’re also set to expand the number of Metro stations where people who park in the lots without actually taking the train are charged an extra fee on top of the base parking rate.

Fairfax County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Cathy Hudgins asked the board Thursday to exempt the seven stations in Fairfax County with parking facilities from the Saturday fees. Her motion and an effort by fellow Virginia Metro Board Member Jim Corcoran to refer the request back to a committee for further review were voted down.

“The overall concern is, do we drive ridership on Metro down by doing this?” Corcoran said.

Getting an answer is what trying the weekend fees is all about, federal representative David Horner said.

“It may ring true intuitively. … We can’t know whether your concern is valid until we implement the pilot,” Horner said.

Metro Board Chairman D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans praised the parking fee changes as another example of Metro’s efforts to “get the change out of the couch.”

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