Last Saturday of free Metro parking, other big changes start this week

WASHINGTON — This is the final weekend with free parking on Saturdays at Metro-owned and operated parking garages, as the agency launches significant changes next week that change a number of parking fees and rules for weekday users, too.

On Saturdays starting Feb. 10, drivers exiting a Metro garage (other than Wiehle-Reston East) will have to pay $2 when leaving between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m.

Parking will remain free on Sundays and federal holidays when no large special events are planned.

Starting Feb. 5, many more Metro garages will charge extra to weekday drivers who pay with a credit card or a SmarTrip card that has not just been used to pay for a rail trip. The non-rail-rider fee will now apply at:

  • Green Line: Branch Avenue, Greenbelt, Suitland
  • Yellow Line: Huntington
  • Orange Line: Dunn Loring, Minnesota Avenue, New Carrollton
  • Blue Line: Franconia-Springfield, Largo Town Center
  • Silver Line: Largo Town Center
  • Red Line: Rhode Island Avenue, Rockville, Twinbrook, White Flint

Virginia Railway Express reminded its riders Friday that VRE riders at Franconia-Springfield who do not also use Metro will now be required to pay the higher charge. As an alternative, VRE suggests riders can use the Backlick Road, Rolling Road, Burke Centre or Lorton VRE stations.

“We hope this is only temporary while we continue working with Metro in finding a more permanent solution,” VRE wrote.

At Franconia-Springfield, the non-rider fee will be $8.95 (for Metrorail riders the fee there remains $4.95). At other stations added to the list, the non-rider fee ranges from $8.70 to $10.

Until now, the non-rider fee only applied at White Flint, Twinbrook and New Carrollton (where MARC riders faced similar issues as VRE riders will now at Franconia-Springfield).

Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay complained that the non-rider fee at Franconia-Springfield makes little sense since, like many garages in the Metro system since ridership has fallen over the last decade, there are often many empty parking spaces on a typical day.

“If we really want to drive revenue into the system, we should be reducing parking rates and simplifying the system. We should definitely not be complicating it and raising costs,” McKay said in a statement.

The weekday parking fee hours will change Monday in an effort to force more people, including those breaking the rules by parking overnight, to pay.

Drivers exiting a garage between 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday will be required to pay at all Metro-operated garages.

Two stations, Landover and West Falls Church, will have their weekday parking fee lowered to $3 in hopes of drawing more people to park at those garages. Weekday parking rates at all other stations will not change.

All of the parking changes are technically only authorized for six months at first, but Metro’s budget proposal assumes some version of the expanded hours and additional fees continues permanently.

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