Free parking planned at some Metro stations closing for whole summer

When the Blue and Yellow lines shut down south of Reagan National Airport next month, Metro plans to offer free parking at the Franconia-Springfield, Huntington and Van Dorn Street stations, hoping to entice riders to take Virginia Railway Express or shuttle buses rather than adding to traffic on the Beltway, U.S. Route 1 and I-395.

The Metro Board is expected to approve the proposal Thursday.

“Staff requests Board approval to waive fees for the parking facilities at these stations as a courtesy to customers and to make it as convenient as possible to take advantage of the Metrobuses that replace train service,” board documents said.

In addition to the free shuttle buses, leaders in Alexandria and Fairfax County in Virginia, and on the state level, have a variety of other alternatives planned in the hopes of avoiding massive traffic jams.

A draft resolution would permit Metro to extend the free parking for up to six months total — through late November, after the stations have reopened. That would be part of planned extensive efforts to lure riders back to the system.

Waiving the parking fees also simplifies trips for riders who use Franconia-Springfield to take Virginia Railway Express during the Metro shutdown. Metro charges extra to park at its lots if users do not pay with a SmarTrip card that was just used to ride the Metrorail system.

Metro data show non-rider parking is a “minimal” share of the use of the 8,000 spaces at the three lots.

On a usual day, the 5,069 spaces at Franconia-Springfield and 2,732 spaces at Huntington are about half full, while Van Dorn Street’s 361 spaces are generally packed.

Cost: $2 million

The free parking is projected to cost Metro about $2 million over the entire shutdown period. The round-the-clock closures of Braddock Road, King Street, Eisenhower Avenue, Huntington, Van Dorn Street and Franconia-Springfield begin Memorial Day weekend, May 25, after some preparatory weekend shutdowns.

Some Kiss & Ride areas at those stations have already closed, or will close shortly, to allow for staging of construction equipment and construction safety measures. Bus stops are being relocated.

Last week, Metro confirmed the 24/7 station closures will extend beyond Labor Day, through Sept. 8, in order to fully complete major platform repairs. Some additional work would continue for another three months or so at some of the stations.

Metro’s statement extending the closure also made the Sept. 8 end date conditional on getting permission from Alexandria and Fairfax County to do significant work around the clock, despite noise concerns from neighbors.

Metro plans to cover the $2 million loss by using part of a capital budget fund designated to cover ridership, parking and other revenue losses tied to major track work.

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