Months ahead of a summer-long rail shutdown, Metro is dramatically cutting back parking at two key stations for staging work, a change that could lead to hundreds shifting to other stations — or not riding at all.
The crowded parking lot at East Falls Church will close completely March 15, Metro said. The Kiss & Ride area will remain open for pickup and drop-off only.
At West Falls Church, all surface parking lots will close March 15, leaving only the 1,100 garage parking spaces available.
Metro expects the West Falls Church parking to fill up by 7 a.m. on weekdays, because with the surface lot closure, there will only be about half as many spaces.
The parking crunch could be even worse at West Falls Church this summer, because the station is slated to serve as the end of the Orange Line from approximately Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
The East Falls Church station will be closed, but trains will be passing through.
Vienna and Dunn Loring are scheduled to be closed all summer, and train service is expected to be limited at West Falls Church and at Silver Line stops from McLean through Wiehle-Reston East due to the single-tracking through East Falls Church.
A trial run last weekend suggested trains will be scheduled every 16 minutes at West Falls Church and Wiehle-Reston East, even at rush hour, with some additional trains running between Ballston and New Carrollton to reduce the service cuts through the rest of Arlington, D.C. and Maryland.
The parking lot closures starting March 15 are for “pre-construction” activity, Metro said, to allow for staging of equipment and materials, construction parking and worker training.
The surface parking lot on the north side of the Vienna station will also close March 15, removing about 10% of the station’s spaces. The garages and the surface lot on the south side of the station off Saintsbury Drive will remain open, Metro said.
Parts or all of the lots could remain closed even after the stations reopen in September, because clearing out materials and finishing work on smaller pieces of the station upgrades and repairs might continue into the fall.
Metro expects the parking lot closures to last seven to nine months, which means the last spaces might not reopen until December.
Metro warns cars parked in the lots that are closing could be towed if left there after midnight Saturday, March 14, into Sunday, March 15.
Shift coming for Loudoun County Metro Connection bus service
Other changes beginning well ahead of the rail disruptions include a shift for Loudoun County Metro Connection bus service.
From Feb. 24 through the reopening of the stations after Labor Day, the Metro Connection stop at West Falls Church will be closed, so the bus will run to and from Ballston instead.
The stop will be outside the Ballston Metro on Fairfax Drive near North Taylor Street.
The construction is also expected to lead to other bus route shifts in the coming months, too.
Number of people impacted
The most recent available parking data show an average of 522 people paid to exit the East Falls Church lot on an average weekday in July, August and September. The lot has 422 spaces.
At West Falls Church, an average of 1,346 people paid for parking each weekday. There are 2,009 spaces normally, but only about 1,100 are expected to be available from mid-March into September.
Usage is typically higher than average in the middle of the week, as fewer people take vacations or telework on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays.
At Vienna, there are currently about 5,169 available spaces across all the lots and garages, and an average of 3,618 average daily weekday users.
Besides people who park to catch a train at Vienna, a significant number of people take the bus or get dropped off.
Data obtained by WTOP last year revealed it was one of the most-used stations in Virginia.