Fairfax seeks commuter parking for rail users in Tysons Corner

August 25, 2011

A portion of Tysons Corner’s massive parking supply — there are 167,000 spaces — could be used as commuter parking when four Metrorail stations open there in 2013.

None of the stations will have parking, supporting Fairfax County’s long-term goal for the employment center to redevelop into a mixed-use downtown.

But that transformation will take 20 to 40 years, officials said. Until then, residents of McLean and Vienna will need a way to access the stations, said Supervisor John W. Foust (D-Dranesville), whose district includes McLean.

“It’s not acceptable to have the rail system come so close, and yet residents are unable to use it because there’s no parking available,” he said. “It’s a huge issue.”

County transportation officials are reaching out to Tysons landowners to provide temporary parking for Metro riders. So far, reactions from landowners have been mixed, with some expressing interest in commuter parking and others rejecting the offer, officials said.

The county has identified 25 potential lots, garages or vacant parcels within a quarter of a mile of each Metro station. The stations are part of the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County.

By the time the stations open, county officials hope to have 500 to 1,200 commuter spaces available.

Assuming Fairfax can find willing parking-space providers, the county and landowners would enter into a commuter parking agreement, which sets conditions such as pricing, operating hours and the number of years parking would be provided. The landowners would operate and profit from the lots while they wait to redevelop the land.

Fairfax has entered into such agreements before for parking lots near the Vienna and Huntington Metro stations. In those cases, the lots were eventually developed.

Commuter parking in Tysons is “not meant to be there forever,” said Leonard Wolfenstein, the county’s chief of transportation planning. “In the long term, people are going to have to adapt, find other ways to get to these Metro stations.”

Plans for Tysons include bike paths, trails and a shuttle system that would ferry riders among the Metro stations and employment and shopping centers.

Accessing the stations has vexed residents in McLean and Vienna, where there have been few firm plans on how to get people to and from the rail stops.

“They want to go to the stations in Tysons as opposed to driving to West Falls Church or East Falls Church,” said Rob Jackson, president of the McLean Citizens Association, which represents 26,000 households in McLean, Falls Church, Vienna and Great Falls.

Fairfax held four public meetings in March about station access and conducted an online survey asking residents about proposals such as new neighborhood bus routes.

A reliable and frequent shuttle service would encourage commuters to ditch their cars, Jackson said.

“If you’ve got to wait 45 minutes for a bus, nobody’s going to take the bus. They’re going to drive,” he said.

But developing those routes will take time, officials said, prompting the need for temporary parking.

Foust said temporary lots would deter commuters from parking their cars along residential streets or at shopping centers near the Metro stations.

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