Metro would raise parking fees at its overstuffed lots across the region to pay for adding 10,000 parking spaces if the Metro board and local governments agree to a proposal from the transit agency staff.
Insufficient parking, particularly in outlying suburban areas, has long been a major complaint among Metro users, who continue to find most major lots filled before the end of the morning rush hour.
"We do need more parking, there is no question about that," said Metro board Chairman Joseph Alexander. "And we plan to add places to the stations in all jurisdictions."
The 10,000 parking spaces would be built in garages at eight major Metro stations, bringing the total number of Metro spaces to 39,685 within four years, according to the staff proposal now under review by local jurisdictions. Metro operates parking lots with 20,085 spaces at 20 stations and plans to build 9,000 spaces at eight stations under construction. An additional 600 are planned at the Landover station.
The stations that would receive more parking if the entire plan is approved are Shady Grove and Grosvenor on the Red Line, Huntington on the Yellow Line, College Park and West Hyattsville on the planned Green Line, Addison Road on the Blue Line and Vienna and West Falls Church on the Orange Line.
The key to the proposal is the financing plan, which would bill the parking lot users for the costs of construction, estimated at $11,000 a parking space.
Under the plan, the jurisdictions would issue bonds to raise construction funds. Metro would retire the debt over time, possibly 20 years, through a surcharge on the daily base parking fee.
The base fee is generally $1 a day at stations outside the Capital Beltway and $1.25 inside the Beltway, and is used to cover the cost of maintaining and operating the parking lots. Metro would add $1 to the fee initially and would consider raising the price 25 cents every fourth year of the program.
In the first year, for example, the daily fee would rise to $2 at the Huntington, Vienna and New Carrollton stations, and to $2.25 at the West Falls Church and East Falls Church stations.
In an effort to dampen parking demand, daily fees were raised to $1.50 as an experiment this year at all four stations in Fairfax County, at the East Falls Church station in Arlington County and at the New Carrollton station in Prince George's County. Because these increases were considered temporary surcharges on top of the base fee, they would not be added to totals if the new program is adopted, said Richard Bochner, a Metro supervisor of traffic engineering.
Despite the higher fees, the parking lots in Fairfax and Arlington counties continue to fill before the end of the morning rush and the lots at two stations -- Vienna and West Falls Church -- are filling earlier than they did before the program went into effect in March. No results are available for New Carrollton, where the fees were raised just this month.
The Metro board expects to hear a presentation on the proposal within two weeks. "I endorse it and I think we should do it," Alexander said.
Others sound more cautious. "It's interesting, but there may be legal concerns," said Metro board member Richard J. Castaldi, a Prince George's County supervisor. "I have an open mind on it."
Jurisdictional staffs reviewing the proposal also express mixed reactions. "I think it's getting favorable consideration," said Richard K. Taube, executive director of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. "I haven't heard any staff people raise serious objections."
But Fairfax County Transportation Director Shiva K. Pant said, "We have some concerns."