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Boston Properties: Parking App Will Be ‘Significant Enhancement’ for Customers

by Karen Goff May 9, 2016 at 10:00 am 40 Comments

Parking garage at Reston Town CenterBoston Properties executives said on a recent earnings conference call that the new parking app — which will manage Reston Town Center customers’ paid parking — will be “a significant enhancement for customers.

Boston Properties, which owns Reston Town Center, is set to introduce the paid parking system on Aug. 1. Visitors and employees to RTC will be charged $2 a hour for parking, which has previously been free for most of the center’s 25-year history.

Parking will be free on weekends and for special events. Customers are encouraged to download an RTC Park app for automatic payment. They can also visit a kiosk to pay. Some stores and restaurants will validate, but a complete list has not yet been made available.

The change to paid parking has not been well-received by most store owners and RTC visitors, though Boston Properties Executive Vice President Ray Ritchey said on the call that retailers at other properties “actually noted an increase in sales of up to 10 percent … because the people who do come to the malls now find it way more convenient and, as a result, spend more time there and spend more dollars.”

Boston Properties and RTC officials say they are going to paid parking to cut down on parking abuse by commuters, who are already parking in the seven garages and then taking a shuttle to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station. That problem could get much worse when the Reston Town Center station opens in 2020, RTC officials have said.

They reiterated that thought on an April 16 earnings call. They did not emphisize an earlier analysis in which they showed BP can make $8 million a year with paid parking in place.

From the April call:

Question: Just wondering — is it possible for you to quantify the incremental revenue opportunity [at RTC]. And are there any other opportunities across the entire portfolio where you could also realize upside potential?

Peter Johnston, Boston Properties, Inc. – EVP, Washington, D.C. Region:

Well, I don’t think we want to get into necessarily quantifying [paid parking]. I would say that there’s approximately 8,000 parking spaces there. We undertook this for a couple of reasons. Obviously, revenue is one; but we’ve got a circumstance where we have to control that to honor our obligations with both the retailers and the office tenants there, and people in adjacent residential parking — in our spaces, so to speak — as well as commuters doing the same thing.

Part of implementing it now is we’ve got enough of a runway that with the introduction of Metro proximate to Town Center probably in about three, three and a half years, we want to be in a position where the system is up and running. It’s going to be a license plate recognition system; you’ll be using an app to park there; and we think it’s going to be a pretty significant enhancement for our customer base coming to the Town Center.

Ray Ritchey, Boston Properties, Inc. – Senior EVP:

One point I would like to make is we talked to some other major retailers about the experience of implementing paid parking. And after the fact, they actually noted an increase in sales of up to 10% at the retailers, because the people who do come to the malls now find it way more convenient and, as a result, spend more time there and spend more dollars.

So we view it as a great thing for our retailers and our office tenants. The income we get will certainly be helpful, but by no means the main driver.

  • spog

    Translated: “We are hiding behind the guise of helping retailers and customers by cutting into their bottom line and spending money, respectively. Did we mention we’ll make $8 million annually?”

  • Guest

    I call BS.

    At $10/parking spot (occasionally vacant during the day), 8,000 parking spots filled 90% of the time generates $72,000 per weekday. That’s about $18.7 MILLION per year. It won’t do anything for customers, retailers, or anyone else except make shopping in RTC more expensive–with or without the app.

    If they insist on charging all that money, maybe Boston Properties could put half of that money back into the community each year rather than just pocket it. Now that would “certainly be helpful.” Otherwise, it is just a money grab plain and simple.

    • Meh

      Why should they put money “back into the community” when the community is using their property? “We pay you to park here!” makes no sense at all.

      It is also a “money grab” when people park for free in someone else’s parking structure. Or can I park my boat at your place for free rather than paying >$500 to use the Reston storage lot?

      • Mike M

        No. It’s not a money grab when people park for free. Bad analogy. BP is already covering the costs of the parking structures with the rents they collect. Go look at their reports. You will see nor hear of any losses to them for not charging for parking. The cost of those structures and their maintenance is covered today. Now they want to take an additional amount directly from the renters’ clientele. That is their right. But parking is already not free. The fee is simply collected more efficiently via the retailers rent/lease bill.

        Then there is the issue of why BP is so incredibly and ludicrously disingenuous about what they are doing and why. They are NOT doing their visitors nor their renters a favor.

        Your analogy about your boat is not analogous. Guest is not already charging you for your boat via normal business operations. It will be interesting to see what happens to the RTC retailers. I think they will change out into more expensive venues in general.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    So, using an app and paid parking are an improvement over free parking without an app?

    Only in the mind of shameless Corporate hucksters.

    • Mike M

      You’ve got it! Think of it as an “elite app.” Boston Properties needs new communications help.

      Did you know that the meals tax is good because it is a revenue diversification? That’s a lie too.

  • Noelle

    I don’t think this is going to help them because people aren’t going to be as willing to go there. I personally would avoid RTC because paying for parking is a pain (this is why I minimally visit Arlington and DC via car as well).

  • Scott H

    You wanna charge for parking….fine. but can we end the charade about preventing commuter parking? 2-3 free hours and then steeper rates would solve that. It also doesn’t account for charging employees whose employers are already paying BP millions in rent every year. This is a naked attempt to extract millions in additional profit out of RTC. That’s your right BP. The only question is why you won’t be honest about it?

  • JohnQPublic

    It will help me stay far away from the clown center…Kick backs will make corporate pigs say anything

  • JoeInReston

    “actually noted an increase in sales of up to 10 percent … because the people who do come to the malls now find it way more convenient and, as a result, spend more time there and spend more dollars.”

    If that is the case, than why does the RTC offer so many events that have nothing to do with shopping – Pet Fiesta, Reston Arts Festival, Taste of the Town, the bicycle races, etc. According to their logic, such events would make it less convenient for shoppers to visit, spend time and dollars.

    Could it be that the above quote is, as Chuck Morningwood put it, more shameless Corporate hucksterism?

  • MJay

    “One point I would like to make is we talked to some other major retailers about the experience of implementing paid parking… So we view it as a great thing for our retailers and our office tenants”

    So they spoke with unidentified, uncorroborated, “major retailers” who BP claims said paid parking somehow correlates to an increase in sales UP TO 10%, yet no mention of how much of the local profits are spent for validation for employees and customers, not to mention the fact that “up to 10% is completely out of context, e.g. .01% sales increase for these unnamed “major retailers” except for one who BP claims had a 10% sales increase without identifying other market conditions and endeavors, but hey, paid parking happened so lets just attribute a sales jump to that.

    “you’ll be using an app to park there; and we think it’s going to be a
    pretty significant enhancement for our customer base coming to the Town
    Center”

    This comment is almost as ridiculous as the guy who called RTC and its bevy of blase chains “elite.” As others have said, we are going from doing nothing but parking to having to download an app where you are required to send your personal and financial information to a third party via potentially unsecure wi fi, or otherwise get a ticket for validation and then go find a kiosk… In other words, this is the exact opposite of a “significant enhancement.”

    If they want to charge for parking, it’s their property, but if they are going to sound stupid in implementing the process, then it becomes fodder for ridicule.

  • Suzanne Zurn

    Have you signed the petition to oppose the $*m/year Boston Properties paid parking scheme? https://www.change.org/p/parking-restontowncenter-com-stop-new-parking-garage-fees-at-reston-town-center

    • MJay

      I think the only way for a petition to have any sort of effect is if county officials can be persuaded to start using the RTC example as a reason to hold up and scrutinize other BP projects seeking approval. In that scenario, all of BP’s stupid comments and faux justifications can be used against them. A petition in a vacuum is not likely going to change their mind; but if the county publicly starts using RTC as a specific example in questioning BP’s “commitment” to the community in the context of other pending projects, then BP might think about reconsidering if it appears that they rocked the boat a little too hard.

      • Suzanne Zurn

        The petition has already had an impact. The BP people had to move a mtg to the Hyatt Grand Ballroom because I got over 5,000 signatures on the petition, lots of personal stories they could not ignore, and a crowd to show up. Together we can try to influence this process. Besides posting comments here, I hope you will help! You have good ideas.

    • Why do you bother?

      I signed it, but by what mechanism will those to whom it is targeted actually see it?

    • Ha

      I have signed countless petitions to end World Hunger and yet still people are hungry.

      • Suzanne Zurn

        Good for you Ha. What have you done to influence BP on the parking issue? I got over 5,000 signatures and lots of personal stories for BP to take into consideration and I handle delivered them during a public mtg last month.

  • blueotter

    At this point, no matter what silly spin BP tries to put on it about the “benefits” to retailers and consumers, I’m pretty much resigning myself to the fact that 99% of my RTC visits will now be on the weekends. I will still need to go there for my annual vision appointments and maybe an occasional visit (only in a pinch – e.g., return/exchange an item or grab a gift) that will force a paid weekday visit.

    Right now, I will often go for one thing (ex., buy a specific item) and end up browsing around to check out what’s new at other stores, sometime resulting in additional purchases. And then maybe pick up dinner or a snack, to boot. But not now – no time for that! Once that clock starts ticking, I’m outta there before that next hour hits!

  • BooBots

    BP Charges for Parking = We No Longer Go To RTC During the Week. Pure & Simple. Any Questions?

    • Ha

      Yeah, did you know that you don’t have to drive very far to use more than $2 of gas and thus negate avoiding that $2 parking fee?

      • BooBots

        Incorrect, Ha. Most/all, Reston retail shopping areas are no further driving distances, from home or work, than RTC. Some less. Any other questions?

  • Reston Resident

    I love that everyone feels that they should have a say in how RTC is managed. If you want to dig deep into your pockets and pull out the millions that BP has shelled out and invested into this property go for it. Otherwise, quit your whining, be thankful that they built such a great asset to our community and be appreciative that they are not trying to make even more money off of their investment which is totally in their right as the OWNERS. If you don’t want to come any more, so be it. You won’t be missed and plenty of other people will be happy to have your tables at all the restaurants that BP has attracted to their town center.

    • JoeInReston

      Quit your whining? Who are you to tell people whether they can whine or not?

      We should be appreciative of BP? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Without customers, there is no RTC. Particularly with the RTC, how much of it was due to BP genius and how much of it was due to the larger planned community design?

      And customers that no longer go to the RTC will be missed. The entire community atmosphere is what makes RTC so great. Take Pet Fiesta this past weekend, it wasn’t the physical structure of the RTC that made the event, it was the community. Had their been only 3 or 4 dogs, it would have been lame.

    • Mel

      Sir/Ms., with all due respect, bottom line; it is about making money…that is what businesses do however for a business to claim they are trying to fix a problem because commuters park and use the shuttle for the Metro and take up so much parking and to say they are making it easier/better for customers using an app is insulting. $8 million dollars is nothing to sniff at and this must be very exciting for those that will benefit. This whole situation, to me, suggests poor leadership and poor problem solving. BP is about profit; it is insulting for them to couch it any other way. Although they may have shelled out millions to create this property, it is understandable that they did it with profit in mind, nothing else; that is business.

    • Why do you bother?

      Can you spell SOCK PUPPET?

      Get off our discussion forum.

    • BooBots

      Of course, customers have a say. It’s called freedom of speech. The owners have the right to charge for parking. But, the customers have the right to avoid parking there, and choose other places to patronize, instead. And, to speak up to warn BP in advance that they intend to do just that.
      Reston and Herndon are full of retail locations with free parking, which are a cost-of-doing-business for those retail areas. Let the market decide. And, this currently regular Reston Town Center customer (and thousands of others) will NOT pay for parking there, and will spend our $ elsewhere. Simply the free market.

  • Does this mean that people from around Reston etc who come to the TC for free concerts, dog shows, boy scouts parades etc will have to pay parking fees? And when will they start charging for free concerts…or doing away with stuff like that.

    • LakeNewportLady

      It says it will be free on weekends and “special events”…whatever that means

  • Expat

    Where I’m from (Australia) paid parking at shopping malls near rail stations is pretty common. However, it usually kicks in after 2-3 hours… that way it discourages commuters who might abuse the space without punishing those who are genuinely there to shop. If Boston Properties want to charge people for parking spots then that’s their prerogative, just don’t do so under the auspices of deterring metro commuters.

  • Why do you bother?

    “Parking App Will Be ‘Significant Enhancement Invitation to Identity Thieves’ for Customers’

    Fixed that for ya, BP.

  • Phil Lilienthal

    Did I hear someone suggest a one-day boycott of Town Center, to be followed by a standing one-day a week boycott until BP listens to its merchants and agrees that maybe it doesn’t need to make yet more money from Town Center, but can give back to the community?

  • DD

    People who pay RA yearly assessment dues should get a sticker for
    Their car that exempts them from paying to park.

    • North Restonian

      Of course, RTC isn’t part of Reston…

  • Chuck Morningwood

    The thing I don’t get is, if this is about commuters, why not sit a tow truck in the garage and haul the cars out as their drivers head for the bus stop instead of penalizing — or, dare I say “enhancing” — everybody using the garage?

    • Suzanne Zurn

      The commuter story line was the RTC’s PR flack’s poor attempt to shift the focus on the parking issue. Restonians didn’t fall for that story line.

  • Joe Heflin

    Top Golf in One Loudoun has unbelievable crowds in its many bars and lounges on most nights. The nearby One Loudoun Town Center is already pulling similar crowds to its restaurants and stores. Many of those who go to both also travel to Reston’s Town Center. Both Top Golf and One Loudoun have free parking. Construction has also started on The Boro at Tysons. Along with the 400+ stores and restaurants in the two Malls there is serious competition to Reston’s east. And, this parking is also free. Then there is Vienna which envisions itself as a kind of Old Town Alexandria. For many of us it has that potential. And the parking is free.

  • EliteinReston

    I cannot wait until I can download the app and start using the license plate recognition.

  • Mark

    I have enjoyed getting a coffee and a bagel and enjoying Fountain Square. I will no longer go there on weekdays. Probably will take most of my business elsewhere.

  • Allen

    The app and plate scanning system is an inappropriate invasion of privacy. Let’s talk about that too.

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