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RTC Parking 101: What if I Don’t Download the Payment App?

by Karen Goff August 10, 2016 at 11:30 am 65 Comments

Pay station at Reston Town Center

When Reston Town Center goes to a paid parking system on Sept. 12, management is hoping thousands of people will download the ParkRTC App. It’s free; one account can be used for multiple cars; it offers special safety features; and will get you ticketless, gateless payment.

But judging by reaction from many Reston Now readers on previous stories and our Facebook page, some would-be RTC visitors will refuse to do so. A few others say they have no plans to purchase a smartphone.

So let’s say your co-workers are going to happy hour at Jackson’s or you have to take your child to a birthday party at Bow Tie Cinemas (both of which have plans to offer validation) and you begrudgingly must enter the $2-an-hour paid parking zone. What to do?

Here’s what:

Boston Properties says there are four ways to pay: By the App; online at ParkRTC.com; in-person via cash or credit card at a kiosk; or by phone at 571-485-7790 (you will be asked to enter parking zone and credit card info).

If you are not using the App, once you park you car in one of the seven garages at town center, you have a 15-minute grace period to sign-in your car at one of four pay kiosks. Kiosks are in the Purple, Blue, Green and Orange garages.

When you get to a pay station: Enter your zone (that’s listed on signs near where you parked); license plate number; expected length of stay;  and payment information (credit card, debit card or cash).

For cash users, the pay stations will not give change or provide refunds.

Many stores will validate (it’s high-tech and elaborate; more on that on Reston Now tomorrow), but here is something to know if you are App-less: The validation code you will get is good for your next visit to RTC and not on your current visit (App users will get the validation automatically and immediately sent to their account).

  • meh

    Next Visit? Are you kidding me? So they’ll use the profits from the initial visit to pay for the future visit? What if I never visit again? Where does that money go?

    Reston Clown Center is going to be a ghost town in about a month, and no one will be to blame but Boston Properties. Because I sure as you know what am not going to pay to park on top of what it costs to grab a beer at World Of Beer.

    • vdiv

      Psst, there’s one at OneLoudoun, and it’s kind of better. There are other places to get brewski too.

  • Larry

    The App grabs tons of information like gps location, contacts, files and other information from your smartphone 24×7 whether you are at RTC or not. The app is always running and able to gather the information and send it directly to the 3rd party company that developed that app. There is nothing stopping the 3rd party company or BP from monetizing your personal information as they sit fit. Given the large cache of information that the app has access to and the limited privacy policies I would expect BP to see your personal information as being able to be monetized. Why would BP turn down an opportunity to monetize something?

    • Larry

      Forgot to include the link from the early Reston Now story that details the tons of personal information that BP and Passport will collect IF you decide to download and install the app.

    • meh

      That’s what irks me the most. The selling of my data, it’s why I don’t use facebook and why I use uBlock Origin + ghostery + ad block pro whenever I surf the net.

      I am not a product to be sold. I will view your content and that’s the extent of it.

      • Larry

        If you don’t pay for a product including even the one you are using now Restonnow.com then you are the product being sold. As long as you are aware of it in advance and now what is being sold than its not a bad tradeoff. The traditional media model of free content for viewing advertising that pays for the content is a tradeoff that works for me. However for the parking space they aren’t trading me a free space. I’m paying for the space and then BP can turn around and monetize the information I provide them to pay for the space. That is not a good tradeoff and I will not be visiting RTC during pay parking times. There are lots of other choices including lots in Reston that don’t require this. Given the competitive nature of retail I think this is going to impact the bottom line of many RTC retailers.

        • meh

          Agreed Larry, but that’s why I use the add-ons I’ve mentioned above. It blocks tracking, javascript (except the stuff I enable for commenting), 3rd party adds and cookies.

          I suggest you take a look: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ghostery/mlomiejdfkolichcflejclcbmpeaniij?hl=en

          • meh

            Piggy backing off my last comment. RestonNow tries to sell your information to the following people:

            AppNexus, Broadstreet, DoubleClick, Drawbridge and Quantcast.

            Good luck with that!

          • Larry

            Those are mostly just ad brokers or ad networks. They essentially acts as databrokers and adsellers for those wishing to advertise and those who have “eyeballs”. The only difference online they can gather a lot more personal information than they can in the traditional print and TV markets. What is interesting is P&G the largest advertiser in the US just announced that the super focused Facebook advertising wasn’t working good for them and instead they would go back to using general advertising which delivered better results and cost less.

  • ziacharm

    Wow. This is a pain. I am one of the few people left without a smartphone. I just don’t have a data plan in my budget. I hate that if I use cash I can’t just pay for the time I used and that I would always have to overestimate how much time I would need. It also sounds like validation wouldn’t work for cash. If I pay by cc, then I don’t even get validation till next time, which I frankly hate. For me, I am just going to have to choose other places to visit during the week and plan my stops there during free parking times only.

    • Generic User

      No offense intended, but if you don’t have a data plan’s cost in your budget (which is about $10/month), then you probably don’t have blowing that extra $4 for parking for an hour and half lunch in your budget either. Yet another example of how RTC has no concept of how this will affect people’s decision to go to RTC for lunch anymore.

    • Robert Mowbray

      I don’t have a smartphone and generally only go to RTC on weekdays to donate blood or attend the free seniors movie. I doubt that the theater will validate for the free movie – and even if they do, i have to pay by cc to get validation the next I visit RTC – to donate blood.

      Sounds like I will have to give up free movies and blood donations – and the occasional lunch after the movie or blood donation..

  • Kaine not so much

    If hillary had any brains she would register the parking app under Bernie and make him pay for all the elitists parking at RTC

  • chglass

    There is zero chance I will go to RTC during the week after this is implemented. And once I stop going during the week, I’ll probably stop going on the weekends as well.

  • AlliD

    Wow this is very complicated. Has a system like this worked in other locations? Or is this the first time an app based program will be used for parking? Seems like the old school tickets with a validation stamp would be much more user friendly.

  • JoeInReston

    Wow, what a mess! Charging for once free parking will never be popular. You would think they would try to ease the transition with simple, customer friendly parking policies. But they took the opposite approach and came up with a confusing, convoluted, and user unfriendly parking policies. Its like they created these policies with a raised middle finger in mind. Is this the premium experience they were promising?

    – An app that collects all sorts of data
    – A pay kiosk incapable of returning change
    – Seven garages, four pay kiosks => some garages won’t have a pay kiosk, yet customers will be responsible for finding one within 15 minutes of parking (what if you forget your zone or license plate number)
    – A system that requires providing licence plate info regardless of which payment system you use.
    – A system that requires estimating how long you’ll be there in advance
    – Parking validation that can only be applied on the next trip (for app-less users)

    To me, this might be a best case scenario, given they are determined to institute paid parking. This is going to be so unpopular and reviled that retail bottom lines may be affected. Hopefully, it will lead to change back to free parking.

  • Mike M

    “What if I Don’t Download the Payment App?”

    Your status will drop to semi-Elite and you will have more privacy.

    • JoeInReston

      You still have to give over your license plate number.

  • Terpitude

    I think the best case scenario for the restaurants and retailers in RTC would be a reduction in revenue of 5-10%. But I suspect that it will be worse than that. This won’t stop me from going to RTC on Saturday or Sunday, but I won’t ever go on a weekday. I don’t even have a big objection to paying a small fee for parking. But downloading an app for parking in one place? If they used Parkmobile, an established app I already have for metered street parking in DC, I wouldn’t think this was such problem.

    • Debbie Ness

      I’m not sure it is free on Saturday.

  • vdiv

    Let me be as diplomatic as I can about this and use a movie quote (pardon ladies).


  • CE

    I’m wondering if the 15 minutes to find a kiosk and the fact that 3 of the 7 garages do not have this kiosk can somehow be seen as discriminatory against people with disabilities? Does this violate the ADA? Maybe they don’t believe people with disabilities are elite enough?
    Good luck with that Boston Properties… not…

    • Robert Mowbray

      Most (all) of the garages have more than one exit. Even if you park in one with a kiosk, the kiosk might not be located in a convenient location.

      • JoeInReston

        Most of these multi exit garages have exits on different floors. If there is truly only one single pay kiosk, it may require some travel to find it which particular floor the kiosk is on. It the kiosk on the exit near Jacksons? Or is the kiosk on the exit near World of Beer? Or is the kiosk on the garage that houses Big Bowl next store?

    • RuthieS

      This is a real issue. My husband’s disability, a stroke, affected his hand use and he can’t use a smart phone. He also walks very slowly. We’ll see if he can visit Town Center w/out me and my smartphone. Doubt it.

    • Robert Mowbray

      Are there 7 garages or 4 garages with 7 entrances/exits?

  • DogPark

    Boston Properties DC Regional Office – (202) 585-0800

    GENERAL INQUIRIES — 703.579.6720

    Email – [email protected]

    Let them know how you feel.

  • Dan Caro

    This is bad for everybody except Boston Properties. Consumers lose. Retailers lose. Long term commercial viability of RTC is worse off (less retailers will be looking to move into RTC). This just looks like a bad decision all around. Doesn’t make any sense whatsoever except to line the pockets of BP.

  • Leila Gordon

    Reston Town Center is more than 25 years old and has beautiful public areas that are available to the community’s non-profits to host fundraising events throughout the year. These areas require more and more maintenance as they age. The amount of money being charged for parking at Reston Town Center is far lower than street parking in the city and comparable to the parking fees charged in Bethesda. Our family owns a business in Reston Town Center – I certainly hope that those who enjoy the products of Red Velvet Cupcakery won’t penalize the business and employees who earn their livelihood there because of the implementation of this system. I downloaded the app – it took all of about 3 minutes of time. I have several apps on my phone for parking in a variety of places. I have a transponder in my vehicle so I can travel the Toll Road without stopping at the Toll gates. I remain startled by the fact that not only does my email and Facebook page demonstrate that even my passing thoughts are visible to the internet, but that level of surprise is not enough to make me forego the convenience and connection the internet offers me. I know that it is a change to go from free parking to paid parking – but I also know that the parks, pavilion, events, fountain and contributions to our civic life they make are not going to maintain themselves. I think it’s fair to have some contributions from the people who visit Reston Town Center to keep it beautiful, safe, accessible and fun for everyone. I look forward to visiting Reston Town Center – any day or evening of the week.

    • meh

      ” I certainly hope that those who enjoy the products of Red Velvet Cupcakery won’t penalize the business and employees who earn their livelihood there because of the implementation of this system. ”

      Like my Uncle says to me, “You can hope in one hand and **** in the other and see which one fills first”. Hate to break it to you, but a lot of us aren’t going to the Clown Center anymore Leila.

      • justme4you

        Ditto. I am over the Clown Center (love the name). Tall Oaks is rebuilding, Northpoint and Southlake are not far away and neither is Plaza America, will change my bank, my shopping and will stop volunteering at the Art Center. Thanks Boston Properties, hope you go bankrupt.

    • Guest

      Leila: I hope that you, your employees, and by extension your family continue to do well at your location in Reston Town Center. However, if this paid parking decision affects your business, it is not the fault of your customers. They are stuck with the same unpleasant conflict. Boston Properties decided to install and implement paid parking in exactly this way, counter to objections by residents, clients, and yes, even your fellow firms, many of which are owned and operated by families like yours.

      If your company experiences declining revenue, I highly recommend approaching Boston Properties with detailed figures on traffic reported by day and hour if you can arrange it. For example, if most of your business came during weekday evenings and is in a sharp decline, remind BP that they can quickly and easily change the days and hours of paid parking enforcement. If they refuse to accommodate the obvious needs of long term (6 year) tenants, then reward their behavior by voting with your feet.

    • RestonGrandma

      Sorry Leila but I think it’s going to impact the businesses at RTC and as a business owner you should take this up with BP. We do “contribute” to RTC by patronizing the shops and restaurants but BP has decided that they want to make even profits than they do now and they already make plenty. I think, and hope, that this is a huge mistake on their part and that people stay away from the center. I’m sorry if that impacts your business but you need to put pressure on them not on your customers.

    • Generic User

      Leila, believe me, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we sympathize with the small shop owners most of all in this situation, but BP is the bad guy here, not us. I don’t think blaming your customers is a very good marketing strategy. Like it or not, the cost of one of your cupcakes just went up by $2 and that is BP’s fault.

      And comparing RTC to DC is not logical. DC is a highly-dense residential, retail, business, and government urban environment that extends over a very large geographic area. RTC is an island in the burbs with numerous retail and restaurant options with free parking sprinkled around within easy driving distance including Tysons which is more packed with retail and restaurants and free parking.

      Like others have said, collect your loss of revenue and foot traffic data, band together with your fellow shop owners and encourage them to collect that same data, and make your case to BP about how your business has been affected by the paid parking.

    • Larry

      I think this is going to impact the bottom line of the smaller vendors like your shop that don’t validate parking. You are selling a product that is available at a lot of other nearby locations that don’t charge for parking. People aren’t penalizing your business but rather your landlord has decided to penalize your customers. So instead of complaining about your customers perhaps your time would be better spent complaining to your landlord, BP, once Sept kicks in your business drops accordingly. That isn’t your customers fault that is BP’s fault for making a money grab at the expense of your business.

      Good luck.

      • John Farrell

        Lelia doesn’t own Red Velvet.

        She’s the Executive Director of the Reston Community Center whose salary is paid by those of us who pay the Small Tax District #5 surcharge on our real estate tax bill.

        Maybe the Board of Governors of RCC and Supervisor Hudgins can tell us if shilling for Boston Properties is part of Ms Gordon’s job description.

        • Generic User

          Interesting. Well, now I feel like I have been hornswoggled. You win again, Leila.

          • John Farrell

            Just found out Leila’s step-son owns Red Velvet.

            Can you say undisclosed interest, boys and girls?

            Her stepson out to be complaining to his landlord and franchisor instead a County employee shilling for Morty Zuckerman

        • Leila Gordon

          John, I didn’t say “I” own Red Velvet, my family does. I post on Reston Now as an individual and not in my work capacity.

    • Kbs

      Sorry Leila but no way am I paying $2 to get a $4 cupcake

    • John Farrell

      This County employee, who can’t be bother to live in the community that pays her salary, thinks it’s appropriate to lecture those of us who actually live here on paying for parking.

      That’s rich.

      • Leila Gordon

        John, I wasn’t lecturing anyone. I was providing my perspective. I think it’s a country that permits that under the terms of our Constitution. I am not in any way forcing anyone to agree. And regarding where I live, it doesn’t have anything to do with how much I love Reston – it has to do with where the man I married lived when we got married and our mutual decision to keep that place of residence. I have participated in Reston by choice, by employment, by virtue of how much I enjoy it and its people through the years since moving to Vienna in 1969. I would hope my long history in the community would be an acceptable place from which to comment on community issues. Sorry if that offends you.

        • John Farrell

          So this “perspective” is not that of a Reston resident since you don’t live here.

          And it’s not that of a citizen of the Commonwealth, since you live in the District of Columbia.

          It is the perspective of the relative of an RTC small business owner that blames Restonians for choosing not to patronize that establishment because of the money gouging policies of the landlord. But that relationship wasn’t actually disclosed in the original comments.

          The only relationship for this “perspective” apparent to the public is your employment with the County which also was not referenced in the original posts.

          That relationship is no different from that of the principal at Dogwood, a fire commander at the Wiehle station or the commanding officer at Reston Police Station. Somehow, they inherently recognize that their commenting of the internal affairs of Reston is inappropriate if it doesn’t touch and apply their agency.

          The sense entitlement demonstrated by that “perspective” is offensive and inappropriate in a “public servant” but we’ve become accustom to seeing it.

  • Waitwhat

    It’s like I stepped into a Monty Python skit. Shouldn’t people who want our money be trying to attract us?

  • compactdisqus

    I don’t get the kiosk thing…Don’t you have your info entered via the app? Then, when you park, you run the app and enter your zone with estimated time? (granted, I haven’t installed the app, but this is what makes sense).

    • Karen Goff

      The kiosks are for if you don’t have the app.

      • compactdisqus

        ok…so then there are four ways to pay: app, online, phone, kiosk.

        • Karen Goff

          yes, oops. I said three. It’s been fixed. Thanks.

  • Who knows how it will work but it is obvious that fewer and fewer Restonians will be parking in the town center. We will see how it works.

  • Generic User

    “Many stores will validate.” RTC’s parking website only lists 9 out of approximate 75 stores and restaurants that will validate. I don’t call that many.

    I actually spoke with one of the managers at a restaurant that is on the validating list and he was not kind about BP’s decision to start pay parking. He observed that Tysons has much more traffic and more metro stops and does not charge for parking. This is all about BP’s greed. If they really wanted to focus on metro riders’ parking, they would do like Tysons and not open the garages to general parking until 9:30 or have three hours of free parking before paying kicks in. There are many ways to address this before making everyone pay. I also will be boycotting RTC starting Sept. 12.

  • Wheatie

    These people are flat out crazy. I feel for the shop owners who will lose their weekday business.

  • cRAzy

    So maybe we should re-think the Tall Oaks Village Center decision. If no one is going to go to RTC Mon-Fri, there should be a lot of business for retailers at TOVC!

    Who says we don’t need village centers?

  • Lynn Brown

    If we live in a Reston and pay Association dues why can’t we be issued smart cards to use for free parking? Why not charge those visitors from outside Reston? This is the focal point of our community! Employers in the RTC seem to have a mechanism that their employees don’t pay why not residents? I guess this is also age-ist, given many people who prefer to go into RTC in the week are older and prefer to avoid the lines at weekends! But I will be someone who drives somewhere else in the week!

    • Robert Mowbray

      RTC and BP are not members of RA.

      As I understand it, it is not clear that all employees are not exempt from payment – some, but not all, employers plan to pay parking fees for their employees.

  • Melissa

    We will be boycotting town center from now on. That is a he stupidest system I have ever heard of. If it had to change to be paid, fine but do it user friendly. I’m not memorizing my plate number and am not prepaying. This stuff makes me want to move out of this town

  • Nyla J.

    This is hilarious. It’s like paying a cover charge to get in to the VIP section of Reston.

  • Sidewinder

    You know what’s going to be interesting? Multitudes of savvy (at least originally) people are going to start parking in the Spectrum parking lot (Best Buy), as well as the parking lot by the Microsoft building across the little bridge behind M&S Grill just so they don’t have to pay to park. That’s going to really upset the retailers in Spectrum and the corporate people across the bridge. The problem is now going to extend beyond RTC proper. lol. Here we go!

    • JoeInReston

      Good point. The Best Buy parking lot is small, particularly during Christmas season. It will be hard for customers legitimately looking to shop at the Spectrum stores to find a spot. Parking there already sucks. It is only going to get worse.

  • John Farrell

    To call this scam “validation” is a lie worthy of Frank Lunt.

    Frankly, I’m stunned that RestonNow would parrot this propaganda.

    There will be no validation at RTC.


    Despite the repeated representations of the con artists at Boston Properties to the contrary.

    RTC’s coupon program just like printed-out coupons you get at the check-out at Safeway for the oil change at NTB. Generally useless.

    It’s one thing to charge for parking in dark ugly 25 year old garages that Zuckerman has already fully amortized. Its another to scam me with phony “validation.”

    Enjoy the cash haul while you can, Morty. It will end as soon as you need another zoning approval from Fairfax County.

    • Karen Goff

      John – Story about validation system coming at 10 am. Thursday. Look, I am trying to help people. This is what BP says the system is so we have to believe them and spread the word. It remains to be seen whether 1) it works; 2) it will affect RTC merchants bottom line; 3) whether people will use it.

      • Bert

        it’s not going to work. It will affect RTC merchants bottom line, and people will not use it.

  • Jefferson

    Lets all boycott by parking and just not paying… I’m really interested in finding out how RTC plans on stopping people from doing just that.

    • Karen Goff

      Stay tuned. That story is coming Friday.

    • kcowing

      Remember back in 1991 or so when Restonians protested an increase in Toll Road fees to pay for the flyover at Tysons i.e. we paid tolls with pennies – pennies are legal tender and they had to accept the coins. The state got the message. Pennies are money and RTC has to accept pennies as payment, if offered, right?

  • Demetrius

    $2/hour with validation from stores and look at the OUTRAGE. I love the idea. It’s a free country. You can stop visiting RTC and leave more parking spaces for the people who don’t have the time to complain about a $2/hour fee. Parking has become a nightmare at RTC and I support this initiative. And money talks, if stores lose business, they will obviously find ways to validate or reduce the pain point.


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