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RTC Parking 101: Here’s How Validation Will Work

by Karen Goff — August 11, 2016 at 10:30 am 57 Comments

PARK screen shot1Reston Town Center will go to a paid parking system on Sept. 12. However, chances are, you may only pay a portion (or none) of the $2-an-hour weekday fee due to the cyberspace-based validation system that is also forthcoming, Boston Properties officials say.

Stores will be outfitted with validation Bluetooth-enabled beacons. It is up to the stores to determine what they are offering for validation, says BP Property Manager Matt Bonifant.

For instance, one store or restaurant might give you two hours free if you purchase something. Another might give you an hour just for walking in the door. Still another may offer validation if you spend 15 minutes in the store or enter a dressing room.

In any case, the beacons will work in two ways if you download the ParkRTC App to your phone and have your Bluetooth enabled.

Some will work by proximity, meaning you walk into a store and instantly get a notification to your phone that your parking has been validated by the business you’re visiting.

The reach of the beacon will be about 1,500 square feet, says Bonifant.

In other stores, beacons will work by tapping. There will be a small device, most likely at the hostess station or the checkout counter, where you wave your phone. Any validation offers will then register to the App.

The list of retailers confirming this week they will validate: Crunch Fitness; Bow Tie Cinemas; Barcelona Wine Bar; Bartaco; Community Canteen; CVS Pharmacy; Mon Ami Gabi; Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge; and PassionFish. Many more are expected to join the list, BP officials said.

Meanwhile, many offices will participate in a program where office tenants can add visitors to their account. The visitor gives their license plate number to the receptionist or other employee, who will enter it into the office account. The system will charge the visitor for the time in  the garage, BP says.

“The goal is to make this eventually completely hands-free, like E-ZPass,” says Laura McNulty, BP Senior Vice President.

Offices can also hand out a card with a numeric code that App users can tap into their phone to get up to $4 off their parking stay.

If you do not have the App, validation gets more complicated.

A retailer will give you a code that you can use at one of the payment kiosks located in four of the RTC garages or by calling 571-485-7790 to pay by phone.

The code is valid for your next visit, however, and not the current visit. That technically makes it a coupon for a future visit and not a validation.

Photo: Screenshot of ParkRTC App.

  • SMH

    Geez, that’s not complicated or anything. Plus, I have my Bluetooth off 95% of the time because it kills my battery. Good luck to the old, tech-challenged out-of-towners trying to figure this system out.

  • SMH

    Addendum to my last post – it’s almost like they’re trying to make the validation system as complicated as possible so that they can scrape every last penny out of visitors’ pockets via people just giving up on trying to figure it out. Great long-term business strategy!

    • Why do you bother?

      Almost?

  • meh

    Isn’t that cute, you want me to enable bluetooth and pair it up with your devices so you can have a nice accurate tracking history of my locations through the Clown Center.

    Of course for all my troubles, I might get “free” parking if the participant is gracious enough to gift it to me.

    What a Joke. For all the businesses out there, when this fails (and it will) don’t come crying to the consumer

    • rnow

      Bluetooth 4.0 has a proximity sensing mode so you won’t have to pair (if that’s what they’re using). I’m not sure but I assume you will have to have your bluetooth on for this to work.

      These OSes support 4.0:
      iOS 5 and later
      Windows Phone 8.1
      Windows 8 and later
      Android 4.3 and later
      BlackBerry 10
      Linux 3.4 and later through BlueZ 5.0
      Unison OS 5.2

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluetooth_low_energy#Proximity_sensing

  • AlliD

    This is absurd. No way this is going to work. Way too complicated.

  • CE

    Note to seniors: Make sure you have cookies enabled on your browser, make sure your firewall allows traffic on port 23, if you are using an antivirus program, make sure you disable the service and reboot your device, then re-enable the antivirus only being 1 mile away from RTC. If you are using a medical pace making device, stay 1500 feet away from the transmitting devices on most hostess stations.
    Good God…

    • Newport

      BRAVO well documented….. geeze this is a process!!!! Not for me, I’ll be queuing up all my RTC wants and needs for the weekend. I hope store start to adjust their employee hours for the influx on the weekends instead of the ‘on my way home’ crowd

  • Pepep

    This is so stupid. Retailers should move away from RTC, same as customers.

  • Mary Cavanaugh

    Big Town Center is watching you! This is crap!

  • John Farrell

    So how will you know in advance if you’ll be paying for parking on you M-F trip to Mortyland.

    Why doesn’t Zuckerman borrow his pal Donald’s wall, put it around the boundaries of RTC and just charge admission? Like at Disney land.

  • Waitwhat

    The instructions are simple, much like this: https://youtu.be/pXw7LYWNi5E

  • I see many nonsensical comments about the app “watching” you and whatnot. If you’re all worried about privacy this much, then you shouldn’t use this website or the internet altogether, and you should also stop using things like phones and credit cards because the banks will know a lot more than which garage you parked your car at.

    • meh

      Except Yabood, I conceal my footprint online. DuckDuckGo to search the internet. Ghostery + AdBlockPro + a few other add ons to block cookies and javascript and the rest. Plus I use TOR to surf the net.

      • Good for you. I take it you don’t have a bank account, don’t use public wifi or cellphones, don’t buy anything online and pay cash for everything, don’t have an email address, facebook, twitter, etc?

        This app is just meant to make your life easier, use it like you use any other app. I’ve been using Parkmobile, the app they have for DC and surrounding areas, and its been great. Much easier and faster than cash or card. The ParkRTC is no different.

        P.S. You’re not completely anonymous on TOR, and your ISP knows when you get on, they also know when you login to services.

        • meh

          Thanks a lot Boston Properties Shill. I’ll keep doing things my way and you can watch your bottom line suffer

  • Nyla J.

    In summary: park, go to store that validates, try on shirt or step into dressing room or whatever dumb exercise required for validation, then do what you really came to do. So stupid.

    I was pretty much done with the dumb clown center before this, but now I’m 100% staying away.

    • Guest

      How about they move to a reinvigorated Tall Oaks Village Center?

      • Why do you bother?

        My thought exactly.

      • June Smith

        Or Hunters Woods

    • cosmo

      Buy a 35-cent pack of gum at CVS and that should take care of it.

      • Generic User

        So I have to buy a pack of gum from CVS every time I go to RTC? A store that I have no need to go to and is at the other end of RTC from the restaurant I want to go to? Thanks for that tip, CVS shill.

    • SMH

      And if you don’t remember to turn Bluetooth on while you’re shopping, you can either trudge back to the store or you’re SOL.

    • compactdisqus

      when people start doing this, those businesses will further tighten their validation process, since they are paying for validation.

  • DogPark

    How can a radius be about 1,500 square feet?

    • Karen Goff

      I think by radius (their words) they mean “reach” not in the strict math terms.

      • cRAzy

        Linear distance vs. circular area.

        • Karen Goff

          I changed it to “reach” anyway.

          • Math and Verbal

            It would make more sense if you said the beacon will cover an area of about 1500 square feet, or a radius of just over 12 feet.

          • Generic User

            RF propagation is not as simple as a perfect sphere from the radiator. Free space loss (as in an unimpeded path from transmitter to receiver through just air) travels further than if the path had obstructions in its way such as table or rack of clothes or that person in front of you. Hence, you obviously can’t trust wireless. To make sure you get validated, RTC recommends you buy the special cable for $49.99 to plug your phone into one of our special hidden validators sprinkled around RTC. Good luck with your Easter egg hunt because we only installed three of them.

    • RestonClownCenter

      Well they are flat out wrong if they are claiming a radius of 1500 sq feet. Bluetooth uses UHF and in perfect pristine conditions where everything in the world is right maxes out at 100m or 1076 sq feet.

      So I find the claim highly dubious that it will get that type or range. But then again I don’t plan on even testing it because, well, I’m not going to let some data invasive app track me through the center to sell the data off to various bidders

      • Math and Verbal

        Either you mislabeled one of your measurements or your math is egregiously off. A circle with a radius of 100m is waaaaaaay more than 1076 square feet in area.

        • Generic User

          He is not counting the area of the circle behind the wall that the validator is mounted on. Or he is using Euclidean math instead of Cartesian math. Or he integrated the area in the circle to calculate the volume. Or I don’t know what I am talking about.

  • cRAzy

    How stupid is it that it takes THREE (or more?) online news articles to explain how to make this parking system work? You can pay several ways, including a data-stealing phone app, but you only get free parking if you use one of the few shops offering validation, and then only for the NEXT time you come to RTC. WTF?

    If it takes this much explanation, people won’t go to RTC simply out of frustration of how to park & pay (especially incidental visitors) more than the basic stupidity of charging for parking.

    Boston Properties is gonna suffer for its stupidity–and they will have earned it.

  • Way too complicated, an app sucking up my battery, tracking where I am, which store do I walk into and what do I have to do to gain validation…….. no quick shopping stops. I can’t wait for, “it works this way on Droid and this way on Apple…..” I’m sure it’s coming.

    No gymnastics, apps or tracking required at Fairfax Commons, Fair Lakes, Tysons or Mosaic. Great food, service, movies and shops. Speak with your dollars! Oh, I forgot to mention, free parking to visit and spend money.

    Remind me why all of this is being put in place? A few people trying to avoid a bus fee to get on the silver line? Or those who will walk half a mile to get to the silver line? Mosaic is situated similarly and I haven’t seen folks riding the bus or walking.

    Classic, punish the majority for a fear of what the minority “might” do. This has become comical reading.

    Goodbye RTC.

  • UStifosi .

    This is as clear as mud. All in the name of enhancing your shopping experience. It just shows you how out of touch some organizations are. Once they scare away there customer base they will never come back when the policy is reversed.

  • anon

    Wow. I am strongly in favor of making people internalize the costs of storing their vehicles if they choose to use them, but this system is needlessly complicated. I’m no stranger to smartphones, but I don’t consider bluetooth reliable enough to make it essentially the ONLY way to redeem validation (that other method seems engineered to never get used).

    I like that those hoops (coupled with ignorance about the costs of storing vehicles) will keep people I’d rather not be around away from RTC, though. Look forward to trying it out and see how it works.

  • E Pluribus

    It’s already tough enough for a “mom and pop” store or restaurant to afford space at RTC, do any even exist there? This just ensures that only chain stores and restaurants will be able to afford rent / parking in RTC. We need more independently owned businesses, and this does NOT help.

    • Richard

      My wife was speaking to a fellow who makes furniture who wanted to set up a shop in a vacant location at RTC. He was willing to pay the rent but was told that they wouldn’t rent to him because they were seeking national chains. Sounds to me like independently owned businesses don’t have a chance.

      • June Smith

        Vienna and Herndon are Independently Owned Businesss friendly

    • June Smith

      Nearly all the chains are already established at the Tysons and Fair Oaks Malls – as well as mall further out.

      If BP is trying to transition to chains only – it seems they are shooting themselves in the foot

  • LakeNewportLady

    Can someone please take a photo of the restaurant menus prior to 9/12 and then about a month later….I’d love to see the impact of “free” parking with validation.

  • Is done anywhere else in the country or is it a grand experiment here? If there are other examples I would hope that the media would search them out and see how it is working there. Seems that BP ought to have a seminar or two so people could get a feel of what they are talking about.

  • Teresa Konigsburg

    Reston is not Reston anymore. I will be moving away from here sooner rather than later. In the meantime, after 9/12, I will find other places to go than RTC. It is what it is, unfortunately.

    • June Smith

      I’m going to wait until metro is completed to the airport – then, I’m outta here. Reston is becoming so over built, in a couple years, it will be impossible to move around.

  • ADtheDefender

    With no gates/tickets, how many people does BP actually think will pay for parking? I understand there is the threat that they will boot your car, but I’m assuming many won’t know you must pay (because for years you did not have to), or will ignore any signs.

    If they had a simple ticket and gate system, like almost every other garage in America, I would consider parking and getting a validation. Also, they could then easily offer the first 2 hours of parking free, alleviating many of these issues. But with this horribly complicated system, I think I will stick to Fairfax Corner.

    • JoeInReston

      “If they had a simple ticket and gate system, like almost every other garage in America”

      Much of the discussion has focused on retail. Can’t imagine the businesses leasing space in the offices are too pleased either. Visiting VIP clients and sponsors, accustomed to simple ticket and gate parking systems, will be subject to this cumbersome and confusing system. Before every important meeting, these business will have to send out a parking instruction email. What a mess…

  • RoadApples

    I applaud BP for their pay for parking game plan:
    A.) not only; will it indeed increase their revenues
    B.) in addition; will protect the ‘elite’ RTC consumers from/keep
    rif-raf like me from spending my Benjamin’s at RTC

  • Bert

    And I used to think that Reston was a planned community, constructed for the benefits and well-being of it’s citizens rather than corporations. Silly me.

  • Why do you bother?

    Dear BP:

  • Bethany

    So if I look at other nearby places that pay for park – Ballston mall and where the Best Buy used to be in Tysons.. How does their pay parking system work now? Oh that’s right – they don’t. The mall closed and the old Best Buy building where BJ’s brew house is now stopped charging for parking because validation drove Best Buy from the location.

    • SMH

      To be fair, it cost only a dollar to park at Ballston mall for, like, three hours (the lot doubles as a commuter lot so rates probably jump up after that). That mall was way WAY overdue for an overhaul regardless of the parking situation. And the parking garage remains.

  • kcowing

    Why was my post about the 1991 Toll Road protest by Restonians deleted?

    • kcowing

      My bad. You have been writing so many (good) stories on this I get them confused.

  • Reston Realist

    What a bunch of whiners. If you don’t like it don’t use it. It’s your choice. If BP wants to implement this ridiculous system of paying for parking to counteract parking poachers – that is their choice. If you don’t like it don’t go to the RTC. I’ve lived here for almost 40 years now. Reston has changed since the 70’s and will keep on changing; accept it.

  • SCMike1

    You don’t think these folks were thinking that this would be as popular as Pokemon, do you?

  • mary

    For seniors that don’t have smart phones, this is age discrimination. My mother won’t be able to validate her parking for the current trip, that means she has to wait. I know my New Years Resolution will NOT be going to shopping at RTC!

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