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Metro Seeking Proposals to Privatize Parking Garages

by Karen Goff — October 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm 11 Comments

Wiehle-Reston East parking garageMetro has put out a Request For Proposals (RFP) to have a private company take over operations and maintenance of all of its parking facilities, including garages and parking meters on its property.

In exchange for a giant upfront payment equal to 50 years of parking fees, the concessionaire would have to operate and maintain almost 60,000 parking spaces. It’d also get to collect all the parking fees.

Metro has lots or garages at 48 stations in DC, Maryland and Virginia. That’s more than 59,000 parking spaces and 3,445 meters, Metro says.

Despite Wiehle-Reston East being listed on the original RFP, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has since amended that entry.

The Wiehle-Reston East garage, which has about 3,000 spaces and is the only station on the Silver Line with a parking garage, is owned by Fairfax County, so it is unclear what will happen at that garage.

“Metro wants to get back to its core base, which is operating running a safe rail system,” said Maggie Parker, spokesman for Comstock, which built the Wiehle-Reston East garage in a public-private partnership with Fairfax County. “But Wiehle-Reston East is not theirs to include [in the RFP].”

The RFP was put out in August and the deadline for submissions is Oct. 28. Metro says it will pick a contractor by the end of the year.

By giving over the parking garages to a private company, WMATA could get as much as $1 billion upfront, according to analysis by Greater Greater Washington. It also gets Metro out of the business of running parking lots so it can concentrate on running a transit system.

Under the RFP guidelines, WMATA would allow operators to change the parking garage hours and rates (subject to WMATA Board approval).

Says GGW:

WMATA and the funding jurisdictions would lose almost $50 million in current parking revenues per year, which is approximately half of the annual estimated budget shortfall WMATA has had at the beginning of the typical budget season for the past 12 years.

So in addition to the usual $100 million in budget savings, fare increases, and juridictional subsidy increases to close the typical budget gap, WMATA would have to find an additional $50 million a year to make up for the loss in parking revenue.

GGW also points out the deal could limit Metro’s freedom to boost ridership or redevelop stations. It also says bids could include proposals to charge for parking during nights and weekends.

Other caveats:

Paid weekend parking could affect overall ridership, which would affect Metro’s bottom line.

Metro could lose the ability to control prices or usage of the parking lots without financial penalties.

  • The Constitutionalist

    What really needs to happen is the government privatizing the metro.

    • Generic User

      I think we really just need to privatize the riders.

  • Serious buyers only

    Seriously i think this is a good investment for Reston and its citizenship. Using demand and supply concepts we could throttle and monitor traffic and driver movements. Has RA looked at this, and if so, consider a stake in this endeavour to leverage their investment in the real estate potfolio?

    • JoeInReston

      I don’t want my HOA to be investing our assessments.

    • Scott H

      If WMATA and politicians used supply and demand principles, the Silver Line would NEVER have been built. Suburban rail is a giant loser that will FOREVER be subsidized by tax-payers. Making it more expensive to take the train will only lessen ridership. If politicians really wanted to increase ridership to address traffic congestion & the scam that is man-made climate change, it would make it as economical as possible to take the train. We are going in the opposite direction. Somehow I see the $17 toll prediction coming into focus as a big-govt stick to make driving too expensive (instead of making the train desirable on its own).

      Of course, all this does is make living in NOVA more expensive and ultimately depresses property values as money people once had for housing is diverted to transportation. You can’t avoid economics, as much as politicians try.

    • cRAzy

      “Demand and supply” don’t work real well in a monopolistic environment.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Somehow, I fear that turning this over to a “for profit” entity is not going to go well for the average Metro commuter.

    • JoeInReston

      And it won’t turn well for the Metro either. A “for profit” entity will have a lot more experience writing these kinds of contracts than the Metro. Why not first dip in with a 10 year contract first? That way, the Metro will only lose their proverbial shirt for 10 years instead of 50. After 10 years, with the lessons learned, the Metro can then decide whether it would be worth it to continue outsourcing parking services.

      Make no mistake, I am not in favor of privatizing the garages for any period of time, but if your going to do it, acknowledge your weaknesses and make an attempt to minimize them.

  • JoeInReston

    Metro hasn’t put out a good explanation on why they want to do this. It strains credibility to suggest that running the parking garages was taking their focus away from running the metro. And if indeed it was a big distraction, why not subcontract the work in a far more limited scope – such as hiring management consultants? Ditching the whole system seems rather extreme.

    • JoeInReston

      I can’t help wonder if this is either:
      – a way to ditch union labor

      or

      – prodding by politicians that are receiving generous campaign contributions from “for profit” companies.

  • cRAzy

    What decision WMATA makes, it will almost certainly be the worst possible one for Metro parking users. Count on it!

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