The following was written and sponsored by Boston Properties.
We are truly grateful to all the Reston Town Center (RTC) residents, visitors, retailers and businesses who have placed their trust and confidence in this wonderful property for several decades. We have shared many special moments with this community and very much want that tradition to continue to grow for generations to come.
After years of research and planning, RTC activated paid parking in January with three primary goals:
- Protecting the parking rights of RTC tenants and visitors who patronize the Center.
- Enhancing the parking experience of those tenants, visitors and patrons.
- Augmenting the Boston Properties revenue dedicated to reinvestment in the Reston community through improved facilities for the general public, family-oriented events, best-in-class retail, innovative technologies and nonprofit donations.
As with the progression from surface parking to garage parking some years ago, we realize moving from a free to paid parking model is a big change and has caused some confusion and dissatisfaction; however, our overriding, long-term goal is to continue to bring you the amenities you expect from a world-class destination. It is in this spirit we are writing this letter to share our perspective, correct misinformation and encourage productive feedback and dialogue. We offer the following thoughts based on today’s most prevalent concerns:
Paid parking will help manage unwarranted commuter parking. Over the course of the last three years, tens of thousands of people used RTC garages for short- and long-term commuter parking, including overnight and out-of-town stays, creating a shortage of spaces that led to frustration for tenants and visitors coming to Reston Town Center. Further, there were numerous instances of residential owners leaving their vehicles in RTC spaces. Since converting to paid parking, we are already seeing significant improvement, allowing for more RTC visitors to conveniently utilize the garages.
We are committed to assisting retailers during this transition. We are in regular communications with our retailers, and welcome open and honest dialogue in order to address the concerns that are most important to that tenant’s ongoing business operations.
Paid parking is not having the adverse impact that has been reported. When analyzing parking occupancy levels in our garages, we found January’s occupancy to be virtually identical to last November’s occupancy. Interestingly, on average, visitors have been staying longer since paid parking was activated, allowing for more time to enjoy RTC retail and amenities.
Additionally, based on the January 2016 versus January 2017 sales revenue data we have received, while sales have decreased for a few businesses, the majority of our tenants’ sales are either flat or have actually increased. It is important to emphasize this is a 30-day snapshot and not necessarily indicative of a longer-term trend. We will continue to closely analyze all revenue activity, as growth is in everyone’s best interest.
Each retailer chooses whether and where to validate parking. Each retailer and restaurateur makes its own business decisions about 1) participating in a validation program and 2) what validation terms to incorporate within their unique business model, to include validating for all or select garages.
No retailers have closed as a result of paid parking. Not a single retailer has vacated due to paid parking. In fact, numerous tenants are renewing their leases. Over the last year, 15 retailers renewed leases and four new retail leases are in progress.
We have already made a number of changes based on customer feedback, including:
- Offering free parking in garages on weekends, holidays and special event days
- Doubling the number of parking ambassadors, primarily at night to assist retail shoppers
- Installing additional onsite educational signage
- Adding a list of validating retailers to the ParkRTC app
- Regularly updating FAQs on the RTC website
In March, we will be installing an upgraded credit card pay station with a larger screen that provides better functionality in extreme weather.
The ParkRTC app is secure to use, and most daily parkers are paying using the app. The ParkRTC app is supported by Passport (www.passportinc.com), the largest provider of mobile payment software for parking in North America. Both Passport Inc. and RTC take the important responsibility of protecting credit card information very seriously. Passport holds compliance with PCI DSS Level 1 certification, the most stringent data security framework administered by the PCI Security Standards Council. Passport and Boston Properties will never sell or distribute ParkRTC user information to third parties. To date, more than 80,000 users have downloaded the ParkRTC app, and over 90% of our daily visitors are using the internet-based payment system.
Boston Properties remains dedicated to nonprofit fundraising. On Saturday, March 4, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., RTC will offer free ice skating, free rides on a vintage carousel, free s’mores and hot chocolate (while supplies last) and a performance by the Fairfax Jubil-Aires as part of an initiative to benefit RestON Opportunity Neighborhood, a group of community partners that provides resources and advocacy for those in need in the Reston community. For additional information about RestON Opportunity Neighborhood, including additional events planned for each Saturday in March, visit www.cornerstonesva.org/rest-on/.
We remain committed to this paid parking model which we believe meets the objectives above. While paid parking has only been active for a short period of time, Boston Properties will continue to evaluate operating and business impacts, and pledges to assess input and make modifications to the system and its processes, as necessary.
We recognize there are those who remain determined in their efforts to protest paid parking, and we respect their right to be heard. As part of our obligation to provide a safe and family-friendly environment, RTC has never granted, and will not grant now or in the future, permission for any demonstration or protest on the privately-owned property that is Reston Town Center. This has been the policy of each owner dating back to Reston Town Center’s inception.
We will continue to support our community’s strategic plan. Reston Town Center is part of a master-planned community dating back to the 1960’s. Density, mass transit, and paid parking were all contemplated in the original vision that we are implementing now. Additionally, paid parking is common in urban environments proximate to Metro, or other mass transit, across the Country. Locally, we look to examples such as Bethesda, Clarendon, and Ballston.
We look forward to continuing to have productive conversations with many who understand paid parking is here to stay, and want to optimize it as we continue our core mission of enhancing customer convenience, safety and overall quality of life.
Thank you for your continued interest in the future of Reston Town Center; we very much value your input and patronage. For more information about the paid parking, please visit www.restontowncenter.com/parking/parking-faq.