RTC Merchants Planning Town Hall, Second Protest March in Fight Against Paid Parking

by Dave Emke March 28, 2017 at 4:00 pm 79 Comments

The Reston Merchants Association is not backing down in its opposition to paid parking at Reston Town Center, which it says has drastically hurt business.

In an announcement Tuesday, the group’s organizers says they plan to hold a town hall-style meeting in May to discuss the issue. Merchants, community leaders, elected officials and more will be invited to speak and take questions from citizens. RTC owner Boston Properties, which implemented the paid-parking system in January, will also be invited to participate in the event, according to the announcement.

In addition, the Merchants Association says it plans to work with community organizers to hold a march and rally in June to protest the paid-parking system. A march earlier this month, organized by citizen group Reston United, saw hundreds of participants.

“The community has spoken and they are fed up with paid parking,” said Aaron Gordon, owner of Red Velvet Cupcakery and the head of the Merchants Association. “Not only is it expensive, but the app that people have to download to park is onerous, complicated and an invasion of their privacy. People don’t want to hand over their license plate number and credit card information to Boston Properties. As a result of all of this, we see that many of our best customers are boycotting RTC altogether and others have said they will never come back.”

Last week, one restaurant in the Town Center — Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge — filed a lawsuit against Boston Properties, arguing their lease agreement was violated by the paid-parking system and that it has been an impediment to conducting business. In Tuesday’s announcement, the Reston Merchants Association says its supports the suit and “is likely to seek similar legal action for similar reasons in the following month.”

Boston Properties has so far not backed down from the system, which charges $2/hour in parking garages Monday through Friday and $3/hour for on-street parking Monday through Saturday. It has said the impact of the system on Reston Town Center business has been “far less” than claimed.

The Reston Merchants Association, however, says retailers and restaurateurs have seen “sinking sales figures” and a “precipitous drop-off in foot traffic” in 2017. They say that is directly related to Boston Properties’ paid-parking initiative.

Figures reported Tuesday by the Merchants Association, which they say were provided with consent from companies’ owners or corporate officials, include:

  • Red Velvet Cupcakery reports March sales are down 19 percent. It projects a yearly drop of 25%.
  • Big Bowl reports sales down 26 percent in March. Sales were down 15 percent in February, and it is down 4,500 customers over last year.
  • Busara reports March sales are down 18 percent.
  • The Counter Burger reports March sales are down approximately 24 perent.
  • Dawn Price Baby reports February sales were down 18 percent, while its other locations were up an average of 20 percent for the same month.
  • The Eyewear Gallery reports February sales were down 29 percent.
  • Potomac River Running reports March sales are down 37 percent, while its seven other locations sales are higher.
  • Edibles Incredible Desserts reports February sales were down 28 percent.
  • Ted’s Bulletin reports sales are down significantly on the year, while other locations have even or higher sales compared to last year.

“Paid parking is simply killing business, ruining our reputation and destroying the sense of community that has always been the pride of Reston,” Gordon said. “The merchants are suffering across the board from the greedy money-grab of one company and many of us are being driven out of business.”

File photos

  • Dgeorge

    What a shame. BP and RR need to learn you don’t poop where you eat.

    • Mike M

      Hmmn. Note to self.

  • obxers

    Yet, BP continues with its outright lies about the impact their money grab is having on retailers. It’s atrocious.

  • 30yearsinreston

    Guess the PR spokeswomen didn’t know the truth

  • Reston Rebel

    You can raise our taxes, your can over charge us for foods labeled “organic”, but we will never pay to park!

    • Danielle

      Let’s see.. Raising the taxes is a little different than giving a private company profit. Traditionally, raising taxes means better roads and schools (and Fairfax has one of the best school systems in the nation). As far as “organic” foods, I assume you are referring to Whole Foods, yes the produce is generally a rip-off but their bakery, bread, meat, and seafood departments are worth their price.

      • The Constitutionalist

        Is it though?

        How much has your quality of life improved since you’ve been paying more in taxes? Did your roads get paved? Did your children get a better education than they were going to get before? We’ve had one of the best school systems in the nation since before we were paying half as much as we do now.

      • Mike M

        Dani! The US pays more per student than almost any other country, yet we are constantly reminded by the Education mafia that it is not enough because our test scores are low. WTH? I can tell you that input does not equal output. Not all investments return. This is especially true with government. Please disabuse yourself of these notions. Accomplishment is harder than that. Also, Fairfax schools have been in decline in recent years. Put down the kool-aid. Step away from the kool-aid.

        • Jenny Gibbers

          I would argue the reverse. In whole the government actually does too good of a job generating a return on investment whereas private industry lags far behind. That in part is why the free market is no longer working.
          To compete we need less government and more private industry. Kapisch?

          • Mike M

            Sorry to “educate” you, But it’s “capisce.” It’s the Italian form of “you understand.” I studied a few languages back before things got all “correct” and spelling didn’t matter. Have I smoked out a teacher?

            The government runs education from K-12 and often beyond. The cost per student is way higher than 30 years ago. At the same time the Educators complain that it is not enough, usually citing lagging US test scores. So, tell me now about that return on investment? You meant “on” the whole. But where is your evidence?

    • Jenny Gibbers

      I choose to say NO to all 3.

  • johnQPublic

    As long as it requires an app to access an overpriced clown center, I wont ever go back. I feel sorry for the business’s , but glad people are fed up with this money grab and tracking system.

    • Jenny Gibbers

      a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.

      “Feeling sorry” – no.

      “Over prized clown center” – sounds like you were never a big fan of RTC while at same time “feel sorry”.

      My guess, you cannot beat BXP by getting ppl upset over this-you have to negotiate with them as a business not on an emotional basis. I think its very cool that they were invited to the town hall and hope things remain civil.

      BXP is 100% institutional owned and over 20 billion in market cap. Paid parking to them is an after thought. The law suit brought on by GAR also sounds promising but comes at great expense to the business/es.

      Negotiation here is key, and so is staying in control.

  • noodmik

    A friend shared a friend’s post on FB …
    I happen to be in the RTC area on Saturday. I did not have my phone on me but I had heard parking was free. Unfortunately I’m still temporarily disabled having had a 2nd round of surgery on my left foot. I discovered the handicap spot in front of my destination was not free and I could not download the app without my phone. I was forced to park in the garage many blocks away.

    Walking towards my destination I fell. One of the parking security attendants thought it was funny. It was anything but funny. I’m seeing my doctor today as a result of the fall. Boston Properties has changed the mood of the RTC with its greed, poor implementation, and inexcusable behavior. I no longer wish to go any where near the RTC and I hope all of you will follow suit. There are many nicer places to go and have fun. I encourage you to boycott the RTC and its parking.

    Why are handicapped parking spots not FREE?

    Are handicapped commuters parking at RTC and then going to the bus to catch the Metro?

    Why not allow street handicapped parking be free, but for a two or three hour limit?

    Oh yeah… MONEY GRAB!

    • johnQPublic

      Disgusting…. Charging for handicap parking and that story

    • Kara Gardner Wills

      I have needed to use ADA spaces in RTC during recovering from two ankle surgeries. There are very few on the street and some have door access blocked by the blue signpost.

      The new pay to park policy for on-street ADA spaces is ridiculous!

    • Joan Salvanelli

      All handicapped parking should be free! Shame on Boston Properties!

    • Meh

      If handicapped people can afford to drive, they can afford to pay to park.

      • Mike M

        Hamster Head, let me enlighten you. I don’t know if that story is true, but if it is, it is disgusting. Background: Parking is supposed to be free on weekends. By the way, your illogic is often used. You pay taxes for roads, why not pay taxes to give it away to people on disability for obesity.

        • Meh

          Um, if taxes are used for a valid purpose, then why not use them for an invalid purpose… is that your logic? Please tell me you’re being sarcastic.

          • Mike M

            “Invalid.” No special taxes for invalids. How’s that?

        • Only garage parking is free on Saturdays and Sundays. You still have to pay for street parking on Saturdays.

        • Tom H

          You must pay for street parking on Saturdays.

        • Jenny Gibbers


      • The Constitutionalist

        If you read the story you would know that not being able to afford to park was not the issue.

        If you want me to break it down Barney style, I will, just let me know.

        • Meh

          I am responding to the people here who assert that handicapped parking should be free and that it is disgusting to charge handicapped people for parking. I disagree. I see no reason not to charge them for parking.

          • noodmik

            The thing is that in order to use street parking one must have the app on their phone. If you do not have your phone or mobile device with you (for whatever reason), people are relegated to parking in a distant parking garage. Why? Because street parking requires an app for parking.

            Put kiosks on the street so people can pay with a credit card or cash (in addition to using the app if they so choose). Put meters where handicapped parking spots are. Or use paper tickets like other places use –park, go to nearby kiosk, print out a ticket for street parking, put on dashboard, go shop… Lather Rinse Repeat.

            The system as is not as ADA compliant as it could be/should be/needs to be. And if Boston Properties is worried about costs to implement a proper ADA compliant payment system for street parking, then make handicapped street parking free for ‘n’ hours. So here is the reason: the cost to implement a payment system that is ADA friendly for handicapped street parking might cost more than the revenues realized from parking, costs incurred from confusion, and negative publicity costs.

            Sure it is an edge case. Still, Boston Properties appears to not have thought this through all that well. If you are without your phone, you have to walk to the parking office or to a kiosk to start a parking session. With that typed, if the person does not have a phone with them, then street parking is not an option. The parking police will issue a ‘ticket’ as soon as you walk away from your street parked vehicle if you do not start a parking session. Even if you had the good intentions of going to the parking office to start a parking session.

          • Jenny Gibbers

            Clint Eastwood got sued because he did not have a ramp for the handicapped to his restaurant. I would like to think that in a benevolent society like ours we should care for each other and carry that person up the few stairs but apparently we have not evolved much. The ramp demonstrates exactly that.

            Perhaps we should consult with the master himself and see how we can clear that up. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f0d03f10b86d5b4a7c2081f82918604b8694ce99e9ad7582ced9fec9fb5c34a2.jpg

          • Amy Sue

            Why not just to be kind? People who truly need handicapped spaces face incredible mobility challenges that encumber many simple daily activities you and I take for granted. Why not make their daily lives a little less of a struggle? Seriously, think about it. ….

          • Meh

            Mobility issues are why they have special spaces close to their destination. There is no reason they should not have to pay to park just like everyone else.

          • The Constitutionalist

            I see no reason to charge them for parking. It’s not like by not charging them for parking you’re losing out on something.

          • Meh

            If everyone else is charged for parking, the handicapped should be charged too.

          • The Constitutionalist


          • Todd

            because we treat people equally in this country.

          • The Constitutionalist

            That has to be a joke.

            Why do we have handicapped parking spaces at all, if we’re all treated equally?

            Only equal people are treated equally.

          • Meh

            Why not?

            Also, fairness. If anyone has to pay, everyone should pay.

          • The Constitutionalist

            I just am failing to understand why we should care if the handicapped were allowed to park for free. You aren’t parking in a handicapped parking space. You aren’t being affected by someone else being allowed to park for free. The proceeds from the parking aren’t going toward the greater good of mankind. You have nothing to gain by someone else paying to park.

            Fairness doesn’t exist. This is the real world, not a fairyland.

            If we really wanted it to be fair, we’d have to do away with handicapped parking spaces as well since their existence implies that we are not equal. Equal people should be treated equal.

            I could understand the anger over someone evading their taxes, but someone getting a break on paid parking, something we all agree to hate and something that none of us benefit from…

          • Meh

            The rationale is simple. Either everyone should pay (handicapped included) or nobody should pay.

            You aren’t parking in a handicapped parking space. You aren’t being affected by someone else being allowed to park for free.

            Wrong. I AM HANDICAPPED. I think everyone should pay.

          • The Constitutionalist

            So in your scenario, if some people can’t win, then everyone must lose. Got it, thanks.

      • Antonio Vives

        We got used to not paying for parking at RTC and was a wonderful advantage over other places and I, for one, am really [email protected]#$! off. But on this issue, paying for parking is a monetary issue, not a mobility issue. Are handicapped people poor? Let’s subsidize the poor and let’s have handicapped parking very close to exits and the stores. Let’s even have shuttles in RTC for handicapped people, but let all be treated equally in terms of paying. Ideally paying should be based on capacity to pay (although in this case is not practical) as are driving violation fines in Scandinavian countries.

    • Jenny Gibbers

      “A friend shared,,,FB” – so gossip basically

      “Handicap spot” – hardly a representative of the general population, outside of the bell curve.

      Although you have my sympathy this case is hardly worth fighting over.

      But there are many special and designated organizations that will dish it out on your friends behalf.

      Good luck,

    • Phil Lilienthal

      How come the handicapped parking was not free on Saturday? Were you on the street and not the garage? Crazy to have that difference, but one more convoluted rule to have to remember (others: which garage to park in to get validated by which store; which stores validate; how to pay if you forget or don’t have a smart phone?).

    • Mark Leone

      People who are arguing that handicapped people can afford to pay for parking as much as everyone else can: I think you’re missing the point. Non-handicapped people have the option to park in a garage for free on Saturday and walk a few blocks to their destination. For handicapped people, this is generally not an option. So the accommodation of free parking on Saturdays is generally not available to handicapped people.

  • Bernie Supporter

    I stopped going to RTC. There are too many great places in the area to food, shop and watch movies to give a penny to these greedy, arrogant corporate clowns. I have no animosity towards the merchants and am saddened that they are the real victims here. BP is disgusting.

    • Heh

      So the merchants are the victims, but sadly you have to put them out of business just to send a message?

      • Hector

        You can’t expect sound thinking from a bernine supporter.

  • Stone Gossardish

    Paid parking needs to fail at RTC so it fails across the rest of the country. I’m glad to shop on the internet or wherever I can park for free.

    You wanted to test supply and demand, Boston Properties, we’ll let’s do it !

  • Jenny Gibbers

    Interesting to hear that paid parking mostly affects retail but not residential, although I heard some rumblings about visitor parking.

  • You Tell Me

    i will be there. I will do better then my colleague did at the protest. We saw that you guys noticed him.

  • Richard

    It’s gonna be a heckuva party at RTC when BP caves in.

    • Jenny Gibbers

      Just a guess, maybe 1 max 2. How much can you drink in three hours without getting an DUI?

      • Richard

        Plenty! I’ll Uber home and leave the car!

        • Jenny Gibbers

          Uber ugh

      • The Constitutionalist

        Is that a challenge?

        • Jenny Gibbers

          No its a guess.

          • The Constitutionalist

            Oh, well never mind then.

          • Jenny Gibbers


  • Big Drop

    This is now about the judgment of Boston Properties and the value judgments they are making. I wonder what Marriott thinks of all this since they chose Boston Properties to oversee their Bethesda development? BP and Reston are now on the national stage: one of the most successful town center developments on earth- they promoted it as such-now has its future in question.

    Are the value judgments that Boston Properties is exhibiting in Reston the same value judgments that others, around the United States, want to oversee their developments?

  • vdiv

    Sales down 20-40%, that is really crazy. The big chains will liquidate and move, but for the smaller businesses and people running them it is devastating.
    Shame on Boston Properties and all the greedy developer bastids!
    Fairfax County board of supervisors silence on the matter is inexcusable and yet rather revealing.
    It is time for independence!

  • ButHOW

    I think a 3hr free model would be agreeable by most… but HOW would you implement that with the current system they have in place? Would you still have to use the app? Because it’s gateless, how do you know when you hit the 3 hour mark?

  • Jenny Gibbers

    Interesting how.everyone talks about the businesses and retail but nobody talks about the residents.

    Maybe if the residents had an umbrella organization like RA to speak for them they would be better off? Would the residents join their fold despite the high fees? Does RA have a reputation problem?

    Stupid questions, I know… but its election time.

    • John Higgins

      Interestingly, there is such an umbrella organization for RTC residents. One may recall its pronouncement (I believe in the paid parking context) of how RTC has evolved as an elite destination. Silence here is consent.

    • Actually, I don’t think that I’ve seen anything from the non-merchant businesses at RTC. Has anyone else? It has to be affecting their staff and visitors.

  • Nancy

    Paid parking at the Reston Town Center was/is/always will be a TERRIBLE idea.

  • Bobio

    Sadly, this article confirms what I perceived, and exposes BP, who I had believed when they reported that business was not down this Winter. The permanent damage has already started, and the next phase is businesses leaving RTC. This make me wonder how BP has managed to be such a successful business, given this RTC blunder. Perhaps they see a different and more profitable venue that currently stands?

    • Willie Reston

      There was an article several weeks ago which included a statement from BP in which they claimed that business in January 2017 was about the same as January 2016. While that may have been true, it ignored the fact that January 2017 was unseasonably warm whereas January 2016 was really cold and had a historic blizzard which crippled the region for over a week. Because of that, one can reasonably argue that business was steady thanks only to ridiculously disparate weather scenarios working in BP’s favor. Now that we’re getting a larger data set, BP is going to find it a lot harder to spin the 2016/2017 comparisons.

  • Lake Anne Resident

    Potomac River Running come to Lake Anne!

    • LOL

      I’ll gladly pay $140 for a pair of running shoes but I can’t afford $2 to park, waaah!

      • Scott

        Nice strawman argument.
        Most opposition to paid parking has nothing to do with the cost. There are 2 main reasons.
        1. BP lied about the reasons for doing it. commuters, etc
        2. The required app. Make it a simple ticket system with kiosks to swipe a credit card and opposition would be much less.

        • Bobio

          Agreed, that app roll-out is a failure on many levels… I simple don’t want to deal with it ever again. I tried it once, and I’m done. Also, I don’t mind shelling out dough for a lot of places at RTC, but $4 for 61 minutes of parking on weekday evening is just wrong.

        • LOL

          Most opposition to paid parking has nothing to do with the cost

          Uh huh. That’s why there’s so much petulant wailing about BPs “money grab”.

          • Scott

            That WAS the lie!

  • 30yearsinreston

    BP should be prosecuted for violating ADA and Handicapped Parking ordinances
    Asking Hudgins is a waste of time

    • Frank

      How? they provided the space for them.

      • 30yearsinreston

        No they didn’t

        • Frank

          Yeah they did they just don’t want to pay

      • Kara Gardner Wills

        There are the minimal legally required ADA parking spaces on the street in RTC. I have not found a payment kiosk anywhere close to those spots. I am not arguing whether ADA folks should pay or not but don’t force them to go further than necessary to pay to park. Not everyone has a smartphone or wants the insidious ParkRTC app on their phone.

  • SuperCoop1280

    It is a shame what BP is doing to the RTC. That said, protesting on weekends is about as useful as Stevie Wonder being a photographer. I have never saw the point in marching but if you are going to do it, you have to do it during the week. As someone who worked on Capitol Hill, I’ve seen lots of people who would protest the Congress but they did it on the weekends when no one was in the buildings, especially the members. The only reason I saw it was because I would be out enjoying the day.

    The best way in my opinion to protest what BP is doing is to not go to RTC. We simply do not go to the RTC and haven’t since December. I don’t want to see the businesses suffer but as long as they stay at RTC, they are allowing BP to get away with charging for parking. Now I fully support any business that tries litigating against BP but even that could be a temporary victory for the business.

    I recognize my opinion may not be the most popular but if no one shows up, BP has no choice to close up. RTC now has stench and future businesses will be weary of opening a store knowing it will never get the full customer potential until the parking situation is solved.

    Just my two cents.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Yeah but it makes people feel better.


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