54°Mostly Cloudy

by Dave Emke — January 11, 2017 at 4:00 pm 31 Comments

Orange parking garage, Reston Town Center

While public response to paid parking at Reston Town Center remains decidedly negative, the number of people who have downloaded the ParkRTC app continues to grow.

Rob Weinhold, a spokesperson for Town Center owner Boston Properties, reports that more than 42,000 downloads of the app have been made as of Wednesday morning. That number is up significantly from 28,000 on Jan. 3, the day paid parking went into effect.

Parking in the Town Center had been free since it opened in 1990. Since the paid-parking initiative began last week, it now costs $2 per hour in parking garages and $3 per hour on the street. Parking in garages is free on weekends; street parking is free on Sunday only.

Visitors who do not wish to use the app can use pay stations at the entrances to each garage.

In the week since paid parking began, at least one business — The Bike Lane — has publicly announced its intention to leave the Town Center.

In addition to concerns over the cost of parking itself, dissenters have brought up questions about privacy and app security. Town Center officials have responded to those queries, saying the app is perfectly safe to use.

by Dave Emke — January 9, 2017 at 2:45 pm 45 Comments

The Bike Lane has been serving its customers in Reston Town Center for going on nine years.

Now, the owners of the store say they are actively seeking to leave because of the Town Center’s new paid-parking initiative.

In a recent Facebook post, The Bike Lane said its customers should not be forced to pay to shop there — and because that is now the case, they want to set up shop elsewhere.

“We believe in providing our customers with an amazing shopping experience and we do not agree with charging for parking. We are actively looking to relocate The Bike Lane in or around Reston and we will keep you updated about our future plans as they progress.”

Todd Mader owns the shop along with his wife, Anne. He tells Reston Now they only have a little over a year left on a 10-year lease and they have every intention of leaving early.

“This is not the experience we want our customers to have, to come in here during the week and battle with a parking app,” Mader said. “They come in here to buy a $10 inner tube and now they’re paying $12.”

The store is offering customers in-store credits and gift cards to compensate them for weekday parking. But Mader said in the long run, the hassle isn’t worth it when the store can just relocate.

We were hoping parking wouldn’t be a big deal,” he said. “But if given the opportunity to move sooner rather than later, we’d do that.”

Mader said the parking situation has never been ideal for many of his customers, who may have bicycles attached to the roof or the back of their vehicle and may therefore find parking garages difficult to navigate. Now that it costs by the hour as well, he’s had enough.

“Having a space that’s more traditional, open-air shopping… that’s more what we’re looking for,” Mader said.

Social media backlash has been heavy on Reston Town Center and its owner, Boston Properties, because of the new parking fees, with many people threatening a “boycott.” However, Mader said the result of that hurts businesses such as his more than anyone.

“That’s not hurting [the Town Center and Boston Properties], not directly anyway. That’s hurting the merchant — big and small,” he said. “There is a noticeable drop in the plaza during the week. Friday night was dead, in the restaurants and in foot traffic.”

Mader said his hope is to relocate the store within a mile of its current location, so it can continue to serve its loyal patrons.

“We’re overwhelmed by the support of our customers,” he said. “We want to make it very convenient for people to find us and continue to shop with us.”

by Jennifer van der Kleut — January 5, 2017 at 1:45 pm 30 Comments

Reston Runners courtesy photo from website

The Reston Runners have ended their tradition of gathering at Reston Town Center, citing parking fees that went into effect this week as the reason.

The local running club has long met at the Potomac River Running Store on Tuesday and Thursday evenings to begin their group runs. The store has served as something of a flagship for the group, as it even sells Reston Runners gear and gives discounts to members. The store also regularly sponsors some of the club’s events, such as the annual Runner’s Marathon of Reston.

However, now that Reston Town Center has begun charging for weekday parking, the club says it feels the fees would deter members from coming out. In response, they have decided to move their meeting location to Reston Sport and Health in Isaac Newton Square.

“For decades, Reston Town Center was a welcoming place where the community could gather freely,” Reston Runners member Dennis Hays told Reston Now. “We are saddened this is no longer the case.”

Hays said the club looks forward to continuing to partner with PRR for other events.

PRR has said it will validate one hour of parking to weekday customers who spend at least $20 in the store, and recently appealed to locals to continue supporting businesses such as theirs.

“We hope you’ll continue to support PR and shop local so that we can continue to create and expand the local walking and running community,” the store said on social media this week. “Getting active transforms lives — it would be a shame for parking get in the way.”

Hays said the club looks forward to its new partnership with Reston Sport and Health, and invites all to come out for their runs, scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. in the new location.

“All runners and walkers in the community, or just visiting the area, are welcome to participate,” he said.

Photo via RestonRunners.org

Save

Save

by Dave Emke — January 4, 2017 at 2:45 pm 107 Comments

ParkRTC sign in Reston Town Center

If you pay attention to Reston on social media, you’ve seen a firestorm in the past couple days.

Tweeters and Facebookers alike have responded en masse after paid parking went into effect Tuesday at Reston Town Center. The new paid-parking initiative has many customers of Town Center businesses saying they are staging a boycott.

Nearly 20 restaurants and retailers in the Town Center are validating parking for customers. Rob Weinhold, a spokesperson for Town Center owner Boston Properties, said Wednesday that those businesses are seeing the benefits of helping consumers pay the cost.

It’s been an ongoing issue, and one of the concerns that retailers in any paid parking environment across the world have is what will it do to profits,” he said. “There are many retailers who have chosen to work within their business model and provide validation to consumers, which has worked out well for them.”

One of those businesses is Potomac River Running Store, which posted to social media Tuesday that it is validating one hour of parking for customers who make a purchase of $20 or more.

“As a locally-owned, independent store selling national brands, we cannot and will not raise our prices to cover the cost of parking for our customers,” the post reads. “But, at our expense, we will validate your parking when you shop at ==PR== Reston, because it’s the right thing to do for you.”

Other businesses, such as Starbucks, have chosen to not validate parking. Melina Palomino, a shift manager at the coffee shop, said as most of their customers are coming in on their way to or from work or shopping, they don’t see validation as necessary to their business. Palomino and others said business was slow Tuesday, but they attributed that to an expected post-holiday lull rather than to the parking situation.

Weinhold said many businesses in the Town Center continue to evaluate the situation to see how they can best work within the new parking rules.

Reston Town Center is a fantastic environment with a wonderful retail and dining experience,” he said. “I would think that certainly there’s a level of quality which no one wants compromised.”

Judging from response online, however, many people feel it already has been.

A Tuesday post on Reston Town Center’s Facebook page reminding people about the policy change had more than 275 comments as of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. RTC staff has been diligently responding to many of the comments on that post and others on the page. Questions about parking validation and app security were among the many that were answered, though a number of commenters simply said they were done with RTC because of the decision.

RTC ambassadors were present at pay stations inside parking garages Tuesday and Wednesday to help users with any questions. Weinhold said he was at Reston Town Center throughout the day Tuesday and witnessed no major concerns.

While there are people that don’t necessarily agree with the policy, which is understandable, from an operating perspective the day was a success,” he said.

by Dave Emke — January 3, 2017 at 10:15 am 92 Comments

Parking garage at Reston Town Center

The date has arrived. As of today, visitors to Reston Town Center are paying for the right to park there.

The ParkRTC paid parking initiative has officially begun, a Boston Properties official told Reston Now. Mobile pay parking is available through the ParkRTC smartphone app, while visitors without the app will be required to use garage pay stations or pay by phone.

RTC Parking signParking in the Town Center’s five garages will now cost $2 an hour (up to a maximum charge of $24 a day). Street parking is $3 an hour. A number of retailers have previously announced they plan to offer parking validation.

This marks the first time since the retail and residential complex opened in 1990 that parking fees will be collected.

The ParkRTC app, which can be downloaded via iTunes and Google Play, enables visitors to see available spaces, pay for a parking session, extend a parking session and receive discounts from retailers. According to Robert Weinhold, a Boston Properties spokesperson, more than 28,000 people had downloaded the app as of Tuesday morning.

Boston Properties, the owner of Reston Town Center, had originally announced it planned to commence paid parking at Reston Town Center last year. However, the start date was pushed back to Jan. 3 to allow “additional time to educate consumers” who were not embracing the technology, an RTC spokesman told Reston Now in September.

Nearly 9,000 people signed a change.org petition, organized by Reston’s Suzanne Zurn, asking to stop the new parking fees from being enacted at the Town Center. However, Boston Properties and the Reston Town Center Association did not bend on the plan.

Last month, Reston Now conducted an unscientific poll in which nearly 94 percent of readers said they do not support paid parking at the Town Center.

by Jennifer van der Kleut — January 3, 2017 at 9:15 am 2 Comments

Morning Notes - Winter

Reston Association Board Candidate Info Session Tomorrow — Anyone considering running for one of the four seats on the Reston Association Board of Directors is invited to attend a candidate information session Wednesday evening. Terms will begin in April. All candidate forms and applications for those wishing to be on the ballot must be turned in by Jan. 27. [Reston Now]

My, How You’ve Grown, Reston! — The U.S. Census Bureau has released five years’ worth of data about Reston and its residents, and the numbers show just how much the planned community has grown. Among the highlights in the information is a 7,000-person increase in population and a median household income that has surpassed $100,000. [Reston Patch]

Herndon Man Dies After NYE Hotel Roof Fall — A 23-year-old Herndon man died shortly after midnight on New Year’s in an incident on the roof of his Dupont Circle hotel. Reports indicate John Leonard was on the roof of his hotel when he fell into a boiler shaft and plummeted 10 stories. [Washington Post]

Save

Save

Save

by Andrew Ramonas — December 8, 2016 at 10:20 am 102 Comments

Park RTC (Image via Reston Town Center)

Reston Town Center is set to start collecting parking fees Jan. 3 for the first time since it opened in 1990, the retail and residential complex announced yesterday.

The paid parking system, which was beset by months of delays, will require visitors to the center to pay $2 an hour on weekdays, with a maximum of $24 a day. Parking will remain free on Saturdays and Sundays, and there will be validation and discounts from retailers that will bring costs down.

RTC owner Boston Properties is encouraging drivers to use the free ParkRTC App to make parking payments. But motorists without the app can use one of four garage pay stations or call 571.485.7790 to pay for parking.

Do you support paid parking at the center? You can weigh in through the poll and in the comments.

Image via Reston Town Center

by Karen Goff — October 5, 2016 at 10:00 am 27 Comments

ParkRTC AppPaid parking at Reston Town Center has been postponed until January, but citizen concerns about using the new Park RTC app remain.

Many would-be users say they are wary of downloading the app, developed by Passport Parking, because of privacy concerns about the app having access to credit card information and the phone’s camera. Additionally, the “find my car” kiosk feature has been called a “stalker’s dream” by some Reston Now commenters.

A Reston Town Center spokesman said users can find parking more quickly, pay for parking from the comfort of their own vehicles, extend parking sessions remotely, get receipts online, avoid credit card and transaction fees and much more by using the app.

The app also features LiveSafe, a feature where patrons can report security concerns to town center management and security, as well as contact Fairfax County Police with the touch of a button. LiveSafe is now live on the app, which can be downloaded from iTunes or Google Play.

But RTC has still been hit with many security questions. That’s why they have released some answers.

Here are some of the most common ones directed at RTC, with answers from its owner, Boston Properties:

Is my credit card data safe and privacy protected?

Yes. Both Passport Inc. and Reston Town Center take the important responsibility to protect credit card information very seriously.
Passport conducts regular audits of its information security systems to ensure there are no vulnerabilities — data security is core to their business.

Passport employs a two factor authentication (2FA) process that requires first-time users to verify their identity by entering a text authorization sent to verify device ownership in addition to a pin number. (more…)

by Karen Goff — September 26, 2016 at 10:00 am 9 Comments

ParkRTC AppPaid parking at Reston Town Center may have been postponed until January, but town center officials are hoping thousands of people will download the free ParkRTC app in the meantime.

The app, available in Apple and Google Play options, will enable patrons to punch in a zone number and pay the $2-an-hour parking fee without a ticket or stopping at a gate. The app also gives users access to LiveSafe, a safety feature that allows one to report suspicious behavior to RTC security or Fairfax County Police, as well as ask for help in a potentially dangerous situation.

The app has not been well received by Reston Now readers, who have made hundreds of comments on our site saying they are concerned by privacy issues or simply won’t download the app as they plan on never visiting Reston Town Center if they have to pay to park.

It’s a different story, though, if one reads customer reviews on the Apple or Google play sites. Since paid parking is not yet in effect, the app is not really functional. That leads to the thought that the reviews are, well, fabricated. Take these examples:

Simple, easy to use by heather_am

Quick setup. Appreciated the reminder when time was almost up. Receipt function useful when visiting RTC for business. Much easier than the frustrating MoCo parking app that was not easy to use and required a minimum $20 upfront to park.

HAITI ??
Fast and easy to download; One of my fave places, so ready to park RTC.

Russ User 

Great app Easy to use. Love it

No Complaints

This app is fast and simple to navigate. Will make the paid parking process at RTC an easy transition!

Of course, there are also the negative reviews, mostly based on glitches with the app, the privacy policy or the principle of paid parking in general:

Joel Agalsoff

Camera and No Phone Sleep? Why do you need access to my camera? Why do you need to prevent my phone from sleeping? Do I have to pay you in battery life too?

Joshua Patterson

Nope. Never paying to park in RTC. Will park elsewhere or take my business elsewhere.

You’re kidding, right?

I get it. Transitioning from free to pay parking is a big step, and obviously a shock for those patrons that have been parking free at this location for over a decade. But this app just throws gas on the fire.

To whomever was responsible for this abomination: if you’re going to upend people’s routines and expectations with paid parking, at least put in the time and investment in creating a user experience that isn’t laughably amateurish, if not downright hostile.

Seriously. Someone should get fired for thinking this onboarding experience (from the blurred-out location services permissions sheet to the 7 pt TOS link) is remotely acceptable for any viable app, let alone an app requiring such dramatic changes to user behavior.

Have you checked out the app yet? What are your thoughts?

by Karen Goff — September 9, 2016 at 4:15 pm 42 Comments

ParkRTC AppPaid parking at Reston Town Center is still coming.

While the postponement until January of the app-based paid parking system ($2 an hour on weekdays) may seem like a victory for those in favor of free parking, it is only a temporary one.

A source familiar with the thinking of Boston Properties, which owns town center, says there is “no indication” to amend the plans, which feature the app; a safety component called LiveSafe; a complicated Bluetooth-enabled validation feature at some merchants; the ability to pay by cash or credit card at four kiosks; and wayfinding systems to determine locations of available spots.

According to the source, the backlash from thousands of consumers (both in an online petition and in comments of Reston Now and other news and social media sites) had nothing to do with the delay.

Rather, the system is complicated (also a top complaint from users, along with privacy concerns). Boston Properties said it needs additional time to “educate” merchants and Reston Town Center visitors how to use it.

“Boston Properties wanted more time for outreach,” said Rob Weinold, the communications rep hired by the RTC owner for the parking rollout, which has been scheduled to be put in place on Sept. 12.

“We will be working with merchants,” he said. “We will be doing outreach at events such as concerts. We will update out FAQs on our website and doing ads and promotions. We need to get people more comfortable with the technology.”

As of Thursday, about 6,500 people have downloaded the ParkRTC app, Weinhold said.

But at least that many are likely saying they refuse to download the app because privacy concerns. Still more are saying they will avoid the town center altogether when they have to pay to park.

And still more take issue with the idea that they need more instructions and education, as Boston Properties said earlier this week.

Said these commenters on Reston Now’s Facebook page:

Really? We don’t need no education (to quote Pink Floyd). We’re just not going to add this app on our smart phones. … and we’re not going to pay to eat and shop. Period. …

Additional time to educate customers? It’s truly hilarious that Boston Properties thinks the public believes this baloney. They are just worried about losing revenue from holiday shoppers. The fact that they had to start a gift card raffle in order to entice people to download the app speaks volumes. …

I think it is Boston Properties that needs some education. We the consumers know what we want…free parking. Perhaps they will get it when their tenants move out because they are losing the foot traffic they depend on.

What say you? Will additional time and instructions make pay parking easier for you? Or have you gotten the message loud and clear already?

by Karen Goff — September 7, 2016 at 12:40 pm 69 Comments

Parking garage at Reston Town Center

The rollout of paid parking at Reston Town Center has been put on hold until January of 2017, RTC parking spokesman Rob Weinhold said on Wednesday.

The paid parking system was slated to go into effect on Monday, Sept. 12.

RTC owners Boston Properties has invested in a ParkRTC App with LiveSafe technology, as well as electronic parking availability signs, Bluetooth-enabled validation and other high-tech systems for the 25-year-old town center, which has always had free parking.

Weinhold says the decision was made based on consumer and tenant feedback as many in the community were not embracing the technology (still more are upset at the $2-an-hour charge on weekdays and thousands have signed a petition asking Boston Properties to keep parking free).

“The postponement will allow additional time to educate customers,” Weinhold said. “We will continue our outreach efforts.”

Boston Properties says it still plans to instill paid parking. The company previously said it was going to to the new system to cut down on abuse by Metro commuters, who are using RTC’s seven garages as parking while they hop a shuttle to Metro’s Silver Line station at Wiehle-Reston East.

The Silver Line station at Reston Town Center is still years away from opening in early 2020.

“There is no question Reston Town Center remains committed to strategies which enhance overall customer experience,” Peter D. Johnston, Boston Properties’ Executive Vice President for the Washington, D.C. Region, said in a statement. “The digital parking and mobile safety integration is an enormous step in advancing both of these historical and very worthwhile goals. We will continue to invest in the Reston community through world-class facilities, family-oriented events, top brand attractions, innovative technologies and nonprofit donations. A safe, family-friendly environment is always our top priority.”

Meanwhile, tenants got this message from Boston Properties today:

Dear Tenants,

I hope this message finds you well. As you know, Reston Town Center is scheduled to fully activate both ParkRTC and LiveSafe, two integrated digital parking and mobile safety technology apps, next Monday, September 12th. However, after continuing to meet with tenants, listen to customer concerns and comprehensively assess the roll-out timing, we have decided to postpone paid parking activation until January 2017.

The LiveSafe app will continue to be available for free download and will be fully operational on October 1st of this year (after downloading the ParkRTC app). We encourage people to download the LiveSafe app so users are able to familiarize themselves with the innovative technology in a substantive manner. 

While the postponement will not change our long-term parking policies, it will give us additional time to comprehensively educate our customers about the new technologies. To that end, Reston Town Center will continue its outreach efforts and work toward achieving a greater level of understanding and comfort among its customer base, while moving toward a seamless paid parking transition in January 2017. 

There is no question Reston Town Center Management remains committed to strategies which enhance overall customer experience. The digital parking and mobile safety integration is an enormous step in advancing both of these historical and very worthwhile goals. And, we will continue to invest in the Reston community through world-class facilities, family-oriented events, top brand attractions, innovative technologies and nonprofit donations. A safe, family-friendly environment is always our top priority. 

Our team will continue to proactively engage with you regarding these very important initiatives. However, if you have any immediate questions, please contact your property manager. Thank you very much for your continued partnership, patience and understanding.

by Karen Goff — September 1, 2016 at 11:30 am 18 Comments

Parking garage at Reston Town CenterIt’s Sept. 1. That means free parking at Reston Town Center will soon be a thing of the past.

In case you have been out of town this summer, Reston Now will fill you in the details.

Boston Properties says it needs to discourage commuter parking in Reston Town Center’s seven parking garage. It will begin charging $2 an hour on weekdays (and nights) starting Monday, Sept. 12.

Saturdays, Sundays and special events will remain free.

Parking will be a with a gateless and ticketless system. Visitors must download the ParkRTC app to automatically pay by credit card. If a visitor does not want the app, he or she can pay at a credit card kiosk located in four of the garages.

Here are more details on everything you need to know:

How the app works

Why Boston Properties calls this an enhancement

How validation works

What will happen if I don’t pay

What may happen in the longterm

Citizens are still working on a petition in protest of the move

by Karen Goff — August 26, 2016 at 10:00 am 21 Comments

Reston Town Center Parking

Representatives from Boston Properties want to assure users that additional privacy measures are going into place for visitors to Reston Town Center.

New technological features (electronic parking availability signage; app-based payment; Bluetooth-enabled validation; and a GPS/license plate car locater system) are about to go live at Reston Town Center prepares to switch to paid parking on Sept. 12.

ParkRTC AppEarlier this week, Reston Now reported that by typing a license plate number into the Park Assist app, anyone with a computer could find out where your car was parked.

Kathy Walsh, spokesman for Reston Town Center’s paid parking rollout, says that issue was related to testing done by Park Assist and has been remedied.

“That issue has been addressed to prevent it from happening again,” she said in an email. “The ‘Find My Car’ feature will ONLY be available by using the pay stations located onsite at the Reston Town Center garages.” (more…)

by Karen Goff — August 25, 2016 at 4:30 pm 3 Comments

Reston North Lot/Courtesy VDOTOver the next two weekends crews will complete maintenance and improvements to the Reston North/Wiehle Avenue park-and-ride lot.

That’s the long,skinny lot near the intersection of Sunset Hills Road and Isaac Newton Square.

Here is the schedule, weather permitting:

  • This weekend (Aug. 27 and 28), crews will rope off sections of the lot to cut vegetation for better parking and aisle access.
  • The lot will be closed entirely from 5 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 through 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5 in order to refresh pavement markings and make signage improvements.

About 35 new signs will be installed, with existing signs replaced, removed or relocated to designate legal and illegal parking, the Virginia Department of Transportation said in a release.

The lot will also be increasing its capacity. Pavement markings throughout the lot will be refreshed, with some reconfigured to add six additional spaces. The new lot capacity will be 340.

The lot formerly served as parking for buses that would take commuters to Metro Stations at Vienna and West Falls Church. It now serves as free parking for the 300+ commuters who arrive early enough to find a space there instead of in the pay ($4.85 daily) garage adjacent to the 3,000-space Wiehle-Reston East station. It sees few cars on weekends as parking in the garages is free on those days.

Photo courtesy VDOT

by Karen Goff — August 24, 2016 at 1:15 pm 51 Comments

Parking garage at Reston Town CenterWhen Reston Town Center paid weekday parking goes into effect on Sept. 12, it will also have the distinction of being one of the most expensive garage systems in the area.

Reston Town Center will charge $2 an hour on weekdays, with a maximum of $24 a day. Parking will remain free on Saturdays and Sundays, and there will be validation and discounts from retailers that will bring costs down.

Reston Now (with the help of reader Suzanne Zurn, organizer of the Change.org petition against paid parking at RTC) took a look at some nearby retail complexes to see how the new plan stacks up.

First of all, here is where you can park for free:

  • Tysons Corner Center
  • Fairfax Corner
  • One Loudoun
  • Dulles Town Center
  • Downtown Herndon
  • Fairfax Square (Tiffany Plaza in Tysons)

Now here’s where you have to pay:

Reston Town Center Parking  – $2 per hour / max daily rate of $24.

Pentagon City Mall Parking – $2 for up to 2 hours / max daily rate of $18.

Rockville Town Square – $2 per hour / $3 for up to 1-2 hrs / max daily rate of $12.

Market Common Clarendon – $6 for up to 1 hour / $8 for up to 2 hours / max daily rate of $12.

Ballston Mall Parking – $1 for up to 3 hours / max daily rate of $10.

Mosaic District Parking – Free up to 5 hours.

Downtown Bethesda – $1.25 per hour in short-term parking (four hours hours or less) and .80 cents to $1 (depending on garage) per hour in long term parking (more than four hours). Street parking is $2 per hour for 1-2 hours.

Representatives for Boston Properties, which owns Reston Town Center, say paid parking has always been the plan for the 25-year-old town center. BP has invested in several high-tech features for the new system, including an app, ParkRTC, which will include a safety feature and ticketless and gateless payment.

“We realize moving from a free to a paid parking model gives some pause,” BP Executive Vice President Peter Johnston says. “However, Reston Town Center leadership continually focuses on strategies to enhance customer convenience, safety and overall quality of life. The technological integration is an enormous step in advancing both of these historical and worthwhile goals.”

×

Subscribe to our mailing list