One of the “guiding principals” of the Tysons Comprehensive Plan is a reduction of surface parking and moving vehicles through Tysons to drive pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
But at Bisnow’s Tysons State of the Market event last week, local developers said that utopian plan isn’t really shaping up the way it’s designed.
Brian Tucker, managing director for JLL, said changes in how space is filled in office developments has impacted local parking more than the comprehensive plan accounted for.
Despite ridership of the Metro increasing in Tysons, Tucker said parking supplied by new developments isn’t keeping pace with the demand for parking. According to Tucker:
“There was a time going back when we couldn’t give parking away. With the coming of the Metro, we all assumed things were going to continue on that trend. But it didn’t turn out that way. As buildings got developed, there were changes in terms of how people used their space. Floors became much more dense, and we had 30 percent more people on a floor than we had years ago.”
If you’ve found it difficult to find parking in Tysons, that’s by design. Where many localities have parking minimums for development, in Tysons, offices located near Metro stations have parking maximums. According to the plan:
“Office uses located between 1/8 and 1/4 mile of a station have a maximum parking ratio of 2.0 spaces per 1,000 square feet of office, while those located between 1/4 and 1/2 mile have a ratio of 2.2 per 1,000.”
The comprehensive plan lists a number of strategies to wean Tysonians off their cars — including adding transit infrastructure and encouraging teleworking — but the plan also calls for a reduction over time in the ratio of parking spaces to the commercial floor area.
A chart in the comprehensive plan shows a scale of vehicle trip reduction goals connected to the amount of gross square feet of development in Tysons.
According to the plan:
In the past, each development was required to provide parking for its own peak demand, an approach that often leads to excess parking supply and a wasted uses of resources. In 2015, the Tysons Parking Study estimated that Tysons had 110,000 parking spaces. This amount of parking far exceeds what is necessary.
The comprehensive plan calls for parking in Tysons not to be supplied for individual use but regarded as a common resource for multiple uses.
But Tucker says those maximums are concerning to real estate developers.
“Real estate people would say ‘we know Metro is here and all the millennials are supposed to take it, but we’re scared to death [of limited parking],'” said Tucker. “We need a mechanism to bridge us to the date when people actually will be taking the Metro by allowing people the opportunity to park and wean people off of their car.”
Donna Schafer, managing director for Cityline Partners, said the vision of a car-free Tysons is going to take time to implement and more flexibility should be offered to offer temporary parking options, like “throwaway parking decks.” According to the Tysons Annual Report, a 711-space interim commuter lot was built in 2014. A stury of this lot in 2018 found that 558 of the spaces were filled on an average weekday.
Mark Carrol, executive vice president of Skanska Commercial Development, said driving around Tysons is part of the area’s DNA.
“The accessibility by car was part of the initial appeal,” said Carrol. “Some of the planning that went into place to try to change that, but it feels like we’re at the stage in Tysons where the behavior hasn’t changed.”