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WMATA reaches agreement to use DC USA garage

Employees at WMATA's Northern Bus Garage will be able to park at DC USA, under an agreement the WMATA Board will review on Thursday.

Photo by WABA.

The parking deck at the Northern Bus Garage was closed last year "as it was no longer structurally sound," and WMATA began looking for alternate parking locations.

DC USA was an obvious location given the plethora of unused parking, but according to sources familiar with the discussions, Target resisted allocating more parking to non-shoppers for the long term even though they don't use the parking.

Under the DC USA "condo" agreement, Target has to approve any change to the garage even though the DC government pays for the garage. After pressure from Jim Graham and Neil Albert, Target relented and allowed a deal.

Under the agreement, WMATA will lease 250 spaces at a cost of $125 per month, which is at a discount from the $145 retail rate.

WMATA will run a shuttle to carry employees the 1.2 miles up 14th Street to the garage. I've asked whether the shuttle runs at all times or just during times when Metrobus service up 14th Street isn't running.

Currently, they provide all parking to employees for free, and plan to continue that policy. Employees get free transit, meaning the parking won't be any cheaper than rail or bus, but it would seem to make sense to charge a little bit at least for those whose shifts begin and end during the times transit is operating.

The lease, shuttle and extra overnight security at DC USA, when the garage is otherwise closed, will cost $436,400 per year. According to the presentation, it will be included in the FY2012 budget but the bus division "will absorb this expense in FY10 and FY11 by achieving savings in other areas." I've asked for more information on what those are.

The DC USA garage cost taxpayers $2.1 million last year. The previous daily and monthly leasing to the public, plus WMATA's lease, should at least make a large dent.

Longer term, WMATA wants to replace this garage with a new facility at Walter Reed, once the hospital moves to Bethesda. WMATA would sell the Western garage at Friendship Heights in addition to the Northern garage, whose neighbors don't like living next to a bus garage. Both garages are obsolete and would need substantial capital improvement to rehabilitate.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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The previous daily and monthly leasing to the public, plus WMATA's lease, should at least make a large dent.

Shirt pocket, pants pocket (Dutch saying).

What is happening here is that a budget hole that used to be filled with 100% tax payer money, is now going to be filled by an organization has a large amount of tax payer funding. It's still mostly shuffling money around.

Glad the parking will be used though.

The reason that WMATA personnel can not take transit to work is because they are the ones riding the first and last buses, right?

by Jasper on Apr 21, 2010 1:28 pm • linkreport

I guess WMATA doesn't want its employees to park on the street. But it seems like that with plentiful street parking in the area, employees will just do that instead of dealing with the traffic hell around DC USA.

by RD on Apr 21, 2010 1:56 pm • linkreport

@ RD It's more that the community doesn't want employees parking on the street. If employees do park there, it's an enforcement issue for DC.

by jnb on Apr 21, 2010 2:41 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper Basically it's that at times many employees are coming to work (to drive the first buses out) or leaving work (after the last buses have come in) there's no buses in service. And the garage isn't rail served. There are some who could take transit to the garage during the mid-day, but for many it's not an option.

by jnb on Apr 21, 2010 2:44 pm • linkreport

Or, of course, they could make the 20-minute walk up 14th Street as many of us have done. It's not like WMATA needs to be careful with its money in these boom times.

by CP on Apr 21, 2010 4:57 pm • linkreport

This is absurd. In addition to free parking (which is absurd in and of itself) WMATA intends (probably) to run a shuttle ALL DAY for the employees? So run a shuttle for those who start/end work when transit isn't running. That means, at MOST, each employee gets one shuttle ride a day (because I doubt, except in highly unusual circumstances, that any WMATA employees are working both before the first busses start and after the last buses finish).

Even though the cost of the shuttle is probably nominal, this kind of thing makes regular WMATA riders crazy, and really hurts efforts to increase funding. Fares are going up, service is getting cut, yet WMATA intends to spend money to run a shuttle at totally unnecessary times so its employees DON'T HAVE TO TAKE TRANSIT!!! It certainly doesn't make me want to open up my pocketbook. And let's not even get started on the absurd irony of the regions transit provider paying for employee parking.

One other thing - the $436,400 figure quoted appears to be complete BS. The cost of the lease alone is $375,000 ($125 x 250 = $31,250/month; $31,250 x 12 = $375,000). They're suggesting that shuttle service and extra security for an entire year will cost on only $61,400? No way. There's some funny accounting going on.

by dcd on Apr 22, 2010 8:07 am • linkreport

Once again "greed" says it all. The city of Washington, DC moved heaven and earth (both literally and figuratively) to build what is clearly an incredibly successful mall.

Considering that without government assistance there would be no mail you'd think that maybe someone would say, "Hey, you know we get paid a percentage of all of the sales upstairs and since this thing is so wildly successful why don't we give these UNUSED spaces that cost us NOTHING to another government entity as a show of goodwill. Metro, on whom we depend on to deliver customers is broke and needs our help, let's step up."

If the lot was actually used and letting the spaces go would mean lost revenue, I'd say I get it. But this is simply another example of corporate greed at the expense the the taxpayers. The subsidized mall (and the Columbia Heights Metro) isn't enough, now they are getting guaranteed customers. Sounds like "health insurance reform."

Would it have taken a genius at City Hall to say, "Let's make sure that there is a provision to let public entities reserve a section of the lot so long as it doesn't interfere with revenue."?

by Mike on Apr 22, 2010 10:18 am • linkreport

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