Commuters troll for spots in Metro's stuffed lots

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Photo - Cars fill the Southern Avenue station parking lot  on July 12, 2007. Michael Riccio/ for the Examiner
Cars fill the Southern Avenue station parking lot on July 12, 2007. Michael Riccio/ for the Examiner
Local,Liz Essley,Metro,Metro and Traffic

East Falls Church has fullest spaces

Finding a parking spot at some Metro stations can mean circling the garage like a vulture in search of roadkill.

The daily commuter crush means that six Metro stations have more people parking in them than they have spaces, and half a dozen more are nearly 100 percent full every day, according to Metro statistics from July to December of last year.

Metro parking madness
Stuffed full July to December 2012
1. East Falls Church 120%* Orange Line
2. Van Dorn 109% Blue Line
3. Fort Totten 108% Red/Green Line
4. West Falls Church 103% Orange Line
5. Rockville 102% Red Line
6. Rhode Island Ave. 101% Red Line
7. Naylor Road 99% Green Line
8. Tie: Grosvenor/Vienna 98% Red Line/Orange Line
9. Forest Glen 97% Red Line
10. Branch Ave 95% Green Line
*Percentages more than 100 mean that more people are parking there than the station has spaces, indicating that some drivers may leave midday, and others take their spot, so that two cars shared one space during the day.
Most empty spaces July to December 2012
1. Wheaton 32% Red Line
2. Tie: Prince George's
Plaza/Landover 44% Green Line/Orange Line
3. White Flint 46% Red Line
4. Deanwood 48% Orange Line
5. Twinbrook 57% Red Line
6. College Park 59% Green Line
7. Southern Ave 66% Green Line
8. Glenmont 73% Red Line
9. Franconia 76% Blue Line
10. Capitol Heights 77% Blue Line
Source: Metro

East Falls Church topped the list of stuffed stations, typically filling up at 7:30 a.m. every day. And once it's full, even the cars that leave later in the day get replaced quickly, giving the station a 120 percent usage rate.

Van Dorn, Fort Totten, West Falls Church, Rockville and Rhode Island Ave. also had more parkers than spaces.

Metro rider Andrew Bossi's commute has him driving out of the Rockville station -- which has a 102 percent use rate -- just as most morning commuters are pulling in. The parking facility is so packed that some morning drivers recognize and follow him to nab his spot as he leaves.

"As soon as they see me exiting the station into the [parking] lot some will drive straight to my car and wait for me to leave to get that front spot," he said.

Metro's Greenbelt lot, which has 3,399 spaces, typically doesn't fill up every day. But the lot is so large that those who don't snatch a close-by spot can have a long walk to the station.

"It's usually not full. But it can be a three-fourths of a mile walk from where I park to the station," said Frank DeBernardo, a member of Metro's Riders' Advisory Council.

Demand for East Falls Church spots could get even worse when the Silver Line opens. Metro's Rosslyn tunnel will be so busy that the agency will have to run fewer trains from the west end of the Orange Line, so Virginia riders will see more frequent trains if they come to East Falls Church, where the Orange and Silver Lines will meet.

"People are probably going to try to go out of their way to park there," said Ben Ball, chairman of riders' council. "It's only going to fill up faster when the Silver Line goes on."

But the percentage of Metro parking spaces used actually declined from 2011 to 2012, from 83 percent in the last six months of 2011 to 79 percent in the last six months of 2012.

That's because Metro had fewer riders after its fare increase last July, when the transit benefit offered to federal employees also declined.

"Parking is linked to ridership -- and the factors that influence ridership also apply to parking," Metro spokesman Philip Stewart said.

One station had more parkers but also more empty spaces --Glenmont, where officials opened a new garage containing 1,200 more spaces in April.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner