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Posted at 11:19 AM ET, 02/10/2011

Pr. William commuters to lose parking

By Jennifer Buske

A slugging and commuter parking system that some Prince William residents say has worked well for years will end Monday, sending hundreds of people in search of alternatives.

Potomac Mills mall officials announced in January that they planned to slash the number of commuter spaces from about 1,000 to 275 to make way for new commercial development.

Displaced commuters will have to find new places to slug and catch the bus.

Roughly 200 of those people met with Prince William officials Wednesday night to hear what other options are available and to voice their frustration.

"I don't know what I am going to do on Monday," said Prince William resident Denise Burkhart who has "slugged" by catching rides from Potomac Mills for more than 10 years. "It is going to be extremely disruptive for me. Even if I try to go somewhere else to get picked up, I won't know how I will get back home."

Potomac Mills General Manager Mike Sullivan said the county requires the mall to provide 275 spaces. For more than 20 years, however, they have provided four to five times what is required.

"We had a business decision to make," Sullivan said. "This is private property; we run a business, and we want to have enough parking for customers and employees. We've helped the county out over the years . . . but it's the county's job to provide commuter lots."

County officials said they knew for years the mall wanted to expand; it was just unclear when that time would come.

"I would consider moving because I no longer have an incentive to stay," Prince William resident Rhonda Reed said. "The way this was handed was disrespectful to us. ...The county knew they would expand and it would impact parking. ... They should have looked then" at the situation.

County officials said there are other commuter lots that are underutilized including the lots at Route 123 and I-95, Dale Boulevard and Gemini Way, Dale Boulevard and Hillendale Drive, Dale Boulevard and Quate Lane and Minnieville Road and Harbor Drive. No bus service is available at the Minnieville Road location.

Other lots that have some capacity are located at Exeter Drive near Route 234, Dale Boulevard near Gideon Drive, Cherrydale Road and Dale Boulevard, Route 234 near Stockbridge Drive and Rippon Boulevard and Farm Creek. No bus service is available at the Rippon Boulevard lot.

County officials said they are also close to securing new commuter parking at some private lots near Potomac Mills. While county officials would not reveal who they were in negotiations with, they said they hope to secure new spots within 30 to 60 days. There are also plans to expand the Horner Road lot by 2012.

"These lots that have spaces have them for a reason," said Prince William resident Sabrina Akins, who slugs from Potomac Mills. "I live in Marumsco and I'm not driving [an extra 20 minutes or more] to get to another lot. ... Potomac Mills has lost my business because of the way they handled this."

Commuters can follow the commuter situation in Prince William on several Web sites including pwcgov.org/commute, slug-lines.com, and PRTCtransit.org. A commuter parking lot list is also available.

Are you affected? How will this change your commute? Post a comment below.

By Jennifer Buske  | February 10, 2011; 11:19 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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Comments

It' messed up, but i'll look elsewhere. The thing about it, during work hours, there's hardly anyone at the lot. The mall is most crowded on the weekends.

Posted by: wuzup_2010 | February 10, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes you find yourself in agreement with conservatives. When people become accustomed to something provided to them for free, it very soon becomes an entitlement and not only do they become upset and angry if it is threatened or taken away, they seem to lose the ability to improvise or plan an alternate strategy.

Posted by: slim21 | February 10, 2011 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I drive and slug; wouldn't mind moving the lines to Dale City lot behind Giant - much more convenient than 123/95 lot.

Posted by: ounanm1 | February 11, 2011 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I just moved back to Prince William County and began slugging in November 2010. It has definitely saved money and time. $200 plus in parking fees in Washington, DC that’s better used to pay bills and a 2 hour commute time (one-way) that is better spent with my family. That’s also less money spent at the mall and less time I have to shop there even if the money was saved. I understand it is private property and they can do what they want but even on the busiest shopping days of the year, the parking lot is not full to its capacity. Not to mention that it’s never full during the days that commuters are commuting. Even the side of the mall that we currently park at looks dead when we are being dropped off. It was a convenience also. Not just for the parkers but for residents that would pick up Potomac Mills sluggers to go to the mall. I was picked up by someone that said she normally picks up for another location but she had to go to Costco. While it’s not the end of the world, it sure disrupts the flow. I don’t feel that I’m entitled and I don’t hear that from the people I’ve slugged and work with. It’s bigger than feeling that your entitled to something whether it’s free or not.

Posted by: slc1 | February 11, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

This will be a mess on the 14th

At Horner Rd, eg. what now fills up at 7 will fill up at ? 6:30? 6? no parking = no riders= no rides

Major disruption.

That said, its Potomic Mill's right to do so, and i dont work for them.

Posted by: joeva22191 | February 13, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

See, the county has a responsibility to provide parking to its residents. Potomac Mills was nice enough to provide additional parking for many years as a ***temporary*** solution while the county found and built more parking. The county likely got complacent and said "oh, they'll never take that parking away" and decided that they didn't have to do their job and build parking lots. Eventually, the mall said enough is enough...if we don't act now, everyone will just assume this parking is here forever.

If the mall has excess parking, the mall will likely want to expand into that parking lot. So some spots are lost being under the new mall, and other spots are lost because the new development will have more people parking in the spots that remain. Building codes specify that you shall have X number of spots available per square foot of this type of retail space. The building code doesn't say X spots during the weekday, Y spots during the weekend, Z spots during the evening. It is based on the maximum number of people using the mall, which is likely weekend users. But even so, the code likely requires that the particular number of spots be provided all the time...and spots that are occupied all day by commuters' cars don't count.

Perhaps PWC could negotiate with the Mall owners. We'll change our code to allow you to only provide 75% of the required number of spaces from 5AM to 8PM on weekdays, provided that you designate extra spaces for commuter parking. Makes perfect sense, because parking for retail is never fully utilized during the workweek, but the codes don't reflect that generally, because they were written bfore it became common to "share" parking amongst different uses.

Another way that might work is if the county recognizes the fact that parking at Potomac Mills is more scarce with more retail, and therefore more valuable, and therefore offers to lease additional spaces at a much higher rate. Betcha once Potomac Mills see dollars dangled in front of their face, they'd change their tune.

I agree with the poster who said that if you provide it for free for long enough, it eventually becomes an entitlement. This is recognized in a lot of states....if you have a private road that is always open to the public...24/7/365, at some point, the public has a right to use it. Thus, private roads are often blocked off from the public for one day per year or something like that such that the property owner can assert his right to close the road at any time. At that point, legally, the public has no right of access. This Potomac Mills thing is similar, maybe not legally, but as a matter of principle...the private property owner is asserting his right to use the property how he sees fit by reminding the public that their right to use it is only at the property owner's invitation. That invitation had been granted for years, but is no longer granted.

Posted by: thetan | February 13, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Who Moved My Cheese?

Posted by: tiger_caddy_31 | February 13, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Someone lost free parking? Just a sec, let me get my miniature violin. Child please.

Posted by: Goby | February 13, 2011 7:40 PM | Report abuse

For those that mention the parking being free & related entitlement - you were not at the meeting last Wednesday. Time & again, those commuters who spoke said they would pay a nominal (from $1/day to $20-40/month) fee to have parking at the mall. However, the County is not allowed to charge at the Mills, nor charge out-of-county parkers that park at the other PWC commuter lots, due to all of the normal commuter lots being built with state & federal funds.

Some slugs feel entitled, yes. But many more of us understand that the reason given *by the mall management*: "we need parking for patrons" - has not rung true the last 3 times they've said it. The fact is, other than the 2 weeks before Christmas, and perhaps a Friday during the summer (late June-end of August) - the mall lies mostly empty during weekdays.

We are willing to pay Potomac Mills for the privledge of parking where it is convenient to commute to & from. However, they choose not to play ball. Thus, since it is no longer conveninent to shop at their merchants, I will no longer do so. I have lived in Woodbridge since before Potomac Mills was built - and the traffic on the weekends from those who live on the other side of the county, and the out-of-towners = a madhouse. I'll shop those merchants online for free to minimal shipping, or at the 3 other malls on my way to my 2nd job. Given that Potomac Mills is no longer an outlet mall, and looks like a wanna-be upscale mall, I'll go to a real mall; not one that claims to have outlet stores that carry imperfect or overflow merchandise with a measly 10-20% discount.

Posted by: VAharleygirl | February 14, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

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