College student parking and reports of speeding through nearby neighborhoods were the topics of discussion Monday night at a community meeting for stakeholders at a local elementary school.
About 50 residents from the Wakefield Chapel area neighborhoods, faculty from Northern Virginia Community College’s (NOVA) Annandale campus, local officials from Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County met Monday night to discuss solutions to parking and speeding concerns in the community.
Hosted in the library of Wakefield Forest Elementary School in Fairfax, the meeting was the latest in a string of such meetings over the last five years intended to address NOVA students parking in Wakefield Chapel neighborhoods rather than the campus parking lot, as well as reports of speeding along Wakefield Chapel Road.
Resident: NOVA not being a good neighbor?
“I’m convinced the college has no interest in being a good neighbor,” said one resident who attended Monday's meeting.
Braddock District Supervisor John Cook said much of the push-and-pull of the situation has to do with “conflicting priorities.”
“VDOT has a priority to get the traffic moving, the college has a priority to get students in and out of the campus, and residents have a priority to stop things to get in and out of their homes and neighborhood,” said Cook.
Local residents Monday night listed their chief concerns:
- traffic volume
- parking in neighborhoods
- pedestrian safety
Residents also accuse NOVA students of double-parking on streets, creating safety and visibility problems for homeowners and walking through the front and backyards in order to get to the Annandale campus.
To deter students from parking in neighborhoods, some residents have started petitions to create parking districts in their neighborhood to prevent students from parking near their homes. Homeowners noted the parking districts would make it harder for guests to park near their homes, but Cook said temporary guest passes, while a hassle to obtain since they have to be acquired ahead of time, are a solution.
Cook also called the parking districts “one of the few tools on the county side to deal with the parking situation,” but some residents complained that too much of the responsibility to solve the problem is falling on residents instead of NOVA.
“Why should the neighborhood have to bear the brunt of all of this? It just doesn’t seem fair,” one resident said Monday night.
Northern Virginia Community College Reacts
Barbara Saperstone, provost for the Annandale Campus, said the college is listening to residents and working on solutions to fix the parking so that students return to the campus and leave the neighborhoods. Although she did not have specific numbers, Saperstone said she believes that campus has enough parking because students aren’t all there at the same time.
Saperstone said NOVA surveyed its students who said they think the cost of parking on campus is too high, and that accessing and leaving the campus is difficult. The Annandale campus is accessible from two streets: Wakefield Chapel Road and Lake Drive off of Little River Turnpike. Currently, a semester “B” parking permit is $105 ($95 if purchased online), according to the NOVA website and students also have the option to pay $2 per hour to park in the garage, with a daily maximum parking fee of $12.
To alleviate some of the traffic volume, NOVA hired two state-certified police officers to monitor campus traffic from 8-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. on weekdays. Beginning in the fall, the college will also offer a Friday-only degree program and is reviewing the idea of reorganizing class schedules to lessen the number of students on campus during the busiest times of day. A weekend-only class schedule, Saperstone said, would remove some cars from the campus during the week and potentially lower the traffic volume. The college would consider offering free parking to students who use a weekend-only program.
To lower the cost of parking, Saperstone said NOVA is working with their financial aid department to see if there’s a way to include the cost of parking in a student’s financial aid package. The college is also considering alternatives such as a web-based carpooling service, as well as a shuttle that would transport students from the metro to and from campus.
Some residents suggested NOVA eliminate the parking fee altogether, similar to other community colleges in the state, or insist faculty pay for parking, to offset the costs for students, since faculty currently don't pay for parking.
When asked if parking fees could be included in tuition, Saperstone said money collected for parking has to be used for parking needs.
Read Part 2 of this neighborhood parking controversy: VDOT Study Shows More than 13,000 Cars Travel on Wakefield Chapel Road Daily