Metro Seeking Private Contractor to Manage Its Parking Garages; Prices Could Go Up

What to Know

  • Metro is seeking a 50-year contract to privatize its parking system, and suggests a 3 percent annual parking fee increase.
  • Metro currently manages 26 parking garages and 30 parking lots among its stations in D.C., Virginia and Maryland.
  • While Metro would give up most of its parking revenue, the contract would yield money to Metro that could exceed its current earnings.

Metrorail is preparing to hand over responsibility of its lucrative parking garages to a private contractor, the News4 I-Team has learned.

WMATA currently manages 26 parking garages and 30 parking lots among its stations in D.C., Virginia and Maryland. Now the agency is seeking bids from companies interested in operating, financing and maintaining the transit system's parking system.

This indicates a major change for a transit agency that has long managed its own paid parking system. The proposal by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) said the contractors would be able to "retain all of WMATA's parking revenue," except for surcharges from local governments. 

While WMATA would be giving up the bulk of its parking revenue, the contract would grant money to WMATA. While the amount is unknown, it could exceed WMATA's current parking revenues.

In its proposal to would-be contractors, WMATA suggests the price of "base parking fees" increase 3 percent each year for the duration of the deal. The agency said it would also consider expanding the hours during which parking is charged, to include holidays and late nights.

However, a WMATA spokesman told News4 that any fee changes would require approval of the WMATA board before taking effect.

WMATA's proposal encourages contractor to continue using the SmarTrip card system.

The bids from private contractors are due by Oct. 28.

WMATA is seeking a 50-year agreement with the contractor, according to an agency proposal reviewed by the I-Team. The proposal said it expects to close the deal by next July 1.

The contractor would oversee the system's 59,267 daily parking spaces, 56 parking lots and garages, and 3,445 parking meters.

In a statement, Metro responded:

"Under General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld's Customer Accountability Report (CARe), Metro is exploring the outsourcing of parking operations at Metro facilities. The intent is to improve customer amenities, optimize revenue and reduce annual operating cost. Metro currently operates handles all parking operations for 26 gated parking structures and 30 surface parking lots at Metrorail stations with more than 60,000 parking spaces, and 3,500 single-space parking meters at 44 Metrorail stations. Metro is requesting interested contractors [to] explain how they will provide a high level of customer service to Metro riders. As we move forward, public outreach will be conducted on any proposed changes to parking fees and Board action will be required for any changes to our parking operations, including rates and hours of collection."

Wiedefeld had signaled a shift to privatization in a March article posted on WMATA's website.

The post said, "(WMATA) must recognize opportunities to partner with the private sector and other regional providers. We will test those opportunities in parking and paratransit, where good customer service and better amenities might be offered more cost effectively in some areas."

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