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Vienna OKs funding for new parking ‘supply and demand’ study

The Patrick Henry Library parking lot in Vienna, empty after it closed at 6 p.m. (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

As new development starts to emerge in Vienna’s commercial corridor, the town wants to make sure it’s staying in the lines when it comes to parking.

The Vienna Town Council approved $115,000 in funding on Monday (June 6) for a parking supply and demand study that will assess the current availability of parking, future needs, and potential strategies for managing parking going forward.

The contract will go to Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc., a transportation firm that’s also involved in the town’s first comprehensive zoning code update in half a century.

Utilizing the same consultant will allow staff to “seamlessly” integrate the study’s findings into the Code Create Vienna project, Andrew Jinks, a transportation engineer and planner for the town, told the council.

“Right now, the schedule is for this to be wrapped up at the end of January,” Jinks said of the parking study. “If it trails into February, the data would already be available.”

The Code Create website suggests a public hearing process could start this fall, but Town Manager Mercury Payton told the council that the new code isn’t expected to be finalized for another 12 to 14 months.

While all five present council members voted to fund the study, some initially questioned whether it’s necessary given the similarities with the Code Create process, which includes a review of the town’s existing parking standards.

Nelson/Nygaard’s proposal breaks the study into three phases:

  1. Review the town’s existing parking situation
  2. Forecast future demand based on projected development, travel patterns, and other factors
  3. Develop an overall parking strategy — a top recommendation of the economic development report that Vienna commissioned last year

The consultant plans to conduct stakeholder workshops, public meetings, and an online survey.

Councilmember Ray Brill argued that some of those efforts seem “duplicative” of what the town has spent more than a year doing with the zoning code update, suggesting the study could instead hone in on areas like Church Street and the Vienna Shopping Center with well-known challenges.

“There’s some fluff in there,” Brill said. “We have a parking problem in certain areas. We don’t in others. Focus on the ones we have, come up with a solution, and don’t take eight months to do it.”

Though public parking concerns have come up in Vienna before, Councilmember Nisha Patel expressed skepticism that another study will add enough new information to justify the cost. She noted that upcoming projects, such as the Patrick Henry Library renovation and a proposed Church Street development, could alleviate current space shortages.

Councilmembers Chuck Anderson and Steve Potter countered that updated data is needed to help the town plan for the future.

“Given the number of changes in our society, especially since Covid, on where [people] work and where they drive and a lot of things being delivered, we need to really go in with our new zoning [code], with realistic numbers for parking,” Anderson said.

Patel said Anderson’s clarification of the study’s goal helped, and she and Brill ultimately supported allocating the funds.