|Wakefield Chapel Road.|
According to the petition, initiated by Mike Perel of Declaration Court, NOVA’s parking policies, along with the establishment of residential parking districts (RPDs) on some of the streets close to the college are causing students to park farther from campus, leading to “dangerous road conditions.”
Among the problems noted in the petition: students walking in the street, crossing streets without looking while distracted by their cell phones, opening car doors in traffic, making U turns in front of oncoming traffic, speeding, and skateboarding in the street.
“The high student traffic volume in the morning rush hours generated by the increasing enrollment and the concentration of class times on four week days, makes it very difficult and unsafe for residents to exit their driveways and side streets onto Wakefield Chapel Road,” the petition states.
So far, the petition has 29 signatures and has the support of the Oak Hill Citizens Association, said Perel, a retired traffic safety professional who spent 29 years at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. He says the problem is partly caused by NOVA charging $95 per quarter to park on campus, which means students who don’t want to pay that much are parking on residential streets. Other contributing factors are increased enrollment at NOVA and the college schedule with classes concentrated on Monday through Thursday mornings.
The petition calls for NOVA to include parking costs in mandatory student fees (with credits for mass transit use), cap enrollment, and spread out class schedules over the entire week.
According to Saperstone, the increased traffic along Wakefield Chapel cannot be entirely blamed on NOVA; commuters are also using that road as a Beltway bypass. She also says the expansion of the RPD is causing more students to park farther away from the college. The RPD is mostly toward the back of NOVA, on Briar Creek Drive and nearby streets. Parking is also restricted on the part of Wakefield Chapel closest to the college.
Noting that parking on campus is free at the start of each semester, Saperstone said, “We would argue that this has the same net effect as would folding the cost of purchasing a parking decal into the total cost of tuition.”
Saperstone said the college is considering the “pros and cons” of a range of potential solutions, including a differential for peak and off-peak parking as an incentive for students to enroll in classes at off-peak periods; changes to how the garage is used and the rates that are charged; shuttle buses to leased commuter lots or Metro; an online carpooling system; and various options to “flatten out” the peak period demand for parking on campus, such as class schedule changes and more online courses.
“While we respect your suggestion to simply ‘cap’ enrollment, that is not an option we believe would serve the needs of the larger community,” Saperstone wrote to Perel. “The need for community colleges is rising,” and the Annandale campus is one of NOVA’s most in-demand facilities.
Local residents, Fairfax County Supervisor John Cook (Braddock), NOVA officials, state lawmakers, and representatives from the Fairfax County Police and VDOT have been meeting quarterly as part of the Wakefield Forum to discuss parking, traffic, and other issues related to the college. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for early February.
According to Cook, addressing student parking on Wakefield Chapel Drive is “a safety concern,” because “students who park there sometimes don’t look out for traffic.” He called it a positive development that NOVA is exploring making the parking fee part of the student registration fee. In the past, college officials said they didn’t have the authority to do that.