Del. Vivian Watts believes the solution to the traffic/parking problem on Wakefield Chapel and surrounding streets in Annandale is to change the way parking fees are charged to students at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).
For years, local residents have complained about NOVA students parking on their streets, causing safety problems as they walk to class, especially at night. Residents have also raised concerns about increased traffic, speeding, and students’ cars blocking their driveways.
In a lengthy letter to NOVA President Robert Templin, Watts outlines all the reasons why the $105-per-semester cost to park on campus needs to be re-examined.
Despite lots of efforts to address the problem—including the redesign of parking lot circulation, transit initiatives, and resident-only parking districts—“an unacceptably large number of students continue to refuse to park on campus,” Watts said.
She challenged the college’s justification that the parking fee must remain optional and can’t be rolled into tuition and that revenue from the fees is used pay for the college’s parking infrastructure. While it’s been the long-held assumption that this is state policy, Watts notes that NOVA is the only college in the Virginia community college system that charges a separate, optional parking fee.
All the other community colleges that charge a fee base it on the number of credit hours students are taking. Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, for example, charges $4.80 a credit hour up to a maximum of $72. Some don’t even charge for parking at all, the letter states. If NOVA students want to park on campus, the fee is $105 whether they take a full load of classes or only come to campus once a week.
Watts has not yet received a response from NOVA. It will take time to comprehensively address all the complex issues raised in her letter, she said.
Those issues will likely surface at the next NVCC/WakefieldForum, a quarterly series of meetings convened by Braddock Supervisor John Cook with local residents, NOVA administrators, and other local officials. The next meeting will take place June 10, 7:30 p.m., in the NOVA Student Services Building, Room CA302. There will be free parking in lot B6.