Posted - 03/27/2011 : 06:38:54
| Washington Examiner Article URL:
New Va. 'slug' commuter lot a bust
Jackie Brown stood outside Potomac Mills Mall at 6:30 a.m., waiting in the pouring rain. She'd already driven from Stafford to Woodbridge, had been standing around for 15 minutes, and all she wanted was a ride to Rosslyn.
In the mall parking lot, Brown and other early risers are slugging, an informal but popular car pooling practice in which individual drivers pick up passengers to meet high-occupancy vehicle requirements of the region's express lanes. All sluggers have in common is a destination and desire to get there faster than they could driving alone.
Potomac Mills Mall once reserved more than 1,000 spaces for sluggers like Brown, but it cut those to 275 in February, leaving more than 700 sluggers looking for another place to park. To compensate for the loss, Virginia spent $288,600 to lease parking spaces at a Woodbridge church, two miles from Potomac Mills, for one year. But so far, barely anyone uses the new lot.
One recent morning, all but six of the 370 spaces leased at First Baptist Church on Minnieville Road were empty. Such droughts have been common since it opened March 14. The heaviest use was on its opening day, when the Rev. Frank Johnson, executive pastor at First Baptist, counted 14 cars.
"There seemed to be a lot of interest and eagerness from commuters for this lot to open," Johnson said. "I expected a lot bigger response."
Passengers like Brown, who park in Woodbridge to catch a ride north, say the new lot is too far from the highway. Others complained there aren't enough buses running to and from the church. Buses provide a backup for sluggers who miss their rides home but still need a way to get back to their cars.
Without passengers to pick up, drivers like Alicia Torres would rather wait 20 minutes at Potomac Mills Mall, even once the lot is full, to pick up passengers who get dropped off or take a bus to the mall. Torres said she tried to pick up sluggers at the church the week before, but no one was there.
The First Baptist Church is intended to be a stopgap solution. Prince William County plans build a new 600-space slug lot on Telegraph Road by the end of 2012 with $7.2 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation. VDOT will pay the lease on the church lot for up to five years.
Meanwhile, officials still want to make the best of the church lot. Prince William County supervisors will host a commuter forum Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Ferlazzo Auditorium to discuss it.
"It is early," said VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris, "and looking at the slug line chatter, there are clearly are some bus issues."