NVCC officials, nearby residents meet to discuss parking concerns

NVCC officials and nearby residents of the Annandale campus met to discuss parking and traffic issues along Wakefield Chapel Road.

NVCC officials and nearby residents of the Annandale campus met to discuss parking and traffic issues along Wakefield Chapel Road.

At a February 25 community forum, nearby residents of the NVCC Annandale campus met with college officials to discuss parking and traffic concerns along Wakefield Chapel Road.

The forum, hosted by Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock), brought out about 30 residents to Wakefield Forrest Elementary School.

“I understand parking of our students on the streets is an issue,” said Barbara Saperstone, provost of the Annandale campus. “We are listening. We are addressing some of those concerns as best we can. We are trying to get them back into the parking lot as best we can.”

Attendees raised both parking and traffic concerns along Wakefield Chapel Road, adjacent to the NOVA campus.

One forum attendee said that the street’s bike lanes, which were put in August 2010, have exacerbated the problem of students parking along the road, instead of parking on-campus.

“I really think you people have missed a lot of what’s going on,” said the resident. “The bike lanes provide a free space for students to park along Wakefield Chapel.”

“Prior to the bike lanes, there was always free available parking along Wakefield Chapel,” Cook said in response. “By narrowing the driving area, that speeds tend to come down.”

Several attendees urged the college to remove parking fees for on-campus parking to reduce incentive to park on Wakefield Chapel Road.

“When we get to the big solution to this problem,” said one attendee, “folks should know that if all the students parked in the lots like they should be able to do, all these problems…wouldn’t exist.”

Other attendees asked if parking costs could be paid for through other funds, or if parking revenue made up a significant amount of the NVCC budget.

“We cannot use the tuition money to pay for parking,” said Saperstone. “It has to be self-sufficient. My understanding is [the parking fees] have to be used for parking.”

In a letter to the college’s administration, presidents of five nearby neighborhood associations urged the administration to take action on the issue.

“In recent years, neighborhoods close to campus have responded to student parking and traffic by setting up residential parking districts,” read the letter. “In our view, this unfairly shifts the burden created by your parking policies to the tax paying residents of Fairfax County. In addition, those RPDs just shifted the problem to other streets, in particular Wakefield Chapel Rd, and has made the safety and traffic problems much worse.”

Janyce Hedetniemi, who was recently appointed as an at-large member of the Fairfax County Planning Commission, signed the letter as president of the Oak Hill Citizen’s Association.

Saperstone said that NVCC was aware of the problem and has been exploring ways to address parking and traffic, including an online carpooling program, increased shuttle service, and stagnated school schedules.

“I’m here to say that I am listening,” Saperstone said.


Annandale community petitions NOVA to address traffic safety concerns

Nearby residents of the Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Campus have pushed for new policies to help address traffic and safety concerns in the area.

Mike Perel and other community members have started a petition to change university policies having to do with parking and transportation.

Mike Perel and other community members have started a petition to change NVCC policies having to do with parking and transportation. (Photo courtesy of Mike Perel.)

“The goals are to reduce the dangerous traffic conditions caused by community college policies,” said Mike Perel, a resident of Oak Hill and creator of the petition. “I hope that the actual petition and letter have clearly spelled out the problem, the cause of the problem, and possible solutions.”

The petition, posted about two months ago on Change.org, was addressed to NOVA President Dr. Robert Templin, Jr; David Miller, chair of the board of directors; and Barbara Saperstone, provost of the Annandale campus. The petition was also addressed to a number of regional elected officials, including Braddock Supervisor John Cook, State Senator David Marsden, State Senator Chap Peterson, and State Delegate Vivian Watts.

“Dangerous road conditions have been created by the policies of the Annandale Campus of the Northern Virginia Community College,” read the description of the petition. “These policies cause their students to park their cars on our residential roads and increase the traffic, especially during the morning rush hours.”

As of Dec. 23, the petition has 26 signatures. Some supporters of the petition also left comments about the issue on the website.

“This is a safety issue for my whole family and our neighbors,” one signer commented. “It’s also a safety issue for the student attending NVCC too.”

“Speed limit should be reduced to 25, and area around my house/entire street is highly congested with cars belonging to NVCC students,” wrote another petition signer.

Perel and others believe that NOVA provides enough parking, but that the traffic is a result of expensive fees for parking permits, increased enrollment, and class times scheduled during peak-traffic hours.

“The result of these policies is increased parking off campus and increased traffic on our residential streets,” read the petition.

In a letter reply to Perel, Provost Barbara Saperstone said that NOVA was cognizant of the community’s concerns and was working to find solutions.

“I want to assure you that the college has heard and is taking serious note of your concerns and similar concerns raised by your neighbors at a recent series of community meetings,” Saperstone wrote in the letter.

Saperstone said that the college would study the issue in more depth and would work with regional groups to determine solutions.

“…We are developing a multi-point initiative to better manage the total number, timing and flow of our students, faculty and staff,” Saperstone said. “We have also agreed to partner with the Virginia Department of Transportation and the County of Fairfax to undertake a comprehensive review of traffic volume and hours along the entire length of Wakefield Chapel Road.”

Saperstone disagreed that traffic was the result of parking permit costs.

“Unfortunately, cost alone is not what is driving our problem,” Saperstone said. “The successful addition of six streets to the restricted neighborhood parking program is what prompted the significant growth this year in parking along Wakefield Chapel.”

Saperstone added that NOVA would consider actions such as leading the campus police department and Fairfax County Police in “examining traffic flow strategies to ease peak period congestion on campus,” and to “find a way to help augment rigorous enforcement of parking violations.” NOVA would also examine implementing parking restrictions along Wakefield Chapel road.

Saperstone also dismissed the idea of limiting student enrollment.

“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 said. “As has been recently noted in the news, the need for community colleges is rising. While our numbers are generally up across all six of our campuses, the NOVA Annandale Campus remains one of our most “in-demand” facilities. All our campuses, however, strive to serve their local communities.”

Saperstone said that NVCC would consider and study proposed solutions prior to the meeting.

“I think it is good that NVCC seems to be taking the issue seriously,” Perel said. ” I’m not sure, however, that NVCC fully understands the impact of their policies on neighborhood traffic and the reasons that students park on the residential streets. Thus, whether or not they are able to identify and implement an effective solution remains to be seen.”

NOVA officials and the community will meet again in early February.