Opinion: More TOD in the DC Area Could Improve Both Transit and Housing

Converting underutilized parking lots to housing could make transit more accessible and housing more affordable.

1 minute read

October 16, 2023, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Close-up of Metro sign column at Rosslyn Station in Alexandria, Virginia with high-rose glass buildings in background.

Rosslyn Station in Alexandria, Virginia. | MelissaMN / Adobe Stock

In an opinion piece in Greater Greater Washington, Sogand Karbalaieali calls on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to meet the twin goals of boosting ridership and generating revenue to cover its massive budget shortfall by considering other options for its underutilized parking lots, which had an occupancy rate of 55 percent in 2019.

More recently, “As people opted to live and work near metro stations, the demand for parking declined. In most Maryland and Virginia stations, parking usage plummeted to as low as 20% in recent years, driven by remote work amid the pandemic.” This leaves Metro with a valuable real estate asset, Karbalaieali argues. “Why not find a better use for this wasted space?”

Joint development projects that Metro engages in already bring in $194 million in annual state and local tax revenue and $10 million in lease revenue, the article notes. “In its strategic plan, Metro anticipates that new joint developments will add 9 million metro trips annually, which would increase metro fare revenue by $40 million.” These transit-oriented developments (TOD) could 

According to Karbalaieali, zoning obstacles, parking mandates, and a lack of political will are holding back such development. “To create vibrant communities around transit hubs, jurisdictions should revoke minimum parking requirements for new developments to facilitate more cost-effective construction, increase housing availability, and expedite development near metro stations.”

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