Post 446: Patrick Henry commuter garage, reductio ad absurdum

Posted on November 6, 2019

What is wrong with this picture (Page 30, Town of Vienna Capital Improvement Plan (.pdf) as of October 21, 2019).

This is a tough post to write, so let me get to the point, with a set of simple declarative statements below.  I’m going to provide just enough detail to show you what’s wrong with the picture above.

1:  The Town wants to put a garage up at Patrick Henry Library, when the County tears the existing building down and replaces it with a larger one a few years from now.

2:  We’re trying to get the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) to pay for it.  For this post to make sense, you have to know enough about the NVTA to understand they have no business paying for our shoppers’/diners’ parking garage.  And that’s why …

3:  We’re trying to get that funding on the basis of the lie fiction that the garage will be used by commuters trying to get to Metro.  (No, I’m not making that up.  And no, as shown above, when we talk within the Town, we skip the lie prevarication.)

Items 1 – 3 (less my characterization of it as “fiction”) are supported by the materials for the last Town Council meeting, which you may read here.

4:  This is just a recycling of the same lies untruths that the Town used successfully for the (now defunct) Mill Street garage (See this post, with a followup in this post.)

5:  Only this time, they’re upping the ante.  Last time (Mill Street), they only claimed that half the garage would be used by commuters.  This time, they are claiming that the entire garage would be used by commuters trying to get to Metro.  All 181 spaces for Town use, as stated in the Town Council meeting materials cited above.

Again, I am not making that up.

6:  And so we reach reductio ad absurdum: If what Vienna claims is true, then the garage is useless to the Town.  If it actually is filled with the cars of commuters trying to get to Metro, there’d be no parking left for the actual, intended use of the garage (shoppers/diners as shown above, plus library overflow, and event parking).

In fact, if you think about it, the Town benefits from the garage exactly to the extent that commuter use of that garage is a lie factual misrepresentation.

7:  Why did the Town have to amp up the lie canard on this one?  Why claim the entire garage now (Patrick Henry), when they only claimed half the garage last time (Mill Street)?  They want this garage in the capital plan, but they need to pretend that it’s free, in order not to break the bank.  Hence, the capital plan (.pdf) simply assumes NVTA will pay for all of it.  As shown in the .jpg at the top of the page.  To con them into paying for the entire garage, we have to pretend that commuters will use the whole thing.

8:  And so, while I have called for the Town to do a needs assessment to see how many spaces it can use at that location, I now realize this will never be done.  Because if they did a needs assessment, they would have to so some rational, fact-based analysis of how many commuters were likely to park in the middle of Vienna, in order to get to the Metro.  And the right answer to that is zero, or close to it.  Nobody’s going to try to cut through AM Vienna rush hour voluntarily, to park in the center of Town, to catch the once-every-half-hour bus to the Vienna Metro.  (I did a more detailed analysis of this in the already-cited article on the Mill Street garage.)

Typical AM rush hour, Maple/Nutley looking west.

Typical AM rush hour, Maple/Nutley looking east.

9:  But wouldn’t you think the NVTA would require that, before forking over all that dough?  Apparently not.  It didn’t the last time.

But, but, but — see Point 6 above.  If the garage actually is used the way the Town is pretending it will be, that makes the garage worthless to the Town.  Won’t that prompt somebody at NVTA to ask the obvious question: “What fraction of the 181 spaces are Metro commuters actually going to use?”  Best guess, no, nobody in the Town or at NVTA is going to ask that obvious question.  Even if, as a matter of logic, it has to be something less than 100% for that garage to have any value to the Town.

Postscript 1:  At the Town Council meeting, it was noted that in 2018 the Commonwealth removed two of NVTA’s three revenue sources, diverting the money to fund Metro instead.  That was universally bemoaned, and Town Council added an item to their legislative agenda formally asking the Commonwealth to reverse that.  But my take is, if the NVTA puts itself in the business of funding shopper/diner parking — which it has absolutely no business doing — it deserves to be defunded.  I’m sure they fund lots of completely worthwhile projects that are within their mandate to improve transportation in this area.  Funding merchant parking isn’t within their mandate.  Hence the need for the lies misrepresentation to get them to do it.

Note that I’m not saying this is illegal.  If, once built, the Town puts up a sign that says “Commuter parking only before 10 AM M-F”, and then nobody shows up, and they never enforce it anyway, I think they’ve sufficiently covered their butts.  (And think about it — how could then enforce it?  How can they tell that parked car A is for somebody who walked across the street to catch the bus to Metro, but parked car B is for somebody who walked across the street to catch a cup of coffee?  It’s unenforceable.)

Nor would it be illegal for the Town to post signs saying “Elephant Parking Only, 6AM – 10AM”.  We reserved the space for them.  It’s not our fault if no elephants show up.

The fault is with NVTA for accepting the lie nonsense that this will be a commuter garage serving Metro, when anybody who lives here will tell you, that ain’t gonna happen. And when the Town’s own documents — the capital plan — don’t even bother to mention that.  Presumably because it’s so obviously absurd.

Postscript 2:  The other item we are asking NVTA to fund is Capital Bikeshare racks in Town.  I’ve already looked at the data, and this is all-but-certain to be a total waste of a quarter-million dollars.  See Post #387 and earlier posts.  But at least that actually is within NVTA’s legal mandate.

Postscript 3:  Now that I look at the capital plan, Page 29, the Town plans to ask NVTA to cover two-thirds of the cost of a parking garage on Church, as well.   I guess if they’re giving out free money, and asking no questions, having one hand out is not enough.

Postscript 4:  And in that spirit, I’ll leave you with a link to one of my all-time favorite folk songs, “I’m Changing my Name to Chrysler”, by Tom Paxton.   You’ll have to be fairly old to understand the context.  Younger individuals need to Google “1979 Chrysler bailout” and “Lee Iacocca”.