Alexandria’s Coming King Street Metro Station Overhaul is Bad

Construction on the long-delayed overhaul of Metro's King Street-Old Town Station parking lot in Alexandria, Virginia is due to kick off next month in July 2018. It is a bad redesign that misses the mark for pedestrians, commuters and for the neighborhood.
(King Street Metro Parking lot Redesign - City of Alexandria)

Alexandria’s King Street Metro Station Overhaul is Bad for the Neighborhood and for Commuters

Construction on the long-delayed overhaul of Metro’s King Street-Old Town Station parking lot in Alexandria, Virginia is due to kick off next month in July 2018. The project is slated to take approximately two (2) years to complete and will be bad for both commuters and the Upper King Street neighborhood during construction and after as I explain below.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2020. There is some good happening in this $7 Million project as well as an equal amount of bad.

First the good.

As part of the new design, there will be new landscaping, expanded bicycle parking, expanded bus bays, and larger bus waiting and layover areas. In addition, what has long been needed, is a wider sidewalk and new lighting leading to and from the Carlyle neighborhood and the Metro Station through the Duke Street Pedestrian Tunnel due to the thousands of Patent & Trademark Office commuters. This is great given the multiple sexual assaults that have occurred around this station in the past. Another good part of the project is that the brick sidewalks are being removed – something I have heard from a lot of readers about.

The idea of the redesign is to make King Steet-Old Town Station into a transit hub and to make the bus and pedestrian access easier. The updated design you see above came after a woman was fatally struck in the parking lot of the station in December 2010. While it is all well and good to expand the transit at the station, it is very noticeable that only a couple of the bus routes at the station get very full at the station while the majority of the access is via pedestrians.

Which leads me to the bad part of the coming King Street-Old Town Station overhaul.

First,  why is a simple reconfiguration of the parking lot at the station taking two (2) years? The length of time this project is taking will generate an increase in traffic along the Route 1 and George Washington Parkway corridor just like has been seen since SafeTrack. As readers know, Metro service in Alexandria will stop for several months in 2019. Will the increased traffic ever go back to taking Metro? As Metro has seen post-SafeTrack, ridership is unlikely to ever recover back to pre-SafeTrack levels.

Second, the elimination of the surface parking lot at the station into a small kiss and ride area. In numerous community meetings, the City stated that one big reason they wanted to make this lot into a transit hub was that no one is using the parking lot and the metered spaces. This is something I proved to be a lie way back in 2011. After a five-month-long investigation on lot use this year (2018), we found an average of 66 cars an hour (198 total) are picking up and dropping off passengers in the A.M. rush hour in this lot while an average of nearly 75 cars an hour (225 total) are doing the same in the P.M.  rush hour.  This volume of traffic at the lot in the morning and evening rush hour is one reason why traffic currently backs up down Duke Street to access Diagonal Road.

In phase one of construction when 1) the lot is completely closed (except for pedestrian traffic) and 2) during phase 2 when only the bus bays are open, how much traffic will there be? Will these hundreds of vehicles hang around King Street Station or head to the smaller Braddock Road lot or head to the very small lot at Eisenhower Avenue?

As I said above, when construction is complete in 2020, the parking lot will be gone and there will a small kiss and ride lot (see design at the above rendering). So, what we are left with is potentially dozens of vehicles that will circle in and around Diagonal Road and/or attempt to wait for their passengers in the A.M. and P.M. rush hours. In other words, the potential is there for the morning and afternoon traffic to be far worse in this area of Alexandria than it is now. That is not good for pedestrians, commuters, or the neighborhood.

So this leads me to ponder why has NO ONE at Metro or the City of Alexandria thought about doing a multi-level surface at the station? You could put the expanded bus bays, which are a good idea, on the upper level, or even better, simply move a similar sized parking lot/waiting area one level up and keep the expanded transit hub on the lower level. Having the parking lot on the 2nd level is safer for pedestrians and cyclists heading to and from the station than the current design. With the potential of dozens of vehicles circling the kiss and ride area each hour at rush hour, how is this good for pedestrians like me who often cross this section of the station?

Without a solution similar to what I have described, this design will make a very low ridership Metro station (PDF) worse off for Metro, for commuters, and for the neighborhood. And that’s not good for the CIty of Alexandria either.

What are your thoughts on this?

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August 13, 2018 3:12 pm

A garage would be very costly for one thing. Would the extra spaces, be worth it? What is the incremental cost per space? And why would we want to enourage MORE cars to come to this part of Old Town?