Photo by WABA.

Employees at WMATA’s Northern Bus Garage will be able to park at DC USA, under an agreement the WMATA Board will review on Thursday.

The parking deck at the Northern Bus Garage was closed last year “as it was no longer structurally sound,” and WMATA began looking for alternate parking locations.

DC USA was an obvious location given the plethora of unused parking, but according to sources familiar with the discussions, Target resisted allocating more parking to non-shoppers for the long term even though they don’t use the parking.

Under the DC USA “condo” agreement, Target has to approve any change to the garage even though the DC government pays for the garage. After pressure from Jim Graham and Neil Albert, Target relented and allowed a deal.

Under the agreement, WMATA will lease 250 spaces at a cost of $125 per month, which is at a discount from the $145 retail rate.

WMATA will run a shuttle to carry employees the 1.2 miles up 14th Street to the garage. I’ve asked whether the shuttle runs at all times or just during times when Metrobus service up 14th Street isn’t running.

Currently, they provide all parking to employees for free, and plan to continue that policy. Employees get free transit, meaning the parking won’t be any cheaper than rail or bus, but it would seem to make sense to charge a little bit at least for those whose shifts begin and end during the times transit is operating.

The lease, shuttle and extra overnight security at DC USA, when the garage is otherwise closed, will cost $436,400 per year. According to the presentation, it will be included in the FY2012 budget but the bus division “will absorb this expense in FY10 and FY11 by achieving savings in other areas.” I’ve asked for more information on what those are.

The DC USA garage cost taxpayers $2.1 million last year. The previous daily and monthly leasing to the public, plus WMATA’s lease, should at least make a large dent.

Longer term, WMATA wants to replace this garage with a new facility at Walter Reed, once the hospital moves to Bethesda. WMATA would sell the Western garage at Friendship Heights in addition to the Northern garage, whose neighbors don’t like living next to a bus garage. Both garages are obsolete and would need substantial capital improvement to rehabilitate.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.