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Northern Virginia Community College debuted new parking policies this week with the start of its fall semester in a bid to keep student cars in campus parking lots.

Students frequently park in the neighborhood surrounding the college’s Annandale campus to escape school parking fees, but residents take issue with the cars clogging their streets.

In an attempt to alleviate the years-long dispute, NOVA officials have introduced changes to the parking system for the upcoming school year.

The college reduced the cost of parking permits by $15. Students now pay $90, or $80 if they purchase the permit online, down from $105 or $90. Daily parking at campus parking decks is down from $12 to $10.

In a more radical change, NOVA students will be able to park for free on campus after 4 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends.

Because the college depends on parking fees to generate revenue, NOVA also introduced a fee of $0.50 per credit hour to offset money lost by the other new policies.

The changes come as a result of a task force formed by NOVA President Robert Templin last September to improve the school’s parking policies.

“We started looking for ways to make on-campus parking better for our students and more effective,” said Tony Bansal, NOVA’s chief administrative officer and leader of the task force.

The recommendations of the task force were approved by the State Board for Community Colleges in May.

Still, local government officials are not sold on the changes.

Fairfax County Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) said the changes “can’t hurt,” but doubted whether the “relatively small fee reduction” for parking permits would have a significant impact.

Cook said he still encourages residents of streets leading to the Annandale campus to consider joining the county’s permit parking zone around the college.

Roads within 2,000 feet walking distance of a pedestrian entrance to the college or 1,000 feet from the property boundaries are eligible to join a restricted, residents-only parking district.

While Cook said he hopes NOVA’s new parking policies will stem the flood of cars on neighborhood streets, he wants residents to know additional assistance is available.

“We’re hoping these changes are a step in the right direction,” Cook said. “But we’ve been working on this for a while, and it’s not something that’s going to be solved overnight.”

Del. Vivian Watts (D-Dist. 39), who lives in the neighborhood around the Annandale campus, said she has been working with NOVA to resolve the parking problems since 2009 and expects that her uphill battle will continue.

“I doubt that I’m going to see a huge change,” Watts said. “I hope I do. My hope is to solve the problem. But I don’t think what they’re doing now is going to solve it.”

The college plans to commission a transportation study this year to study how traffic circulates around its Annandale campus, Bansal said. The study also will investigate other possible policy changes and alternative fee systems, Bansal said.

“The way I look at this is as a work in progress,” Bansal said. “We need to constantly refine this and fine-tune it. There’s no silver bullet to this.”

kyanchulis@fairfaxtimes.com