As one might expect, on most days the Waynesboro Park & Ride is full of cars, presumably parked by drivers commuting to work, school or other activities.
But what might be a surprise is the number of what appear to be abandoned vehicles.
On a recent Monday morning, a quick survey of the lot at the Waynesboro Town Center found at least 10 cars and SUVs in various stages of apparent abandonment. Some, including a relatively late model Mercedes sedan, are stripped of parts, while others have flat or missing tires and all but two are without license plates; the two with plates are no longer valid.
In one instance, an older GMC sits parked with a Honda sedan in tow, the car missing its front fender and headlights, and parts and trash inside both.
Of interest is the high proportion of European vehicles among the 10 — the Mercedes, two Saabs, a BMW, Jaguar and a Volvo. Most models appear to be no older than 10 or 15 years.
According to the Virginia Department of Transportation website, Waynesboro’s Park & Ride is one of about 300 in the Commonwealth, including state-owned, privately owned and informal lots.
VDOT is responsible for the lot, not the city, said Capt. Kelly Walker of the Waynesboro Police Department.
Walker said the police department is aware of the issues in the lot, and have reached out to state authorities to seek their help with abandoned vehicles.
“The police only deal with those that are on city property,” Walker said in an email response.
The park and ride’s proximity to the interstate likely plays a role in why so many abandoned cars end up in the lot, he said.
Ken Slack, a spokesman with VDOT’s Staunton District office, said the department’s Harrisonburg Residency takes care of maintenance at park and ride lots in the area. Slack said the residency is aware of the issue and is working with the city on the best course of action.
A major upgrade of the Town Center Park & Ride, scheduled to begin next year, may reduce the lot’s attraction as a place to dump vehicles. The $2 million project, which is being funded through the state’s Smart Scale process, will include expanding and paving the lot, as well as adding improved lighting and making other transit improvements.
Slack said VDOT is scheduled to advertise the project for construction in fall 2020.
Most abandoned vehicles found anywhere around Waynesboro are not stolen or connected to any crime, but broken down or disabled, and folks don’t have the resources to have them towed, Walker said.
“We currently, and always have, dealt with abandoned or inoperable vehicles based on complaints, and mostly seek to work with the vehicle owners to get them moved,” he said. “Usually, we are successful in getting them moved although it can take a long time in some cases.”
City Council recently approved an updated ordinance to enable the city to more efficiently remove abandoned vehicles and the department is working on establishing processes and procedures for doing so, he said.
According to Walker, the new ordinance allows police to tow the vehicle after four days if it has expired tags, no tags or a dead inspection.
“Once our procedures are up and running we should be able to get vehicles off the street in a couple of weeks or so, depending on the circumstances,” he said. “Under the new ordinance they can be towed to a storage facility operated by any wrecker service we have on our rotation list.
“This will take a little time, but the end result will be a much better way of handling the problem using a wrecker rotation list.”
Waynesboro police usually receive four or five complaints a month about abandoned vehicles around the city.
“Some are repeat complaints but we are usually able to find the owners eventually,” he said. “Getting them to move the cars is what takes time.”