The Dirty Truth Behind Park & Rides (Matt Steele, StreetsMM, Mar. 18, 2014)
Today we review some suggestions from Minneapolis where the proposal to expand their park and ride facilities is assessed in terms of what it costs to give the parking away free (when it costs $10 per user) compared to other more cost effective options, such as doing away with higher express fares at peak use times or producing more revenue from the lot areas than giving away parking. Bottom line is that the number of extra riders and revenue produced by free parking is less than improvements to the transit system itself which would make the latter more efficient and double the net revenue. A good question whether this arguments holds for cities such as Ottawa that are sprawled out over more than 2,800 km2 where some suburban and rural areas are poorly or expensively served by public transit. But it is always useful to consider impacts on ridership and the costs of subsidies in running very expensive public transit systems.
“For less than the cost of two Maplewood park & rides serving up to (2×580=) 1160 parked cars, we’re building a full Arterial BRT line on Snelling Avenue scheduled to open next year. Those improvements will serve an estimated ridership of 8,700. And, unlike additional parking spaces, these amenities serve all riders (not just the 3,000 new ones). This is 7.5 times more productive than the same investment in parking.”
“If the new Maplewood Mall ramp capital is amortized over a 20 year period, we’re spending roughly $1200 per space per year to have the capacity for 580 new park & riders. At 240 workdays a year, a $5 parking fee would be necessary just to pay off the investment. $5 per person in addition to the transit fare to operate the bus. A $5 parking fee which wouldn’t even pay for maintenance, snow removal, and lighting – so let’s bump that up to $7.”
“Modern technology allows us to decouple parking costs from other costs, which is the first step. The near-ubiquity of GoTo cards (especially on commuter routes) allows for us to have a fast way to account for parking transactions, possibly with an RFID-equipped entry gate or a validation match to a parking space.”
“The second step is to eliminate the express fare for those who do not consume parking spaces.”
“Suburban park & riders are clearly not paying $9.50 to park before paying an additional fare to get on the bus. Someone else is paying to subsidize their car storage habits. And you’re it.”