Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 32

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Some awesomeness from the Toronto Transit Commission from last April 1.

Why raise Metro fares when giving away free parking? (LA Streetsblog) 

Joe Linton argues that according to his back-of-the-napkin calculations Metro is squandering $3.5 million in a year in potential revenues if it charged $3 for parking at its lots. As he notes, most parking at Metro lots is currently free. Of course, $3.5 million doesn’t cover the projected budget shortfalls that Metro is projecting and using to justify the fare increases (the shortfalls begin at $36 million in FY 2016 and then rise).

Still, revenue is revenue. There are certainly Metro lots where parking is tight and I think one key public policy question is whether free parking is an incentive to get people out of their cars and onto transit. That said, another important piece of context: most lots were built and opened at a time when gas was far cheaper than now. Thoughts, readers?

Cobalts were seen as lemons from the start (New York Times) 

The evidence grows that General Motors knew there were serious — and potentially deadly — problems with the Cobalt as far back as 2005 when consumers were demanding their money back. The company has already linked an ignition issue with 13 deaths. The chief of General Motors will tell Congress today that she doesn’t know why the carmaker didn’t publicly announce the safety defect with the cars until recently. The answer is pretty obvious: there must have been an internal culture at G.M. in which telling the truth and delivering bad news to customers was seen as less important than covering one’s own backside. There’s nothing on the GM home page, btw, except for some boasting of the craftmanship of the Escalade SUV. The two-wheel drive version of that SUV gets 17 mpg in case you’re interested.

Panel’s warning on climate risk: worst is yet to come (New York Times) 

The latest report from the U.N. is perhaps its bleakest yet. Excerpt:

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.

The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.

Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said in the second of three reports that are expected to carry considerable weight next year as nations try to agree on a new global climate treaty.

The report focuses in particular on resource shortages — especially food and water — that may accompany climate change. Such shortages, says the UN, will likely exacerbate political instability in places where millions could go hungry or thirsty.

Although transit is certainly not a panacea for climate change, studies have found that transit is a more efficient way of moving people around when it comes to using electricity and fossil fuels — especially when compared to driving alone.

29 replies

  1. Arrived on the train at Culver City Station this morning right at 9am. Great view from above and I could see exactly one open spot, which a car was pulling into, and a few other cars circling through the parking lot.

    Free parking that is full by 9am is not doing anything to entice new riders, so it should be priced according to demand. As long as it continues to fill up, parking should not be free. If it were to be $5 per day and only ever half full, then it should be cheaper.

  2. Well, I wrote the parking article… so I want to chime in. First off, thanks for sharing the article.

    1 – I want to clarify that that $3.5M is a very conservative estimate for Metro’s annual parking revenue. A competent proactive agency looking to optimize revenue could probably get more like $5-10M.
    2 – I’ve never liked the “doesn’t go far enough” argument. Just because parking revenue only partially covers Metro’s projected deficit doesn’t mean it isn’t an important step in the right direction.
    3 – In addition to millions of dollars in revenue every year, there are a lot of other worthwhile ancillary benefits: making parking easier (making spaces available to people who want to buy them), reducing cruising for free parking (reduces pollution, traffic congestion, etc.), generating usage data, etc.

  3. Yes, I agree that parking should be charged. Any additional revenue will help. Metro should look at more money making opportunities.

    In China, we have a proverb that says “if you collect enough hairs from a fox’s armpit, you will eventually make up a fox fur coat.” An English equivalent is “light gains make heavy purses.” Every little revenue counts and adds up to overall picture. So charging parking is one additional way to make a little more revenue. It will not cover everything, but it helps bring in that much more into the system.

    But I don’t want those revenues to go to wasteful spending like increasing pays for yourself. So there must be oversight on what additional revenues brought from where would be applied to where. If parking fees might bring in $3.5 million every year, doesn’t mean you can now give yourself $3.5 million in raises. They all have to be used somewhere to help the system, like hiring more janitors or adding in more signs.

  4. I was one who recommended this in testimony at the Metro board’s fare hearing Saturday. It only seems fair to charge more for the parking portion of a transit trip than to put the entire increase on the transit fare, especially when talking about affordability to the transit-dependent.

  5. La Cienega/Jefferson Station has the below ground floors designated as permit parking only during rush hour. i think it makes sense to designate part of a parking structure as paid/permit if there are still plenty of available free parking. Culver City Station Parking is going to be replaced eventually with the new development that’s going on-site so it doesn’t make sense to have paid parking there right now.

  6. Is the point of paying for parking because the lots are full of non-Metro-user cars, or is this about trying to lower Metro’s deficit?

    If it’s the former, then why not have Metro users use their TAP cards for parking lot in/out privileges? As added incentive, if the TAP card is used for fare within 15-20 minutes of the car entering the lot, then parking is free, because it’s most likely a Metro user parking for the day.

    If you raise fares AND charge for parking, then what is the financial incentive for commuters to use Metro over staying in their cars??

  7. I wouldn’t mind charging cars for parking. But one thing though: if you’re going to start charging spaces for parking, do it right by make it cheaper for motorcycles.

    Currently in LA, many parking stalls don’t have different prices between a car or a motorcycle. But this is stupid because a motorcycle takes up less space than an entire car. You can fit four motorcycles into one car space. I don’t want to hog up an entire car space for just one motorcycle and I’m sure car drivers get annoyed too when they see that too.

    So there should be either a dedicated free parking space for motorcycles or charge parking for motorcycles to be 1/4th of a car space.

    Don’t do something stupid like Dodgers Stadium where they don’t differentiate car parking with motorcycle parking. They literally tell you to just take up the entire car space because you paid for it, but this already just makes things worse now an entire space is used for just one motorcycle. Poor use of land space.

    Some private parking places in Downtown LA and Hollywood are “getting it” by offering free parking to motorcycle riders. LAX offers free parking to motorcycles too. Many cities are way ahead of the curve in differentiating prices between cars and motorcycles.

    So set yourself as an example Metro by differentiating parking pricing between cars and motorcycles or dedicate free spaces reserved solely for motorcycles.

  8. The U.N. Climate Report is ridiculous. Fact do not back it up. The arctic ice is thicker now than has been in years.

  9. Not only should parking remain free, but more free parking spaces should be added.

    The point of metro is to provide an incentive for drivers to use metro. The current parking situation is abysmal, with parking spaces filled up before 7 AM. Even if a driver is fortunate enough to get a parking spot, they have to deal with the inconvenience of riding the subway (which often runs late and seems to be constantly on a maintenance schedule every night).

    Instead of arguing whether or not to charge for parking, Metro should be considering and putting into place adding MORE free parking at high demand stations such as North Hollywood and Universal City. it’s bad enough residents that are far away from big-time entertainment attractions (in DTLA and Hollywood) don’t actually have a subway station to go to (i.e. an Orange Line bus rather than a subway station in the San Fernando Valley). Rather, they have to drive to a subway station. So an incentive should be given, which at the very least should be MORE free parking.

  10. That’s the last thing you want to do – add more free parking. Parking costs money and when free, generates nothing but a piddly amount of fares per square foot. Offices or housing generate much, much more. There is a concern with poor and working class people who can’t access the station coming back because their shifts end after 7 pm, when local bus service drops to hourly and worse, but the solution would be to make parking free after noon and on weekends.

    Also, Metro needs to enforce parking rules for transit. Right now I can park at Universal City and walk up the hill for Citywalk and avoid paying Universal parking fees. Sure there are signs allegedly prohibiting it but there is no possible enforcement. Go to a system where a day pass or monthly pass is required to park at high demand stations, and riders punch in their space number inside the station or link it to their monthly TAP card. If someone wants to park at Manchester or El Monte for free go ahead, but high demand park and rides need to be enforced for Metro users only.

  11. How about Reserve parking for some spaces and free parking for other spaces. More feeder buses to the station could encourage some riders to leave their cars at home.

  12. Metro owned parking spaces should be converted to better use. You can cut most parking lots into half and convert them to bicycle and scooter spaces instead. Use the other half of the parking space land and to convert them into Metro owned retail spaces.

    Look at the Metro Blue Line Florence Station parking area for example. If you got rid of the parking lot there, Metro could build another platform to the east so it won’t be this narrow strip island station anymore. Metro owns the property including the parking space, they can rebuild the entire parking area into a mixed use shopping mall and a high rise apartment or something. Then Metro could be making more money in form of rent.

  13. I think you should delete clearly erroneous comments such as Sonny’s.

    Arctic ice is thinning. Antarctic ice is thinning in some places and thickening in others. But, Arctic ice is thinning alarmingly.

    Steve is correct in that ice areal extent is important. Ice is highly reflective and a broader polar cap (aka sun shade) will slow global warming. In the arctic, we have another alarming phenomena in which pools of water (melted ice) form on top of the ice. The liquid water is not as reflective as ice and the arctic absorbs even more heat. Thus, the ice layers will be warmed by ocean water from below and melted ice above.

    You don’t have to put up with climate science deniers. Just delete clearly erroneous and misinformation so it doesn’t stay out there and confuse the issue. You can’t change Sonny’s mind, but you can prevent Sonny from spreading lies on your platform.

  14. BTW, I think you should charge for parking, just like BART. BART sets aside a large # of spaces for the handicapped and charges them lower rates, but they charge everyone just to enforce the ethos that parking is a valuable resource.

    You may discover that Metro parking lots are used as free car storage spots in dense neighborhoods where parking is scarce. Charging could open up a lot of parking spots.

    I like the suggestion to charge lower rates for people who have a TAP card that was activated in the last 15-20 minutes. In SFBA, people use BART park and rides as carpool meeting spots. It makes sense to allow that kind of use. But, it also makes sense that non-transit riders pay more.

  15. If Metro were to implement a small fee for parking that would be fine however the plan by Joe/Streetsblog has plenty of holes .

    Unfortunately, people such as Joe who wrote the Streetsblog article believe that charging the maximum for parking will increase the number of people who use transit because they believe free parking can only be bad and refuse to acknowledge that their is a huge first mile/last mile problem within many of the areas that Metro serves and that to maximize the parking revenue, Metro would probably have to have a monthly parking subscription since as Joe states in his comments above that people would stop cruising for free parking. Considering the few hundred parking spaces available at the parking lots and that these lots must serve the hundreds of thousands of people in the area (Joe also ignores that many stations don’t even have parking), and that some parking locations are busier than others, Joe’s idea to maximize parking revenue could be a disincentive for people to even try to think about using Metro service since as he says

    It is also clear from Joe’s own passive/aggressive comment on this issue that he doesn’t believe Metro to be a competent proactive agency.

  16. @Michael G: I hope you’re joking. Metro’s job is to provide an alternative to vehicular transportation and to offer a choice to people as to how to get around. Metro is not or should not be legally obligated to provide parking but it does make sense to do so in So-Cal. More parking only encourages that cars are the only way, even to get to a subway or bus station. Not all the parking is filled, I know parking at Van Nuys Orange Line is never full, or at least at the couple dozen times I’ve had to use it. There is even overflow parking that is mainly used to park cars from the nearby car dealerships and even then, barely full.

  17. In some stations, street parking complements the Metro lot: for example, Wardlow station on the Blue line is right on Pacific Place, with ample free street parking that doesn’t encroach on residential access. Charging for parking there would simply get people to park on the street first, and try the lots only after street parking is full. Unless Metro works out a deal with the city of Long Beach to also charge for street parking at that location…

    Blowing off driver-riders as only 10% of Metro users is bad taste. Going from the Blue line to my home in east Long Beach, bus headways are too infrequent to make an all-transit trip practical, especially on evenings and weekends. I suspect driver-riders are a much higher percentage of Metro users at the outer reaches of the network, and these people are important for Metro to keep receiving county-wide support.

  18. There should not be ANY FREE parking at all lazy slobs! What Metro should do is rent the space to developers and they can build something like they have at Wilshire & Vermont, it can still include X floors of parking above ground, shops and restaurants at ground level and business/residential/homeowner oppurtunites.

    The Universal Lot almost happened with NBCU and NOHO can incorporate a new Multi Modal Transportation Hub, parking, more shops, restaurants & bars and residential/business.

    I don’t know if this is try but something like this! NO MORE FREE PARKING!

    http://www.studio-111.com/work/urban-design/planning/metro-north-hollywood/

  19. +1 for ending free parking and utilizing parking structures for more revenue making opportunities like retail. Metro rail stations should be promoting a more walkable environment, not a “drive to a rail station and take transit from there.” Good point on differential pricing for motorcycles. If LA should be promoting better use of land space, they need to set an example out of themselves. Free parking or charging a full car space for motorcycles only goes against what it should be doing.

    Plan things out ahead the first time and get it right the first time. It’s so much cheaper on the long run that way than keep coming back to making fixes all the time.

  20. @BMGM you are right about «You may discover that Metro parking lots are used as free car storage spots in dense neighborhoods where parking is scarce. Charging could open up a lot of parking spots.»

    The best instance other than free Universal Studios parking is the LAX lot! I don’t know how long some of those cars have been there covered in dust. Either people abandon them there or park there instead of paying 12.50++/night at Wally Park.

    They buy a one-way ticket or the driver let’s them on for free and get to the airport. People can also just show an empty TAP pass and get on the airport shuttle for free.

    $$$$ Lost.

  21. “People can also just show an empty TAP pass and get on the airport shuttle for free.”

    Car drivers already do this to get to Destination Discounts events too. They don’t have validators to checks if there’s a valid fare or pass in the card or that it’s even expired, so all they end up doing is buying an empty TAP card for $1, drive there, and show it as a discount card.

    Defeats the entire purpose of promoting going to these events using public transit.

  22. I can only speak for myself. I work in DTLA in areas readily accessible by the Red Line, the Silver Line, and by car. In the past few years I’ve always taken the Silver Line, but have switched to driving since the ExpressLanes opened. If I were to take transit, it would cost me two hours round-trip plus $107 in fares, and I would have to drive to El Monte Station (I could take a local bus but the extra time it takes is unacceptable). If I drive, I spend $302 on gas, parking, and tolls, but I get there in less than half the time. I won’t factor in insurance and car maintenance since the expense is there regardless whether I drive to work or not.

    It’s unfortunate I no longer ride transit regularly, but it seems that one interest of Metro should be to get people like me out of my car. I’m a supporter of charging for parking since I agree with the general comments that it is too cheap and people who drive ought to pay for it. In return, we should see more investment in parking. The Sierra Madre lot is now at capacity on weekdays and it would make sense to add another structure (or re-evaluate the need for more parking as the Gold Line extension opens).

    I also think that commuter parking and transit-oriented development are not mutually exclusive; it would be easy to add parking below high density developments and get the commuters to pay for it.

  23. Any parking lot which is currently filling up should charge for parking. Successful park-and-rides around the US charge for parking (consider Alewife in Boston, which charges $7/day). Parking garages are expensive to maintain — it makes no sense to give away the parking for free, particularly when you’re subsidizing the parking with the fares of the 90% of Metro users who *aren’t* driving cars to the station.

    Charge for the parking. Even $2/day would make a difference. Charge a price high enough that the lot is typically only 95% full at midday, and you’ll know you’ve got the right price.