I have no problem with this.
Park and ride buses are among the cheapest options for suburban commuters who work downtown, in part because Metro provides free parking.
But just as new highways increasingly require drivers to pay tolls, officials are considering changes to the park and ride system that would shift more costs to consumers.
“This city has changed and we are going through an economic explosion right now,” said Burt Ballanfant, a Metropolitan Transit Authority board member. “We have got to look at those changes and realize the costs are changing.”
A Metro committee Thursday directed staff to report back in 60 days with analysis of parking policies at Metro’s 28 park and ride lots, including whether charging for parking is warranted.
“We want to take a look at this in terms of the economic issues, get board direction and go from there,” Metro president Tom Lambert said.
Only one of the 28 park and ride lots, Fannin South, charges a parking fee. Drivers pay $3 per day to use the lot. Another park and ride location in Cypress charges those who park, but the fee is waived with a valid fare on a park and ride bus.
The discussion occurred as board members considered a proposal to move the Grand Parkway park and ride location about three miles west by leasing parking spaces from Katy Mills Mall.
On average, the current 423-space lot near the I-10 interchange with the Grand Parkway has 188 fewer spaces than needed, based on an October count, and sometimes 200 or more commuters are forced to park in spots Metro isn’t supposed to be using.
Staff members are working on a proposal to lease around 800 spaces at Katy Mills Mall, west of the current spot. Metro’s board would have to approve a deal to move the lot, then adjust schedules to accommodate the change.
The existing lot would house carpool and vanpool users, while all park and ride commuters would relocate.
Moving the park and ride lot would cost between $400,000 and $500,000 per year, mostly by renting the 800 spaces from the mall property owner, said Miki Milovanovic, Metro’s real estate and property management director. Another $120,000 would be spent preparing the site with signs and bus shelters.
At every site, whether Metro owns it or not, those costs have been borne by the agency.
“The sort of unspoken agreement was we would not charge for parking,” Ballanfant said.
If Metro is not recovering enough of its cost on park and ride parking, then a fee for parking is one possible option for it to consider. By the same token, if Metro needs to fund the acquisition and/or construction of more parking spaces, a fee for parking is again a possible option. There are certainly other possibilities like shared parking, as discussed above, and it should by all means explore those as well. But I don’t see why parking in these lots has to be free if the cost and revenue structure doesn’t support it. Fares have gone up on buses and the light rail before; this to me is no different than that. The Highwayman has more.