Friday, February 15, 2013

You ready to pay more for riding the train? Metrolinx considers charging fees for parking

Metrolinx is considering charging for parking at GO train stations in an effort to generate revenue to fund its mass-regional transportation expansion plans, said its CEO in a board meeting last Wednesday.

But hang on, before you have a ragegasm, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig was quick to point out, according to the Star's Tess Kalinowski, the board would seek input from the public, municipalities and stakeholders before implementing a parking strategy, if they implement one at all.

If this were to come to fruition, there's no idea yet on how Metrolinx would retrofit its lots as pay lots seeing as they don't have a plan, but in response, McCuaig told reporters it could be anything from charging GO transit customers for parking on all of GO's properties, or for parking around stations.

Oy. I know. But are you surprised? There's no money to fund bringing GO train service to municipalities beyond Oshawa or Hamilton; Kitchener; Stouffville and Markham; Milton and Orangeville, or to implement service throughout the day on the majority of its corridors. If you live in Maple and you decide to go home early from work at 2pm, you're taking a bus, not a train.

Although parking revenue has been fingered as a way to fund expansion plans, passengers would expect more for their money and this means a massive improvement in service, said McCuaig and I agree. More coaches, more express trains and more bus service are a few improvements that come to mind.

I already subsidize parking for those who drive to stations through my fare even though I ride the bus. I realize not everyone can take a bus, bicycle or walk to a GO station. But for GO to bring a bus or train station closer to you so you don't have to drive, they need a way to pay for those stations, rail lines and infrastructure. Unless the provincial and federal governments cough up more money, looks like paying to park will become a reality.

Let's discuss what to charge. Metrolinx offers over 65,000 parking spaces. At fifty cents a spot, that's $32,500 a day or $8.5 million a year. The fee would be collected by having drivers tap their Presto cards at readers mounted to parking gates and then tap again when boarding the train. Parking should be free on weekends. As long as the board vows to freeze the salaries of its executives and fares for its customers for the next five years so that nearly $50 million could be raised and GO customers don't feel Metrolinx is stealing from the poor to feed the rich, paid parking at GO train stations doesn't sound like a bad idea.

And let's take it one step further, those of us who don't drive, who don't tap to pay for parking, we get a fare discount when we tap at the platform to board a train, say 15 cents off our fare. GO still makes the same revenue from parking and the discounts given to those who didn't park is covered by the salary freeze.

Your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

As a person who has taken a bus to the Whitby station for 17 years, it would be nice to see a small discount for me seeing as my fare pays for people to park yet we all pay the same. I should pay less.

lswgirl13 said...

After 2 increases in one year, NO WAY, NO HOW to paying for parking. Where to begin? First off, I gotta think the logistics would be a nightmare. So I making this formal announcement to MetroLinx - do this and I will be "forgetting" to tap from time time.

lswgirl13 said...

Ohhhhh and another thing - I'm not buying the excuse that bus riders, those on bikes, etc. subsidize the free parking. What about the people who pay for education and health care through taxes and have no children and go the doctor only once a year? I have 2 kids, should I pay less than the person who has 4 kids in the school system? Should I pay for the person who heads to the doctor for every sniffle, every ache and pain? YEP, cause' that's the way it works.

C.J. Smith said...

Nice to have you back! Where have been LSWgirl13?

lswgirl13 said...

I missed you too C.J.!!! Let's have a cyber (((((hug))))) shall we? I've been around, just too lazy to post.

MATT said...

Sensitive issue with some it seems.

Do I WANT to pay for parking? Of course not; why would I voluntarily pay more for the same service I already get? Would paying for parking change the way I commute? Not a chance. They could charge 4x the suggested $0.50/day and I’d still pay it, because the alternatives are still significantly more expensive ($2.50/week to park at GO lots vs. $32/day to drive and park downtown? No contest...), and I refuse to take TTC and deal with the aggravation of standing on a bus and subway for an hour and a half to get to work. If the plan is to charge me a whole $0.50/day ($10/month), just “make it so” and let’s get on with it.

Publically funded programs, like transit, health, education, are paid for by all, whether or not they are used by all, because they are public. We can’t change the fact that people clog up emergency rooms when they have a cough, or that people with no children pay the same school taxes as people with 6 children, or that pretty much everywhere you go in Toronto requires you to pay leave your car somewhere. The difference with public transit is that increases in operating costs are typically passed on to the direct users of the system, unlike health or education where increases in operating costs are passed on to everyone.

There is no circumstance where EVERYONE will be happy with these types of things, so in my experience it’s best not to get too riled up about it. But there are circumstances where most will be happy with, or at least willing to tolerate, a change in policy. I think pay-parking falls into the latter category.

Anonymous said...

You're an idiot CJ. You already get a discount for riding the bus. You ride the bus for free. Oh, my bad, it costs you 1 cent in the morning but it's free at night.
Guess how much it costs me to get to to the GO station by car? About $4 in gas a day. And now you want me to pay to park, get lost!

C.J. Smith said...

My bus ride is free because I use a bus stop that is in the same fare zone as the Oshawa GO Station.
If I lived in Newcastle, my bus ride would cost 78 cents one way (with Presto) or $4.56 per day.

I used to drive. I gave it up. Don't whine to me about your gas problems because I don't care. I chose to change my lifestyle to avoid owning a second car. No one believed I could make it work. I'm now into my 2nd year.

MATT said...

One other thing...although there are 65,000 spots, there aren’t 65,000 cars using them. Guildwood, for example, is never full. Not even close. I recall when I lived on the Georgetown line, that the uber-busy Bramalea station nearly always had a few available spots too. If they are looking to reap $8.5 million/year out of this venture, they’re going to need to charge north of $0.50/day to do so

Squiggles said...

I am all for pay parking. I have even suggested it in the past. But mainly because I do not use the parking. I take the bus or walk to/from the GO station. Plus, I agree with CJ's example. In the end, it adds up to a lot of money that can be used to improve service, without penalizing everyone with huge fare increases. One thing that would have to done in this case is to cut the waste from the system. No sense throwing more good money after bad.

But then again, I think adding service and express trains to the existing lines is better than expanding the system. If you live in Timbuktu and commute to a GO station to commute to Toronto, I think you need to re-evaluate if it is worth having a job in Toronto. Then again, it is my opinion.

And LSWgirl: As a single person with no kids, I do gripe about paying into the public education system. But mostly it is for the same reasons as I gripe about GO fare increases - They always seem to piss the money away on programs and such that are not needed.

lswgirl13 said...

Yes Matt and that's my argument. GO is a publically funded just like education, health care, etc. We ALL benefit from these systems no matter how much or how little we use them. I'm saying that there should be subsidies for those who take the bus (or whatever) to the station. That said though, we shouldn't have to pay to park. When do we stand up and say enough is enough? I'm sick to death of taking it up the ass. You just watch, they'll do this and then say there is another fare increase next week.

lswgirl13 said...

ooooops, I meant "next year"!!!! Next week may be a little too soon!

Unknown said...

Of course people should have to pay for parking. Who do you think is paying for all those huge expensive parking garages GO is building right now? It's everyone who buys a ticket since GO gets 80% of their revenues from fares. I don't think GO riders should be subsidizing those who choose to drive to the station.

Anonymous said...

So according to Boss Mcuagmire, the parking fee is already included in the fare. The first question is - what happens to the fare when u start charging for parking? Methinks it will continue be a revenue enhancement opportunity foist on all riders regardless of how they got to the GO station. Second question, how much will it now cost GO to reengineer most of its lots to accomodate the long lines of cars backed up in the line to pay? Or - will cities just have to figure it out and all drivers in the area put up with it? And, what about all the strip malls, street and lots in the vicinity of the GO lots that will begin to be jammed with people trying to free load? Who's going to have to deal with that? Oh ya, what about my wife and I who already pay $500+ per month to use GO...I see parking in my office building for < $200 a month and I drive a hybrid. Looks like I'll be adding to the traffic congestion once this happens.

MATT said...

Re the “subsidy” of parking vs. public transit.

Fair argument that public transit users (read: bus riders) subsidize the parking lots. However, what about the notion that EVERYONE subsidizes the bus riders who get a co-fare discount to ride local transit to the Train station? GO transit pays something in the neighbourhood of $2.65 per fare to the local agencies for each person who rides to the GO station. Who funds that $2.65? That’d be you, lady who takes the GO bus to Oshawa station, then transfers to a train. That’d be me, guy who drives directly to a station, parks, and hops on the train. Everyone pays.

I’m just playing devil’s advocate, because although I drive now, I used to take the bus to the GO train when I lived in Brampton, so I respect both camps in this debate.

Anonymous said...

Charging for parking will stop the donkeys at Durham Dodge from parking a the oshawa lot and taking up the spaces that actual commuters who are using GO transit.

C.J. Smith said...

Are the employees of Durham Chrysler STILL DOING THAT?!!!

I called and complained and launched a mail campaign against them back in July of 2011.

Here's the link:

I will call them again. Shit makes me livid.

TT said...

Subsidized parking and co-fare discounts are meant to encourage people to use GO, changing that would be counterproductive.

If the province needs money to build out transportation infrastructure it should raise revenue they way government is meant to: direct taxation.

We all pay for public education because whether you have kids or not you benefit from the system. Having an educated workforce increases the economic potential of the province, i.e.: more and better jobs. Charging only those who are using the system will mean more people who can't afford it and therefore basic education becomes the domain of the rich and our society falls to the level of the middle east or most of Africa.

Anonymous said...

These donkees might be stopped but the reverse problem will be much worse. I'd hate to live on any street by any GO lot once they start charging. First it'll be a hassle, then parking will be banned, then enforcement officers will have to be hired, then everyone will pay for it through higher property taxes.

C.J. Smith said...

I sent them a tweet.
I'm all over this.

TomW said...

The smart move owuld be GO to reduce fares by an amount equal to half the parking fees. Then it doesn't look like a revenue grab. (Even if it is in the long run).

Plus, make it pay on entry before 9am - no enforcement needed (you're parked = you paid or didn't have to), and doesn't discourage off-peak usage.

Also, the total amount paid by GO for subsididing local transit is way less than it pays to maintain its parking.

lswgirl13 said...

TT - my point exactly (about education). We ALL benefit from a strong education system, the whole "it takes a village" argument. I still want someone who is in favour of paying for parking to tell me how on earth this would work??? You toss a ticket on your dashboard that you lined-up to get at a kiosk that took forever??? I'm curious how it works at a TTC lot.

Squiggles said...

@lswgirl: Before I moved out east and starting taking the GO train, I drove to 2 different TTC stations for the work week, and later to different ones depending on where I needed to go after. In total, I parked at Leslie, Fairview Mall, Finach and York Mills. All of these stations have pretty much 1 way in and out (some have 2). Fairview and Finch had arms/barricades and you fed change into the machine and once you hit the total the arm went up.

At York Mills, you parked then went to a ticket machine which printed out a ticket you left on your dash board.

I am assuming Leslie went the same at the first two mentioned. I only parked there when it was Metropass parking, which required swiping the card to have the barricade go up.

So different systems based on different types of lots. It would be fairly easy for Metrolinx to install the barricades for the parking garages and have the ticket machines for the rest of the lots or amend the normal lots to limit the number of entries/egresses..

Anonymous said...

Re:durham dodge donkeys...I've spotted them walking across that exit road a couple of times this week.

deepfish said...

Want revenue? Enforce the smoking regs. (You knew I was going to say that - didn't ya?) By my count over a fifteen minute period every morning, they could get 12 to 15 $45 dollar fines out of one station per peak hour - say $600 per hour, or $3600 per station per week day - 15 to 16 big ones a week per station, multiplied by 63 stations, with allowances for variation, we're talking at least a million a week in smoking fines. That should pay for a few parking space subsidies...
Sure - some smokers will desist or move on, but experience has shown that butt suckers are stubborn little pointy headed bastards. GO should have a ready revenue stream for as long as it takes these nico-freaks to cough up a bloody lung.

Mark chow said...

Its time to seriously consider charging for parking. There's too many 1 person drivers and this is a huge waste of resources and road space for just one person.

I'll suggest a reasonable parking fee equal to the cash fare of the local transit system.

Anonymous said...

Robert Wightman

The interesting item that comes up is the supposed support for new revenue streams. People seem to be in favour of these until it affects them. Look at the up roar from people when asked if they would be willing to pay for parking at GO lots. I remember the hue and cry when the TTC re instituted charges on it suburban parking lots. No one would use them; they would just be a waste of space. Has anyone tried parking at Kipling lately. The lot is full before 10: a.m. The same will happen with the GO lots. There will be a drop off in ridership for a while then it will come back stronger than ever.

GO has, I believe, 65 000 parking station spaces at its stations so each charge of $1.00 per day would raise $16.25 million dollars. The average cost for the parking garages is about $40 000 per spot so a charge of $1.00 per day would build just over 400 new spots per year. A charge of $3.00 per day would provide 1200 new parking garage spots per year. If it is presented this way then it might be an easier sell but in any case it is a necessary charge.

When I worked in Toronto I took the GO trains to Bloor and the Subway to Bathurst. I always walked to the station, 12 minutes, to leave the parking spots free for others who lived farther away. Besides getting out of the lot was a zoo. When I take GO into Toronto now I usually take the first train so would have no trouble finding a parking spot but I still walk. Commuter systems elsewhere charge for parking, why not GO. If the right is so adamant about getting rid of free perks lets get rid of free parking also, and reduce the subsidy of the road system to that of GO users, just under 80%.

Ford, the Sun and the fringe of the right do not comprehend basic economics. You cannot keep reducing income while maintaining services. There are 10 kinds of people in the world; those who understand binary and those who don’t.

TomW said...

@lswgirl: You ask it would work - far question. I suspect GO would have a "pay on entry" scheme, where you have to pay by some means to get into the car park. No need for tickets on the dash (or people to check them), because those who are in must have paid. (It also makes only charging people using GO before 9am very simple).

As for how to pay: Presto card would work for most people; using cash would work for everyone else.

Anonymous said...

"Commuter systems elsewhere charge for parking, why not GO."

I don't know, maybe because fares have already increased so much in the past two years? When will it ever be enough?

Maybe because using GO is already on the edge of being as expensive as driving, so any further increase would just force people onto the roads instead of solving anything?

Maybe because the people being targeted to pay even higher amounts are exactly those people who can say screw it (i.e. just drive in instead), so it would be counterproductive?

Anonymous said...

I currently take the GO from Rouge Hill, after spending 2 years taking the TTC, I decided my sanity was worth the extra cost of the GO vs. TTC. I used to drive to Kennedy station and take the TTC from there. They had 2 different lots, one was pay upon entry (always long line-ups and half the time the credit card option didn't work, so you had to pay your $5 with change), and another where you park and then purchase a ticket to place on your dash (also long line-ups and the machines froze if it was anywhere close to zero degrees). Some morning would take up to 10 minutes to pay for parking. This would be a HUGE problem with the GO as trains run on a schedule, not every 2-5 mins like the TTC. If GO implements parking fees, I will most likely begin driving downtown, adding to congestion, pollution, and all that good stuff.

Another consideration regarding the TTC and GO, there is no "co-fare" option for the TTC - why? I could very easily take one bus from my house to Rouge Hill, however I would have to pay my $2.65 for a token, only to then pay for the GO, and turn around and pay ANOTHER $2.65 to get to my office at St.Clair. Not practical. Driving would be much cheaper. GO needs to strongly consider this before making any changes.

Jack C. said...

I don't have a problem in principle with the introduction of pay parking, but then again, I take a Durham Transit bus to and from the train, so I may not be totally objective.

My main concern (and it's a significant one) is that this may be a slippery slope. If they introduce pay parking, I hope it doesn't become a cash cow go-to solution every year when they try to balance the budget. It might be tempting for the Metrolinx board of directors to sweat over the budget for a few days, and then throw their hands up and say, "Ah... screw it! Just raise the parking fees again!"

This might also incline anti-transit government partners to play hardball with the funding: "Hey! It's a tough economy out there. we can't afford to keep funding transit at these levels! If you're short of revenue, just charge more for parking."

Somewhere there's someone with a spreadsheet figuring out the maximum they could potentially charge at parking lots without a corresponding drop-off of users that would negatively affect the bottom line. If they go down this road, I suspect the charges will start out being semi-reasonable and then explode out of control in a few years.

I think there should be some sort of reward for people who carpool to the station. Not sure of the logistics, but maybe if passengers tapped their Presto cards at the pay station, the fee could be reduced to reflect the carpooling. Of course, people would try to get around this. Single drivers would band together and tap to make it look like they were carpooling.

MATT said...

@TomW – the point of my devil’s advocate argument wasn’t to measure actual dollars (I’m not an idiot and realize that parking lots cost more), it was directed more at the people who say “I take transit, so I shouldn’t subsidize parking, or at least discount my fare” or visa versa. The point is, part of every GO fare goes to subsidize things that not everybody uses.

lswgirl13 said...

No matter how they would collect the parking fee (pay as you enter or a dashboard ticket), the congestion would be horrendous. I can only imagine the traffic congestion it would cause. I'm with anonymous @3:33 a.m. - 2 fare increases in less than a year!!! This is just another cash grab. If Metrolinx needs more cash (sure they do **rolls eyes**) how about opening up more "reserved" spots? It's my understanding there are waiting lists for the existing spots. I guarantee if more spots were created they would snapped up in seconds.

Anonymous said...

I can't even BELIEVE they're even asking us!!!!!

OKAY - DUH - we'd LOVE to pay for parking! Doesn't matter that commuting is already getting very close to the cost of a car payment.

Adding a parking fee is a really good idea.

Be very careful Metrolinks - there is a threshold to your fare hikes and now this insanity.

If commuting becomes completely cost prohibitive for all the talent that has to commute to Toronto by GO, corporations may consider moving out of downtown . . . Never say never.