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Why Metro Should Charge More For Parking Instead Of Just Hiking Fares

Metro train running (Photo by faria! via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Back in January, the MTA proposed gradually hiking up Metro fares from $1.50 to $2.25 a ride from now until 2021 to help with a huge budget gap. However, Streetsblog LA makes the case that maybe Metro should be charging the people who park at Metro lots.

Right now Metro has a hot commodity on its hands but for the most part, they aren't charging for it. Streetsblogs LA calculated that of the 19,450 Metro parking spaces available (and that's only counting rail and bus rapid transit lines, like the Orange Line), 18,048 are free. The Del Mar Gold Line Station is one of the few lots that charges for parking—at just $2 a day—and other stations offer some guaranteed parking spots with monthly permits at the cost of $20 to $39 a month. Many of these lots fill up quickly by rush hour. Many of these free lots end up costing Metro: the agency has to pay for the upkeep of the parking lots—mostly on their own dime. That means people who don't park in the lots are actually helping to subsidize the people who do.

Although charging for parking wouldn't bring in enough money to completely offset the fare hikes (and only less than 10 percent of Metro riders actually drive to the stations), it could help.

The blog did some back-of-the-envelope math using really conservative numbers, and estimated that if Metro charged $3 a day per car on weekdays and were only able to fill up 25 percent of its spots, it would still bring in $3.5 million per year.

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Metro is facing a $36 million budget gap in 2016 and it's expected to grow to $225 million in ten years if they don't do anything about it, according to its website. As an alternative to the fare hike proposal, they've also suggested keeping the fare price to $1.50, but charging $2 during rush hour and then eventually to $2 on off-peak hours and $3.25 during rush hour.

Some folks may frown upon the idea of charging for parking because...isn't free awesome and amazing? Streetsblog LA begs to differ and references Donald Shoup’s book, "The High Cost of Free Parking," which points out that free parking creates other headaches. Right now people expect a free space at Metro lots, but don't always get them. Instead, they end up circling outside the lot, creating congestion for everyone else. If Metro started charging for parking, many drivers would pay up while others would hunt for alternatives—and some of those alternatives might take even more cars off the road.