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METRO Considering Charging For Parking At Park & Ride Lots


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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.

 

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.

 

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/transportation/article/Metro-evaluating-paid-parking-for-suburban-5336123.php?cmpid=btfpm

 

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I don't think so. In general there is too much free parking. When you have so much free parking it tends to make people gravitate towards their cars.

Cars tend to have freedom of movement, you don't have to wait for a bus or stick to its routes (or transfer). Lots of people for parking downtown. The point is, if you wanted to go downtown, you would either have to drive yourself and pay for parking, or park for free out in the suburban area where parking is more plentiful, and go downtown with a P&R. Sure, you lose the option of driving a car and the benefit it brings, and the cost of a bus may be less than parking (and worth all the drawbacks). When you start to diminish the benefits of mass transit, people will go for cars, unless your goal was to make commute miserable for absolutely everybody.

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Clearly this is just a ploy for METRO to get more money.  They allow thousands of cars to park everyday, and some are probably frustrated that they can't make any more money off of them. 

 

But I think it's a bad idea to charge people to park at the Park and Ride.  If fares need to go up for the service, so be it.  But don't charge people for choosing to use it. 

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I don't think so. In general there is too much free parking. When you have so much free parking it tends to make people gravitate towards their cars.

 

The park and ride is often the only spot in the suburbs where commuters can catch a park and ride route. It's not like they can just walk out the door and to the nearest bus stop and board a bus heading downtown like you can on a local route. The lack of free parking may have an adverse effect and make commuters gravitate to their cars, even if the cost of parking and bus fare is still less than the cost of fuel used roundtrip in a car.

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So as Houston's sustained economic boom leads to rapidly increasing traffic congestion, we're going to *discourage* people switching to the Park and Rides?!?!  How much sense does that make?!  This is an incentives problem.  Metro is getting too much demand on the Park and Rides and can't move fast enough to meet it, so they're going to discourage demand with parking fees and keep cars on the freeways at rush hour that would otherwise use transit.  Does anybody else think this is a really bad idea?  The Mayor and County Judge need to represent the interests of the city as a whole and put pressure on the METRO board to make Park and Rides as affordable as possible and ramp up to meet that demand.

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I think the whole issue stems from the fact that metro bleeds money.

fare hikes would have to be substantial for them to be even close to getting a profit.

P&R services those outside metros service area, and I think that as long as it provides a cheaper alternative to parking where the passenger's destination, then a hike could be justified.

I'm rather curious to know what regions the various riders end up.

has there been a study on that?

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I think the whole issue stems from the fact that metro bleeds money.

fare hikes would have to be substantial for them to be even close to getting a profit.

P&R services those outside metros service area, and I think that as long as it provides a cheaper alternative to parking where the passenger's destination, then a hike could be justified.

I'm rather curious to know what regions the various riders end up.

has there been a study on that?

I agree. METRO subsidizes fares heavily to increase usage and then loses more money as ridership grows.

I think that the question is whether the people of the region are willing to pay higher taxes to increase the subsidy to METRO in order for it to serve an increasing number of people. If that isn't going to happen, then METRO is going to have to increase revenue and take the risk of decreased ridership.

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If there is not a significant percentage of people using only the "ride" part of park & ride, you could accomplish the same revenue effect by raising fares.  If the goal is to try to get people to carpool to the park & ride, or get dropped off, or use a bicycle, or a jetpack, then charging for parking would make sense.  My perception, though, is that there isn't a whole lot of alternatives out in the burbs other than driving oneself to the park & ride (I will happily stand to be corrected by someone who uses it).

 

My only real comparable is BART.  It has parking garages and lots, at least some of which charge; however, the BART stations are also stops for ACTransit, MUNI, etc.

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I kind of wish metro would build garages in various area that are accessible to metro services. If they had first floor retail, that would help diffuse some of the costs, more so if they charged a bit for secure parking.

I would not doubt that people would use metro, bus and rail, if they could make it more convenient.

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I kind of wish metro would build garages in various area that are accessible to metro services. If they had first floor retail, that would help diffuse some of the costs, more so if they charged a bit for secure parking.

I would not doubt that people would use metro, bus and rail, if they could make it more convenient.

Doesn't the Cypress park and ride have retail? At Skinner?

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If there is not a significant percentage of people using only the "ride" part of park & ride, you could accomplish the same revenue effect by raising fares. If the goal is to try to get people to carpool to the park & ride, or get dropped off, or use a bicycle, or a jetpack, then charging for parking would make sense. My perception, though, is that there isn't a whole lot of alternatives out in the burbs other than driving oneself to the park & ride (I will happily stand to be corrected by someone who uses it).

My only real comparable is BART. It has parking garages and lots, at least some of which charge; however, the BART stations are also stops for ACTransit, MUNI, etc.

I agree if metro (someone) was making a sustained effort to feed buses into park and rides people would probably understand this possibility more.

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It does and I wish that they'd build more of them, but I'd like to see then in the urban parts as well.

Maybe build a few near the current TCs in town as well in the burbs.

A few along the rail lines, and a few more at the TCs around town, especially those that seriously need to be expanded.

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Sorry, but I'm pissed with them as it is.  You expand the Katy Freeway and the HOV lanes only to let people purchase their way onto them?! I use the Addicks P&R and I just don't understand the logic, other than to make money, for opening those designated HOV lanes for lone drivers to use just because they can afford it.  Let that be an option mid-day, fine.  But to let lone commuters use the HOV during PEAK RUSH HOUR is complete and utter non-sense.  The HOV and P&R's are supposed to encourage those in the burbs to use them during the rush hours to lower the amount of cars on the road resulting in less congestion.  Simple.  I'm sick of getting stuck in traffic on the HOV headin home on the bus because of the sheer amount of lone commuters willing to use.  RAISE THE PRICE OF EZ TAG FOR THE HOV!!! Not on the P&R users.  If you can afford gas from Katy to DT on top of the, what, $14 dollars it is round trip to use the EZ Tag, each day, then you have enough money as it is.  Raise the price on that demographic, not the one that is tying to save money so they can commute to work everyday.  METROMORONS

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First, the Katy Managed Lanes are owned and operated by HCTRA. METRO excludes single occupant vehicles from HOT lanes during peak hours in order to keep average speeds at an acceptable level.

 

Second, as stated in the article, the board directed staff to explore this issue, not to implement any changes.

 

Third, the idea that METRO is trying to "make more money" is absurd. Just the operation of Park & Ride buses is subsidized to the tune of $9 a ride on average. That doesn't count the cost of buying, building, and maintaining the parking lots.

 

This issue came up because major costs are going to be incurred to expand and/or relocate Grand Parkway P&R because it's over capacity. Capacity at Cypress and West Bellfort will also have to be addressed soon. You all rail about how METRO is bad with money and then get bent out of shape again when they STUDY how to go about Park & Ride expansion most cost effectively.

 

It's certainly not a given that the cost of using the service would go up due to a parking charge. Board Member Spieler has floated the idea of simply unbundling parking and fares like WMATA and other agencies do. This would basically mean that instead of parking for free and paying a $4.50 fare from, say, Kingland you would maybe pay a $1.25 fare plus $3.25 to park. This provides an incentive to access the bus in ways other than driving and parking so METRO doesn't have to expend its limited capital budget on building new spaces. It only makes good sense.

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This issue came up because major costs are going to be incurred to expand and/or relocate Grand Parkway P&R because it's over capacity. Capacity at Cypress and West Bellfort will also have to be addressed soon. You all rail about how METRO is bad with money and then get bent out of shape again when they STUDY how to go about Park & Ride expansion most cost effectively.

Arguably, a lot of "studies" just end up wasting money...

It's certainly not a given that the cost of using the service would go up due to a parking charge. Board Member Spieler has floated the idea of simply unbundling parking and fares like WMATA and other agencies do. This would basically mean that instead of parking for free and paying a $4.50 fare from, say, Kingland you would maybe pay a $1.25 fare plus $3.25 to park. This provides an incentive to access the bus in ways other than driving and parking so METRO doesn't have to expend its limited capital budget on building new spaces. It only makes good sense.

That won't save any money though--it might only serve to irritate people, even if it is the same money amount. If people end up carpooling, that compounds METRO's problems instead of fixing them...unless they switched it, at $1.25 to park and $3.25 for the fare, which *may* help.
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You wouldn't spend a few hours of staff time to examine alternatives before spending millions of capital dollars?

 

And I don't understand your second point. Building more spaces costs METRO money. Running more buses costs METRO money. People carpooling is something they encourage through vanpools and park & pool lots.

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You wouldn't spend a few hours of staff time to examine alternatives before spending millions of capital dollars?

It could just be a staff meeting, or they could invest a lot in asking peoples opinions and running expensive studies.

And I don't understand your second point. Building more spaces costs METRO money. Running more buses costs METRO money. People carpooling is something they encourage through vanpools and park & pool lots.

It does, but the point is, if people carpool to the park and ride, and use the bus, that's less cars in the parking lot, but with fare reduced, that's more money subsidized on riders. If Dave, Linda, and Martin park for free in the suburban areas and pay $4 to ride, METRO gets $12 between the three. If they carpool with fares only a buck twenty five, and pay the $3.25 to park and get onto the $1.25 fare, that's $7 for METRO. When people carpool now, METRO gets less money. Alternatively, Dave, Linda, and Martin could take the HOT lane, and all that money goes to HCTRA, which might as well happen since if METRO loses money on every rider they get, they're giving METRO a better deal in the long run.
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It could just be a staff meeting, or they could invest a lot in asking peoples opinions and running expensive studies.

It does, but the point is, if people carpool to the park and ride, and use the bus, that's less cars in the parking lot, but with fare reduced, that's more money subsidized on riders. If Dave, Linda, and Martin park for free in the suburban areas and pay $4 to ride, METRO gets $12 between the three. If they carpool with fares only a buck twenty five, and pay the $3.25 to park and get onto the $1.25 fare, that's $7 for METRO. When people carpool now, METRO gets less money. Alternatively, Dave, Linda, and Martin could take the HOT lane, and all that money goes to HCTRA, which might as well happen since if METRO loses money on every rider they get, they're giving METRO a better deal in the long run.

1. They already had a staff meeting so it's not just going to be a meeting to discuss. It will probably be a study of some sort.

2. What kind of math is that? The difference would be $1.50, 3 people would pay the $3.25 fare and they would pay one parking of $1.25 for a total of $10.50 as opposed to $12 the other way.

3. How is metro getting a better deal if everyone takes HOT lanes if hctra gets all the revenue, which I don't even know if that's the case.

4. Also people pay hefty fees to METRO to rent vans for vanpools if you weren't aware.

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1. They already had a staff meeting so it's not just going to be a meeting to discuss. It will probably be a study of some sort.

2. What kind of math is that? The difference would be $1.50, 3 people would pay the $3.25 fare and they would pay one parking of $1.25 for a total of $10.50 as opposed to $12 the other way.

3. How is metro getting a better deal if everyone takes HOT lanes if hctra gets all the revenue, which I don't even know if that's the case.

4. Also people pay hefty fees to METRO to rent vans for vanpools if you weren't aware.

1. That was my question, yes--so it may be expensive and a waste of time either way.

2. No--if you look at James' post that was a $3.25 parking pass and $1.25 of fare--try that again.

3. Again, didn't read--everyone just taking the HOT lines would not help METRO, only in the hypothetical "losing money for every bus they send". That was just a third scenario if the three people decided not to waste time with the park and ride's parking scheme and just use the HOT lines like everyone else and ride for free or a greatly reduced cost because they have three people.

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1. That was my question, yes--so it may be expensive and a waste of time either way.

2. No--if you look at James' post that was a $3.25 parking pass and $1.25 of fare--try that again.

3. Again, didn't read--everyone just taking the HOT lines would not help METRO, only in the hypothetical "losing money for every bus they send". That was just a third scenario if the three people decided not to waste time with the park and ride's parking scheme and just use the HOT lines like everyone else and ride for free or a greatly reduced cost because they have three people.

1. You would rather make that decision on a whim?

2. Ok I see his parking point. But I think the lower fare would encourage people to fight for buses going to the park and ride or carpool or bike or walk to the park and ride. I see some positives in it.

3. If the people carpool that would help metro in a way because then those spaces open up for others that want to park and they don't need to run as many buses the service could be optimized.

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If the people carpool that would help metro in a way because then those spaces open up for others that want to park and they don't need to run as many buses the service could be optimized.

 

I think that it's much more likely that people would carpool directly to their office then it is that they would carpool to the park n ride.  You gain the same benefits of using the HOT lanes by being in a carpool.

 

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I think that it's much more likely that people would carpool directly to their office then it is that they would carpool to the park n ride. You gain the same benefits of using the HOT lanes by being in a carpool.

There is a cost to your car by carpooling. Every mile you drive it loses time off its life. With that logic nobody would vanpool they would all carpool.

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There is a cost to your car by carpooling. Every mile you drive it loses time off its life. With that logic nobody would vanpool they would all carpool.

You do recognize that Park n Ride and van pools are two completely separate things, right? Park n Ride travels a predesignated route, but you select the vanpool route. Put together a vanpool of coworkers and you can go straight to your business at whatever time you choose. Kind of like a carpool...with a van.

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You do recognize that Park n Ride and van pools are two completely separate things, right? Park n Ride travels a predesignated route, but you select the vanpool route. Put together a vanpool of coworkers and you can go straight to your business at whatever time you choose. Kind of like a carpool...with a van.

You should check the prices to rent metro vans for van pools. They are very expensive.

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You should check the prices to rent metro vans for van pools. They are very expensive.

 

Not really. Folks at work who ride van pools tell me it's between $100 and $200 per month per person, depending on how many riders there are. And, there are apparently subsidies available.

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Not really. Folks at work who ride van pools tell me it's between $100 and $200 per month per person, depending on how many riders there are. And, there are apparently subsidies available.

The vans are expensive the subsidy isn't much either it's really only cheap if you hit a certain number.

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The vans are expensive the subsidy isn't much either it's really only cheap if you hit a certain number.

 

One of the folks at work pays $85 per month for his piece of a 16 person van pool. That's after a $35 subsidy. I don't know if the subsidy is from the company, or from a governmetn agency. Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

 

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It does, but the point is, if people carpool to the park and ride, and use the bus, that's less cars in the parking lot, but with fare reduced, that's more money subsidized on riders. If Dave, Linda, and Martin park for free in the suburban areas and pay $4 to ride, METRO gets $12 between the three. If they carpool with fares only a buck twenty five, and pay the $3.25 to park and get onto the $1.25 fare, that's $7 for METRO. When people carpool now, METRO gets less money. Alternatively, Dave, Linda, and Martin could take the HOT lane, and all that money goes to HCTRA, which might as well happen since if METRO loses money on every rider they get, they're giving METRO a better deal in the long run.

 

You just described a few ideal scenarios. The point is to not spend millions expanding parking lots but still take cars off the road.

 

You may be underestimating how much parking spaces cost.

 

Starting on page 32. http://ridemetro.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=5&clip_id=785&meta_id=9750

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One of the folks at work pays $85 per month for his piece of a 16 person van pool. That's after a $35 subsidy. I don't know if the subsidy is from the company, or from a governmetn agency. Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

That's if there are really 16 people in the pool. A van costs about $1000 usually at the minimum, so unless you have a lot of riders it's not cheap because you have to fill gas once a week too and possibly tolls.

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You just described a few ideal scenarios. The point is to not spend millions expanding parking lots but still take cars off the road.

You may be underestimating how much parking spaces cost.

Starting on page 32. http://ridemetro.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=5&clip_id=785&meta_id=9750

"Free" parking is one of the ideas engrained into the head of most Americans particularly in the south unfortunately. It's anything but free and in fact the government subsidizes it more than transit for employees which makes no sense whatsoever.

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That's if there are really 16 people in the pool. A van costs about $1000 usually at the minimum, so unless you have a lot of riders it's not cheap because you have to fill gas once a week too and possibly tolls.

 

There's a waiting list for that particular van pool. In any case, you would not have a van pool unless it made sense to the participants. Ther eare other folks at work in smaller van pools that pay about the same as thelarger ones, so on an individual basis it's a pretty good deal.

 

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There's a waiting list for that particular van pool. In any case, you would not have a van pool unless it made sense to the participants. Ther eare other folks at work in smaller van pools that pay about the same as thelarger ones, so on an individual basis it's a pretty good deal.

The way the vans work is they are actually priced higher for smaller vans it's almost like they want people to take bigger vans. Also they are priced based on miles driven per month. I know for a fact unless you have a full van it's not really a good deal at all.

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The way the vans work is they are actually priced higher for smaller vans it's almost like they want people to take bigger vans. Also they are priced based on miles driven per month. I know for a fact unless you have a full van it's not really a good deal at all.

 

What would you consider a good deal for a monthly charge? I just took a look at fares in the NYC area, and a monthly train pass from Peekskill to Grand Central Station is $343 for a distance that's comparable to the Woodlands to Downtown. Park and ride runs $150 or so per month. And, van pools work well if you office location is not Downtown, since it is pretty difficult to use Park and Ride outside of Downtown. What is your alternative to a van pool for those commuters who are not well served by other means of public transport?

 

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What would you consider a good deal for a monthly charge? I just took a look at fares in the NYC area, and a monthly train pass from Peekskill to Grand Central Station is $343 for a distance that's comparable to the Woodlands to Downtown. Park and ride runs $150 or so per month. And, van pools work well if you office location is not Downtown, since it is pretty difficult to use Park and Ride outside of Downtown. What is your alternative to a van pool for those commuters who are not well served by other means of public transport?

$50

I would compare to the price of the MTA monthly pass.

And the alternative is build a better public transport system

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$50

I would compare to the price of the MTA monthly pass.

And the alternative is build a better public transport system

 

Get real. There is no place in this country where you can ride public transport 30+ miles each way for $50 per month. In the UK, a monthly rail pass for that distance is close to $600.

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Get real. There is no place in this country where you can ride public transport 30+ miles each way for $50 per month. In the UK, a monthly rail pass for that distance is close to $600.

Actually, Dart sells an annual pass for $800.

Edited by Slick Vik
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"Free" parking is one of the ideas engrained into the head of most Americans particularly in the south unfortunately. It's anything but free and in fact the government subsidizes it more than transit for employees which makes no sense whatsoever.

Ah, the old "government subsidizes parking" argument, which is a valid point (such as widening streets for allowing more parking, taking off taxable land) but requires some fuzzy guesswork to work properly, like a company saying they lost X dollars due to software piracy not taking into account that some people that pirated it wouldn't have bought it in the first place or the theory that piracy can actually drive some legitimate sales, or if wider roads could theoritically bring up land value, and dozens of other variables.

Actually, Dart sells an annual pass for $800.

That's still about 16 dollars a month extra than your proposed price.

Carpools are good but not as reliable as vanpools due to human nature

How do you figure?
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Ah, the old "government subsidizes parking" argument, which is a valid point (such as widening streets for allowing more parking, taking off taxable land) but requires some fuzzy guesswork to work properly, like a company saying they lost X dollars due to software piracy not taking into account that some people that pirated it wouldn't have bought it in the first place or the theory that piracy can actually drive some legitimate sales, or if wider roads could theoritically bring up land value, and dozens of other variables.

That's still about 16 dollars a month extra than your proposed price.

How do you figure?

1. I'm talking about tax free amounts you can take out of your checks at certain jobs. The amount you can take out for parking is higher than transit that makes no sense.

2. It's still a very good price point for unlimited rides.

3. Because people have things to do, appointments, vacations so that makes carpools less reliable than something you know will run daily.

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I was originally against charging at the Park and Rides, but I've now evolved on the issue.  Parking is expensive... that's just the reality of it.  I think a better way than just outright proclaiming WE NOW CHARGE YOU TO PARK would be to open up different levels of Park and Ride membership...  say a Premium member pays a little extra for parking included and more free rides, while a standard membership keeps the parking fee and transit fare separate. 

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