Wednesday, April 06, 2011

One fee vanishes, but the problem's not solved

Sometimes I wonder where Calgary City Hall gets their bright ideas. The first thing they did wrong was to introduce a fee to use the LRT Park 'N Ride lots a while back. They wanted to drum up revenue to help pay for increased security and other assorted expenses. But all that the $3 per day fee did was motivate people to park elsewhere, most often in the neighbourhoods bordering the LRT stations themselves. There was no visible improvement to the lots' security or anything else for that matter and the whole thing was chalked up to a money grab by city hall. Even the new Mayor didn't think a fee was the right way to motivate more folks to take transit and like many others looked at it as a form of punishment for taking the C-Train.

Thankfully, the fee is now gone, a promise fulfilled by the new Mayor, but sadly has been replaced by an even dumber idea - reserved parking for a monthly fee. Many lots have set aside (during morning rush hour) as much as 50% of the parking spots for folks who are paying a monthly reserved parking fee. This is not only ridiculous, it is counterproductive.

Without any fee, all spots are available on a first come, first served basis. This creates a problem for those who start work later or for casual trip takers into the downtown core, since by a certain point in the morning, all the spots are usually gone. Personally, I got tired of trying to use C-Train for casual trips downtown outside of normal rush hour, as any attempt to use an LRT station parking lot was a waste of time.

With the new reserved spot system, those paying a fee are supposedly guaranteed a spot (we'll see if the city hasn't overbooked what's available), but this leaves even fewer spots for everyone else. The free spots fill up in no time flat, while there can be reserved spots that may not even get used. How this is a better system, I don't know and I wonder how council could even agree to such a lame idea.

I have a better solution and random people I have polled agree with me. Whenever I ask people what the biggest issue is with using LRT in Calgary, they almost always say - not enough parking. Clearly, transit users have shown that they want to use park 'n ride lots but there just aren't enough spots to go around. The solution is to build multi-level parking garages at the stations. Allow the ground level spots to be reserved for a fee and make the rest of the spots free. The fee can help pay for the cost of building the garage. The sign of an effective parking lot is one where any user arriving at any time during the day is assured a spot. Otherwise, that person stops being a transit user and goes back to clogging roadways and parking lots downtown.

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