Metro Committee Approves All-Paid Parking For 3 New Expo Stations

Yesterday, Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee approved the initial phase of the agency’s new Parking Management Pilot Program. The program is anticipated to begin with three new Expo station parking lots in May: Sepulveda, Bundy, and 17th Street.

The pilot is anticipated to expand to nine rail station parking lots by Winter 2016.

Here is how it will work:

Drivers with TAP cards validate when entering the parking lot. Image via Metro

Returning Transit Riders

Returning riders will show their TAP card to a parking attendant, who, like Metro security do, will validate that the TAP card has been used in the past few days. The driver will pay the parking attendant or show their paid monthly permit.

Drivers without TAP cards are required to validate after riding Metro. Image via Metro

New Transit Riders

New riders would not have a TAP card yet. They will receive an “exception ticket” which is placed on the car dashboard. After the driver parks and rides, they subsequently have to link their TAP payment to their parking, either online or in person with a parking attendant.

Approval Process

The committee discussion was energetic, with boardmembers Sheila Kuehl and Mike Bonin intent on managing the user experience at Expo stations in neighborhoods they represent. Kuehl spoke of the need to utilize Metro parking to get her constituents “who drive all the time” out of their cars.

Bonin anticipated that monthly parking passes will sell out immediately upon being made available, likely in April. Though Bonin suggested a lottery for initial permits, Metro staff responded that the plan is to make Expo Phase 2 parking permits available on a straightforward first-come first-served basis, as has been Metro’s practice in the past. Historically many Metro station monthly permits have long wait lists, arguably because Metro’s below-market pricing has led to permit supply being insufficient to meet demand. The parking pilot is retooling the monthly permits somewhat. Under the pilot, in order to prevent “poaching” (non-transit riders purchasing monthly permits), monthly pass holders will be required to ride Metro at least ten times per month to be eligible to renew monthly parking permits.

At one point Kuehl expressed concern that these Expo parking lots would fill up. Metro’s Director of Parking Management Frank Chin responded that they will fill up and “if we don’t do something, these will fill up quicker.”

(Full lots are Metro’s best case scenario for support of system ridership – certainly better than half-empty ones. If Metro charges and actual Metro riders park and the lot fills, then Metro got as many riders as it could from its lot.)

The program had intended to use steep pricing to keep non-riders out of station parking lots. For example, at Bundy Expo Station, transit riders would pay $2 per day and non-transit riders would pay $20 per day. Bonin spoke against any parking spaces going to non-riders, and ultimately the committee directed staff to not allow non-transit riders for the initial three-station pilot phase.

One additional interesting factoid (that SBLA predicted) is that since the Foothill Gold Line opened last week, usage at the recently near-capacity Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line Station parking has plummeted to around half-full, while the two new Azusa stations have been filling up early. Sierra Madre Villa was the terminus of the Metro Gold Line, now that terminus is 11 mile east in Azusa. Chin suggested that Metro may move its planned Sierra Madre pilot to one or more of the new Foothill extension stations, likely an Azusa station or stations.

  • Jason

    I think “within the last few days” is overly generous but it seems like they’ve got the right general idea for how to enforce this.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Hopefully when the pilot phase ends, Metro will replace this somewhat non-standard pay-or-tap-or-get-exception-ticket-upon-entry system with a simpler pay-or-tap upon exit system. The latter could probably be an automated system, though it would require entry and exit gating like most automated parking lots do (which I suppose explains why Metro is launching its pilot with a system that doesn’t require the immediate installation of new equipment).

  • Does Metro think theyre inventing parking at transit stations?

  • stvr

    This is the craziest convoluted thing I have read. Have they ever been to the Grove? You take a ticket when you enter. Then, when, you leave, you pay (or, I guess, tap?).

    How hard can this be?

  • stvr

    Here’s another one. Anyone heard of this method?

    1. You go to a pay machine. You pay for your parking. You place the ticket on your dashboard.

  • stvr

    Or here’s a third one. This one’s really crazy.

    You go to a pay machine. You input your license plate number. You pay.

  • jannos

    The wrinkle is they want to be sure parking is being used for transit

  • Pay parking lots should never be 100% full. If the lot is filling up the price should go up so there are always a few spaces available. You don’t need a “full” sign if you charge the right prices. Just observe any private pay parking lot. They float their prices with demand, as they should.

  • David Holtzman

    Why not pay on exit? On entrance, people are hurrying to catch trains!

  • calwatch

    That would require dynamic pricing based on arrival time which could cause issues. Like if parking is normally $3, will you really spike it to $10 just for the day that E3 is in town? The Metro parking policy is simple and fair, although I would like for them to do demand pricing on weekends which would likely lead to free parking then.

  • Joe Linton

    They did mention that the plan is to phase in more automation later.

  • James Fujita

    $10 would actually be about average for E3 or Anime Expo parking. Also, a lot of conventions are weekend events, which shouldn’t interfere with normal commute traffic.

  • Irwin Chen

    Metro should really do the manual TAP card check on exit. It’s obvious who has used the train at that point so no need for the silly “new transit rider” waiver.

    Also, since this is supposed to be temporary solution, Metro should really install TAP card reader at the garage exit (or garage pay station) so you can tap to get the discounted rate. The TAP system should be able to figure out who has used Metro bus or train in the last 24 hours.

  • calwatch

    Remember that under Federal law, you can’t use TAP credit to purchase parking (or anything else) because it could have been paid for with pre-tax commuter benefit funds. You have to create a separate “parking” account and allocate a separate amount of pre-tax funds for that purpose. And, because most people have commuter benefit cards that are just debit cards which work at any transit agency who registers, it is impossible to determine whose funds have been contaminated by adding pre-tax dollar amounts to TAP cards. (This is also why no refunds can be given to stored value, because it could lead to tax evasion.)

  • genjy

    Read it a few times before I understood the process. New riders and tourists are guaranteed to have a lot of fun with this. :)

  • Slexie

    This isn’t a high turnover area. This is for people coming in before work and leaving after work. It’s not a shopping area and they want to make sure the spaces for parking are for people using the Metro, not people looking for a space so they can park and walk away.

  • M

    Not arguing about the whole thing on not being allow to use “transit” money for parking, but with the amount of data that is stored and tracked on each person, I have a hard time believing there are NO instances where they could determine if you are using money you put on the card vs. pre-tax money. I don’t even use the pre-tax money from these programs because they are so restrictive in that if I were to purchase a monthly pass, I cannot use that monthly pass for ANY personal trips, even if it’s because I decided to stop on the way home from work at the store and then hop back onto the bus or train. As a result, none of my current TAP cards have been loaded with anything but cash from my hand.

  • M

    Sorry, and to clarify, there’s no way I can get my “pre-tax” money onto a TAP card without it’s being added electronically through the company that provides the benefit.

    This has been frustrating because I do use cash for some buses because TAP is a giant pain in the ass with delays between adding value online & being able to use the card, not being able to put the “desired” amounts on a card in the Metro stations ($1.75 or $3.50 or $7, but I need $5 or $2.50 or some other different, but completely valid fare amount) and not being able to easily know for sure how much money is being deducted when using services with variable pricing.

  • brianmojo

    This is classic Metro, way over-engineered solution. Reasonable solution: take a card when you enter, ride the train, then go to a machine to pay when you return. Your tap card acts as ‘validation’ on the machine, reducing the price. This is a process people know and understand. Make the price something absurd for non-tap users, like $100 per day (with signs that say garage is for tap-users only) and you’ll hardly see anyone using it that’s not tapping.

  • M

    Ha. It would be funnier if it wasn’t so true.

    Along those lines, the new menus on the ticket machines are still insanely complicated/confusing to people. This is most obvious to me at times like a Friday night at Universal Station and there’s a giant mob of people waiting next to the ticket machines & often the person in the front of the line is stumbling around the menus not really sure what the hell they need, why they have to go through the menu process for each person in their party instead of pressing a X3 button, the machine is screaming at them about cancelling their transaction, the machine is continually spitting back their $1 bills at them, they don’t understand WTF a TAP card is, they don’t know why/if they need a pass or a one way ticket, why they can’t pay with a certain card, why their child can’t buy a discounted school pass, why the machine is taking seemingly 20 seconds to cancel their transaction after selecting the wrong option and other things that aren’t coming to my mind, but I have seen people stumble on before.

    I avoid the train station on Friday nights unless I already have money on my TAP card or I have lots of extra time to stand in line for 20 minutes/am in the mood to help.

    I have to wonder if Metro tries out these workflows with real patrons with someone observing/making notes. I can’t understand how they can make some of these decisions if they’ve seen people try to use their systems.

  • calwatch

    Actually I get a Wageworks card, and there are other providers such as Commuter Chek which issue debit cards that can be used to add fare at TAP machines. These cards work across the country but technically “contaminate” funds. Now, as for pre-tax usage, de minimis use of monthly transit passes is allowed, just like you could make an occasional personal trip in a home assigned vehicle. If you are using an unlimited transit pass for work then you should feel free to use it outside of work without any guilt, per IRS rules.

  • Joel Epstein

    An additional metered parking lot at Exposition/Pico/Sepulveda/Sawtelle under the 405 is a no brainer. What is planned for all the dead space under the freeway south of Pico? If it’s not planned as parking, Metro and Caltrans are missing an opportunity to get a lots of drivers out of their cars for at least part of their commute. The reality is that these drivers who have more than a first mile last mile trip from their homes in the Valley, South Bay, etc., are not going to give up their cars unless we offer them parking near the station.


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