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Metro Committee Approves Expanded Paid Parking for 13 Park&Ride Stations

Metro is planning to convert free parking to paid parking at eight additional rail stations. Gold Line Atlantic Station parking photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, the Metro board of directors Planning and Programming Committee approved phase two of the agency's pilot program to charge for parking at transit stations. The promising new parking programs will maximize parking usage by people who actually ride Metro, while also generating modest revenues instead of ongoing losses.

A 2015 American Public Transit review recommended Metro charge for parking "to avoid giving park-and-ride customers the largest subsidies, to increase agency revenues, and to effectively manage parking supply.” APTA further stated that excessive free parking works against the environment and equity. Metro's own customer surveys (cited in the staff report) highlight the equity issue starkly: 41 percent of Metro rail riders are in poverty, while only 1 percent of Metro rail park-and-ride users are in poverty.

Phase one of Metro's all-paid parking pilot was implemented in May at three newly opened Expo Line stations. Contrary to dire predictions, the lack of free parking did not hamper the line from achieving higher-than-predicted ridership on frequently overcrowded trains. According to Metro, Expo II parking lots are experiencing 30 to 60 percent occupancy, which could mean prices would be lowered to achieve Metro's goal of 85 to 90 percent occupancy.

Metro is planning to extend the paid parking program to a total of 13 heavily-parked rail stations. New paid parking is planned for ten stations:

    • Expo Line: La Cienega/Jefferson (parking is already all-paid at Bundy, Sepulveda, and 17th/Santa Monica College)
    • Gold Line: APU/Citrus, Irwindale, Atlantic
    • Green Line: Norwalk, Lakewood, Aviation
    • Red Line: Universal, North Hollywood
    • Silver Line BRT: El Monte Station
Planned Metro parking pilot station details, via Metro staff report
Planned Metro parking pilot station details, via Metro staff report

One key aspect of how Metro is managing parking is ensuring that people who park actually ride the Metro system. Metro has already done this for monthly permit parking by requiring that permit holders connect their accounts with an active TAP card, i.e. one that is used a minimum of ten times per month. In the course of implementing this requirement, Metro eliminated 500 monthly permit holders that were not riding Metro. This freed up spaces for riders who were on Metro's wait lists, likely modestly increasing Metro ridership. In the words of the staff report "active parking demand management has allowed staff to shift these spaces from non-transit users and accommodate transit patrons who use transit on a regular basis." 

The new all-paid parking stations will have automated license-plate readers. At automated  pay stations, people who park will need to show their TAP card to validate that they are riding Metro. Special accommodations will be made for carpools. Some stations with excess capacity (Bundy, Sepulveda, 17th/SMC, La Cienega/Jefferson, and Atlantic) will allow for paid three-hour non-transit rider parking after 11 a.m.

Yesterday the committee authorized a four-year, $8.4 million parking management services contract with L&R Group, which does business as Joe's Auto Parks. The entire four-year parking pilot is projected to generate $18.7 million, so Metro would end up with $10.1 million in net income. These funds could be used to maintain parking, improve bus service, or just to offset anticipated structural deficits.

At yesterday's committee meeting, boardmembers Hilda Solis, Ara Najarian, and Mike Antonovich all voted to approve the pilot. Boardmember Paul Krekorian, who represents the North Hollywood area on the Los Angeles City Council, abstained. Krekorian stated that he "struggle[s] with the whole concept" of charging for parking because lots are a "sunk cost." Krekorian also expressed concern that in North Hollywood paid parking could push drivers into surrounding communities to find parking.

If approved by the full Metro board on December 1, pilot stations on the Red, Gold, and Expo Lines are expected to be charging for parking starting in April 2017. Green and Silver Line stations would follow later.

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