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The MBTA should raise parking rates


TheBostonian

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I posted this on the LiveJournal MBTA community as a comment in response to a post about the $0.50 increase in MBTA parking rates. I'm duplicating it here (though it might be modified and extended) because I want feedback from fellow metrophiles.

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I'd like to see the MBTA add a morning surcharge for parking at stations that fill to capacity so early in the morning that they are useless to the average commuter. I suggest that they raise rates at such lots to a level at which there are always a few empty spaces. By doing so they could raise desperately needed revenue without losing customers and pushing commuters onto the highways. It would be more expensive to park but easier to find a space. Instead of people rushing to the lots early before it fills, people would be likely, because of the cost, to carpool with their neighbors and coworkers. But of course, this is coming from someone who lives car-free.

One objection I can imagine is that this would hurt the poor, since they would have to pay more for transportation. My answer would be that it would hurt everyone financially who continues to drive solo to MBTA lots, but it would, as I said, encourage car pooling. It would lead to more efficient use of the limited number of parking spaces.

There may very well be solid objections to this idea as well as better versions of it. For example, this could be done in a revenue neutral way, lowering or eliminating parking fees for non-peak times, or on a lot by lot basis depending on how empty they are and when.

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Good ideas, but maybe bad execution.

I just don't want the economics to force people away from the T and on to the highways.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yeah. I'm trying to figure it out. The MBTA thinks they are doing commuters a favor by keeping parking fees low, but in some cases it just leads to the lots filling up way too early, in many cases with cars carrying just one person each.

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Is there good feeder bus service to CR stations?

I think in theory this is a good idea, but like others have said, I think it'd only discourage more people from taking the trains. Most people don't like taking more than one public transportation trip at once and finding people to carpool with who are going to the same exact train station is rough. Plus it would lower the price difference between "$ spend on gas if I drove to work" vs. $ spent taking the train, and might discourage people who take the trains for economic reasoning. I'm no economist though, this is just what I personally think.

I'd throw some more bike racks around the stations, you'd be surprised how many people would use them. The Providence MBTA station has at least 20-25 bikes parked outside of it every morning

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Just depends on which stations you are speaking of...

I feel that the first commuter station of the city should be at least 10 miles out...and of course expand the T to supplant the closed stations. People in the city should be able to depend on the T to get around all the time. Commuters just need to get into the center of the city most times.

Also, why aren't there any express T trains, say on the Green line?

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Also, why aren't there any express T trains, say on the Green line?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You know, I've always wondered this too. The green line into Newton and Brookline has so many stops it takes forever to get downtown or even to Back Bay. Portland, OR has the same problem, no express trips on its LRT system, resulting in long-ass trips for some. Then yet, I guess the commuter rail is supposed to serve the purpose of the long trips.

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Also, why aren't there any express T trains, say on the Green line?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Because there are only 2 tracks. An express train would end up behind a local eventually. There are some places in New York that run skip-stop service which might work on the green line. But the fact that the trains have to contend with traffic on the surface makes any kind of alternate service difficult, and often not worthwhile.

There is a third track on part of the Orange Line north of North Station, it was supposed to run express peak direction service to Route 128 (the orange line never went to 128 though). The T deeemed that the reversable direction track would prove dangerous to passengers on the platform. Not that there is any problem in New York where this kind of 3 track service is in practice.

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Perhaps I am beating a dead horse, but I don't want to throw the idea away just yet. I want to be sure it is understood that the plan would not drive people away from the MBTA and would likely increase ridership.

Take a station like Oak Grove, where the lot fills up as early as, say, 7AM (or did not long ago when I would go through it) and the parking fee is $3.50. I would add a $0.50 surcharge for parking a car before 10AM. If the lot still fills to capacity, I would add another $0.50, and watch to see if it still fills. I'd then continue raising the surcharge by $0.50 increments until I see that the surcharge is so much that the lot is just barely full each morning. The idea is to raise the price as high as possible but not so high as to drive people from the MBTA. This could be $5 or it could be $15, who knows? But the price would be set to a point at which the lot is still full, so it would be clear that there is no net loss to the highways.

And yes, carpooling is not convenient. But it would be suddenly more desirable when it costs much more to park. And that would mean more people are being funneled onto trains from the same amount of cars.

It also comes to mind that if the MBTA can charge more for morning parking, they have more interest in increasing parking capacity.

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Perhaps I am beating a dead horse, but I don't want to throw the idea away just yet.  I want to be sure it is understood that the plan would not drive people away from the MBTA and would likely increase ridership.

Take a station like Oak Grove, where the lot fills up as early as, say, 7AM (or did not long ago when I would go through it)  and the parking fee is $3.50.  I would add a $0.50 surcharge for parking a car before 10AM.  If the lot still fills to capacity, I would add another $0.50, and watch to see if it still fills.  I'd then continue raising the surcharge by $0.50 increments until I see that the surcharge is so much that the lot is just barely full each morning.  The idea is to raise the price as high as possible but not so high as to drive people from the MBTA.  This could be $5 or it could be $15, who knows?  But the price would be set to a point at which the lot is still full, so it would be clear that there is no net loss to the highways.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I definitely see your point and agree with you completely in theory, I'm just hesitant to mess around with anything that could discourage transit use....but then yet Boston already has such strong ridership and transit proponents that your idea could actually just take us even further away from our cars by making us not even drive to the CR lots, but rather walk or bike or even carpool....-and that would be awesome.

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TheBostonian, all you are stating is that the current price for parking might not be the market price. If the cost of parking is $15, and the lot is still pretty full, then that is the market price, regardless of how people get there or how many. Because the T is not a totally private entity, it has problems acting as one.

I still hold to my statement of how carpooling, riding a bike, or walking is difficult for many people at some stations. My dad keeps saying how he probably added 10 years to his working career by taking the train in instead of driving, and he does drive, and pay for a spot, when he can't find a free one on a side street.

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TheBostonian, all you are stating is that the current price for parking might not be the market price.  If the cost of parking is $15, and the lot is still pretty full, then that is the market price, regardless of how people get there or how many.  Because the T is not a totally private entity, it has problems acting as one.

I still hold to my statement of how carpooling, riding a bike, or walking is difficult for many people at some stations.  My dad keeps saying how he probably added 10 years to his working career by taking the train in instead of driving, and he does drive, and pay for a spot, when he can't find a free one on a side street.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Does he mean 10 years of time? I can agree to that...unfortunately sometimes there is nothing more convenient than a private car.

I personally either want to drive all the way, or not drive at all. I'd rather walk a mile to a bus or train stop than have to even get into my car and park and then get out and onto PT...that's just me though, and I know almost nobody else would really agree.

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"TheBostonian, all you are stating is that the current price for parking might not be the market price. If the cost of parking is $15, and the lot is still pretty full, then that is the market price, regardless of how people get there or how many. Because the T is not a totally private entity, it has problems acting as one.

I still hold to my statement of how carpooling, riding a bike, or walking is difficult for many people at some stations. My dad keeps saying how he probably added 10 years to his working career by taking the train in instead of driving, and he does drive, and pay for a spot, when he can't find a free one on a side street. "

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You said it. I'm not shooting for any free-market dogma and calling for privitization of the MBTA. I'm looking at pragmatic use of the free-market in a select MBTA policy that might be creating problems because, as you point out, the current parking fees may not be the market price.

In economic terms (or my attempt at it) the below market prices lead to an inefficient allocation of resources. That doesn't sound like anything that matters. But in terms of wanting the MBTA to the best it can be, the spaces are being taken up far too early and too often by single occupant cars and the MBTA is missing potential revenue (unless of course we are talking about a revenue neutral approach) and riders.

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And Recchia, I mean 10 years of health to continue working by sitting on the train and reading instead of dealing with the stress of driving.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Ahh, okay I get it. One of the best and often overlooked things about using PT: time to read, listen to music or socialize.

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"One of the best and often overlooked things about using PT: time to read, listen to music or socialize."

I've always enjoyed taking an hour trip on the commuter rail with the Boston Globe in hand, especially when I get the paper for $0.25. But I don't make these trips often and I rarely travel during peak times.

And why is no one reminding me that I am a non-driver who is proposing that the T raise its parking rates?

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