Proposed LRT Parking Fees

I sent the following letter to City of Edmonton Councillors Ed Gibbons and Tony Caterina. Hopefully the reply I receive isn’t some boilerplate pitch about “budget shortfalls amidst tough economic times.”

Dear Mr. Gibbons and Mr. Caterina;

On April 14th, 2009, it was reported that the Mayor and City Council are facing a proposal to introduce parking fees at LRT park-and-ride lots. I vehemently disagree with this proposal based on the disincentive it creates (an increased cost to riders) that will result in a decrease in ridership which translates into a decrease in revenue for the City. Furthermore, the environmental impact of this proposal will see an increase in vehicle emissions as more people opt to drive their cars to the downtown core and areas serviced by the LRT.

In the past two years, Edmontonians who use public transit have been rewarded for their conscientiousness by having monthly fares increase from $59 to $66.50 to $74.25 with an increase to $89 looming on the horizon. With the proposal of a daily parking fee, commuters who travel on the LRT from the Clareview, Belvedere, and Stadium stations are about to be penalized again. Many of these commuters park at the stations because the level of bus service in their area is atrocious. For instance, I live in Hollick Kenyon and the nearest bus passes by every 30 minutes during peak hours and takes 20 minutes to arrive at the Clareview LRT station; contrast that to my driving to the station which takes approximately 7 minutes.

For argument’s sake, let’s say the proposed fee is $3 per day (similar to the one adopted in Calgary) and I take the train an average of 20 days per month. That adds $60 on top of the $74.25 I pay for a monthly pass for a total of $134.25 per month. Conversely, I can park downtown in a surface lot near 96th street and 102nd avenue for $3 per day which is the same average of $60 per month. My round-trip commute distance increases by approximately 15 kilometres per day to give an increase of 300 kilometres per month. My car has an approximate fuel economy of 9 litres per 100 kilometres which means I’d use an increased 27 litres of fuel per month. Given today’s gas price of $0.804 per litre, this translates into $21.71 with the cost to commute downtown totalling $81.71 per month. This is $52.54 LESS than the $134.25 I’d have to pay to park at the Clareview station and ride the LRT. Suddenly, I – like many other Edmontonians in my position – would have no incentive to pay for a monthly transit pass. It’s abundantly clear how the revenue stream for the City would be negatively impacted were this to happen.

What’s also clear is the fact that an increase in vehicle traffic on our roads results in greater greenhouse gas emissions. This proposal contravenes the very nature of what the City has set out to accomplish with its message of increasing ETS ridership. Allow me to illustrate with another example: my car has CO2 emissions of 0.189 kilograms per kilometre. Given an extra 300 kilometres per month that adds an extra 56.7 kilograms of CO2 per month which totals to an extra 680.4 kilograms of CO2 per year (and that’s just for my car). Imagine if 1,000 people made the same decision: that’s an extra 680,400 kilograms (680 metric tonnes) of CO2 being produced per year! I’d like to hear how the City thinks this would be an acceptable cost for the benefit of a few extra dollars in the coffers.

Were the City to increase bus service in my and surrounding areas to something more palatable (for instance, service every 15 minutes during peak hours and arriving at the Clareview station in 10 minutes) I could see some merit in introducing a parking fee to incentivize more people to ride the bus and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, without that increase in service, riding the bus from these areas will remain inconvenient compared to driving to and parking at an LRT station.

I will close here by saying that my hope is that the Mayor and City Council will consider all of the facts and factors when making its decision. The budget shortfall we find ourselves facing today is a temporary situation and we cannot afford to be myopic when addressing it.

Matt Edwards

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