Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pay and ride and pay

The Toronto Transit Commission appears to be serious about getting people out of their cars and onto public transit, all the way. So much so that the long-established "free" parking lots at subway stations for holders of the Metropass will no longer be free starting next year; it will cost between 2 and 6 bucks a day depending on the location of the lot.

It's the right move, in my opinion, because transit passengers shouldn't be subsidizing the operation of the parking lots. But it will only cause havoc at points where it's impractical to have paid parking -- in particular the lots at Yorkdale in the north end of the city and Scarborough Town Centre in the east. Both are major shopping malls and the lots remain open even after the malls close; since the stations which are still open until the wee hours are actually inside the mall or have passageways to them. Also, commuters use these as an alternative to the pay or Metropass only lots, causing major jamming on the platforms and leaving less parking for those who actually shop. It will get worse.

As Hamilton moves closer to deciding on either bus or rail transit (and it looks like it will be the latter despite the greater cost), we'll have to make a similar choice about the bus terminals at Eastgate, Limeridge and University Plaza. Do we make these long standing free lots paid ones?

Maybe we should so that the downtown Jackson Square is no longer at a competitive disadvantage; but that in turn will only give hay to the power centres in the Meadowlands, at Rymal and Centennial, and the new one being built to replace Centre Mall. Traffic patterns, and commercial development as it currently exists, could be extremely disrupted -- and people will be travelling even further to shop, the exact opposite of what we're trying to do with rail transit which is to bring people back to the corridors.

But we really do need to get out of our vehicles, regardless of what city we're in. Maybe GO Transit should also do the same and go on a pay system for their lots. After all, you pay by the hour if you park at the train stations for the commuter lines going into New York City and Los Angeles.

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