Some may escape park-and-ride fees

Jul. 22, 2013 @ 05:47 PM

When the town starts charging motorists to use park and ride lots next month, those who use the one on Eubanks Road to catch Triangle Transit Authority buses won’t likely have to pay.
Town and TTA officials are working on a plan that would exempt riders with a TTA GoPass and monthly pass holders from paying the new Park and Ride fee, which will cost riders $2 per day, $21 monthly or $250 per year.
“We are fairly close to finalizing an agreement whereby TTA would pay for a number of spaces at the Eubanks Park and Ride lot and be given a number of passes for their riders,” said Brian Litchfield, the town’s interim transit director.
Officials believe 50 to 70 motorists would get the benefit of not having to pay to park at the Eubanks Road lot.
“This is really a starting point for us at this location,” Litchfield said, adding that the town will continue to monitor TTA use at the lot and make adjustments as needed.
TTA provides regional bus and van service throughout the Triangle.
Last March, the Town Council engaged in a lively debate over the fairness of charging TTA riders to use park and ride lots.
Some council members objected to the idea of allowing some motorists to park for free while charging others, while others favored the idea because it meshes with town sustainability goals by getting cars off the road.
The council approved the fees but asked staff to develop a plan to address TTA riders.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he looks forward to seeing the details of the proposal.
Kleinschmidt said he had concerns about possibly charging town residents twice – once to maintain park and ride lots and then again to park there.
He said it’s important that the town maintain its commitment to transit.
“We have to make sure our transit options continue to be accessible to people otherwise our whole transit system is undermined,” Kleinschmidt said.
Meanwhile, a group of residents who work at N.C. State who park at the Eubanks Park-and-Ride lot and use TTA to get there recently sent an email message asking the council to waive or reduce the parking fee.
“We are distressed at your recent decision to charge $250/year to park in the Eubanks lots,” said the riders wrote. “We are not UNC students/employees attempting to avoid park fees.”
The town will begin to charge for parking on Aug. 15 at four parking lots it operates in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
The new fee will coincide with UNC’s also beginning to charge motorists’ who use its park-n-ride lots.
The town, university and the town of Carrboro are partners in Chapel Hill Transit and share the cost to operate Chapel Hill’s fare-free transit system.
The discussion to move to a fee system for park and ride lots began in 2010 and is a response to the rising cost to operate the transit system and a reduction in federal and state funding.
The fee is expected to raise about $150,000 for the town and more than $500,000 for UNC next fiscal year.
UNC is the largest contributor to Chapel Hill Transit.
The university’s contribution to the transit system is about $7.4 million in fiscal year 2013-14, about 60 percent of the local contribution to the system’s more than $18.6 million operating budget.
The town’s share is about $3.7 million, a little more than 30 percent, and Carrboro’s portion is projected to be $1.3 million, about 10 percent of the system’s operating budget.