Thursday, November 6, 2008

Park'N'Ride lots insufficient

There was a story in the Ottawa Citizen last weekend about a local transit user who was given a $65 ticket for parking illegally in a Park'N'Ride lot in Barrhaven. I know how she feels; I was ticketed for the same thing at the Eagleson Park'N'Ride just a year ago.

The issue at hand for the transit user is that the city is encouraging people to use public transit, and especially to use Park'N'Ride lots to ease bus service. And ticketing people who use the service isn't a way to encourage its use. Which is true; no one likes paying $65 because you there aren't enough parking spots.

A few days after I had received the ticket, I was going to my car (which was legally parked this time), and spotted one of the transit constables writing and issuing tickets. What he told me was that every fall, there is a ticketing blitz to get people--those who have been parking illegally all summer--to stop parking in unmarked spots. The reason for this, I was told, was because snow removal is next to impossible if cars are parked in every square inch of the lot. Which, to me, is a fair point. It sucks, especially for those who have to pay $65 or who can't find a parking spot, but that's how it is--at least for now.

Logically, the city needs to find a solution to this problem. If the service can't support everyone who wants to use it, then it needs to improve. There is already an onus on commuters to get to buses, rather than buses getting to commuters. Express buses provide some relief by going through suburban developments, but they don't serve everyone. There are planning problems with huge swaths of parking spots for Park'N'Rides, though, because it's not a tremendously positive use of space.

And ultimately, there is a way for concerned transit users to avoid paying for tickets. These may not be as convenient as parking illegally, but the story outlines at four possible solutions from a few sources, including author Hugh Adami and manager of OC Transpo transit service design Pat Scrimgeour:
  • Park at the rarely full Strandherd Park'N'Ride, rather than Fallowfield
  • Buy a $42 reserved parking pass
  • Plan your ride in advance, using OC Transpo's 560-1000 service so you're not scrambling to find a spot
  • Wake up earlier, to get to a spot before the lot is full
As I said, not as convenient as parking illegally, but there is one final (and undesirable) option: Drive all the way down. If that's not amenable, you might have to work around what Scrimgeour calls the city's "fiscal prudence, our responsibility to keep our expenditures in control and to work within the budget we're given."

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