When reading news of a proposal that the Port Authority (PAT) could possibly decide to begin charging for parking at its park and ride lots, the trail of how such an idea came about is fairly easy to follow.
Step 1: PAT contracts with the Urban Land Institute in 2014 to produce a study that, while it erred on estimating the potential revenue from a multi-county sales tax, the potential savings from riding transit vs driving, and proposing a head-scratching “parking surcharge” on all parking facilities (including garages Downtown owned by a separate City authority), raises the idea of a $2 charge to use a space at a PAT park and ride lot.
Step 2: The possibility of a park and ride charge is raised, and it is half of the ULI proposed amount.
Step 3: Discussion ensues
The County Executive, who appoints 6 of the board’s 11 members, stated that PAT needs to explore all revenue streams. Why give away free parking when people will pay? Not a bad argument–one that could have been used last month when the PAT board decided to take a sponsorship agreement to maintain free rides on the North Shore Connector.
Did the County Executive compare the possibility of a $1 trip charge per ride on the Connector vs the amount that would be brought in annually from the sponsorship and decide what was more justifiable in light of the operating costs of the Connector? Did the PAT board or administration? As we pointed out in a recent Brief, based on PAT’s free ride statistics $1 per ride on the Connector would have tripled the income the agency is getting from the five year agreement.