Wednesday, October 31, 2012
DART’s paid-parking initiative created a near $90,000 deficit
Riders shifted to free downstream stations.
A pilot program to charge residents of non-DART cities for parking at some rail stations has caused a spike in parking at downstream stations, and an expansion of the program may be necessary to fill an $88,600 deficit, a DART planning committee was told Tuesday.
The program was launched in April at North Carrollton-Frankford Station and at Parker Road Station in Plano. The program is intended to address concerns from DART member city residents that many who park and ride come from outside of the service area and do not help fund the DART system with their tax dollars.
Between March and September, parking by non-residents at North Carrollton has dropped off by 152 vehicles, said Todd Plesko, vice president of planning and development for DART.
However, parking at Trinity Mills Station, the first park-and-ride station south of North Carrollton, has exceeded capacity by 43 vehicles, with 168 more vehicles parking at the station per day in September compared to March.
“Before the program started, we had 369 cars parking there, so we had a small amount of additional, unused space,” he said. “As soon as the paid parking program started … it over-filled, because it spills over to the adjacent city-owned lot that’s leased to Anderson Furniture.”
As of September, the overall program is running an $88,600 deficit. Parking-fee operations at both stations are administered and paid for by a third-party company called Platinum Parking, Plesko said.
So far, non-residents parking at free downstream lots has cost the program approximately $100,000 in revenue.
“If we don’t make, ultimately, some different decisions in the long-term, it’s perhaps not a break-even operation,” Plesko said.
One way to capture this lost revenue is to expand the program, shifting lots at Trinity Mills and George Bush Turnpike Station in Plano over to the pay-to-ride model, Plesko said.
The expansion could be done without a dramatic increase in costs by spreading labor across multiple stations, potentially using existing DART staff to help further offset costs, he said.
Plesko said expanding the program could bring it to a positive net revenue of $22,117 per month.
“It does address the equity issue, but it’s not a massively profitable program,” he said.
Ridership has changed little since the implementation of the program, according to data presented by Plesko. Ridership has decreased 31 percent at North Carrollton while increasing by 50.7 percent at Trinity Mills since April.
“Realize that almost all of the riders that we believe didn’t want to pay have gone to another station,” he said. “They have not decided … as far as we know, to leave DART altogether.”
After Plesko’s presentation, Mark Enoch, board representative for Garland, Rowlett and Farmer’s Branch asked what the likelihood of implementing an extra charge at downstream stations might be.
“I think that was the thought, to see where this takes us before we move forward,” said Timothy McKay, executive vice president of growth and regional development. “At some point you’ve got to assume if it puts people too far down they will drive.”
Pamela Dunlop Gates, representative for Dallas and planning committee chair, said the board must have a sense of how far down it can expand the program before it reaches the threshold of people choosing not to ride altogether.
“For us to be able to make an informed decision about how well this is going to work, we’re probably going to have to modify the pilot, the demonstration,” she said, adding that the staff will have to bring the issue back to the board for further discussion at a future meeting.
The pay-to-park program expanded to Northwest Plano Park and Ride in July of this year. An already-planned expansion of the program at Belt Line Station in Irving is slated for December.
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