Reviewing Calgary Transit Park and Ride

One of the biggest items on the agenda for the upcoming Transportation and Transit Committee is a detailed review of Calgary Transit’s park and ride facilities.  A few of the recommendations from administration include:

  • Developing a park and ride strategy for current and future CTrain stations
  • Explore additional funding for park and ride development using surplus revenues from other parking
  • Transition towards a system of 100% monthly reserved parking

Park and Ride

I have a few thoughts I want to share on these recommendations:

Park and Ride Strategy

The Green Line will be the single biggest public transit expansion in Calgary’s history.  The LRT will service commuters that have typically had to drive in order to get to work.  Providing parking space at train stations to service suburban communities will be an important aspect of the Green Line.  If our goal is to incentivize Calgarians to take public transit, we need to make accessing a station as convenient as possible.

With that being said, I do not believe that large surface parking lots are an effective use of space.  I would like to see the construction of multi-tiered structured parkades that could incorporate other uses in close proximity to an LRT station.  The first number of floors could be parking, but above that could be multi-residential or commercial space.  Land around LRT stations is valuable and it is very important that we make the most of transit oriented development in these areas.

I would also like to see us partner with the private sector to deliver more parking space near LRT stations.  As an example: Southcentre Mall is in close proximity to Anderson Station and has a massive surface parking lot.  During the workday large portions of this lot are vacant.  Calgary Transit could explore partnerships with the mall to set aside a number of spots for reserved parking that could be used by transit customers.  We would not only be opening up extra parking stalls and the mall could be tapping into additional revenues.

Parking Revenue

It wasn’t long ago that the fees for parking at park and ride facilities were removed.  While free park and rides were a popular move at the time, a few issues have arisen:

  • Tax payer subsidy. Public funds are paying for parking spots at park and ride facilities.  This essentially means that folks that never use park and ride facilities are paying for the folks that do.  While there are many examples of tax payers paying for facilities and services they never use, it is responsible to explore possible cost recovery or user pay systems to make this more equitable.
  • Subsidizing non-Calgarian transit users. This is especially concerning for Calgary tax payers when folks from neighbouring municipalities use our park and rides to take the LRT into the downtown.  These folks are being offered free parking facilities without any contributing to the Calgary tax base aside from paying for their transit fees.
  • Fair market value. Convenient parking stalls with access to the downtown are valuable.  It is a common economic practice to affix a value to a scarce resource.  Convenient parking stalls are a scarce resource.  If you talk to the folks at Calgary Parking Authority they may suggest that fair market value for these parking stalls could be quite high.  I’d like to think that we could explore a more modest fee, possible through more reserved stalls, that still allowed for some cost recovery.
  • Incentivizing public transit. If we want to incentivize Calgarians to take public transit instead of driving into the downtown, we need to make public transit use more affordable.  If a fee for park and ride was reinstated it would need to be modest enough that it was still a preferable option to driving and parking in the downtown.
  • Funding for new parking structures. By reinstated a modest fee for park and rides or through expanding reserved stalls we could redirect funding for additional park and ride facilities.  This would ensure that we were reinvesting the revenues generated from park and ride into more convenient and accessible parking for transit users.

Expanding Reserved Parking

The current policy allows for 50% of Calgary Transit parking stalls to be reserved.  The current recommendation from administration suggests that we should move to a 100% reserved parking program.  The reserved parking program has generated a lot of interest and there are currently over 7,000 people on a waiting list.  We are struggling to keep up with the demand, and one solution could be increasing supply.

Reserved parking could be tiered to better serve Calgarians.  There could be sets of stalls available for monthly reservation, weekly reservation and even daily reservation.  This would ensure that various groups of transit users are being accommodated.  There will always be Calgarians that require short term access to parking stalls, and I think we need to accommodate those folks as well.  There should always be some space in the lots that allow for 3-4 hour daily parking.

If there are folks that are interested in paying a little bit more for a reserved parking space, I think we should accommodate that demand.  It allows for us to offer better service and develop a more sustainable cost recovery model.  We should also explore bundling the cost of a reserved parking stall with the cost of a transit pass to incentivize users to get a monthly pass and use transit more regularly.

With all of this being considered, we shouldn’t be penalizing folks that get to the stations early to ensure they have a parking space.  For that reason, I do have concerns about a 100% reserved parking program.  There should still be space available in the lots for folks that get to the station early to beat the rush.

An expanded reservation program could serve the residents of Ward 12 very well.  We currently see many commuters from SE Calgary driving to the Red Line to take the train into the downtown.  If these folks want to guarantee themselves a parking spot by paying a little extra, shouldn’t we allow for that?


You can see the full review of Calgary Transit Park and Ride here.