Could increasing parking fees help stave off transit fare hikes?
The Healthy Transportation Coalition is calling for an un-freeze of parking costs in Ottawa.
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With the 2018 budget on the horizon, one Ottawa transit advocate is urging the city to freeze transit fares while hiking parking fees, which have remained largely unchanged for the last decade.
“Since 2008, the city has increased the cost of the monthly OC Tranpo bus pass by $32.75, and the cost per ride for people using bus tickets by $1.40,” said Trevor Haché, vice president of the Healthy Transit Coalition. “Meanwhile, on-street parking feed were increased $0, zilch, zip, nada.”
The last time the city raised its on-street parking rate was in 2008, when it raised the maximum rate from $2.50 to $3. Conversely, in 2015 council approved 2.5 per cent fare increases through 2018, after previous years with increases as high as 7.5 per cent.
OC Transpo ridership levels are down so far this year, which could lend support to to take Hache and the Healthy Transportation Coalition calls for a freeze on fare hikes.
With the system undergoing a major disruption as part of the transition to rail, it is hard to determine a precise cause for the ridership drop. The Simpson-Curtin rule, developed by a Philidelphia planning firm, says that for every 3 per cent increase to transit fares, a service can expect to lose about 1 per cent of its ridership.
It's unlikely that parking fees can cover the cost of freezing transit fares; though there is just shy of $20 million stashed away in parking reserve funds, most of the annual contribution to that fund, which in 2016 was just over $4 million, gets spent on lifecycle renewal.
Haché aknowledges that parking fees constitutes a symbolic declaration as much as a realistic policy.
"It seems contradictory to the stated goal" of increasing ridership, he said. "OC Transpo ridership has not been increasing at the levels that the city would like it to. So we think it's time for the city to explore different options."