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Modest Proposal : ‘Free’ Station Parking: Really a Taxpayer Expense

PAUL CASEY

Santa Monica

Metrolink, Southern California’s commuter rail network, continues to grow: The weekday average was 16,350 for the first two weeks of December. Despite this success, Metrolink is not reducing surface street congestion or regional air pollution as much as possible because most riders drive to the station alone .

Part of the problem is that most pollutants are emitted before the engine has warmed enough for the catalytic converter to operate.

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But who can resist driving when Metrolink stations are surrounded by acres of parking? This seemingly “free” parking is actually paid for by the cities in which the stations are located. Each space costs thousands of dollars, depending on whether the facility is a flat lot or parking structure and whether the land has to be purchased and improved.

I suggest the municipalities implement a modest parking fee, comparable to the $1.50 charged at the stations in the Chicago area, to provide a real incentive for train riders to walk, bike, car-pool or take a bus to the station. This would generate nearly $3 million a year, which could be used on safer, more attractive pedestrian links and better bus connections between Metrolink stations and residential areas.

Transit must reduce not only total vehicle miles driven but, more importantly, cut the


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