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Budget Cuts Pit Bus Riders Against Drivers

If you're affluent enough to afford a car, you're affluent enough to afford an extra 50 cents to pay for parking. That was the calculation of Cavan Wilk, a Wheaton resident who spoke to the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday night.

Wilk was among those who think the county's parking fees should be raised to cover the cost of maintaining bus service at current levels. To balance the budget for the fiscal year starting in July, Montgomery is considering cutting some bus service and raising some fares. It would, for example, impose new charges on seniors, young people and county employees. (See details here.)

The county also is considering a plan to raise parking fees in the Bethesda Parking District and in areas outside of county parking districts. But some transit advocates would see that and raise it, at least enough to eliminate the hits that transit would take in the new budget.

Wilk, who said he takes the Red Line to Bethesda after work, enjoys an evening in downtown Bethesda and then takes the Ride On bus back home, said parking spaces shouldn't be as heavily subsidized as they are now. And the extra money raised could be used to maintain bus service.

Begging to differ was Heather Dlhopolsky, speaking on behalf of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, which is strongly opposed to the parking rate increases.

In light of the dismal economy, she said, now is not the time to put this extra burden on Bethesda's businesses and their patrons. Bethesda is at a competitive disadvantage with other commercial and entertainment centers because of its higher parking fees, Dlhopolsky said.

Other speakers, including Miriam Schoenbaum representing the Transit First! advocacy group think parking fees countywide should fair game, for the sake of preserving the transit services that move more people in fewer vehicles.

By Robert Thomson  |  April 22, 2009; 8:15 AM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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Next: Changes in Montgomery Bus Plan

Comments

"If you're affluent enough to afford a car, you're affluent enough to afford an extra 50 cents to pay for parking. That was the calculation of Cavan Wilk, a Wheaton resident who spoke to the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday night."

Hmm...except this is a flawed generalization. The Hispanic man who has to get from Rockville to Manassas to do a job for the day, or the young college student who needs to get to work in Laurel after classes in Annandale and only has an hour to make it work...I wouldn't classify these folks as "affluent". And a 50 cent increase in parking rates might cause them to avoid the dang city altogether. Which means even less revenue.


"Wilk was among those who think the county's parking fees should be raised to cover the cost of maintaining bus service at current levels."

No no...see car drivers have to bear the full brunt of the costs of maintaining their car in service. They also bear much of the cost of the roads that bus users do not pay for because they do not use gasoline. You use the bus, you should bear the full cost. No free lunches, Mr. Wilk.

"Wilk, who said he takes the Red Line to Bethesda after work, enjoys an evening in downtown Bethesda and then takes the Ride On bus back home, said parking spaces shouldn't be as heavily subsidized as they are now."

I suppose he lives in a condo, makes six figures and is single, so there's no nagging family duties, kids to shuttle, house or yard work to be done before it gets dark, etc...that allow him to have such a leisurely commute. Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not march to his drummer, nor should he expect it to. Bus service is great, but it is not a panacea. It cannot get me where I need to go within the time frame I need to get there. It does not go to the daycare nor does it arrive timely enough so that should I take it to the grocery store, my ice cream has not melted and milk soured by time I get home.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | April 23, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

The goal to retain bus and metro service acts in two ways. It makes cheap transportation available to people who rely on it and it reduces automobile traffic and its pollutants. One way to ensure the service is not cut is to ensure more riders use the service. This can be achieved by encouraging the use of public transportation -- both buses and Metro -- as opposed to private cars.


It is both logical and green to raise the parking fees to encourage drivers to use public transportation. Not only should the parking rates at Metro and in County garages be raised (which are artificially low compared to the private lots), but taxes on private monthly plans should be raised. To keep it fair and green, why not offer deep discounts on parking for carpoolers?

Finally, I note that drivers do not bear all the costs of driving: road maintenance, signals, police, expenses arising from traffic delays and air pollution. The person who uses their car infrequently pays taxes at the same rate as the person who spends all day on the road. Why shouldn't parking fees -- used to subsidize public transit -- equalize that difference?

Posted by: envirokaren | April 23, 2009 7:28 PM | Report abuse

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