TORONTO – Commuters using Ontario’s GO Transit system could soon have to pay for parking as the province’s regional transit agency eyes charging for some spaces that are currently free.
A spokeswoman for Metrolinx said Tuesday the agency is considering a number of options as ridership increases across the system have meant getting a parking space at many GO stations is increasingly difficult.
Anne Marie Aikins said research into parking options at the agency’s bustling stations is in the early stages, and provided no timeline for implementing any new policy.
“We know many GO Transit customers have a challenge finding parking in our lots and building more and more parking is not economical or good for the environment,” she said in a statement.
The transit agency has 77,000 parking spots across the region and the majority are free – with less than 10 per cent currently paid reserved spots that cost riders $98 a month.
A quarter of GO station parking lots are at capacity, Aikins said.
“One of the options we are looking at is increasing the percentage of reserved spots very gradually,” she said. “Again, nothing is finalized and we are still studying and researching options.”
Aikins said the vast majority of GO stations – 57 of 66 – offer free parking but Metrolinx is considering piloting a variety of options for commuters with the aim of keeping transit affordable.
“(We) continue to work with municipalities to support customers to get to stations other ways such as local transit, biking, walking, ride sharing and carpooling,” she said.
Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said the province does not plan to eliminate free parking completely at GO stations but acknowledged that Metrolinx is looking for ways to “maximize” its current supply.
“I look forward to hearing from Metrolinx and also from members of the community on what they think should be the right mix,” she said, adding that parking can be difficult to find at some GO lots.
“We hear about these challenges all the time. I think it speaks to how well-received the service increases have been.”
Mulroney said she has not yet seen Metrolinx’ final report and that it could eventually mean some parking charges help pay for the construction of more lots for commuters.
“That could be part of the review,” she said. “We’re looking at all sorts of options. We want to increase GO ridership. That is going to bring more and more cars to GO stations. But we encourage people to find other modes of transportation to get to GO stations.”