Last April, in a dual effort to ease parking shortages and make a little scratch, DART began charging some of the commuters parking at its northernmost light stations. The charge was $2 to $4 per day and applied only to drivers who live outside of DART's taxpaying area who parked at Frankford/North Carrollton and Parker Road stations and, a bit later, the Northwest Plano Park & Ride and Belt Line Station.
On the first metric, the program has been a success, albeit a qualified one. Between March, the month before paid parking went into effect, and December the number of cars at the Parker Road and North Carrollton stations dropped by about a third. But nearly that many extra cars began showing up at the next stops down the line -- the George Bush and Trinity Mills stations, respectively -- indicating that capacity problems have simply shifted to the south, where parking remains free.
That no doubt has a lot to do with DART's performance on the second metric: The program lost $94,498 over its first nine months. (Spokesman Mark Ball says the cost of the study is absorbed by the contractor, not DART.)
That doesn't mean DART is willing to admit defeat quite yet. In a report originally scheduled to be delivered this past Tuesday but delayed until next month, DART's vice president for planning and development, Todd Plesko, makes the case for extending the program for a second year and expanding it to include more stations.
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So why double down on something that's not working? Mostly because there at least seems to be a fairly straightforward solution: start charging for parking at the next stations down the line. (Plesko specifically suggests George Bush, which the agency said was off the table as recently as last month).
Still, judging by the presentation, it seems that
DART the contractor still hasn't found a good way to generate enough money through parking fees to cover the costs it pays to the vendor cost of running the program.
It's that question -- whether paid parking can be profitable -- that DART intends to answer in the program's second year.