Published: Feb 02, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 02, 2013 05:49 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Using a park-and-ride lot to catch the bus would no longer be free if Chapel Hill and Carrboro officials follow UNC’s lead in charging an annual fee.
In August, UNC students and employees will start paying to park in university-owned lots. The permits will be priced on a sliding scale, starting at $227. It’s part of UNC’s five-year plan to cover an expected $6.5 million shortfall in the transportation and parking budget.
The Town Council should consider charging $250 a year for drivers using public park-and-ride lots, Chapel Hill Transit interim Director Brian Litchfield told the Town Council last week.
UNC permit holders already drive from lot to lot to find a space, usually ending up in a public lot or on a neighborhood street, he said. Others may use free public lots instead of paying for a UNC permit, he said.
“We think that a reason to charge a fee currently is to make sure more of those folks don’t do that,” he said.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said UNC’s plan could indirectly affect town residents who park in the lots and take express routes to other parts of the Triangle. He can’t imagine UNC accepting a reverse situation, in which residents parked in UNC-owned lots, he said.
“Those are members of our community. They’re going to be pushed out of our town lots by UNC permit holders, and we know that’s going to happen because (UNC’s) going to sell a lot more permits than they have spaces in the lots they control, so that they can force them into our lots,” he said.
The university provides 2,258 spaces in six park-and-ride lots, plus roughly 14,500 permit spaces on campus.
Litchfield recommended charging a fee at three lots: Eubanks Road, Southern Village and Jones Ferry Road. Roughly 75 percent of drivers using those lots are going to UNC, he said.
He also suggested establishing 16 residential parking districts near the lots.
Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen also discussed the proposed fee, Mayor Mark Chilton said. They understand UNC’s decision, but it will force Carrboro down the same road and might mean closing the Carrboro Plaza lot if it becomes hard to monitor parking, he said.
Litchfield said creating a fee-based system would cost roughly $128,000 for signs, pay stations, part-time employees and to repaint the lots. The annual operating cost would be $69,000.
The costs would absorb most of the revenue in the first two years, he said. After that, it could provide additional income.
Council member Gene Pease suggested UNC pick up the town’s tab, since the university would presumably get permit revenues from its students and employees parking in town lots.
The transit system already faces increased budget pressures next year from state and federal funding cuts, South Columbia Street construction detour costs and a need for new buses, Litchfield said. Maintenance and fuel costs also are rising, he said.
The current $18.7 million budget comprises 67 percent local and 28 percent state and federal funding. Transit partners Chapel Hill, Carrboro and UNC contribute their shares based on population, with the university providing about 60 percent, Chapel Hill 30 percent and Carrboro 10 percent.