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Although drivers will likely be angry if the Toronto Transit Commission decides to increase parking lot fees, the TTC has been in perpetual struggle to find money.Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

The TTC should look at charging sharply more to park at its commuter lots, says chair Josh Colle, who argues that drivers have been getting off cheaply even as transit fares have risen.

He plans to introduce a motion at Monday's meeting of the Toronto Transit Commission board looking for ways to extract more revenue from the parking lots, which now charge $3 to $6 a day.

The idea is likely to infuriate drivers who have become accustomed to cheap parking, and risks encouraging them to drive downtown instead. But with the TTC engaged in a perpetual struggle to find money, Mr. Colle argued it is necessary to take a hard look at parking prices.

"[We] are willing to increase what we charge a loyal customer, like a Metropass holder, but not willing to increase what we charge someone who drives. So it doesn't quite square with me," he said.

"I want to see scenarios that would show us, you know, here's what it would look like if you charged market rates for parking. Here's what you could generate from your lots, maybe if you jointly developed them with [the parking authority]. I want to see those scenarios so we can make an informed policy decision."

The TTC has 26 commuter lots at 13 suburban stations, with a total of about 12,000 parking spaces. These cost $7.2-million to operate and generate close to $9.3-million in revenue.

Raising the rates could in theory generate millions. Doubling them, for example, would mean the TTC netting $11.4-million, instead of the current $2.1-million, provided that the agency's costs remain the same and that as many people continue to use the lots after the prices go up.

But it's not clear without more study that the demand would remain steady in the face of a price increase.

Research shows that many drivers focus on the immediate and obvious costs of their trip – parking, tolls and gas prices – while ignoring less-apparent costs such as depreciation and maintenance. And other costs of driving are fixed, regardless of how much distance is covered.

All of this has the effect of making parking seem to be a bigger portion of the cost of driving, and raising the price at TTC lots could lead motorists to conclude it would be cheaper simply to drive downtown than to pay the higher charge and then pay a transit fare as well. It's the same concern that prompts Metrolinx to charge nothing for most of the parking spots at its GO stations, even though that means people who don't drive to the station subsidize those who do.

The complexities of the issue need a careful examination by staff, said Mr. Colle, whose motion calls for them to report back in the third quarter of next year. He's waiting for their findings but suspects the TTC is not getting the most value out of its parking properties.

"If the analysis shows that we can increase [parking revenues], then why would we not do that?" he said. "We've got to start doing everything we can on the kind of non-service side to squeeze dollars out. And I just think that we have a really valuable asset in parking lots."

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