Chapel Hill Transit’s proposal to charge a fee was prompted by the University’s decision to charge for the park-and-ride lots that it owns. Without paralleling the University’s decision, the park-and-ride lots in Chapel Hill and Carrboro would become overcrowded.
Chapel Hill Transit needs to be careful in the implementation of this proposal if it is in fact passed by the council on April 10.
One of the greatest attributes of Chapel Hill Transit is the accessibility of its free transportation services.
Charging a park-and-ride fee is a reasonable and rational response to the University’s decision, but it can create a barrier to entry that may regrettably exclude some from using these services.
In order to prevent this exclusion, Chapel Hill Transit should create a hardship parking application that creates an avenue for lower-income transit riders to appeal for a reduced fee.
The proposal also calls for separate fees for daily and monthly passes. Chapel Hill Transit should consider a payment plan for those riders who might want to purchase the annual parking pass but don’t have a disposable $250 and would otherwise be forced into the more expensive short-term plans.
Chapel Hill Transit should work to prevent further increases to fees of this kind. But given the current constraints it faces, the editorial board supports the park-and-ride plan — with the above caveats.
The Town of Carrboro has also taken steps to ease parking concerns by purchasing a parking lot that it had been previously leasing in order to assure that free parking remains available for customers patronizing Carrboro businesses.
Expanding parking will make many people’s commutes easier, but at the cost of obvious ramifications like more traffic and pollution.
It is foolhardy to suggest that we should live in a society without any cars or easily accessible parking, but the board believes most residents of the two towns can agree that keeping traffic congestion and pollution to a minimum is desirable for the community.
The Town of Carrboro’s decision to keep the free parking lot on South Greensboro Street for the foreseeable future is an act that makes the members of the editorial board — like other drivers — selfishly happy.
But the board questions whether expanding parking is actually helpful to the community or is just providing a crutch for unsustainable behavior.
Parking and transportation concerns are constant in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community, and there needs to be a discussion on what our community finds truly important.
Increased parking will surely alleviate some short-term problems, but the towns need to be playing the long game.
Most pressingly, Chapel Hill’s quality of life cannot be upheld if lower-income commuters are priced out.
In both towns, however, a large-scale discussion about — and systematic approach to — parking and transit would yield dividends.