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Stations need more parking, TTC suggests

Bigger lots would promote transit use, chair says

By Paul Moloney Toronto Star City Hall Bureau

The Toronto Transit Commission has an answer to gridlock: Build more commuter parking at outlying subway stations.

The commuter lots - totalling 12,300 spaces - are jammed to capacity every weekday, and the TTC is proposing to add another 7,700 spaces at a cost of $40 million.

“People are saying to us, `If you can get me a parking spot near the subway, I’ll park and take the TTC downtown,’ ” TTC spokesperson Lynn Hilborn said yesterday.

Officials are including the proposal in their budget requests to the city, and hope to sell it on the basis of reduced smog and traffic congestion.

“The city comes to us and says, on smog days why not offer free transit? We say, why not try to avoid having smog days by building parking lots? If we can take 8,000 cars a day off the streets, the benefits are obvious.”

TTC chair Howard Moscoe is sold on the proposal.

“We need to build more parking,” said Moscoe (North York Spadina). “It’s mainly 905ers we want to entice into those lots to keep the cars from pouring downtown.”

The Downsview subway station at Sheppard Ave. and Allan Rd., for example, could easily handle a 500-space parking lot, Hilborn said. “It has a lot of land around it, it’s right off the 401 and it’s on a line, the Spadina-University line, that isn’t running at full capacity.”

The TTC has split its parking expansion plans into two parts. The $5 million first phase would see 1,200 spaces added at Kipling, Downsview, Wilson, Finch and Kennedy stations.

In phase two, another 6,500 spots would go in at Kipling, Islington, Downsview, Wilson, Finch and Kennedy. The cost is $35 million, due to the need to build parking garages as well as surface parking.

“We’ve got to stop looking at the car as the enemy and try to think of ways to allow the motorist to park at a convenient spot and take transit,” Hilborn said.

Deputy Mayor Case Ootes said the idea bears examination.

“Anything that might encourage people to take the TTC is worth looking into,” said Ootes (East York). “I certainly wouldn’t say no out of hand.”

But Councillor Tom Jakobek, the city’s budget chair, said the TTC should look to the provincial government for funding rather than hitting Toronto’s property taxpayers.

“I support a share of the (provincial) gasoline tax in order to support the TTC,” said Jakobek (East Toronto). “Why not put some of that money towards public transit? I can understand that.”

Moscoe has broached the idea of turning over the TTC lots to the Parking Authority of Toronto. The authority, which nets about $16 million annually from city-owned lots, could then cover the costs of expanding the station lots.

The parking authority is studying the idea but its chair, A. Milliken Heisey, was leery.

One problem is that 80 per cent of the TTC lot users buy monthly Metropasses which allow them to park for free.

“Commuter parking is typically not very economic,” Heisey said. “You can’t charge enough. Even if you charged more than the TTC does now, there are real problems recovering your costs.”

A much cheaper alternative, he said, would be to let commuters park on streets surrounding subway stations through a permit system.

But residents could get up in arms if they found their street was being dedicated to commuter parking, Hilborn said.

“I’m sure there’s all sorts of political problems with on-street parking during the day.”