Light rail is coming relatively soon to Aurora, and in anticipation, the city has proposed a rate system for a new parking garage serving the upcoming Iliff Avenue station Interstate 225.
No. No. And no. Aurora lawmakers gave tentative approval this week to a plan rife with trouble for commuters and residents near the station who have had this issue thrust upon them. The parking garage will serve the upcoming “R” line extension from Nine Mile station at Parker Road, north along I-225, all the way to Smith Road and Peoria Street.
Aurora’s long-awaited light rail transit line will dramatically change this entire corridor of the city, offering relatively easy access to Downtown Denver, Park Meadows Mall and IKEA, Anschutz Medical Campus, and even Denver International Airport. The city and RTD could easily diminish ridership, or restrict ridership solely to wealthier commuters, by making bad decisions about parking and ridership rates. So far, it’s not good.
Earlier this year, RTD board members approved a new rate structure that does simplify light-rail fares, but for the most part, light-rail rates will be going up for Aurora residents going to Downtown Denver. Redrawn zones mean that if you board Aurora’s R Line at the Iliff station, a round-trip ticket will cost about $9, without discounts. Now add $3 parking to that price, and the city is doing two things: They’re making parking and riding light rail downtown a luxury for many Aurora commuters. That’s wrong. Mass transit is not and should never be a luxury. It’s created as an affordable way to get people around a congested city, and it must be priced to lure stubborn westerners out of their singly-occupied cars. Some city staff have pointed to the cost of Downtown Denver parking lots. No. It’s not a valid argument, because the rail and bus system fares must be based on what all commuters can and should pay, not as a foil to the price of gas and parking. Mass transit is a public service, not an extravagance.
The city has wrongly proposed a system that treats the parking rates separately and differently than those just two miles away at the already overcrowded Nine Mile. Wrong, wrong, wrong. By charging $3 at the Iliff garage and $2 at Nine Mile, a bad overcrowding situation there will only be made worse.
But there’s even more wrong with the city’s comprehensive parking plan. Aurora is proposing to create a street-parking permit system in neighborhoods and businesses surrounding the Iliff Station garage. That’s because city officials know that some commuters will try and dodge the parking fees and clog the nearby residential streets with cars. Also, the garage will eventually fill just like Nine Mile. There certainly needs to be parking restrictions near the garage to accommodate those who live there. But the city wants to charge residents for parking permits on their own streets, making them pay anywhere from $5-$20 a year, per car for permits — including a charge for permits for visitors who park on the streets.
No. This plan would hardly generate enough revenue to even pay to manage it. Instead, it would only be a nuisance or hardship for families that have to fork it over because the city and RTD installed light rail and a garage near their homes. Allow residents a permit for every car registered to the home and two guest permits. No charge.
Already RTD is moving light rail commutes further away from the realm of being affordable mass transit and making it an elite ride for Downtowners with high-paying jobs or subsidies. Further burdening commuters with unequal and too-high parking fees will only make it worse. Match Nine Mile fees, pass extra costs onto out-of-district motorists and focus on getting the trains running.