By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Durham residents using GO Transit may be facing higher costs in the future.
Metrolinx, the provincial transportation agency that oversees GO Transit, is considering changing thousands of free parking spaces into paid ones.
According to Nitish Bissonauth, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, there are about 77,000 parking spots at GO Stations across southern Ontario, and only eight per cent of those are paid reserved spots.
Free parking is offered at 57 of Metrolinx’s 66 GO stations.
He also noted Metrolinx is already planning to add 24,000 additional parking spaces over the next decade.
He pointed out GO Transit has “the fastest growing ridership” in North America, and ridership increased more than 5.3 per cent in the past year.
However, Bissonauth noted 62 per cent of GO Transit customers drive to stations alone, and one in five customers live within a one km drive of a station.
“We encourage our customers to get to the station in ways other than driving alone such as walking, cycling, carpooling or using local public transportation,” he said.
Bissonauth said the agency is still considering a number of options, and no decisions have been made in terms of converting parking spaces to reserved spots.
“It is our priority to ensure transit costs remain affordable for our customers,” he said. “Our study and research continues to find the most effective strategies.”
However, Oshawa MPP Jennifer French believes asking GO Transit commuters to pay for parking merely means additional expenses.
“At this point for them to be considering making it to be more expensive and less accessible to be using public transit, it was actually very shocking,” French said.
French said a lack of parking at GO stations affects commuters across the region, but she has spoken to a long list of people “who are really challenged by the lack of parking spaces in Oshawa and Whitby.”
“The fact Metrolinx is creating further costs to these commuters, it isn’t right and it certainly isn’t going to help people to access transportation,” French said. “It seems like a deterrent. Are these commuters going to be additional vehicles on our roadways?”
For French, she believes this latest news continues an obvious direction for Metrolinx.
“The new Metrolinx leadership… they have really focused [on the costs of services]. That’s how I see it,” she said.