New reservation system aims to make paid parking an easier experience

Customers who pay for reserved parking at Calgary’s LRT lots will soon have access to a more user-friendly reservation and payment system, according to the city’s manager of transit planning.

Neil McKendrick said a new online reservation system should be in place by summer of 2012.

The current reserved parking system was developed in response to city council’s decision to end the $3 per day flat-rate parking fee almost a year ago.

With the abolishment of the fee, up to one half of all parking spots in

LRT lots are now set aside as reserved paid parking.

The remaining spots are free of charge and allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Under the current system, customers interested in paying $70 for a monthly reserved spot must wait for confirmation of how many spots will be available at each lot. Some lots have waitlists for reserved parking numbering into the hundreds.

“Right now, customers can go into any number of lots and book a space. They get an email for each one of those, and they have until the cutoff day in order to pay. So it’s quite common for a customer to book at a couple of lots because they don’t know if they will have a spot,” McKendrick said.

The “flaw” with this system, McKendrick said, is that while customers can reserve spots at multiple lots, after the payment cutoff day – where customers only have to pay for one reservation — there is no way to allocate unused reservations to those on the waiting list.Chinook LRT Station has 160 reserved parking spaces available. Calgary Transit planning manager Neil McKendrick (not pictured) said the issue with LRT parking is that there are only around 14,000 parking spaces for 270,000 LRT riders.
Photo by: Shane Flug

“The reservation that they got, but that they haven’t paid for yet, sits there until the end of the month. Then it’s cancelled and we start over again.”

The new system will be more efficient, McKendrick said, because “customers will know right away if they have a space or not.”

Customers are also currently limited to booking a reserved spot one month at a time and are required to enter their entire personal information each time they renew a reservation online.

With the new system, they won’t have to do this.

“They can book the entire year if they wish to with the new system,” McKendrick said. “Each time they enter the system now, they have to re-enter all of their personal information. So that process will be eliminated as well.

“The system will be capable of storing everything but your credit card information.”

There are also plans to reduce the $70 reserved parking fee at three LRT lots — McKnight-Westwinds, Anderson and Franklin — where demand for reserved spots has been lower than expected.

McKendrick said the price change for these three lots would take place prior to the introduction of the new reservation system. The soonest this change could take place is April.

The price for reserved parking at these three lots has yet to be determined.

Regardless of the changes, McKendrick advises transit customers that travelling by bus is the preferable option to parking at an LRT lot.

“There really is a limited amount of parking regardless of how we manage it. We have over 270,000 people riding the C-Train every day, and we have 14,000 parking spaces,” McKendrick said.

At a meeting of city council’s standing policy committee on transportation and transit, several alderman raised concerns about the new reservation system.

Observing that demand for reserved parking is highest at stations closest to the ends of the northwest and south legs of the LRT.

Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart, committee chair, suggested that the new reservation system should be collecting information that would establish the residency of customers.

“Our first priority is to the citizens of Calgary. So I don’t understand why we can’t get people’s names and addresses as part of the registration system.”

Ald. Gord Lowe said the need for a new reservation system “begs the question” of why council “abandoned” the old $3 charge in the first place.

The City of Calgary’s Reserved Park and Ride system can be found here.

ktaylor@cjournal.ca