Drivers who use town- and UNC-owned park-and-ride lots to get on the bus will start paying up to $250 a year for the privilege Thursday.
Chapel Hill Transit has established pay stations at four town lots: Eubanks Road, Jones Ferry Road, Southern Village and Carrboro Plaza. The lots will remain first-come, first-served, and drivers will have the option of paying $2 a day, $21 a month or $250 for an annual permit. Permits are good at any of the four lots, town officials said. UNC park-and-ride permits also will be honored at those lots.
Permits will only be required between 4 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays. They also will not be required for drivers who park to take the Tarheel Express on game days.
UNC will operate its own permitting system for employees and students using six university-owned park-and-ride lots. The fees are based on a sliding scale, with an average annual cost of $250.
UNC decided to make the change last year as part of a five-year plan to cover a $6.5 million shortfall in its transportation and parking budget. The town followed suit in April to prevent UNC students and employees who don’t want to pay for a parking permit from filling up town-owned lots, Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield said. UNC-affiliated drivers already make up the majority of those using town-owned lots, he said.
In January, some members of the Town Council balked at the idea of charging a parking fee to drivers who already pay $4 and $5 round-trip to use Triangle Transit buses. Triangle Transit has since agreed to provide free parking permits to TTA GoPass and monthly pass holders traveling to Raleigh, Litchfield said. TTA will provide those drivers with additional information once the details are worked out, he said.
The town paid roughly $128,000 to install signs and pay stations, hire part-time employees and repaint the park-and-ride lots. Litchfield said it will cost $69,000 a year to operate the lots. Annual revenues are estimated at $162,000, including a $150,000 annual contribution from UNC, he said.
The university, Chapel Hill and Carrboro share responsibility for managing and paying the local cost for the Chapel Hill Transit system.