Long-term parking for vacationers and other Ottawa airport users has become the latest idea for how to pump new life into some of the city's under-utilized park and rides.
Riverside South-Findlay Creek Coun. Steve Desroches recently asked the city to report back on whether "temporary park-and-fly parking spots" could work at the Leitrim park and ride, as well as at the future park and ride at Bowesville.
In his request to the city, Desroches cited a goal of "encouraging ridership and maximizing empty parking spaces" as "some park and rides are projected to have surplus parking spaces."
"We want people to use transit. And frankly, we need the revenue to help pay for the system," Desroches told CBC last week.
Councillors have been floating ideas for months on how to boost traffic at park and rides that have struggled to return to pre-pandemic usage levels.
Their suggestions come ahead of the touted spring 2024 reopening of the expanded north-south Trillium Line and the launch of the new airport offshoot.
Desroches has already proposed allowing pickleball courts at park and rides during the summer. Fellow councillor Glen Gower, the chair of Ottawa's transit commission, has said the city should also explore them as potential new housing sites.
City councillors have been floating ideas for months on how to boost traffic at park and rides like this one at Greenboro station, as the lots struggle to return to pre-pandemic usage levels. (Jonathan Dupaul/CBC)
What the city said
While Desroches's long-term parking idea presents some logistical issues, according to the city's response, and the councillor himself says the cons "probably" outweigh the pros, he's still keen on the idea of relaxing rules to allow for overnight parking.
Ottawa's transit bylaw currently prohibits overnight parking at park and rides. That would need to be changed, according to the city's response, which was included in the agenda for the commission's meeting on Thursday.
Expanding hours and allowing multi-day stays at park and rides would also complicate snow-clearing efforts and potentially lead to more theft and vandalism, the city added.
Still, the city said it has explored the feasibility of allowing temporary long-term parking at the Bowesville, Leitrim and Greenboro park and rides "to promote travel to the airport by transit."
Desroches said he tested out the idea himself at Greenboro when he made an overnight trip to Toronto.
"The objective here wasn't to compete with the airport," he said. "Really the gist of this was, are we serving our passenger needs? [And] is there any additional value that we can provide to them?"
Extending parking hours would especially help people who work overnight shifts, Desroches added.
"We've got some restrictions that may not be conducive [as we] become more and more of a 24/7 society," he said.
The launches of both the expanded north-south Trillium LRT line, also known as Line 2, and the new airport offshoot, Line 4, have been touted for this spring. (OC Transpo)
Signs of a rebound
Despite the desire to boost park and ride usage, there are some encouraging signs already, according to both Gower and the city.
"With every month that goes by since return-to-office, post-pandemic, it's getting busier and busier," Gower said of the Eagleson park and ride in west Ottawa.
In its response to Desroches, the city said that as ridership on the LRT system — including the airport extension — grows, "available capacity [at park and rides] will decline."
"There is already less capacity available at Greenboro Station, where use of the park and ride lot is greater," the city wrote.