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You may soon have to pay for parking at busy Metro stops

The last stop at Azusa/Citrus College on the Gold Line extension may get paid parking if Metro extends a pilot program.
The last stop at Azusa/Citrus College on the Gold Line extension may get paid parking if Metro extends a pilot program.
Meghan McCarty/KPCC

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Get your free Metro station parking while you can — the transit agency is considering a plan to start charging to leave your car at busy stops. 

Free parking at a hot location, like say the end of the Gold Line extension in Azusa, creates high demand. So many of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's parking spaces at popular locations regularly fill up before 6 a.m.

Metro officials see charging a market rate for parking as a way to lower the demand so that it is easier for most people to find a spot.

Metro began a paid parking pilot program back when the Expo Line to Santa Monica opened in May. And it's been successful, according to Frank Ching, the transit agency's senior director of countywide planning and development, who manages parking programs.

He said paid parking has kept three new lots along the Expo Line from overcrowding. So the Metro board is considering expanding the program to six more high-traffic stops. "The whole goal is [to] manage the occupancy rate between 85 and 90 percent," Ching said.

The proposed expansion is scheduled to go before the Metro board on Dec. 1.

Parking for the day would cost $2 to $3 for Metro riders at several stations on the Gold Line, Red Line and Expo Line. Stations along the Green Line could be included in the paid parking program next:

Metro has changed some of the designated stations since it initially proposed the parking pilot earlier this year. Sierra Madre Villa in Pasadena, the former terminal for the Gold Line, was originally proposed to be part of the program. But since the extension opened, the 900-space lot has been only half full on most days as traffic has moved to the new terminal in Azusa.

The lot at the Expo Line's Culver City station was also designated for paid parking but is now undergoing redevelopment as part of Metro's effort with the city to create transit-friendly destinations near stops.

Metro is also currently building an app to provide real-time information on how many spaces are left at its parking lots and garages. The service should be up and running by the middle of next year.