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Paid parking opens up spaces at Metro's NoHo, Universal City stations

FILE PHOTO: Passengers exit the Red Line at the Universal City station on Dec. 6, 2016.
FILE PHOTO: Passengers exit the Red Line at the Universal City station on Dec. 6, 2016.
Meghan McCarty/KPCC

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Metro began charging for parking this week at its popular North Hollywood and Universal City lots on the Red Line subway, and officials are pleased.

The formerly free parking lots used to fill up to capacity by about 7 a.m. every weekday. Now that drivers are required to pay a $3 daily fee, the lots aren’t as full. And Metro officials say that’s a good thing.

Since Monday, when the lots began to charge the fees, about 120 parking spaces at North Hollywood and about 80 at Universal City have been open at any given time. The North Hollywood lot has about 1,000 parking spaces and Universal City has about 550.

While the fee adds to the cost of taking Metro for those who need to park and ride, officials say it helps to manage the demand for the sought-after spots.

They said it also helps to keep out people who were parking for free without even riding the train. Now, drivers must pay the parking fee with their TAP card, which validates that they’ve used transit.

Metro spokesperson Rick Jager said the agency had observed about a 20 percent increase in parking at the Van Nuys and Sepulveda free lots along the Orange Line rapid bus. That's the result, he said, of people shifting their commute by transferring to the Red Line from the Orange Line instead of driving.

"This is good, as they are using transit options available to get to North Hollywood," Jager said.

Metro is testing the paid parking model at the two Red Line stations and at lots along the new Expo Line through West L.A.

The pilot program could be expanded to other free lots on the rail system, most likely those with the highest demand.