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Azusa parking problems around Metro stations prompting restrictions

FILE: A light rail vehicle for the Gold Line Foothill Extension leaves Sierra Madre Villa station headed for Azusa, which is spelled wrong on the train.
FILE: A light rail vehicle for the Gold Line Foothill Extension leaves Sierra Madre Villa station headed for Azusa, which is spelled wrong on the train.
Meghan McCarty/KPCC

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The city of Azusa is enforcing restrictions on street parking to control overflow from the busy Gold Line stations there while Metro seeks ways to ease the parking situation.

In the first month of service, which began March 5, the Gold Line extension added about 6,000 riders a day.

Two stations at the end of the line in Azusa, one in downtown and another near Citrus College, have about 200 parking spaces each. But drivers who can’t find spots have been parking in nearby neighborhoods.

Azusa officials said the parking problems in Azusa have resulted in more than 100 parking citations since the extension opened two months ago. A nearby Target store has towed away 52 cars over the same period.

Drivers like Andrew Henck of Glendora, who would love to commute to work on the train, find both Azusa parking lots filled up, despite his attempts to get there early in the morning.

"First, I think I started at 7:30. I tried a few days later at 7. I think the earliest I tried was 6:30," he said. And still, he found no open spaces.

Metro advises drivers that the Irwindale parking garage doesn't fill as quickly as the ones in Azusa. The Sierra Madre Villa station, the former terminal for the Gold Line, has a parking garage with nearly 900 spots, which used to fill up equally early. Since the extension opened officials said it has been half empty.

The problems in Azusa are raising questions about Metro's parking plans for the new Expo line between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica that opens on May 20.

Professor Juan Matute, associate director of UCLA's Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies, said even if parking is tight around the stations, the travel patterns on the Expo Line will be different.

"It’s not necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison," he said. More people will be arriving on the crowded westside as their destination, rather than having to park there to begin their journey.

The new Expo line will have a combined 544 parking spaces at three of the seven stops. Real estate around the new Expo stops, in denser, more urban west Los Angeles, is also more valuable and developed, making adding more parking unlikely.

Metro plans a pilot program to charge for parking at their new lots along the Expo Line in an effort to better manage the demand for spots. Currently most parking at Metro lots is free.

The agency may also charge for parking in Azusa later this year, and officials say they could develop an app to show real-time availability information for parking spots at Metro lots.