It’s a familiar experience for thousands of people in the WAMC listening area: you drive to a Metro-North station, park, and catch a train. Now, parking costs could be going up. But as WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne reports, a vote on the proposal has been postponed.
The proposal would raise parking fees nearly 14 percent at 25 Harlem, Hudson and New Haven line stations east of the Hudson River. The plan also would eliminate free Saturday parking on both sides of the river. Democratic state Senator Pete Harckham represents the 40th District, which includes parts of Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties.
“It’s outrageous. It’s another money grab by the MTA. It’s going to impact the hardworking families of the Hudson Valley,” Harckham says. “The riders I represent, they have the longest rides and they have the fewest amenities.”
Lawmakers on the other side of the Hudson River are also upset over the proposed increases. Republican Assemblyman Colin Schmitt wrote to MTA chairman and CEO Patrick Foye, saying any increase is an injustice when the agency’s capital plan gives short shrift to his region.
“I wanted to let the chairman and CEO know how I felt and how it’s going to impact my constituents not only financially but in many ways, make it just a little bit more difficult for them. We can’t have that. So I asked him to oppose and not allow any increases, any changes at all. Leave it the way it is,” Schmitt says. “And any increase that hurts our commuters, hurts our families, hurts our community, and it’s unacceptable, especially until they figure you their MTA capital plan to do right by Orange County, Rockland County and the entire Hudson Valley. So until they can figure that out, they have no right to discuss any additional burden on my residents.”
Schmitt’s 99th district includes part of Orange County and Stony Point, in Rockland County. Some of his constituents cross the river to take Metro-North trains, primarily out of Beacon, as do Newburgh-area residents in Democratic state Senator James Skoufis’ district.
“I join my colleagues in urging the MTA to take another look at this. I understand that there are budget constraints, but this was unexpected,” Skoufis says. “No one in the legislature heard or saw of this coming.”
An MTA spokesman says the proposal remains unchanged at this time, and the November vote rescheduled for December 18. Skoufis urges the MTA to reconsider the increase.
“We made some significant progress north of New York City this year vis-à-vis the capital program and making sure that the Hudson Valley got more attention from the MTA over the next five years,” Skoufis says. “This would be a small step backwards if they did move forward and adopt the parking rate increase.”
“Taking away the Saturday parking, you’re now punishing seniors and people on fixed incomes who used to take advantage of the weekend parking. It’s going to hurt merchants in the downtown hamlets of these towns and villages,” says Harckham. “So the plan is ill-conceived and, as I said before, it’s nothing more than a money grab.”
Democratic Hudson Valley Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson issued a statement with 11 of his colleagues opposing the proposed parking fee hikes, which, in his district, would impact the cities of Beacon and Poughkeepsie. He says the proposal would increase the daily parking rate in Poughkeepsie from $3.75 to $4.50 and the annual permit fee $358 to $394. In Beacon, the daily rate would increase from $3.50 to $4.25 and, the yearly permit from $298 to $328 for residents and from $358 to $394 for non-residents. On November 1, Jacobson attended a meeting between Metro-North leadership and members of the Assembly, but says the Metro-North officials did not mention the proposed increases. Jacobson and others say they first learned of the proposed hikes in local media over Veterans Day weekend.