Specifically, they wanted to address rumors that Borough Council was going to vote tonight to assess a fee for parking.
For the record, the topic was not on the agenda. We have not decided to to assess a fee or not, although we have had informal discussions and are investigating the pros and cons of parking fees or no parking fees.
Tonight, six or seven people -- all of whom ride the train from Elizabethtown and mostly work in Harrisburg, from what I gathered -- addressed Borough Council. Some were borough residents, and one each from Mount Joy Township and West Donegal Township.
The consensus from the comments was that "anything beyond a nominal charge would be too much," in the words of borough resident Ben Donahower.
To everyone's credit, though, they want to be a part of the conversation and come up with a solution. That is great because it is not often that Borough Council has residents request to be part of the solution from the start. So many times, residents come to complain -- and it's refreshing to know that there's a group that wants to participate.
With that in mind, let me lay out the thoughts that came up this evening and that Borough Council has discussed. Then, let's start the conversation here in the comments. Before I dive into this, let me remind everyone that I moderate the comments because I get pornographic spam. I have pledged to post comments that are critical of me, the borough and Borough Council.
That said, I know this can potentially be an emotional issue for some, so I ask that we all treat each other with respect. This is my blog, and I reserve the right to reject and/or edit any comments that are obscene, vulgar, offensive or personal attacks.
Here, then, are issues about parking fees at the Elizabethtown Train Station:
- Tenants from the apartment building across the street use the train station parking lot -- despite having parking behind their building. Scott Little, a train rider from Mount Joy Township, referenced this in his comments, and it's something Borough Council has discussed. By requiring payment for parking, it would keep those residents from using the lot as their personal space.
- Yes, taxpayers are footing the bill for the train station via the federal stimulus funding -- but that's only for the construction. What happens in five or 10 years when an elevator breaks down, the pavement cracks, landscaping needs to be replanted or replaced? Shouldn't the borough have a source of funding, via parking fees, to help alleviate the maintenance costs?
- Donahower mentioned "anything beyond a nominal charge would be too much." What is a nominal charge? He said it costs $120 to ride the train to Harrisburg each month and $130 to park in downtown Harrisburg (wow! I was paying $110 10 years ago). So if we charged more than the $10 difference, economics might cause people to rethink the train ride. But what about the costs of gas and wear and tear on one's car? And of course there are things you can't tie to money: the stress of driving in Harrisburg rush-hour traffic, the ability to nap, read a book or the newspaper.
- One resident from West Donegal Township said if the borough charges for parking, many riders might head to Middletown to catch the train. Parking is free there, and the train ticket to Harrisburg cheaper. Borough Council knows this. Let's talk about it.
- How do we assess fees for daily commuters vs. people who might spend the weekend in Philadelphia or take the train on a week long vacation?
- There are borough residents who never ride the train and never will. Is it fair for them to pay taxes for maintenance at the train station?
Let's talk about it here.