MBTA officials floated the idea of increasing parking costs to help close the agency’s gaping deficit in its operating budget.
Hiking the cost to park and ride could add between $6.6 and $9.6 million next year, officials told the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board in a presentation on Friday.
MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve said several times that the ideas put forth were not policy suggestions, just a look at the T’s options as it considers how to close a budget gap that’s projected to top $240 million next fiscal year and rise as high as $420 million by 2020.
If officials opt to do so, parking prices could be increased in multiple ways: at lots at some stations, across the entire transit system, or based on demand at specific times in certain lots, Shortsleeve said in a briefing prior to the meeting.
Mark Boyle, the MBTA’s assistant general manager of real estate and asset development, said there is not a “specific fee’’ in mind at this point.
“It’s still very early in looking at that,’’ he said.
If the agency were to institute an increase any time soon, it could represent one of two hikes that riders may see in the next year.
The T is next allowed to increase fares in July, and control board members also heard about rules and data regarding fare prices and increases on Friday.
Following the meeting, Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said that decisions on the two possible hikes—parking fees and fares—should take both costs into account.
“If you thought you were going to increase parking and fares at the same time, then you would want to make sure to look at the combined impact of that, to make sure you didn’t make people’s overall transportation costs so high that they chose not to use public transportation,’’ Pollack said. “It’s a balancing act.’’
Parking costs currently range from $4 to $7.
“The MBTA has not raised … parking fees since 2008, so that’s been a seven-year steady cost,’’ Boyle said.
The T could also derive more parking-related revenue by increasing the size of parking fines, working with outside parties, and adjusting the size of parking lots to better suit demand, a process that would involve some spending to expand lots, but could also bring revenue from selling parts of lots that are too large.
The MBTA expects to collect $17.2 million in net parking revenue this year, after expenses and bond repayments. That figure could eventually get as high as $31.9 million if it takes on every idea presented Friday, according to the presentation.
Officials on Friday also spoke about ways the T could derive more money from its real estate holdings.
Boyle said the T is facing something of a property squeeze.
“Frankly, we sold a lot of it,’’ he told the control board.
But the T could lease large surface parking lots to private companies, who could build on the sites on the condition that they maintain parking for commuters, according to Boyle. Such a system was used at the Woodland Green Line station’s parking lot in Newton, he said.
The T could also sell air rights over its properties, allowing for development overhead, he said. Other additional real estate-related revenue could come from fees at ATMs installed at stations and increasing fees for utility or telecom companies that run on MBTA property.
Friday’s presentation was the second in a series on how the MBTA could raise revenue and cut costs. Last week’s presentation focused on increasing advertising sales.
The board is expected to suggest a strategy for closing the deficit in December.
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