PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. Commuters frequently drive to the train station, park all day, and ride the train. San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (motto: we're not as long as the Union Pacific, but we're wider) recently provided some reserved, by-permit-only, paid on a long-term basis parking spaces at stations. Shark Blog is not impressed with the results. "The highways in the Bay Area are overcrowded, and BART has excess capacity that could be used. But people will only opt for BART if it is convenient and time-efficient. The sanest solution would simply be to build more parking spots, and charge by the hour for all of them. But transit agencies tend to be run by a combination of people who hate cars altogether ('let them take the bus or ride a bike to the BART station!'), redistributionists ('BART should be free!') and the economically illiterate. So the half-assed solution of reserving a portion of the parking spots means that a few people will pay for reserved spots but probably won't use their spot all the time, meaning there will always be some unused parking capacity. At the same time, more of the occasional riders will fail to find parking, and will probably avoid BART altogether, and just drive all the way to their destination. Where they may have to pay for parking anyway."
His post does not spell out whether the remaining parking spots are free, which only aggravates the problem of people claiming all the free spots, compelling the later riders either to leave earlier themselves and complain, or leave later, complain, and then drive into town. And if the remaining spots are free, there is little incentive for the extremely regular early rider to buy a permit space, as he's only got to beat the rest of the traffic for the first few trains.
Chicago's Metra lots use a combination of permit and paid parking. The availability of pay-by-the-day spaces is a benefit for the occasional rider, provided a space is available (DeKalb readers: Elgin Big Timber is a bit longer drive, but less of a lottery than Geneva or Aurora. The railroading is more impressive than the Union Pacific although less so than the Burlington.) As an aside, I wonder if Metra overbooks? If on any day some percentage of the permit holders don't ride the train, there exists a number of permits in excess of the spaces at which the permit part of the lot is full every day.
I suppose that if the wider-than-the-Union Pacific BART went the Metra route, Acura-driving egalitarians would have even more to whine about.