LRT park-and-ride pricing is back to council Wednesday, but this time the proposal is to reserve a fraction of the spaces for those willing to pay around $40 or $50 per month.


The plan has already been recommended by council’s Transportation and Public Works committee and, with any luck, the one-year pilot, including up to 18 per cent of the spaces, will start in 2011.


Even though most spaces will still be free, some councillors (namely Linda Sloan and Karen Leibovici) seem to have reservations based on the idea that this will create a two-tiered transportation system.


Unfortunately, the phrase “invert the transportation hierarchy” is widely used in urban planning circles for a reason: Transportation is nothing if it isn’t a system of tiers.


Car drivers have the jump on transit riders and bicyclists. All three lord over the pedestrian, a mode so little regarded that it’s name is often used to mean “undisinguished” and “ordinary.”

Within these broad tiers are finer gradations. Some transit riders live next to an LRT station, while others have to hike just to get a bus that’s still running.

Near the top of the heap are drivers who don’t pay to park.

They don’t pay because businesses and other parking providers have generously decided that those of us who don’t use the parking should subsidize those who do — regardless of which group is responsible or has the means to pay. This applies as much to transit as to shopping.

When you find yourself dodging cars in a parking lot, remember that you’re being made to pay for the pleasure. If that’s not evidence of a modal hierarchy, I don’t know what is.

Parking isn’t free: The city’s numbers show that even a gravel park-and-ride space is $5,000 to build and annual maintenance is up to $550. Spaces in garages, the construction of which are luckily still on hold, easily cost more than $50,000.

Edmonton is, as absurd as it sounds, subsidizing people to not take the buses that often run around residential areas half-empty.

The city can’t charge full costs while other parking goes free, but that still shouldn’t stop them from addressing existing inequalities — especially not with park-and-ride lots overflowing by 8 a.m.

Can’t afford a car? Fare hike. Got a car and a monthly transit pass? Free parking. It’s perverse and regressive to maintain this double standard.

Councillors are right to worry about discriminating based on income, but some of them are looking in the wrong place.