I can reassure Ben here that this will not increase the number of commuters driving to the city. The article's author, Andrew Grossman, also could have reassured Ben if he had provided some important additional information.
The key here is that parking is in high demand along Metro-North and Long Island Railroad stations. Most stations have wait lists for their parking permits, at some stations customers can wait eight years. Fees vary from $200 a year to almost $1000. Some stations have implemented valet parking to try and squeeze more cars into lots.
I don't blame Ben for not knowing this, but I do blame Grossman for not putting it in his article. Don't tell me there's no one at the Wall Street Journal who's on the wait list for a parking spot at a Metro-North station. Grossman didn't bother to ask, possibly because it suited him and his boss, Rupert Murdoch, to have a story about the MTA vs. the unions, possibly because he was under a tight deadline and went with the simplest frame.
There's something else that Grossman left out. He is a transportation reporter, but he works at, you know, the Wall Street Journal, so you'd think that when he's writing an article about money he would ask someone who knows about money. Like WSJ economics reporter Conor Dougherty, who did a nice article three years ago about Donald Shoup and parking pricing. He might have been able to inform Ben that it's possible to set parking prices to keep the lots about 85% full, so that there is always a space for people who want to park.
Sure, some people will be unable to afford the more expensive fees, and maybe they will drive to the city, or maybe they will walk or take a bus to the train station, or even take a bus all the way to the city. Maybe they weren't even using the spots: the Times quotes Rye City Clerk Dawn Nodarse as a witness to all kinds of market distortions:
The problem fuels itself, she said: As the waiting list gets longer and longer, people who have changed jobs or even retired become increasingly reluctant to relinquish their permits, in case they need them again.
“Maybe they go into the city twice a month, but they know that it takes so long to get the permit, so they hang onto it,” Ms. Nodarse said. “We can’t force people to give up their permits.”
Whatever they do, their spots will be taken by those on the waiting list, who may be driving to the city today. At worst, there will be no change in the number of people driving to the city. At best, it may decrease the numbers. And in all cases, it will bring the subsidy level for the commuter railroads down a bit, closer to the level of NYC transit.
Of course, in the end park-and-rides are not the answer, and should have some kind of sunset provision. Maybe the MTA should just keep raising the parking fees past the Shoupian ideal, using the extra money to subsidize local jitneys and building transit-oriented development on the space that gets freed up.