Parking charges coming to more VIA Rail stations

By Transport Action | Intercity Rail and Bus

Jun 07

As well as the introduction of seat selection fees in VIA Rail’s new reservation system, June 10, 2024 will also see paid parking rolled out to six more VIA Rail stations in the corridor where passengers have previously enjoyed free parking: Charny, Chatham, Cobourg, Drummondville, Saint-Hyacinthe, and Woodstock. Parking fees will be collected by Indigo, which already manages parking at other stations on VIA Rail’s behalf.  Pricing for the new locations has not yet been announced, but for shorter journeys these new parking charges could add significantly to the cost of choosing the train. Accessible parking spaces will continue to be free of charge at all six stations.

Service provider Indigo, part of French multinational Indigo Group S.A., has been managing VIA Rail’s parking since 2016, under a twelve-year contract tendered in 2015. Parking information can be found at

Copious free parking, wasting valuable urban land, is a problem in many Canadian cities where good transit connectivity offers an alternative “last mile” method of getting to and from the train station, and in these cases Transport Action would prefer there to be incentives to use public transit, including reasonable parking fees. However, a lot of smaller communities have little or no local transit, or limited transit service hours that don’t extend to early morning train departures or late evening arrivals. Taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber and URide also have a limited number if vehicles and drivers in smaller communities, so are often unable to guarantee pickup times and arrival at the station in time to catch an early morning train.

For example, bus services in Saint-Hyacinthe only operate into the evenings on Thursday and Fridays, Cobourg’s on-demand transit operates between 08:15-18:45 on Saturdays and only between 08:45-15:45 on Sundays. Fixed-route services in Chatham are replaced by on-demand services in the evenings, and on Sundays operating between 09:00 and 17:00.

Booking an on-demand transit trip can become problematic when VIA Rail’s services are suffering from delays, and while most train stations used to have display boards with local transit information and taxi service numbers, these are no longer provided in many locations. At the time of writing, the local information provided on VIA Rail’s website was also outdated or incomplete for most of these communities even though the station pages had been updated to note paid parking. These two simple pieces of the integrated mobility puzzle would be relatively easy for VIA Rail to reconnect.

Where stations have been destaffed, replacing station agents with a large number of outsourced service providers for parking, cleaning, routine maintenance, snow removal, horticulture, security cameras, etc. plus the overhead of tendering and monitoring those contracts hardly seems likely to be saving VIA Rail much money. Meanwhile, the lack of a professional railway representative makes it harder for passengers to enquire about services and book their travel, makes it harder to address accessibility needs, increases vandalism, and makes passengers feel less safe.

VIA Rail cities the need to raise additional revenue as one of the reasons for this measure, and time will tell whether this transpires or whether these changes act as a deterrent to maximizing passenger numbers. The state of disrepair at some stations is an ongoing concern, and it is hardly likely that potential passengers will take kindly to being asked to pay a new fee to park in a potholed lot at a crumbling station.

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