CHAPEL HILL- Although no vote was taken on Monday, the Chapel Hill Town Council made it clear: pay-to-park is coming to the park and ride lots.

“I certainly have come to the conclusion that we need to implement this, said council member Jim Ward. “It is not something I would choose to do otherwise, but we need to keep the playing field level for all the park and ride lots.”

As UNC switches to a fee system for its park and ride lots starting this August, Chapel Hill Transit officials say the town needs to follow suit to make sure town-owned lots on Eubanks Road and in Southern Village are not overcrowded.

“If they’re charging a fee and we’re not, most folks are fairly price sensitive and will likely go to the place where there’s not a fee,” said Chapel Hill Transit Interim Director Brian Litchfield. “We already have capacity issues at some of our park and rides that wouldn’t necessarily be able to handle additional folks just coming to them and using them.”

Under the fee proposal, UNC employees will be granted access to both town and university lots. In return, UNC will pay the town about $150,000 annually. The town will sell permits to non-university commuters for prices ranging from $2 per day to $250 each year.

But council members weren’t sure how the changes would affect non-university employees, specifically the 70 or so riders who regularly use Triangle Transit to get to Raleigh or Durham.

Some, including Lee Storrow, said the town should consider subsidizing their parking fees to encourage bus ridership.

“I am 100 percent in support of […] for folks who have an annual pass to Triangle Transit or a weekly pass, offering parking free of charge,” said Storrow. “I think it’s a small enough number that for folks who are making that type of commitment to public transportation in this region, I don’t think they should be required to pay the fee.”

But others argued Triangle Transit should shoulder the burden.

“Effectively, the cost of providing park and ride is part of providing the Triangle Transit service, so somebody’s got to pay for it,” said Matt Czajkowski. “And if it is not the Triangle Transit riders, then let’s have it be Triangle Transit. It is not a trivial amount of money; it’s not a huge amount of money. It’s $17,500.”

The council postponed a vote on the fee plan until Triangle Transit officials have a chance to weigh in.

Once the council approves the fee system, Litchfield told the council Chapel Hill Transit staffers will begin working with neighborhoods adjacent to the park and ride lots to ensure that residential roads don’t become de facto parking lots.

The park and ride fee proposal returns to the council on April 10.