While new facilities attract new customers, it’s important to note that the main deterrent to the use of multimodal facilities is the availability of large quantities of free auto parking near transit centers. Continuing to offer this type of parking creates a vicious cycle of increased lot use hence increased demand for parking at staggeringly escalating costs per car space. Rethinking the free parking approach will do more to increase demand for multimodal centers than any other single step. Enabling many customers to reach the transit station in other ways will free up valuable car parking space for those who truly need it.
A Few Words on Design
While designs of multimodal facilities will be determined by each individual transit authority and/or municipality, certain ideas should be paramount. Alternative transportation sites have usually been unattractive — think bike racks with jumbles of bicycles wired and locked in some confusion, or big, bulky industrial-looking lockers. Such approaches do not attract users, heighten a sense of security or encourage discretionary transit customers. Successful multimodal facilities are bright, airy, often made largely of glass and even displayed as pieces of urban art as the new facility under construction at Union Station in Washington, D.C., so aptly demonstrates.
The new multimodal transit facility is an opportunity for a city and transit authority to reflect the significance they place on alternative modes of mobility and become a source of pride and promotion for their agencies and cyclists alike.
Access Control and Membership Management
Selecting an access control system for a multimodal transportation facility starts with questions of membership status. While the use of transit lockers has historically required some form of registration, the use of the train and car parks does not. Therefore, it’s appropriate to ask if the multimodal transit site should be membership-based and/or single use. If parking spaces, lockers and other facilities are shared, usage can be increased over a reserved system and there is less potential for inappropriate use of the facilities. Of course, a shared-use system requires an access control system that can track usage and relay information to a membership system to debit the user’s account or generate a bill.
Technologies for access control systems are developing rapidly and could be an article of their own. When selecting a system, first ask how will the pricing be structured? Per use or flat fee? Shared or reserved parking? How will the data transmission from the bike transit to the membership center be accomplished — wireless, local area network or manually? Evaluate the reliability of the system carefully as this is an important factor to users. They don’t want system failures that prevent them from parking or accessing their bikes or electric vehicles.
Understand the capital costs. Most important, realize that the security of the system is paramount. This is the user’s main concern and if the system is secure, increased usage will likely offset the additional investment in technology. Access control systems are, ultimately, a convenience to users and maintain flexibility and lower costs in the operations of the facility.
Three primary options are available for management of the multimodal transit center — public agency operation, private operation or a combination of both in public/private partnership.
Before choosing, the transit authority needs to understand and evaluate the responsibilities of such operation. These include:
Marketing — Changing people’s minds is not an easy task, therefore getting people to switch from their autos to bikes or electric vehicles and public transportation requires consistent, persistent marketing.
Membership Management — This is the process of registering users, collecting fees, dealing with inquiries and complaints, tracking facility usage and educating members on facility services.
Facility Maintenance and Cleaning — It is very important that customers feel that the facility is clean and well-maintained, including removal of airborne pollutants, graffiti and trash. Mechanical and electrical devices must be well maintained.
Staffing of Facilities — For full-service facilities, on-site staff with a knowledge of the available vehicles is required involving customer service, hiring, work schedules, budgeting and financial acumen, etc.