Chair of the International Parking Institute
This question brings to mind something Pat McCarthy, board chair of Sound Transit in Washington said at a traffic conference I attended. She said, “We need to make the experience as good as possible because there’s nothing more frustrating than going to take the train or take the bus or get onto Link light rail and not find a parking spot.”
With more people using public transportation, park-and-ride facilities are filling to near capacity, which may cause some frustrated commuters to give up and drive all the way to work. For transit advocates, full parking facilities are a beautiful sight — proof of what they hope will be a long-term shift away from reliance on single-rider vehicles from home to workplace. For commuters, however, the crowded lots may be plain frustrating.
Near-capacity facilities are a mixed blessing in the eyes of transit agencies and administrators who welcome additional customers, but must also plan for the long-term parking of so many vehicles. There can be no doubt that while some may view paying for parking on top of a transit fee as a negative, the lack of reliably open parking spaces at stations has a much stronger negative long-term effect on ridership.
Transit agencies must consider proper design of parking facilities and the proper use of parking access and revenue control facilities to meet increasing parking demands at stations.
- Parking design may include multimodal elements, such as bus queuing and turn-around areas; covered waiting areas for pedestrians; spaces dedicated for electric vehicles; car-sharing or carpool; and/or services for bicycle commuters, such as bike racks, a bike-share program, lockers, showers, etc. Houston Metro representative Margaret O’Brien-Molina recently told me that 12 percent of metro riders wanted a covered facility for weather protection and 5 percent requested increased security.
- Many transit garage users will be all-day park-and-ride commuters, so the facility design should reflect this level of use.
- Appropriate revenue and access control equipment provides customers ease of use, payment and access to the facilities. They also provide the transit agency useful and important statistical and analytical information for revenue projection and operational needs.
- An important and growing trend is the use of websites and social media to provide commuters real-time information, such as parking facility occupancy, and bus or train schedules. Other important technological features that can be explored in order to improve the customers’ experience include space guidance systems, integrated payment options and reserved parking.
Bottom line: parking matters. Tapping the expertise of experienced parking professionals at the earliest stages of planning any project can make all the difference.
Regional Vice President and Senior Practice Builder
Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.
Managing parking is a tricky endeavor for transit agencies. Most parking management strategies involve some sort of control and/or payment option. Paid parking can be a good incentive to push consumers to consider alternative transportation, but when the paid parking is needed to better manage transit agency parking resources, the issue becomes more problematic. Some may view having to pay a parking fee on top of a transit fee as a negative, but the lack of being able to reliably find a parking space in order to access transit has a much stronger negative impact to ridership in the long run.
When transit agencies are faced with having to more effectively manage parking resources there are several important elements to be considered. Proper design of parking facilities and the use of new technologies are as important to transit-related parking facilities as to any other environment. A holistic and innovative approach to parking facility design and an understanding of new technology options is essential to achieving desired parking outcomes for a transit agency.