Jan. 27--The Houston area's westernmost park and ride lot is packed beyond its capacity, leading officials to consider creating a second lot under the Grand Parkway at Interstate 10.
Metropolitan Transit Authority officials are working with the Texas Department of Transportation to lease space beneath the newly finished segment of the parkway between I-10 and Mercantile Parkway north of the freeway. The new lot would cover 5.6 acres, giving officials an estimated 400 additional spots.
Once Metro and TxDOT sign an agreement, it would take about a year to design and build the lot, said Roberto Trevino, Metro's vice president of engineering and capital projects.
The new lot would cost between $2.5 million and $3.5 million, Trevino said, depending on whether it is seen as a temporary or permanent solution.
Use of the land would be free, said Miki Milovanovic, vice president of real estate and property management for Metro. Two other park and ride locations are on TxDOT land, at no cost to Metro other than maintenance.
"There are not a lot of things TxDOT could do with that land," Metro board member Jim Robinson said. "And it should have some significant long-term savings for Metro's budget."
But the one-year wait could be hard on commuters trying to use the park and ride. Since toll prices along the I-10 managed lanes increased, and the new segment of the Grand Parkway between I-10 and U.S. 290 opened in late December, the existing park and ride lot has been crowded.
Fills up quickly
"If you're not there by 7 (a.m.) you might not find a space," said Martha Kopp, who rides the bus twice a week during the school year, when her son uses her car to attend college.
Riders have also complained of buses so crowded commuters sometimes have to wait for a second bus. On most evenings and some mornings, buses are standing-room only, rider John Greene said.
"You have a lot of standers, and personally I do not mind because I am sitting all day at my office," Greene said. "Not everybody is young enough to do that, though, and even then it can be a painful ride."
A handful of commuters have taken to carpooling to the park and ride lot. Other riders say transit agency staff have advised them to choose another park and ride location.
Greene said he thinks many commuters from neighborhoods north of I-10 are choosing to use the newly opened parkway segment to shift to the closer park and ride.
Metro officials agree the current lot is bursting at the seams. In a September count of vehicles shortly after prices jumped $2 for the I-10 toll lanes, 640 vehicles were parked in the lot. The transit agency leases 423 spaces from the property owner, and use of any additional spots reduces parking availability for a movie theater and other businesses, Metro officials said.
Demand is growing
The new lot would bring the number of available spaces close to the Grand Parkway to 823. Officials project demand will grow to 1,000 spaces or more by 2018.
Greene said the proposal is likely to benefit park and ride users, but maybe not soon enough.
"It is frustrating they have seen the growth out in Katy and they are working on a solution, but it will be a year," he said.
Metro operates 29 park and ride lots. Across the region, the agency owns or leases space to park 34,100 vehicles at park and ride locations. About 1.5 million drive to work alone in Harris County, according to the Census Bureau.
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