We Shouldn’t Build More Park and Rides

Tukwila Int’l Blvd Park and Ride (by Oran Viriyincy)

After a great phone call yesterday afternoon, I realized that this is a good time to write a little more about park and rides.

In general, free parking is bad. Don Shoup’s paper (linked) is excellent and hasn’t been successfully challenged. His work has influenced parking policies in many cities, leading to improved traffic and improved economic activity with reduced emissions – basically, great stuff.

However, for transit stations outside Seattle, there seems to be a disconnect. While cities are implementing priced parking and increasingly re-purposing street parking for bicycle, transit and pedestrian infrastructure, transit agencies are still catching up. In 2008, Sound Transit had many parking garage and surface lot expansions in the Sound Transit 2 measure. Today, they’re looking at other station access options, but it’s still taken as a given by many transit supporters that park and rides are good. I used to be one of these, but now I’m not, and I want to explain why.

We often view ridership as an end goal of a transit system – it’s the metric we measure in the short term, and it’s a good indicator we’re on the right track, but getting riders on a train isn’t why we build transit. We build it for its positive impact on our economy, and because it increases quality of life, mostly as a direct result of more people walking to their destinations and fewer people driving. Sound Transit was created because the Puget Sound Regional Council – then the Puget Sound Council of Governments – adopted a policy for linking growth to transportation. Their 1990 Vision 2020, which said we needed a regional transportation body, and now their Vision 2040, are about managing growth – we’re building transit to create compact development, not to its own end.

So are we meeting those goals with park and rides?

When park and rides are built in areas where there isn’t much within walking distance, people start driving to the stations. Not all the park and ride trips are trips that were previously taken on the highway, but most of them are, hence why there are so many ready park and ride users when a new transit station opens. The day before the station opens, most were driving all the way to the city center – the parking lot fills almost immediately.

At first blush, this looks great! All these people are now on transit. But we missed something important: elasticity.

Basically, the more you charge for something, the less people buy. We deal with this in tolling all the time – if a toll goes up, more people take alternate routes. If there’s a parallel route that many people will take – enough that we wouldn’t make any more total money with a higher toll – we say that demand for that road is highly elastic. With something like healthcare, where you either spend your life savings on cancer treatment or you die, you’ll likely spend no matter what – so we say demand for healthcare is very inelastic. This goes the other way too – the less you charge for something, the more people will buy. There is, for any good or service, a price at which you make the most total money – a sweet spot.

Demand for a free highway is subject to a cost that’s like a toll – the cost of delay. People take this into account when choosing a mode of travel. This is more complex than time taken – if the cost of being late to work is high, you have to plan for the maximum likely delay, not just the average or best case travel time. Likely delay on a highway is far higher than that on a mostly grade separated train, for instance. Likely delay on Link is a couple of minutes, and on a Shinkansen it’s near zero. On a highway, the number of users is, at any given time, based on the likely delay as part of the cost of travel. Lowering the delay increases the number of users, and increasing the delay decreases the number of users – demand is fairly elastic.

When you take a thousand cars off the highway and put them in a parking lot, it decreases the delay on the highway, decreasing the cost. And because demand for that highway was relatively elastic, it increases the number of trips on that highway back to the sweet spot – back to the amount of delay most people are willing to deal with before picking another option (like moving). Getting back to the sweet spot can take months (although around here it’s nearly immediate), but the car trips we terminated at a park and ride are replaced with new car trips on the highway.

It gets worse. The trips that are brought to the highway are trips that were previously too long to take – meaning they tend to be from farther away than the trips they replace. And now, not only do you have these new, longer highway trips, but you have these trips going to the park and ride as well. In total, miles traveled by car increases, you lower local air quality, increase the demand for suburban arterials, and encourage sprawl. For every parking space we build at a transit station, we’re encouraging a new, car-oriented, suburban housing unit, demand for suburban shopping, and suburban road expansion to serve them.

There’s one more negative impact. When Sound Transit builds a $20 million park and ride, that $20 million comes with an opportunity cost of other transit capital projects. This isn’t highway money we’re spending. For instance, if South King dollars hadn’t been spent on park and rides, Sound Transit might have enough money today to build light rail to Federal Way. In East King, we might have a better, more central tunnel for East Link in Bellevue.

So what if we didn’t have these park and rides? We’d have fewer transit users at first – those who can walk to a station will, and people will still park nearby, as we deal with in Seattle near stations (and mitigate with neighborhood permits). But we cause demand for better land use! Because we’re not encouraging car-oriented sprawl to satisfy regional growth, the pressure to build housing, retail, and offices next to stations – is higher, and it happens faster. If there’s a LOT of demand, landowners nearby will offer paid parking, but we won’t have lost transit money to do it.

There’s a political cost, of course. As far as I’m aware, Sound Transit has never tried A-B testing a ballot measure with polling to compare options with and without park and rides, and some people would surely be less likely to support a transit expansion without parking. But with the same money, Sound Transit could enter public-private partnerships to develop housing or even retail next to stations (like Japanese transit agencies do), or provide better access for cycling and walking.

I believe it’s clear that park and rides are in direct opposition to the regional growth policies that led to the creation of Sound Transit, they work against the state’s climate goals, they exclude poor, young, older, and mobility impaired residents, and they encourage car ownership by the suburban poor.

It would be harder to win future ballot measures without park and rides, but all our fights for a better world are hard to win. This one is worth having.

About Ben Schiendelman

Ben Schiendelman joined in 2007 to better consolidate news and information about our upcoming transit expansions, and to build a better base to further grow our system. He previously wrote the blog Higher Frequency, and worked on the 2008 Mass Transit Now campaign. Ben refuses to own a driver's license.


  1. Bravo! Great post. No to parking, Yes to mixed use TOD.

    • Slapping down an apartment or condo building and calling it TOD at a P&R or suburban transit station is not real TOD. Having a well designed urban core (“Downtown”) with frequent and overall encompassing transit service around, along with life’s conveniences and necessities in close proximity, coupled with high density mixed-use development is real TOD.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        On the contrary, even a “slapped down” condo building next to all-day transit like Link is definitely TOD – unless it’s full of parking.

      • Jim Cusick says:

        Most modern (i.e. incorporated during the auto era) cities don’t have a defined core. Many of them are still trying to find their identities.

        I don’t see how a P&R precludes any TOD in the walkable area, there are many established TOD municipalites that have both. Theirs were city/town cores developed around the train station 100 years ago, but have found that a market exists for commuters from the SFH developments.

        However, they do charge for their parking.

        The picture of the TIB Park & Ride does show the extreme, since the station is bordered by SR518 on the south, and the station itself serves only the park and ride.

  2. TL;DR: Park and rides effectively create more highway capacity; for the rest, see “induced demand”.

    • Challingford says:

      P & R = device for Transit-Oriented Sprawl

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        There is no such thing as transit oriented sprawl. There is only parking oriented sprawl.

      • What? Of course there is transit oriented sprawl. It happens all of the time. Even in areas where the prevent people from parking near the train station.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        No, it’s not sprawl. By definition, if people are having to use their feet to get to the train station, the development that station is causing is compact. There just may not be that much of it at any given time!

      • There can definitely be transit-oriented sprawl, unless you use a very narrow and pejorative definition of sprawl. A city (defined as an economic unit, not by political boundaries) can grow by sprawling or by filling in; historically mass transit was a major enabler of sprawl before mass-motorization, while today it’s rarely so influential. Hence “streetcar suburbs” and rail cities and suburbs, which took different forms than what came before them. In both cases the possibility of daily train travel allowed people’s daily needs to be spaced farther apart, and allowed city land uses to become more separated. By providing continuous coverage along corridors electric streetcars created new linear urban forms.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Al, the useful definition of sprawl is about identifying places where people can’t walk to their needs – sure, it’s narrower than you’re thinking of it, but just measuring distance from the city isn’t the important part of the word or why we have it.

  3. Cascadian says:

    I agree, but not so much that I’d be willing to risk the success of the overall project. I’d like to see Sound Transit do the A-B polling you mention, including sub-area information so they can see which areas prefer Park & Rides and by how much.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      Given the 14 point spread of ST2, I suspect we would not have to build a single new parking space to keep winning. That said, we’ll do even better if we educate people about why park and rides are bad, just like this.

  4. TransitVsClimate says:

    “It’s the parking, duh.”

    A great post and on a topic I really enjoy. Here’s the most basic problem with SOVs: they take up 12×20 feet of space no matter what they’re doing, more sometimes. Even we larger-than-average Americans really only need an extra-wide wheelchair of space at the most, no matter where we’re going on a daily basis. That equation doesn’t work in a world with a growing population.

    The Atlantic Cities ran an article about an unreplicated study done in New Jersey that said the T in TOD might not be necessary. The Atlantic Cities was wrong and trying to create controversy… As was the study title. (http://theatlanticcities.com/housing/2013/06/transit-might-not-be-essential-transit-oriented-development/5851/) But! The policy conclusion of the study was interesting “[Density]… near rail stations… will not serve long-term sustainability interests if, in fact, rail investments and rail-proximate housing make little difference in auto use in and of themselves. The focus on rail is particularly problematic in cases where developments near rail stations are simply transit adjacent, with high amounts of parking, low density, and large units being offered for sale.”


    • The even more important finding of the study was that rail doesn’t magically induce any changes in behavior or in adjacent development patterns. You have to address those things separately, and proactively. Ben’s “build rail and watch the TOD sprout” plan is the exact opposite of this.

  5. John A. Bailo says:

    I would say we need to figure out if we can bring jobs away from dense expensive places and close to neighborhoods where people really want to live.

    • TransitVsClimate says:

      I’d recommend studying agglomeration theory. You generally won’t bring major job centers into neighborhoods, nor do you want more sprawl, but we do need to bring retail services to neighborhoods. However, it’s a chicken and egg situation between more dwelling units and those neighborhood retail services coming to neighborhoods. Much of outer Seattle city and most Seattle suburbs aren’t retail dense or transit dense.

      • John A. Bailo says:

        If “agglomeration” theory made sense, there wouldn’t be globalism!

        Why is it we can conceive of a Boeing, creating airplanes using suppliers from around the world, yet we feel the need to ship all of our workers into 2 square miles of downtown each and every working day?!

        Makes no sense.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        It makes no sense *to you*. Probably because you aren’t actually taking the time to learn about agglomeration theory.

      • Mike Orr says:

        Boeing does not concentrate workers into downtown. But it does concentrate them at a factory, and there’s no way around that.

      • John A. Bailo says:

        Boeing finds that Telework helps to increase their employee’s productivity an average of 15-30% and, “The quality of the work done has improved even more!” (Boeing Case Study provided by Telecommute Connecticut)


    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      I think it’s amazing that anyone can say “expensive” on a post that addresses demand elasticity and then claim people don’t really want to live there. Kind of a contradiction in terms…

      • John A. Bailo says:

        It costs more to send someone to prison than it does to send them to school (near their neighborhood). Few want to be imprisoned. Few want to be imprisoned in density.

    • Telecommuting?

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        There’s no path to telecommuting. Even if it didn’t cause lower productivity, reduced social interaction, and worsened public health, you can’t force people to do it.

      • John A. Bailo says:

        Regular telecommuting grew by 73% between 2005 and 2011 compared to only 4.3% growth of the overall workforce (not including the self-employed). Growth within different sectors of the workforce varied widely:
        Federal employees = 424% growth
        State government employees = 114% growth
        Not-for-profit employees = 85% growth
        For profit employees = 63%
        Local government employees = 67%


        64 million U.S employees holds a job that is compatible at least part-time telework (50% of the workforce). 79% of U.S. workers say they would like to work from home at least part of the time (WorldatWork Telework Trendlines 2009). 80% of federal employees say they want to (2012 Status of Telework in Federal Government: Report to Congress). Taken together the above number suggests that 50 million workers both could and want to telework.

        - See more at: http://www.globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics#sthash.pfdYbhHv.dpuf

      • John A. Bailo says:

        Telecommuting Improves Productivity, Lowers Costs, New Survey Finds

        Of the 212 survey respondents, the majority of whom work in IT and at all levels, 78 percent said that their companies allow at least some telecommuting. More than two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) ranked increased productivity as telecommuting’s chief benefit. They say productivity improvements mainly stem from the ability to work during the time employees would otherwise be commuting to the office.

        Nearly 60 percent of respondents checked off cost savings as another significant benefit of telecommuting. Their answers to how much money their companies have saved by allowing telecommuting varied widely, resulting in an average savings of $695,752. The median and mode amounts saved were $10,000. (Cost savings come from not having to pay auto expenses, such as mileage reimbursements, or for office-related materials.) CompTIA notes that a significant number of respondents didn’t know how much their organizations have saved by letting employees work from home.

        Other advantages of telecommuting that respondents cited include:

        The ability to hire the most qualified staff, regardless of where they live (noted by 39 percent of respondents)

        Higher employee retention rates (37 percent)

        Decrease in employee stress (25 percent)

        Ability to reduce auto emissions (17 percent)
        When asked about the most significant challenges telecommuting presents to organizations, more than half of respondents (53 percent) picked securing corporate information systems. Notably, most of the challenges respondents ranked the highest were technical, not managerial.


      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        If all those people want to telework, why aren’t they? :)

      • Because their bosses won’t let them, would be my guess.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Sandy, I agree. But for good reason. The move to open workspaces, and the tendency of people to rent coworking space, indicates something John and others don’t like – working near other people who are also working is more productive.

      • Mike Orr says:

        The other interesting thing about coworking space is that it tends to be in dense, transit-rich neighborhoods.

      • John A. Bailo says:

        [ad hom]

    • Seattle’s doing their part by attempting to tax jobs out of existence within the city limits. So far the only effect is more people want to work and live in the city and companies are responding by sending even more jobs there…


    • I don’t want to live in Redmond, but that’s where the jobs are (or were, anyway). Now they seem to be in South Lake Union (an OK place) but I would rather live in the U-District — or maybe in Ballard, with a nice view of the Olympics (but I can’t afford it).

      Sorry, unless you are telecommuting, you aren’t going to be able to come up with a place that is where people want to live, because some people want to live in the city, while other people want to live in the suburbs (or the country). Green acres is the place to be …

      • John A. Bailo says:

        So you don’t want to live where the jobs are (even though you could, I imagine) yet you want all of society to spend its tax money building you a transportation system so you can (by choice) live in “a city”. At the same time, you want to put draconian taxes on those poor souls who would love simply to get up, go into their car, and drive to a parking lot and then go to work, but by fate or circumstance have to take either a 40 minute express bus or light rail train.

        Don’t you see…these “transit” solutions are mainly Park and Ride shuttles. They are parking lots for people who wish that their businesses were at the Park and Ride! Taxing the Park n Rider itself or the parking lot is adding insult to injury.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        John, if we didn’t build highways, everyone would live in the city, and transit would be private, just like how things used to work.

      • John A. Bailo says:

        You mean like in 1900 when the US was 50% rural and 50% urban?

  6. John, Let me know when you figure out how to provide more housing, jobs, & transportation access within a defined space without more transit, walking, biking, and density.

    Ben, here here!

  7. Nice post good points. At first glane I didn’t agree but as you can see below I’ve made a choice based on this exact same reasoning you mention.
    I’m a full time user of the canyon park park and ride. It fills to capacity at about 6am some of this is due to van pools. Because of the high risk of it being full if I drive I’ve rekindled my relationship with my bike. It has been a great thing. So yes if there was no parking only a stop it would be fine by me.
    I also live about a 15-20 min drive from mlt p and r. There is always parking there however since the drive time is equal to the ride time to canyon park ( the ride is actually much less) I ride my bike.
    So as long as transit makes bikes a priority I’m all for getting rid of parking. That said i5 and 405 need more freeway stops in order for this to work for everyone. I’d say you need a stop about every 5 miles.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      You need stops much closer together than every five miles – more like every half mile. Then express services that skip 3/4 of them!

  8. Ann Dasch says:

    Great post, Ben. I admit, I’m one of those folks in the hinterlands that uses the free park and rides, when I can get a space. But I wouldn’t if the various regional transit agencies worked together better so that I could get from the ferry dock in Steilacoom by bus to Tacoma or Lakewood, and sometimes connect to Sound Transit to Seattle . . . and get back before the last boat home. With Pierce Transit’s cuts its not possible to make the connections without a car for some legs of the trip. (To say nothing of Pierce County Ferry’s last run to Anderson Island departing at 7:30 p.m. on weekdays.)

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      The hard problem is that we should not be making it easy to live where you do, or people live where you do and have long commutes. Everyone agrees with that, but when taken as individuals, yeah, it’s a hardship to reduce a subsidy.

      • What were you saying about there being no “Transit Oriented Sprawl?”

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        There really isn’t. Vancouver is the prime example of this – those towers aren’t sprawl. They don’t have the problems that sprawl has – they’re walkable and compact.

      • Challingford says:

        You must have missed something. In no way was I equating high-density TOD in Vancouver to the sprawl-propagating Lynnwood P&R.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Oh I see! Yeah, I’m saying it’s not the transit causing the sprawl, it’s the parking. :)

  9. Bellinghammer says:

    I basically agree. You’re describing the Efficiency Paradox and making a transit version of the “supply-side solutions won’t work” argument, which is usually reserved for arguments against freeway widening. Transit is indeed an expensive, messy solution to mobility problems that still happens to be vastly preferable to a society of humans getting around encased in two tons of metal. The elegant solution is demand side: compact communities, demand reduction, and human-scaled, spontaneous, private transport such as walking/bicycling.

    Your logic implies more than not building P&Rs, but also not building suburban Link extensions that enable 20+ mile commutes from cul-de-sac to office tower at unnecessarily high all-day frequencies and slower speeds than the buses they replace. I know you need suburban extensions to secure support for Seattle Subway, but are you willing to grant that at least conceptually suburban light rail is a fool’s errand? Or do you think the TOD will materialize for these far-flung stations to work sans parking?

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      Any problem the rail ’causes’ in this regard is really the cause of free suburban parking, and you can mitigate with a neighborhood parking permit. It’s just the P&Rs that cause the sprawl. If you don’t provide the P&Rs, you will get TOD when those areas’ local economies demand growth – sure, it’s slow, but nobody’s ever figured out how to make development happen fast without losing due process. And you provide resilience when fuel gets more expensive, so the folks who already live there can use bikes to widen the reach of the stations.

      • Sorry, Ben, it isn’t that simple. Yes, good park and rides cause sprawl. So do a lot of things. Like good transit in general. For example, lets assume the park and ride goes away, but it still takes ten minutes on a nice comfortable train to get from the HappyWood station to downtown. You dream of a nice dense HappyWood development (ten story Apodments, maybe) but the local alderman says no. We don’t want to destroy the character of HappyWood. So, they run buses every ten minutes from the Pine Fir Grove neighborhood right to HappyWood. It circles around the main cul-de-sac, then stops every block or two, making it pretty easy to get to the HappyWood station. The average commuter spends ten minutes on the bus and ten minutes on the train. Nice commute, really. I heard there is another new development going in just north of Pine Fir Grove with its own bus, soon.

        Of course, there are other things that contribute to sprawl. For example, suburban office parks. Build a nice big building in Redmond, and all of a sudden, Fall City doesn’t seem that far away. Now your city dweller is complaining about traffic, and trying to find that oh so elastic way to get to work (maybe I’ll just move to the suburbs …). If only we had listened to the alderman, who didn’t want the big building.

        Seriously Ben, I like your work, but oversimplifying something as complex as sprawl doesn’t really help things. It is one of the tough things about a good transit system (and a good transportation system in general). It can lead to sprawl quite easily.

      • I hesitated to comment on this thread, because frankly, I cringe just as hard as Ben does at the idea of subsidizing asphalt lots, and because I get just as infuriated by images like the one in the picture: rail outposts terribly designed such that bus connections (and whatever small number of pedestrians do exist) bear the brunt of the awfulness.

        But Ross and Bellinghammer are fundamentally correct that your “distant magic TOD” is a fiction. There is no such thing as TOD-from-nothing that appears in rural or sprawling-exurban outposts simply because you built a rail line and left it there to bask in its own awesomeness.

        Such a phenomenon has never existed, despite all of the cock-eyed, ahistorical attempts to “prove” otherwise by grossly misinterpreting British rail maps, service stops of the American railroad frontier, New England streetcar-suburb expansion, the towns on the Chicago Metra, or the towers of Vancouver Skytrain. In every case, without exception, development was spurred by a cocktail of economic factors beyond the mere existence of rail, and the arrival of rail aided that growth symbiotically. In most of the above cases, rail was routed to serve established destinations, which it helped to improve my its arrival. In short, demand induced the initial rail. Rail cannot magically induce demand.

        The correct thing to do here is to build our rapid transit primarily where the land-use patterns are not actively hostile, and to build it urban — stations walkably spaced and optimized for multi-modal connections. Basically the opposite of the approach that is giving us Husky Parking Lot station and the botched First Hill Streetcar connections, and Mt. Baker and Bellevue Transit Off-Center, and so on.

        Then, at the reasonable, minimally-justifiable ends of the lines (Lynnwood, Crooked Lake), just build giant garages and let the distant-sprawlers meet their commute half-way. Exactly the way systems far more urban in nature than ours have nevertheless found it wise to do. When rush-hour demand proves robust, start charging for the parking, just like all of those other functional examples do. (Precedent! Always precedent!)

        If distant communities really want rapid transit extensions into the sprawling hinterlands, they will need to make drastic changes to the on-the-ground situation in order to prove demand first. Not because we’re being punitive, but because that’s how this stuff actually manages to work!

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        You guys are kind of missing something. If we take a hard line and say “no transit with park and rides”, the places that will only vote for transit with park and rides – those way out at the ends of the lines – will vote against it. If they vote for it, then you don’t have a problem.

      • “Then, at the reasonable, minimally-justifiable ends of the lines (Lynnwood, Crooked Lake), just build giant garages and let the distant-sprawlers meet their commute half-way.”

        That works at first, but decades later, stations that used to be at the end of the lines often end up being somewhere in the middle. It’s the natural consequence of population spreading out.

      • Or, you know, they make up part of the 241,000 people who use that one line daily, and absolutely no one in their right mind thinks of driving further into the city than that garage.

        Blind theory versus precedent. Hmm…

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Did you even read the piece? When you take one of those trips off the highway, another replaces it. That’s not theory – it’s the established reality of every exurban rail system in the entire country. Otherwise, someone would already be pointing to a rail line reducing congestion. Can’t find one? That’s because Econ 101 (okay, actually 102) is sound stuff.

      • Yes, I understand what “induced demand” is.

        Fortunately, the Red Line carries so many people at such a competitive speed on a daily basis that its modeshare dwarfs that of the adjacent clogged-up roads and highways. It is able to do this in part because it terminates within the inner-suburban ring, at just a handful of garages, rather than spindling out into the hinterlands where pedestrian modeshare would be minimal and it would risk inducing sprawl.

        By contrast, your “build it to everywhere but don’t let anyone park at it” theory just guarantees that no one will use your trains, because they will be unable to access them and because driving will remain easier and time-competitive for essentially all trips. Unlike the Red Line’s dominant modeshare, yours will be nonexistent.

        Because, again, at no point in history has building a train to nowhere miraculously induced TOD from thin air!

        Cripes, Ben, I’m from Boston. You’re from Idiot Theory Backwards Transit Land, where we build every subway station in the wrong place and where a year ago people still thought “pay as you leave” was a good idea. Why is it so hard for you to accept that other people may have relevant experience that may override your back-of-napkin theories?

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        d.p., you’re actually claiming that a line’s ridership would be reduced by making it longer?

        Do you realize that it’s really clear to everyone here that you bend over backwards and come up with horribly fallacious comments just to oppose me? Most of the readers of STB I run into on a day to day basis lament [ad hom].

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        RossB, you’re kind of saying “This isn’t the only thing that creates sprawl”. I didn’t argue that it was. I just argued that it creates sprawl.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        “Fortunately, the Red Line carries so many people at such a competitive speed on a daily basis that its modeshare dwarfs that of the adjacent clogged-up roads and highways. ”

        I wouldn’t call that fortunate. Each of those commuters is living further away from their workplace than they’d be able to without transit, creating serious sprawl. Ridership is not an end to itself, but a tool.

        Don’t believe in TOD? Fine. Don’t build far outside the city at all. But you must see the sprawl these giant parking lots at the ends of rail lines create.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        @Ross You’re still talking about “streetcar suburb” levels of development if that’s only a 10 minute bus ride. With cul-de-sac style development and large yards you certainly couldn’t fill a bus in 10 minutes.

        It does properly challenge Ben’s assertion that transit sprawl is impossible, but I think we have larger problems than people taking buses to rail.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Matt, buses don’t impact land use. They’ve never been shown to. The development people are talking about that’s “buses to rail” is a false premise.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        The large volume of people coming in and out of downtown by bus hasn’t affected land use? That would be surprising. Isn’t the passenger capacity coming in from the suburbs on the same order the number of cars coming downtown from the suburbs during commute hours?

        Buses cause sprawl just like cars do. But park-and-rides strongly increase that effect, since buses trolling cul-de-sacs are quite inefficient and expensive.

      • What are you two even talking about?

        The Red Line traverses the contiguous built area — the central cities and the inner suburban ring — and has the better part of a million people within a mile radius of its stations. Ben’s bee-line to distant outposts (with no parking) has about two order of magnitudes fewer people able to access it.

        And what happens when you leave Boston’s inner-suburban ring? Oh, yeah: The built form fundamentally changes.

        Don’t get me wrong: there are lots of people living in those distant, pre-rail-era towns, and most of the have become bedroom communities for commuters, enabled by commuter rail and express buses and the lots at the end of the subways, and some have grown to the point where traffic pressures are acute. But no one confuses them for places with the kind of “direct access” to the city that you would get living within the inner ring, with its contiguous low-rise-high-density that blows Seattle proper’s out of the water and with its population geometry primed to make high-quality rapid transit work.

        But there is no “induced demand” for sprawl from those subway-terminus garages. The outer suburbs are for those who desire less of an all-day cultural connection to the city. And they aren’t dense enough to support all-day subway-level demand anyway. Form is following function. So no, Ben, the 241,000 daily ridership is not at all reduced for failing to spindle beyond Braintree. (the line could, however, use it’s originally-planned extension through urbanized Arlington.)

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        d.p, the economics I laid out show clearly that garages at terminii induce demand. You’re kind of talking about everything but that.

        I feel like a lot of your arguments are “let’s find a corner case where I can argue that something is wrong, and then there’s enough wrong stuff that it’ll feel to others like the central premise is wrong!”

        It doesn’t work. People just tell me that they think you’re crazy. And that’s not an ad hominem – I’m reporting something that’s happened twice in the last two days.

      • Not only do the terminus garages — with direct-access ramps to take vehicles from the highways that had “induced demand” long before the subways were extended to add P&R-ability — fill up every single day (at about a $7 parking fee), but they are the primary choice for suburban car-owners to come into the city at night. It is a near-miraculous phenomenon: the subway manages to serve a primarily urban purpose, while providing a rational-interest-competitive choice even for car owners from outer suburbs.

        And that’s hardly a corner case. The CTA and the inner portions of the WMATA offer much the same successful dual service. Heck, the Prague Metro has P&Rs at its termini. And no, it is not inducing any significant degree of sprawl.

        I’ll just keep trying to educate from experience. You go ahead and spend billions of dollars on subways that no one has access to.

        Only in Seattle would proven precedent be “crazy” and disproven theory (chia-pet TOD) be “sane”.

      • Just to be perfectly clear: Putting large P&Rs at the termini of otherwise conservatively-extended rapid transit is an excellent way to give people from existing suburbs access to the system, and to the ability to avoid the worst highway bottlenecks.

        Building a line all the way to Auburn with multiple garages along the way would, as Matt says, only induce further sprawl. Building a line to Auburn for the heck if it would only induce… nothing. Neither of those ideas is wise, nor has successful precedent anywhere.

    • TransitVsClimate says:

      “Or do you think the TOD will materialize for these far-flung stations to work sans parking?”

      While I can agree with logic that ends with there’s no way a real estate market will ever be changed fast enough JUST by building a train to it to allow for new development where there was no demand before (see Rainier Valley): TOD with parking isn’t actually TOD. That’s the point everyone seems to miss.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Yeah, it’ll take time. But as fuel gets more expensive, we’ll need this transit-accessible space.

    • mic(uncloaked) says:

      Bellinghammer has it nailed. I’ve owned homes within walking distance to both Kent and Auburn rail stations.
      Kent has added Kent Station to it’s CBD, adjacent to the rail station. Beyond that, little has changed in the walkshed neighborhoods within a 1/2 mile to either the north or east of Central Ave. Kent has had 20 years to change since it knew rail was coming and 15 since it was built. Land use doesn’t change that much in the built world, so filling the seats on those trains happens by intercepting car and former bus riders at the station/PR.
      Auburn hasn’t changed much either. I drove through the area just west of the tracks recently, and it’s the same crummy-run down neighborhood it was 20 years ago.
      CR offers free parking and a lightning fast trip to Seattle’s CBD with its overpriced parking garages. That’s why the P&R’s fill up fast. If you want to tinker with elasticity, start charging half priced Seattle rates in Kent and Auburn and watch how many opt for the one seat SOV ride to work. Lot’s of factors enter into the stew pot at that point.
      Now, that said, I agree with Ben that building the 20 or 30 story P&R needed at Lynnwood, to intercept 10,000 cars off I-5 in the morning to meet ST’s ridership projections is lunacy. Even that behemoth wouldn’t create a City Center sought after by Lynnwood. (Note, no one is suggesting a high rise P&R, but that’s what it would take to meet ridership projections). And that would only allow Mr. Developer to plop down some more cul-de-shit housing somewhere and refill the I-5 AutoSewer ™.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        The major reason that there hasn’t been much change is because we reduced the pressure for that change by building P&Rs.

      • Mike Orr says:

        Kent and Auburn are dragging their feet, but at least they have an anchor point that is slowly being densified, and over time the councils’ attitude will change to more pro-density because that’s the only practical future. Without the anchor of the stations, it’s harder to get higher-density districts built, and it’s also harder for Metro to provide local service with enough frequency to be useful.

  10. J. Reddoch says:

    Two things:

    1. The park and ride at Mount Baker Station is full when I looked over there while riding Link the other day.

    2. I look forward to the day when the park and ride has 1,500 bike parking spaces and 25 car parking spaces.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      2. +1 :)

    • There is no park and ride at mt baker. There is a private pay parking lot.

      Still curious when a private party will approach the Post Office about the parking structure next to SODO station.
      Pity that its basically unused at the moment.

      • J. Reddoch says:

        So where do you think people parking there are going?

      • If transit were really simply about not enough parking downtown, we could have completely leveled SODO and built nothing but free parking garages in its place, then replaced all transit routes everyone with shuttles between the SODO parking and the downtown businesses.

        Fortunately, we do think beyond this, and realize that if we did attempt to try this approach, traffic on I-5 and the SODO exit ramps in particular would be far worse than they are today.

  11. Northgate says:

    I understand the importance of park and rides for medium term transit adoption purposes. I live in Northgate, and can’t believe how over the last decade or so, people have taken to using the park and ride, even with the north one gone.

    I’d like to wean them off the southern park and ride as well. I would be happy if Northgate kept their garage and turned it into a pay or be validated by a mall merchant model.

    I don’t expect this will truly be possible until Northgate Station opens and Metro reconfigures all of their lines into neighborhood feeder loops, and even that might be a harder sell than I’d like.

    • Mike Orr says:

      Some of the parking spaces are for mall shoppers, and ST is obligated to preserve them when it builds the garage.

  12. >In East King, we might have a better, more central tunnel for East Link in Bellevue

    Early on with East Link, I submitted a suggestion to look at a tunnel from Mercer Island straight to downtown Bellevue, perhaps with two stations in opposite corners of downtown, skipping South Bellevue which is nothing but a P&R, and providing a faster connection between Seattle and Bellevue without retrofit of the East Channel Bridge, Bellevue Way, etc.

    Of course, that isn’t what we’re building. But we will serve or create park and rides at South Bellevue, 130th Ave., and Overlake Transit Center, and Northgate will need to start charging for parking to avoid becoming a defacto P&R. The transit is good, the park and rides — not so sure.

    Hope to see some of you on Thursday for the Ballard Transit Expansion Study open house. No park and rides in scope there!

  13. Ben, how many people did you interview for your piece? More specifically, how many park and ride users did you interview, and what did they say?

  14. CharlotteRoyal says:

    Vision2040 has an aversion to widening roadways in rural areas, yet it may contradict itself if freight and goods need to me moved in areas where it’s predominantly rural. …but let’s look at it’s first paragraph:

    “The Importance of Addressing Transportation
    Efficient transportation is about personal mobility and the movement of freight and goods. Sustainable transportation moves people, information, goods and services in an efficient and environmentally sensitive way — with attention to health and safety…..For the transportation system to become more sustainable, it must rely on cleaner operations, renewable energy resources, and dependable financing mechanisms.”

    Let’s think about “personal mobility.”

    Back to the P&R, I will continue to stand on the side of the need for P&Rs. The fallacy of P&R placement and planning is tragic. Some facilities, such as Mercer Island, South Bellevue and (for the second time) Tukwila Int’l Blvd Station, or TIBS, are prime examples of BAD P&R planning and placement. They ended up being parking extensions of downtown areas or major employers. Eliminating free parking here might not cull the parking issue at most of these facilities.

    These facilities really promote your reasoning and have propagated the rationale that TOD is the way to go. When I look at the “TOD” in South Lake Union with the new Bartells, I wonder if many of the new employees will live in town or commute from Kent, Lynnwood or Northgate because they can’t afford the $2k per month rent. What about the building janitors? …the other low-wage earners in town?

    To force these people onto transit and into these TODs really propagates this Agenda 21 that I heard four times at the Shoreline Light Rail discussion on May 22nd. To now see that “personal mobility” (Vision2040′s words, not mine) is now being construed as eliminating my ability to drive from a park and ride and multi-trip home is troubling. Transit won’t allow me to do that. If anything, I’d take transit home and not go anywhere. Flexibility is key, and it’s why I drive to work now…and also to avoid the drug addicts headed to Therapeutic Health Services.

    Transit has no money right now…that’s evident with upcoming route cuts. If massive investments are made and government runs out of cash to fund its investment, what happens to those relying on transit? They moan, complain, and more taxes come out of taxpayers pockets. Money should be in the hands of the taxpayers. They should be the ones to make choices. As Tim Eyman says, “Voters want choices.” I agree with him.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      I think you’re basically making the point that we need affordable housing. That’s a much better solution than suburban parking and forced car ownership for low income people.

      • J. Reddoch says:

        And the affordable housing close to the city must include 3 bedroom units to encourage people with families.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        That’s a matter of us stifling supply more than anything. Expect a piece from me on that soon.

    • Since there were no available routes to downtown Seattle from Woodbridge or Kennydale, I used to drive to South Bell PR and then take the 550 ~every time I needed to go downtown. Others were probably doing similar. If there had been routes that served these areas, I would never have needed to drive part-way. South Bell PR was the best way for me but i would much rather have been able to transit all the way.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        And if not for that P&R, you’d have thought twice about living there at all – kind of helping make my point! :)

  15. Scotty (mic in cloaking device) says:

    Ben wrote: “We Shouldn’t Build More Park and Rides”
    We probably should lease anymore either, if Commuter Rail – North is any indication. Ridership fell from last April by about 40 daily riders, so the couple of million spent for free parking was a big waste.
    I’m thinking if we book magic acts on the trains that would really help boost ridership.

  16. Speaking of Vancouver towers, see http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2013/06/25/Vancouver-Tower-Debate/ High density isn’t going to be a reality just in the downtown, but along the Broadway corridor too.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      I saw that! Very good stuff.

    • I speak for most urbanists, from Vancouver and everywhere, when I say that the “towers in a park” isolation nodes around Expo Line stations constitute much of the least successful density and least pleasant places to be in the city proper.

      That said, the area just south of Broadway-Commercial station is pretty drab as it is, with little to make you linger (unlike the tight storefronts of Commercial itself, just to the north), so this could actually be an improvement as long as the architecture is decent and frontage is unbroken at the ground level. No more “towers in a park” …anywhere …ever.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        If those places are “unpleasant” and “drab”, then they wouldn’t be filling with people.

        Vancouver has been incredibly effective at combating sprawl. Their citizens are healthier for it, and they’re less reliant on fossil fuels for it. Those are far more important measures than ‘drab’.

      • You literally didn’t read a word I wrote, did you?

        And if you don’t know what problems “towers in a park” engender, than you have no business calling yourself an urbanist.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Towers in a park don’t engender problems. Towers of universally low income people in a park do. That’s why Vancouver doesn’t run into the issues of Pruitt-Igoe.

      • Actually, no. Psychological problems — detachments from the urban environment, general malaise — are understood to affect residents even in wealthier “towers in park” developments, from Singapore to Stuyvesant Town.

        And while metropolitan-wide housing pressures may keep the towers of Metrotown full, they are among the least desirable rental housing in Vancouver. Demand doesn’t hold a candle to the grid-connected towers of downtown, nor to the mid-rise buildings throughout throughout the western half of the city (including places like gentrifying south Main Street, with its less-than-stellar Skytrain access).

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        This is a zoning and land use issue, not a transit issue. The Towers in a Park would be even more successful if they were Towers in a Dense Urban Neighborhood. I don’t know Vancouver’s codes, but I suspect there’s a requirement for open space around these towers.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Yeah, d.p, as Matt points out, you’ve lost sight of the parking issue, and just found a new way to attack me on the internet. :)

      • And hilariously, you missed the original point of my reply, which was that these Broadway/Commercial high-rises actually look much better than prior botched Expo Line towers, and that I endorsed them because the intersection that they’re replacing is presently pretty lackluster.

      • Mike Orr says:

        “Tower in a park” does not refer to the income level of the residents. It means a large building that’s placed so far from a street that walking to it is unpleasant or impractical. It means the space around the building has been telescoped out to automobile scale, with pedestrian-hostile open space, parking lots, or roads.

  17. One thing about Northgate P&R that I have always felt was missing is accommodations for people who want to travel there in a shared vehicle, particularly a Car2Go vehicle. At present, the P&R is off limits to Car2Go users due to jurisdictional issues, with the nearest available street parking a good 10 minute walk away.

    We can debate all day whether or not a P&R at Northgate makes sense in the first place, but I will argue that if we are going to have it, it is not logically consistent to make the benefit be exclusively for people that own their cars, while locking users of shared cars out of the system. Besides peak-direction users, Car2Go vehicles at Northgate would help reverse commuters as well, by providing a backup option if, when their 41 pulls in, OneBusAway says their connecting bus isn’t due for another 30 minutes.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      I agree with that too!

    • If Car2Go or a similar car sharing system was everywhere, you could replace P&R parking lots with much smaller carpool, Car2Go, and bike parking -only stations, which is what I envision for many end-of-trip locations in the future.

      However there is a problem with the argument here that Park and Rides are bad because they replace highway trips with transit trips, freeing up room for new highway trips – and that to correct the problem we should stop building Park & Rides. In fact by this logic, we should stop providing ANY transit that will replace SOV trips, as it will just free up more lane capacity for new trips.

      One of the primary goals of transit IS to replace automobile trips with transit trips, so if we are finding that a negative consequence of success in this area is that the cost of driving is now lower (due to reduced congestion), a better solution would be to increase the cost of driving such that the additional capacity is not filled with new, longer distance trips.

      I do think the opportunity cost of P&Rs is a better argument against them, however.

  18. One of the problems with P&R lots is that you are not going to reverse 30 years of sprawling growth, in areas like South King County and even more-so Pierce County. I’m actually going to step out on a ledge here, and advocate that in some areas, like suburban Pierce County, that P+R Express service (with a handful of surface stops added) is really the only kind of service the areas need. For example, in Pierce County, South of SR-512, the makeup of the area is generally cul-de-sac/sprawling developments. Through Roads are miles apart and from these generally there are small residential off-shoots to various low density developments. In General, if you want to take bus, you either live next to the stop, or someone has to take you to the bus stop. That being said, I think it would make sense in these areas, to eliminate the local bus service, and replace it with through ST Express routes to feed Sounder, or to Seattle, Tacoma, or the East side. The local riders might have to travel a little farther to a stop, however with added suburban P&R lots (preferably joint ventures with local churches, shopping malls and the like to utilize otherwise unused space) it would be a win-win for everyone. Which is another subject entirely, instead of building single purpose facilities, why not joint facilities (share the P&R with shopping/gambling ventures, churches, and other businesses that rely evening and weekend traffic rather than daytime business.)

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      This reads kind of like you’re saying “we’re not going to fix this anyway, so we should support it.” If we don’t support it, it doesn’t grow, and it fixes itself more quickly. The last thing we want to do is prolong it!

      • Ben, the point behind P&R lots is to allow for more efficient transit service to areas where high coverage local bus service can’t be economically provided. People will live where they want to live; providing transit service to them has many benefits.

        With respect to your point about induced demand on roads, transit increases capacity of the road network, possibly to the extent of not needing to widen the roads. People accessing the P&R are typically using less congested roads to get to them than the roads to the denser areas that the bus travels on. When the P&R fills up, some people may switch to driving all the way, but if they found transit convenient and economical, some may look for alternative ways of getting to the P&R. This might be carpoooling, kiss&ride, walking or biking. Some might even consider moving to a more transit-friendly area on their next house move.

        Banning P&Rs as a blanket policy doesn’t make sense.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        People certainly do not “live where they want to live” or we’d all have beachfront property surrounded by retail and across the street from our workplaces. People live where they find acceptable given the price signals of the market. Many would live in the woods if the commute wasn’t terrible, and many would live downtown if they could afford it. How we price transit, parking, and driving directly affects who lives where.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        aw, “increasing the capacity of the road network” is a bad thing. It creates sprawl. We actually want to start *restricting* the capacity of the road network so that we aren’t providing such an incentive to drive.

        But I think you’re kind of ignoring half my piece. Every P&R user is replaced with a new highway user. If they weren’t, we would see reduced congestion where we have P&Rs relative to where we do not, and every transit agency in the country would be talking about it.

      • Matt, my point is that when choosing where to live, people weigh many factors and the convenience of the commute is just one of them. And no, not everyone would want to live on the beachfront surrounded by retail and across the street from work.

        Ben, increasing the capacity of the road network without building more road is a good thing. If you want to decrease capacity for SOVs, change GP lanes to transit or HOV lanes. Or add tolling on chokepoints like the SR-520 bridge. I don’t accept your assertion that P&R users are replaced one-for-one with a new user on the still congested highway. But if you can fill a bus and put it on that highway, you have increased the people throughput.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        And we buy popcorn for many reasons and price is just one of them. But if they started charging $50 for a small size at the movies, people will start skipping the popcorn.

        The fact that there aren’t a huge amount of people living far away in the forest and driving several hours in to work doesn’t indicate that people don’t want to live in the forest. It indicates that there is such a strong preference for reducing commute time that it affects almost everyone’s buying decisions. Commutes aren’t just one factor in housing, it’s one of the two largest (the other being price, which is set by demand, which itself is largely set by commute options).

      • First off, I don’t think the addition of a bus only P&R lot will spur wild sprawling growth. It’s already there, and it’s not going anywhere for the next hundred years. I can think of a few reasons to do this though.
        First, traditional local fixed-route bus service is ineffective in these areas for the reasons I mentioned previously. The cost to operate ADA Para transit service is also great due to the low density and great distances (which means you can’t bundle up multiple trips onto a single vehicle, instead you send a single vehicle out for a single rider, or two if you’re lucky).
        Third, the existing housing stock isn’t going anywhere, and without major land use changes in Pierce County, more suburban/exurban housing stock will get built. Also with rising fuel prices, it will mean that the residents of this area will have increasing mobility problems, which would be cost effectively served by P+R Express type service, rather than local routes.
        This also leads to the situation where those who can afford it will move closer into the city proper, hopefully with its wealth of public transit options (which given the current situation with Pierce Transit may be doubtful) and those who have more limited incomes will be forced further and further out. Since its not cost effective to operate service on every rural street and cul-de-sac, Taking an express bus approach might be key to providing better service to everyone, of every income level.

    • Jim Cusick says:

      The problem is simply paved roads. That and faster cars.

      Once the performance of auto travel was equal to train travel, people chose to drive. It might still be the same slog to work, but they could take their travelling apartment with them (A standard sedan is approx 100 sq/ft, and at 40mph, consumes 500sg/ft.) and do whatever they wanted in it.. within reason.

      What happened was, that instead of the RR companies selling their transportation option to the fleeing masses, and having the option to sell properties to develop, developers just needed (and still do only need), to put a development next to an already paved rural/suburban highway, and ….

      The taxpayers pick up the bill for the transportation improvements. The developer doesn’t have to worry, since it is so ingrained in the local communities that the devil is LOS. These municipalities focus on the Level-of-service for their highways, that monies are spent to improve the service level… and here’s the key part…

      Without question.

      This point of view is so ingrained, probably because it is easier to react to pain, than it is to plan ahead.

      Just look at the state transportation budget.

  19. Ed Hodapp says:

    Ben, have you been to UCLA? It is in what once was the middle of bloody nowhere, and is still pretty damned remote today. There are not many other places that epitomize urban sprawl more than UCLA, so I find it amusing that Shoup comes from there.

    First off, Shoup is not talking about NO parking, he is talking about NO FREE parking. There is a difference.

    Next, in his allegory about collect phone calls, Shoup weaves a fanciful tale of the consequences of free calls. Here’s my allegory: using the way that phone calls used to be charged, there was no charge for ‘local’ calls, but large charges for ‘long distance’. So before the Internet, some enterprising people created a thing called FidoNet that routed messages via only local call hops, effectively creating free long distance service for messages. What horrible results ensued? According to Shoup it should be quite a mess. Sooo… how many people out there actually remember the terrible consequences of FidoNet? Anything like Shoup’s allegory? I wonder why not?

    BTW, I don’t see anything in Shoup’s paper about Park & Rides. Considering that he hails from UCLA, that isn’t surprising. Shoup’s paper is all about people parking at their end destination for free, and that the zoning laws have encouraged an oversupply of these free parking places, such that they aren’t even fully utilized most of the time (which is NOT the case at all off the P&Rs that I go to – quite the opposite), at high cost to nearly everyone. It isn’t obvious to me that people parking exclusively to take transit is the same thing at all, and I am not certain that Shoup would find it that way as well. Even if he did, Shoup’s solution would be to charge an appropriate amount for the parking. Now this isn’t a problem for me – I believe that my employer would pick up the cost (probably even be encouraged to do so by the city to keep me on transit). Probably not so good for others though, but then the buses will be filled with only nice professionals like myself, so who am I to complain? Survival of the fittest and all…

    Ben, in your comments you remark about poor people being forced to own cars. I believe that is correct, but not for the reasons that you suppose. The basic problem is that poor people (well, working poor people to be more accurate) are frequently unable to make a living from just one job in a nice expensive part of the city like you and me with our nice cushy jobs. No, they get to work a plethora of jobs, none full-time, and few if any at nice trendy, yuppy places in the city well served by transit. That is why a car is required, as cruel as the expense is.

    • I often smirked when reading Metro’ job requirement to have a good running car to get to work. Even management acknowledges transit isn’t very reliable to get to jobs on time, or during early/late hours.

    • CharlotteRoyal says:

      I weighed posting some of this information a little while back.

      Three stops along the Daly City – Dublin Line have large P&R facilities. Granted, they aren’t free. Parking fees are respectable, and with the exception of one stop, there aren’t massive draws that may lead the P&R to be abused by other users. The stops in question, Dublin/Pleasanton, West Dublin/Pleasonton, and Castro Valley make up The large terminus P&R facilities along the BART routes, even with fees, made up nearly 26,500 entry/exit riders in May 2013 (BART Ridership Statistics).

      BART Parking Increase

      When you look at the cost of living of the Bay Area, the cost of living in SF is completely affordable for a person making $40k per year. When 1990s and 2000s sprawl into the Inland Eastbay occurred, this caused traffic to increase.

      But now, BART is facing a conundrum. Ridership is hitting new records this year. Trains are packed and people are complaining as P&Rs are packed, trains are packed, the trains are old, and riders aren’t happy. BART official’s solution? It seems that they want to get less folks on the train. Do what?!
      BART Capacity

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        The part in bold makes me think you kind of skimmed the piece and ignored the central point.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      Ed, when their “end destination” is a park and ride, his entire paper applies. When you say “that’s not the same thing”, you’re just losing his point. It all applies.

      • Ed Hodapp says:

        So I want to be clear, what do you advocate:

        1) No parking at transit stops
        2) No free parking at transit stops

        Also, if it was your decision, would you just shut down all of the P&Rs right now?

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Ed, the reason I wrote a 1200 word post is because this is too complex for a tweet.

    • TransitVsClimate says:

      I’m sorry, but you can’t accuse someone of having never been somewhere and then go off and say such incorrect, mildly idiotic things: UCLA is “remote today”? UCLA “epitomize[s] urban sprawl”? You must certainly have your geography confused or have never been to LA or UCLA, yourself.

      Just FYI:
      1) UCLA is in the western heart of LA’s very long urban center… (Source: http://la.curbed.com/archives/2012/11/usc_geography_student_finds_la_has_a_very_long_urban_center.php)
      2) UCLA has some of the densest census tracts and built form with some of the lowest driving rates by residents (granted, they are often students) and some of the most walkable streets in the entire LA county area (my apologies, I can’t find the article, but you can look it up). On a daily basis there can be as many as 70,000 people in a area of approximately 3/4 of one square mile at UCLA (per Wikipedia stats).

      LA county is a great place to research the effects for free parking and over parking. Just as UCLA and Westwood (a neighborhood around UCLA within the very long urban center of LA) is a great laboratory for some of the fixes Shoup proposes. That’s why there is a professor there devoting his research to parking at UCLA… amusing or not.

      For the rest of your comment, you’re correct in assuming an economist would suggest internalizing an externality (charging dynamically for all existing parking). You would be wrong to say Shoup appreciates people leaving their cars anywhere on public infrastructure (especially for free) and not allowing turnover in parking, turnover which might indicate greater economic activity in an area. P&Rs subsidize vehicular use greatly, Shoup opposes those subsidies. Also, he rides a bike almost everywhere he can. For a summary of my remaining points, I refer you to the Post Author’s response.

  20. I live in Japan, in a local city about 70 miles north of Tokyo. (I used to live in Bellevue.) We have park-and-ride…for bicycles. None for cars. If you want to get to the train station you have four options: somebody can drop you off at the station by car, take the bus, walk, or ride a bike (the first 4 hours of bike parking are free). But then TOD here, (called stations) is a given. Housing and shopping are close by along with other amenities: restaurants, parks, schools, hospitals etc. If I can’t get there by bike or on foot, it’s not worth going to.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      If we didn’t build P&Rs for cars, perhaps we would get more P&Rs for bicycles. :)

      Peter, I’ll be in Japan in October if you’d like to help set up an STB Meetup Japan!

      • Ed Hodapp says:

        Now that I have to use a temporary disabled parking permit, I have to say that that attitude is not very generous to people with permanent disabilities. I probably would have thought the same thing 20-30 years ago, but now… not so much. We need to build a world that supports more than 20 year olds; infants and aged and families and everyone in between need a place too.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        I had a coworker that would only live downtown because he had bad knees. Living a dozen blocks away from work with a bus stopping at both doorsteps made his life much easier than dealing with a car. Dense living can be quite beneficial to the elderly, infants, and families.

        That said, I don’t think there’s a problem providing a few handicap parking spots. Though whether or not to charge for them is another topic…

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        I’m happy to offer reduced parking rates in pay facilities for disabled people – I strongly support the ADA. That’s not the same as a parking garage for a thousand people, it’s not really relevant to this debate.

        Building TOD instead of parking is FAR better for the permanently disabled.

    • Montlake/520 is a good example of a transit hub with lots of bike parking, but no car parking. I’ve seen the bike parking there quite well used and I have discovered through personal experience that bike-and-ride is usually faster than all other transit options from nearly everywhere in North Seattle – even places as far away as Northgate.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Yes! Great example. If you build bike parking and no car parking, you’ll get use.

  21. Tod Rodman says:

    Mixed mode is worth considering – to wit:

    If I am commuting to BDTB from WS, it really works well if I can hop across the WS Bridge and land at the Mercer Island P&R and then catch an Express bus to BDTB. This cuts traffic/time into BDTB and as a nice side effect frees cars in the BDTB core: it does add to cars on the WSB, but compromise works out to reducing my costs and total cars in the Metro system. Running 560 from WSB east to BDTB seems like a no-brainer, but the Metro/ST m/o clearly does have a predilection to discount the vibrant WS/BTDB axis.

    The big question is how to get Metro/ST to get this actively studied and implemented – SS could get a dynamic list of curated suggestions for ‘good ideas’ front and foremost. How to get riders to believe that a list will get results and to weigh in it is a bit of a pickle. Bus and Rail complement each other, both as feeder and alternatives where logistics. terrain, economics and engineering contraints work well for a specific mode.
    The optimal transit system does a mix and match, and a high quality one at that.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      If you look at a particular spot that is already suburban, you go “yeah, we need a park and ride.”

      The problem is, if you build the park and ride, you make more new suburban places…

  22. TransitVs.Climate says:

    Ben, as an interim (pragmatic?) solution, what would you say to building paid “park and rides” further from stations, and the land between the station and the paid park and ride ground leased to real estate developers to build shops and other distractions for transit users and residents?

    The point of TOD is to not have parking at all and thereby provide the most convenient access possible to stations for residents. Reducing or disallowing parking allows higher quality and higher quantity (density) walkable development to which you provide transit for inter-neighborhood travel (or an electric bus for intra-neighborhood travel). That’s all TOD is.

    Why not in the interim say, Ok you can have your “park and ride,” but you have to pay enough in daily/monthly parking fees (usually about $300/mo.) to cover the debt service on loan to build the lot and you have to be ready to walk 1/4 mi or so to the station anyway because we’re going to make you start getting used to not relying so heavily on emitting and space-hogging cars?

    What’s the counter argument to that idea and those points? Is there one?

    • TransitVs.Climate says:

      Also if that parking structure built were required to be designed with 10′ ceilings (floor to ceiling clearance) and space for retail on the first floor to allow its use to be adapted more easily and directly (into an office with street fronting retail, say), that type of thing would make a difference too.

    • The counter argument is that people won’t be willing to pay that much for a park-and-ride space. For $300 per month, you can lease a space in a garage, right in the middle of downtown.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        If people were willing to pay for a park and ride space, my argument would still stand – let private landowners build parking rather than using public dollars.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      The counterargument is that if people are willing to pay for the space, you don’t need government to build it.

  23. Mike Orr says:

    There’s one factor about P&Rs that you’re not considering: it’s not just parking vs TOD. Long-term it may be true that lack of parking leads to density around stations. But the other factor is that trunk transit is a replacement for highway expansion. If suburbanites will not accept stations without P&Rs, and so we don’t built the rail extensions at all, the next thing that will happen is stronger pushes for highway expansion. Not people vacating the exurbs and crowding into the inner city, but highway expansion. More highways and less transit leads to an area even more dependent on cars; i.e., more Bonney Lakes. That’s not a way to stop sprawl. it’s also cruel to people living in those areas who can’t/don’t want to drive and can’t afford to move to an urban area.

    • Ann Dasch says:

      Agreed, Mike. The suburbs exist already AND have affordable housing. I don’t need to go to Seattle often – no more than twice a month – and rarely that. So I live in a rural area with cheap housing (it’s also quiet and beautiful, with a great community). I want to use transit for my trips to Tacoma and Seattle, but the assorted providers do not coordinate well, so I drive to a park and ride – if no spaces are available I keep driving to my destination. We can’t unring the bell on existing suburbs. So we will always need SOME park and rides and/or coordinated transit. But hopefully we can build affordable TOD and keep fares affordable. I may someday need to move back to an urban area – if so, I WILL choose a transit rich, walkable neighborhood.

    • This also goes hand in hand with zoning and land-use policies. If we limit the number of people per dwelling unit and the number of dwelling units per acre, we are declaring, by law, that the population of the city is not allowed to increase. But, as the human population will always increase with time, we must either have a net flux of people leaving the Seattle area each year to compensate for a growing population, or have all the population growth occur in the suburbs.

      You can’t just say that if free parking didn’t make commutes to the city easy, people would live in the city, when there simply isn’t enough housing in the city to make that possible. The pigeonhole principle practically guarantees that with all the people that work downtown, some of them are going to have to have long commutes!

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Mike, nice to see you last night, if briefly!

        I agree that park and rides reduce pressure on highway expansion, but it’s temporary. That’s a fight we have to fight either way.

  24. Nice post and discussion, Ben. I have one thing to add in the defense of public funds being used to build public parking at transit stations: I believe it’s a great strategy to spur human-scale Transit-Oriented Development. The current economics of low density shopping centers require 70% of surface area to be dedicated to parking. As you might imagine, this makes awful sub-urban forms and keeps housing far away from the amenities of shopping and services at the center. By building structured parking at a transit hub, we create an opportunity to site retail and services at the area where people are going to be already. The “free” parking created by the park and ride could spur the type of development we want to see. The transit stations become urban oases in the sea of sprawl and residential development follows.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      We’ve been trying that – for forty years! I have yet to see any example of it being successful. In fact, because structured parking is an order of magnitude more expensive per space than surface parking, the opportunity cost for more transit (or other solutions) is even higher. :(

  25. 520commuter says:

    Sounds like its time for STB to weigh in on the park and ride planned for the 130th Avenue station in Bellevue.

  26. Jym Dyer says:

    ≈ A car engine pollutes more when it’s first running, from a cold start. Once it warms up it’s more efficient. People have a notion that driving 10 miles to the park-and-ride will pollute 1/3rd as much as driving 30 miles to work, but it’s actually polluting at a higher rate than that.

    • That was true in the days of carburetors but not a factor with today’s cars. The emisions systems pump more oxygen to the catalytic converter to bring it up to operating temperature in less than a minute and the mass air sensor and computer controlled injection run clean from cold cranking. It’s a pretty simple ratio; the amount of gas they’d burn driving 60 miles a day vs 20 miles.


  1. [...] Are enormous parking lots a good use of land near transit stations? Image: Seattle Transit Blog [...]

  2. [...] Transit Blog says that Park-and-Rides are part of the transportation problem. I thought of Park-and-Rides as useful ways to cut down on the amount that I drive and avoid some [...]

  3. [...] We Shouldn’t Build More Park and Rides Seattle Transit Blog – June 25, 2013 For every parking space we build at a transit station, we’re encouraging a new, car-oriented, suburban housing unit, demand for suburban shopping, and suburban road expansion to serve them. [...]

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