The Squandered Potential of Train Station Parking Lots

Yesterday we noted how MTR Corp. in Hong Kong rakes in cash from commercial properties along its rail lines. Meanwhile, the land right next to many American rail stations — especially commuter rail — is consumed by oceans of parking.

Photo: Times-Herald Record via MTR

And once commuter parking lots fill up, as they inevitably do, transit-oriented development is often eschewed in favor of more parking. There’s a lot of squandered potential in the New York City metro area, says Joseph Cutrufo, on the Tri-State Transportation Campaign blog Mobilizing the Region. Vast rail station parking lots are “dead zones,” Cutrufo says, where housing, retail, and offices could be sited instead.

Providing ample amounts of parking around transit stations only makes sense if nobody wants to live near transit. But that’s just not the case. True, parking can help transit agencies attract riders, but not without substantial opportunity costs. In other words, dedicating vast amounts of land for parking near transit stations instead of housing and commercial space is literally paving over tremendous economic development potential.

Some counties served by the New York MTA’s Metro-North Railroad are warming to transit-oriented development, Cutrufo says, but localities must also make it safe for people who don’t live next to stations to access the train on foot and by bike. “Providing access to transit shouldn’t stop at parking and TOD.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Second Avenue Sagas reviews killer NYC transit apps. Streets.mn and Transit Columbus discuss the high cost of separating housing from jobs. And the City Fix asks locals to describe their ideal São Paulo.

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