An argument against "parking lot" stations...

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An argument against "parking lot" stations...

Postby doepack » Thu Nov 16, 2006 11:39 am

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Metra lots seen as home sites
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Study says it would make better use of space than parking

By Richard Wronski
Tribune staff reporter

November 15, 2006

Acres of parking lots at suburban Metra train stations ought to be used for
convenient housing for commuters rather than merely for their cars, according to
a study issued Tuesday by a public interest group.

More than 1,100 new residential units and 167,000 square feet of commercial
space in mixed developments could be built in nine Cook County suburbs from
Arlington Heights to Homewood without a loss of commuter parking spaces, the
Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology said.

Development also could provide several hundred thousand dollars in property tax
revenue for each of the nine communities--more than $4 million total--above the
parking revenue generated by the lots, the study said.

The new housing could help meet growing demand for more transit-oriented housing
in the Chicago area, said the non-profit organization, which has advocated such
development since 1993.

By 2030 the demand for housing near transit in the Chicago region will be 1.6
million households, more than double the 2000 number of 787,000, the study said.

"In their current state, these parking lots are robbing our region of economic
value because there is a higher and better use for the land," said Jacky
Grimshaw, the group's vice president for policy.

The study was funded with the support of the Joyce, Alphawood and John D. and
Catherine T. MacArthur Foundations.

Metra officials and leaders of suburbs cited in the study acknowledged the need
for transit-oriented development, but said this goal must be balanced against
the demands of commuters, who want to park as close as possible to their train
stations.

"It's kind of a double-edged sword," said Judy Pardonnet, a Metra spokeswoman.

The new Metra station in Elburn is an example of transit-oriented development,
Pardonnet said. Elburn officials have planned offices, stores and apartments
around the station and single-family homes in a neighboring subdivision.

Suburban leaders, particularly in more established communities such as Oak Park
and La Grange, cite severe shortages of commuter and residential parking.

But the center said existing parking lots could be used more efficiently by
building new parking decks into the developments.

Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder, who is also a Metra board member, said
the village has won several awards for its downtown transit-oriented
developments. But residents' concerns must also be taken into consideration, she
said.

The center's study recommended turning a 1.5-acre Metra lot in Arlington Heights
into a mixed-use development with a parking structure and commercial space,
topped off with 72 residential units.

Arlington Heights, local schools and its Park District could get $640,000 a year
in additional property tax revenue, the study concluded.

"As such, Metra riders who drive to the station cost the town and its taxpayers,
but the real costs include the lost opportunity costs of not utilizing the land
devoted to parking for a higher use," the study said.

Mulder said the village might favor such a development, but residents are
opposed to any multistory project on the site, which is in a historic district.

Mulder said she appreciated the center's recommendation, "but residents have to
have their input, too."

In La Grange, the study urged turning three lots totaling 1.5 acres into
mixed-use developments of up to five stories with 99 housing units. This would
produce an estimated $339,000 in annual tax revenue.

In Tinley Park, the study identified 19 acres within a quarter-mile of the 80th
Avenue Metra station designated for commuter parking.

The study proposes using more than 1,700 parking spaces at this station for a
major development of town homes, multifamily buildings and commercial property,
generating a net $624,000 in revenue.

The study also recommended more transit-oriented development in Palatine,
Hanover Park, Oak Park, Franklin Park, Homewood and Blue Island.

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rwronski@...
Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune
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Re: An argument against "parking lot" stations...

Postby metraRI » Thu Nov 16, 2006 12:32 pm

In Tinley Park, the study identified 19 acres within a quarter-mile of the 80th Avenue Metra station designated for commuter parking.

Tinley Park 80th Avenue has about 2,000 parking spaces, all of which except 300 or so are filled on each weekday. This according to the new signs Metra has installed in the Tinley/Mokena area showing the number of parking spaces available in real-time at 80th Avenue and Hickory Creek.

I personally don't think the parking land would be better used for housing, maybe commercial business to commuters coming home which is what Orland Park is doing at 143rd Street. If you look at BNSF, the majority of stations stop in a suburban downtown, one thing that southern lines do not have.
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Re: An argument against "parking lot" stations...

Postby doepack » Thu Nov 16, 2006 6:49 pm

metraRI wrote:I personally don't think the parking land would be better used for housing, maybe commercial business to commuters coming home which is what Orland Park is doing at 143rd Street. If you look at BNSF, the majority of stations stop in a suburban downtown, one thing that southern lines do not have.


This also applies to many of the CNW/UP stations in DuPage, and northern Cook/southern Lake counties. Keep in mind that these are older, established suburbs dating back more than a century, when railroads had much more influence on land usage patterns, and as such, it made economic sense for these communities to establish most of their development around railroads. Towns that failed to do so during this time didn't last very long.

Today of course, it's a different world. Highways have long since replaced railroads as the mode of choice, and modern transit planners have to keep this in mind when building new routes, or extending existing ones. But I think a compromise has to be met somewhere; you can't keep building these new stations with an almost unlimited amount of parking because that's going to severely retard future transit development. Look at Route 59, for instance. That station opened in 1989 with 1500 spaces, which was the largest parking lot on Metra's system at the time, and the only significant development in the area since then has been a new apartment complex built about a 1/4 mi N of the station. But other than that, even combined with the train station, it's still in the middle of nowhere, there is nothing else in the immediate vicinity that is even remotely conducive to pedestrian traffic, while Metra's parking lot now has over 4100 spaces, almost triple the original amount.

I understand that Metra has to cater to folks who prefer to drive to their outllying station, but when it's overdone to the point of sacrificing better possibilities for land usage, the current situation at Route 59 is what you wind up with...
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Postby Tadman » Sun Nov 19, 2006 11:23 am

I agree with this somewhat, when you consider the reccomendations in light of the parking farms at Tinley Park, etc... But they also mention Homewood, and that brings to mind the long strip-style parking that is see a lot at Homewood, Flossmoor, LaGrange, etc.. and although a study that computes numbers to arrive at an objective value could see these as useful, a subjective home buyer would never build a new home in the Homewood or LaGrange parking lot.

I have my own idea, however - where you have parking farms, build a deck over the parking farm and build houses on top of that deck. Kind of like the way they built a park over Randolph Street.
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Postby byte » Sun Nov 19, 2006 2:50 pm

Tadman wrote:I have my own idea, however - where you have parking farms, build a deck over the parking farm and build houses on top of that deck. Kind of like the way they built a park over Randolph Street.


Good idea, but ignorance would probably prevent it. The theory of "parking garage = more crime" is quite rampant and although not necessarily true, some people in charge stick with it anyway. Example: The college I go to has an absolutely horrid parking situation, where the buildings are all in a rough circle around an open field, and the parking lots surround that.

This means that if you have classes in more than one building, you're stuck walking at least halfway across the campus to and from your car to get to them. I inquired with the student trustee some time ago on the possibility of parking garages, and the response was that "the board thinks that'll bring more crime." (Which shouldn't be an issue in itself, since the college in question has a full-fledged police department and at least four cruisers for a 1/2 x 1/2 mile area, but now I'm just getting fully off-topic...)
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Postby doepack » Sun Nov 19, 2006 4:24 pm

A better solution would be one that currently exists in Wheaton, where you have an apartment building that's close to the train station, but there's a parking lot across the street that has two levels; a portion of which is reserved for commuter parking, where a daily fee is required. Plus, there's a dedicated lot nearby for commuters (although it's about a 2 block walk from there to the train station, yet many folks still use it), while the apartment building has additional parking available in a garage, for a monthly fee. Granted, Wheaton doesn't have the Metra ridership that Naperville has, but the bilevel, multi-purpose concept approach to parking makes the land usage more efficient, a lesson that could be applied to Route 59, and perhaps the 80th Ave station in Tinley Park...
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Postby pennsy » Sun Nov 19, 2006 4:36 pm

Gentlemen:

Interesting points of view, but in Southern California we have a different point of view, and different solutions to the problems. Most people commute via a car, and fairly recently with Metrolink and now, the Gold Line LRV system. At many of the stations, the cities involved have opted to constructed parking garages that are several stories high, and can accommodate many cars. The cities have a deal, the parking spaces are rented to "ordinary people" and for the commuters, the parking is free, all day. So, you get into your car each day of the week, drive to the stations parking structure, leave the car, and return to it that evening. On leaving the parking structure, your RR receipt, pass, or other suitable commuter ID entitles you to drive through with no charge. The parking structures also have basement parking, and elevators for those on the higher floors. Remember, California stations are handicapped friendly, both in the parking lots and on the stations.
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Re: An argument against "parking lot" stations...

Postby erie910 » Wed Dec 20, 2017 10:38 pm

While there might be some validity to the theory, the practical might have some issues. First of all, when towns formed around railroad stations, it was in an era before the automobile became a serious means of transportation, and that era extended to the time when families had one auto. Dad walked to and from home to the train station or Mom drove him and picked him up. As the auto became more popular for driving to work, families had two autos, one of which Dad drove to and from work. Quite likely, work wasn't necessarily within walking distance of a train station anymore, as businesses moved to the suburbs. Families wanted larger homes with more yard space, and two-car garages. So they moved away from the downtown areas where the train stations were.

As traffic grew worse, rail commuting became popular again, at least in cities which had substantial employment opportunities in downtown areas. Larger cities, primarily New York, Chicago, and very few others, had huge traffic problems, some of which could be solved with rail commuting. However, the occupancy of station parking lots indicates that a large number of commuters have moved away from walking distance to their train stations.

Now consider the proposal to develop the station parking lots into residential space. It seems unlikely that those who drive to the train station for the ride to work will willingly and promptly give up suburban 4-bedroom, 2½ bath homes with decks, pools, or hot tubs to move into apartments or condominiums near the train station. So, if the parking lots are destroyed, where will those who have their established suburban residences park? Will they find a different way to commute to work? Or will they park on city streets? The newly-constructed residences will wait, empty, for new commuters to move in, perhaps those who find such living facilities to be a temporary step until they can afford the suburban dream house. Those new residences, in order to attract tenants or buyers, likely will have to provide many of the amenities of suburban living, including parking spaces for two cars per household.

While such residences might attract tenants/buyers over time, they will not encourage current and new commuters to continue to commute by rail. Isn't the goal of commuter rail service to take autos off the highways? Why try something that, at best, makes it more difficult for current commuters to make their daily commutes, and, at worst, discourages current and future commuters who prefer single-family home living from commuting by rail?
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Re: An argument against "parking lot" stations...

Postby GWoodle » Fri Dec 22, 2017 7:09 pm

This is where a lot of the new development is for Mixed Use with some retail, some commercial, some residential. Small stores, small office for insurance, bank, other walkup service. May be some net gain in parking when you consider use pattern.

Maybe the big change in 30 years is now both Mom & Dad & maybe young adults could be all working. Someone needs to drive to Day Care or School then to Work. Add in some side trips to Grocery, Dry Cleaner, drive in meals, usual gas & other items.
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Re: An argument against "parking lot" stations...

Postby erie910 » Mon Dec 25, 2017 12:32 am

Good point about Mom AND Dad both working and possibly both being commuters. That's a change from 50 years ago.

In my trip on the BNSF Aurora and the Rock Island District lines on Saturday, I noted that much of the parking is angle parking along the road adjacent to the tracks. That won't generate much space for residential/mixed use development. While there are some large lots that might work, the same question remains: If the space is taken for residential/mixed use construction, where will the current commuters park? It is not likely that many, even most, will want to sell their suburban homes on wooded lots just to be closer to the train station. So there's a reduction in parking and an empty residential building waiting for new people to move in. And there is a fair amount of condo and apartment construction near the stations. Unless the proposed new buildings are constructed and managed by private business, then there's the issue of government competing with private businesses and having the advantages of paying no taxes. Count on a lot of lengthy litigation over this.

While the idea sounds good, there appear to be multiple barriers to this idea's being successful.
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Re: An argument against "parking lot" stations...

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:20 am

NJDOT and NJT have been heavily promoting the "transit village" concept since the 1990s and many North Jersey towns along rail lines are now built as communities around stations as opposed to simply being a "park-ride". I can't think of other agencies that aggressively promoting transit-oriented communities.
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Re: An argument against "parking lot" stations...

Postby Tadman » Tue Jan 23, 2018 6:11 pm

From what I understand, real estate values go way up when a suburban house in Chicago is within easy walking distance of the train. It is really nice to be able to walk to your morning ride into town. I did it with the L, anywhere from 1 block to 3/4 mile (that was a stretch), and I do it now with the St. Charles streetcar.

The other option is driving 20 minutes and then spending another 10-15 finding a spot, which is no fun. Add that to a 30-60 minute ride in and that makes for one long day.
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Re: An argument against "parking lot" stations...

Postby MACTRAXX » Tue Jan 23, 2018 8:04 pm

Tadman wrote:From what I understand, real estate values go way up when a suburban house in Chicago is within easy walking distance of the train. It is really nice to be able to walk to your morning ride into town. I did it with the L, anywhere from 1 block to 3/4 mile (that was a stretch), and I do it now with the St. Charles streetcar.

The other option is driving 20 minutes and then spending another 10-15 finding a spot, which is no fun. Add that to a 30-60 minute ride in and that makes for one long day.


Tad: 1-Back in my Chicago "visiting years" of 1973-1988 my relatives lived near W 78th Street and
South Kedzie Avenue on Chicago's Southwest Side - one long block away from Wrightwood Station
on Metra's Southwest Service. The one drawback was having to cross two busy roads to get to the
station on foot. Even though the neighborhood has changed demographically it makes me wonder
what and how much nearby real estate in the Ashburn area has appreciated since the SWS service
had been expanded to a full fledged commuter route - back in those days in case anyone does not
know limited weekday peak hour Orland Park Line service initially once was operated.

I was always impressed how the SWS route evolved from a weekday one train each way run by
the former N&W up until the RTA takeover in which trains would be gradually added as ridership
rose in an area of Chicagoland that needed rail transport options.

2-Many METRA - and for that matter any major commuter rail service - the LIRR in particular - has
riders competing daily for a finite number of parking spaces near stations. Add to that a long train
ride each way into Chicago or New York City each day. Yes-that can make for a LONG day for ANY
rail commuter. I fully understand how some regulars choose to sleep during their rail ride.

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Re: An argument against "parking lot" stations...

Postby dinwitty » Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:32 pm

remember the streetcar? Why dont you bring them back and stretch them to the commuter. Then they dont have to drive.
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Re: An argument against "parking lot" stations...

Postby Tadman » Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:33 pm

I know some people that ride PACE bus to the Metra and then downtown on the train. While it's another degree of complication, it might be nice to pull up alongside the train without finding parking.
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