3 Better Ways to Spend $168 Billion than Parking Garages

by

Change
The park-and-ride at TriMet’s Park Avenue MAX station in Southeast Portland built in 2015. Source: TriMet via Sightline
Share On Social!

Michael Anderson is quite unhappy with Portland’s plans for $168 billion worth of parking garages for “park-and-ride” users of its future 12-mile rail corridor.

Anderson, an urban policy writer and analyst at the social justice nonprofit Sightline Institute, says garages are expensive, serve only a few transit riders, and drain money from more beneficial projects.

He suggests three more efficient ways to spend the money while boosting transit ridership:

  • mixed-income homes near transit
  • bike infrastructure
  • better bus and rail service.

Anderson also encourages people in Portland Metro to advocate for these alternatives and speak up against the parking garage plans, and join local advocacy groups, like Portlanders for Parking Reform, Portland for Everyone, and OPAL.

“Ultimately this is we-the-people’s problem to fix with better policy at every level,” Andersen tweeted.

Park-And-Rides

Andersen—and many others—think park-and-rides are a waste of cash and space.

Clackamas Town Center Transit Center parking garage and departure bus stop Source Wikimedia Commons via Sightline
Clackamas Town Center Transit Center parking garage and departure bus stop. Source: Wikimedia Commons via Sightline Institute

He believes that park-and-rides threaten the long-term prospects of transportation and housing.

Portland’s regional transit agency, TriMet, is planning for 2,000-3,500 parking spaces along their future Southwest Corridor, a 12-mile rail line project estimated to cost $2.7 billion.

Per industry average of $50,000 per space, 3,350 parking spaces would cost the public $168 million.

“For comparison’s sake, that’s enough money to build or acquire roughly 1,000 below-market-rate homes along the line; to install networks of protected bike lanes for miles in every direction around each proposed rail station; or to double the scale of TriMet’s big 2018 region-wide bus service improvement for the next 12 years,” according to Anderson.

Even still, park-and-ride garages would help, right?

Actually, 38% of parking spaces in park-and-rides on TriMet’s MAX lines sit empty on an average weekday, according to Andersen.

Looking ahead, the proposed park-and-rides are expected to account for just 15% of daily trips on the new line in 2035, according to Andersen.

Most Portland light rail trips originate from people walking, biking or taking the bus.

Park-and-rides also eat up precious developable land next to transit stations, Andersen writes.

“TriMet’s passenger counts show that when it comes to maximizing ridership, free parking garages pale in comparison to integrating rail with a grid of frequent-service bus lines—and simply making it legal for people to put up nearby buildings where they can live or work,” Andersen writes.

Source: TriMet park-and-ride usage fall 2017 TriMet ridership report fiscal year 2018 Original Sightline Institute graphic available under Sightline Institute’s free use policy

Park-and-rides undermine pedestrian access and disrupt bicycle networks.

Katherine Shultz, chair of the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission, is also concerned about the park-and-rides and subsequent emphasis on maintaining or expanding roadway capacity.

The Commission reviewed the Draft Environmental Impact States (DEIS) and Initial Route Proposal (IRP) for the Southwest corridor project and had multiple environmental justice concerns and transportation concerns.

“The transportation analysis should be about how people move through the corridor,” Shultz wrote in a three-page letter to key corridor decisionmakers. “This analysis needs to be broadened to consider displacement [of low-income households] caused by the expected real estate activity and property value changes that will come because of a major light rail investment.”

3 Better Ways

"Orenco Station on TriMet's Blue Line is a Cascadian model of good suburban transit-oriented development and one of the best-performing rail stations in TriMet's system," Andersen says. Source: Google Maps via Sightline
“Orenco Station on TriMet’s Blue Line is a Cascadian model of good suburban transit-oriented development and one of the best-performing rail stations in TriMet’s system,” Andersen says. Source: Google Maps via Sightline Institute

Andersen questions what ridership would be like if they could spend $168 million on something other than parking:

  • At the cost per homeassumed by this month’s regional housing bond, that sum could pay for 1,000 below-market homes, many of them affordable to very-low-income residents—enough to triple the sum voters set aside this month for housing along new transit lines. Think of all the ridership those homes would generate—especially if they were integrated with new market-rate apartments along the new line, including on the lots that would no longer have to be dedicated to parking cars.
  • Or what about $168 million for bike infrastructure? At about $650,000 per mile, that’d be enough to fund 13 separate 20-mile networks of low-stress protected bike lanes to feed each of the 13 stations on the new line.
  • Or $168 million for bus service? That’d be enough to double TriMet’s 2018 regional service expansion, the biggest in its history, for more than 12 years.

For comparison’s sake, that’s enough money to build or acquire roughly 1,000 below-market-rate homes along the line; to install networks of protected bike lanes for miles in every direction around each proposed rail station; or to double the scale of TriMet’s big 2018 region-wide bus service improvement for the next 12 years.

Michael Andersen
Senior Fellow, Sightline Institute

Schultz questions corridor planning and recommends three strategies:

  • The project will be stronger with a robust support of the housing strategy because ridership will decline if core riders are displaced and cannot access the benefits of ow-cost transit service or new services and amenities that come with the development of the corridor.
  • The project will be more successful if there is a complete network of active transportation options throughout the corridor.
  • The project has an opportunity to think more broadly about how to make all alternatives to driving safer and more convenient.

“The automobile is one of the most destructive aspects of modern life, and we’re catering to them still,” said Shawn Fleek, a spokesperson for OPAL, according to Anderson. “It boggles the mind that a transit agency with a mandate to address climate change and move people around our region would want to put even more cars on our roads by installing parking structures with precious resources that could otherwise go to transit operations and construction.”

In early 2019, a new advisory committee will be convened to guide the project through the design phase.

Stay connected with the advisory committee, Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission, the TriMet Board of Directors, and elected officials over the next few years as significant public input will be needed as TriMet works with partners and communities to confirm station locations and Park & Ride sizes; identify types of structures for bridges and viaducts; select improvements for walking, biking and driving needs; determine connections to Portland Community College Sylvania and Marquam Hill/Oregon Health & Science University; and more.

Also, join one or all of the following advocacy groups, Portlanders for Parking Reform, Portland for Everyone, and OPAL.

Read Anderson’s full article and follow him on Twitter.

By The Numbers By The Numbers

1

out of 10

Pedestrians survive when hit by a car at 40 MPH

Share your thoughts