Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In

There it is, at your typical American suburban transit stop: a parking lot -- a free one, probably.

false

The intent of park-and-ride service is to enable people who live in car-centric places to take transit to work. But Ben Schiendelman at Seattle Transit Blog has been thinking it over, and he doesn't believe park-and-rides are such a great thing for mobility, urbanism, or even the transit agencies that build them:

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.

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.

The net effect is to expand car-centric suburbia, he writes:

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.

What say you, commenters?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Beyond DC has an update on how some of Baltimore's suburbs are evolving into the kind of walkable, connected satellite cities that have grown outside D.C. Half-Mile Circles explains how the public health community has been partnering with local government officials around the U.S. to help build healthier places. And Free Public Transport relays the news that oil-rich Saudi Arabia is considering "major policy changes" to boost transit ridership.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Komanoff: A ‘Noise Tax’ Can Ground NYC Helicopters

A proposed $400 “noise tax” on “nonessential” flights is a start — and it will work.

April 18, 2024

Thursday’s Headlines: Welcome to the War on Cars, Scientific American

Our favorite story yesterday was this editorial in an unexpected place. Plus other news.

April 18, 2024

Meet the MTA Board Member and Congestion Pricing Foe Who Uses Bridges and Tunnels For Free Every Day

Mack drives over the transportation authority's bridges and tunnels thanks to a rare perk of which he is the primary beneficent.

April 18, 2024

Randy Mastro Aspires to Join Mayor’s Inner Circle of Congestion Pricing Foes

The mayor's reported pick to run the city Law Department is former deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani and notorious foe of bike lanes and congestion pricing.

April 18, 2024

Donald Shoup: Here’s a Parking Policy That Works for the People

Free parking has a veneer of equality, but it is unfair. Here's a proposal from America's leading parking academic that could make it more equitable.

April 18, 2024
See all posts