Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Transit-oriented development and BART parking

My understanding is that BART, when allowing its parking lots to be developed, has always required a one-to-one replacement for parking: development is allowed on the parking lots but developers must replace every parking space they take. This is typically by building a multi-story parking structure.

I am skeptical of the need for this replacement in many cases, but where it is required, I believe it should be allowed to have the replacement parking be at a nearby station rather than at the station where the parking was originally placed. For example, if development occurs on the Hayward station parking lot, it would make sense to allow that parking to be replaced at the South Hayward or Bay Fair stations rather than finding space at the Hayward station for it.

There are several reasons for this:
  1. There are few downsides to asking a customer to drive two or three extra miles in their car rather than parking at the nearest station. It's not a big inconvenience for the driver, since the driver isn't going any further, just doing it in the car rather than on the train. The carbon dioxide and air pollution emissions differences are also minimal, since the biggest emissions result from starting the car in the first place.
  2. The areas around some stations are more amenable to being made walkable, livable urban spaces than others. Hayward and South Hayward are good examples of this. Hayward station is located in downtown Hayward and has traditional walkable storefronts in the development to the east. South Hayward, on the other hand, is a suburban, automobile-oriented area. People living in future transit-oriented developments around Hayward Station are likely to own fewer cars and use them less frequently than people living in similar developments around South Hayward station.
  3. It is likely that people living in automobile-oriented areas around stations would be more amenable to having garages in their neighborhoods, which they can imagine themselves using, than transit-oriented developments, which they cannot.
  4. Structured parking is expensive, so it makes sense to get economies of scale by building them larger. It's probable that a single large garage at South Hayward would be less expensive per parking space than two smaller garages replacing parking at Hayward and Union City stations.
  5. It's very likely that if land needs to be purchased for the replacement parking, it will be substantially less expensive at some stations than at others. It may be substantially less expensive to buy land at a nearby station and use it for surface parking than to build structured parking at the station with transit-oriented development.
  6. Some stations are more accessible to nearby roads than others, making them easier and more convenient for parking. For example, El Cerrito del Norte Station has much better access to I-80 than either El Cerrito Plaza Station or Richmond Station. 
Not every station where there's a demand for transit-oriented development has an obvious pair station where parking should be placed instead. But this is a practice that should be encouraged where possible.

Update: I have been informed that BART no longer has a one-for-one replacement policy.

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