Too Much Parking at the Train Station?

Communities with mass transit are eager to get people out of their cars and on to trains and buses. But how much parking is needed at transit-oriented developments (TODs)? If there aren’t enough spaces, frustrated commuters will end up driving to their destination. But too much parking takes up valuable space, crowding out potential housing and shopping.

A new study, “Empty Spaces: Real Parking Needs at Five TODs” published by Smart Growth America, suggests communities are setting aside too much space for parking.

A team from the University of Utah studied TODs serving Denver, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Their report finds that such facilities need far less parking than the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ Trip Generation and Parking Generation guide recommends. In TOD lots studied, “the ratio of demand to actual supply was between 58 and 84 percent,” the report finds, suggesting there were always plenty of spaces open.

One reason, the experts suggest, is that at least a third of those using each transit station arrived without their own car. That makes sense, as the idea behind TODs is to encourage people to travel without their own automobiles.

“It is clear that TODs require less parking than development without transit, or transit without development,” the report notes, which may help developers make better decisions about parking.

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