Coming a Commuter-Rail Station Near Your: More Cars From Far-Flung Suburbs

groningen railway station cycle parking photo

Did you think the competition for parking over at the train station was a local problem? The high cost of motor fuel rears its head in yet another place. Insufficient commuter-rail station parking has become a national problem: Station towns across the USA have now a decades-long game of catchup to play. From the Baltimore Sun:

"Parking is a nightmare," said R.V. Scott, who commutes from Aberdeen to a job in Washington. "I sometimes park on the grass. I have gotten ticketed. I have missed the train several times while looking for a space, and then I am late for work. But what can I do? My alternative is to drive with all that traffic and the cost of gas."

Train riders rail against parking. More commuters using MARC public transit means fewer spaces for vehicles.

Ridership has gotten so high on some trains that passengers complain about bicycles aboard. Ouch.On some rail systems, parking seems to be the rate limiting factor for expanding ridership - allowing some buffer years to budget for, order, and receive additional train cars. On other systems, more coaches are top priority; they can add station parking later. Some places need both. Double ouch.

In either case, we are past the chicken or egg dilemma: Just build the capacities and they will come.

Where parking is very limited, secondary impacts don't stop at the station, however.
Some "Mainline" towns along the commuter line west of Philadelphia, for example, zone against multi-story parking structures. There are complaints about commuters parking on residential streets, which has led to banning on-street parking without a residency permit, and frustrated rail passengers, of course.

Good news
Values of homes within convenient walking distance of commuter rail stations have risen significantly and continue to do so, while property values in the "exurbs" are falling.

There is talk about resurrecting long-closed commuter lines and re-opening abandoned stations. This could help return value to the distant (mostly new) homes. Unfortunately, dreams of adding rail capacity are as useful for solving today's parking problems as offshore drilling is for lowering gas prices now: if you can't park today you drive.

Maybe those mothballed shopping center lots will come in handy one day?

Bicyclists should have a leg up on the car commuters, as long as station area bike theft is at low levels, or if a folder can be taken aboard. Eventually stations will need bicycle parking lots like the pictured one.

Let us know what's up with this issue in your town.

Any novel solutions proposed? Are there shuttle buses to outlying parking lots? Secure bike racks at the station?

Image credit:: Hembrow, Cycling in the Netherlands / Holland. Groningen railway station's new €10M cycle parking. This accomodates 4150 bicycles, making a total of 6000 normal spaces a the railway station and about 1500 guarded spaces in a different building.

More train station parking stories from the TreeHugger archives.
How They Store Bikes In Tokyo
Train to Coachella Music Festival Reduces Cars
Taking the Train
Contradiction in Terms Dept: Sustainable Parking Structure ...