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This parking structure serves a Los Angeles Metro Gold Line station. Photo by Flickr user LA Wad.


Many transit agencies choose to provide parking lots for passengers to use when they drive to transit stops or stations. On one hand, people who drive may find that having free or cheap parking at the station encourages transit use. This can be a beneficial arrangement for low-density communities, where it would be difficult to serve many people efficiently with transit. People may be attracted to use a transit trunk line if they can drive to a station and park, though. However, there is a great deal of cost associated with buying land and building parking structures to serve transit. It is also important to remember that it is sometimes difficult to measure the ‘success’ of park-and-ride lots because parking utilization is not necessarily indicative of whether it attracts or supports transit ridership.[1]


Often, the objective of park-and-ride facilities is to concentrate riders along a transit line. These facilities can allow transit to serve low-density areas more efficiently and expand transit’s reach. Park-and-ride facilities can also shift parking away from the central business district. When they provide space for bicycle storage, they can also facilitate bicycle connections to transit.[1]

Types of Park-and-Ride Facilities

Park-and-ride facilities may take a range of forms - from simple surface parking lots to large automated garages. Their location in relation to the city center makes a difference in how they perform, as well. Peripheral lots are those located on the edge of the city center, which provides easy access to the central business district via transit, but offers motorists an alternative to driving into the congested center. Other park-and-ride lots are considered to be ‘suburban’ or ‘remote’ and serve low-density areas. These low-density, remote stops may attract many riders. Another important distinction between types of facilities is whether they are exclusively used for park-and-ride transit customers or shared-use. There is not evidence that shared-use park-and-ride faciilities are any more or less successful at accommodating the needs of passengers than exclusive use lots. However, sharing the cost of construction and maintenance among other businesses and uses can help to offset the burden on the transit agency.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Transportation Cooperative Research Program. [ “TCRP Report 95, Chapter 3: Park-and-Ride/Pool -- Traveler Response to Transportation System Changes.” 2004.

Additional Reading

California Department of Transportation. ”Park and Ride Program Resource Guide.” 2010.

This handbook from Caltrans offers a wealth of information about how to implement a park and ride program. It includes key considerations about obtaining land, the laws that apply to typical park and ride projects, and possible sources of funding for them. This guide also includes references to Caltrans’ park and ride coordinators and other divisions that can offer technical assistance to local planners interested in creating a park and ride program.

Transportation Cooperative Research Program. [ “TCRP Report 95, Chapter 3: Park-and-Ride/Pool -- Traveler Response to Transportation System Changes.” 2004.

This report, sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration, focuses primarily on remote or suburban park-and-ride services. It also goes into detail about how park-and-ride facilities complement commuter rail systems and it describes the problems of measuring the success or effectiveness of these facilities. The report also offers case studies of how park-and-ride facilities interact with the different transit modes - light rail, heavy rail, bus rapid transit and other bus services, and park-and-pools. The report examines mode choice for arriving at park-and-ride stations by distance of origin to the destination, as well as other usage characteristics.

Center for Neighborhood Technology. "Paved Over: Surface Parking Lots or Opportunities for Tax-Generating, Sustainable Development?" 2006.

This report by the Center for Neighborhood Technology focuses specifically on Chicago transit and its park-and-ride facilities. CNT is an advocacy group that works for sustainable urban communities and this report takes a critical look at surface parking lots around 9 of Chicago’s suburban Metra stations. The report examines the potential to develop those sites according to the principles of transit-oriented development and the possibility for reaping greater benefits from those sites than would be possible as simple parking lots.