Many transit agencies choose to provide parking lots for passengers to use when they drive to transit stops or stations. These park-and-rides can range from small surface lots to large aboveground (or in some cases undergound) structures. Park-and-ride lots provide an alternative to driving the entire length of a commute, which serves to reduce vehicle miles traveled and the associated safety risks and pollution. Park-and-rides can reduce driving in central business districts and make transit more effective in low-density areas with few people living within walking distance of stations. However, park-and-rides require a lot of land and are expensive to build and maintain. It can sometimes be 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. The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) has developed a guidebook to help transit agencies through the process of planning, implementing, and operating park-and-ride programs.
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.
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.
- 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.
Turnbull, K. F., Pratt, R. H., Evans, J.E., & Levinson, H. S. (2004). “Traveler Response to Transportation System Changes Handbook, Third Edition: Chapter 3, Park-and-Ride/Pool.” Transit Cooperative Research Program.
- 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.
- 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.