Eco-Rapid Transit: Transit Corridor Parking Program
Parking and its effect on mobility and accessibility is a complex issue that seems very straightforward and simple, yet those who are in the parking industry know how complicated and critical it can be. It is a critical component of any major transit development project, but it is often misunderstood.
Eco-Rapid Transit recognizes the importance of parking. Eco-Rapid Transit is a joint powers authority (JPA) in Los Angeles County that consists of 11 cities and Burbank Airport. The members are collaborating with the goal of being an economic and community development project connected together by a train.
The northern part is a 14-mile rail transit corridor connecting Burbank Airport and the City of Glendale to Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. It is served by two commuter rail lines. The State of California has plans for a future high-speed rail line in this corridor.
The southern member cities along with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) have plans for a 19-mile light rail project from Artesia to Downtown Los Angeles called the West Santa Ana Branch light rail. Eco-Rapid Transit's preferred alternative is to have the West Santa Ana Branch connect from Artesia to Union Station, allowing for direct connectivity with its northern members, the City of Glendale and Burbank Airport.
Together, the area includes almost 2 million people and would be the second largest city in the State of California.
A key component to the planning effort is the recognition of the important and appropriate role of parking. The JPA has developed parking principles based on the concept of creating a comprehensive on-street and off-street parking program in the proposed rail transit station areas. There is an understanding of the importance of parking:
• Recognition that parking is a valuable community asset
• Make the location/destination accessible for all users through multiple modes of transportation
• Develop a parking system to support businesses and residents
• Prioritize residential parking for residents in existing and surrounding residential neighborhoods
• Balance local and commuter parking objectives
There is a need to secure funding to adequately study, plan and then build parking in the transit corridor.
As part of a comprehensive Transit Oriented Development (TOD) program, the Eco-Rapid Transit JPA is promoting the concept of a coordinated parking management program for the entire corridor. While each city is responsible for the parking rules and regulations within their jurisdictions, it seems best to work together as a corridor. This is even more important as many of the rail transit stations abut multiple cities in the station area. For example, the Florence/Salt Lake Station in Huntington Park is also within a block of the cities of Bell and Cudahy. The Gardendale Station in Downey is actually located adjacent to a county facility and within walking distance of the City of South Gate’s Hollydale community.
While each station area has a unique set of circumstances, a common understanding of parking is the foundation for a good parking management program. A successful parking management program must be based on an understanding of parking inventory and occupancy at all times of the day.
The parking program proposes to prioritize the use of parking by user and block, thereby also protecting existing residential neighborhood areas. Our cities, similar to the experience of cities with new transit services, have significant residential impacted neighborhoods adjacent to commercial areas. The developing program will use a variety of parking demand, location, time, price and supply strategies to manage parking in the station areas.
Eco-Rapid Transit recognizes that parking or lack of parking at one station can have an impact on another station. In Colorado, the City of Aurora appreciated this in development of their parking plan along the I-225 Corridor and its nine light rail stations (now part of the R Line connecting Aurora to Denver). They determined that parking is an economic development tool and incorporated parking into the station planning process.
They categorized parking and prioritized parking based on user type (residents, customers, commuters, employees) and station type (neighborhood, origin, origin-destination or destination). Eco-Rapid Transit is pursuing a similar approach, except that it is even more complicated because it involves multiple cities, many of whom are environmental justice communities affected by poverty, lack of investment, pollution and other inequities.
Another issue is to measure and plan for the incorporation of commuters and Metro controlled parking into the local station area. This is critical in regards to the surrounding, local neighborhood and transit adjacent economic development potential. It requires an accurate estimate of transit ridership, commuter parking inventory and occupancy and local land use goals and objectives. It must account for a shift in parking demand over time, with a need for more commuter parking early in the development of a new transit line and the need for less commuter parking as the system and station area matures.
Appropriate demand-based parking requirements, shared parking, use of time restrictions and, eventually, parking pricing, must be part of the equation. Therefore, understanding current and future commuter and local parking needs in the corridor is the key. It is not just about the parking inventory, but also vital to understand parking demand.
It is hoped that over time, the new rail transit system and stations will allow people to own fewer cars and rely more upon public transit (although it already has very high transit ridership supported by an overused local bus network). The suggestion is to switch from suburban parking requirements to a more flexible demand-based parking requirement that will reward a more efficient use of parking spaces in these station areas.
This transition in parking takes place over time, rather than mandating zero parking requirements that could negatively affect the adjacent residential communities. It will require a coordinated planning effort among the Eco-Rapid Transit members and implementation at both the corridor and city level to increase parking efficiency in the station areas, identify and prioritize parking for target audiences, strategically manage on-street and off-street parking, account for many different types of users, and consider both public and private parking spaces.
While some people will push for more parking and others will advocate no parking requirements, it is important to create a balanced parking system. The proposed parking program must be comprehensive, supporting the needs of the local businesses and residents while integrating commuter parking issues.
An intermediate step is to transition from suburban parking requirements to demand-based parking requirements, with an option to further reduce parking with a parking management plan. Eventually, the transit-oriented development in some of the station areas may require no parking and rely upon existing and shared parking arrangements.
Much of the corridor consists of environmental justice communities with densities that can rival Manhattan. Many of the communities are populated with multiple generational householders sharing single family houses and apartments, resulting in high on-street parking occupancy rates throughout much of the corridor. Disadvantaged Communities make up the majority of the corridor. Of census tracts within a 1-mile radius of planned rail alignments, 73 percent are considered disadvantaged communities.
Eco-Rapid Transit seeks an opportunity to be creative and think about how parking can be used for special events, weeknight, and weekend uses. It can also include a residential parking component to alleviate some of the overnight residential parking issues in southeast Los Angeles.
Another concept is to develop the parking into an integrated system that will help customers to find parking along the entire line. The current method of “hunting” for commuter parking is inefficient and creates unnecessary cruising for parking. A more modern approach would be to link the parking into an integrated system including parking reservations, wayfinding and information systems. This is a future concept that could greatly improve the efficiency of the parking system.
A measured approach
The key is to create a comprehensive on and off-street parking system that uses parking efficiently. The system should be developed so that parking revenues are reinvested back into the communities. The system will need to identify the priority parker in each station area, creating a partnership between the local jurisdictions, businesses and residents in the corridor.
Having a clear understanding of parking data and a clear set of guiding principles will be key to the parking management project that can decrease traffic impacts associated with these economic opportunities, enhance retail and entertainment development, increase value and result in a higher quality of life for local residents.
This early parking planning effort recognizes some of the current parking problems while setting the stage for future economic and community development opportunities. In some cases, the new WSAB line will have dedicated Metro parking facilities. At other stations, it is hoped that Metro will work with our local jurisdictions and develop shared parking facilities that can be used by a variety of users.
This approach has been successful at the Metro South Pasadena/Mission and Pasadena/Del Mar stations. The City of Claremont’s Claremont Village is another good example of transit parking integrated into a city parking facility. In all cases, it is our task from a local and corridor perspective to ensure that Metro work with us so we can plan beyond their own Metro passengers and integrate their parking needs and facilities into our local communities, creating a better system with more transportation options for all of us.
Michael Kodama is the Executive Director of Eco-Rapid Transit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you to Aldo Schindler, Allen Rifkin, and Walter Beaumont for reviewing the article and offering suggestions.