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Park & ride dilemmas

An apparently obvious way of dealing with traffic congestion in a city such as Melbourne is to drive your car to the nearest train station and catch the train to your destination. It is a great theory but the hitch is that parking places near train stations are becoming exhausted and the cost of constructing extra parking spots is high – around $17,000 per spot according to this Age article. That is the cost of getting just one traveller off the road and using public transport.

The solution is to price the parking spots so there is never any search time at a station site – this means hefty parking charges. Indeed according to parking expert Donald Shoup the ideal is to have 15% of parking spots free at any time in any location to prevent wasteful searches. Melbourne has the second highest fraction of its lands allocated to parking of any of the world’s cities – it is just eclipsed by Los Angeles. This is a wasteful use of land that imposes huge community cost.

I agree with Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen – bus service upgrades should be a priority which will encourage people to switch toward bus rather than train services alone. It is often easier to walk to the local bus stop and even ‘park and ride’ solutions for bus travel and less likely to lead to the excess parking demands that occur at train stations.

Congestion issues are not straightforward to resolve. Parking issues need to be resolved if traffic congestion issues are to be sensibly addressed.

12 comments to Park & ride dilemmas

  • Spiros

    Buses have an image problem. As Margaret Thatcher is reputed to have said (though she didn’t)

    “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.”

  • Christian

    Pricing parking at train stations is definetly worth considering (Huntingdale has no spots left at 8am and it has a number of big parking lots, so when I used to take the train I would have to drive to Murrumbeena). But it should be done in tandem with the pricing of parking on streets around train stations and removing any parking restrictions such as time limits.

    That said – I think parking regulation in our cities needs much broader reform along the lines of what Donald Shoup proposes (we shouldn’t just stop at train stations). However I am an advocate of taking it further than Shoup proposes, by actually privatising on street parking rather than having local governments set the price as he proposes.

  • Lachlan Hurst

    I agree, park & ride is not the answer. Any car park built near a train station will only be able to accommodate the smallest fraction of the rail lines capacity.

    However, abolishing Zone1/Zone2 may prevent some drivers from traveling further into the city than they need too. Back in the day’s I used PT, I would always drive to the nearest Zone1 station. The savings were significant.

    Pricing at stations may serve as a deterrent to PT usage. Do we really want this? Maybe only apply to parking around Zone1 stations.

    Bicycles also help to increase the feeder area of train stations and should be encouraged.

  • Francis Xavier Holden

    Thats a “Public Transport Advocate” saying it costs $17,000 to build a car spot.

    Even if it does cost that much – how long does a car spot last – 50 years?

    So lets say it $500 a year plus a safe 10% cost of money etc for a strightline payback at 30 years or so. $10 a week. So $2 a day parking fee would cover costs.

    And car spots don’t depreciate they appreciate. So its an investment with a good ROI. Surely the NPV has to be positive.

    Anyway I would have thought most train station parking lots are ripe to develop into underground plus one or two stories of shopping.

    Spiros has a point – bus usage has an image problem.

  • Iain Hall

    The lateral solution is to develop /encourage people working from home via the internet so that no commuting is actually necessary at all. The energy and time savings would benefit everyone.

  • davidp

    Returning to buses my feeling is that the problem with buses is more the frequency and flexibility than perception (you can’t help feeling a bit of a winner zooming in the bus lane past the cars banked back on the Eastern Freeway, knowing you don’t have to park the thing either). Perceptions will disappear when offered a better service.

    I hope the PTU person talked about cross town links as well as frequency into the city/U of Melb/other usual suspects. It seems odd we have a direct bus from Bulleen to U of Melb. whereas there is no direct bus to La Trobe (or Monash as far as I know)

    I liked the Vancouver system of terminuses with multiple buses leaving them frequently. Possibly a model for our decentralized city…

  • 1949 Cadillac Shop Manuals

    I think they must have a definite solution here…

    1949 Cadillac Shop Manuals

  • NPOV

    This interview makes some interesting comments about the impact of parking fees:

    I’d also suggest that something like 50% of the people who drive to a station could quite easily switch to bicycling, walking, or carpooling.

    In fact…carpools based at railway stations seems like an idea that has received very little attention.

  • TimT

    I walk, myself!

  • robert merkel

    FXH: I have to agree with davidp. Buses have an image problem in large part because buses suck, to steal a favourite phrase of an urban planner friend of mine.

    In a nutshell, they tend to run infrequently, don’t keep particularly well to schedules, and it’s hard to figure out where they go.

  • Francis Xavier Holden

    Rob- oh I don’t believe I have ever ever used a bus in Melbourne.

    I agree – to a non user they seem to be very unpredictable, full of students and people in tracky dacks and hard to find. I’m alway scared they will take some crazy turn and I’ll be monstered by the driver.

    As you can see this is all based on no evidence or experience what so ever. I was perfectly happy (well not perfectly) to jump on a bus in Beijing (I was scared of the ferocious ticket ladies – apparently with good reason from stories) but only after being primed by a native and also to bus a bit in Kaohsiung TW. But I won’t hop on one here.[hey in Taiwan the luxury ones have reclining seats and videos – yes commute buses]

    That said – one of the offspring used to hop on a bus at the end of our street and jump off directly in front of school – but it went by such a circuitous route I hardly believed that it would get him there.

    We need a re-education program for buses

  • Anonymous

    Back to busses… would be helpful if the bus drivers actually knew what they were doing. There are many near crashes incurring heavy breaking (great with a massive load of mobile “Mass” ie people, not to forget mention the other vehicles on the road. And if you give credible information to the bus company nothing happens.

    Why has there not been a larger move to have the local railway stations as hubs so people can leave their cars at home. Less vehicles on the road, including busses and maybe some more money for train infrastructure.

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