Monday, June 28, 2010

MBTA proud of their parking

I'll have more on this in the context of Riverside in an upcoming TAB op-ed, but this is not a good sign: the MBTA is bragging about having more parking than all but two transit systems in the US. That means that land that could be used for transit-oriented development is instead reserved for sprawl-inducing parking.


dr2chase said...

Are you sure you have the right take on this? I'm sure a major hunk of that parking is at places like Alewife, already surrounded by development, and offering an endpoint to commuters arriving (more or less directly) from freeways.

Which is to say, the sprawl is there already, and the transit parking is probably doing more to mitigate its badness, than it is to encourage more sprawl.

If, purely hypothetically, the red line were extended along route 2 out to the 128 interchange, with a large parking structure constructed on top of the whole mess, that would surely remove some traffic from the route 2 corridor, but it would also make it somewhat more feasible to live that much further out and commute into the city. This seems like a tolerable "evil". The Alewife parking lot fills up now; even the bike cages get pretty full on good days. If we had more parking (and better traffic-plumbing into the parking), we would get more people using the T.

Anonymous said...

I agree with dr2chase. The sprawl exists. Garages like that at alewife does not add to it.

Sean Roche said...

Imagine a world where you didn't have to get into your car to get to public transportation.

There's a lot of density around Alewife, but it's not like it's a nice, walkable neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

The garage takes the sprawl and helps to minimize the traffic in more congested areas. No one decided to move to the suburbs because there is a parking lot by the T. They moved for whatever reason they wanted. Then they looked around for ways to get to town. The MBTA can either accommodate the cars and build its ridership and help alleviate congestion in town, or the cars will just flood into the city and surrounding areas causing even worse issues.

Nathan Phillips said...

Anon - are you kidding? Public transit is a big factor in real estate and where people decide to settle.

Re: Alewife - wonderful bike access, for the open minded.

dr2chase said...

@Sean, "imagine a world": absolutely, it's easy to imagine, but how do we get there? How do we justify that subway endpoint (when it was built, in particular) unless we can make it serve someone? Back then, and even now, it's cars.

The other half of this is Cambridge's land use policies. Given that Alewife is there, they could have chosen to develop the area as a walkable neighborhood with a handy transit connection. They did not. They wanted commercial development to pay their taxes, they want to put it away from where most people live (because people don't want that development near them -- traffic, of course). So they put it there. (There is one residential building, but the neighborhood is not walkable.)

How we get out of this, I am not 100% sure. The new bike paths going in (connectors to Mystic and Charles Rivers, and to Belmont) ought to help -- Belmont's ride share is very low, the sometimes-muddy existing path puts people off. The unpopular thing that has to happen, is that bicycles need to not just be accommodated, but favored, possibly even to the point of penalizing cars. Because, if people nearby switch from cars to bicycles (they could) that will reduce traffic congestion and make some more parking spaces available -- more people in cars will probably appear to use the newly freed capacity. The only way to get rid of the traffic, is to reduce capacity for automobiles as traffic shifts to bicycles, so that the inconvenience of using a car remains constant.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, the area north of Boston sprawled long before Alewife was built. Like another anonymous said, it takes the existing sprawl, sucks up 2,500 cars + however many bikes and drop offs that would otherwise continue into the city.

If anything, the parking needs to be expanded, because everyone thats turned away at 9am isnt going home, theyre going to drive into the city.

dr2chase said...

@Anon-most-recent - my understanding, perhaps flawed, is that Alewife is traffic-limited. I don't know where the limit comes from (environmental impact statements? angry traffic abutters?) but when I said the same thing you did, to some local person who follows these things -- that it needs to be expanded -- that's what I was told.

HOWEVER, you could also imagine, if our transit+road departments worked together, something like satellite parking and a shuttle bus out at 128+2 -- just build up over the interchange (I'm so sure that would be popular in Lincoln) with a shuttle bus in to Alewife, and some sort of signage to let me people know that the near garage was 70/80/90/95% full.

At a higher level of cooperation, if the state would get its act together (they won't, this is dreaming) and cover the largest part of education funding, abutting towns (like Arlington and Belmont) would not see housing (especially, dense housing) as a source of more children that would need to be paid for with property taxes. (the idea being, roughly, that if there is new housing built, it needs to be expensive, so that the property taxes will cover the costs of educating the children who will inevitably live there. And dense housing, at least in the eyes of most people around here, is "not expensive", though I think perhaps it could be if it were done right.

Nathan Phillips said...

We are locked into a uni-directional commute mindset - all come in in the morning, then go out in the evening. We can continue to promote that, or we can promote balance.

This one-way thinking structures almost all of our resource distribution networks - the electrical grid is a unidirectional feeder network; so is the municipal water supply. But they would gain resiliency, efficiency, sustainability in becoming bidirectional. This is the essence of distributed generation. Transportation can be the same.

What if urban commutes became bi-directional? What if in this thread we talked as much about potential commuters coming to Alewife or Riverside from the city on the T as from the suburbs and exurbs? Cost of living? Add up the costs of owning and parking a car if that argument is going to be raised.