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Extension of Rail into South Carolina
Does Every Light Rail Station Need a Large Parking Lot?

West coast urban planner, Robert Cervero, recently was quoted as saying to not have a parking lot at a transit station "was a sure recipe, in the near term, for under-utilized rail transit."

Certainly ample parking should be provided at outlying stations where land is more readily is more readily available and there is a need to attract drivers from suburban locations beyond the reach of mass transit. However having any sizeable parking lots at closer-in transit stops, in our opinion, will defeat the very purpose for which light rail corridors are being built. Large surface parking lots will detract from the appearance of the neighborhoods through which the transit corridors will operate, encourage greater traffic congestion around the station areas and limit the density that is needed to make transit work well. When you look at other cities with light rail or heavy rail transit you do not find many of them that provide large amounts of parking at close-in transit stations. In fact, the earliest systems such as Boston, New York and Chicago, built over 100 years ago, provided no parking at all. Parking was not a factor in those early systems, built before the automobile, and because of high density around these stations parking was never added. Yet for over 100 years people have managed to get to them!

In a recent letter to the Observer a lady asked "How am I going to be able to use mass transit if they don't provide parking for me?" We have a major task ahead of us to re-educate people away from the idea that any trip begins and ends with their automobile, even one that involves the use of mass transit.

A typical transit rider day might begin with a walk of a few blocks to a cross-town bus line. The majority of riders will unfortunately not be lucky enough to walk to a light rail station. We will need to put sidewalks in many city neighborhoods that still do not have them. We need to provide much better cross-town bus service to feed our designated transit corridors. On days when it is very rainy or severely cold, our transit rider might actually need someone to drop them off at the bus stop or light rail station. Comparing our weather to the North, that shouldn't be too many days out of the month.

Once on the cross-town bus, our transit rider will connect to the nearest light rail or busway transit corridor. He might also be driven to the light rail station and dropped off, then picked up at the station after work. Or if there are safe bikeways, the rider may choose to bike to and from the station.

To be successful, close-in light rail stations with limited parking will need extensive feeder bus connections, off-the-street drop off/pick-up lanes and sheltered transfer areas. To sum it up, we feel parking at close-in neighborhood light rail stations should be limited.

What do you think? Do you feel close-in light rail stations still need large parking lots at every station in order to attract passengers? We'd like to hear from the CEMT members!