Saturday, 15 October 2011

Why Park n' Ride isn't the answer

Park n’ Rides, or stations with large amounts of car parking, are usually considered good public transport policy. They encourage public transport usage in low density regions. Perth has them at most new stations, and we’re not doing too badly from them. However, maybe we could be better off with a different strategy.
Park n’ rides consume large amounts of land and discourage walk-up patronage. While our Park n’ Rides are mostly at freeway stations on the Joondalup and Mandurah Lines, where walking to the station is already hard, the large parking lots surely aren’t helping. There is also insatiable demand for them, just like roads. They often fill up in the morning peak, so they encourage peak usage over off peak usage. Instead of replacing car usage with PT usage, it lets car usage continue along with PT, which is an easy and fairly good outcome for now but not optimal.
In place of these alienating Park n’ Rides we could allow residential and commercial development, or TOD (Transit-oriented development), buildings that will generate much more traffic that is also more balanced than in Park n’ Rides, while earning money rather than costing money. To compensate for the loss of the car park feeder buses should be run much more frequently.
We could also place Park n’ Rides just beyond walking distance of the station (about 400m for most people) where the attraction of the station is lesser and so land cheaper, with links to the station by feeder bus. This would be the best of both worlds, but it would be difficult to get the land in our existing suburbs because it would probably be housing, and new suburbs should be optimised for walking, cycling and taking a feeder bus to the station, so large Park n' Rides aren't necessary.
In conclusion, we should reduce our dependence on Park n' Rides, although the idea suggested in the last paragraph of car parks beyond walking distance of the station deserves consideration.

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