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13,000 Park & Ride Spaces Pose Problem

Waterfront Light Rail Parking Risks Health, Ridership, and Federal Funding

February 10, 1993

The locally preferred light rail system being approved for final environmental analysis will be a tremendous transportation, economic and environmental improvement. Unfortunately, the system will have 13,000 park-and-ride spaces. Though improving access to public transportation is a great idea, park-and-ride lots are not the best way to go about it. The provision of parking increases automobile use, which will create more congestion and pollution, thereby risking public health and the flow of Federal transportation funds to the state. There are ways to provide transit access without the tremendous downsides inherent in the park-and-ride strategy.

VMT to Park-and-Ride Lots Not Calculated

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) for trips to the park-and-ride lots were not calculated in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). In the Final EIS, the VMT needs to be completely tallied. There are two methods to determine VMT for park-and-ride lots. Often, the estimate is made by subtracting the distance driven between the park-and-ride lot and the commuter's destination. Because roadway capacity between the park-and-ride lot and the destination will not be reduced, any VMT and congestion reduction obtained from people who decide not to drive the whole distance will eventually be supplanted by motorists attracted by the roadway space that the park-and-rider freed-up. Thereby, this distance-saved method is inaccurate and deceiving. In order to be correct, miles driven to park-and-ride lots must be added to the existing VMT.

To compound this problem, the short drives to park-and-ride lots are under cold start conditions. When a car engine is not warmed up, it runs less efficiently and thus produces more pollution. Auto emissions for drives of less than two miles are significantly higher: Nitrogen Oxide, 26%; Hydrocarbons, 73%; and Carbon Monoxide, 109%.(1)

Combining these problems will make it hard to attain the air quality goals of the Clean Air Act. If these goals are not attained, Federal transport funding to New Jersey may be cut off.

Park-and-Ride Will Cut Into Transit Ridership

The introduction of the park-and-ride facilities [would] divert passengers from existing transit services. From Bergen County, bus trips to Manhattan and rail trips will drop about 15%.(2) In the DEIS, the LRT extension to Bayonne was only considered with the Liberty State Park park-and- ride in place. The lot drew significant number of people from Bayonne, thereby undercutting ridership on the Bayonne extension, improperly making the extension look like a bad investment. Both NJ Transit and local officials express tremendous interest in extending the LRT into Bayonne and Bergen County. Building the park-and-ride lots will undercut ridership on the longer system.

With these considerable drawbacks in mind, NJ Transit should plan the final light rail system without park-and-ride facilities.

Then How Do We Get Ridership?

Integrate existing and proposed transit systems. Hundreds of express buses from northern and western Bergen County pass right by the Vince Lombardi park-and-ride. Many local buses operate in the vicinity. These services can be used to feed the proposed LRT. A Bergen Transit Guide should be created, containing maps and approximate schedules of all the bus and train routes in the county, giving people knowledge of how to get where they want.

Extend the light rail system. The bulk of the people who will use the park-and-ride lots have origins within a mile of the many railroad tracks in Hudson and Bergen Counties. The rail system should be extended into these communities, most of which are less than 10 miles from the park-and-ride lots.

Integrate bicycles and trains. In the Netherlands, bicycles are used for 35% of all station access trips and 10% of station egress trips.(3) Even though only 3% of transit access trips in New Jersey are made by bicycle, there is tremendous potential for bicycle access. When asked "would you ever (even part-time) consider commuting from home to this station by bicycle," nearly 50% surveyed transit riders responded yes. Forty percent of those surveyed felt the one improvement that would most encourage them ride to the station is secure bike storage.(4) While the US has been investing in costly park-and-ride lots, European transit operators have invested in bicycle access. Across the whole of the Netherlands, there are fewer than 25,000 automobile park-and-ride spaces. That's barely one-fourth the number of guarded bicycle parking spaces. Over the next 20 years, the Netherlands Railway plans to increase bicycle parking spaces by 75%. Despite rates of auto ownership very similar to the United States, less than 20% of Dutch rail access trips are made by car. It's clear, if you reap parking you will sow traffic.(3)

Most Hudson County residents don't own cars, so these three strategies will provide them the opportunity to get into Bergen County. Thereby, the system will be less peak-direction oriented, making operations more cost effective by providing reverse-peak ridership.

Park-and-ride lots may seem like a great way to quickly bolster ridership on the LRT. But by building these lots, NJ Transit will be shooting itself in the foot. The Board needs to plan now for integrated and expanded transit operations to provide a long term ridership base for its system, mobility for travelers and traffic reduction for New Jersey's suburbs and cities.

(1) How To Promote Bicycling as a Pollution Solution, League of American Wheelmen, June 1989.

(2) Hudson River Waterfront Transportation Corridor Draft Environmental Impact Statement, USDOT and NJ Transit, p. 4-33.

(3) Michael Replogle, "Bicycle Access to Public Transportation: Learning from Abroad," ITE Journal, December, 1992.

(4) William Feldman, The Use of the Bicycle as a Collector Mode For Commuter Rail Trips, NJDOT, June, 1980.

This was written for Transportation Alternatives by Daniel Convissor, a Board Member. It was handed out at a Special Meeting held by New Jersey Transit's Board of Directors. The meeting was convined to approve the Hudson River Waterfront Transportation Corridor Draft Environmental Impact Statement. I presented oral testimony based on this text.

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