Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Parking at MBTA/MBCR Commuter Rail Stations

I'm not clever enough to write an April Fools diddy about trains running on-time 100% or some other thing to twist your arm. I'm just about the facts.

Two separate articles - one from The Sunday Globe and the other from today's Boston Globe about parking at MBTA/MBCR stations.

The Northwest version of "Starts and Stops" profiled commuter and public transportation support William Elliott's quest for parking. Elliott relies on the Fitchburg line or the Red Line to get into Boston from Action. He finds accessing parking at the Action station and at Alewife to be a challenge. So much of a challenge that he is considering forgoing public transportation. Here is Elliott's story:
William Elliott of Acton is a supporter of public transportation who has had his patience tried. He said the problem for "those of us living in the outlying areas" is parking - in Elliott's case, parking for the commuter rail (Fitchburg) and the subway. "I get on at Alewife, if I can. I have such limited parking that I hardly try to use them anymore. We're paying huge amounts of money to support a system that refuses to address the core problem: how to access it. I've tried so many times to find a parking space in Acton and at Alewife with no success, and, after getting tickets for parking in Concord, I've just about given up on the MBTA.

"I used to be a huge supporter when I lived in Cambridge (I got rid of my car at one point), and in fact grew up in Braintree in the '40s and '50s, routinely taking the bus to Quincy to get the T to Boston, and to my relatives in Watertown (bus out of Harvard Square). Now, it simply frustrates me to drive to the South Acton lot (it's full), then to Alewife (it's full, by about 8:30 a.m. sometimes), at which point there's no alternative but to drive into town, the ultimate frustration.

"It's hard to believe that after all these years of talking about public transportation no one seems to be addressing the central problem of how to access the system unless one can walk to the station."

With more than 43,000 spaces in 150 locations, the MBTA claims to be the largest owner of off-street paid parking in New England. In 2007, more than 9 million vehicles were parked at an MBTA-owned surface lot or garage.

But MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said parking lot expansion is a problem, particularly along the Fitchburg line, because the stations and platforms are owned by the T, but the parking lots are not.

He said there were plans several years ago to add a second deck to the parking lot in South Acton that would double the 287 available spaces, but the Acton Transportation Advisory Committee decided not to proceed because abutters were concerned about congestion in the area.

As for Alewife, where 2,733 parking spaces are now available, Pesaturo said there are no plans for an increase in parking, because "the T is not in a financial position to acquire land for parking."
In other parking-related news, a battle may be brewing in Salem over the construction of a parking garage that could deplete a $20 million state fund that was created to encourage housing and walking paths near T stations. Two North of Boston legislatures did some behind the scenes maneuvering to secure $15 million to build the proposed parking garage. It sounds like the garage may be needed.


Keith said...

Parking is no picnic in Natick. The West Natick lot usually is full by 7:00 and there's no other parking in the area. I've never counted the number of spaces there, but it certainly has to be less than 200.

In Natick Center, the only "public" parking is a town-run lot which is 3-4 blocks away from the train, but it is a monthly lot. The last I knew, you had to buy an annual pass for that lot from the Town of Natick. Daily parking is not allowed.

The town lot that is less than a block away from the station is for downtown employees only with special parking permits. The streets nearest the train station are also reserved for downtown employees with permits. Even if they weren't they were once metered, so after two hours you're facing a $10 ticket.

While government urges us to use less energy and take public transportation, they certainly don't make it easy to do so, given the extremely limited parking situation in Natick. They force commuters to drive to towns where there may be more parking, such as Wellesley or heading out west to the larger parking areas like Ashland where the commuting costs are greater.

Train Rider said...


I totally agree with you. . . the parking in Natick is atrocious. I got screwed once or twice trying to park there (to have more train options available at night if I was going out after work) because I arrived after 7:00 a.m. when the lots were already jam packed and ended up having to drive in anyway. You would think town planners would want to increase the number of spaces available, to encourage people to take public transportation so that it cuts down on traffic congestion and pollution in their town.

I know the Westborough parking lot added 100+ new spaces after increased demand. I wish other towns would follow suit.

And you're absolutely right, it's not fair to force riders to go to other towns to be able to park, especially a place like Ashland that's a completely different fare zone.

For those of us who live in MetroWest, inadequate parking has a direct impact on the number of drivings using the Pike and Rt. 9. If there were better parking options, you wouldn't have people taking the Pike or Rt. 9 to stations alternative commuter rail stations or even Green Line stations Riverside or Woodland on the D.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Train Rider

Charlie D. said...

The ideal solution would be the ability of commuter rail passengers to get to the stations without having to drive and park there. Certainly, people within walking distance can get there easily. People should really considering bicycling to the stations. It's quick and easy, and for people within 3-5 miles of the station, it makes a lot of sense. Also, cities should consider setting up local feeder buses to bring people to and from the commuter rail stations. Even if they only ran in the morning and afternoon rush hours, this could be a nice alternative to driving and parking there.

Anonymous said...

Parking in Walpole for the Franklin Line is usually not a problem - there are multiple lots with lots of spaces.

Of course, the T just decided to raise the parking rates to $3 a day, so now combined with the monthly pass, you're talking about $260 a month or so to ride the train. It's almost cheaper to drive into the city and enjoy the comfort of my own car, the radio and some time to myself.

I like the biking option, but for those of us who have to wear suits or business attire daily, it's not really an option.

Charlie D. said...

I bike commute every day and have to wear business casual attire. For most of the year, I just bike in my work clothes. When it gets warmer, I wear a T shirt and bring my dress shirt and undershirt with me in a messenger bag or panniers. The key is to pedal at a leisurely to moderate pace so you don't work up too much of a sweat.

Train Rider said...

Charlie D,

If I lived less than 3 miles to my T station, I would bike. But I live 9-10 miles away ... unfortunately that's too far away for me, especially since I end up taking later trains home at night. If I did bike to the Grafton train station, I would have to bike along a state highway or select a route that has fewer cars but a lot more hills.

Good for you for biking to your T station - it is a healthy way to save gas and the environment.

Thanks for visiting.

Train Rider

Anonymous said...

There is alot of talk going on here in West Concord about a new commuter rail parking garage in the works. At least one developer has been buying up property in the area in the hopes of a windfall. Has anyone else heard of this? Some of the talk includes increasing the number of trains in the wake of expected gasoline price increases, and of putting in a new road here to easily connect commuters to Route 2, perhaps as part of a redesign of the infamous prison rotary.

Mark said...

I risked the permit parking only Natick Town lot after fruitlessly circling the neighborhood for one w\out a meter or posted no parking. Good thing for rain that day as there was less of a chance for a parking ticket. Full business attire, raincoat, etc. biking not an option, commute is 9 miles to the station. What would one do with ice and snow? I can ride the T for free due to my military status but this parking issue is unreasonable. Maybe I'll park at the Natick Labs and walk the one mile for 15 minutes.