Sunday, April 3, 2011

Car Culture Makes a Driver's Paradise

The Long Beach Press-Telegram ran a story about a new parking structure, built at the San Bernardino Metrolink station. The new structure will more than double the number of parking spaces available at the station. The new lot creates what San Bernardino Councilwoman Virginia Marquez called a "commuter's paradise"- because there is now plentiful, free parking. After all, isn't that what every commuter wants?

Or is it possible that the public-transit-riding commuters at the San Bernardino station might want improved transit connections to and from local and regional buses? While both this station and Omnitrans' hub are in downtown San Bernardino, there is a roughly 1 mile walk between them. Only one infrequent local bus line, the #1, serves the station- and free transfers are only available to that one bus, not to any other bus in the downtown area (unlike on RTA). The express bus from Riverside used to stop here, making it an excellent alternative to the often anemic Metrolink service offered in Riverside, but that route has been cut back to the downtown transit mall. This station is, in fact, a prime example of a wasted connection opportunity. Of course, by striping and paving a ton of asphalt, the City of San Bernardino has made it into a "commuter's paradise"- but only for the right sort of commuters. You know, the sort that would never, ever, ever get on a bus.


Chewie said...

Honestly I think it's all needed there. Improved transit service between the station and downtown is definitely needed. I did that once and it's kind of ridiculous that the train drops you so far away from anything.

The parking garage will probably boost ridership on Metrolink, which helps its finances out. Looks like the money to build the garage is from SANBAG, so it may not be super detrimental to transit.

I honestly don't see a good reason why the commuters there can't pay a small parking fee to offset the costs of the structure either (although, let's be real, this will lower utilization somewhat). When you look at the cost of driving the whole way to Downtown LA it would still be a steal even if you had to pay a buck to park for the day.

Metrolink should evaluate its cost-benefit on that closely I would say.

Chewie said...

I'd say in general, Metrolink has so many stations in suburbia (including, the San Bernardino station, which is not in the actual downtown) that having more parking and more jobs near the stations will probably be the best way to boost its ridership in the short and medium run.

In the long run hopefully people can be persuaded to build an urban form (including residential development) that actually supports transit, including high-frequency connecting service.

JN said...

I'm on board with Metrolink having station parking, as the system does generally serve a suburban area with a substantial number of auto-rail commuters. However, I'm strongly in favour of improving connections to local transit. The system is designed as if there are no local buses in Riverside and San Bernardino counties (with some exceptions- Montclair, Fontana, and recently North Main-Corona). The San Bernardino Line is getting to frequencies and service spans that approach the crappy side of real rapid transit- 20 minute headways at peak hours, hourly seven days a week with nearly 20 hours a day of service. Linking the two would be a boon to local transit riders.

Furthermore, what I really want to push back against is the idea that free parking is the ultimate desirable item of any commuter, that its provision makes a "commuter's paradise." For commuters that already ride transit, some might want better transit connections. I know of one friend of mine in particular who used to commute from Rancho Cucamonga to San Bernardino, but chose to drive rather than take the train because the transfer between the train and downtown would either mean a mile's walk (in a suit and heels) or a doubling of commute time. The San Bernardino station was certainly not a paradise for her- and it still isn't.