Two Paradigms for Transit Parking

Last month I had the chance to sit in on a brown bag session about the new bike parking facility under construction at the Sunset Transit Center.

Currently, the main way to get secure bike parking at a transit center is to rent a locker for a monthly fee. This has never worked for me, because my bike/transit use is not on a daily basis, but rather on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Reserving a locker would be economically inefficient and would also leave that valuable locker vacant and unusable for other folks.

So I was excited that the new facility will use a card-lock system (you pay for what you use) and will also use a form of dynamic pricing: you’ll pay about 3 cents per hour during the day, but only a penny per hour overnight (both seem pretty cheap).

In part, this supports the idea of ‘station bikes’, bikes stored at the work end of your commute trip and used to travel the final distance to your day-time destination. I was surprised to learn that TriMet believes that about 15% of paid bike storage at transit centers is in fact for station bikes. The phenomenon is common in Europe, but I did not realize it had become this popular here.

Dynamic pricing also allows for the possibility that if the new facility is regularly overflowing, TriMet could increase the prices to manage demand (and maybe fund more capacity).

But what struck me is the contrast with auto parking at Sunset. While TriMet is charging for bike parking and to some degree using pricing to ration capacity, auto parking is rationed on a different basis: it’s free, and goes to the folks willing to show up earliest in the morning. We’re rationing it on a convenience basis.

It seems slightly insane that we charge for parking for the mode that contributes to health and the environment and subsidize the parking for the polluting mode. But I understand why it happens. The Federal TSUB criteria require TriMet to project sufficient ridership to justify funding, and that means increasing the ridership capture area by making it easy to park.

What’s a better way we could construct policy around this?

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