Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Oct. 21: to park or not to park at Metro stations?

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Lack of parking drives many away from mass transit (L.A. Times) 

Parking at the Expo Line's Culver City Station. Photo by Metro.

Parking at the Expo Line’s Culver City Station. Photo by Metro.

An updated look at a long-debated issue in transit circles: how much, if any, lack of parking at transit stations. Forty of Metro’s 80 stations have parking — and parking at some of the most popular stations is often gobbled up early on weekday mornings (Norwalk, NoHo, Universal City and Culver City are a few examples).

On the other hand, Metro has thousands of free spaces — as well as some paid ones — and I can definitely point to places where parking is relatively easy. This interactive map gives you an idea where the parking is located.

Excerpt from the Times article:

“Today I got lucky,” said Ashley Scott, 30, as she waited for her train to Hollywood on a recent Thursday morning. “I was this close to just getting on the 101.”

Scott’s daily dilemma illustrates an often overlooked but significant choke point in the ambitious growth of L.A.’s light-rail system. Metro’s six-line network, which has seen steady ridership gains over the last five years, now carries about 350,000 people on work days. Parking shortages could complicate Metro’s goal of shifting hundreds of thousands more drivers to public transit in coming decades.

Planners say it’s impractical, perhaps impossible, to build enough free parking. Train station lots have low turnover because most commuters leave their cars all day. To meet demand, Metro lots would have to sprawl far beyond the station—or, in dense urban areas, rise several stories.

It’s a tough issue as many planners believe that it’s far wiser in the long-term to build developments with more jobs and/or residences near transit. Their belief is that promoting density near transit will ultimately produce more riders than sprawling parking lots and also lead to building cities with a higher quality-of-life.

On the other hand, it’s undeniable that — at least for now — parking is the carrot that makes taking transit possible for some of our riders.

And then there’s the issue of expense and space. For example, there is no parking planned along the Purple Line Extension subway, which largely follows densely developed Wilshire Boulevard. On the other hand, the Gold Line Foothill Extension — in the more suburban San Gabriel Valley — will eventually have parking at each of its six new stations.

As it happens, I just got off the phone with Andrew Young, who recently co-authored a study with David Levinson at the University of Minnesota that ranked Metro areas according to their transit accessibility to jobs. The Los Angeles area ranked third, so I asked Andrew what he thought about the parking conundrum.

“You can build parking lots that makes transit useful to those who live some distance away from stations or you can build housing and destination adjacent to that station that will be used by those in future who will work and live there,” he said. “The question is: do you want to build for an existing constituency or do you want to build for a currently nonexistent constituency that one day will live next to the station. In many places, building for the future is hard for current politicians….people like the status quo and people in the status quo are the ones who vote and it’s always hard to change that.”

Well said.

Of course, there’s a related issue here, too — whether parking, where it exists, should be free? Streetsblog L.A. has written about that, criticizing Metro for offering free subsidies for auto users that it doesn’t necessarily offer for those who get to stations on foot, bikes or even transit.

Personal disclosure on this item: I often pay $2 to park at the Gold Line’s Del Mar station, where there is always plenty of parking to be had. I could ride my bike, walk or try to snare a ride from the Domestic Partner (when not working herself), but I’ve found driving to be quicker.

More headline funtivitity after the jump! 

Union demands driving jobs out of California, Japanese firm says (L.A. Times) 

Coverage on the Times’ news pages of Kinkisharyo’s apparent decision to build a permanent light rail car manufacturing facility outside of Palmdale. The firm — which is building new light rail cars for Metro — is assembling them in Palmdale, but is facing an environmental lawsuit brought by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who are demanding an easier path to organizing workers at the factory. Excerpt:

“We offer good salaries and good benefits, and we’ve never had a labor issue,” Donald Boss, Kinkisharyo’s general manager of program management, told The Times. “If our employees want to organize, they can. But we aren’t going to organize for them.”

The IBEW didn’t return calls for comment. Other local labor leaders told the Times that Metro should force Kinkisharyo to deal with the unions.

Can a $5.4-billion tunnel plan fix the notorious gap in the 710? (L.A. Times) 

A Times infographic looks at one of the alternatives under study in Metro’s SR-710 North project. The other alternatives: light rail between East Los Angeles and Pasadena, bus rapid transit between East L.A. and Pasadena, street and intersection improvements and the legally-required no-build option.

A draft environmental impact report is scheduled to be released by Metro and Caltrans in February followed by a 90-day public comment period. Here is the project’s web page on; the project team has an ongoing series on “facts vs fiction” about the project.

Golden Gate Bridge renews talk of sidewalk tolls (Marin Independent Journal) 

With the Golden Gate Bridge District facing a budget deficit and about 16,000 walkers and cyclists using the bridge daily during the peak season, officials have revived an old proposal to perhaps charge the pedestrians and cyclists a toll. Motorists in cars pay either $6 using a FasTrak transponder (your ExpressLanes transponder will work on the bridge) or $7 if using pay-by-plate (camera takes picture of your license plate and you get a bill in the mail).

My three cents….hmmmm. I suppose this first raises the question of whether pedestrians and cyclists can strap transponders on themselves. I also wonder what happens when the apes finally decide to revolt (and there is nothing in the current news cycle that indicates this won’t happen). This scene, from “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” would have been far less interesting if the apes had to stop, pull out a wallet and pay a toll. Just saying.

And finally….

I like Kansas City in seven games with the last game not being decided until the bottom of the ninth inning — which suits the Royals’ style this season.

Observation: I grew up somewhat of a traditionalist believing that the participants in the World Series should largely be decided by the outcome of a too-long 162-game regular season and one playoff between division winners.

But I’ve come around to baseball’s relatively new format that sends two wild card teams and three division winners in each league to the post-season. While the regular season should be shortened to a more humane 154 games, the new post-season format has made the regular season and post-season exciting with an appropriate incentive for winning a division — avoiding the one-game wildcard round. Well played, Major League Baseball.



37 replies

  1. Charge parking. If they can afford cars, they can afford a little parking fee. Parking fees is a cost of owning a car just like gas and insurance so car drivers should pony up the tab. Stop making taxpayers who don’t own cars pay for free parking for car drivers who can afford to drive.

  2. Why not just demolish all the parking lots and erect a high rise condo there? Then you have people living right by the train station instead of having people drive to the train station.

    The concept of “drive to the station” is idiotic as it is. If people have to drive to the station to catch a train, then just build a residential building right at the train station. Look at Wilshire/Western, there’s a high rise condo and a business complex right above the station. Just build it like that! Not only is taxpayer money being waste, so is space with parking lots. Metro would be better off developing their own property into residential and commercial properties and selling it/renting them back to the market.

  3. Los angeles is a particular case and parking should be free . do you now we are one of the most polluted cities in USA?If you have to drop two kids to school before going to work and take the Metro YES you need parking and of course you need to leave the car until the afternoon . Sta Monica has like four parking structures and parking is free . Has any of our freeways produce profits? no is our infrastructure, LA has to enter the 21st century but not with this mentality I am a metro user since 2003 and the major problem all this years for me has been parking . Thousands of cars go back in to the freeway everyday due to lack of parking at Metro stations, this is not a rocket science.When you combine the human cost of pollution car accidents, drunk drivers, loss of life, respiratory illness, cancer, then the parking structures at the Metro stations are incredible profitable.

  4. Currently, I have a few choices – drive 3 1/2 miles to park at the Crenshaw/Expo station, bike 1 1/2 miles to the Expo/Western station, drive to the Slauson Silver Line station, or drive to work. At the Slauson Silver Line station, my car was vandalized; biking to the Expo/Western station is hazardous. Not a lot of good choices.

  5. We must consider the costs of NOT providing adequate free parking.

    The whole purpose of any transit authority is to (1) take automobiles off the streets and freeways, and keep their noxious fumes out of the atmosphere, and (2) to provide a cost-effective means for those without automobiles to get to work, school, shopping, worship, recreation, and so forth.

    If we don’t make park-and-ride attractive, then the people who do have automobiles will stay in them, in which case, we’re wasting the taxpayers’ money on anything beyond a nasty, brutish, bus-based system (of the sort that the Bus Riders’ Union seems to want).

    • Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cut the politically correct speech and let’s get down to the real reason why you want free parking. You don’t want it for the environmental doohickey reason, the real reason is for your own selfish reasons.

      You want free parking at transit stations because you want to keep living in Orange County, drive to a LA Metro station, park your car there for free, and ride our cheap subsidized public transit system (that LA County taxpayers contribute to, not you, the OC resident) over a long distance, just so you can go to our venues for $1.75 for a 20 mile trip. That’s the real reason. You’ve stated your reasons over and over again how you like to go to Disney Hall and Hollywood Bowl while living in OC, and how you like Metro because all it costs is $1.75 to get there to travel over 20+ miles. Basically, you’re the problem, not the solution. You live in OC, you take advantage of LA County taxpayers. Got a problem with public transit, talk it with your OC Board of Supes and do something about OCTA.

  6. If Metro starts charging for parking at their lots, won’t this reduce the incentive for car owners to take public transit at all? I’d bet that a large portion of the people using these lots are trying to avoid paying for parking (or finding it) at their destinations. If Metro makes it more burdensome to park around transit stops, people might as well drive and forget public transit altogether. Especially when considering the falling price of gasoline and the (theoretically) recovering economy, public transit needs to become more attractive to compete with private transit, not less so.

    • “people … are trying to avoid paying for parking (or finding it)” — therein lies the problem: there’s an inverse relation between paying for parking and finding it — the more you’re willing to pay, the easier it is to find, and vice versa.

    • The same was said when when Metro started locking the gates and started moving away from an honor system. Oh no, people will go back to driving than paying for their rides, it needs to compete with cars, public transit should be free, think of the environmental cost, blah-blah-blah.

      Guess what happened when the honor system was gone? No one cared. People still ride Metro, people didn’t go back to cars, more people are riding Metro than ever, Metro keeps achieving record ridership numbers, fare evasion dropped and Metro is getting more money to help run the system.

      So I say to Metro, go ahead and start charging for parking. It costs nothing now, you might as well make it as cheap as $1 per day. Even a buck per day multiplied by all those cars parked at free lots will bring lots of revenue to a cash strapped agency like Metro. People will still pay a buck to park at a Metro station because it’s still cheaper than parking in DTLA. If someone whines and moans about it that they’ll back to the car, tell them to go ahead, let them take the car. They’ll come crawling back because of the traffic and still paying for parking and the Metro fare will still be cheaper than parking in DTLA. And people will still continue to take Metro in even more numbers.

      It’s time Metro stopped catering to special interests and vocal lobbyists and started acting more like a business.

  7. The parking situation at North Hollywood has been a problem since the Red Line subway was extended into the Valley in 2000. Even with the Orange Line busway opening in 2005, the parking situation at North Hollywood still didn’t improve. Even with the high ridership on the Orange Line, I’m sure there are those that live closer to an Orange Line park & ride lot that still drive straight to the North Hollywood & Universal CIty/Studio City stations.

  8. Metro needs more shuttle buses to pick up and drop off passengers in a 3 to 5 mile radious of the train and bus stations.

  9. Here’s a free “best practices” for the folks at L.A. Metro:
    Boston’s MBTA charges a minimum of $4 to park at any of their rapid transit stations with parking. And yet almost all of these facilities are still full.
    I guess the Marxists at One Gateway Plaza can’t figure out that commodities need to be priced?

  10. The Times article about each parking space costing $50,000 is a sobering one. Parking should not be for free, but let the market price itself. We should have congestion pricing for the most popular lots and use the revenue to add parking spaces. $50,000 per space = $5 per day x 200 days/yr x 50 years. In the long run it is probably cheaper to expand parking spaces than expanding highways.

  11. Parking lots are a huge drain on cities finances through lost tax base revenue. Free parking allows drivers from outside the tax base area to use cities services without paying for them costing local citizens more. Allowing one car to park all day on a spot that is empty all night is an enormous waste of land resources. Better to build mixed use developments on the parking lots that generate local revenue from sales during the day and from residents during the night. The shops would also produce jobs that are public transit adjacent and if filled by locals could be within walking distance of residents.

  12. This really goes to show the failure of the Orange bus line. It is at capacity and it can not be increased due to the busses blocking the cross streets. It takes twice as long and carries a third as many riders than a LRT, But most important the quality of the ride is terrible at best. With the Orange line as an LRT no doubt the ridership on the Red and Orange will go up many times with good comfortable fast service. With parking along the Orange LRT line there would be little need or want to drive to the Red Line North Hollywood Station if you are traveling from the West Valley.

    I live in Long Beach and take the Blue Line from Wardlow Station regularly and park on the street and walk to the station since their lots are also full by 8 am. I could take the Long Beach Transit bus which goes right by my house but I would have to pay and additional fair and the service is poor and stops before 8pm. So with a regional fair tap system I would use the bus and plan my schedule more carefully. Maybe with not having to pay the additional fair more people would use the bus and service would improve to match the need.

  13. I agree unions needs to come back to reality and senses. It’s not hard to Google “business unfriendly states” and articles on both sides of the political spectrum shows California keeps coming up near the top of the worst list.

    Bank of America moved to Charlotte, NC, Boeing shut down its plant in Long Beach, Nissan already left California, Toyota is leaving Torrance, Sriracha hot sauce almost left for Texas, and now Kinkisharyo decides not to do business here.

    This used to be the Golden State, the envy of all American states as a place to do business, the place where the American Dream was made. Now everyone wants to leave here and is heading to Texas.

    Sooner or later, the only jobs left here will be Taco Bells and McDonald’s. And sadly, it really is becoming that way: those are the only jobs and careers left here in LA for most minimum wage earners instead of learning new, career lasting skills at a manufacturing plant, which there so few left in this state now.

    • Quick fact check: Boeing announced they were bringing 1,000 new jobs to Long Beach and Seal Beach over the next two years, and Sriricha never seriously considered leaving Irwindale. Also, I think you’re conflating LA being unfriendly to business with California as a whole. Silicon Valley is still a monster of an economic engine, and California will always remain attractive to business because it’s a great place to live. California incubates great companies, while Texas just tries to steal them.

      • Puhleaze. Texas stealing jobs? What do they do, Texans come here stick Californians up at gun point and force them to move to Texas? “I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse” like the Godfather? Companies don’t just move jobs to places just because of the weather.

        Sure Silicon Valley is still there, but that’s not really helping LA County is it? And Apple and Silicon Valley products aren’t really manufactured here, they’re all made in China. The real winners are the jobs being created overseas by California corporations, no corporation would build a manufacturing plant here. Why pay $15 – $20 an hour here with overzealous unions when the Chinese can do it for slave labor wages?

      • “Silicon Valley is still a monster of an economic engine”

        The way you say it is like admitting that California is on the wrong track and trying to convince yourself that we still have IT companies up in San Jose so it’s still okay.

        It’s not okay. California cannot survive just with a IT sector in San Jose. There are 40 million people living in California, 10 million of them right here in LA County. Our unemployment rate high. We need more than IT companies up in the Bay Area. We need them here, right here in LA County.

        If anything, this is everything what LA used to have as a robust industry right here that have either dwindled and/or have made the move elsewhere: Aircraft and aerospace, automobile, rail cars, high tech equipment, movie and film production, arts and animation, oil refinement, firearms and personal protection devices, military and defense, fast food, merchandising, retail, food processing and manufacturing, home construction, appliances, furniture, glass, metal, wood, etc. etc.

        I know that LA residents can be the most selfish NIMBYs around where they don’t want a particular industry nearby for whatever reason. Sriracha hot sauce is a great example. Hollywood moving to Vancouver is another. But you can’t keep saying no to everything or keep passing anti-business laws or regulations or demands that only makes them seek elsewhere. Sooner or later, there’s going to be nothing left and LA County will be stuck with 10 million residents without jobs.

        “California incubates great companies, while Texas just tries to steal them.”

        No, California has lot of brilliant minds that starts up new companies. Except, people who are smart enough start seeing their businesses grow, eventually figures out California sucks as a place to do business with all these arcane regulations so they start moving elsewhere where they can conduct their business without said restrictions.

  14. Instead of parking lots why not build parking structures or underground parking? And why charge a minimum parking fee of one or two dollars? Most apartments or condos built near train stations are for the wealthy executives. Most working people can not afford to live in them. And trying to catch a bus to connect with the train takes forever. If you want people to use the train, parking will continue to be needed.

  15. It takes me 10-15 minutes to drive to Metro, or 20-30 minutes on the bus; since I can time my departure to the bus schedule, it’s not a huge difference. But on the return, either the car is right there waiting for me, or I have a very unpredictable wait for the bus. That’s where the car wins big time. To make bus-to-rail transfers attractive, the frequency of the bus service (LB Transit in my case) needs to increase to match the frequency of Metro rail.

    Paid parking is a good idea, but there are places (such as Wardlow) where Metro lots compete with abundant free street parking, so there’s a limit on how much can be extracted from parking fees.

  16. The times article memtions cars traveling through the tunnel but, what about the trucks from the habors and central valley using the 710/210 route?

    • Hi Warren:

      This is from the SR 710 North’s “Facts versus Fiction” page:

      Increased Truck Traffic
      CLAIM: The freeway tunnel will invite more trucks to travel through the area for goods transport from the ports.
      FACT: The vast majority of the trucks that already travel within the Study area are local trucks that are delivering merchandise to local businesses. Cargo trucks traveling to and from the ports typically begin/end
      in the area south of State Route 60 or distribution centers in the Inland Empire. The tunnel alternative looksat the variation of allowing or prohibiting truck travel. Nothing has been decided.

      In plain English, they’re saying nothing has been decided yet whether trucks will be allowed or not if the tunnel alternative is pursued (which also hasn’t been decided yet).

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  17. Parking availability should be a function of how the station is used: if a station is a “gateway” station serving a sprawling suburban wasteland (e.g., the Wardlow station as a gateway to MetroRail from the portion of Orange County that lies along the 405), then there’s no such thing as too much free parking. If, on the other hand, a station is in the middle of a dense business and/or residential district, then you run the risk that people will use free Metro parking as a way to drive to local businesses instead of taking Metro or using the businesses’ own parking.

    By way of example: Throughout the summer, I take Metro to Hollywood Bowl concerts, and the rest of the year, I take Metro to a somewhat smaller number of concerts at Disney Hall. And throughout the year, I take Metro to various museums (yes, including getting to the Flight Path Museum with a combination of the Blue Line, the Green Line, and lots and lots of shoeleather). Most of this is evenings and weekends, when the prime parking at Wardlow has already thinned out (and the morning permit requirement has expired), but this year, when I took my Spring vacation at home, and took Metro to places like the Paramount Studios Tour (a real tour of a real working studio, not something that’s been reduced to a theme park experience!), I found that I was having to park on Pacific Ave., because both the main lot and the south lot were filled to capacity. If we could somehow increase the parking capacity at Wardlow, it would be even more effective at getting cars off the freeway.

    • Why? I’d say the opposite — at places like Wardlow, with plenty of underutilized street parking, there’s no need for Metro to build parking lots.

      • You haven’t seen Wardlow around 10 AM on a weekday, have you? One of those aforementioned Spring “staycation” days, I had to park practically in somebody’s front yard!

      • I am very familiar with Wardlow station, and I have parked there many times, both in the lots and on the street. There are 89 spaces in the lots (28 paid and 61 free, of which 40 are in the south lot). On Pacific Place alone, between Wardlow Rd and the 405, there’s street parking for approximately 80 cars; another 15 spaces or so on Pacific Place south on Wardlow immediately adjoining the south parking lot, and more street parking south of that point. There’s also street parking on Wardlow itself, and some on neighboring streets.

        While Pacific Place is a wide commercial street, the rest of the area is surrounded by residential neighborhoods. There’s no space for additional parking lots. The most reasonable way to increase parking would be on Pacific Place itself, by narrowing the roadway and converting the curbside parking lanes into angled parking. This is probably a good idea, as it mostly involves restriping rather than new construction. But it’s also not under Metro’s purview, but rather the city of Long Beach. And I don’t know how the neighbors would react — on the one hand it may remove some cars that currently overflow into residential areas, but it would also attract more cars to the neighborhood overall.

        Perhaps the right thing to do with Wardlow would be to convert all of the lot spaces into metered parking (not subscription), and use the proceeds to pay Long Beach for increasing street parking on Pacific Place.

  18. It’s simple economics: when it’s free, people park more because it costs nothing, therefore you get lack of parking spaces. Solution? Start charging for it. Even 25 cents a day would be better than charging nothing.

  19. How many of the spots at Culver City and Sierra Madre Villa will open up when the extentions are opened? Metro should lease the lot at Lake and Villa at the old Kaiser facility (for a token amount), then put in some automated equipment. That would gain about 50 parking spots and after the initial pay-off period, would generate money. On Sundays, the church crowd would make a nice market.

    • Regarding the Culver City Station: I believe that there are plans to eliminate the parking and convert the area around the station to mixed use development after the extension to Santa Monica is completed. I think this makes sense since I imagine that most of the people driving to this station are from elsewhere on the west side and will have more options when the extension is completed. Regardless, I’m sure that there will be a lot of complaining when Metro takes away “my parking space”.

      • I know people who drive from Beverly Hills to Culver City to take the Expo Line. You’d really need to wait until the Purple Line extension is built to reduce parking.

      • I would hope they wait to see how much use the station gets. Even if they reduce or eliminate the parking, an off-street bus dropoff area might be an idea worth considering.

    • In a built up area like LA County each rail line stop has unique issues. The lack of frequent connecting buses to rail is a sadly lacking alternative to parking. Metro, please ease off on the paid parking push until you get your bus act together.

  20. “Other local labor leaders told the Times that Metro should force Kinkisharyo to deal with the unions”

    Seriously, the unions have megalomania. What right do they have to force a company to open up a business in a business unfriendly location? This is a free country, a democracy, if a business doesn’t want to open a location where the people are unfriendly, they have all the right to seek elsewhere.

    No wonder union support keeps getting lower.

    In last week’s South Park episode, it dealt with a satire of Uber/Lyft cars. An upstart company called Handicar by Timmy competed with taxi cab unions.

    Rat all you want about South Park, but the episode did touch upon things like low union support (only 4 people against Timmy’s idea), the stupidity of unions who can’t keep up with changing times, and a growing sharing economy.