BART considers station access policy – share your thoughts

Today, Thursday October 22 , the BART board held a workshop discussing updates to the station access policy, considering walking, cycling and transit; car parking, and housing.

Gaps in BART’s ability to improve station access can be seen as Millbrae considers a station area plan at the BART/Caltrain station, with substantial new developments.  Supporters of transit, cycling, walking, sustainability, health and housing are concerned about safety and transit connections, and with BART’s role as a landowner in supporting affordable housing.  The overall development is proposed to have 70% driving access – a car-centric plan for in a transit-rich area.   The developer on BART-owned land is including more than 43% more parking than is recommended by the Station Area Plan and appropriate for a TOD.   The draft Millbrae plan as a whole has substantial weaknesses in bicycle and pedestrian access and safety, as well as challenges with bus transfer access.

While BART has a policy to prioritize sustainable modes for station access, BART has been able to play a minimal role in addressing these issues, because it has not devoted significant resources to working collaboratively with host cities to improve bicycle and pedestrian access in local planning processes.

The staff report, including research of practices at other agencies in North America and staff’s recommendations is here:
More information will be provided at this website.

Collaborating with local communities to improve access to station areas

To date, BART has focused largely on access to its stations on its property.   The Staff report suggests that “In its access policy update, BART may wish to encourage more extensive collaboration with local communities around land use planning.”   While Portland’s Trimet has done studies to identify opportunities for station access improvements at 800 stations, BART is looking to start with 10 stations.

There are greater opportunities analyzing and reducing barriers to pedestrian and bicycle access from community locations.  BART’s regional footprint can help it provide practice guidelines for smaller cities that have not had the resources to fully update their practices.

Collaborating with agencies and services to improve transit access

In recent years, drivealone access to stations has declined, while bicycling and walking have increased.  However, access to stations by transit has gone down, as bus agencies in BART’s catchment area has cut service, and the level of fare integration has decreased.

BART has opportunities to reverse this trend. In addition, carshare (e.g. ZipCar) and Transportation Network services (e.g Uber/Lyft) are playing an increasing role in station access, and there are opportunities to take advantage of these modes.

BART Station Access Mode Share

BART Station Access Mode Share

Car Parking

A major issue highlighted in the staff report is car parking. BART currently provides ~47,000 parking spaces for 427,000 average weekday boardings, in contrast with Vancouver’s SkyTrain, which has long had a strategy fostering transit-oriented development, has 3700 parking spaces for 390,000 average weekday riders.

BART’s ridership has been growing much faster than its parking supply; in past 5 years, ridership grew by 88,000+ riders, while BART added only 1100 new parking spaces, however its boardings per parking space are still lower than peer agencies in Vancouver, Portland, and DC.

Evolving to a less car-centric model is proving a challenge. While BART no longer has a policy to replace surface parking spaces on a 1:1 basis when buildings are built on the land, the recent development by Oakland’s MacArthur station was required to replace 75% of the parking spaces.

Transit Agency Boardings per Parking Space

Transit Agency Boardings per Parking Space

Managing Parking

BART’s parking spaces tend to fill up early in the morning. BART has started to charge for parking, but except at the West Oakland station, rates are currently capped at $3 per day, less than the market rate of paid parking near stations. BART’s report suggests moving more toward market pricing, while working with communities to implement residential parking permit programs and benefit districts to help with community acceptance.   The report also talks about sharing parking with other buildings near BART that don’t need parking at the same time of day.

Housing and mixed use development near station

The original strategy of providing large amounts of parking at station areas was in part a land banking strategy.   The BART Access Plan staff report refers to the region’s challenges in housing supply and affordability.   WIth regard to housing, BART has the ability as a landowner to require more affordability, and has increased obligations under the Surplus Land Act.

The case studies in the staff report show that stronger transit-supportive land use near a station, replacing surface parking with housing and mixed use development, can be helpful for ridership as well as to help smooth peak demands.

BART is taking feedback on the station access plan.   If you use BART and care about station access, you can let the board now what you think.  Talk about your personal use, and why you care.  You might want to share thoughts about topics including:

* Should BART work pro-actively with cities to improve pedestrian and bicycle access?
* Should BART work with other transit agencies to increase transit access to stations
* Should BART set goals for station access (e.g. how much driving and other modes) by station type?
* Should BART move closer to market rate pricing for parking?
* Should BART support use of carshare and transportation networks to support station access?
* Should BART beef up its transit-oriented development activities at stations including  affordable housing?

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