A 'beautiful, transit-oriented village' in Forest Hills?

Liam considers the future of the area around the Forest Hills T stop after the Casey Overhulk comes down:

There's a great illogic to having so much space dedicated to people driving to public transit rather than developing that space around the public transit options. Imagine the little villages that could be built near Boston at Riverside Station in Newton, Route 128 Station in Westwood, or the Anderson Regional Transportation Center in Woburn. More relevant to Forest Hills is the sea of parking that dominates both sides of Washington St./Hyde Park Avenue near the T station. These parking lots and the Arborway bus yard, already slated for redevelopment, could be turned into a beautiful transit-oriented village where people live, shop, and eat.

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Lots of possibilites

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The potential for transit-oriented development and transit-centered urban villages is still pretty expansive in the Boston area, as built up as it is. Sullivan Square is a massive project waiting to happen - I mean, it's acres of parking lot next to a heavy rail line. Alewife has a lot of potential, too - look at Cambridge's long-term vision for it.

Thankfully, there is some work-in-progress on these opportunities: North Point at Lechmere, plus Southfield around the S. Weymouth commuter rail station, and Wonderland development, thanks to the T.

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Yeah

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I'm very much a proponent of transit-oriented development, but it makes more sense in the sorts of places you mention, where there's either a commuter train stop that pulls up to a park-and-ride and nothing much else, or a train line that goes past a minimally dense area where a stop and TOD could be added.

In these sorts of places, you need to build TOD to attract people, because there's nothing else there, and you're attracting the sorts of people who weren't initially attracted to urban living and transit and need something like a planned community to bring them in.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to build a highrise or little village at Forest Hills since it's already in the city and already a heavily used station. It would make sense to further develop the area as a regular-old walkable urban area though, since there's ample space to do it and plenty of people around to demand such things.

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Development Oriented Transit

The Boston area needs more of that than transit oriented development. Imagine expanding the system to put convenient train stations where people already live in highly dense communities!

Like, you know, the green line extension?

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And Dorchester

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and Roxbury, both highly dense communities with terrible public transit. Light rail on Columbia Ave all the way to Franklin Park would be a great start!

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This is the right kind of gentrification.

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Yuppies and developers pushing parking spots out is way better than yuppies and developers pushing low income people out.

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You need both

Depending on the location, you need both types of stations - those with transit-oriented development and/or those that service drivers and have parking lots. Generally, the further away you are from Boston and the less dense the area around the station is, the larger the parking lot should be. If you don't have sufficient parking, you're eliminating a lot of potential T users. It's a problem on the Worcester line at various stops like Natick, W. Natick, and Framingham.

The examples he gives - Woburn, Riverside and Westwood - I believe are poor examples of his point. They are not particularly dense areas and service commuters who drive there to pick up a train. Of course, it would be great if dense housing could also be developed in the area, but not at the expense of shutting out parkers. Swrlly's example of the GLX is a much better example.

I'm not sure if I'm reading him right, but if thinks a village of 1000-1500 people (his numbers) in Westwood/Riverside/Woburn is going to support any kind of market/restaurant/shopping, he's dreaming. Maybe he was talking about the Forest Hills area.

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There were big plans for Westwood

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Huge plans. Ginormous plans. A developer even cleared out acre after acre of land for the new mega-development that was going to go in there. Massachusetts was going to get its very first Wegmans.

And then, well, the economy happened (and Roche Bros., who got its pal Angelo Scaccia to make sure Wegmans would never get a liquor license there, but that's another issue, I guess).

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Yup, I remember - ginormous is right

And it didn't happen for various reasons. Too bad something didn't happen as something like that is extremely convenient for people. It would be a wierd place to live, kind of an industrial wasteland and with 128 right there. Many years ago, I worked right next to the station.

Correct me if I'm wrong, that was more of a "big shopping center with some residential units" rather than "a large residential community with some shopping/restaurants".

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All that, and more

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There are mixed-use projects combining residential, retail and office space...and then there is Westwood Station. There are developments that herald their "smart growth" approach to clustering buildings near transportation hubs...and then there is Westwood Station. When it opens in 2011, Westwood Station will be all of these things. And more.

At Westwood Station, the whole is truly more than the sum of the parts. It is a unique opportunity to create a town center for the 21st century, one designed for convenience and contemporary lifestyles, but with a welcoming warmth and familiarity.

http://www.westwoodstation.com/ - the Flash takes awhile to show up, but it's like walking through a virtual abandoned town.

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Legacy place happened.

Legacy place is/ was the biggest downfall of Westwood station I believe. Plus patriot place and the Walpole Walmart has a pretty strong hold further down rt 1 as well. Even the Walpole mall area seems to be getting stronger.

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Parking is inefficient for ridership

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If you don't have sufficient parking, you're eliminating a lot of potential T users.

Parking lots are extremely inefficient ways to bring riders. It should be the last resort. Think about it: each parking space requires just under 200 square feet of pavement. Then you need access lanes and roads. Just to provide room for 100 cars, you need on the order of 30,000 sq feet, not counting feeder roads. And the buffer formed by the parking lots discourages people from walking to and from the station. If people don't walk around the station, then you are limiting yourself to exactly one type of rider: peak hour CBD commuter. That isn't enough to justify the massive investment in railroads.

To make matters worse, most of the parking lots require subsidy, especially if they have structures. So the agency is effectively giving welfare to rich car-owning CBD commuters and ruining any possibility of raising the farebox recovery rate from more efficient usage of the infrastructure.

Instead of these government sponsored "transit villages" or anything heavy handed like that, there is really a simple answer, if only we'd have the political courage to implement it. If a town wants a railroad station, they should loosen the regulations on zoning and construction in the immediate vicinity of the station. If they are unwilling to do this, then they get dropped from the line. After deregulating, it should be possible for developers to build what they feel is most appropriate and profitable for the area. If that is a parking lot, so be it, at least it is not being subsidized. Or if they want to build residences and commercial properties, that is fine too. And no minimum parking requirements!

Also: feeder bus services timed to transfer to the commuter rail can make up for a lot of spots. Alternatively, if the agency is going to subsidize parking spots, then they could put a "high occupancy vehicle" requirement in place. A vehicle bringing four riders would probably make up for the cost of storing it all day.

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The T's parking fees

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The T's parking fees subsidize rail and bus operations. Check the budget -- parking makes a big profit.

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Only

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...if you neglect to factor in all of the costs of land acquisition, construction, depreciation, maintenance, operation and lost property tax revenue.

Which is why I'd rather have the towns up-zone the land, sell or lease it off to private developers, let them do what they feel is appropriate and profitable, and collect tax revenue off it.

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A mostly-full garage at $7

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A mostly-full garage at $7 per space per day more than covers those costs, and provides a nice subsidy to transit operations. Check the T's budget for the numbers.

Transit-oriented development is great for the people who live there. But everyone else who isn't within walking distance still needs to drive to the station.

After 60+ years of suburb growth, it's just not possible to provide feeder bus service within walking distance of anywhere someone might live.

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No other options

Commuters have no other options to get to the station, that's why they have to drive. I'm talking about the burbs here, not Forest Hills - Natick, Framingham, Ashland, Southboro, Westboro, Grafton, etc. No options, none. They have to drive. That's why I said it would be good to have both parking and residential units. The W. Natick station has something like this in that there is a large apartment complex across the street from the station.

And the buffer formed by the parking lots discourages people from walking to and from the station.

That's nonsense. Now you're just making stuff up.

Matthew, you're a huge proponent of mass transit. Why would you deny thousands of people the ability to use the commuter rail by not having parking? Again, you can have both.

And as someone else noted, parking is a profit center. $4/day to park in burbs where you never have to pay for parking anywhere else is a moneymaker.

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Central Parking

Yes, Central Parking manages the parking - collection, plowing, etc. But, that's a very minor point. The T gets whatever it gets. I won't even get into how often they screw up, claiming people didn't pay when they did pay...... ;-)

What about the other points, like people having no other options to take the T other than driving there?

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Other options

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If all you build are parking lots everywhere, then yes, there will be no other options. That's why I would prefer to leave the option of building parking or not to the free market, instead of imposing it by government fiat.

Parking lots do discourage walkers. This isn't disputed. When you swaddle a station with parking lots, you create an environment with cars moving in unexpected directions and induced traffic to and from the station. And if there are empty spaces, you may as well put up a big fat sign that says "Drive Here Next Time."

I oppose subsidizing parking for the same reason that I'm a proponent of mass transit. The former eviscerates the latter. The hallmark of the suburbs in this country is the presence of massive subsidies towards parking and driving, largely expressed in the form of minimum parking requirements. Suburbanites expect free parking wherever they go, treating it as an entitlement, instead of a good that must be purchased. Then when the MBTA attempts to accommodate them, they point at all the free parking required by regulation everywhere else, and complain about the cheap $4 a day fees.

Garage parking is expensive to provide: average is about $20,000 per spot. Looking at the capital investment program, I see one garage project which is costing about $16,000/space, another which is costing $30,000/space. The proposed Salem garage will cost about $50,000/space, though presumably some of that is to cover other station expenses.

As a quick estimate, it will take approximately 20 years of nearly 100% utilization to generate $20,000 of revenue for one parking space ($4/day). That doesn't factor in debt service, depreciation, maintenance, operating expenses or lost opportunity cost.

And if the garage has the effect of discouraging other forms of transportation into the station, such as pedestrians, then you've effectively capped the potential farebox recovery rate of the railroad line. Especially if every station along the way is built the same way. That's no way to run a railroad. In other countries, where profitability of transit is important, you will not see this kind of land usage.

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Again, no options

How are they going to get to the station?

Parking lots do discourage walkers. This isn't disputed.

I dispute it, at least in the suburban stations I've seen on the Worcester line. It simply is not an issue. Maybe in the city - we're talking burbs. Not. An. Issue.

Suburbanites expect free parking wherever they go

Not really, they just expect it in the burbs because free is the market rate for parking there generally. Parking at a T station has a demand where they can charge for it. There's a delicate balance here. Charge too much and people skip the T. Is that what you want? Aren't we trying to encourage people to use the T?

Garage parking is expensive to provide

Yup, garage parking is a whole different ballgame with different economics. I don't know of any garages on the Worcester line (maybe Worcester??), they are all flat lots.

But, in the end, we're trying to encourage people to use the T, and if you charge $10/day to park, that's not very good encouragement. Besides, when the T raised the fares, the common refrain we heard was "what about the poor person who has no other alternative to get to work?". Well, what about the guy in the burbs that drives 5 miles to the T station and has no other alternative to get there? You want to charge him $10/day to park? You think the parking lots are all filled with Beamers and Benzes? Actually, you don't even want to provide him with parking. How dumb is that? What does he do now?

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May I remind you that what is

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May I remind you that what is now known as the Framingham/Worcester line was originally constructed and operated in the 19th century, long before automobiles and parking lots? If every public transit station possessed a parking lot, we would be in a ridiculous situation. Can you imagine what the Green line would look like?

Here's a recent study comparing supermarkets near Philadelphia, finding that those with more parking lots had fewer walking customers. Honestly, although I'm glad they did the study, any time spent walking around a place with an overabundance of parking will really hammer in the point in a way that words cannot.

As for the "market rate" of parking, it may be "free" in one sense, but it certainly can cost quite a lot to provide! Now some may be willing to loss-lead with it, but nobody gets to choose anymore. When regulation forces everyone to over-provision parking, it is in effect a giant subsidy which is paid for through raising costs on all kinds of development and services provided in those areas.

The Trouble with Minimum Parking Requirements by Donald Shoup, and just about everything by him, is a must read. He is well known now for developing the strategy of setting market prices for parking, in order to eliminate the problem of over- or under-demand.

So, the tough question is, how does a fellow get to the station then, without a car? My answer is: live closer to one. The obvious retort is "there isn't enough room for that." But that's because we build humongous parking lots and wide roads to carry traffic between them. And since every single land parcel is required to have a parking lot, every single person needs to have car, necessitating more roads and parking lots. This "solution" just causes more problems.

What I'm really saying is that transportation and land usage are inextricably intertwined. There isn't any efficient way for commuter rail to serve suburban/exurban sprawl. Park-and-rides are a band-aide which are only justified in places where land costs are low. The real answer is to deregulate/up-zone land near train stations, and break the cycle of automobile dependence. The nice thing about this is that since train station areas are relatively small, sprawl-lovers can still have their sprawl everywhere else. (Although I would prefer that they pay the true cost of it, too).

But nothing can happen as long as the MBTA remains stuck in its parking mold. They have to be able to think "outside the lot" and be able to consider options that do not just include the same old cookie-cutter parking "solution" that is bluntly applied to new stations, regardless of their location, or surrounding context.

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"If every public transit

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"If every public transit station possessed a parking lot, we would be in a ridiculous situation. Can you imagine what the Green line would look like?"

Almost every D line station after Brookline Village has some parking, and it looks just fine.

"Here's a recent study comparing supermarkets near Philadelphia, finding that those with more parking lots had fewer walking customers."

That does not imply that you can take away the parking lots from stores that have them and still meet everyone's needs. Correlation, meet causation. (Where would *you* build a store with a very small or no parking lot? I bet you'd put it in a walkable neighborhood.)

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They controlled for that

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To that end, the study examined only households in neighborhoods of attached row-houses and apartment buildings (density), with significant retail opportunities (diversity), with grided street and sidewalk networks and zero setback (design), and within a half-mile of a supermarket (destination accessibility). Given this general environment, the present study demonstrated that the specific presence or absence of a surface parking lot had a separate statistically significant impact on mode choice.

All of the markets studied were in walkable neighborhoods. They found that the presence of a parking lot was correlated with lower rates of walking.

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The Worcester line has been

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The Worcester line has been around since the 19th century, but commuter service was down to just four round trips a day by the 1960s. Service to west of Framingham to Worcetser itself ended in 1975 before being revived in the 1990s and stops at the intermediate towns (Ashland/Southborough/Westborough/Grafton) were gone by 1960 before the present days service was restored. It's hard to imagine that walk up stations in those four towns would draw much of anything. The riders are spreadout throughout those towns and adjacent communities. The cost to run a shuttle bus network to each station as a replacement for parking that would deliver people to a quarter-mile walk or less to their residence would be quite high because of the low densities and housing distribution patterns.

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More thoughts

May I remind you that what is now known as the Framingham/Worcester line was originally constructed and operated in the 19th century, long before automobiles and parking lots? If every public transit station possessed a parking lot, we would be in a ridiculous situation. Can you imagine what the Green line would look like?

People got to the train station somehow, most people didn't live near it. So, they took a horse, got a ride - got me. Also, there were a lot more pieces of railroad around then, pieces that connected towns and brought people to the larger lines. We can see where a lot of the old tracks were around here, and some have become roads.
I never suggested having lots at every station, particularly in denser areas. One of my comments have already pointed that out. I noted that as you got further from the city into less-dense areas, you have the ability to to have parking lots.

Here's a recent study comparing supermarkets near Philadelphia, finding that those with more parking lots had fewer walking customers. Honestly, although I'm glad they did the study, any time spent walking around a place with an overabundance of parking will really hammer in the point in a way that words cannot.

That's apples and oranges. The title of that study is Food Shopping in the Urban Environment: Parking Supply, Destination Choice and Mode Choice, which has absolutely nothing to do with parking at suburban T station. I suggest going to the Southboro train station and seeing for yourself how parking has no effect on walkers. My wife use to walk to it most days.

So, the tough question is, how does a fellow get to the station then, without a car? My answer is: live closer to one.

Now, that's just plain arrogant. Your posts are usually well thought out and informative, and OK, you have a strong opinion. I wouldn't expect arrogant from you. There was a discussion on UHub about two weeks ago and someone made a similar comment, something to the effect of "well, you should move to the city". That comment got deservedly chastised for lots of reasons.
When people choose a place to live, there are numerous considerations that come into play - proximity to work, proximity to transportation, proximity to family, proximity to town, proximity to daycare, schools, neighborhood, price, type of living, amenities, type of housing, proximity to avocations, available cycling routes......there's a million of 'em. People go thru a lot of decision making and there's always plusses and minuses to every alternative, nothing is perfect. Yet, you narrow it down to one consideration - if you want to take the train, you have to live within walking distance. That's just wrong. Ashland, Southboro, Westboro would all have very few passengers without parking.

Let me reiterate one more time how you need lots out in the burbs. The train is a business. If you had no parking at the station, you would essentially be eliminating 99.99% of your potential customers. Not exactly a great business model.

I thought the whole idea was to encourage people to use the T.

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Please read the final 2 paragraphs

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I anticipated that you would not like the answer of "live closer to one." I know it sounds mean.

As you say "The train is a business." Just to reiterate, the central point of what I say is that you cannot run a successful commuter railroad business trying to serve sprawl. It just doesn't add up. Parking lots will not save you, and you will bleed money.

If you want it to be a business, then you need to take a tough stance and only build stations in densely populated places where people come and go all day. Or, you can expect to subsidize the service forever. That is an acceptable answer, as long as you don't expect it to become "like a business" then.

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If you build a fancy

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If you build a fancy apartment building in a train station parking lot, it's still a car-oriented train station. See Woodland.

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