Free Parking Still Not a Transit Investment

Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” While that may be true, he didn’t even bother to explain what happens if you’re on the wrong track.

Park & Ride SignAs a region, we continue to be on the wrong track when it comes to how we spend millions of dollars a year of transit capital funding. We still spend our transit dollars subsidizing the car storage habits of transit users. While we spend millions of dollars to “buy” hundreds of riders a day, existing transit users lack places to safely wait, meaningful signage, reliable service, and so on.

Two years ago, I exposed the bad math that justifies “free” parking to buy transit riders. Since then, we have apparently not learned our lesson. Buried in December’s “Cedar Avenue Transitway Implementation Plan Update” is this gem:

The existing Apple Valley Transit Station (AVTS) park and ride facility is operating at 110 percent capacity. … To expand the current capacity of 768 spaces to meet existing and forecasted demand, MVTA received federal funding and regional transit capital (RTC) funding for a $6.6 million two-level, 330 parking space expansion to the ramp.

The math

Apple Valley Transit Station seen during Red Line construction in October 2012.

Apple Valley Transit Station seen during Red Line construction in October 2012.

At $6.6 million for 330 spaces, we’re spending a clean $20,000 per space. That’s about average for structured parking. If we amortize that “investment” over 30 years, we’re spending $667 per year per space. At ~255 non-holiday weekdays a year (since that’s the only time these additional spaces will be “needed”) that’s $2.61 per space per day of use. That’s more than the difference between the express fare paid by Route 477 riders and the local fare paid by walk-up transit users elsewhere in the system ($0.75 * 2 trips = $1.50/day).

hwy610nobleparkandrideAnd, remember, that $6.6 million doesn’t benefit all riders at AVTS, it only benefits net new riders. At a generous assumption of 1.5 riders per vehicle, we still have less than 500 new riders a day at AVTS. And those are riders that may otherwise drive to other park & rides such as Kenrick Avenue in Lakeville, or another Red Line station in Apple Valley or Lakeville.

I’m quite familiar with AVTS and its parking “problems.” Growing up in the south metro, AVTS was my station of choice when I lived at home during summers in college and commuted to internships in Downtown Minneapolis. Apple Valley was historically upset that us Lakeville residents would drive to AVTS and take “their” spots, while Lakeville wasn’t in the Transit Taxing District. Fair complaint, but it would be better solved through proper pricing of car storage.

Aside: If I was Mayor of Apple Valley at the time, I would be more upset at losing property tax base in perpetuity for the sake of more car storage. That’s because AVTS used to be a much smaller facility across 155th Street, which is now used as a layover facility. The new station replaced a former Menard’s big box store which, presumably, paid property taxes. For comparison, the Cub Foods big box next door paid $259,725 in property taxes last year.

$20,000 per parking space is certainly a large cost. Could we put it to better use?

The opportunity cost

bus stop meme 2

Remember Streets.MN Meme Week? I’m sorry.

What could $6.6 million do elsewhere in our transit system? Tyler Schow already wrote that post: What could $6.5 million mean to Metro Transit? (Note: The powers that be didn’t care, since a contractor pulled a building permit for a $9.6 million pedestrian bridge.) Alex Cecchini also wrote a post titled, “How to Spend the Next Billion on Transit,” which surprisingly doesn’t include $20,000 parking spaces.

The rational responses

There are at least three rational responses for us to move forward.

First, we need to finally accept all the evidence which points out that walk-up transit beats drive-up transit, every time every place. Let’s adjust our funding and efforts accordingly.

Second, we should realize that a shortage of car storage priced at $0 is a feedback loop telling the parking provider to raise the price for car storage, rather than to subsidize even more supply of free car storage.

PARKING-CRISIS-CHINESEIf Parkway Pizza charged $0 rather than $20 and thousands of people ordered an Artichoke Deluxe every day, would their rational response be to give away even more pizzas? Of course not. Artichoke Deluxes and parking spaces share two traits – they’re rivalrous and excludable. That means they’re both private goods in economics. It means parking is not infrastructure.

It means the rational response it to charge more for parking, at least until the point at which the rational response was to make more money by building more parking capacity to sell at market rates. I explain a plan for starting to charge for parking at transit stations in The Dirty Truth Behind Park & Rides, and Alex Cecchini gets deeper into the numbers over at Applying the MAC Funding Model to Metro Transit.

Let’s get our transit dollars off the track of subsidizing car storage and onto the track of providing transit service. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

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77 Responses to Free Parking Still Not a Transit Investment

  1. Nick Magrino
    Nick Magrino January 13, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    Lately I’ve been trying out defending the broken status quo to appear smart & reasonable, so, um, I guess maybe it’s good to put all those lost property taxes out in the burbs rather than, uh, in Minneapolis’ CBD? Does that sound right? Should I put it in a really long Power Point?

    • Wayne January 13, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

      Ha! It’s the only way to fit in!

  2. denny January 13, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    Met Council own the Woodbury theatres and use the parking lots in day time when demand is low at the theatre. Atleast this better land use .Met Council is the poster child for sprawl.The suburbanities get fancy Transit Center while city folks get fenced in shelters ,they put fence around all the shelters built for the A line even though local buslines serve these stops

    • Cameron Slick January 13, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

      The Metropolitan Council does not own the Woodbury Theatre, Nathan Block, as well as the owners of the Riverview theatre.

  3. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary January 13, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    I like your pizza analogy — except that the purpose of Parkway Pizza is (presumably) to turn a profit. The goal of our transit system is more complicated. It would be great if it was self-sustaining, but I don’t think anyone really expects that.

    Rather, the goal should be to make the most environmentally, financially, and socially sound alternative the most feasible for the most people. I agree that walk-up service is the gold standard. For Apple Valley, running a bus service that could serve people on a walk-up basis would be far more expensive than operating a P&R. (I believe Aaron Isaacs has made that claim with some more evidence and experience behind it.)

    We could shrug our collective shoulders and say let’s just forget about transit in Apple Valley, and focus only on core city transit. But Apple Valleyites must still get from A to B, and except for a single lane, during certain hours, on a limited number of our freeways, we don’t toll auto travel at all. And the effects of more people driving, long-haul, to downtown seem a lot worse than keeping shorter trips to the P&R in Apple Valley.

    Were we in a situation where we had roadway tolls, or parking downtown were astronomically expensive (like San Francisco or similar), I think there would be a clearer case for charging for park and ride.

    • helsinki January 13, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

      “It would be great if it was self-sustaining, but I don’t think anyone really expects that.”

      I don’t think this is a viable way to think about transit in the long term. If the goal is really to find “most environmentally, financially, and socially sound alternative”, then it has to be one that endures. Continuing to subsidize the lifestyle of a few people with a large-scale suburban lifestyle and a quick and easy commute downtown is not a terribly utilitarian public investment.

      • Sean Hayford Oleary
        Sean Hayford Oleary January 13, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

        Obviously there must be money to pay for it somewhere, but I don’t see why we should expect it all to come from user fees. We certainly don’t expect highways to do that. We pay taxes for many reasons — one is transportation.

        • Matt Steele January 13, 2016 at 1:39 pm #

          But parking is storage, not transportation.

          • Sean Hayford Oleary
            Sean Hayford Oleary January 13, 2016 at 2:16 pm #

            It’s storage to serve transportation. Since (as I think we agree), it is not viable to have walk-up transit throughout outer-suburban-developed communities, it’s storage that enables this mode to function.

            I’d also like to see an emphasis on biking to stations, since most folks are within a reasonable biking distance of transit. But that is much harder for an agency like Metro Transit/MVTA to do themselves. And still requires a greater outlay of money than the straightforward walk-up service in core cities.

            • Wayne January 13, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

              If it’s not viable why are we spending the majority of our transit investment dollars in places where it’s not viable without the HUGE expense of building parking? There’s so much lower hanging fruit that is completely viable to build without the need for a huge portion of the money to go to parking.

              So why again are we spending transit dollars on something that isn’t really viable without hiding the true costs?

              • Thomas Mercier January 13, 2016 at 9:32 pm #

                It might have something to do with the fact that transit taxes are paid by folks in areas other than just the urban core, therefore transit services should probably serve more than just the urban core. Otherwise the argument about subsidizing someone else’s way of life that is so frequently used against the suburbs will be turned around.

                • Matt Steele January 13, 2016 at 10:53 pm #

                  Too bad for them. The vast majority of freeway costs are borne by society-at-large rather than motorists. I’m paying for freeways to the middle of nowhere, and I’m rarely ever on a freeway. It will be a long time before the suburbs aren’t subsidized by the city. Not that it’s a bad idea to get CWADS out of the transit taxing game. Let Hennepin and Ramsey tax ourselves for transit.

                  • Stu January 15, 2016 at 11:02 am #

                    For some time I could really get behind the two bad for them attitude but then my circumstances changed.

                    I bought a house in south Minneapolis that was 1.3 miles from work. I could walk, ride or LRT to work and downtown for various appointments with ease. I partly planned the house purchase for thecommute IT WAS AWESOME. Who needs freeways?!?

                    Then my office moved to a suburban office park. Gulp.

                    It’s an a 80 min 2 transfer trip now. It’s an hour bike ride with a truly harrowing route on American Blvd. Two things I am not going to force on upon my toddler (though she does love the Burley, but I am not as hardcore as some others at It is also not just a job but a career. A good one too. So I drive and telecommute when I can.

                    I went from not needing to leave Minneapolis to driving every day I go in. My wife had a similar unfortunate job location change that lead to a stupidly horrible commute (in a non complimentary direction of course) as well.

                    Stuff happens.

                    • Wayne January 15, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

                      One of the only reasons your employer could feasibly relocate to the suburban fringe was exactly because of all the subsidizing of the highways that goes on. We all collectively paid to make it cheaper for them to locate their office there. A lot of places are finding that the cheap land places like that offer isn’t worth the problems with attracting and retaining younger talent that it brings, so maybe we’ll see that lesson being learned in the future, but I still think it will take removing the subsidy required for cheap suburban office parks to be viable for them to finally fade away as a bad idea in the footnotes of history.

                    • Sean Hayford Oleary
                      Sean Hayford Oleary January 15, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

                      You can hardly call American Boulevard the “suburban fringe”. It’s within 2 miles of the Minneapolis city limits. I’m sure being on the 494 beltline is a major factor attracting large businesses to move there, but the beltline (old 100) and most of East Bloomington existed pre-freeway.

                    • Justin January 15, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

                      I don’t understand the purpose of your reply. Your circumstances changed and you started driving more, therefore highways and suburban development should continue to be disproportionately favored? You use free parking now, therefore it is good?

                    • Stu January 21, 2016 at 2:46 pm #

                      You want to know my point? I suppose I should have made one then.

                      My point is that we are all in this together, sometimes due to no fault of our own (see my own commuting example). I find that the back-and-forth between who subsidizes who just isn’t a helpful discussion, though it may sometimes be cathartic.

                • Wayne January 14, 2016 at 9:46 am #

                  I pay for all those outstate and suburban highways with my tax money too, and I don’t use a single one of them. Suburban lifestyles are highly subsidized, we’ve just hidden and forgotten about the subsidies so people there can pretend their lifestyle is the ‘right’ choice and be sanctimonious about it without there being a shred of truth to what they’re saying. Low density welfare queens, all of them.

        • helsinki January 13, 2016 at 1:54 pm #

          Right: the money has to come from somewhere.

          The highway analogy is instructive because, arguably, severing the link between capacity and user fees and instead financing new roads largely via mammoth appropriations bills is what led to our currently overbuilt, wasteful environment. An environment which, yes, is sometimes congested because the price to use the highway is set at $0. Unlike highways, capital expenditure on transit projects generally proceeds through a much more rigorous financial analysis (although apparently not in this instance). Yet each project is competing with other – in this instance, likely worthier – transit projects in need of funding.

          Transit is wonderful, but it’s important to get it right. Free parking in Apple Valley doesn’t really fit into that equation. To my mind, investment in highly-used routes with high connectivity should take precedence over the elusive grasping for “choice” riders in unwalkable places.

          • Wayne January 13, 2016 at 5:22 pm #


      • helsinki January 13, 2016 at 3:23 pm #

        Who also want to use the express bus from the Apple Valley Transit Station (AVTS) but won’t pay to enter the AVTS parking ramp?

        Rather few, I suspect.

      • Wayne January 13, 2016 at 5:23 pm #

        Hi, I live in the city and work in the city and ride transit almost entirely within the city. Did you think I don’t exist? I even have a pretty good job!

        • Matt Steele January 13, 2016 at 10:54 pm #

          I can vouch for that… I have a pretty good job at the same place as Wayne (I also live and work in the city, mind you) and we can get coffee and complain about suburbanites for a few minutes each morning.

      • Rosa January 13, 2016 at 10:18 pm #

        uh, me? I’m reluctantly looking at jobs in Bloomington because the transit is easier than to NE or Como from my part of Minneapolis, but generally I’ve worked downtown, often in fancy towers.

    • Nathanael January 16, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

      So, we don’t toll most roads because *it’s a pain in the neck to toll roads*. It requires lots of infrastructure and lots of work to implement. We can toll some expressways (we have several out East) and some bridges, and London implemented the “Congestion Charge” (that was a lot of work), but it’s hard to toll roads.

      It’s EASY to charge for parking. Especially in a garage. There is no excuse for not charging for parking.

  4. Matt Brillhart January 13, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    Literally the least we could do is charge $1/day (or ~$250/year) per parking space, at least at the Metro/MVTA/Southwest-owned structured parking facilities. This would incent existing users to carpool TO the park & ride, perhaps some would even bike in warmer months, thereby reducing the need to expand these facilities.

    The longer we put off making that change, the harder it will become. Though I probably wouldn’t do it right right now, with gas below $2. I’d wait until gas prices spike again and frame the decision as “well we either raise express transit fares or start charging $1/day for parking”.

    • Wayne January 13, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

      Who cares what the price of gas is, charge what the parking actually costs. The routes themselves are already more expensive to run per rider than urban routes without even considering the hidden parking subsidy. If they refuse to pay for parking at the transit center and stop riding the bus maybe we can wrest some of the funding back for places where people actually need it.

      Of course I know that’s a pipe dream because of our broken suburban opt-out system (which also needs to die), but I can dream.

  5. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller January 13, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

    I was initially wary of pricing parking but not driving (i.e., tolls or congestion pricing or whatever), but really, any price for parking that is below what someone would have to pay at their destination doesn’t really change the incentives drive/ride incentives much.

    • Monte Castleman
      Monte Castleman January 13, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

      Except that “Free” is a much more powerful incentive than “Cheap”. See the Lindt Truffle / Hershey Kiss studies- they offered a Truffle for 26 cents and a Kiss for 1 cent,and it was about half and half. Offering a Truffle for 25 cents and a Kiss of free 90% chose a free Kiss worth a couple of cents than a 25 cent Truffle worth a dollar.

      Can you imagine what would happen if the local Target charged $1 to park? How many people would spend several dollars driving to the next store?

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller January 13, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

        I’m not familiar with those studies, but that’s interesting (and not terribly surprising).

        I wonder how that thinking applies here, though, where people are already paying for the bus ride, so it’s not a question of totally free to begin with.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary January 13, 2016 at 3:14 pm #

          True, but some employers offer MetroPass. Or you can buy your own monthly passes. I use the UPass as a student, so it basically feels free to take the bus.

          • Wayne January 13, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

            Well get the employers to also pay for their monthly parking pass if they really want to support the lifestyles of people in Apple Valley. We need to stop hiding the costs.

      • Nathanael January 16, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

        Absolutely correct, Monte. But the thing is that Free is… too powerful an incentive here. They’re getting so many people driving in that they’re planning to burn millions in city money on more parking.

        That’s wrong.

        If you had a vacant lot lying around next to the train station and you wanted to encourage people to take the train, by all means, provide free parking there.

        If you have to build a multimillion dollar garage to store all the cars, you should be charging for parking. Charge a dollar a day and maybe you don’t need to build a second garage.

        • Monte Castleman
          Monte Castleman January 16, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

          So encouraging some people to drive to a park and ride and take the bus rather than driving their car all the way into downtown is good, but encouraging too many people to do that is bad?

          • Justin January 16, 2016 at 10:54 pm #

            No, it’s not bad, but you reach a point where there are additional costs to build more parking and those should be paid for by the people who use that parking.

            Where are you getting “bad” from? Are you actually that confused or is that intentional? Seems like it’s easy enough to understand.

            • Sean Hayford Oleary
              Sean Hayford Oleary January 17, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

              “Are you actually that confused or is that intentional? Seems like it’s easy enough to understand.”

              This seems unnecessarily condescending.

              • Justin January 17, 2016 at 2:05 pm #

                To me it seems intellectually dishonest to interpret Nathanael’s comment to mean “encouraging too many people to (park and ride) is bad” since it is fairly clear that that is not what he is saying. It is possible that he just doesn’t understand what was said but I doubt that is the case here.

                • Monte Castleman
                  Monte Castleman January 17, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

                  To me that sounds exactly like what he’s saying.

                  “They’re getting so many people driving in that they’re planning to burn millions in city money on more parking…That’s wrong”

                  Is not the same as
                  “encouraging some people to drive to a park and ride and take the bus rather than driving their car all the way into downtown is good, but encouraging too many people to do that is bad”?

                  • Nathanael January 17, 2016 at 10:48 pm #

                    No, it’s not the same.

                    At this point, the city is encouraging people to drive and encouraging them to live in sprawl. If the city stops subsidizing GIANT PARKING GARAGES then the city might encourage people to actually live near the bus stops or walk to the bus.

                  • Nathanael January 17, 2016 at 10:50 pm #

                    In other words, you’re setting up a fake, phony, and false alternative. You ASSume that everyone MUST live out in the middle of nowhere and that they MUST drive everywhere. You ASSume that THE ONLY POSSIBLE ways to get to work are to drive all the way or to drive to a connecting bus.

                    Which is an odd assumption for someone who is interested in public transportation.

                    • Monte Castleman
                      Monte Castleman January 18, 2016 at 9:11 am #

                      That’s true that they don’t “have” to live in less dense areas. But remember they probably didn’t buy a house in the suburbs because they wanted to live jammed together like city people. Which do you think is more likely to happen if free parking isn’t provided? That they’d sell their house and move into a condo above the bus station? Or that they’d keep living where they are and drive alone to downtown?

                    • Justin January 18, 2016 at 10:00 am #

                      It really depends. If it’s useful enough to them, they’ll pay to park. And I realize that free parking will get many of them to park and ride who wouldn’t do so if parking weren’t free, but you reach a point where you don’t want to continue to give freebies, especially if the volume of users requires you to expand and build more infrastructure. A simple station and some parking lots out in a third ring burb? Sure, make it free. But now you have a lot of users and you need to build garages? Someone has to pony up for that, and it should be the users of those garages.

          • Nathanael January 17, 2016 at 10:47 pm #

            Maybe if you charge a dollar a day, some people take a connecting bus to get to this bus.

            Maybe if you charge a dollar a day, some people move closer to their jobs.

            Maybe if you charge a dollar a day, some people drive to another bus stop which has empty parking right now.

            Prices are *useful*. We shouldn’t just give everything away for free. We want to encourage people to drink water, but we don’t give it away for free, do we?

            • Sean Hayford Oleary
              Sean Hayford Oleary January 17, 2016 at 11:17 pm #

              Yes, but imagine if people could drink Coke for free, but pay for water.

              Coke wouldn’t actually be free, but you wouldn’t pay anything in the moment you’re drinking it. Nevertheless, I think even more people would choose Coke, because they wouldn’t feel the sting of paying in the moment.

              I think we need to do everything possible to get them to choose water — transit. I think free parking is among those options, especially in areas like third-ring suburbs where walk-up service isn’t feasible.

  6. Mary G January 14, 2016 at 8:51 am #

    Such short memories (or else I’m just not a recognized commenter)….As I said before, this is capital funding and cannot be used for increasing transit service. These bonds cannot be used for transit service. Let me see – federal capital formula funds and RTC (regional transit capital) bonds cannot be used for increasing transit service. Is there some other way for me to say it?

    And if these funds are not used for capital projects, they don’t go back into some kind of pool to be distributed to operating funds – they are, by law, restricted to capital uses. If we don’t use the federal funds for capital projects, the funds go back to the feds to be redistributed to capital projects in other states. If we don’t need RTC for capital projects, the bonds will not be issued.

    • Wayne January 14, 2016 at 10:07 am #

      So fund better bus stops and more buses for more frequent service on routes that actually justify investment? Or put it towards another pool of money to build some grade separation in the congested parts of the city where buses are stuck in traffic for half an hour or more downtown. There’s plenty of capital investments you can make in transit that are not parking.

    • Alex Cecchini
      Alex Cecchini January 14, 2016 at 10:35 am #

      The article did discuss alternate capital spending priorities. Bus shelters, & better signage (even better or more than what’s being rolled out now). Not hard to think of other ways to spend capital that improve service. Off the top of my head: buying back door card scanners to speed up boarding via all doors, ticket vending machines for pre-payment to speed up boarding, replacing the bus fleet with more efficient vehicles sooner to lower operating costs (spread those out to more service), quicker replacement of old buses also allows for more low-floor vehicles/open layout/articulated buses for more capacity and quicker entry/exit. Some of these are probably more effective than others, and we should weigh the costs and benefits against suburban park and rides.

      Beyond that, there’s a strong argument that the federal gov’t should change its funding restrictions to allow for operations, not just capital spend. Other countries do it. It’s not a crazy idea.

      • Mary G January 14, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

        All of those alternatives you mention, Alex and Wayne, are being done or will be done (are planned in capital budgets) by Metro Transit with federal and local capital funds now and in the next few years.

        Bus shelters are interesting. Two years ago, Metro Transit received a discretionary award (Ladders of Opportunity) for putting 200 bus shelters, bus shelter enhancements (heat/light) and bus signage primarily in North Minneapolis and East St. Paul. North Minneapolis received by far the largest number of planned shelters.

        Unfortunately, the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) still hasn’t approved a methodology other than individual site surveys and documentation by certified specialists ($400K-$500K for the program) to satisfy the Section 106 (historic preservation) code. If SHPO doesn’t budget on this, an individual site survey and documentation of the site for SHPO’s sadly incomplete files will need to be done for every shelter, new sign, improvement outside the footprint of an existing shelter that is put within 150 feet of a building over 50 years old.

        It’s not crazy that we should have more funding for transit operations. But you can’t just switch the funding from one source to another. By the way, the State legislature is the one who decides which capital projects will receive bond funds – not the Met Council, the suburban transit providers or Metro Transit.

        • Matt Steele January 15, 2016 at 9:39 am #

          The state legislature needs to get out from behind their windshield and fight the status quo, too.

        • Wayne January 15, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

          They are all being done extremely slowly and half-assedly though. Also I’m pretty sure there’s no money going into grade-separation or exclusive right of way for local buses, which is desperately needed downtown. They put far more effort into designing suburban express routes to farm fields and giving them metro designations like they’re something more than another giveaway to greenfield development on the fringe.

  7. Aaron Isaacs
    Aaron Isaacs January 14, 2016 at 9:35 am #

    Suburban express service simply doesn’t work without big park-ride lots. The payoff is less air pollution, fewer crashes and many long trips removed from the highway system, hence fewer highway lanes. Parking charges are just a more complicated fare increase, and fare increases suppress transit ridership. Fewer riders means less frequent service, and that’s a non-virtuous cycle. Time to take a macro view, not a micro view.

    • Wayne January 14, 2016 at 9:52 am #

      They already get a much higher subsidy per ride than the rest of us. People who clamor for transit users to ‘pay the full price’ probably almost never actually pay for the full price of their parking anywhere they go.

      Also why are we spending our very limited transit budget chasing riders in places where the built environment doesn’t support transit without massive parking subsidies? If you can’t make that work, stick to places where we can get more bang for our limited buck until they start building places for people instead of cars. We’re hammering round pegs into square holes in the suburbs at great expense while there’s plenty of places that are built for transit and lack adequate service. Our priorities are totally messed up, and I don’t really care if Joe Woodbury doesn’t take transit because he chose to live in a suburban wasteland so why are we trying so hard to get him on the bus?

      • Justin January 14, 2016 at 10:44 am #

        To get support. Otherwise you have tons of suburbanites screaming that transit is a waste of their money. We have a more consensus culture here than in many other cities. We try to please as many people as we can (or at least convince as many as we can even if we can’t please them). Plus suburbs here still have a lot of empty or underdeveloped space compared to older and denser metros, so it’s easier to justify. “Sure it costs money, but there’s an empty field right there! Why can’t they build parking for me??”

        I don’t like it either but for now we might have to continue to cater to them to a certain degree. Once the cities grow more and we build more TOD around suburban stops we might be able to change the formula.

        • Wayne January 14, 2016 at 11:04 am #

          I’m so sick of the ‘we have to bend over backwards to please suburbanites in order to get funding’ argument. The garbage ‘consensus culture’ is a big part of why our transit funding priorities are so broken and it needs to die in a pit of despair where it belongs.

          We’re not going to agree with Apple Valley or Mendota Heights about what the best investment for transit dollars is. Why do we have to get lumped in with them in a screwy system that is weighted towards suburban interests to have basic transit funding for areas that can support actual real transit?

          And why do we have the state playing ‘daddy-knows-best’ and preventing local governments from raising their own money for things? Regional transit planning is one thing, but when it’s the be-all-end-all and results in the broken garbage we have it either needs to go or needs to be used as a looser guide for regional investments while local municipalities can make more focused ones. So like the met council can help coordinate but not be the only game in town. The suburbs get to opt out if they want, why can’t the urban environments ‘opt-in’ to more investment they fund themselves?

          • Sean Hayford Oleary
            Sean Hayford Oleary January 14, 2016 at 11:11 am #

            Well, they can — at least for capital improvements. The City of Minneapolis could install a bus shelter at every one of the stops within its city limits, if it wanted to. Even for the Nicollet street car, my understanding is that Minneapolis is tasked with finding most of the money for the project.

            • Wayne January 15, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

              That’s yet another problem we have now–the city council is pretty anti-transit or at least transit-ambivalent. So without some major citizen input and rabble-rousing (or something like MBC for transit riders) they’re not inclined to do anything more than accept whatever metro transit wants for the city (which is pretty much nothing other than what some federal grant money specifically has to go to in the city).

              And the streetcar is a joke. The city wants to put what is at best a lateral change to transit quality along a route that justifies a much greater investment in grade-separation and proper metro capacity. An upgraded bus on tracks will preclude this being done for a very long time and do very little to improve actual transit quality in the corridor. They would have done far better to invest the money they’re someday planning to spend on that into a tunnel under Nicollet right now (that they probably could have got various matching funds from other government agencies for).

          • Justin January 14, 2016 at 11:50 am #

            I agree that the consensus culture can be frustrating, but it’s just the way it is here. It’s not “bending over backwards” but having to include and consider people across the metro region since we have a strong system of regional governance and a strong state identity. Places without that setup or that culture have their own problems with getting things done because different factions don’t agree and/or they have communities that get completely left out in the cold. You might have to bend over even further if we didn’t have some cohesion between the many communities that make up this region. And that goes far beyond just transit.

            We don’t have one huge dominant city at the core that can dictate the way things are done, but Minneapolis and St. Paul are attracting a lot of people and development so things are getting better.

            • Wayne January 15, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

              Saying something is ‘just the way it is here’ is already giving up and giving in to the status quo. Things can and do change, but giving up immediately in the very premise of your argument is exactly how things stay the same. That’s how things are here *now*, but it doesn’t have to be how things work in the future. I’m an agitator for change, which is why a lot of people around here don’t like me. I refuse to sit down and shut up when told ‘that’s just how stuff works here.’ I’m probably destined to be frustrated and angry because of it, but that’s the price I pay for sticking to principles instead of caving to the sad realities of a broken system.

              • Justin January 15, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

                What I’m saying is that you’re not going to change our CULTURE and make everything work best for people like Wayne. Our culture is basically the way it is. You can work around it but cultural change takes time.

                • Wayne January 15, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

                  Sometimes a broken culture has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future. There have been plenty of cases of the ‘culture’ being totally accepting of things we find morally abhorrent now that only changed because of people agitating for it. It doesn’t have to be slow and we don’t have to put up with it forever. It’s the same old weak moderate liberal being supportive in theory but opposed to the disruption in practice thing. I’m not having it anymore.

    • Nathanael January 16, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

      Nothing wrong with big park-and-ride lots in places where either:
      (a) land is empty and cheap and the lots can be built and operated cheaply (i.e. not garages, flat ground lots)
      (b) a suitable price is charged for parking

  8. Scott January 14, 2016 at 6:37 pm #

    I find it frustrating that so much money is spent to attract transit riders in auto-oriented places. I presume most people who live in such places choose to do so because they don’t mind driving or prefer it. All this while there are big concentrations of transit-dependent people, like myself, who cannot drive who just want the most basic amenities (signage, shelters, decent buses, etc.). While we’re at it, once every 30 minutes service for the 23 bus sucks! Missed the bus by maybe a minute yesterday and waited for a half hour in the cold for the next bus. I don’t care if someone in Apple Valley has to wait 5 minutes more in traffic because they are in a climate controlled vehicle. .

    • Wayne January 15, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

      The people who live there do so mostly because it’s the most economical option due to the massive subsidies that go into making places like that able to be lived in instead of some empty fields on the fringe. They have no qualms about constantly complaining about their commute or traffic or road construction, all of which is a side-effect of their artificially-cheap lifestyle. If they lived there because they just loved driving so much they probably wouldn’t complain about how long it takes to drive anywhere. But we’ve successfully hidden the subsidy of their lifestyle so well that a couple generations grew up thinking it was just normal and not some massive change to the way this country and its cities were built, so change to that ‘norm’ is completely abhorrent to them.

      Also I feel your pain on the 23, I had to transfer to it from the blue line for a year and when it’s like -20 and one bus comes early then the next comes late so you’re stuck shivering in a tiny shelter with a barely-functional heater for 40 minutes it’s enough to make you want to smash everyone’s face who won’t wait for you to walk across the street when it’s cold because they’ve just gotta make that right turn in their warm car.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller January 15, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

        Taking a total tangent from your 40 minute wait, and contra to Alex’s argument for quarter mile stop spacing (, am I the only weirdo who walks ahead of the bus rather than wait?

        Granted, that would be easier to do if there was Nextrip info available at my local bus stops (OMG Transit app helps some), but if I know the route and have a decent idea when the next bus is, I’d rather spend my waiting time moving and catch the bus farther down the road.

        It helps if things are relatively flat/straight and you can see the bus coming at a distance too.

        • Wayne January 15, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

          I walked from Hiawatha to Hennepin along the 23’s route once while waiting for it. Not in the winter, though. So I basically beat it all the way across town–there’s some great bus service for you. I had the same issue with the 21 when it got bogged down in traffic too, and it’s supposed to be a lot more frequent.

  9. denny January 16, 2016 at 1:17 am #

    For a major crosstown route 23 buses should running every 20min midday and peak .With no new funding eliminate rt111 115 some trips on 113/114 there are alternate routes available all day, Focus on local routes not wasting money on commuter routes which are mostly non revenue hours.Rt 46 need to improve also weekend and nights.Both 23/46 are important crosstown routes with infrequent services

  10. denny January 16, 2016 at 1:27 am #

    Ny city the express buse cost
    5 dollars commuters pay for parking .Met Council discrimate inner cities ridersThey were charging exp fare on 94B even thought it was less than 4 miles between Snelling and Marion.94 had a 40 mins gap between 639-716pm with packed buse s they used 40′ but Woodbury get a 7pm trip that bypass St paul with artic buses.There are many deadhead buses that could be put into services to shorten intervals between buses on the 94 before the GL.

    • Nathanael January 17, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

      Here’s a New Jersey example of a park-and-ride with a giant garage where (gasp) they actually *charge for parking*:

      $4/day. ($2/day on weekends.) At that price, the parking is reasonable.

      If it were free, it would be a giant drain of money, subsidizing suburban sprawl fuel hogs with millions of dollars while picking the pockets of everyone who lives more frugally and sustainably.

      But instead they charge a price which covers the costs. So the suburban sprawlers are paying for themselves. No problem.

      • Monte Castleman
        Monte Castleman January 18, 2016 at 9:18 am #

        And how many people are driving a long ways to their destination instead of driving a short distance to the transit station and taking transit because there’s a charge for parking? Probably a lot more than that have moved in next to the transit station so they can walk to it.

        • Justin January 18, 2016 at 9:26 am #

          In that area? You think they’ll drive into Manhattan and pay whatever it costs to park a car there, rather than the measly $4/day and take the train? If I lived there I’d pay the 4 bucks and be happy about it.

          • Monte Castleman
            Monte Castleman January 18, 2016 at 10:55 am #

            Why use that as an example then, if it has so little relevance to the situation here?

            • Justin January 18, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

              I didn’t say there was little relevance. I was arguing against the idea that people near that transit station would rather drive to the city, which you seem to think would happen.

  11. roy January 19, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

    wHEN CITIES like MPLS ALLOWED renters to park their cars downtown on prime real estate for free is good example how dyfunctional our elected officials are.
    The bldg across the library has a 1/4 block of surface parking which is reserved for residents of the public hi-rise.A hotel is being built across the street which will generate millions in taxes for the city .

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller January 19, 2016 at 9:11 pm #

      The presence of the word “renters” in this comment is fascinating.


  1. Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog Los Angeles - January 14, 2016

    […] Park and Ride Is Not An Effective Transit Investment ( […]

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  2. Free Parking Is a Terrible Investment for Transit Agencies | - January 15, 2016

    […] spend $6.6 million to build a 330-car garage at its Apple Valley Transit Station. Matt Steele at ran the numbers, and what he found was pretty […]

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