Thursday, January 13, 2011

Much Ado about Parking

Proposal for the Fuller Road Station

I am very excited about the prospects of having Ann Arbor on a high speed rail line between Detroit and Chicago. Heck, I'd be thrilled if there were a way to easily and reliably go from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti, DTW, and Detroit via rail.

When I first heard about the proposed Fuller Road Station--a transit hub connecting cars, buses, and bikes to a new train station--I was thrilled. As I've looked into the project more though, I've just grown more confused.

Phase I Plan--mostly parking

This is what I understand. The project will be completed in phases. The first phase is construction of a parking structure with space for nearly 1000 cars, 100 bikes and sheltered bus bays. The U of M is footing 78% of the $43 million Phase I bill and will be entitled to 78% of the parking spots. Addition of a train station and drop-off area will happen in later phases.

Master Plan--Things I actually care about

Unsurprisingly, the proposal has stirred up controversy. This is Ann Arbor after all. One objection to the project is that the proposed site is currently city parkland. While I agree that we shouldn't set a precedent of building parking structures on parkland, the site is currently leased to the U of M for use as a parking lot. In my opinion, trading a surface lot for a parking structure is no big deal. Others object to the idea of creating more parking spaces, which enable single passenger car trips. I don't really know the time frame for this project, or for that matter the implementation of improved commuter rail in the area. If there will be a substantial delay between completion of the parking structure (Phase I) and realization of the master plan, perhaps we should call this the "Fuller Road Parking Structure with Plans to Eventually Build a Train Station."

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Current usage of the site

I realize the Medical Center is constantly growing and that its employees need to have a way to get to work. Can't we find a better way than single occupancy vehicles though? I concede that once a train station is build at the site, allowing people to park there could encourage more people to use rail. Without knowing the amount of lag between Phase I and completion of the project, it seems like you run the risk of encouraging more driving and more traffic in the short to medium term.

Also, the proposal for the building looks really ugly.

More reading:

M Go Green is a group of locals and U of M folks (some local U of M folks too) who are opposed to the construction of the parking structure at the site, but not the train station. They believe the University would be more effective spending its money on other, more efficient transportation projects.

The City of Ann Arbor has lots of information about the Fuller Road Station here. recently published an article about the station too.

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