Build Stuff Near Train Stations

A blog about business and economics.
April 11 2012 8:40 AM

Build Stuff Near Train Stations

1334148049974
Stamford Station, 2007

Photograph courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Stamford, Conn. is home to a commuter rail station heading in to New York City. Currently, land near the station is largely allocated to be used as parking lots or parking garages. But the Connecticut Department of Transportation is considering the possibility that the land is sufficiently valuable that it would be better-used as a location for buildings—homes, offices, shops. "Transit-oriented development," to use the term of art. Naturally nobody is going to build a bunch of homes, offices, and shops in 21st-century Connecticut without building any parking spaces, but obviously if commuter parking needs to compete with other uses prices will go up. Naturally, folks are upset:

"One of the reasons that the Stamford rail station is so heavily used is that parking is abundant and adjacent to the station, steps away by covered bridges," Jim Cameron, chairman of the Rail Commuter Council, said. "To allow developers to use the old garage site for shopping or offices and force commuters to walk a quarter mile is not fair, would discourage ridership, and would be a sell-out to private interests."
Advertisement

What I think's fascinating about this is the use of the language of coercion. If we "allow" developers to use the old garage site for nongarage purposes, we will "force" commuters to walk a quarter of a mile and this will be a "sell-out to private interests." The parkers themselves, however, are a private interest. They're an interest that wants to forbid the land from being used for any nonparking purpose in order to ensure themselves access to valuable land at sub-market prices. Will replacing garages with transit-oriented development reduce ridership on the train? It seems unlikely. Obviously parking is better for ridership than surrounding the station with an ocean of lava, but around the world you generally see the most-used train stations surrounded by buildings. Some people will live in the buildings and walk to the station in the morning. Others will work in the buildings and ride the train to the station. Parking at a further remove from the station and walking to it will become more pleasant if you walk through a neighborhood rather than walking through a field of parking garages. The residences and businesses will generate tax revenue that allow the municipality to improve overall quality of life.

The general point is that rail transportation is expensive to build. But it often can drastically increase the value of station-proximate land. It's important to use that land for its most valuable purpose. That will likely include parking in most cases, but reserving the land exclusively for parking is the real sell-out to private interests.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?