Park and Ride Confusion: Learning from Europe

As the U.S. House of Representatives just voted to increase transit funding in this country's stimulus bill from $9 billion to $12 billion, smarter, greener public transportation in America appears poised to blossom. Updating U.S. infrastructure is expected to be a massive, multi-faceted job, but a new piece of research out of Europe underlines the importance of the little things.

park n rideThe Park and Ride systems attached to bus, light rail, and subway services, for instance.

EuroTest studied the Park and Ride facilities of 17 cities in 14 different European countries, and determined the wide variance in sign design and location, labeling, and even cost creates confusion among drivers there:

"In 20 perce nt of cities studied, signs identifying the facilities were provided only in the immediate vicinity of the park & ride, making it difficult for drivers to find them.

The systems also often lack a uniform and straightforward identification. In Finland, for instance, the system is called Liityntäpysäköinti, while in Sweden and Norway they are Infartsparkering or Innfartsparkering. In France and Switzerland the term is Parc Relais or Parking Relais or Parking d'échange, while in southern Italy drivers must look for parcheggio di scambio. In the Netherlands the term is Transferium." - Green Inc.

Then there are the differences in cost of the facilities, the number of parking spaces and even sign location and conventions.

As states here discuss infrastructure plans and proposals for their cut of the stimulus money, I haven't read much on standardization of transportation systems from state to state. In fact, our method seems designed for insular planning:

"In the current system, the federal government sends money to states without any real effort to evaluate whether it will pay for worthy projects. States rarely do serious analyses of their own. They build new roads before fixing old ones. They don't consider whether those new roads will lead to faster traffic or simply more traffic. They spend millions of dollars on legislators' pet projects and hulking new sports stadiums. In the world of infrastructure, cost-benefit analysis is still a science of the future." - New York Times

Park and Ride systems attached to mass transit options are a key component of smarter, more sustainable transportation. U.S. states-unless they spend the stimulus money mostly on highway expansion-will hopefully invest in more transportation solutions like this one and design them in a way that makes sense 20 years from now.

Consider this observation from the UK's Paul Watters:

"The concept of park-and-ride parking has been around for 20 years, yet a uniform model of provision, cost and signposting seems be largely lacking in Europe." - The Herald

I'm not a transportation expert. Rather, I'm examining the issue of mass transit from the consumer angle, as someone who'd like to travel on public transportation more often and loves seeing her country finally head away from an emissions-heavy car culture. This online directory for UK Park and Ride systems is just the sort of resource I'd use, for example.

And the demands of EuroTest, including the implementation of a "European minimum criteria" and of clear, uniform names and signs, seem like a good idea, too.

Related Reading:
Smart Urban Transport: Transforming Existing Systems
Solving Economic Woes and Environmental Conundrums: Get on the Bus

Image Credits:
Highways.gov.uk
Streamlinegc.com

1 comment

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Charles M. 110°

Errr so what if these schemes are different from place to place. You really only need to know how the scheme in your neighborhood works!

Like many organisations formed to study something, this one just got carried away with its own puffery.

It is actually beneficial that these schemes differ since this allows different models to be tried and the transport models to be tuned to local conditions.

Different cities, with different layouts and different populations need different solutions.

"Minimum criteria" don't always improve things. Instead they can often reduce value since municipalities will target the minimum criteria rather than what the people want.

Written in February 2009

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