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No Paid Parking at the Amtrak Lot

IMG-3716By Colin Walsh

It is in the best interest of the region to get as many people as possible off of I80 and onto the train. Further restricting parking at the train station works against environmental goals of reducing long distance drivers. Frankly the region needs more parking to help transition people from driving to public transit. If an added benefit of this is increasing parking for downtown at the same time, that's a good thing too.

I find it very frustrating that council members and City staff seem to have drawn a conclusion BEFORE even starting an already paid for $250,000 dollar study.

Tucked into the Staff report on the paid parking agenda item tonight is this Parking Task Force recommendation #4, “Convert Amtrak Lot to Paid Parking.”

While this is not part of tonight’s proposal, it is just as poorly thought through. Council Member Will Arnold advocated for this in his op-ed on the Davisite.org this week. He and others have cited People driving from Sacramento to Davis to avoid the pay lot in Sacramento. But there is no actual evidence of this. Indeed, Will admitted he had heard it word of mouth. But there has been no survey and no study.

Converting the Amtrak lot to paid parking is a terrible idea that is at best premature.

Let’s look at some history of this issue that the staff conveniently left out of tonight’s staff report. The future of this lot is an important consideration while considering paid parking downtown.

Davis was awarded $250,000 for a study on access and connections to the Davis Amtrak Station by the California Transportation Commission in Dec 2017. The City cited that the Davis station serves over 10% of the Capital corridor ridership and that the Davis station is the third most active station, but the City acknowledges the lot fills early every weekday morning.

It seems really odd that the City is charging ahead with this controversial paid parking plan without doing the work on this major part of the Southeast quadrant of Downtown parking.

City Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, who serves as Chair for the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority has stated “Using the critical information gained from the study, the City hopes to not only increase train ridership and improve multimodal connectivity, but provide many other community benefits. These tangible benefits range from reducing traffic to boosting the local economy,” these are good goals for the region and for Davis. These good goals will reduce traffic on I-80 and will bring more drivers into downtown Davis. Charging prohibitive fees is antithetical to the goals of increasing train ridership.

I agree with Lucas, we should be working to increase train ridership. For Davis that means we need more parking.

In May and June of 2018 the City of Davis formally accepted proposals for the study on Davis Amtrack Station and Connections. The City stated some great goals for the study. Goals that will affect downtown parking. Some of them are:

  • What station access improvements would increase Amtrak ridership?
  • How can multimodal connections at the station be improved to destinations in Davis and the University of California, Davis?
  • Can land use changes or amenities be developed in the station area to increase rail ridership?
  • Will changes to the station area have economic benefit for the City?
  • Can changes to station parking supply, pricing, or management improve ridership?
  • What effect on regional vehicle miles traveled and congestion will improvements that increase rail ridership have on local roadways?
  • How much will station access improvements cost?
  • What funding sources are available to implement station access improvements?
  • Are there opportunities to learn from the efforts of other jurisdictions to develop multimodal rail stations?

This study might have big impacts on Downtown parking, but it is only just getting started  and there is not even a mention of it in tonight’s agenda packet. Instead the packet only states that the City wants to impose parking fees on Amtrak parking without offering any evidence of why or how that will be effective. 

Once again, the City has drawn a conclusion before doing the homework.

At a City Council Meeting a year ago March 13, 2018 Terry Basset the executive Director of the Yolo County Transportation District reported  “Working closely with Sacramento and Regional Transit to offer a shuttle from UC Med Center to UCD. Applied for rail funding to operate between Amtrak and the South part of the UCD campus. Talking with UCD to address parking at Amtrak and potential overflow parking on campus.” According to the minutes of the meeting. Where are the fruits of those labors? These are after all the lower hanging fruits that could open parking spaces for parking in Downtown Davis.

I can tell you right now one simple answer to the parking problem at the Amtrak station and for Downtown. Build more parking. It should have been planned for in conjunction with the Lincoln 40 project, I advocated for it then and the developer even told me he would consider it if the City paid for it. But the City missed that opportunity, now it will be more difficult, but it can be done.

During the City Council Campaign only last fall Gloria Partida stated unequivocal support for a parking structure, when she said “I support the construction of a parking structure at the Amtrak lot paid for by transportation funds and grants.” Well I challenge you now to make good on that campaign promise and find regional partners to build more parking instead of just assessing parking fees.

Comments

Daniel Cornford

Excellent article Colin right on the mark!!! I will add one thing: As someone who used the CC to commute some time ago, I was elated when funds were appropriated to improve parking at the Amtrak station circa 2005. No-one is more in favor of green space than myself, really, but when the new lot was built a huge amount of the available space, almost half I would guess, was landscaped. Yes, a very nice job and all that, but it came at the expense of many parking spaces. I still use the CC enough to know that I NEVER see people sitting on the benches in the "garden" or in any way taking advantage of this space. This creates a significant cost and psychological disincentive for CC users (as if there were not enough). And, yes there is little or no evidence to suggest that people will drive all the way from Sac. to Davis just to get a free parking space, all of which are gone by 6.00 AM at latest. That's just the city trying to put the blame elsewhere.

Ron

I agree with Colin, as well. Especially the point regarding making it easier for everyone to use the train (which means having adequate parking at all of the stations). Note that the Davis train station essentially serves surrounding communities in Yolo county, as well.

Why anyone would want to discourage access to the train station is beyond me. Getting cars off of I-80 certainly seems like a worthwhile goal.

Having adequate parking at/near the train station would also have a positive impact on local businesses, near the train station.

I also agree regarding the missed opportunity in regard to the Lincoln40 development.

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