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At the RTA, we think it’s time to talk about the 4 letter word of public transportation:  CARS.  Yes, of course, in a perfect world, we’d all be able to walk or ride (think 2 wheels not 4) to a transit stop for our daily commute or just to get around our region.  But, at the RTA, we know that it’s not always possible for people to only commute solely by train or bus. A good amount of commuters, especially in the suburbs, need to drive to a transit stop and that’s where park-and-ride facilities can meet a need. These facilities allow people to drive to a transit station, park their car for the day and ride the train for their commute. It’s more efficient and economical than commuting only by car.

Park-and-ride facilities located near public transit provide numerous benefits to communities and transit agencies. These include access to transit as an alternative to driving alone, increased transit usage in low-density areas, convenient meeting points for carpools, reduced vehicle miles and emissions, and of course, increased transit ridership.

So if a transit agency or municipality wants to build a park-and-ride facility, all they have to do is pave some concrete to create space for cars, right?


A lot more (no pun intended) than you may think goes into planning, building and managing park-and-ride facilities. The traveling public’s actual trips vary greatly. Some customers incorporate biking into their trips, while others carpool. Some commuters do not park but are dropped off. The facilities themselves range from small surface lots to multilevel parking structures in TODs, and have to accommodate various buses and trains.  

Since the process of building park-and-rides is complex, and of interest nationally, the Transportation Cooperative Research Board (TCRB) – an arm of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine — worked to create the Decision-Making Toolbox to Plan and Manage Park-and-Ride Facilities for Public Transportation: Guidebook on Planning and Managing Park-and-Ride.

The RTA’s Peter Fahrenwald, Manager of Strategic & Corridor Planning, was nominated to serve on the  TCRP panel which provided technical guidance and counsel to direct the research and analysis for the creation of this guidebook.

The Guidebook is a comprehensive resource for public transit agencies, municipalities and others interested in better planning and management of park-and-ride facilities.  It includes a survey of best practices by agencies across North America and is a valuable technical resource for cities that are building transit networks, as well as more established agencies to better manage their current park-and-rides.  

So if you park your car or bike at a park-and-ride facility, take a look around. There’s more to it than just a parking lot.

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Read posts about how the RTA collaborates with CTA, Metra and Pace to plan, invest in and move the Chicago region’s transit system.

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