~ In Seattle, Sound Transit is extending light rail to Northgate. There's a vigorous debate about whether to build park-and-ride spaces or infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians, especially a foot/bike bridge over I-5.
Which to build?
Park-and-ride use is popular in King County, where most major lots are filled or overflowing. The 1,500 spots at Northgate are generally full, sending people to park on surrounding streets.Biking and walking, however, have multiple sustainability (and health) benefits.
"We could fill more, I could assure you of that," says Ron Posthuma, a Metro Transit assistant director for planning.
Naturally, the budget is limited. In something other than the bizarro anti-tax anti-infrastructure world in which we live money would be found for both, meeting a clear public need backed by strong demand that provides broad benefit to the community.
Walking and riding are great, but sojourning through the elements in November or "Junuary" won't work for many. Many, but not all such are likely to drive instead to the park-and-ride. Those who drive to and transfer to pubic transit should be encouraged; the alternative in all cases is to abandon public transit altogether. The upshot is more traffic, congested roads, challenging parking, and increased emissions. It also results in a more dangerous environment for those who do bike or walk.
Ultimately, it comes down to a question of our collective vision for the future of transportation. It's not really a debate between driving to public transit and walking or biking to public transit. It is, or should be, a debate between taking public transit (however we get to it) and driving everywhere.
And, importantly, a question of budget priorities.
Cross-posted to Chris B. Leyerle's blog.