Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Travel patterns to the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride lot

By Tom Wyland

National government transportation surveys have shown that the vast proportion of short trips in the US are taken by personal motor vehicle. With that in mind, we took a look at some findings from a recent Fairfax County study which included the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride (P&R). We were curious to see if many of the car trips to this facility were short enough to be easily replaced by bike trips.

With 1,745 free parking spaces, Herndon-Monroe is the largest P&R facility in the county without co-located rail service and was constructed at a cost of $20 million. The dedicated ramps at this facility allow eastbound drivers from the Dulles Toll Road direct access into the garage. From there, drivers can take frequent express buses to metro stations, the Pentagon, Dulles Airport or DC. The transit station also acts as a local community bus hub and will be expanded for the new Herndon-Monroe metro station. A Silver line station will be located here as part of Phase II of the project.

The 2008 study was performed to determine the starting locations of cars that park at the station. The results of the data reflect the two types of commuters: those who arrive from the west on the highway (from greater than 5 miles away, 38%) and those who drive on surface roads (0-5 miles, 62%). Looking at the close-up map, it is clear that many of that 62% share live within 2-3 miles of the facility, with a large cluster to the Southwest of the station (the median distance is 3.7 miles).

So why aren't more of the those living within five miles of the station walking or biking there? Here are some thoughts about why people drive to the station:

  1. Free Parking: Garage parking is free and plentiful.
  2. Poor North-South Connections: The bridge across the Dulles Toll Road at the station has no bicycle or pedestrian accommodations. The crossing of the Dulles Toll Rd on the Fairfax County Parkway trail is dangerous
  3. No Dedicated On-Road Bicycling Facilities: Sunrise Valley Dr has narrow travel lanes and the county bike map shows this as a less-preferred route for on-road bicycling.
  4. No Off-road Bicycling Connections: Even though the station is 0.5 miles from the heavily-biked Fairfax County Parkway and 1.5 miles from Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) trails, there is no connection from these routes to the station. The sidepath on Sunrise Valley Dr is mostly a narrow sidewalk.
  5. Poor access to the West of the Station: Missing links in the existing facilities make biking and walking less attractive from this direction where most of the short-distance drivers are located.
The majority of those who benefit from the expensive parking facilities are those living within five miles of the station. It would be much more cost-effective to spend devote funds in the future on improved non-motorized access and bike parking and less on very expensive structured parking. It would reduce the facility footprint, save on future operating expenses, and provide a community-wide benefit through improved non-motorized connectivity.

Instead the Herndon-Monroe transit station provides abundant free car parking and easy road access for local residents with no improvements for accessing the facility by bike or foot. The redevelopment of this site as part of the Silver line expansion is a chance to reverse this trend.

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