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A rail commuter concern

Shortage of parking for Metrolink users

Posted: October 21, 2008 8:58 p.m.
Updated: December 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.

In this undated photo, passengers exit a commuter train at the Jan Heidt Metrolink Station in downtown Newhall.

 
Finding a parking spot at the Jan Heidt Newhall Metrolink Station became such a challenge for Lee Huey that he started taking an earlier train.

“I used to get the last spot,” Huey said Monday shortly after getting off the Metrolink train.
Huey, of Valencia, typically took the 7:28 a.m. Metrolink train to Union Station before using the Red Line to get to his job in Hollywood.

Now he comes to the station early to catch the 6:55 a.m. train.

Finding one of the 150 parking spaces at the Newhall station is a concern shared by David ZumMallen and Wendi Kellaris, Valencia residents who commute daily with Huey.

While finding a parking spot is often a daily problem, the three enjoy their commute by train and used the Metrolink for at least three years as a way to reduce stress and time in the car.

“I hate driving,” Kellaris said at the station. “That Newhall Pass, oh man.”

ZumMallen’s company helps pay for his Metrolink tickets, but taking the train keeps him on a schedule.

“It makes you get out of the office on time,” he said.

The city took notice of the parking problem at local train and bus stations.

Last week, the Santa Clarita City Council voted to offer a contract with Walker Parking Consultants for a commuter parking study.

Through the contract, worth $59,070, the Burbank-based firm will look at the availability of commuter parking in the Santa Clarita Valley.

After addressing where available parking is located, the firm will give a projection of the demand for parking before making recommendations on what the city can do to alleviate the commuter parking problem.

The study should be complete by 2009, said Darren Hernandez, deputy city manager.

The parking problems occurs because the majority of commuter bus and train riders drive to the stations and leave their cars during the day.

Commuters use the parking lots at the Santa Clarita Metrolink Station, the Via Princessa Metrolink Station, the Newhall Metrolink Station and the Cinema Drive park-and-ride lot.

Commuters also use parking areas along Lyons Avenue and lots on Newhall Avenue and Sierra Highway.

Since the parking lots are filling up, people who take the bus or train are competing against each other for parking spots, Hernandez said.

“In the ideal, we would have separate park-and-ride facilities for those taking the train and the bus,” he said. “If we were able to do that, we would increase ridership on buses and trains.”

Parking lots aren’t the only crowded things in town.

The most popular bus routes run to downtown Los Angeles, Century City and Warner Center in Woodland Hills, Hernandez said.

In some instances, the buses are packed to standing room only, he said.

The reason for the increase stems from the economy and high prices.

“Our ridership spike was directly tied to rising gas prices,” Hernandez said.

Additionally, he credits the Santa Clarita Valley’s rising population and the increased traffic on the freeways as well as the city’s marketing of its transit service as reasons for the rise.

Once the study is complete, the city will be presented with a management plan and recommendations for efficient use and an economic impact of parking along major corridors.

But Huey, ZumMallen and Kellaris already have some suggestions for the firm and city.

“Change the intersection,” Huey said.

The limited availability of lanes on Market Street creates a traffic jam for the people who want to turn right on Railroad Avenue.

Improving the intersection would make it easier for the three Valencia residents.

And  it’s a piece of advice the three friends offered for free.

“We could have saved them money,” Huey said.

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