Metro’s Two Flavors of Parking

September 4th, 2013

A handful of end-of-line stations’ parking facilities are doing the lion’s share of extending the reach of Metro across the region, while parking at most other stations primarily serves nearby residents.

Parking at rail stations is traditionally thought to extend the geographic reach of transit in the region, by giving longer-distance commuters a way to access a rail station. Based on an analysis of Metro parking customers’ origins, a handful of large end-of-line Metro parking facilities perform this function, but most Metrorail parking facilities do not. Nine Metrorail stations are capturing 70 percent of all customers who drive from more than three miles to park-and-ride, while the 26 other Metro parking facilities primarily serve the surrounding neighborhoods.

Our map of parking customers’ origins showed how far Metro’s reach extends across the region.  Now, this map shows the dominant station among Park & Ride customers, by half square-mile, for a typical weekday:

Map of dominant station of Park & Ride customers, highlighting each station's "catchment area"

Map of dominant station of Park & Ride customers, highlighting each station’s “catchment area.”

Areas where there is no clear primary station are shaded gray: for example, the dividing line between Southern Ave. and Branch Ave. stations. The dominant station is shown, regardless of how many Park & Ride customers there are for a square. There is some noise in this data, but two “flavors” of parking emerge:

Stations Customers from within 3 Miles Customers from within  5 Miles
End-of-Line Stations 9 25% 46%
All Other Stations 26 51% 70%

Flavor #1: End-of-Line Stations. Nine large parking facilities at the end of lines primarily serve long-haul commuters and extend Metro’s “catchment area” into the far corners of the region – from Baltimore to Manassas. These stations (Vienna, Franconia-Springfield, Huntington, Branch Ave, Largo, New Carrollton, Greenbelt, Glenmont, and Shady Grove) make up three-quarters of Metro’s entire parking “catchment area” shown on the map, and they capture 70 percent of the entire market for long-distance commutes.

For example, Greenbelt’s “catchment area” extends nearly to Baltimore, and people from all over Anne Arundel County drive and park at New Carrollton.  30 percent of customers at Branch Avenue drive from more than 10 miles away.

Although they are not included as end-of-line stations in this analysis, West Falls Church and Southern Ave also act like end-of-line stations by drawing from a large market area, primarily because of their accessibility from major commuter roads (Dulles Access Road and Southern Ave/Indian Head highway).

Flavor #2: Neighborhood Parking.  Metro’s 26 other stations with parking primarily serve the surrounding neighborhoods, and they attract far fewer long-distance commuters.  At these stations, most customers are driving from less than three miles away, and 70 percent are from less than five miles away.

For example, the catchment area for Forest Glen parking is very small: 80 percent of parking customers live within three miles of the station; 67 percent within just two miles. Some stations (Van Dorn Street, West Hyattsville, and Fort Totten, for instance) are especially local, with more than 30 percent of parking customers hailing from less than one mile from the station entrance.


Metro parking does serve long-distance commuters, but they are concentrated at several end-of-line stations. Other stations primarily provide neighborhood parking.

Nine end-of-line stations’ parking facilities are doing the lion’s share of extending the reach of Metro across the region.  Most other stations primarily provide neighborhood parking.

An Opportunity for Transit-Oriented Development? This analysis shows there is a strong demand for short-distance access to Metrorail.  Since Metro’s parking supply is fairly constrained and many lots fill to capacity every weekday, addressing this need in other ways could allow us to continue to grow ridership beyond the constraints of the parking facilities. Could Metro meet this need in other ways, such as shared joint development parking, feeder bus, or other means?   If we could shift some of these short auto trips to another mode, we can free up parking for those without good alternatives for non-auto access, or we may be able to convert land occupied by parking lots into higher and more valuable uses.  Metro’s active joint development program actively seeks to best use valuable land near stations, which is often occupied by parking spaces.

Our 2012 Metrorail Passenger Survey gives us good insight into our customers’ travel patterns, including Park & Ride customers.

What jumps out at you about this map? What do you think this means for future transit-oriented development?

Also, you can download a higher-resolution PDF version of this map.

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  1. September 4th, 2013 at 15:08 | #1

    What about the simplest and provide some money to increase pedestrian and cycle infrastructure in the neighborhoods around the stations? Not just at the neighborhood stations, but also at end-of-line stations that are being actively developed.

  2. Alan Budde
    September 4th, 2013 at 15:22 | #2

    It definitely seems that stations attracting a good chunk from within a mile makes a good case for giving up some parking to TOD development and structured parking as needed. A mile is an easy walk or bike ride for most people and I would think the land in many of those areas has become much more valuable for uses other than surface parking.

  3. Alan Budde
    September 4th, 2013 at 15:24 | #3

    @Alan Budde
    Perhaps morning importantly it makes a good case for investing in improved last mile pedestrian and bike facilities around those stations!

  4. steve strauss
    September 4th, 2013 at 16:39 | #4

    And there is the non-discussed issue of the large number of WMATA parking spaces, mostly in Maryland and the District, which go unused each day costing the agency thousands of dollars in lost parking revenue.

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