Here's what Dan Robrish, the Advocate's editor and publisher, posted:
Holy Toledo! Amtrak released ridership figures today -- for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013, there were 123,153 passengers boarding and leaving trains at Elizabethtown. That's a 9.8 percent increase over the previous year and puts Elizabethtown ahead of the busiest Amtrak stations in 25 states -- including Toledo, Ohio, which had 68,463.
By contrast, Pittsburgh has 135,137, Robrish reported. Paoli, which is a stop on the Keystone Line between here and Philadelphia, has 175,299.
The numbers jibe with the growth in ridership at the train station over the past 10 to 15 years. Even during construction of the new facility, we on Elizabethtown Borough Council received reports that ridership jumped considerably.
This news comes on the heels of the construction of overflow parking at the end of Wilson Avenue where the train station is located. That lot was finished during the summer, bringing the entire train station project to completion. The project was funded through a $9.3 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant.
Just an FYI, some of us riders had predicted that the overflow lot would be full within 6 months of opening. Three times this week, there was 1 spot left (in the main lot, overflow lot and on-street parking) when the 8.45 train came through town. We're wondering what to do for parking now that it's taken even less time than we predicted for all the lots to reach capacity.ReplyDelete
This is the first I've heard of the lot being nearly full. I know the borough staff was monitoring the parking before the new lot was done, but I need to look into this.Delete
Look for an editorial in the print edition of the Advocate proposing a solution to the parking problem.Delete
I noticed the editorial mentioned a plan to charge for parking is coming. You're really going to have to charge for both lots - if just the short-term lot has a fee, those early riders will go to the long-term lot and force the later riders to the paid lot. That'd also force any true long-term riders into the paid short-term lot - resulting in parking charges and surprise tickets when they get home.ReplyDelete
I haven't read the editorial yet (my paper comes in the mail on Friday), so I won't comment on that. But I will say that, while Borough Council has discussed a parking fee, we have made no decision to charge one, how much it should be or how it would be assessed. That said, as one council member, the train station is a great asset to the community, and we were fortunate to have it paid for in full by federal stimulus funds. We do need to be good stewards and maintain it, and that costs money. It only makes sense to get some, or all, of that money from people that use the train station. So I support assessing some kind of fee. The question comes down to details and logistics that we need to discuss and figure out before taking any action.The comment above is just one example of the details we need to figure out.Delete
One other related note: I had visitors from out of town over the summer who stayed overnight and caught the train to Philadelphia in the morning. They were surprised that parking was free.
And, while I'm not saying carpooling isn't part of a solution, I'm a little disheartened to see the editorial call on those of us who already do our part to reduce traffic, congestion, gasoline usage, and our carbon footprint - to do even more. I'm not opposed to carpooling (many train riders actually do), but we have reworked our lives and schedules around the train times. Trying to rework our lives around the train times and a carpool partners schedule could prove to be impracticable (or impossible, for those of us who don't live near anyone else who rides the train to work at the same time and goes home on the same train at the same time, every day.)ReplyDelete
(There have been times I've had to walk 3 miles home to W. Donegal Twp because my morning carpool had to leave work early and there was no one willing to drive me home who was on the train with me)
Don't let it get lost in the conversation that the monthly commuters also pay to ride the train every day (sometimes I think that gets lost in the conversation).ReplyDelete
A monthly pass costs $140. Every month. That's $1600 a year. While that doesn't help the borough recover maintenance costs associated with the station, the commuter train ride into Harrisburg (or Philly or Lancaster) is not a free one. There's a cost/benefit analysis each one of us had to make, based on the cost of gas, our cars, parking in the city, our schedules (work and home) and what our time is worth.
We talk about attracting riders/passengers to Etown and making the downtown more accessible via the bike path - but what are we saying to the people who come from out of town specifically to commute from our train station (and, indeed, the locals too) by instituting a charge to park at the train station?
(for example) $5 a day wouldn't seem unreasonable, for a day.
But if you're commuting 20 days a month, that's $100 - on top of the $140 train ticket.
Even if you'd charge a flat monthly fee, say $20 - that's problematic for those who are occasional commuters - and how would you even figure out who the long-term parkers are vs. those commuters....
I'm not opposed to paying my part to keep the parking areas well maintained, but please make sure there's some fairness with the issue - if parking downtown for an hour costs a dime, why should it cost XXX% more at the train station? Realize there is a tipping point for train riders too - a cost that's too high will put them off the train, out of the lot, and out of Etown. And please (and this is by biggest pet peeve with the whole station project), solicit input from the train riders themselves. Yes, ridership has gone up since the station was rehabbed. But there were 85,000 riders before the station was done too. We all had opinions, ideas, suggestions - all of which were not asked for until the engineer was done with the design, and all of which fell on deaf ears. We HAD ideas for the overflow parking, we HAVE ideas for the "dog kennel" at the end of the platform.
In fairness, Jeff - you've been the councilman who reaches out the most to the community (as evidenced by the blog, Facebook, and you're willingness to engage with the citizens). But having an item on the agenda at a meeting isn't the same as inviting/soliciting members of a certain population for their input. Some ideas work, some don't But all of those 85,000 could have told you that a parking lot designed for 46 vehicles was going to be grossly inadequate, considering there were 100+ cars a day squeezed into the old stone and in front of the station before construction.
First things first, I am not the only councilman who reaches out to the community. I happen to have my blog and am on Facebook, but my colleagues on council are out and about talking to people and taking phone calls and interacting with the community as much, or more, than I am. Let that be said and on the record.Delete
Now, I hear all of your concerns about a parking fee. Be certain that it's something that all of council is aware of. And before we make a decision, we will discuss this thoroughly and completely.
As for involvement of train riders, the plans for the train station were discussed for years. When I was a reporter for the former E-town Chronicle in 2000, the designs were being done. And the project was redesigned at some point before the construction began. At any point, train riders could have come to Borough Council to voice their opinions. Also realize that we had to work closely with Amtrak and other federal and state agencies with their own rules and regulations.
What's the latest concerning the parking lots at the Elizabethtown station??? Are there enough spaces and is there an overnight lot???Delete
The parking lots at the train station are done. The new lot at the back is designated for long-term, overnight parking. That said, if you read the comments above you know that some daily commuters who arrive later in the morning each day have trouble finding parking.Delete
Are there any private pay lots within a one-mile walk of the station? I would be driving in for a late-morning train.ReplyDelete
Here's a map of municipal parking lots downtown. https://www.google.com/maps/ms?msid=202508233611676550708.0004c26e3a7c253641365&msa=0Delete
I don't know of any private pay lots. The one behind Groff's Meats on North Market Street is free parking. The other lots are metered (inexpensive, but I don't know offhand what the time limit is).