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Rochester's park-and-ride lots see mixed use

The IBM lot has become the most popular public park-and-ride, but other options are available for commuters.

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Answer Man, 

I am just wondering, the north side of the IBM property has been used for parking by Mayo Clinic employees, but the south side has so much open parking that is not being used. Why isn't that an option?

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Curious commuter

Commuter,

I’m glad you asked, because it provides me the opportunity to dispel the myth that city park-and-ride lots are solely designed for Mayo Clinic employees.

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While the stops, and related routes, tend to cater to the city’s largest employer, they are available to anyone who wants to pay for the bus ride and bypass the expense of downtown parking. Think $4 for a round trip, rather than $14 for a full day in a downtown parking ramp.

Granted, park-and-rides are not convenient for a downtown lunch or shopping trip, but anyone who works a 9-5 job in the heart of the city could benefit from the four sites served by city buses.

However, it’s not debatable that the park-and-ride system does rely on Mayo Clinic’s purchase of employee bus passes to cover costs, and as a result the employer helps dictate how many spaces are needed at each site.

When it comes to the IBM park-and-ride, the city currently contracts for 350 spaces, which are grouped on the north side of Big Blue.

Park and ride.jpg
A sign at the city's park-and-ride location on the IBM campus shows were commuters can park and leave their vehicles at no charge while catching a bus to go downtown.
Answer Man/ Post Bulletin

Nick Lemmer, marketing and outreach coordinator for Rochester Public Transit and Parking, told one of my minions that it’s up to the property owner to decide where leased spaces are located, but the north side is well suited for quick access to and from 37th Street Northeast, both for commuters and the city buses.

He said any decision to lease more space would be made with Mayo Clinic and the owner of the 3.1 million-square-foot IBM campus, Industrial Realty Group LLC, but current supply appears to closely match demand.

During Rochester Public Transit’s monthly survey of park-and-ride use on July 6, there were reportedly 339 cars in the 350 available spaces, but anecdotal reports indicate the cars can routinely spill over the allotted spaces on weeks that don’t include a federal holiday.

That’s compared to 182 cars in the 245 spaces the city reserves at Olmsted County’s Graham Park.

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With the city paying $30 to lease space at IBM, taxpayers are well served by RPT’s efforts to monitor use and make adjustments as needed. The results appear to rule out seeking more spaces at the IBM location before other spaces are filled.

At the city’s park-and-ride lot near the Chateau Theater in Northeast Rochester, where the city leases spaces for $10 a month, 68 of the available 300 spaces were used on July 6, and at the Rochester Community and Technical College park-and-ride, 55 of 746 potential spaces were full on the same day, according to Lemmer.

While the IBM lot is clearly the most popular, it’s equally obvious that alternatives exist without adding to city expenses

Additionally, the city is likely to see the park-and-ride landscape shift in the near future, as work on the planned bus-rapid-transit system continues, with anticipated private and public parking options on each end of the service.

The city is also working to create its own 490-space public park-and-ride lot on 75th Street Northwest, near U.S. Highway 52, which would use approximately $1.6 million in federal funds to reduce the reliance on long-term lease contracts.

As a result, commuter parking will likely be a shifting concern as the city continues to grow and seek new opportunities to help out-of-town employees find the ideal options for that last link to work.

Send questions to Answer Man at answerman@postbulletin.com .

Related Topics: ANSWER MANROCHESTERGOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
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