Read The Union Station Plan

by Melissa Bailey | March 5, 2008 11:05 AM | | Comments (15)

phases123unionstation.pngTo revitalize Union Station and solve its parking nightmare, consultants propose building three new parking garages and a mix of offices, retail and loft apartments.

The first relief for frazzled commuters would come in 2011, with the completion of a new 667-space parking garage on what is now a surface parking lot to the south of the station, according to the recommended plan.

The study was conducted by a team of consultants, including Jones Lang LaSalle and Herbert S. Newman and Partners PC, who were commissioned by the city to see how the city could solve the area’s woeful parking shortage while stimulating development in that key part of town. The city wanted them to take a look at “transit-oriented development”— click here and here for background.

The plan the team came up with was modeled on stations like Grand Central Terminal, where stores buzz with activity around the transit hub. Click here to view their recommendations in a Power-Point presentation.

The plan would more than double the amount of parking at the station. Right now, the station has one parking garage and surface lot providing only 1,153 parking spots. The meager offerings fall short of existing parking demand by about 465 spaces, consultants reckoned. Spaces fill up fast, forcing frazzled commuters to shuttle themselves in from other parts of town.

phase1unionstation.pngConsultants broke down construction into three phases. Phase One, the 667-space South Garage referred to above, would have an estimated price tag $44 million.

Phase Two would be a new, 530-space North Garage on the other side of Union Station, and renovate Union Station to create retail frontage. Consultants say that phase would cost $24 million and be completed by 2013.

Phase Three calls for a 500-space parking garage, wrapped with retail (20,000 sf), office space (90,000 sf), and 138 loft apartments. The phase, projected at $141 million, would be developed, owned and operated by a private developer, with completion date estimated at 2017.

When all the building’s done, the parking supply would be increased to 2,571 spaces. The new garages would meet parking demands for the year 2025, according to the report. The whole project could be complemented by a new development at the police station site across the street, consultants suggest.

Check out the Power Point for more details.

Now that the study has been completed, the next step is for the city to sit down for an implementation meeting with the state Department of Transportation, said city transportation czar Mike Piscitelli.

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Posted by: charlie | March 5, 2008 3:10 PM

Before any new garage is built, the plan needs to include improved bicycle access, such as a route from New Haven Green to Union Station that any cyclist feels safe using. Bike parking in this area is also woefully inadequate. The current bicycle storage areas have bicycles literally piled up on top of each other 5 or 6 feet into the area. The rest of the civilized world would be horrified to see how we are so automobile-dependent, and that we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on parking garages before there is even a bike lane to get to the station. The point of mass transit is to reduce automobile use - doesn't anyone involved in planning & development get that?

Posted by: Taylor | March 5, 2008 3:36 PM

what needs to be done at Union Station is have Yale buy across the street and get rid of the slums.

That way it would link to downtown and people wouldn't be afraid of the area and would walk instead of cabs

Posted by: DingDong | March 5, 2008 5:37 PM

Where are the commuters parking at Union Station coming from? Do they live in New Haven or further down the shoreline, for example? Would extending Metro-North along the Shore Line or having more SLE trains help solve some of the current parking crisis?

Posted by: dylan | March 6, 2008 12:55 PM

Wonderful. But the image here indicates that the Garage in Phase 1 being built with pedestrian bridge. That's terribly 20th century, providing little benefit, and killing activity on the street.

Along similar lines, wrapping this garage, not just the north garage of phase 2 with some use besides parking would go a long way.

Switching gears a bit. Union Station expansions are said to be about transit oriented development. Sadly, this still requires Construction of $68 million worth in garages for cars. Might it not be better to look at how this money might be put toward Mike Piscitell's streetcar efforts as a way to cut down on the need to drive to the station in the first place? $68 million would buy nearly 9 miles of streetcar, with ridership being probably ten times 1,153 (the number of parking spaces that dollar amount is said to provide).

Posted by: Richard Stowe | March 6, 2008 4:31 PM

This New Haven Independent article highlights a car-oriented plan (parking garage-oriented development), which must be vigorously opposed by environmental and bicycling communities.

Here's where transportation money should be directed instead.

1. All Metro-North (MNR) service should go to the New Haven State Street (at Chapel Street). That brings most New Haven bound travelers closer to their destination, which in many cases is downtown, or Yale. Later MNR service should be scheduled (between midnight and 12:15 a.m.) from New Haven to GCT.

2. With M-8 car deliveries, daily hourly service should be extended to Old Saybrook (ideally to Providence, RI, but drawbridges east of Old Saybrook need to be replaced with high level bridges to enable that goal)

3. Direct daily, hourly MNR service should be contracted to run from Northampton MA, or Amherst MA-Springfield, MA-Hartford CT to New York City (though travel north of Springfield, MA is complicated currently due to private ownership of r.r. tracks**). **As a first step direct, daily, hourly MNR service should be established between Springfield, MA - Bradley Airport and New York City.

4. Immediately filling order for remaining 80 M-8 cars in Kawasaki contract with different specifications for catenary (to enable travel between New Haven and Washington D.C. - with non-stop service from Penn Station to D.C. Union Station.)

5. Complete Farmington Canal bicycle trail from Cheshire to Downtown New Haven.

6. Providing bicycle parking on new M-8 cars and bicycle parking at Union Station and State Street Station.

7. Market price curbside parking in Union Station area.

8. Make an organic grocery and no-car ownership green certified apartments (including passive solar design) that stipulates residents do not own cars into Union Station transit oriented design.

So what major public transportation investments aside from station parking garages are C-DOT, elected officials and some environmental organizations currently supporting?

For starters, building a $458 million 9.4-mile busway between New Britain and Hartford that takes a portion of a 5-mile section of the New Haven-Springfield Amtrak line and 4.4 miles of abandoned railroad right-of-way bet. New Britain and Newington Junction. I believe this public project, if it moves forward will solidify Connecticut's future as an "economic and cultural cul-de-sac" for years to come. That money instead should be invested in the New Haven-Springfield Amtrak corridor as well as upgrading the 4.4 mile Newington Junction spur to commuter rail track. The investments outlined in the current New Haven-Springfield study do not include direct service to New York City, nor include any grade separation projects. Additional siding, or double-tracking should be incorporated into the New Haven-Springfield corridor with money that would otherwise be spent on the New Britain busway.

Grand Central Terminal doesn't provide motor vehicle parking, neither does the 4-track 125th Street Station; it's primary purpose is to provide train service. That's what New Haven Union Station's primary purpose should be.

Provided parking garages as planners have outlined in an era of declining petroleum production is a reckless expenditure of private money and use of public space.

Richard Stowe

Posted by: dylan | March 6, 2008 6:17 PM

Bravo, Richard. All too often, issues of transit and ecology are viewed as (as a neo-con friend of mine put it) "wussy liberal issues (and that's not even to say that democrats are doing a good job championing sustainable transit options). I hope that more Republicans, like you, begin to realize that sustainable transportation and energy are in line with genuine conservatism and get on board.

Posted by: WestvilleMom | March 6, 2008 11:17 PM

Can I please inject a dose of reality into this discussion without being labeled a "neo-con"? Regarding the whole bicycle/Farmington Canal thing--I drive over the FC trail twice/day and 5 days/week and I rarely see anyone on it unless the weather is warm and fine (not winter.) We lost a great right-of-way for light rail there. As for bicycles, they're fabulous if you're young, fit, childless, have good knees, and don't mind being wet, sweaty, and having bugs in your teeth. And forget being dressed up in nice clothing, wearing a dress, or carrying a large suitcase. My husband used to bike downtown years ago when he was young and childless, too--I get it. And let's not forget the vulnerability of women on bikes after dark and in dangerous neighborhoods. You muscular, young things can have all the bikes you want--I am a courteous driver and support bike paths and all the rest, but I really think you're all making too much of a method of "transit" that has SEVERE limitations for the majority of the population.
Another thing (while I'm at it), New Haven is NOT New York City and never will be. The cars you so disparage are just taxis there---same thing. If we could be a little bit more realistic in discussing the problems of DIVERSE (including suburban/rural) people who also use the trains --not just the young, hip, urban crowd--we could maybe come up with solutions that actually work and are not simply idealistic fantasies.
A concrete suggestion...why not put the airport limo terminal in one of the new buildings so people could connect right to trains? If that's in the plan, I missed it.

Posted by: Ned | March 7, 2008 10:12 AM

Phase one: build a 10,000 car garage adjacent to Union Station; tear out the rr tracks build a quadruple deck freeway with a direct link to the three billion dollar "Q" Bridge; build a ten lane "flyover" from the 10,000 car garage to a new 10,000 car "mid-block" garage, to be built somewhere downtown; build an eight lane tunnel, under the Rt.34 connector, from the mid-block garage, to the second 10,000 car garage, to be built adjacent to the other 10,000 car garage as in phase one. Phase five: build a cloverleaf interchange between the tunnel, "Q" bridge, quadruple deck freeway and the Church St. South connector, with direct exits to I91 Northbound entrance ramps of the new 15 lane I91/I95/Q bridge/Rt.34/Tunnel/Walmart memorial freeway. Phase 2A: build a 24" wide meandering sidewalk, from somewhere to sort of near Union Station; stripe gutter lane with white paint for bicycles, install storm drains, sand and broken glass in "bike lane". Phase 2Ab install Dunkin Donuts, next to methadone clinic and "community center" in vacant storefronts, below subsidized housing, next to parking garage. Estimated completion date 2357.

Posted by: charlie | March 7, 2008 3:42 PM

WestvilleMom, you have obviously never traveled much outside of Westville. The rest of the world uses bicycles en masse - regardless of age, income, gender or ability. Go to other cities and you literally have bicycle traffic jams. You must have a car, right? Well, this might be a wake up call for you but most of the rest of the world doesn't. That's part of the point.

Posted by: WestvilleMom | March 7, 2008 6:02 PM

Charlie--I didn't get my drivers' license or have a car until I was 28 yrs. old---and I'm not originally from New Haven. I don't need to rattle off the countries I've been in. I lived in NYC for 6 years, too. I also spent 28 yrs. standing on frigid city sidewalks waiting for buses and trolleys that seemed to never arrive and watched my poor mother climb down off of buses struggling to juggle multiple heavy bags of groceries...from MY perspective (and probably that of most of the world) cars are the best thing since sliced bread. What is the first thing Indians or Chinese do when they start to get some real money?? a car. That said, I'm as interested as anyone in having an intelligently designed city that functions well with minimal pollution and limited cars. If you had read my post carefully, you would have noticed that I thought the Farm. Canal would have been better put to use as light rail. That's GREEN, my boy. That would have provided a really practical way for LARGE numbers of commuters from the north to come into New Haven without risking their lives on I-91 or sitting through dozens of traffic lights on Whitney Ave. We need to make a distinction between what's GREEN and what's POLITICALLY CORRECT SPEECH. Maybe you want to live like the Chinese---I don't. That doesn't make your opinion any more valid than mine. There really ARE limitations with bicycle commuting and if you don't see that, you're not empathizing very well with those who are not like you. By the way, I certainly don't begrudge you your bike lane. I just think the whole thought process needs to be a little more practical.

Posted by: Like to Bike, but... | March 8, 2008 7:11 AM

I cannot speak for the WestvilleMom, but I've been to cities in 35 American states, and five foreign countries, and while I've seen a good amount of bicycle use, I have not seen these "cycling traffic jams" that Charlie intimates are commonplace occurances.

I do not doubt that New Haven has large numbers of cyclists -- I've seen them and heard them. However, I believe that if the cycling community wants a little more credibility, they should cellect some hard data about the number of cyclists in New Haven. While the New Haven Advocate article can state that there are an estimated 30,000 cars on Whalley in any given day, the only statistic that can be quoted about cyclists is that 1.8 percent of New Haven's population identified themselves as bike commuters in the 2000 census. New Haven's cycling community would do themselves justice if they could accumulate similar specific cyclist-focused data about roadways in the Elm City.

One issue I take with New Haven's cycling community is that many members of that community are quick to be very nasty to people commenting on them, unless these comments acquiesce completely. I understand that this community is a loosely-organized group with no official leader. However, everyone who wants to accomplish bicycle-friendly improvements to our city should practice more than a little tact and kindness when discussing these issues, especially with people who support their objectives. Otherwise, the segment of our city that is ambivalent to these objectives will only grow.

Posted by: Kevin | March 8, 2008 10:50 AM

In defense of WestvilleMom (whoever she is), bikes work for some people some of the time. The places where the proportion of trips made by bike is substantially higher than New Haven (I'm thinking of places like Amsterdam or Davis) have some combination of greater density, better weather, or much higher gas prices). I think the goal should be to give everyone more transportation choices, in part by better articulating transportation modes (including allowing bikes on trains, etc.)

Posted by: DingDong | March 8, 2008 12:11 PM


I think you make some good points which is why a cyclist, like me, is not opposed to expanding parking at Union Station. On the other hand, I hope you agree that a country built almost exclusively around car-usage is inherently unsustainable. One way to go is to increase mass transit (like the proposed streetcar). A cheaper way to go, but not exclusive of the first, is to encourage more cycling. Other cities in the world - Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London, Portland, Ore. have turned biking into a realistic transprotation alternative for people of all ages. People in New Haven say they would cycle more if there were better, safer infrastructure for biking. That explains the concerns expressed by many about bicycling infrastructure above.

As for the concerns of rural and suburban dwellers, yes they should not be overlooked. But part of the point is that a country like ours, where everyone lives in a car-dependent suburbs, is not just not economically or environmentally sustainable. This is a broader reason why current investments should at least not encourage more driving. More narrowly, one of New Haven's chief advantages over other municipalities around here is that it is urban - e.g. walkable, bikable. If New Haven wants to attract a more high-skilled workforce, it should play to its strengths, rather than allowing them to diminished by more and more traffic downtown.
But your concerns are definitely understood by at least one cyclist and I share your desire to keep the discussion as realistic as possible.

Posted by: Edward_H | March 8, 2008 5:00 PM

There would be at least a few more parking spaces if the NHPD was not using the facility at Union Station to store police cars. These cop cars take up prime parking spaces for months on end. Why not let paying customers use these spots

Posted by: WestvilleMom | March 8, 2008 5:33 PM

To Like to Bike, Kevin, & Ding Dong: Your points are well taken and thanks for the support. A broader view, which I failed to articulate, is that one overall goal should be (and is, I believe) to attract more middle-class people and families back to New Haven. From what I've seen, many groups are advocating for visions of New Haven that have the exact opposite effect. Limiting cars may be (and is) a worthy goal, but ELIMINATING parking may have the unintended consequence of turning commuters away from train use and ultimately, New Haven, itself. Coercion, as opposed to encouragement, never works in the long run. As an analogy, look at the school system. The "magnet" school lottery system was supposed to "attract" families, while in actuality "forcing" them to submit to a system that limited real choice, in favor of chance. What this has done is that it has driven hoards of middle-class families (of ALL ethnicities) out of the city. Better to create a "magnet" CITY---one that has what middle-class people and families want and, importantly, does not force them to fit into a culturally narrow mold. Pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly streets can and should be a part of that, but car-hostility will backfire, because the reality is that New Haven, while not New York, is not Amsterdam either. My friends in Arnhem, Netherlands, bike exclusively and don't own a car. But they don't have children, either. And they don't bike to Amsterdam. Their world is highly self-contained, unlike Connecticut and the US in general. So, in conclusion, my general point was simply that making life for people easier and better, rather than worse and more difficult, would result in a better, friendlier, and more livable New Haven for all and would eventually attract a significant number of those suburban refugees back.

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