DOT vs. “TOD” Showdown At Union Station

CHAPaul Bass PhotoThe outgoing Malloy administration was at Union Station Tuesday putting plans for a new parking garage on a fast track, while the incoming Lamont administration signaled it wants to hear more from New Haveners calling to slow the construction train.

Those were the latest developments in the decades-long saga of a planned second garage to handle the overflow of cars at the train station.

New Haven officials have pressed the state to build a second garage since the early days of the Rowland administration in the 1990s. Outgoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy finally delivered on getting the project funded — and received an earful from both government officials and active citizens who trashed the design and sought a retail and/or bus depot component. The state retooled the design a bit. (Read about that here.)

In its waning weeks in office, Malloy’s Department of Transportation (DOT) is moving the plan forward as quickly as possible. Toward that end, officials showed up in Union Station at rush hour Tuesday for a “listening” session with commuters, a necessary step toward advancing their latest design of the planned seven-story, 1,015-space garage planned on what is now a 260-space surface lot at the train station. They say they expect a final design approval by the coming spring and the beginning of construction bidding in the fall.

But by that time, the DOT, which has become a a dirty word in much of New Haven for its neglect of the bus system and perceived car-oriented (versus pedestrian or bike-friendly) road designs, will have a new boss: Gov.-Elect Ned Lamont, who takes office Jan. 9.

Lamont’s lieutenant-governor-elect, Susan Bysiewicz, was asked Tuesday about demands from prominent development voices in New Haven to halt the garage project and from Mayor Toni Harp at least to modify it to include more “transit-oriented development” (TOD) like apartments or offices and/or stores.

Bysiewicz said the incoming administration is ready to listen.

Meanwhile, at the same time as the DOT “listening” session” at the train station, New Haven’s Development Commission was meeting a few blocks away. Members made clear that they see the new Malloy/DOT garage design as old thinking that should never see the light of the day.

DOT vs. TOD

 

Bysiewicz fielded the garage question during an appearance on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven program,” during which she also outlined her plans to link state businesses with foreign trading partners and to ensure an accurate U.S. census count in office. (In the interview, Bysiewicz also demonstrated her uncanny command of Connecticut retail politics by correctly identifying, in a pop quiz, the name of the Democratic town chair of the town of Scotland, Susan Smith, as well as the current state of the town committee).

In general, it was too early for her to weigh in on specifics of the new administration’s plans for issues important to New Haven, beyond promising “transparency.”

But she said she did want to weigh in on the garage question with a general commitment to TOD.

“I’ll say that this probably always happens: At the end of an administration, an administration has some projects that it they want to keep pushing through because they have made some commitments,” Bysiewicz said. “The new administration may have different opinions.”

She attributed New Haven’s revival in part on its commitment to TOD, singling out the construction of the “Green” 360 State St. tower across from the State Street train station and the attendant foot traffic and business development. She noted plans for new apartments near Meriden’s new train station, and spoke of the boom in housing near stations in Fairfield and Norwalk: “They’ve seen huge numbers of people move into new apartments that are literally within a block.”

“Ned and I have been clear that we want to encourage transit-oriented development,” Bysiewicz said. “And we want to work with the chief elected officials on this.”

Suburban Commuters vs. Cityfolk

CHAAt a “listening session” at the train station on Tuesday morning, opinions remained split.

“Fix mass transit so people can get to Union Station without a car,” declared one committed bike rider who regularly commutes on two wheels from her home in Fair Haven Heights.

Make room for more cars by building a second garage, said one Meriden commuter who can never find parking on Wednesday afternoons because drivers have parked in big numbers to catch the train down to Manhattan for the Broadway theater matinees.

 

DOT officials heard those two poles of opinion, and a good many in between, from about 20 commuters between 6 and 9 a.m. during their first round of interviews at the train station.

Project engineer John Wyskiel and Jeff Parker, from the design firm CHA Consulting, stood in the western alcove of the station’s main hall during Tuesday morning’s rush hour with placards illustrating the proposed structure, a sign-in sheet to receive mailings and requests to leave comments. They and other DOT officials planned to conduct a second listen Tuesday evening between 5 and 9 p.m.

It’s not a formal public commenting session; there have been several of those in the run-up to the current configuration. But Parker said public input will be accepted through Jan. 8, and the best way to offer it is to write the project engineer .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call at 860-594-3303.

The Fair Haven Heights bike rider, who did not want to be identified, conceded the need for more parking space at Union Station. But he called the new design “a big hulking structure” that’s outdated, from the point of view of transit-oriented-development, even before it’s built.

Jeff Parker, from the DOT design firm, estimated that of the 20 people he interacted with during the three-hour session, about a dozen gave high marks to the proposed garage, largely because of the new capacity.

Allan Appel PhotoCarolyn Gould, of North Haven, said she likes likes the proposed new ease of parking, although she expressed an aesthetic reservation: To build the new garage on the other, the southern side of the existing Union Station, would give the entire configuration better balance, she said.

Supporters of the new garage sampled Tuesday seemed to be largely non-New Haven residents, while skeptics appeared to be Elm City dwellers.

An exception was Westvillian Todd Foley. He commutes to the station on his bike from Westville. He said he likes that the revised DOT plan nearly doubles the number of bike paring spaces to 240 and brings the that whole feature indoors. “Bikes now get wet,” he said, then rushed off across the center of the station’s great hall to catch his train.

Hausladen Crashes The Party

While Parker and Wyskiel chatted with commuters, city Transit and Parking Authority Chief Doug Hausladen showed up and carried on a spirited conversation about the wisest use of $60 million with Chris Bonsignore, DOT’s principal engineer for facilities design, who dropped by around 8 a.m.

Hausladen noted the absence of any street-level commercial space in the new building. Bonsignore and Parker both said that had been explored but according to current flood maps, the entire station is in a floodplain. So any new commercial site would have to be elevated three to four feet, with access from higher up within the parking structure.

Hausladen expressed skepticism about that point, as commercial development has been a long-time reality in Long Wharf, for example.

New commercial development?” said Wyskiel.

“I know you guys have a big drainage plan in the works” for the whole downtown and Long Wharf area, added Bonsignore.

Parker was at pains to point out some new features in the plan, touching on new urbanism’s street activation mantra, that even skeptics of the proposed plan might not have noticed. Parker said the designers are taking into consideration the Union Avenue Complete Streets application, which foresees, for example, a bike lane, and lots of pedestrian traffic. To that end, a canopy has been added in the design over a widened sidewalk area on Union Avenue. He also pointed out room on either side of the driveway into the new structure, where kiosks or pop-up stores might plant themselves.

The street and sidewalk under the canopy on Union Avenue might lend themselves also to food trucks and other non-permanent commercial activity.

Hausladen remained unsold. He questioned, as have Development Commission member Pedro Soto and New Haven Urban Design League President Anstress Farwell, the pedestrian bridge linking the new garage to the old and then by elevators down to the tracks.

“That’s a $30 million bridge that will bypass the station,” he said. “And a pedestrian bridge that doesn’t go to Long Wharf, by, for example, a tunnel. This idea well might be a missed opportunity of gargantuan proportions.”

Hausladen’s point: By bypassing the interior of the station, the envisioned pedestrian bridges divert potential customers for retail outlets. Hausladen said that the station is poised to send out a request for proposals to help re-brand the station and to reconceive the commercial experience there. “All our tenancies are month to month,” he added.

He estimated that the whole re-branding and internal re-design process could cost between $5 and $10 million. The city currently has no money to pay for that, he said. He’d like to think that might come out of $60 million saved by not building the garage, or at least from the $30 million portion of the pedestrian bridge.

Hausladen also pointed out the sorry state of sidewalks on Route One/Water Street. “With 692 cars at rush hour, how do the police handle this?” he asked rhetorically.  “We’d [also] like to spend some of this $60 million in the Hill rather than for this antiquated, carbon-based mobility technology that we will be embarrassed to tell our grandchildren we participated in.”

Hausladen and the DOT officials spoke politely. But the city’s irritation, diplomatically managed in the person of Hausladen, was palpable. “Sixty million for 692 [net additional] parking spots. That’s $60,000 per spot,” he declared.

Parker said the official comment period for this, the 60 percent design phase of the project, will end on Jan. 8. The 90 percent design will be finalized, he added, in the first quarter of next year.

“This is a call for the new governor in the first 100 days: What’s the vision?” Hausladen said. “20th or 21st century?”

Commission Position

Thomas Breen PhotoOver at City Hall, members of the Development Commission answered that question.

The proposed new Union Station parking garage took up the latter 20 minutes of the meeting, held on the second floor of City Hall.

New Haven Urban Design League President Anstress Farwell pitched the commissioners on the environmental, economic development and traffic congestion downsides to the state’s proposal to build the second garage.

She said the $60 million projected cost for the new garage could be better spent on converting downtown roads from one-way to two-way; on rebuilding State Street to be more amenable to pedestrians, bicyclists, and retailers; and even on building a trolley that would connect Union Station and downtown.

“There are a million and one things that that money could be used for” other than building a new thousand-space garage, she said. “We don’t want to put money into something that’s harmful.”

Acting Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli said his office is most concerned with ensuring that the state follows through on the commitments it made to the city in 2017 when state Office of Policy and Management (OPM) Secretary Benjamin Barnes and Mayor Toni Harp struck a deal to extend the city’s lease on managing the current Union Station garage.

Some of those promises, he said, include bicycle and pedestrian improvements to Water Street; an effort to “remerchandise” the existing Union Station garage, adding new retailers to make that garage a better customer experience; as well as provide the complete proposed designs for the new garage for city review. Piscitelli said the city only received the final proposed designs for the new garage on Friday, and that his office has not yet had time to review them.

The rest of the Development Commission was less sanguine on the prospect of taking a prime piece of downtown real estate and turning it into a seven-story parking garage.

“When you really start to look into this,” Development Commission Chair Pedro Soto said, “the [state’s] rationale starts getting weaker and weaker and weaker.” He suggested the state should consider building the garage at the new West Haven Metro-North train station instead.

Development Commissioner John Martin said he is skeptical that a new garage will fit well with other proposed developments in the area, like a new residential and commercial complex planned for the former site of Church Street South.

“We’re really gonna be kicking ourselves in five to 10 years,” he said, if New Haven is stuck with a big hulking parking garage in the middle of a hopefully revitalized pedestrian and public transit-oriented community around Union Station.

 

An earlier version of this article follows:

Message To Lamont: Ditch Station Garage

CHA ConsultingAs the state prepares to return to New Haven for feedback on a planned new Union Station garage, some leading local voices are questioning much of the idea — or whether it makes sense to build it at all.

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) has two “listening sessions” planned for Tuesday, one at morning rush hour, the other at evening rush hour, on the planned seven-story, 1,015-space garage planned on what is now a 260-space surface at the train station. Click here for details on the events.

New Haven officials have pressed the state to build a second garage since the early days of the Rowland administration in the 1990s. Outgoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy finally delivered on getting the project funded — and received an earful from both government officials and active citizens who trashed the design and sought a retail and/or bus depot component. The state retooled the design a bit. (Read about that here.)

Now at least two prominent voices in New Haven’s development debates are asking Gov.-Elect Ned Lamont to consider ditching the project and using the $60 million budgeted for it in other ways to improve mass transit and public access to the waterfront.

The message came from Pedro Soto, who chairs city government’s Development Commission; and Urban Design League President Anstress Farwell. The delivered the message during an appearance on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program.

Paul Bass PhotoOn “Dateline,” Farwell and Soto argued that times and needs have changed, and that instead of more parking, the station needs “transit-oriented development” like new housing, offices, and/or stores right by the rail line. They also advocated for using the $60 million allocated for the garage to improve bus service in town, to link the station to Long Wharf through either a walk way above or a tunnel below the train tracks. (Click here to read an 11-page summary on the issue Farwell previously prepared.)

Farwell also argued that a commercial building on the site planned for the new garage would produce tax revenue and bring more activity to the area.

Mayor Toni Harp Monday said she’d like to hear more about Farwell’s and Soto’s argument.

 

On her latest appearance on WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program, she said her understanding is that the state DOT is gung-ho about advancing the garage project in the last days of the Malloy administration. “They’re going to move forward with it no matter what we do,” Harp remarked. “I honestly believe they’re building the garage for their workers” at the rail yard.

From the outset, she noted, “we always wanted other things” in the garage besides auto parking. Like Farwell and Soto, Harp said she believes a commercial building could be a good idea on that lot, given plans to rebuild housing on the former Church Street South lot across the street.

She did note that when she drives to Union Station to take a train, the existing lot is often full. So for now there seems to be a need for more parking, she said. However, with predictions that people may rely less on personal cars in the future, the garage plan as it exists may be outdated.

DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said Monday that the department did hold a discussion with Harp several months ago about expediting the project.

“Semi-final plans were delivered to the City last week,” Everhart reported. “The Union Avenue streetscape and bike/ped/bus/taxi/parking layout in front of the station/garage remains unresolved.”

Everhart said rail yard employees have ample parking in the rail yard itself and would not be parking in a new garage.

Final plans for the garage are due this coming spring, according to Everhart, and bidding could begin in the fall.

Click on the video above to watch the full episode of WNHH FM’s Mayor Monday.”

 

Click on the video above to watch the discussion with Farwell and Soto on “Dateline New Haven,” which also covered the legacy of departing city Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson and where they’d like to see development heading in town now.

This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem Moses P.C.

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posted by: Noteworthy on December 10, 2018  2:48pm

Typical New Haven Notes:

Message to the State: Shut up and give us your money.

posted by: Cove'd on December 10, 2018  5:25pm

This should be TOD/mixed-use focused, with perhaps no new parking at all.  Truth be told, the system should be set up so that anyone who wants to take the train out of Union Station can and should get there by another form of transit (or walking / biking) - e.g. take the Hartford Line or Shore Line East, or local bus, down to Union Station to make a connection/transfer to Amtrak or Metro North—- which generally means we need more frequent service on these transit services overall.  Times are changing, and more parking at Union Station will mean more automobile traffic and congestion into and out of the center of New Haven.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on December 10, 2018  8:32pm

Noteworthy, it’s not that simple. The state will, in all likelihood, finance the project with 20-year bonds. In effect, it is betting that transportation will not change significantly in that period. I doubt we will see autonomous vehicles in the next couple of years. But I would be willing to bet you a drink that they will be common before the bonds are paid off.  As they do, car ownership will become less of a necessity and the economics of parking garages will become more problematic. Even now, it is often cheaper to take Uber or Lyft to and from the station than it is to park there.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on December 10, 2018  9:02pm

I honestly believe that the more activity there is at Union Station the better it would be. I also believe that improving public transit will reduce the need for more parking. The whole idea of this is basically to better connect people to places while reducing traffic congestion in the area at the same time. Not the other way around.

— I think that both State Street and Union Avenue should become more pedestrian and bike friendly corridors to better connect people who are either on foot or on a bike to the train stations. Bike lanes and more crosswalks for pedestrians are definitely needed! I personally think that it would make sense for there to be a shuttle or a newly planned streetcar system that would go to the Long Wharf area from Downtown. Which would allow for riders to go the train station or any other popular destination in the area.

posted by: mcg2000 on December 10, 2018  10:12pm

Not everyone who uses Union Station lives in New Haven. What about all the folks who don’t live in New Haven and drive their cars to Union Station to take a train? Chances are there isn’t quick and convenient public transportation from their homes to Union Station. Look at it this way: these folks could drive to Union Station and then take a train or just forget about Union Station and drive for their whole trip.

posted by: Noteworthy on December 10, 2018  10:41pm

What should be built there should meet current and future needs. Right now, we need the parking garage particularly if this corridor has more commerce and more “stitching” going on. That means people will drive. As for driverless cars - even if they become normal in the next ten years - many in New Haven will not be able to afford them and many of us will still prefer to drive ourselves - which means the old driver in the seat cars will still be in vogue. I wouldn’t build something for George Jetson just yet. We don’t need dreamers. We need practical and rational solutions. And we as a city, need to quit bitching every time the state offers us free money. Good lord, we can’t even build the freaking ice rink in less than three years because we have no money and no expertise so we have to wait on grants and partnerships with special interest groups to sell off a piece of ourselves. So - say yes to the state, take the money and quit talking this thing to death.

posted by: Esbey on December 10, 2018  10:56pm

There is room for a both the garage and also a huge amount of transit oriented development near the station.

The state will make money on this deal, as the revenue from the garage will easily pay off the bonds. The same is not true of the other plans that Farwell suggests and for that reason the state will not fund her alternative ideas.

posted by: btoller on December 10, 2018  11:41pm

Has it fallen on deaf eyes and ears that there is a major development potentially underway eradicating a HUGE parking that many use for train parking where the Coliseum once stood? Every time I WALK, BIKE or RIDESHARE past the current parking lot it is ALWAYS full. There are plenty of other places to “develop” in New Haven.

posted by: Bill Saunders on December 11, 2018  2:03am

Quinnchonn,

Dominoes should open a franchise!

posted by: mohovs on December 11, 2018  10:36am

It is simply a horrible design that does nothing to improve the pedestrian experience. Building a building of that scale and neglecting to accommodate, bikes, retail and buses is just poor urban planning. Sadly something New Haven is too much experience at.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on December 11, 2018  10:58am

@mcg2000,

Not everyone who lives in other towns need to come to Union Station to take a train… It really depends on how far they have to travel to get to where they’re going. Other nearby towns have train stations as well.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on December 11, 2018  1:51pm

Noteworthy, the state should address current as well as future needs, and parking at the station needs to be expanded. But transportation technologies and markets have evolved since ConnDOT originally designed the new garage. Autonomous vehicle features like automatic braking systems are available on current models. A 2018 Toyota Camry is hardly the Jetsons. If, as you suggest, autonomous vehicles become common in ten years, the state is going to have a hard time paying off the bonds it used to finance the garage. Reducing the scale of the garage and adding some on-site retail is probably in the interest of both the state and the city.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 11, 2018  3:55pm

posted by: mcg2000 on December 10, 2018 10:12pm

Not everyone who uses Union Station lives in New Haven. What about all the folks who don’t live in New Haven and drive their cars to Union Station to take a train? Chances are there isn’t quick and convenient public transportation from their homes to Union Station. Look at it this way: these folks could drive to Union Station and then take a train or just forget about Union Station and drive for their whole

But I heard a lot of people from new haven use west haven train station.

posted by: jepadilla on December 11, 2018  5:33pm

When I was on the Parking Commission we were arguing this second garage with the state—and that was 10 years ago.  One thing or another often got in the way of a deal—who would build it, manage it, etc.  But this design the State is offering is horrible.  It’s a monstrous garage that when built will not look like the rendering—go look at the proposed site, it will be a tight fit.  All predictions about future driving patterns aside, a second garage at Union Station is needed yesterday, but we can’t let the state rush to build and minimize the needs of the city and its residents in the final design.  We’ll be the ones living with the garage.  On another note, when I go to NYC during the week I use the West Haven station to park.  It’s getting harder and harder to find a spot!  Seems everyone has caught on.

posted by: robn on December 11, 2018  8:39pm

$60,000 per space is about 4x too much. Huge taxpayer ripoff.
PS (sound of an eraser flying through the air and hitting the table)

posted by: Noteworthy on December 11, 2018  8:53pm

A large parking garage - meeting the needs of people commuting to NYC and points South do not meet the needs of the city? The city doesn’t know what it needs. It knows what it wants - and endless side order of state cash and debt. More and more - and by the way, we want our people to manage it so they can pilfer the profits and give it back to the city to pay for its operating deficits. Like a spoiled child - it’s never enough.

posted by: missthenighthawks on December 11, 2018  9:22pm

Additional parking is sorely needed for the train station which is a transit hub for the whole area.  We shouldn’t be sending people to West Haven to park their cars and thereby avoid downtown altogether.  Downtown needs to bring more traffic into the area, not less. Walking and biking are not the answer for most people, especially those who don’t live downtown, are older, or who are bringing luggage for their travels. The state has the funding - let’s use it.

posted by: Westville voter on December 11, 2018  9:25pm

Making it as irritating and difficult as possible to come to and go from New Haven is probably not the best development strategy. Just build the garage. It should have been done 20 years ago. New Haven would be so much better of if it had been.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on December 11, 2018  11:23pm

@missthenighthawks,

— I think you’re somewhat right, but not completely.

— You’re right about there being a need for additional parking for more people who drive to take the train from Union Station, but in a city like New Haven it would be wise to think that walking, biking or taking public transit would be better than driving. If that’s truly the case then there really shouldn’t be a high demand for more parking. To be completely honest with you— I’d think that in the next 10 or 20 years (if the garage is built) it will most likely be a HUGE waist of money. Especially if the public transit system improves tremendously by that time or sooner. In the long term I would say that the city would do better by building more apartments, offices and storefronts. Another big parking garage would defeat the purpose.

posted by: mcg2000 on December 12, 2018  2:14am

The public transportation just isn’t there yet for many people to take it to and from Union Station, whether they live in neighboring towns (which do not all have train stations of their own like Hamden or North Haven) or in New Haven itself, especially on Sundays, and especially late at night or early in the morning. For example, those who live in Beaver Hill or Westville would find it difficult to impossible to catch a convenient bus Sunday night to their neighborhood from Union Station. I live in downtown and Sunday night service is so infrequent from Union Station to downtown that if I don’t want to or am unable to walk downtown, I have to rely on taxis, Ubers or Lyfts to get home.

posted by: Morgan Barth on December 12, 2018  7:57am

NHI -

Gosh, I’m not sure how NH should proceed. It’s rare to have a “shovel-ready” project that the state is willing to pay for. Clearly we need more parking - the lot is almost always full by 7:30 AM.  I know a shuttle runs to the off-site parking - which will hopefully be developed.  I don’t want New Haven to sacrifice a good project because it’s not great.  It seems like a reasonable compromise to make sure the design includes some retail and a bus terminal.  Remember the parking is for a train station - so when the TOD people say there’s too much care-oriented development they need to remember that more parking here means less driving on 95!

posted by: Cove'd on December 12, 2018  10:57am

Lets not forget, there is also the parking garage between Meadow and S.Orange at Union/Columbus Ave: https://www.google.com/maps/@41.2987572,-72.9262577,84a,35y,39.57t/data=!3m1!1e3

Also, if the coliseum site parking lot ever gets redeveloped, chances are a new parking garage will be included there so that parking won’t necessarily be lost.

But in the bigger picture, people who are most likely going to park at a new 2nd Union Station garage are motorists who live in Hamden, East Haven, or one of the outer New Haven neighborhoods.  A new Hartford Line station is in design to be built in North Haven supposedly near the Route 40 connector that should serve that area.  Folks in Branford and east should take Shoreline East to connect with Amtrak/MN at Union Station.  Folks that live in West Haven & Woodbridge, well they’ll mostly use the West Haven MN Station.—- If we want to really address traffic congestion, we should make it so people find it most convenient to use whatever station is closest to their house.  The $60M may very well be better used towards increasing the frequency of trains so someone can take shoreline east from Branford or the Hartford Line from Meriden, for examples, to connect more easily & quickly with Metro North or Amtrak at NHV Union Station.  For the folks in Hamden, East Haven and outer New Haven neighborhoods, likewise the money might be better used towards beefing up the CTtransit bus system so bus lines run more efficiently and frequently. 

One more thing - who will be in charge of maintaining the garage over the years?  The State or New Haven?

posted by: Brian Tang on December 12, 2018  11:49am

Wouldn’t it be great if the commuter from Meriden had the option of parking at a train station in Meriden, taking a train from there, and transferring to Metro North at Union Station? Oh wait, they can! It’s called the Hartford Line! Why not invest the cost of this garage in expanding that service so people don’t have to drive to New Haven? I’m glad more and more people share this vision.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on December 12, 2018  11:59am

Gosh darn, what is wrong with you all?

I truly appreciate “kill your car” thinking, but if we want New Haven to be a thriving regional hub, we need to make our NYC/Fairfield County Metro-North connection as user-friendly as possible. That means having sufficient parking, at the station.

The idea that there are better uses for this parcel is absurd. It abuts a noisy rail yard, and is not geared for office or residential.

Downtown New Haven isn’t geared for families. We need to make it convenient for the professional spouse commuting to Stamford or New York, if we are going to attract the shakers and movers that can drive our local economy forward.

posted by: Cove'd on December 12, 2018  12:35pm

Thriving regional hubs do not necessarily thrive on parking.  While parking is a fact of life, thriving urban hubs like Boston, NYC, DC, Seattle, etc thrive because people can get around without a car.

posted by: wendy1 on December 12, 2018  1:45pm

Please 86 the ugly garage and allow 24/7 warming for homeless.

posted by: Perspective on December 12, 2018  1:54pm

Hausladen also pointed out the sorry state of sidewalks on Route One/Water Street. “With 692 cars at rush hour, how do the police handle this?” he asked rhetorically.  “We’d [also] like to spend some of this $60 million in the Hill rather than for this antiquated, carbon-based mobility technology that we will be embarrassed to tell our grandchildren we participated in.”

“New Haven Urban Design League President Anstress Farwell pitched the commissioners on the environmental, economic development and traffic congestion downsides to the state’s proposal to build the second garage.”
She said the $60 million projected cost for the new garage could be better spent on converting downtown roads from one-way to two-way; on rebuilding State Street to be more amenable to pedestrians, bicyclists, and retailers; and even on building a trolley that would connect Union Station and downtown.


Seems like the money was earmarked to improve the parking situation at Union station not to address New Haven’s infrastructure issues.  Keep in mind as motor vehicles move from ‘carbon based’ fuels they will still need parking spaces. I agree it would make sense to make Union station a hub for buses,trains,etc. but to think that cars will become obsolete and Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure will be mature enough in 20 years to enable people not living in New Haven to get to the New Haven train station without their car is overly optimistic.

posted by: 1644 on December 12, 2018  4:58pm

Kevin: What’s the connection between autonomous cars and the need for a car?  I would think the ability to put a car on auto-pilot would make driving more attractive, lessening demand for public transportation.  If my car drives itself, I can relax or work, or snooze as I commute, just as I can with a black car. An individual car then becomes more attractive than the train.  For travel to the city, though, I expect there would be congestion pricing, so I would pretty much continue to do what I do now: drive to Fairfield Metro, than take the train to the city.  Off-peak, it’s faster for me to drive to Fairfield than take the train, and parking is only $6 (vice $14-25 at New Haven). As it is, most folks I know in the suburbs, and a few in Westville, own multiple cars for multiple purposes.  We have cars for daily commuting, for going to the dump, jeeps for snow days, and two-seat convertibles for sunny summer days. I suppose, like a well trained horse, I could send an autonomous auto back to the barn after it drops me at the train station, but I would have to trust it to be ready at my return if I didn’t park it.

posted by: robn on December 12, 2018  5:42pm

I agree that this money would be much more meaningfully spent converting our streets to two way. I think I recall Housladen thinking that $15M would be needed which is a fraction of this cost and far more meaningful.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on December 12, 2018  9:27pm

1644, reasonable points and I do not pretend to have a crystal ball. But in my initial post, I said that autonomous vehicles will make car ownership less of a necessity, not obsolete. Undoubtedly, many people will continue to own cars. But the total cost of car ownership, including depreciation and insurance, is quite high The IRS business mileage rate is just under 55 cents per mile, indicating a total cost of about $6,500 for a vehicle driven 12,000 miles per year. Autonomous vehicles may not be 100% dependable (neither is my car). But the combination of them, Uber/Lyft, and Zipcars will be a cost-effective alternative for many people.

I suspect the pro forma of a garage that has an 80% average occupancy level is rather different than one with a 90% occupancy level. Not to sound like a Republican, but I think the state needs to be prudent in investing tens of millions of dollars in a structure that cannot readily be converted to other uses.