Metro commuting is convenient — except when it comes to parking

Zhang Ningning
Shanghai currently has 14 park-and-ride lots to encourage motorists to ditch their cars in favor of public transport. Some are successful, some are struggling.
Zhang Ningning
Metro commuting is convenient — except when it comes to parking
Zhang Ningning

An overpass connects a park-and-ride lot with Wenshui Road station on Metro Line 1.

Shanghai has built the longest rapid transit system in the world, but it’s still grappling with how to handle commuter parking near Metro stations.

With congestion on the roads getting worse and restrictions placed on cars with out-of-town license plates using certain highways, more commuters are turning to Metro to get to work. 

The city now has 14 park-and-ride lots where motorists can park before hopping on trains. 

Some of the lots are so popular that it’s impossible to find available parking. Others have spaces going begging. Authorities are under pressure to address the disconnect.

To promote mass transit, park-and-ride lots usually charge between 5 and 10 yuan (US$1.50) a day, compared with normal lots that charge up to 15 yuan per hour. 

At the park-and-ride lot near the Songhong Road Station of Metro Line 2, the 290 available spaces are quickly snapped up before 8am.

The oldest park-and-ride lot in Shanghai is near Jinjiang Park Station on Metro Line 1. The six-story parking deck was initially built to serve a nearby office building, with only 72 spaces reserved for Metro users. 

“Every day, all of the park-and-ride spaces are full before 8am,” said a lot worker surnamed Wu. “It’s a real hit among commuters, but we also have to ensure supply for nearby workers first.”

At the other end of Line 1, a three-story park-and-ride lot near Wenshui Road Station is popular with local residents but little used by commuters.

“This parking lot saves me a lot of money,” said a driver surnamed Jiang, who lives near Jiangchang Road W., which is about 3 kilometers from the station. “If I drive to my workplace on Huaihai Road, parking fees would cost me about 100 yuan a day. But here the parking fee is only 10 yuan a day.” 

However, the Shanghai Daily noted that more than two-thirds of about 150 spaces on the parking deck’s third floor were vacant. Most of the some 60 cars parked there belonged not to commuters but to car dealerships housing new models.

The parking deck’s entrance is obscured behind a bus transportation hub, and many residents aren’t aware of its existence.

The park-and-ride lot near Songjiang University Town station on Metro Line 9 has become one of the most popular parking sites in the district after getting off to a slow start.

According to a staffer surnamed Shen, the parking deck has about 330 spaces, and most all of them are fully utilized. “But when it opened in 2010,” he said, “we had only about 20 cars coming in every day.”

Metro commuting is convenient — except when it comes to parking
Zhang Ningning

A park and ride lot near Wenshui Road station on Metro Line 1.

‘Scarce as hens’ teeth’

To publicize the parking, the lot operator expanded media exposure and sent flyers around local neighborhoods.

Local police cracked down on diners from nearby restaurants parking willy-nilly, often blocking or obscuring the entrance to the lot. 

“Since last year, available spaces have become as scarce as hens’ teeth,” Shen said.  

Chen Xiaohong, a transportation engineering professor at Tongji University, said different park-and-ride lots have experienced varying degrees of popularity over the years.

Location is one factor, alongside developments of transport and new communities. “Authorities need to carefully study where to put park-and-ride lots,” Chen said. “And they need to evaluate the usage of current lots.”

If parking is underutilized, Chen added, “research needs to be done to determine why, and measures need to be introduced to improve the situation. Or convert the parking lot for other purposes if there’s no parking need.”

Environmentally friendly transport modes besides Metro also need to be factored in, such as bike sharing and buses that can connect communities and workplaces near Metro stations. Anything to get people out of polluting internal-combustion machines.

According to the city’s plan for 2040, residents in downtown areas will have a Metro station within 600 meters of their homes. 

Lu Huiyu, a political adviser to the city, says parking management is a key function in Shanghai’s overall transportation planning.

Metro commuting is convenient — except when it comes to parking
Zhang Ningning

A park-and-ride lot near the Songjiang University Town station on Metro Line 9 took years to catch on with local residents. Now it's the most popular parking spot in the district.

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