If we built village of small streets today, where would we locate it?
One great candidate would be a park-and-ride lot, which is a parking lot located next to a subway, light rail, or commuter rail station. These parking lots do the job of getting some people to use public transit who wouldn’t ordinarily take it.
But that’s just the problem: the people who use park-and-ride lots don’t ordinarily take transit. The reason they have to drive to a train station is that they don’t live near it. That’s why building new neighborhoods next to transit (called transit oriented development in planner lingo) has become popular in the last 10 years. If we built a small streets village next to transit station, then we’d have a whole village of people who could use transit for all of their trips longer than a walk or bicycle ride away.
There are countless park-and-ride lots to consider, but we’ll look at just a couple. Greenbelt Station is located in Maryland at one end of Metro’s Green Line, which goes through Washington, DC and back out to Maryland. If you’ve ever hopped a ride on the Bolt Bus from New York City or the bus from BWI Airport, you may have visited this station.
Greenbelt Station’s parking lot has 3,399 all-day spaces and uses an area of 37 acres. Is that large enough for a village of small streets? Let’s use the village of Jakriborg, Sweden as an example, since that was built next to a train station and we’ve discussed it before.
The whole village of Jakriborg is just 12.5 acres, and over 500 families live there! Do a little basic math and you find that, at the average US household size of 2.6, almost 4,000 people could live in a small streets village that extends no further than the current boundaries of the parking lot. We’d still have plenty of room for buses, taxis, and Zipcars on the edges.
Even the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tel?, Czech Republic fits on the Greenbelt park-and-ride lot. Built during the Renaissance, Tel? is organized around a large town square with small streets surrounding it.
We would of course craft the village to best fit the site. But as you can see, there’s no reason why well over 1,000 people couldn’t live in a village of small streets on the site of a former park-and-ride lot.
There are plenty more park-and-ride lots on Metro. This example at Landover Station is 16 acres in area with 1,866 parking spots. Around 1,600 people could live here in a small streets village. Which would you rather see here? Parking spaces for 1,866 commuters or houses, apartments, shops and restaurants for 1,600 village residents and visitors from all over the DC region?
We’ve invested billions of dollars in providing these sites with a rapid transit system that whisks passengers away every 6 to 20 minutes, from 5 am to 12:30pm weekdays and 7am to 2:30am on weekends. What’s really the best use of this land?
Let’s take these parking lots and build small streets villages.
If you’re curious to find out how many people could live in a small streets village next to a park-and-ride lot near you, use this handy tool to measure the site in Google Maps.