Opinion | Informal parking audit shows hundreds of empty parking spaces within short walking distance of Conshohocken’s train station and opportunity for a better riverfront

Today we took a ride around the parking lots and garages that line Conshohocken’s riverfront and others. Before we get into this, we want to need to acknowledge a few things first.

  • The results are from one day, Monday, June 26th from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • We did not do an overall count of empty spaces, except for the actual SEPTA parking lot
  • The current trend for hybrid work is that more people go into the office Tuesday through Thursday, than on a Monday
  • We will need to do this several times, on different days, to create a more accurate picture of the parking situation at and around the Conshohocken train station
  • Since the borough’s president recently complained to SEPTA about it’s plan to reevaluate a planned garage, we placed special emphasis on borough-controlled spaces and how they are utilized when it comes to transit
  • Some might consider this a holiday week

We also need to stress that just because there are empty parking spaces in a lot and/or garage tied to an office building doesn’t mean that the office is empty. Conshohocken continues to have a high occupancy rate and there is also a natural un-occupancy rate that occurs with companies moving in and out.

However, as it has been widely reported, since the pandemic many companies are allowing employees to work from home or come into the office at a reduced schedule. So there may be a fluctuating amount of cars in the lots and garages. However, we believe everyone can acknowledge that the math uses prior to the pandemic to determine how many parking spots were needed based on square footage has changed. Less is now needed, so there is too much parking for how offices are currently utilized.

It also has to be acknowledged that the empty spaces we show may not be the right spaces for whatever reason for SEPTA. We are just trying to show that it is not out of the realm of possibility that there are available spaces and the potential for SEPTA and a lot/garage owner to make an agreement.

We are also not taking into consideration the SEPTA/PennDOT parking needs tied to their plan to encourage drivers to get off the Schuylkill Expressway and take the train, That plan should be retired.

We also want to state that this isn’t just about the SEPTA parking garage. We believe that there was a failure at the start of Conshohocken’s redevelopment to give people access to the riverfront. Yes, there is a trail, but there is only a very limited amount of open space and there isn’t a space to gather for anything significant that isn’t on blacktop. Nor is there a riverfront restaurant (which had existed in the past), or even a pavilion. There is now the opportunity to try to fix that mistake (which isn’t the fault of anyone in power today).

But first, the immediate situation is whether there enough parking spaces at the Conshohocken train station and if there isn’t, are there available lots and garages nearby that can help solve this issue.

First we visited the actual SEPTA parking lot. There were 16 spaces empty. Don’t believe us? We took photos.

Across Washington Street from the SEPTA parking lot are four public spots (we didn’t see any signs) along the front of one of the new apartment buildings. Two of the four were empty.

The borough has owned this lot with approximately 20 spaces since May 2022. It is very close to the train station, yet is barricaded and says private parking with the threat of being towed. If there is an immediate need for more parking near the train station, one has to ask why hasn’t the borough opened this lot?

FYI, the borough intends to create a park in this location in the future.

Next we found an empty floor of a parking garage along Stoddard Street just across from the current and new locations of the Conshohocken Train Station. This garage serves 1 West Elm Street and 100 West Elm Street, two office buildings.

Next we drove around to check out the surface and parking garages serving office buildings along the riverfront, thus near the train station. There is a vast amount of empty parking spaces, however, some are further from the train station than others. But it should be noted that these lots and garages are closer to the train station then the two apartment communities below the Matsonford Bridge, and both apartment communities market themselves as walkable to the train station.

Finally, we visited the 150 public parking spaces dedicated to public use (and controlled by the borough) at the parking garage off West Elm Street that is part of SORA West. The public spaces are metered during the day on weekdays and free nights and weekends. The spaces were meant to offer more parking for the downtown business district, but are rarely used in our experience (especially during the day).

This new train station is also approximately just a block away down Oak Street from this garage.

We plan to make further visits in the coming weeks. Keep you posted.

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