SEPTA planning to spend over $48 million on a parking garage at its Conshohocken Station

In January 2022, reported that SEPTA planned to construct a parking garage to serve its Conshohocken Station. We now know the cost. SEPTA has projected to spend $48,330,000 to increase the number of available parking spaces at its Conshohocken Station from 118 to 528 spaces (or 410 additional spots). Each additional spot is projected to cost $117,878.

This is a separate budget from that of the actual station which is currently in the process of being moved slightly upriver and upgraded.

We came across this figure on Twitter, from a tweet by Daniel Trubman, MPP, whose account focuses on urban finance, governance, land-use, and transit. We checked his math and he is correct.

SEPTA’s proposed capital budget for 2024 describes the parking project in Conshohocken as follows:

In support of PennDOT’s I-76 Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) Program, this project provides for design, property acquisition, and construction of a multi-level smart parking facility. This project will increase available parking from 118 to 528 spaces. SEPTA is forecasted to receive $10 million in Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program dollars to support this project. Design was completed in 2022.

SEPTA had been planning several parking projects in the region, but the Conshohocken Station is the only one that is currently slated to move forward. According to SEPTA, the others are being reevaluated due to declining ridership post-pandemic. The Conshohocken Station is different than the others as it is tied to PennDOT’s plan (I-76 Integrated Corridor Management Program) to encourage drivers on I-76 to take the Conshohocken exit and take the train into the city. Signage along the interstate would tell drivers about the availability of parking and the train schedule.

Questions that should be asked…

If SEPTA ridership is down due to the impacts of the pandemic (people working from home), doesn’t that mean that traffic during rush hour should be down as well? So if this trend continues, is the garage needed? According to SEPTA, it has only achieved 75% of its pre-pandemic ridership.

While Conshohocken’s office buildings still have a healthy occupancy rate (meaning the space is leased), that doesn’t mean the space is being used. Drive through any of the corporate parking garages and you see hundreds of empty spaces. We were recently part of a conversation involving an office property owner and it involved how office property owners are likely going to need to eventually monetize their properties in different ways. Has SEPTA had a conversation with the owners of any of the existing garages? If it can pause all of its other plans for parking improvements, it can take time to see if shared parking agreements can be obtained in Conshohocken.

And most importantly, does anyone seriously think (besides SEPTA and PennDOT) that someone will decide to get off the highway, park in Conshohocken, and take the train into the city? Or at least, enough people to make the construction of the $48 million garage and the other infrastructure (signage, etc.) a wise investment?

History of the project…

Below we have the page from recent capital budgets and the 2024 proposal capital budget, so you can follow the progression of the project.

From SEPTA’s Capital Budget 2020-2024
From SEPTA’s Capital Budget 2021-2025
From SEPTA’s Capital Budget 2023-2027
From SEPTA’s Capital Budget 2022-2026
From SEPTA’s Proposed Capital Budget for 2024

Images: SEPTA