Public transportation improvements are the answer to Staten Island, and NYC’s, traffic woes. This is not news to anyone; the city’s been upgrading its public transport infrastructure for over one hundred years.
On Staten Island, the only remaining train line runs from St. George, with a station beneath the Staten Island Ferry terminal, to Tottenville, a sleepy town at the southern-most tip of Staten Island, not too far from Conference House Park.
Many islanders take the train. However, a serious goal should be for many more islanders to do so. To that end, I propose a novel solution to increase ridership: Constructing parking lots and garages over the trenched right-of-way of the Staten Island Railroad.
Presently, some commuters must either walk a mile, get picked up or dropped off, call a car service company, or park their car in the sparsely available spaces on the streets surrounding the stations.
Utilizing the space above the stations that are lower than street grade would add parking without significantly affecting the landscape. And, land around the train is, for the most part, unavailable, as the towns along the train line developed around the rails.
These parking lots would be covered in vegetation along their exterior perimeter, vines and flowers, trees and grasses. The effect would be additional green areas visible from the street, adding to both the aesthetics, and helping clean the air as well.
Walls of stone or finished cinderblock, covered with greenery, would be all that’s visible from the street. Presently, all that’s in these areas are fences, beyond which are the artificially created gulleys where the train tracks pass through, parallel to the street.
To prevent bottlenecks, the lots would have multiple entrance/exit ramps, and street parking elimination would be minimal. Local businesses would also benefit, as the additional parking would make access to restaurants and stores easier for all, not just those commuting. This will revitalize many town centers, from New Dorp to Great Kills.
Of course, other towns where the train passes at street grade, or where the tracks are slightly elevated, might not be good candidates for this sort of project. However, even such areas could benefit from raised parking areas over the tracks.
Are there any negatives to this plan? Not really. We’d be taking cars off the road, whether headed into Manhattan or to the St. George parking areas. Having commuters travel ten blocks, as opposed to ten miles to St. George to park, or twenty miles to the city, is always going to be a better alternative.
And, there could be electric car charging stations, bike rack after bike rack, with space constraints at a minimum, and even small shops.
In many areas of the country, “hanging gardens,” or “deck parks,” as they are often known, are being constructed over highways that were built below street grade. In this instance, the lots would add to the rustic appeal of Staten Island, while helping to ease traffic congestion.
Additionally, some capped rail rights-of-way would also include small parks or children’s playgrounds. While Staten Island, the Borough of Parks, already has more parks than the other boroughs, it might be a positive development to add a few small parks with benches and kids’ areas to the bustling town centers.
An additional benefit would be that shops and stores on either side of the right-of-way for the railroad would be connected, rather than separated by the fencing and passage for the rails.
On an island where space is a premium, we need to utilize every square foot that exists. In areas where parking is practically nonexistent, this would certainly bring new riders to the Staten Island Railroad, as commuters even miles from a station would be able to more easily find a space.
Isn’t this a better alternative than jockeying for a space in from of someone’s home, dealing with notes on windshields and garbage cans and cones pushed up against your unwelcome vehicle? I think so. The numerous benefits outweigh the negative aspects, which only include a slight inconvenience when the car parks are being initially constructed.