In a discussion on the Transport Politic blog, “Chris” wrote on April 25, 2011, in part
“[…]Unfortunately, unlike in New York, Metrolink usually decides to place their stations in the middle of nowhere instead of in populated areas for the ease of providing parking.”
Is this true? Are Metrolink stations deliberately located where there is nothing within walking distance?
Using data from the Metrolink website, I made an Excel spreadsheet containing the name of each station, which of the six Metrolink lines it serves, which county it is in, the number of parking spaces, and its “Walk Score” number. More on that in a moment.
Excluded from this analysis are the following
- Los Angeles Union Station. It is primarily a destination and transfer point for the vast majority of Metrolink riders. (As more people reside in Downtown Los Angeles, it may take on a future role as an originating station…)
- San Clemente Pier. Served only by a couple of weekend trains
- Los Angeles County Fairgrounds and California Speedway: Served only a few days per year.
With these exclusions, the total number of Metrolink stations (as of 5/1/2011) is 54. Many of these stations are shared between two or more Metrolink lines. For example, both the Glendale and Burbank stations are served by both the Ventura County Line and the Antelope Valley Line.
Since the vast majority of Metrolink passengers drive to the station and park, nearly all stations have parking available. I obtained parking lot figures from the Metrolink station web pages. Two stations (San Clemente and Norwalk-Santa Fe Springs) did not give the number of spaces: I obtained numbers for those stations from newspaper articles.
The total number of parking spaces at all 54 Metrolink stations is 21,629; the average number of parking spots per station is 401. The two stations without any dedicated Metrolink parking at all are Burbank Airport (not counting the airport’s own parking lots) and Cal State Los Angeles (again, not counting campus parking). Burbank Airport and Cal State are meant as destination stations anyway.
The station with the largest parking lot (most number of spaces) is Montclair, at 1600 spaces. Irvine is #2 (1500 spaces) and Industry is #3 (1000 spaces). Montclair and Irvine are major bus transit hubs as well as Metrolink stops.
To return to the original question: Are Metrolink stations “out in the middle of nowhere?” Although I could check Google Maps for businesses and services within walking distance of each station, I instead chose to take advantage of Walk Score, which tries to determine the walkability of a given address by counting how many destinations (shops, restaurants, bars, schools, parks, etc..) are within walking distance. Certain road configurations (such as block length) are also taken into account in calculating the neighborhood’s score. Walk Scores, ranging between 0 and 100, indicate how easy it is to perform various errands in a neighborhood by walking:
90–100 Walker’s Paradise — Daily errands do not require a car.
70–89 Very Walkable — Most errands can be accomplished on foot.
50–69 Somewhat Walkable — Some amenities within walking distance.
25–49 Car-Dependent — A few amenities within walking distance.
0–24 Car-Dependent — Almost all errands require a car.
Walk Score is not perfect: its scores are based on where one can walk to various shops and services, not necessarily on whether one would like to walk or even should walk. See http://www.walkscore.com/how-it-doesnt-work.shtml for a list of limitations. For example, the Orange and Chatsworth Metrolink stations both get a Walk Score of 80. I’ve been to both: the area around the Orange station is very walkable; leaving the Chatsworth station on foot requires a long walk from the platform to the street, then (most likely) a walk across busy Devonshire Blvd, then perhaps a traipse through a parking lot to get anywhere….
The systemwide average Walk Score for all 54 stations is 66 (“Somewhat Walkable”) 31 stations, or 57% of all stations, have a Walk Score of 66 or higher. Only 14 stations (26 %) have a Walk Score of 50 or lower (“Car Dependent.”)
There was no correlation between parking lot size and Walk Score (see the graph in the spreadsheet).
Here are the stations with the top ten Walk Scores:
[Note: I will make links to the associated Walk Score pages in the near future. -CPH]
Claremont (400 spaces, Walk Score 98)
When Walk Score says that downtown Claremont is a “Walker’s Paradise,” they mean it. All sorts of shops, restaurants, banks, public services (post office, library) and the Claremont Colleges too. Need to get away? Grab a Foothill #480 to Pomona or West Covina, or #187 or #690 to Pasadena….
San Juan Capistrano (103 spaces, Walk Score 97)
Even if the swallows are not around, there is plenty that is reachable with a short walk from the station.
Fullerton (510 spaces, Walk Score 95)
From the platform you are just steps away from downtown Fullerton, with its choices of restaurants, bars and other entertainment.
Oxnard (75 spaces, Walk Score 94)
Again, a station right smack dab downtown. Too bad Metrolink doesn’t offer any reverse commute or midday service there…
Newhall (150 spaces, Walk Score 89)
This is “Old Town Santa Clarita,” so to speak. While most of Santa Clarita is typical suburban, Newhall is very accessible via foot. The Newhall Metrolink station is also a bus hub for the local Santa Clarita Transit buses.
Oceanside (450 spaces, Walk Score 89)
If you like your walkable neighborhood with a military touch, this is the station for you. The station itself is a veritable beehive, with four rail services (Amtrak, Metrolink, Coaster and Sprinter) and a major transfer point for NCTD buses.
Pomona Downtown (300 spaces, Walk Score 88)
Once bleak and neglected, Downtown Pomona now sports several restaurants, nightclubs, and the ever-expanding Western University. The real problem is that Metrolink only runs commuter service to Downtown Pomona, so carless visitors will most likely have to use Foothill Transit’s Silver Streak to get here. The elevators and walkway over the tracks is a bit spooky, especially at night, but your other alternative, should you need to cross the tracks, is to walk all the way to the street. And look out—freight trains are frequent, and do not blow their horns through here!
Burbank (450 spaces, Walk Score 86)
You have to take an elevator from the station to the street, then walk over a freeway (better than under, in my opinion), but once you do, however, you will find yourself in a very walkable neighborhood indeed.
Covina (874 spaces, Walk Score 86)
A happening neighborhood is just a short walk south of the station, give or take a few car dealerships along the way….
Fontana (300 spaces, Walk Score 86)
A goodly number of shops and restaurants within walking distance. Also a bus hub for trips farther afield, such as to the Kaiser Medical Center (12 blocks south of the station) Nearby (senior?) apartments are also a good sign that the area near Fontana Metrolink should stay walkable for a long time to come…
Honorable mentions go to Upland (170 spaces, Walk Score 82) and Orange (225 spaces, Walk Score 80).
Now the bottom ten:
Riverside-La Sierra (350 spaces, Walk Score 46)
This station is near Kaiser Hospital and the Castle Park amusement park, but it is stuck behind the Riverside Fwy (SR-91), necessitating a long walk.
Industry (1000 spaces, Walk Score 45)
There may be shuttles to nearby workplaces….
Buena Park (300 spaces, Walk Score 45)
On Dale Street in the middle of a residential neighborhood. If Metrolink could have put the station at/near Beach Blvd. instead, the Walk Score would be at least in the low 60s…
Rancho Cucamonga (960 spaces, Walk Score 42)
Actually, not all that bad if you work at one of the nearby office parks, and there is even housing (apartment complexes) nearby. And the Ontario Mills Mall in all its glory is only a 20-30 minute walk away (I’ve done it…)
North Pomona (225 spaces, Walk Score 40)
The platform is some distance from Garey Ave. and its bus stops. And once you get there, what do you find? Mostly car repair shops and a burger joint or two. If you don’t need to park here, I suggest you stay on the train until Claremont.
Pedley (285 spaces, Walk Score 40)
Actually, there’s a cluster of shops (mostly fast food in a strip mall) 1/3 of a mile south, at Limonite and Van Buren. But Van Buren is like a little freeway here, with fast traffic…
West Corona (540 spaces, Walk Score 38)
Hey, what do you expect of a station whose address is “155 Auto Center Drive?”
East Ontario (650 spaces, Walk Score 29)
It’s just a place to park. The nearest transit service is nearly ½ mile away on Haven, and runs once an hour. Airplanes from nearby Ontario Airport buzz in and out, but if you think you’re going to use this station to catch a plane, think again.
Santa Clarita (350 spaces,Walk Score 18)
This was the first Santa Clarita station, opened when Metrolink started service in October 1992. It was (and is) still well served by local buses, but there is nothing nearby. Visitors to Santa Clarita should probably get off at Newhall, then take a bus from there if needed.
Vincent Grade/Acton (414 spaces, Walk Score 0-yes, zero)
This station is so far out in the country, people using it probably expect hitching posts for horses in the parking lot….
Metrolink Station Guides (http://www.metrolinktrains.com/stations/)
Walk Score (http://www.walkscore.com)
Adler, Arnold. “Norwalk Hikes Parking Fee; SFS Expands Metrolink Lot.” Los Angeles Wave, Jan 27, 2011.
Hall, Len. “San Clemente: North Beach Metrolink Station Near Completion.” Los Angeles Times, Feb 1, 1995.