When more people are taking mass transit, it creates new challenges and opportunities for offering urban retail conveniences.
Recently Richard Layman offered a good discussion of what might be ahead:
Picture the following scenario: Mr. or Mrs. suburban Anoka pulls into the parking structure adjacent to the train station along the Northstar Commuter Rail Corridor in Anoka. It is 6:50 a.m. He or she has 10 minutes to complete some errands and buy some essential sundries before boarding the 7 a.m. train headed for downtown Minneapolis. He or she can buy coffee, a breakfast sandwich and a newspaper before boarding the train.
If there is extra time, the same transit rider could drop off dry cleaning to be picked up later, leave the car at the nearby “convenience auto” stop for a wash and an oil change and deposit the toddlers at day care or pre-school.
The transit commute home in the evening presents more possibilities. How about a take-away, prepared food counter where a broasted chicken or take ’n bake pizza could be secured for the evening meal or a “mini-fitness” workout locker room?
Of course, the challenge with these “transit station marketplaces” is attracting customers and patrons during the midday hours when the train volume and passenger traffic will be at their low point.
It seems that transit oriented “park and ride” stations as described by Lehman (who lives in the Washington DC area) may face the challenge of not having an adequate “daytime” population to patronize restaurants and retail.
Perhaps a key to future transit stations will be ensuring enough people live there or nearby. For example, combining the concept of a transit station with a lifestyle centre complete with condominiums and townhomes. Or, putting park-and-ride transit stops in existing”town centres” or satellite city downtowns seeing a renaissance could help.
Putting at Transit-Oriented retail development in the middle of a low-density suburb sounds like a recipe for retail failure, which could also lead to a failure to attract more transit users as going to an abandoned mall is far less appealing than going to a “happening place” full of people.