Plans for Jenkintown Station Garage Off the Table for Now, But SEPTA Open to Reviving It with Public Groundswell
Last week’s announcement by SEPTA that the bitterly contested multi-level parking garage project at Jenkintown station is on the backburner, despite the recent swelling of its capital budget from the state, sounds like good news for its Wyncote-based opponents. Or is it?
A KYW radio report on Friday said the 700-space Jenkintown garage is no longer a priority. The audio version included a comment by Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel saying that the agency was open to reviving the project if there was a vocal public response in its favor, a number of local listeners told Citizens’ Call. “SEPTA says its focus is making that station ADA-compliant with higher platforms, so parking is on the back burner for now,” according to the posted story. A philly.com report also has the garage off the table.
Asked for her response to news reports (McHugh was quoted in the short KYW piece) on what could be considered SEPTA’s early Christmas present, community activist Olga McHugh wasn’t buying it. A leader of the Cheltenham Chamber of Citizens, a group who put together a sophisticated campaign to block the proposal based on a critique of SEPTA regional rail service as well as arguments around traffic and other impacts more typical of neighborhood efforts to block projects deemed out of character with a local area, McHugh said this:
“The backburner does not mean it’s off the table. Backburner means they’re hoping to get other support to to get it back up again, noting that the KYW headline used the term “postponed.” McHugh contends that it is still a top priority for the county with its inclusion in the recently released county planning commission comprehensive plan (page 96) and remains in SEPTA’s 2014-25 capital budget, although vaguely worded as “parking improvements” for Jenkintown station in the section, “SEPTA’s Capital Program and Unfunded Capital Needs Fiscal Years 2018-2025.”
“What’s the news? SEPTA has been saying the same thing since 2011 to anyone who would listen,” said Board President/Ward 2 Commissioner Art Haywood, a big supporter of the county’s comprehensive plan, in an email to Citizens’ Call. “Otherwise, I think that the Jenkintown-Wyncote station is primarily a regional, not local rail station, but the location at local streets of Greenwood and Glenside (Avenues) make a regional use hard. He said he generally supported transit-oriented development (TOD), what he described as a combination of rail, housing and retail. I think that the next wave of growth for Cheltenham could be based on regional rail TOD,” noted Haywood.
One of the Chamber’s central opposing arguments is that a policy emphasizing parking garage hubs like the one for Jenkintown-Wyncote adds vehicle miles and carbon emissions by forcing commuters to drive farther to park to board trains than they would if more parking and more frequent service were available at local stations. “It puts more traffic on the road and leaves more greenhouse gases – when the whole world is trying to figure out how to cut greenhouse gases,” said McHugh.
Still, might it be a small interim victory for Wyncote neighbors? “Not even a tiny little bit. . . . This is no victory because it’s still on their funding lists . . . I know for sure the way they word things (referring to Knueppel’s comments on the opportunity for a public response).”