By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – The Regional Transportation District estimates ridership has dropped about 70% as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Park-N-Ride lots and garages are vacant as much of the state continues to work from home.

RTD Board of Directors will vote Tuesday on a resolution that would turn some empty parking spots into affordable housing.

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(credit: CBS)

“There’s a lot more that could be done with the land, especially if you go up,” said Chessy Brady, Transit Oriented Development Manager at RTD. “Those who live in affordable housing are far more likely to use our transit system. If you put an affordable housing development at transit, you’re going to benefit a lot of those people and they’re going to take advantage of it.”

RTD says 35% of all residential units developed on RTD property will be afforded to low-income households. The “affordable” designation will correspond to requirements at state and local levels.

An RTD study on parking utilization in the metro area found that developers are building more parking than they need. It costs about $15,000 per space for RTD to construct a parking lot. That price jumps to $25,000 per space for garages.

According to RTD research, 61% of low-income households do not have a car. RTD says these figures are important when it comes to finding developers to build affordable housing.

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“If we make them replace 100% of our parking spaces, that’s a huge chunk of money that they can’t spend on affordable housing, because they’re paying so much to replace our parking. By reducing the number of spaces that we require from them, we reduce the overall cost of development, making these negotiations more affordable,” said Brady.

By giving up property for housing, RTD says it would benefit from increased ridership, revenue through joint development and enhanced community relations. RTD can’t yet say how many developments would be built if the resolution passes, but there are a few properties with developmental potential.

“Everywhere you look, there are sites with potential. They all have different challenges and different developers are going to be able to address them in their own way,” said Brady, who added developers have interest in the RTD lot at 38th and Blake in Denver.

People who utilize Park-N-Rides every day won’t be out of spot. RTD says it’ll determine the number of replacement parking based on parking utilization before the pandemic.

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Brady says the response from the RTD Board of Directors has been positive. In a preliminary vote, the committee was unanimously in favor of the affordable housing. Brady fully anticipates the measure will pass Tuesday.

Tori Mason