DENVER (CBS4) – The Regional Transportation District Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday night to turn vacant Park-N-Ride lots into affordable housing. Many of RTD’s parking lots have sat vacant during the COVID-19 pandemic as employees across the Denver metro area work from home.

RTD estimates ridership has dropped about 70% as a result of the pandemic. The resolution aims to develop residential housing on RTD property, with 35% of the units afforded to low-income households.

“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.”

(credit: CBS)

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.

“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.

Bus commuters at the RTD Park-n-Ride in Westminster. (credit: CBS)

By giving up property for housing, RTD says it will benefit from increased ridership, revenue through joint development and enhanced community relations. RTD can’t yet say how many developments will be built, 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 that developers have interest in the RTD lot at the intersection of 38th Street and Blake Street in Denver.

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