BART is doing its part to keep creeks clean with low-impact development at Lafayette Station


BART is doing its part to keep creeks clean with low-impact development at Lafayette Station

rain garden

Above, example of a "rain garden" that helps absort runoff and filter out pollutants from the water 

BART Senior Web Producer

Take a moment to look, listen, and smell the natural environment of the new, low-impact development at Lafayette Station – it’s a window into what’s possible when designers work in collaboration with the environment in mind to emphasize a sense of place. The project was funded by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority through the Measure J transportation sales tax as well as the State Water Resources Control Board.
interpretive sign


The redesign includes upgrades smoothing traffic flow, creating more accessible walking paths, installing brighter LED lighting, and a new solar installation; along with a new storm water filtration system that can serve as a model for future projects. (See interpretive sign, below right)

Beautiful new “rain gardens” can be found in the parking lot. They’re planted depressions that collect and slowly absorb storm water runoff. Runoff from the parking lots enters the rain gardens through curb cuts and seeps through different layers designed to filter and remove pollutants.

Plant roots create conditions in the soil that promote infiltration  and support microbes that further reduce pollutants. The rain gardens contain plants that are effective in naturally treating runoff.  


The colors of the plants pop in the gray winter landscape, like the hot pink of the Western Redbud, the fiery red of the Strawberry Tree, or the iconic orange of the California Poppy. There are visually striking plants like the kangaroo paw (anigozanthos flavidus) and octopus agave (agave vilmoniniana), see image below right. 

Depending on where you stand in the station perimeter, you might hear the bubble of the nearby Happy Valley Creek Watershed, which flows into the Bay, or the chirp of a Steller’s Jay perched in a tree.  

There is permeable pavement with gaps between pavers filled with porous material like sand, which allows runoff to seep into the ground. An underdrain captures the water at the bottom and connects to the storm drain system.


“Low-impact development is the law of the land today,” said Norman Wong, environmental engineer who has worked on the Lafayette project. “For  construction of new station parking lots and retrofit of existing lots, we need to follow low-impact development like what you see here.”

Wong gave a tour of the Lafayette site, pointing out such features as interpretive signage, rain gardens, drought-tolerant plants such as the kangaroo paw and octopus agave (below right), solar panels, and permeable pavers.octopus agave

“It’s important because at BART we want to be good stewards of the environment,” Wong said. “This watershed supports a large variety of riparian wildlife and fish, including chinook salmon, steelhead trout, striped and black bass, and green and white sturgeon.”


Much of the work that has been completed at Lafayette comes in direct response to concerns raised by riders about the need to replace paving, improve wayfinding signage, and address a substandard parking layout that caused unnecessary congestion.

Now those riders will benefit from increased functionality that includes two-way parking aisles, enhanced drop off zones, and a new pedestrian ramp connection.  The Lafayette Station Improvement Project prioritizes accessibility for all.  The number of ADA-compliant parking spaces has been increased from 27 to 36 meeting ADA requirements and motorcycle parking has been boosted from 30 to 40 spots.

The Lafayette Station is getting its power from solar panels that have been installed over the parking lot.  These panels not only provide shade for parked cars, but they are also expected to generate 1,600,000 kWh of energy during their first year of operation.  That’s about as much energy as 233 California homes used in a year.

Read more in the stormwater page of our Sustainability section. This story was originally published on 1/23/2019.


Funding for this project has been provided in full or in part through an agreement with the State Water Resources Control Board. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the State Water Resources Control Board, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement for recommendation for use.