Baylor for Mayor: On parking "opportunities" in downtown New Albany.
... Too many employers do nothing. The city does nothing. Both point at the other, expecting solutions, when neither will expend capital to find them. Free parking comes at a price, and the sooner we recognize this fact, the easier it will be to do something.
A plan would be a good start. At the moment, all is scattershot reaction, not pro-active thought. We have crisp new signs identifying parking areas, but no explanation of how they're to be used. Too many merchants abuse curbside spaces for the use of employees (and even more sadly, owners). Pages of parking regulations have been chucked, and are non-enforced according to the England Dictate that "no rules are beneficial."
Unfortunately, the unintended side effect of "no rules" is "no value," and without a value for parking, it is impossible to plan for sensible parking. It's the Wild West.
Jeff Speck has submitted a Downtown Street Network Proposal for New Albany. In his most recent book, which provides the context and conceptual basis for his proposal, he considers two of the issues that must be recognized when planning for parking.
The key passage for New Albany is underlined.
Sidetracks in Jeff Speck’s ‘Walkable City’, by Brody Dale (Next City)
II. Parking meters are good for storefronts, and higher prices make them even better, pg. 129
It was surprising to learn that the parking meter was first deployed in Oklahoma City, a place known for sprawl. Not only that, but when the first parking meters went in on one side of the street, it wasn’t long before business owners on the other side clamored for them.
How can that possibly be when downtown business leaders across the country routinely fight parking hikes for fear that it will drive away business? The reality is simple supply and demand. When the price is right for on-street parking, people use just as much parking as they need. Which a) means customer turnover is higher and b) customers are more likely to drive to a particular block because they feel confident they will find a spot when they get there. The market should play a greater role in setting parking prices. Which brings us to our next point.
III. American parking is socialist, pg. 116-120
Speck points out that American cities nearly universally have off-street parking minimums, usually designed around peak use. Under this system, everyone pays for parking, whether they use it or not. Mass transit users, cyclists and walkers all pay for parking they don’t need when shopping in stores built under minimum parking requirements. It’s pure parking socialism (my word, not Speck’s). We would all be better off if cities let the market decide how much off-street parking they need and build to their expectation.
In my review of Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue, I mentioned the growth a Metro stop brought to D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. Speck writes about the same place, adding a depressing anecdote about the millions of dollars in waste brought about by minimum off-street parking requirements in a project that has otherwise been a runaway success.
The mere mention of parking meters generally causes panic, but as the passage makes clear, they are invaluable in determining value. As for parking meter revenues, these can be put into a downtown development corporation dedicated to infrastructure projects, meaning that customer and merchant alike know to what purpose the revenues are being put. The money stays downtown.
Following are two other links addressing the parking value issue.
The High Cost of Free Parking (book)
Free Parking Comes at a Price
Thoughts, comments, input?