Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Downtown parking solutions?

After I reposted at NAC's facebook page, there was a question: "So what would be a possible fix?"

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?

1 comment:

Antiques Attic said...

I have not yet convinced myself as for or against parking meters. My instincts keep questioning whether or not our city is large enough for this to work. Does size play into it? I have not read the articles you referenced yet. I do have a hard time accepting at this time because of all the growth in Jeffersonville, in other words why visit , pay to park, or shop downtown New Albany when its free to do so in Jeff. Basically I would not take a stand against them until knowing more. As a merchant I would be more than willing to reimburse my paying customers the cost involved if provided a receipt of paid parking.

I do know when and why Mayor England stopped the enforcement of a two hour parking limit and I would not be for that limit if returned. A regular customer of ours had a friend from louisville meet her for lunch downtown and to show off a few of the improvements occuring. After eating lunch they visited our shop, spent some money, and left to check out another store I recommended. Not 15 minutes later they returned and upset because the lady from louisville had a ticket on her window because the two hour limit had expired. They questioned how the city could expect a person to possibly eat, explore all that was new, and do any kind of serious shopping in a two hour time frame. I offered to the one time reimbustment for the ticket but it was refused. My regular customer whom lives in New Albany went directly to the Mayor and advised how regrettable her friend had to experience this and discussed the time limit conflict and the ability to enjoy all downtown was beginning to offer. He advised it would not happen again, had the ticket revoked, so from that day forward no enforcement in the business section of downtown.
Of course there was no communication passed on to anyone concerning the matter and the signs were never taken down
I have not come up with any answers concerning parking solutions and wish more would share some out of the box ideas here. While thinking of solutions always remember that many outsiders come into town and have no knowledge of parking lots or garage available to them.