Tackling Parking – Alternatives to Building More
Part I: Managing parking supply
In my last post, I discussed broadly the powerful effect automobile parking requirements have had in literally reshaping our communities. The cost, while not always quantifiable, is usually discernible. Over the last several decades, city planners and business owners have been experimenting with a number of alternative solutions to a range of parking problems, other than just building more. I have grouped these solutions into two broad categories: 1) better managing the amount of parking or supply, and 2) better managing the demand for parking. The first of which is discussed here.
Maybe it’s just me but if a restaurant lot is full at night, I immediately look to the empty office lot next door. Most parking requirements are a flat rate specific to each type of land-use – 2 per thousand square feet of a bar, 4 per thousand square feet of a health club, etc. There is no regard to where these uses are located relative to each other, or when people are actually using them. (If you want to know more about the history/impact of these requirements, there are a couple of great academic resources here and here).
As many downtowns, including New Orleans, begin reinvigorating themselves with new/converted residential buildings, I have encountered numerous folks who live and work within 8 blocks, but still drive! Thanks to readily available supply on both ends, this behavior is reinforced and puts pressure on both residential developers and employers by continuing absorbing parking costs.
Whether in the city or suburbs, one doesn’t have to be a professor to observe how much parking already exists and often sits unfilled for much of the day. The question is can we use available and new parking more efficiently?
Shared parking – this idea has many different iterations but the basic principle is that different land uses can share their parking requirements with adjacent or nearby land uses because they have different parking peaks. For example, an up-and-coming chef wants to build a new restaurant that is located next to a bank. A bank and restaurant have very different parking needs during the course of the day. As the bank is closing its doors around 4pm (and on weekends), a restaurant is just getting started. The restaurant might only need half the spaces on-site while still meeting parking requirements by sharing parking with the bank. Those savings get passed onto the customer or invested in the business itself.
No minimum parking – pushing the parking requirements issue even further is the idea of no minimum parking. If you’re a free market advocate, there is no more appropriate solution to parking then letting the market decide. By requiring parking, one can easily argue that cities put an artificial force on the markets. Developers would be incentivized to figure out exactly how much parking they needed to satisfy customers.
Parking maximums – parking maximum also allows a developer or owner to determine their own parking needs up to a set amount. Maximums can also be employed to correct for an artificial force imposed by the lending community on developers. Many downtowns throughout the country have no parking requirements for new projects. However, the lending community imposes minimums because of a reflexive understanding of parking as necessary for the viability of a project. This intervention can be argued to be uninformed or unjustly imposed as it is unlikely the lending community has any experience in estimating the appropriate demand for parking on a specific project.
PILOP (payment in-lieu of parking) – this is a relatively new proposal but the idea is straightforward. A developer or building owner pays the city a fee per parking space not included in the project. The fees collected could be used to build public parking garages as an alternative to meeting minimum parking requirements. The solution would also complement shared parking practices.
Remote Parking – In many cases a community already has remote parking garages that need to be better promoted either through subsidies, shuttle service, or simple marketing. In other applications, the construction of remote parking garages is necessary. Cost can be supported by taxes, developer fees or event PILOPs. Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade has been a lasting success that is supported by six structure garages on parallel streets (of course, Santa Monica also benefits from other enduring regional attractors including a vintage amusement park boardwalk pier and a fantastic beach). Of note, its retail success has driven out independent stores for national chains to the chagrin of most locals. New Orleans has flirted with remote garages including one on Rampart Street at the edge of the French Quarter, but never fully implemented the strategy (vestigial surface lots remain on the downriver edge at Elysian Fields) that would encourage a “park-once” strategy for visitors driving to its historic center.
For more details on these and other concepts, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute will satisfy any policy wonks needs here.
In part II, we’ll shift to strategies that are focused on managing the demand for parking.
Dwight Norton, Senior Analyst, Planning
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