Debate Over Parking in Missoula, Montana

Today from the Streetsblog Network, a report from Imagine No Cars in Missoula, Montana, a city that is at a planning crossroads. Missoulians can continue with the familiar strategy of more roads, more parking, more space for cars -- or they can try to envision a different future. The issue heated up recently when an update to Missoula's parking meter system was debated in the city council:

DowntownMissoula.jpgDowntown Missoula: Which way will it go?
Missoula's downtown faces many of the same problems that most downtowns in America face. One of those problems is dealing with parking. Our city's long-term planning envisions big growth for our little city over the next 20 years, especially in our urban core, where a lot more people will not only come to shop and eat lunch, but also increasingly come to live. To deal with this growth and the subsequent need to accommodate more cars downtown, Missoula's Downtown Master Plan calls for the building of seven new publicly owned multi-story parking structures at the cost of tens of millions of dollars to taxpayers and using up precious real estate for the storage of our community's vehicles...

Providing alternatives to driving and parking is a much more cost-effective way to use a community's limited resources...

If you reduce road capacities, congestion is actually reduced as people find better and easier ways to get around that doesn't require driving. At the same time, if bicycle infrastructure is invested in and mass transit increased this will induce demand for these services as it becomes more convenient. Not only does a community spend less money to accommodate locally focused transportation but it frees up real estate when fewer roads need to be expanded and fewer parking structures built. This extra real estate can be invested in, creating wealth and jobs in the local community rather than creating a larger tax bill for city residents.

It sounds like some in the community are trying to advance those ideas. Is anybody listening?

More from around the network: Orphan Road reports on a proposal for road maintenance fees to actually cover the costs of road maintenance. Biking in LA writes about getting right-hooked by a bus in Santa Monica. And at New Geography, Aaron Renn puts forth a plan for saving Detroit.