This Week’s Transportation Committee: Focus on a Progressive Van Nuys

7_12_10_van_nuys.jpgVan Nuys Civic Center, lit up. Photo: RsixO7/Flickr

All of a sudden, Van Nuys is a hot bed of transportation reform.  First came a report from the city that Van Nuys Boulevard would be a perfect place for another separated bus lane or even a light rail line.  Next, the City is working on a plan to increase metered prices near the Van Nuys Civic Center to encourage more people to use the local parking garages. 

From a policy standpoint, this should reduce local VMT, as people cease "cruising for parking" as savings for curb parking are reduced and could free up some public space on the streets.

A motion by Council Man Tony Cardenas and seconded by Transportation Committee Member Richard Alarcon explains the problem:

Optimal utilization for parking lots occur when the maintain 90% utilization throughout a typical day. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation has found that in the first half of FY2009-10, that average occupancy of the Van Nuys Civic Center parking lots is 57%, with a high of 76% (Lot 609) and a low of 28% (Lot 752)" Clearly, these lots are underutilized, partially due to the surrounding inexpensive on-street parking and lack of adequate signage directing drivers to the lots. LADOT piloting new meter technology that will adjust parking rates to maintain the desired level of use, but it will be provided in limited areas.

Woah, this sounds positively Shoupian in theory.  The reality on the street and in the lots may be bleak, but at least the city seems aware of the problem and is working to fix it. Of course, it doesn't hurt that under-utilized lots are going to make it hard to sell the rights to run city-owned lots.

However, whenever talk of raising parking rates comes up, it seems that local businesses speak against the proposal, fearing the increased cost will lead to fewer patrons.  This time, it seems that the city did its homework before going public with a plan that could lead to a parking rate increase.

The surrounding business community is interested in partnering with the City to implement new parking meter technology and identify funding for these infrastructure improvements in order to maximize the use of all available parking facilities.

While this all sounds great because the city seems to be, in at least a small area, really getting it in terms of car parking strategies.  However, as Parking Guru Donald Shoup has demonstrated in the past, the city doesn't always get that pricing parking as high as possible isn't always the best strategy to have it utlizied.  Of course, if those lots pull more cars off the street because of cost differences, then maybe the dream of running a bus-only lane down Van Nuys Boulevard isn't so far-fetched.

Note: The Council will also consider a motion keeping those garages open until 2:00 A.M.