Skip to content

Posts from the "Parking" Category

10 Comments

Editorial: L.A. Parking Reform Can Start With Handicap Placard Reform

If parking pricing strategies are going to work for Los Angeles, the city will need to tackle disabled placard reform, too. Photo: Tony Webster/Wikimedia

If parking pricing strategies are going to work for Los Angeles, the city will need to tackle disabled placard reform, too. Photo: Tony Webster/Wikimedia

Lately, there is a lot of attention directed toward reforming parking in Los Angeles. Various solutions are in stages of implementation and discussion.

The city of Los Angeles has pioneered a relatively sophisticated curb-parking pricing program called ExpressPark. ExpressPark uses technology and, mostly, variable pricing to respond to curb parking demand.

One of the louder voices in the recent parking debate is the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative. Their parking reform platform includes various tweaks to L.A.’s parking systems, from sign legibility to street sweeping. LAPFI states that the city first needs to address the issue of “basic fairness” meaning “parking fines are just too high.” This has translated to a push for reducing parking violation charges from their current average of $67 to only $23.

But what if there were a group of law-breakers who were immune to parking meter costs and never received violations? None of these projects would impact those scofflaws.

There, of course, are: drivers who abuse disabled placards.

Disabled placards are relatively easy to obtain and allow unlimited free parking at meters. Here is how parking expert Don Shoup describes L.A.’s handicapped placard scofflaws, from a 2011 interview with SBLA:

The main problem we already have in L.A. is the widespread abuse of handicapped placards.  A disabled placard in California is like a “free parking” pass for the entire state.  One of our students just finished his Masters thesis on placard abuse in downtown.  He surveyed one block on Flower Street where there are 14 metered parking spaces.  Most of the spaces were filled most of the time with cars that had disabled placards.  For five hours of the day, all fourteen spaces were occupied by cars with disabled placards.

Although the meter rate was $4 an hour, the meters earned only 32¢ an hour in collections because most of the time the meters were occupied by cars that paid nothing.

The L.A. Weekly reported on a 2013 DMV placard-enforcement operation that resulted in charges against 241 Southern California drivers. Enforcement, and sting operations in general, appears to have little in the way of lasting effects.

According to Shoup, City Lab, and Better Institutions, the way to truly end widespread placard abuse is to stop giving unlimited free parking to all placard holders. Other cities and states are already pioneering this solution.

As of July 1st, 2014, the city of Portland, Oregon, ended free parking for disabled drivers. The new law allows exceptions for severely disabled drivers, including actual wheelchair users, to continue to park for free. Drivers with basic disabled placards are still allowed to park for triple the posted time limit, but they must pay.

This Portland Tribune article tells the night-and-day difference:

Parking code enforcement officer Becky Rhodes observed first hand the change the new policy was having on the supply of spaces. On Wednesday, July 2, Rhodes said, she walked the east side of Southwest Fourth Avenue between Main and Salmon streets and saw something she’s never seen before — open curbside parking. And the few cars that were parked on the street did not display disabled placards.

“Normally that block, there might have been one space with no permit,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes and her fellow enforcement officers gave out 24 warnings on Tuesday, July 1, the first day of the new policy, and 100 on Wednesday, July 2.

Mid-morning Thursday, July 3, Rhodes was walking north on Fourth Avenue when she turned the corner to head east and stopped in her tracks as she looked down Taylor.

“Wow, there are all these open spaces,” Rhodes remarked. Indeed, a block that was always full of parked cars at that time of day was nearly deserted. The south side of Taylor Street had six open spaces and only two parked cars. Cars with disabled placards had almost completely disappeared from blocks they traditionally filled.  Read more…

1 Comment

Former Huntington Park Parking Now a Popular Parklet, More on the Way

Southern California's newest parklet on Huntington Park's Pacific Boulevard. All photos: Aviv Kleinman/Streetsblog L.A.

Southern California’s newest parklet on Huntington Park’s Pacific Boulevard. All photos: Aviv Kleinman/Streetsblog L.A.

A new phenomenon hit the streets of Huntington Park this year. It’s a space where people can catch up on their reading and feed their coffee cravings, a space where family and friends can gather together, and a space where business deals can take place right next to kids playing dominos. It’s called a parklet.

Parklets are parking spaces converted into sidewalk mini-parks. They primarily offer seating areas, also often greenery and bicycle parking. They foster lively pedestrian-oriented streets. For the unfamiliar, view a SF parket in this StreetFilms documentary.

L.A. County’s first parklet was in Long Beach. They have also come to Los Angeles City neighborhoods, including downtown and El Sereno.

Also, for the unfamiliar, the city of Huntington Park is located in Southeast Los Angeles County. The city has a population of roughly 60,000, more than 95% Latino.

The new parklet in Huntington Park is quite a wonderful scene. It features comfortable sitting areas and potted plants surrounded by aesthetically pleasing wooden tiles. And it is well-sited, located in front of one of the city’s most frequented coffee shops: Tierra Mia, a specialty Latin American coffee shop, located at 6706 Pacific Boulevard.

As I enjoyed my coffee that was sustainably harvested from a small finca (agricultural estate) in the Guatemalan highlands, I watched a young family with loud and happy children eating a takeout lunch, a pair of friends enjoying a fancy-looking latte, and a speech therapy session in progress, all taking place in the small public parklet. Taking up only three diagonal parking spaces on the bustling boulevard, the parklet is the perfect size to feel both large enough to relax and breathe, but petite enough not to take up too much room on the busy street.

photo 1-29

The Parklet’s pragmatic placement in front of the popular Tierra Mia coffee house

According to Fernanda Palacios, Huntington Park’s Community Development Project Manager, the parklet is park of the city’s Pacific Blvd. Revitalization Plan, designed to bring more activity to the city’s most prominent thoroughfare. Pacific Boulevard is a former streetcar corridor, and has retained much of its historic Main-Street-type commercial character. The street is dotted with restaurants, clothing stores, and specialty cultural shops. The Boulevard hosts a popular Christmas Lane Parade.

As part of the revitalization plan, the city has set aside a $60,000 budget for parklet development. These funds are from grants directly funded by Measure R and the Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The city’s funding goes to four parklets, each budgeted at $15,000 for construction and maintenance. According to Palacios, the city government does not fund the parklet with any of its own money, but it does contribute its own Public Works department’s labor to construct the site.

The $15,000 in grant money is used to purchase furniture and raw materials, in addition to touch-ups as the parklets age. With regard to collision safety, the parklet is surrounded by well-hidden K-rails (the same concrete barriers used to divide freeways) that are covered with wooden planters. In fact, I would have had no idea that the K-rails were there within the wooden planters had Ms. Palacios not pointed them out. Because the street space is owned by the city, no special permits or zoning variances were needed for parklet development.  Read more…

5 Comments

Metro Raising Parking Rates for NoHo and Universal; Most Parking Still Free

Parking lot at Metro's Universal City Red Line Station. Most spaces are free to the driver, but several hundred monthly permit spaces will see a rate increase this July.

Parking lot at Metro’s Universal City Red Line Station. Most spaces remain free to the driver, but several hundred San Fernando Valley monthly permit spaces will see a rate increase this July. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

As of July 1st 2014, Metro will raise monthly permit parking rates for two of its most popular and most sold-out parking lots. Metro’s North Hollywood Red Line Station monthly parking permit will go from $39 to $59. Universal City Station monthly parking permits will go from $39 to $55.

SBLA has been critical of Metro’s ineffective and fiscally-irresponsible parking policies. These increases are a worthwhile small step in the right direction. The increases help Metro make parking available to people who need it, while lessening parking cost burdens on the vast majority of Metro’s riders whose trips do not begin with driving.

As of July 2014, Metro will increase monthly parking permit rates for two popular San Fernando Valley Red Line Stations. Screenshot parkmetro.com

As of July 2014, Metro will increase monthly parking permit rates for two popular San Fernando Valley Red Line Stations. Screenshot parkmetro.com this morning

The majority of parking at these Metro stations remains free.

At least free to drivers.

Well, free to those drivers who show up by 6:30am or so.  Read more…

21 Comments

Editorial: Why Raise Fares When Metro’s Building Even More Free Parking?

Foothill Gold Line's Azusa-Alameda Station not-so-innovative site plan - 200 more parking spaces coming on line next year. Source: Gold Line Construction Authority website

Foothill Gold Line’s Azusa-Alameda Station site plan means 200 more surface parking spaces due to open in 2015. Source: Gold Line Construction Authority website

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an editorial asking Why Raise Metro Fares While Giving Away Metro Parking? At the time, I totaled parking for Metro’s BRT and rail lines at 19,450 parking spaces. Despite Metro’s plan to increase transit fares, the agency has no plan to increase parking charges. Metro gives more than 9 out of 10 spaces away for free. I did a conservative estimate of Metro’s parking revenue potential to be at least $3.5 million per year.

Turns out that it gets worse. Or better, depending on your point of view.

Metro’s building lots and lots of lots.

There are 2,435 more Metro parking spaces under construction. When the Gold Line Foothill extension opens in 2015, Metro will break the 20,000 mark with 1,525 new parking spaces. Also in 2015, Expo phase 2 will add 580 new parking spaces. In 2019, the Crenshaw Line will add 330 new parking spaces.

Metro’s overall total rail/BRT parking spaces will climb to 21,885. Using the same very conservative assumptions, I estimate that, with the additional spaces, Metro’s parking revenue potential will be at least $4.3 million per year.

After the earlier article, via Twitter and via the Source, Metro responded with the “doesn’t go far enough” argument:

Of course, $3.5 million doesn’t cover the projected budget shortfalls that Metro is projecting and using to justify the fare increases (the shortfalls begin at $36 million in FY 2016 and then rise).

I’ve always found this sort of assertion to be disingenuous. It’s sort of like being in a boat that’s leaking in five places, and refusing to fix one hole, because it doesn’t fix all of them at once.

Read more…

32 Comments

Editorial: Why Raise Metro Fares While Giving Away Metro Parking?

Metro's La Cienega Expo Line Station parking lot: 476 spaces, all free, all the time

Metro’s Culver City Expo Line Station parking lot: 586 spaces, free for drivers who get there early enough, but not free for Metro to build, operate, and maintain. Metro is proposing to raise rider fares, while continuing to let cars park for free. Photo Eric Bruins

Metro is proposing to increase, or restructure, its $1.50 base transit fare to $1.75 later this year, with further increases planned in 2017 and 2020. Metro anticipates that this will increase its fare recovery – the percentage of operations costs that are paid for by fare revenues – from 25 percent to 33 percent. Metro foresees that this fare increase will “deflect” riders; a small percentage of people who currently take Metro will opt not to ride.

Officially, Streetsblog Los Angeles neither supports nor opposes Metro’s proposed fare increase. We hold that robust transit service is needed, and that fares need to be affordable, and that those two important ends can be in conflict. When inflation drives operating costs up, at some point, it can make sense for agencies to increase what they charge for what they provide. Reasonable fare increases are generally preferable to significant service cuts.

I am not going to wade into all the issues in the fare increase, but want to explore another revenue source that Metro doesn’t seem to be paying attention to: parking.

Metro has large amounts of parking that it gives away for free. For more than 90% of the spaces it owns, Metro’s parking “fare recovery” is zero percent. Parking revenue isn’t likely to cover the entire operating deficit Metro is asserting, but it can amount to millions of dollars, enough to delay or soften fare increases.

Charging for parking will also deflect a small number of the riders who drive (driver-riders are a small percentage of Metro’s overall ridership – fewer than 10 percent), but, if revenue is used to offset fare increases, parking charges should lessen overall deflection. In some cases, charging for parking and keeping transit fares reasonable could deflect some drivers out of their cars and on to buses, carpools, bikes, and walking.

I recently attended a meeting where Metro staff presented their fare increase proposal. When I asked if Metro was also looking at parking revenue, Metro’s presenter responded that Metro didn’t have much parking, and that it fills up quickly anyway – as if that meant there wasn’t anything that could be done. On the contrary, this high demand shows that Metro’s parking is a revenue opportunity. The Transit Coalition’s Bart Reed confirms that “[Metro Red Line] parking for free is gone by 7 a.m. in the valley.” Streetsblog’s Damien Newton states that, at “Culver City [Expo Station] after morning rush hour, I generally see people cruising for parking. There’s no space.”

What’s wrong with free parking? Isn’t that good?

Read more…

3 Comments

March Transpo Committee Recap: SRTS, Counts, Parking and Commish Bayne

Yesterday’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting featured a number of livability issues that deserve more in-depth attention: Safe Routes to School, bicycle and pedestrian traffic counts, parking privatization, and more. SBLA will do a brief re-cap, and will track and report on these issues more in the future.

SRTSmap

Map of the Top 50 LAUSD Schools with most need for safer routes to school. From LADOT SRTS Fact Sheet. Click to view entire fact sheet.

The Top 50 List You Don’t Really Want Your School On: Department of Transportation (LADOT) staff reported on progress made in the city’s Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program. In the past, for a number of reasons, the city of L.A. has been unsuccessful at receiving its fair share of SRTS grant funding. LADOT’s two new pedestrian coordinators have done a lot of work to begin to remedy this: building relationships with LAUSD and using actual data to determine which schools make sense to prioritize. This Transportation Committee meeting was the first broad public vetting of the city’s new data-driven list of 50 schools with “greatest need.” The 50-school list will be used to target some city applications for the upcoming state Active Transportation Program (ATP) grant cycle.

Advocates from about a half-dozen non-profits commented on this item, urging two main requests: more LADOT resources be directed toward SRTS, and SRTS efforts be more open and collaborative.

Committee members expressed some concerns (see below) over the criteria behind the 50 school ranking, but accepted it, pending full council approval. They requested that LADOT return to the committee in 60 days (after this ATP cycle submission) to further examine the criteria.

Most Likely to be Undercounted and Undervalued: City councilmembers requested that LADOT review their traffic count methodology to include bicycle and pedestrian data. LADOT staff responded with a draft policy, including an annual count, which moves forward to a vote of the full city council. It’s unclear whether city counts will augment or replace those currently conducted by L.A. County Bicycle Coalition volunteers, though the Bike Coalition’s Eric Bruins voiced support for city counts, stating that the Coalition “wants to get out of this business.” Read more…

No Comments

Digital Cities, Smarter Transportation – Conference Highlights

The Digital Cities, Smarter Transportation conference was held yesteday in Little Tokyo.

The Digital Cities, Smarter Transportation conference was held yesterday in Little Tokyo.

Yesterday, Streetsblog L.A. attended Digital Cities, Smarter Transportation, a one-day conference on “technology and the future of mobility, cities, and regions” hosted by the UCLA Lewis Center and the UCLA Institute for Transportation Studies.  Here are a few highlights from the proceedings:

  • SFpark San Francisco’s Innovative Parking Pilot:  San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s (SFMTA) Alex Demisch presented on the technology and technological challenges behind SFpark. San Francisco is one of the first places on earth to actually attempt to manage the price of curbside parking toward Shoup’s 85 percent recommendation, and certainly the first to do this using real-time technology.  For the basics on SFpark, maybe start with this video, then follow with plenty of SBSF coverage and the SFpark website. Demisch explained the challenges – from managing huge amounts of data, to fully inventorying street parking (counting ~280,000 spaces and ~30,000 meters, plus all the street rules regarding which side parking is allowed at what hours of which day), to dealing with cutting edge electromagnetic parking sensors embedded in the streets. SFPark’s on-the-street pilot phase has ended (limited in part by the battery-life of in-street sensors) and is in the process of analyzing data, with reports forthcoming.
  • Metro Los Angeles’ Nextrip: Stephen Tu, Manager of Operations & Service Delivery for Metro, reviewed Metro’s popular Nextrip for everyday arrival information and use of social media to push notification during service disruptions. Streetsblog readers may be most interested in features he announced were under development: passenger count information (riders can skip one standing-room-only bus to get a seat on the less-crowded on following it), bike rack status (cyclists can know if the bus arriving has any space for bikes), and cell phone reception on Metro subway platforms (expected in 2016.)
12 Comments

Rock Star or Comedian? Donald Shoup Takes His Parking Show to Berkeley

[UPDATE: Here is a link to a video of Professor Shoup's talk and here is a link to the Q&A portion of the evening.]

“Parking is the single biggest land use in any city,” said UCLA Professor Donald Shoup to a packed house in Berkeley last night, “and it’s almost completely unmanaged.” At the same time, “zoning requires a space for every car but ignores the homeless. In our cities, free parking is more important than affordable housing.”

Professor Donald Shoup, the stand-up comedian of parking

Professor Donald Shoup, the stand-up comic of parking. Photo by Federica Armstrong, courtesy TransForm

Shoup entertained the crowd of public officials, developers, students, and community members with his signature witty observations on the irrational ways cities plan and price parking.

“Parking is free for us only in our role as motorist–not in our roles as taxpayer, employer, commuter, shopper, renter, as a homeowner. The cost of parking does not cease to exist just because the motorist doesn’t pay for it,” he told the rapt audience. They had all come to hear the “parking rock star” talk about parking.

Given his polished delivery of dry one-liners skewering American parking policy that kept the audience chuckling throughout the talk, it’s more accurate to call him the stand-up comic of parking. But it’s his simple, rational, and yet radical-to-many approach to the storage of cars that has earned him a growing fan base of “Shoupistas” throughout the state and the nation.

The event was sponsored by TransForm, an Oakland-based advocacy group working for rational land use and transportation planning in California. TransForm has taken Shoup’s work to heart, using the principles he proposes as a basis for their GreenTRIP program that seeks to convince cities to allow housing developers to replace overbuilt, expensive parking with alternatives like car share, bike parking, and transit passes.

Shoup had a great time poking fun at pretty much everyone, including himself. He compared himself to a cat, sniffing and marking the tires of parked cars, while most transportation planners he likened to dogs, “running after and trying to bite at cars as they drive down the road.”

“I thought I could find something useful if I studied what cars do for 95% percent of the time, which is park,” he said.

He made fun of planners. “No planner can claim to have any training in parking policy,” he said. “Planners are winging it.”

The American Planners Association’s “Parking Standards” book lists parking requirements for land uses that look sensible at first glance—until you look at the connection to people, he said. As he spoke, a list of minimum parking requirements appeared on the screen behind him. Barbershop: two spots per barber.

“There seems to be some gender disparity,” he said [Beauty Shop: three parking spots per beautician]. “Even in religions institutions [Convent: ten parking spots per nun. Church: three parking spots per clergyman], and when you don’t have people, you have to base it on something” [Swimming pool: one parking spot per 25,000 gallons].

In many cities the size of a building is dwarfed by the size of its required parking lot. Minimum parking requirements “look scientific,” said Shoup, “but they’re not—it’s just pseudo science.” Read more…

9 Comments

Jaywalking and Parking Tickets: The Livable Streets Litmus Test of 2014

Over our end-of-the-year break, there were two stories related to how the city thinks about its transportation needs which kept popping up in the news: the LAPD’s “Jaywalking Crackdown”** and the movement to restructure the city’s parking fees. The two stories were both treated as stories of regular people being harassed by a money hungry government.

While much of the mainstream narrative was the same, in truth the two couldn’t be more different. The stories are really about how Los Angeles residents see public space.

The parking reform movement in speared by a pair of advocates, one of whom happens to be the force behind getting the city to end its red light camera program, creating an advocacy machine to push against the city’s parking policies. They call the fees for illegal parking exorbitant, despite the fees being on par or lower than that in New York or Chicago and other major American cities.

The cheapest parking ticket in L.A. is a $58. In Chicago the cheapest fee is $50. In New York, it’s $65. The most common ticket in L.A. is $73 for “parking in a prohibitive zone.” In New York that costs scofflaw parkers $65. In Chicago it’s $75.

Some of their proposed reforms make sense, others are thinly veiled attempts to overthrow parking norms.

But the bedrock of this movement is a simple belief that making space for cars, and giving up a public resource to car owners at below market costs, is a primary function for cities in general and Los Angeles in particular.

Naturally, L.A. Weekly is very excited about all of this. As is the local television news.

The LAPD’s “Jaywalking Crackdown” in Downtown Los Angeles supports the notion that the public resource known as “city streets” are really just private space for automobiles. The LAPD cites safety for “cracking down” on people who step off a curb moments after a traffic signal goes from white to flashing red and make it across the street with time to spare. Even a precursory look at what’s causing crashes downtown shows that pedestrians crossing at crosswalks isn’t really a major safety issue, it’s cars turning either “right on red” or left after the signal has changed  without looking. Read more…

2 Comments

City Remains Vigilant on Bus Only Lane Parking Scofflaws

Photo Dana Gabbard

To its credit, the City of Los Angeles is working hard to keep the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes (Bike OK!) open for business. Dana Gabbard grabbed this picture yesterday of parking enforcement hard at work.

Wilshire, south side of street between Coronado and Carondelet this morning at about 7:51 a.m. The car had a disabled placard! Didn’t get the traffic officer’s name as she jumped into her vehicle and zoomed off after snapping a photo of the license plate and putting the citation on the front window of the car.

Maybe this stricter enforcement will lead to better enforcement of no parking in bicycle lanes as well. Either way, it’s good to see the city making sure the Bus Only Lane isn’t “Parking OK” too.