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Some Thoughts On Metro’s Modest New Parking Policy Proposal

Should Metro parking policies

Metro is voting on a proposed update to its parking policies this Thursday. Metro Gold Line Atlantic Station parking structure. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At this Thursday’s meeting, Metro’s Board of Directors will be voting on modest changes to the way the agency manages parking. Theoretically, these changes are expected to set the stage for increased parking revenue, which has positives for walkability and livability, but the devil may be in the details.

According to the staff presentation [PDF], Metro currently manages more than 70 parking facilities with more than 22,000 parking spaces. In 2016, with new Gold and Expo Line extension parking lots opening, this will rise to more than 25,000 spaces. 330 more spaces are added when the Crenshaw/LAX line parking lots open in 2019.

Metro Boardmember and Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana, at last week’s Executive Committee meeting, remarked that parking spaces cost Metro “$40,000 a pop.” And that’s just up-front costs, without ongoing maintenance and operations. Metro’s overall 25,000 space parking portfolio, assuming parking expert Don Shoup’s industry standard of $24,000 per space instead of Fasana’s higher number for above ground structures (some spaces cost a lot more than this, probably some cost less), cost the agency at least $600,000,000.

So, even under conservative estimates, Metro has spent more than half a billion dollars on parking spaces. Metro gives more than 93 percent those spaces away for free. Metro CEO Phil Washington and other Metro leaders increasingly frequently speak about budget shortfalls and the need for increased revenue, cost-cutting, and likely fare increases.

I’ve often written critically about Metro’s free parking as a massive unfair loss leader for the agency. What might be given more weight is analysis by transportation experts. Metro’s recent peer review by a panel of American Public Transportation Association (APTA) experts made the following recommendations that bear repeating here: (full APTA review coverage here)

  • Station parking is expensive to build and maintain, so parking costs should be [at least] partially recovered.
  • Easy parking encourages driving that first last mile; it’s better to re-direct parking resources to instead fund convenient, frequent bus service.
  • Free park-and-ride subsidizes higher income riders and decreases transit’s air quality benefits.

So… with looming deficits and expert recommendations, Metro is retooling the way it does parking.

Not quite.

The new Metro parking ordinance is unfortunately not so different from current practices. Read more…

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A Look at Downtown L.A. Parking Enforcement Riding with LADOT

Officer Guerra and Sgt. Smith ticketing a parking violation on Spring Street. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Officer Guerra and Sgt. Smith ticketing a parking violation on Spring Street. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Earlier this week, I accepted an invitation to do a downtown Los Angeles bike-along with City of L.A. Transportation Department (LADOT) parking enforcement officers. LADOT also uses bicycle officers to do parking enforcement in the Valley, West L.A., and Hollywood. The parking enforcement staff downtown is 30 strong, all on bicycle.

Traffic Officer Michael Guerra has been doing parking enforcement in downtown Los Angeles for 17 years. Also accompanying us was his supervisor Sergeant Rodney Smith.

Officer Guerra rode Los Angeles City bike number 75

Officer Guerra rode Los Angeles City bike number 75

The officers rode on Giant brand bicycles, complete with the city seal and vehicle numbers. This got me thinking that there’s a system in place for managing a city bicycle fleet, perhaps other city staff could use a city bike fleet for short trips.

My first question to them was about handicapped placards. Is handicapped placard abuse really as prevalent as I’ve read? Parking expert Don Shoup has asserted that widespread abuse of handicapped placards is a serious barrier to making variable pricing work in downtown L.A. The officers responded that handicap placards were typically on 75 to 80 percent of cars parked in the Little Tokyo and Historic Core, where we were going. And they said it’s worse in the Financial District.

This was confirmed during our ride. Many blocks on streets we rode, including on First Street and Third Street, had all but one or two cars displaying a handicap placard. It’s difficult to tell if some or all of these are legitimate. Other LADOT officers have been involved in placard enforcement sting operations typically headed by the DMV. Based on the headlines, both media and law enforcement have little trouble finding widespread abuse. Sgt. Smith mentioned that, in the past, LADOT had tried to push for placard reform via the state legislature, but that it had not yielded any results, and it was no longer a top priority.

I also asked about how the city’s L.A. Express Park variable pricing program has affected their work. Though they were aware that prices were sometimes changing, the program had not really made things perceptibly different from an enforcement end. I thought to myself, perhaps the placards do impact managing pricing; with so much placard use, most drivers pay nothing and it doesn’t matter how much the going rates are.

It didn’t take long for the officers to find and ticket illegally parked vehicles. Guerra said that it varies a lot, but that he writes 20-30 tickets on a typical day, though typically a lot fewer when it’s raining, and sometimes more around the holidays when drivers frequently park illegally to run in to get last-minute shopping done. On weekends, he writes more tickets, typically 40-50 per day, but that is because there are fewer officers deployed than on weekdays.  Read more…

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Donald Shoup Interview, Part 2: Pasadena, Ventura, Mexico City, A.B. 744

Joe Linton and Donald Shoup. Photo: Streetsblog L.A.

Joe Linton and Donald Shoup. Photo: Streetsblog L.A.

Donald Shoup, parking’s one and only rock star, is retiring from UCLA this year. Tomorrow, the college is sending him off with a fundraiser retirement dinner atop parking structure number 32. You can attend, and hobnob with Shoup himself, by donating to the Shoup Fellowship fund for future UCLA planning students.

Below is part two of my big exit interview with Don Shoup. Part one is here. The interview took place at the UCLA Faculty Center on Friday, May 15, the day after UCLA’s Complete Streets Forum, where Professor Shoup had been impressed with a presentation on the soon-to-be phased out car congestion metric, Level of Service.

Joe Linton: Many progressives want people to do the right thing for the right reason. If you look at New York City and how healthy people are, it’s because they walk. They’re not healthier because they’re choosing some healthy option. They’re healthy because the neighborhood around them was built for walking. I think you’ve managed to avoid that pitfall. 

Don Shoup: When it comes to public policy, doing the right thing is more important than doing it for the right reason. The best way to get people to do what’s right collectively is to make it the best thing for them to do individually. You have to give individuals a personal incentive to do what’s right for society.

When it comes to parking, you have to figure out how to stop giving everyone incentives to do what’s wrong for society. Removing subsidies for parking is one of the best ways to convince people to walk, bike, or ride the bus rather than drive solo.

For example, employer-paid parking is an invitation to drive to work alone. Parking cash out is a policy that makes it individually rational to consider all the alternatives to driving to work alone. I studied employers who began to offer commuters the option to choose the cash value of free parking rather than the parking itself. At these firms, 17 percent of the solo drivers shifted to carpooling, biking, walking, or riding the bus to work.

For many people, the only reason to do anything is that it’s best for them individually. And I think that’s why planners have to be more realistic about devising policies so the stakeholders will say, “I see what you mean – that’ll help me.” I think expecting people to do the right thing for the right reason leads to a lot of failure in public policy.

Most people who ride a bike do so because they enjoy it and want the exercise, not because it’s a sacrifice for humanity. But many people don’t mind driving or even like to drive, and parking subsidies increase the incentive to drive.

In my retirement, I want to live the way hobbits did; they spent all their time visiting all their friends who lived within a half a day’s walk. And if you are lucky, you can live almost that way in L.A. I live near campus and usually don’t leave Westwood. When I do go to other places like West Hollywood, Culver City, or Pasadena, I see there’s a whole other ecosystem going on in each neighborhood. There are a lot of little villages and you can have a wonderful life without traveling far from them. I’ve even seen real estate ads for houses saying “Park on Friday, walk all weekend.”

Because of traffic congestion I think more people are leading their lives in their own villages. But I do think we can greatly reduce traffic congestion. I’m a big fan of congestion pricing – which I think is the only thing that will reduce congestion.

Linton: Where do you see congestion pricing taking hold in Los Angeles?

Shoup: It already has taken hold – the High Occupancy/Toll (HOT) lanes on the Harbor Freeway. Solo drivers can use the ExpressLanes if they pay. The tolls adjust up and down to prevent the lanes from getting congested.

Linton: What’s interesting to me is that it was working really well as we were emerging from the down economy – the speeds were actually averaging above the speed limit – which they were proud of – those scofflaw motorists. This year and late last year, as the economy has picked up, they’re increasingly closing those lanes. They’re too packed.

Shoup: Yes. It’s because there is a cap on the congestion toll – $1.40 per mile. They now run up against that cap often. The price cap was politically necessary to begin with but there’s no reason to have a cap now, especially because the toll revenue provides many amenities on and alongside the freeway. Better lighting, better bus stops, and more frequent bus service.

Linton: Bike-share, too

Shoup: That’s right. So what’s the objection to raising the tolls now? The ExpressLane tolls provide about $2.3 million a month to run the extra bus service, bike-sharing, better bus stops, and things like that. If that’s what the tolls are providing, what’s the problem with raising the price for solo drivers when the freeway gets congested?

Linton: Where else do you think L.A. can expand congestion pricing? Additional freeway lanes? Other applications?

Shoup: They didn’t need to add lanes to the El Monte Busway and the Harbor Freeway for congestion pricing. I think we should convert more HOV lanes to HOT lanes. On the 405, we just spent a billion dollars to put in one new HOV lane. It took five years of construction with nightmarish traffic – and just think of the carbon emissions that created. It would be more sensible to convert one free lane to a HOT lane.

After the Level of Service talk [at the prior day’s Complete Streets forum] a consultant from Orange County asked “if they don’t use Level of Service metrics, how will they know where to build new freeways, new capacity?” I said if you have a congested freeway, you could try converting free lanes into HOT lanes rather than build more free lanes. I think Orange County made a bad choice in expanding freeways and keeping them free.

If we manage freeways better – the lanes that we have – we wouldn’t need any more. And they would provide revenue.

We ought to have signs on the bike stands, in the buses, and at bus stops saying “paid for by the ExpressLanes revenue.” People will see the toll revenue at work. The revenue goes to specific places for specific things. If we didn’t have the congestion tolls, we wouldn’t have these bicycles, this bus, this new street furniture, or something like that.

Variable parking prices are like congestion tolls, except instead of aiming for the right speed on the road you aim for the right occupancy rate for on-street parking –one or two open spaces on every block. It’s a lot easier to charge for parking than it is to charge congestion tolls. But most cities have the same price for curb parking all day long, or no price at all.

Linton: Have cities done a good job of adopting your recommendation to use parking meter revenue for improvements on metered blocks?

Shoup: Pasadena is a great example of using parking meter revenue to improve an area. You are probably too young to remember what Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena was like before the parking meters. It used to be a skid row.

There were wonderful buildings in terrible condition. Much of it had been urban renewed. The city tore out three blocks of Old Pasadena on Colorado Boulevard for an enclosed mall. Look at it from the air. What we think of as Old Pasadena is only what’s left of Old Pasadena – before freeways and redevelopment removed most of it.

Most of the buildings were empty above the ground floor. The rest of them were pawn shops, porn theaters, and tattoo parlors – there’s nothing wrong with that but it shouldn’t be your only land use. The city wanted to put in parking meters. The merchants said “no way – it’ll chase away the few customers we have – down to this enclosed mall you subsidized.” They argued for a couple of years. Finally the city said “if we put in the parking meters, we’ll spend all of the revenue for added public services on the metered streets. We’ll rebuild all the sidewalks and clean up the alleys.” The merchants said “why didn’t you tell us that before? Let’s run the meters until midnight. Let’s run ‘em on Sunday.” They were so excited when they knew they would get the revenue instead of going into the city general fund.

Linton: Revenue return is just one of the three main parking reforms that you recommend for cities. Explain those.

Shoup: I recommend three basic policies:  Read more…

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Donald Shoup Interview, Part 1: Adaptive Reuse, Parking Cash-Out, Teaching

Selfie with Don Shoup. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Selfie with Don Shoup. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Donald Shoup is one of my heroes. He’s the authority on parking: how it shapes cities, how it enables driving, and how cities can fix the problems that parking policies create. He has a legion of followers who proudly call themselves Shoupistas. Shoup is retiring from UCLA this year. The college is sending him off with a fundraiser retirement dinner atop parking structure number 32 on Saturday May 30. You can attend, and hobnob with Shoup himself, by donating to the Shoup Fellowship fund for future UCLA planning students.

Below is part one of my interview with Don Shoup. The interview took place at the UCLA Faculty Center on Friday, May 15, the day after UCLA’s Complete Streets Forum, where Professor Shoup had been impressed with a presentation on the soon-to-be phased out traffic congestion metric, Level of Service.

Joe Linton: For many years, as a cyclist and bicycle activist, I didn’t really think about parking. I thought “I don’t park – it’s not my issue.” But then Beth Steckler, my boss at Livable Places, recommended that I read The High Cost of Free Parking. I did, and it really opened my eyes. It’s one of the few books that has really changed the way I look at cities.

Don Shoup: I think that most people are not interested in parking itself. So I’ve tried to convince them that parking is important for what really interests them, which may be affordable housing or climate change or traffic congestion or fuel consumption or accidents or health or whatever.

And I think that’s why people are beginning to pay attention to parking – because they can see it’s perhaps the easiest way to make improvements in what they’re concerned about.

Whatever the concern, I think the most politically feasible and most cost-effective way to advance the cause is often to fix parking.

I don’t expect many people to be interested in parking per se. Most academics have neglected parking because it has such a low status.

In universities, no matter how much we talk about justice and equality, there are strict status hierarchies. International affairs are the most overarching topic. And then national affairs are very important. State government seems provincial. Local government is totally parochial. And then in local government, what’s the lowest status thing you could talk about? That would be parking.

So I’ve been a bottom feeder, but found a lot of food down there.

And there’s so much to see if you just look at it very carefully. I think if you look at anything carefully you will find that it’s fascinating.

I am happy to think that you and others are seeing the connection between parking what you’re now interested in– the Level of Service metric for traffic congestion

Most of us are not interested in measuring the Level of Service at intersections. Nevertheless, at the Complete Streets forum yesterday, Chris Ganson, from the California Office of Planning and Research, explained why inappropriate LOS measures prevent infill development and why theyinstead encourage suburban low-density development.

Linton: I call it zombie engineering. Though it’s not just engineering, it’s also planning, design. There are so many practices and policies and rules that say we have to do the car stuff first and foremost, that they end up with a life of their own. You can get rid of Level of Service, and the next thing is going to be financing or something else. It just feels like a multi-tentacled monster — cut one off, and there are still a hundred more rules saying you have to accommodate car stuff first.

Shoup: Yes, that’s true. So long as the tentacles don’t regenerate, it is worth cutting them off.

I think part of the problem with zombie urban planning is that many people, including me, don’t have a strong visual understanding of the effects of something like Level of Service measures or parking requirements.

I was in Vancouver a couple weeks ago. I hadn’t been there for forty years. It was fascinating to see it looking a bit like Hong Kong, except …well, far better-looking. There are a lot of new high rises downtown – condos, apartment buildings, and office buildings. They have very wide sidewalks and not that much traffic congestion and [on] almost every block there will be a high rise. And you like it without knowing exactly why. 

Read more…

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APTA Metro Review: Raise Fares, Consolidate Service, Charge For Parking

Metro's APTA review makes a lot of recommendations can balance the agency ... Photo via Wikimedia

Metro’s APTA review recommends how the agency can best prioritize services for low income bus riders. Photo via Wikimedia

When the Metro board approved fare hikes last May, it also directed Metro to engage experts from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) to study Metro’s fares and look into other revenue strategies. APTA experts completed their review recently, and presented their findings at last week’s Metro board meeting. Though the APTA review recommended approving Metro’s proposed fare increases, many of their findings contrast somewhat with present Metro policies.

The review sheds light on many Metro revenue practices, from fares to parking, and what their implications are regarding serving low-income riders. More details are available at the full review [PDF]; Metro’s summary [PDF], audio from last week’s board discussion (item 56 here), and The Source.

Metro Fares

Auditors characterized Metro’s challenges as “meeting state of good repair costs, which are going up as the system ages,” and paying down a “long term and growing debt service burden [due to] building out the system capital expansion program.” To meet these, the APTA panel recommended that Metro approve two proposed 25-cent fare increases, to take effect in 2017 and 2020. In addition, APTA recommended that Metro approve ongoing fare modification to match inflation, as reflected by the Consumer Price Index (CPI.)

The review also supported raising Metro’s student fare, which is currently frozen. APTA recommends that Metro partner with colleges and others to help offset the costs of student discounts. During the board discussion, though not explicitly mentioned in the review, one panelist suggested Metro consider adopting one practice used by other transit agencies: offering a discount fare for youth (such as up to age 18) that is not necessarily dependent on student status.

The review recommended consolidation of all of Metro’s discounts – senior, student/youth, and low-income – into a single discounted fare product. Means-testing for this (deciding who qualifies for discounts) could be done in conjunction with other governmental programs, such as school free lunch programs and/or utility discounts, thereby lessening administrative burdens for Metro and its patrons.

The review recommended trip-based discounts over time-based discounts. Low income riders are better served by, for example, a ten-trip pass than a weekly or monthly unlimited pass. Citing a New York study, the APTA panel noted that thirty-day passes tend to benefit higher-income riders. For example, even transit-dependent riders sometimes get rides in a car, possibly at times when Metro service is lacking. With trip-based discounts, these non-Metro trips save a Metro fare, and hence wouldn’t effectively count against a time-based unlimited pass.  Read more…

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Cyclists, Hikers Urge Park Advisory Board To End Griffith Park Parking Trial

Standing room only crowd as park users rallied to opposed Griffith Park desecration of Mount Hollywood Drive. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Standing room only crowd as park users rally to oppose Griffith Park desecration of Mount Hollywood Drive. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last night, over a hundred people who walk or bike in and near Griffith Park attended the Griffith Park Advisory Board meeting to express opposition to a current 3-week trial allowing cars on formerly car-free Mount Hollywood Drive. In an attempt to deal with the problem of “too much traffic,” the city of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (DRP) has opened one mile of Mt. Hollywood to driving and parking.

A month ago, that quiet park road was off-limits to cars, and home to people on foot and on bike, and even coyotes and other wildlife. Today, it serves a parking lot.

DRP Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan stressed that spring break was the heaviest time of the year for Griffith Park, with car traffic sometimes backing up onto adjacent surface streets. “There’s a ton of people coming and there always will be” Regan stated. His statements tended to conflate “people” solely with cars and parking.

With the large standing-room-only crowd in attendance, and more than 50 speaker cards on the Mount Hollywood Drive item, the park board decided to cap testimony at 20 minutes.

Nobody spoke in favor of the pilot.

Many people expressed their deep affinity for Griffith Park’s serene car-free roads as a respite to the car-centric streets of Los Angeles. Weighing in against the trial were representatives from cycling organizations, including the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Finish the Ride, Ride to Recovery, and the city’s Council-appointed Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Though cyclists comprised the majority of the opposition, hikers and equestrians also expressed frustration with the trial. Friends of Griffith Park board president Gerry Hans spoke on his organization’s strong opposition, reiterating concerns raised in the FoGP’s comment letter [PDF].

A few speakers attributed the park’s worsening traffic problems to Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. LaBonge has had a heavy hand in steering Hollywood Sign tourist traffic away from the well-heeled Beachwood Canyon neighborhood, re-focusing it instead toward Griffith Observatory, then spilling onto Mt. Hollywood Drive.  Read more…

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Griffith Park Traffic Response: Poorly Defined Free Parking Expansion Pilot

Cars parking and turning on Mount Hollywood Drive, until recently one of Griffith Park's car-free recreation roads. Photo courtesy Friends of Griffith Park

Cars parking and turning on Mount Hollywood Drive, until recently one of Griffith Park’s car-free recreation roads. Photo courtesy Friends of Griffith Park

The city of Los Angeles’ Griffith Park is a 4000+acre green-space gem at the heart of highly developed region.

Since the early 1990s, the park has had an extensive network of closed-to-cars paved roads that crisscross many of its wilderness hillsides. These roads offer a quiet respite from the city, plus incredible views. Like other car-free spaces, they are very popular with people on foot and on bicycle. Friends of Griffith Park’s board president Gerry Hans calls these roads “an unexpected mecca for passive recreation, especially bicyclists.”

The city of Los Angeles’ Department of Recreation and Parks (DRP, which as of press time had not responded to SBLA’s inquiry) recently began a trial that opened up a one-mile car-free stretch of Mount Hollywood Drive to driving and parking. This is the park road directly west of the Griffith Observatory.

The trial is poorly defined. DRP has yet to put anything in writing about it. In theory, DRP is testing out 200 additional parking spaces, which may someday become paid parking to help drivers access the park and to help the department capture revenue. The plan, as explained by Hans, is for DRP to eventually charge for parking at three locations: Griffith Observatory, Western Canyon Road, and Mount Hollywood Drive. Today, all Griffith Park parking is free, other than at the L.A. Zoo. Why the DRP is giving away free parking to test paid parking is unclear.

During the trial underway, park staff are surveying people who drive and park on the newly-gridlocked Mount Hollywood Drive. Hans reports that DRP personnel are refusing to take input from hikers and bicyclists present, surveying only motorists. The newly opened road, like many places with free parking, has been full of cars driving, parking, and turning around. It has already become an uncomfortable place for walking and bicycling.

The trial opened last Friday, March 20, and is set to last for three weeks.

What’s putting pressure on DRP to do something? It apparently has to do with the longstanding L.A. icon called the Hollywood Sign, which resides in an essentially inaccessible area of Griffith Park.  Read more…

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ULI FutureBuild2015 Recap: Peeks at Future Transportation and Parking

Streetsblog L.A. was a media sponsor of yesterday’s Future Build Los Angeles 2015 conference which showcased “trends, people and forces remaking the built environment.” The event was hosted by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) L.A. in partnership with VerdeXchange.

Many individual speakers and panelists touched on topics pertinent to Streetsblog. City of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Rick Cole (currently tied for second in SBLA’s reader poll to pick Art Leahy’s successor – voting ends January 31) touched on the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to become a more “livable, walkable” place, and touted Metro’s ambitious five new rail projects under construction. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia touched on complete streets’ ability to accomplish multiple city goals.

Most streetsbloggy, though were panel discussions on transportation and parking.

ULI FutureBuild 2015 panel on transportation. Left to right: Carter Rubin, Seleta Reynolds, Gabe Klein, and Gail Goldberg. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

ULI FutureBuild 2015 panel on transportation. Left to right: Carter Rubin, Seleta Reynolds, Gabe Klein, and Gail Goldberg. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The Transformation of Ground Transportation and Streets: Trends Driving Tomorrow’s Cities 

This panel featured:

  • Gail Goldberg – head of ULI L.A., and former head of L.A. Department of City Planning (DCP)
  • Gabe Klein – entrepreneurial livability rock star, ULI fellow, currently with Bridj
  • Seleta Reynolds – General Manager, L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT)
  • Carter Rubin, moderator – L.A. mayoral Great Streets program manager and former Streetsblog L.A. intern

Seleta Reynolds prescribed three important tasks to move cities toward more streets as great public spaces:

  1. Get a “new cookbook.” U.S., CA, and L.A. all currently design streets based on what Reynolds called “insane” standards from American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO.) Reynolds urged cities not to use a cookie-cutter approach, and to put more credence in forward-thinking design guidance, including National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO.)
  2. Measure the outcomes that count. Reynolds decried the past decades when pretty much the only metric that mattered was car capacity. She’s happy that car-centric Level of Service (LOS) is on its way out, but urged that we need to count all people using our streets, and to measure outcomes related to economics, health, and the environment. Reynolds told the story of how L.A.’s CicLAvia events were studied and showed to not only dramatically improve air quality on the CicLAvia route streets, but also overall, including nearby streets not on the route.
  3. Become better storytellers. Reynolds spoke about how the public quickly gets lost in the jargon of transportation discussions, mentioning that even seemingly simple concepts like a “left-turn pocket” will often be misunderstood. She stated that lots of transportation professionals have “totally lost the plot” and need to develop skills in communicating with the general public

Gabe Klein focused on how smart technologies are disrupting transportation’s “legacy assets.” Klein told how Uber has exploited the inefficiencies of old-school taxi systems, but that ultimately “the disruptors will quickly be disrupted” with proprietary “sharing” ultimately giving way to peer-to-peer sharing. Klein envisions a future where driverless cars in shared fleets could be active 95 percent of the time, instead of parked 95 percent of the time like current private cars. Klein stressed that Google’s driverless car is a “25 mph urban vehicle” expected to be deployed primarily in shared-use fleets, not individually-owned. Klein speculates that it could result in 85 percent fewer cars on our streets, and could dramatically decrease the need for parking.

During question and answer, both Klein and Reynolds expressed caution in giving too much private sector control of public space. Instead, they stressed that the public needs to incentivize outcomes that improve the quality of life for inhabitants. Partnerships should serve public good, with bike share systems as a worthwhile example of a successful public-private partnership.

Goldberg professed that she loves L.A.’s residential streets, but finds commercial corridors “embarassing.” She announced an exciting new national ULI initiative that will re-think a key street in L.A., though the formal announcement will be coming soon.  Read more…

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Times, ABC7, and Metro Parking Stories Are Wrong and Misleading

Yesterday, the L.A. Times ran Lack of Parking Drives Many Away from Mass Transit, an article by Laura Nelson.

The Times starts with the example of a San Fernando Valley Metro Red Line commuter nearly missing grabbing a parking space. This leads to assertions of “parking shortages” on “L.A.’s light-rail system [sic – Red Line is heavy rail].” The article goes on to quote various Metro representatives, then parking expert UCLA professor Don Shoup. Ultimately, Nelson characterizes Metro parking as a “key policy question.”

Vid capture of

Screen/video capture from ABC7’s misleading L.A. Metro parking story. Alex Gonzales of Anaheim, a city not even in Los Angeles County, says “If you can’t park, then why would you take the train?”

Like a sad game of telephone, ABC7 (KABC-TV) picked up the Times’ assertions and stretched them to near absurdity.

ABC7’s story, Parking Issues to Blame for Low Transit Ridership in Los Angeles, has the gall to interview a man-on-the-street from Anaheim, a suburb not even in L.A. County, who says, “if you can’t park, then why would you take the train?”

It looks like he is riding the train in Pasadena but, honestly, couldn’t ABC7 find someone who lives in L.A. County?

Sure, transportation issues cross political boundaries, but should Metro, a governmental agency with jurisdiction over L.A. County, prioritize limited funds to serve people who don’t live here?

First two general points, then responses to Times article specifics:

1. Lots of People Ride Metro, Few Use Metro Parking 

Let me first note that lots and lots of people ride Metro buses and trains. About 1.5 millon every weekdayThere’s no “low ridership” issue here. Especially during rush hour, buses and trains are standing room only.

The vast majority of these Metro riders do not park. According to Metro’s on-board surveys, more than 80 percent of transit riders arrive by walking. Fewer than 4 percent drive and park. Even when excluding buses, just looking at the Metro rail system, only about 15 percent of riders drive and park. That is roughly 1 in 7.

The system works. Mostly with most riders paying no attention to parking.

2. It Costs Metro Hundreds of Millions of Dollars to Build and Maintain “Free” Parking 

Free parking is not free for Metro to build and maintain. Metro has already spent more than $200 million to build station parking. As more parking comes on line, Metro pays more and more to operate and maintain it.

Multi-million dollar investments in parking come with trade-offs. As an agency with a limited taxpayer-funded budget, Metro can choose to fund more buses, more rail, more parking, more freeways, more walkways, bike share, etc. The difficult political job of the agency is to strike a balance between these competing public goods.

Responding to Various Erroneous or Misleading Points  

The Times, ABC7, and even Metro routinely just say “parking” when they’re really referring to just “free parking.” For example, the Times (apparently repeating a Metro assertion) states:

In North Hollywood, where the Red Line subway ends, the MTA estimates that it loses as many as 1,500 riders a day because the parking lot fills up by 7:30 a.m.

Below is a photo of the North Hollywood Red Line Station parking lot at 7:30 a.m. this morning.

Metro Red Line North Hollywood Station today at 7:30am

Metro’s Red Line North Hollywood Station parking lot, which “fills up by 7:30 a.m.” wasn’t full today at 7:30 a.m. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The North Hollywood station parking lot has 909 parking spaces. 451 are free. 425 require a paid monthly permit (currently $59, but sold out.) The free parking section is full, by about 6:30 a.m. The paid section never quite fills up. At 8 a.m. today there were still at least 200 empty spaces. Nonetheless that ‘parking lot full by 7:30 a.m.’ myth gets repeated frequently: L.A. MagazineZev’s Blog, Metro board motions [PDF page 6], but the lot is not full. (Note: Laura Nelson responded via Twitter that “full” more-or-less meant “unavailable.”) 

How about the rest of that Times quote of Metro estimating it’s losing 1,500 riders a day? I think this figure from this Metro staff report [PDF] which reads:

Staff conducted a review of parking demand using Metro’s Regional Transportation Modeling Program for the North Hollywood and Universal City stations. The unconstrained parking demand for both stations far exceeds supply. Unconstrained parking demand is defined as the number of spaces required if there are no regulatory or financial restrictions on use of the parking. The 2014 unconstrained parking demand at North Hollywood is 3,075 spaces. Metro provides 951 [sic – actual: 909] spaces, leaving an unconstrained demand of 2,124 parking spaces.

What is this “unconstrained demand” with “no financial restrictions”? It is meaningless nonsense. Ultimately nothing that exists on planet earth can exist in wholly “unconstrained” theoretical economic cartoon-fantasy-space. Metro needs to balance its constrained budget.

Metro dressing this mumbo-jumbo up in a scientific-sounding “Regional Transportation Modeling Program” is irresponsible.  Read more…

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New CA Database Shows How Much Parking Costs and How Little It’s Used

TransForm’s GreenTrips Parking Database provides an unprecedented level of data on the costs of building parking — and how much it’s used — in multifamily housing developments in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Zoning laws in California usually require new developments to come with a minimum number of parking spaces. Housing, restaurants, stores, movie theaters — everything requires some number of parking spaces, theoretically based on the best available data.

Each of these empty underground parking spaces typically costs about $80,000. Image: Pixabay.com

Usually that data is whatever is listed in the Institute of Transportation Engineer’s (ITE) Parking Generation Manual. Since that manual has long been the only source of data on parking usage in the country, planners rely on it to help them figure out how many parking spaces a project should include.

But there are serious limitations with the ITE data, as is noted in the manual itself. As Professor Donald Shoup, UCLA’s “parking guru,” explained in a paper [PDF]: Providing too much parking encourages driving, thus contributing to congestion, and discourages walking and bicycling (unless you love walking across hot expanses of pavement to your store).

Plus, building parking is expensive.

A new tool, the GreenTRIP Parking Database, can help by providing better data on actual parking usage at multifamily housing units. This is only one of the many land use categories about which planners seek data, but it is a key one.

The database, created by TransForm, an Oakland-based advocacy group that focuses on better land use and transportation policies, tracks more than just parking usage. Data is available about the number of parking spaces per unit, how much of that parking sits empty, what percentage of the building is affordable housing, whether residents pay for parking separately from their rent, what level of transit service is available nearby, whether residents are offered transit passes or carshare membership, what if any parking management exists on surrounding streets, and other data relevant to parking usage.

Read more…