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Posts from the "Parking" Category

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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…

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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…

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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.

Streetsblog SF 13 Comments

Donald Shoup Breaks Down Two Years of Data From Groundbreaking SFpark

Drivers were most sensitive to changes in parking prices in the early afternoon, and were more sensitive during the week than the weekend.

Donald Shoup may be known as a guru of smart parking policy, but even he has found a few surprises in the data collected so far from SFpark.

“The biggest surprise I got was that prices went up and down, but overall, they stayed the same. The average price actually declined by 1 percent,” said Shoup, professor of urban planning at UCLA and author of The High Cost of Free Parking, the bible of modern parking policy. “That surprised everybody. People thought it was just a way to jack up prices, but the city specifically said, ‘We are going to set prices according to this principle.’”

SFpark, which uses “smart meters” and ground sensors to measure parking occupancy and adjust prices accordingly, is providing valuable lessons for San Francisco and cities around the world that want to reduce the amount of time drivers spend cruising the streets for a parking space.

The growing body of data collected from the program is shedding more light on the complexities of parking demand. But overall, Shoup says, it’s providing hard evidence that raising and lowering meter prices is an effective way to keep enough parking spots available for drivers who need them — and to help ensure too many spots don’t sit empty.

Donald Shoup at the launch event for SFpark in 2011. Photo: Bryan Goebel

Keeping, say, one parking spot open on every block “will make the transportation work best — it’ll reduce cruising, speed up buses, reduce air pollution,” said Shoup. “It’s easy to explain [a goal] like that — we’re aiming at what you want to see.”

In a recent report [PDF] published in the Journal of the American Planning Association, Shoup and UCLA doctoral student Gregory Pierce explain that since SFpark managers began adjusting meter prices in August of 2011, the “elasticity” of parking demand — the degree to which price changes affect parking occupancy — has varied across different locations and times of day (due to different trip purposes, they surmise), and that drivers changed their behavior most profoundly after the second price adjustment, possibly due to a spike in awareness of the program. As prices have been refined, elasticity has declined.

Prices appeared to have the lowest impacts in highly residential neighborhoods like the Mission and the Marina, while retail districts like Fisherman’s Wharf and the Fillmore saw the most drastic adjustments to new prices, according to the report.

Read more…

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City Council Allows Parking at Broken Meters, Media Celebrates

The public outcry about the city ticketing drivers parked at a broken meter was always a media-created tempest in a teapot.

Even the office of Mike Bonin, the City Council Member who wrote the legislation that repealed the city’s 2010 and 2012 ordinances banning parking at broken meters admitted that after the city completed changing over all of its 38,000 meters in January, the city has issued a grand total of zero tickets for parking at a broken parking meter.

So today’s action, a 13-0 vote, to allow parking at broken meters is all about the publicity. This is a new City Council…one that cares about being fair and the perception of being fair.

And it’s working, L.A. Weekly’s usually caustic Dennis Romero is already celebrating the new policy, even as his article admits that it won’t actually change the status quo at all. LAist is similarly thrilled. I’m sure the television news will breathlessly cover this non-event as well this evening.

The City Council vote pre-empted a motion that was moving briskly through the legislature in Sacramento to ban laws banning parking at broken meters by Asm. Mike Gatto. Gatto is probably heartbroken that Mike Bonin and not Mike Gatto will be the hero who freed parkers from this onerous burden to park at parking meters that weren’t broken which almost never happened anyway.

But here’s the thing. The policy of banning parking at broken meters was never about targeting car drivers or revenue enhancement, as the media often claimed. It was about discouraging vandalism of meters.

And by that standard, the policy was a tremendous success. Read more…

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How Flexible Parking Requirements Spur Economic Development: Lessons from Santa Monica

WilshireStreetView.jpg

Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica serves as a border between standard parking requirements (left) and flexible parking requirements (right). Photo via Google Maps. Click image to go to Google Maps.

Editor’s Note: Streetsblog Los Angeles founding board member Carter Rubin recently finished his Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree at UCLA. In the following article, he recaps the findings from his capstone “client project” for the Urban Design Studio at the L.A. Department of City Planning. His research adviser was the inimitable parking guru, UCLA Urban Planning Professor Donald Shoup. You can read the report in its entirety here.

It’s hard to imagine today, but Santa Monica’s commercial areas – now home to Silicon Beach, tourism and bustling retail – were sleepy, underperforming and shabby just a few decades ago. In an effort to revive its commercial heart in particular, the city approved millions in funding for municipal parking structures in the heart of downtown. These garages still stand today on streets parallel to the Third Street Promenade.

City leaders hoped that this would create a convenient means for potential patrons to reach the Promenade, allowing them to park once and do all their subsequent shopping, dining and recreating on foot, thus keeping the streets clear of excessive car trips. More easy parking seemed like the obvious fix, but those garages alone weren’t enough to generate the commercial transformation Santa Monica sought.

What Santa Monica needed – and eventually got – was a different kind of parking change. The critical policy was to create a by-right process allowing developers to build, and businesses to operate, with less on-site parking. It was a dramatic break from what is typical of virtually every city in America: require every business to provide abundant on-site parking, free of charge to all its patrons, regardless of whether or not the business deems it necessary.

This new policy would ultimately allow small-scale developers and entrepreneurs to find and implement the most successful uses for those properties without having to worry about whether meeting the expensive minimum parking requirements was practical or cost-effective.

That was the change that would ultimately lead to a vibrant commercial district generating significantly more revenue for schools, libraries, transit and other municipal services.

Santa Monica’s Parking Innovation Read more…

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Visualizing America’s Absurd Parking Requirements

The black rectangles represent the amount of space required for parking in proportion to 10,000 square foot office buildings (represented by the blue rectangles) in different U.S. cities. Image: Seth Goodman at Graphingparking.wordpress.com Click to enlarge.

Architect Seth Goodman is on a mission to illustrate the absurdity of parking requirements. The above image, showing mandatory parking requirements for office buildings in different American cities, is one of three infographics he created to show the extent to which American cities mandate the construction of parking.

The worst offenders in the office category were San Jose, Albuquerque and Austin (though Austin recently eliminated all parking minimums downtown). Goodman notes that the majority of U.S. cities exempt their downtowns from these requirements, but he says that’s not enough.”In many of these cities, the relatively small footprint of these exempt areas has failed achieve the critical mass necessary to create robust transit ridership and fully-functioning pedestrian oriented communities.”

Goodman has created two other infographics that explain different cities’ parking requirements for residences and restaurants. The below comes from his examination of residential parking requirements.  You can see that for two-bedroom apartments in U.S. cities, the median parking requirement consumes more than half as much space as the dwelling itself:

Read more…

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They Paved Paradise, Parking In Santa Monica

The Real Problem Sat Right Behind Us
Parking has been dominating the public policy debate in Santa Monica the past few weeks, ever since the local lobbying group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) made transportation consultant Jeffery Tumlin into a target. Unfortunately they subsequently succeeded in having him removed from Santa Monica projects after years of great work with city planning efforts including our Bike Action Plan.

Our Santa Monica weekly column is supported by Bike Center in Santa Monica.

The open letter against Tumlin created a stir about the use of the word “nimby” on his website biography, which Tumlin used to characterize the discussion around development in Santa Monica prior to the LUCE process, and has since apologized for. However, that comment had been on the website for years while Tumlin worked on Santa Monica planning projects, as Frank Gruber points in his recent post on the history underlining this whole matter.

The controversy over using the word nimby was most likely a convenient pretense for the real reason SMCLC wanted him gone: he has been pitching ideas to reform our outdated parking policies. Reform ideas which groups like SMCLC have depicted as radical, unfortunately contributing to the local media lens on this issue, which so often adopts or promotes the language of status quo advocates. Paul Barter of Reinventing Parking makes a a compelling case “it is the status quo that is extreme” in Santa Monica and most of the USA.

Looking back over the SMCLC letter, there is the line “…we are concerned by Mr. Tumlin’s proposal to decrease the amount of parking required by new developments in our city– this in spite of residents asking for MORE parking not less…”. One could also just as forcefully assert that residents have asked for less traffic congestion, perhaps even more loudly than for more parking. These two goals are at odds with each other in most contexts, especially locations as popular as Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Parking Land Use

My 2010 off-street parking land use map of DTSM

This is symptomatic of the “have our cake and eat it too” approach to traffic management so often advocated. Of course we cannot have everything we want simply because we want it. Real life involves trade offs. So despite having high parking minimums for decades, a sort of individual mandate for cars, on-street traffic only got more congested. If we build parking spaces faster than we build housing units, as has been the case for quite sometime and which high parking minimums ensure, it really shouldn’t be surprising that streets fill up with cars and that the scale of our parking lots dwarfs our parks for people.

When I look at the backlash to eliminating or even just dialing back parking minimum zoning, I encounter a lot of mistaken ideas about the proposals. One of the most egregious misinterpretations I encounter is believing that somehow dialing back the mandate is a grab for people’s existing parking. The reality is that removing or lowering the mandate is more akin to saying some developments in the future may build fewer parking spaces than one’s built since the 80′s, but would not be obligated to. Read more…

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With All Eyes on L.A., Villaraigosa Signs New Bike Parking Ordinance

Moments ago, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed a new bicycle parking ordinance into law which requires more bicycle parking at new developments and even allows a small swap of car parking for bike parking in certain approved development plans. The ordinance was on the verge of being signed last year before a series of small technical changes were added and the legislation had to go back through the City Council Committee structure.

Villaraigosa at the bike plan signing, March 2011. Photo:LACBC Blog

“The city is undergoing a transportation renaissance and we are changing the way Los Angeles moves,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, before signing the bill. “We have made unprecedented investments in the city’s bike infrastructure, with more bikeways and bike parking spaces than any time in the city’s history. The bicycle parking ordinance is another step in making it easier for Angelenos to navigate the city on two wheels.”

The ordinance  goes into effect on March 13, 2013.

Under the new law, up to 30% of auto parking can swapped for bicycle parking within a commercial nonresidential  project and 15% of auto parking can be swapped within a residential project that is near a major bus or transit station.  This could be particularly crucial for the transit oriented developments that pop up as a result of the new train lines that are coming online as a result of Measure R.

The ordinance also provides a mechanism to add more bike corrals to city streets.   These on-street public bicycle parking spaces offer an opportunity to provide ample bicycle parking without taking up pedestrian space on sidewalks. Bike corrals have been proven to increase bicycle usage in areas where they are installed, as they encourage residents to travel by bicycle around their neighborhoods to do their shopping and errands.   Read more…

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LA Planners Leapfrog NYC DCP, Approve Plan With No Mandatory Parking

Angie reported this morning that Washington, DC, is moving to reduce mandatory parking requirements in much of the city, which should lower the cost of housing and curb traffic. Meanwhile, despite talk last year of wide-ranging parking reforms for New York’s “inner ring” encircling the Manhattan core, the Department of City Planning has so far only managed to put forward a reduction of parking minimums in transit-saturated Downtown Brooklyn, the most screamingly obvious location.

All the shaded blocks will have no parking requirements under the plan approved yesterday by the Los Angeles Planning Commission.

Now you can add another city to the rapidly expanding list of places leapfrogging NYC on parking reform: Los Angeles.

Yesterday the Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved the Cornfield Arroyo Seco plan, which will eliminate parking minimums as part of a bid to spur mixed-use development along the Gold Line, a light-rail route that began service in 2003. (Streetsblog LA posted this summary of the plan by Joe Linton in 2009.)

Curbed LA reports:

City Planner Claire Bowin told Curbed today that the lack of parking requirements will allow developers to “minimize the amount of parking for specific projects,” given the neighborhood’s proximity to transit, the changing culture of Los Angeles, and the declining need for parking. Given that parking is usually one of the most expensive components of a development project, developers are expected to minimize the construction of parking, or build parking that they can then rent for public uses not attached to their site. The effect, says Bowin, will be to “let the market decide” how much parking is needed and where.

For everyone keeping score at home, Los Angeles has managed to do away with parking minimums along a corridor that’s served by a single light-rail line. Here in NYC, Amanda Burden’s planning department could only muster the will to halve parking requirements for Downtown Brooklyn, with its 14 subway lines.