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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.

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The Los Angeles Times Really Doesn’t Think Drivers Should Be Fined for Parking at Broken Meters

Last week, the Los Angeles City Council voted to continue the city policy of ticketing motorized vehicles parked in metered spaces where the meter is vandalized. Since the city began this program in 2009, the number of broken meters has dropped signifiganty, because of a combination of factors including the installation of newer parking meters and a dramatic decrease in the number of meters that are vandalized.

Photo: Mayor Sam

When the “ticketing at broken meters” policy was first announced in 2009, there was a brief media firestorm, although much of the story was lost in a larger uprising over a general increase in parking meter rates. Earlier this year, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that banned ticketing at broken meters unless individual municipalities re-passed ordinances allowing the ticketing. The new legislation did little more than allow the Governor and some legislators to make themselves the “good guys” to the long-suffering California car-driver without actually doing anything.

However, the news of the legislation’s passing in Sacramento sent joy through the legacy media in Los Angeles, many of whom drive from houses to offices in Downtown Los Angeles or the Westside where private parking spaces await them. That the City Council almost immediately vowed to over-turn the law didn’t dampen their excitement.

So last week, the Los Angeles Times got a second chance to make a stink about a policy that is clearly working, vandalism at meters is at an all-time low, even if every broken meter in the city is a result of vandalism. The article on the Council action stated that the city is pocketing $5 million a year from tickets at broken meters. Even though the LADOT made clear that there is never more than 5 meters broken in a given day, the Times misquoted an LADOT official in a way that just happened to fit the narrative that the city was balancing its budget ledgers on the roof of L.A.’s hapless drivers.

To their credit, the Times did print a correction on their web-edition. The correction does make it sound that the LADOT is playing fast and loose with the numbers, not that their reporter made a mistake, but who’s counting?

For those of you without a Times subscription, here is the correction. For obvious reasons, we’re not reprinting the entire article: Read more…

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L.A. Finally Embraces Sanity on Parking Policy

Parking minimums have led to parking lots that aren't always the best use of private space. Photo:Gary Kavanagh

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council embraced looser parking standards that will allow communities some flexibility in creating parking standards for new development. The full motion can be read here.

For decades, Los Angeles has labored under a “one size fits all” approach to parking.  This has led to businesses that are forced to put parking lots over urban design and has stopped the city from looking, and being all that it could be. It’s led to “transit oriented developments” with two deeded parking spaces per unit.

There are some parts of the city already blessed with relaxed parking requirements such including the area near the Red Line Station in Hollywood and Western and the Atwater Village, where shops were able to buy their way out of parking minimums.

There are seven tools that can be employed in a  Modified Parking Requirement Districts.

First, the city can exempt businesses that change the existing use of a building from needing to change the buildings parking. The popular example is a restaurant that moves into a space that was once used as a book store. Restaurants require more parking than bookstores under existing code.

Second, the developer could move parking off-site, within 1,500 feet of the entrance. This allows for mixed-use parking lots or shared lots.

Commercial parking credits similar to what was done to create the Atwater Commercial District are now on the table for any district that wants one.

Most obviously, developers can just request a relaxation of the city’s parking requirements.  Districts can also ask for either decreased or increased parking minimums. Read more…

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Wait ‘Til Next Year: Parking Reform Bill Pulled from Assembly Committee

The Globe Mills Transit Oriented Development in Sacramento won national and international awards for design and livability. Sacramento has a minimum parking requirement of one space per unit, the same standard A.B. 904 wishes to create for every city in California. Photo:Miyamoto International

With the clock ticking, a state bill that would have banned parking minimums near transit nodes in certain circumstances was pulled from the July 3 California Senate Governance and Finance Committee agenda, shooting down major statewide parking reform efforts for at least another year. A.B. 904, a bill which waspraised by parking policy guru and UCLA professor Donald Shoup, appears to be dead in the water, but opponents vow to re-introduce a similar proposal next year.

Leading the charge for A.B. 904 was Mott Smith, a developer based in Los Angeles who sits on the California Infill Builder’s Association Board of Directors. “I’ve heard from countless cities that they want to fix their 60-year-old parking requirements, but they don’t have the money, the staff or the political will to take this on by themselves,” said Smith. “Next year’s version of AB 904 will give them tools to grow much more sustainably and affordably, without creating an onerous State mandate.” Berkeley Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, who introduced A.B. 904, is likely to sponsor a new proposal.

The legislation would stop municipalities from imposing parking minimums on new development of more than one space per unit or 1,000 square feet of retail within a half-mile of a transit node without meeting one of four exemptions.  The legislation wouldn’t impact parking meter rates, require the removal of any parking space, or even limit the amount of spaces that could be developed.

However, opponents claimed those were all possibilities in their mis-information campaign against the A.B. 904, led by the League of California Cities. The campaign’s tactics were at times laughable: Smith remembers a flyer distributed against A.B. 710, a similar bill a similar bill proposed last year, showing a clown car and bemoaning the lack of car parking for the planned Farmer’s Field Stadium.  Of course, because the bill doesn’t limit the developer with parking maximums, the image had about as much to do with A.B. 710 as a picture of aliens destroying a parking garage.  Still, the campaign was effective.

Read more…