Rethinking Parking

“We don’t want developers to build surface lots. And our zoning, still to this day, is based on parking minimums…The only reason we are going into the CASP [Core Area Specific Plan] update at all is we recognize that our downtown redevelopment efforts are lagging. They are not near what they could be or what they should be. We need to have as a primary goal how to spur downtown redevelopment.” – Robb Davis, City of Davis mayor

Foreword: As the Davis community continues the conversation around creating a vision for our downtown, updating our Core Area Specific Plan and replacing the current zoning ordinances and design guidelines with form-based codes, the following  interview with Donald Shoup (author and UCLA professor) and Jeffrey Tumlin (director of strategy for Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates) will fundamentally inform our conversation.

Here are some highlights from the interview, conducted by Public Square editor Robert Steuteville:

Public Square: “Parking is one of the primary shapers of US communities, and has been for a century. The walkability of a city or town is often determined by how much parking dominates the public realm. New urbanists promoted design solutions to reduce the impact of parking on public spaces and ideas like “park once” and shared parking to create better urban places. Like-minded innovators have taken reform to new levels through market-based parking strategies that allow urban places to flourish.”

Donald Shoup: “On-street parking provides a barrier between the sidewalk and moving traffic. If treated well, curb parking is not the evil that many people think it is.”  On the other hand, “There are negatives, especially where parking is placed between the sidewalk and the front of a building so that when you’re walking along the street, you see a parking lot between you and the front of the store and it’s clear that the real customers of the store are drivers, not pedestrians.”

Donald Shoup: “One of the things that New Urbanism has definitely got right is the park-once strategy. With municipal parking structures, people can park in one location, and then walk around for as long as they’re in the district. That’s very different from what most cities require, which is usually that every building has to have its own parking on-site.”

Donald Shoup: “The quality of the off street parking matters too. Wrap the parking structure with active uses, a thin layer of offices, or apartments so that when you walk down the street it doesn’t look like the typical concrete-block parking garage. These are the aesthetics of parking.”

Jeffrey Tumlin: “Let us celebrate parking for a moment, and how parking drove the marketability of the suburbs. It’s easy as urbanists to underestimate the appeal of suburbia, not only today but particularly as it was being invented in the post-war era. The idea of limitless personal mobility is incredibly alluring. The ability to park, in part, drove the invention of a new lifestyle.”

Jeffrey Tumlin: “The mistake that we made was trying to apply the concept of the suburban dream on certain urban places. That we put a one-size-fits-all approach to the automobile and to automobile parking in both contexts, that was the failure. A one-time simple solution for almost any urban planning need fails either the city or the suburbs.”

Donald Shoup: “My main criticism does not concern parking itself but parking requirements. I’m not against cars and I’m not against parking. I’m against off-street parking requirements in zoning ordinances which I think have led to pedestrian-free zones in cities.”

Donald Shoup: “Consider three urban policies to stimulate the demand for cars and fuel,” he said. “First, separate different land uses. Housing here, jobs there and stores somewhere else. Second, limit density so you have to travel a distance to get from your house to your job and to a store. Third, require ample free parking everywhere, so cars become the natural way to travel everywhere.”

Donald Shoup: “Free parking in particular enables car travel. With these three policies, cities have reduced the cost of driving and raised the price of everything else to pay for it. It makes the city more drivable but less walkable.”

Donald Shoup: “If drivers paid for the cost to provide parking, we would use cars more rationally.” 

A little over a decade ago, Don Shoup wrote the book, The High Cost of Free Parking.

In talking about his book Shoup explained,When the book came out, half the planning profession thought I was crazy and the other half thought I was daydreaming. Now planners are beginning to think that the ideas were practical and sensible.”

Shoup believes the book has three key principles:

First, charge the right price for curb parking so there are always one or two open spaces on every block.

Second, spend that revenue to pay for added public services on the metered blocks so that the stakeholders benefit from these metered spots.

“Some cities use the money to provide free wi-fi to everybody on the street. They pressure wash the sidewalks frequently, plant new street trees, and remove graffiti every night. Investing the money back into the metered street creates the political will to charge the right price for on-street parking.”

Third, remove off-street parking requirements because nobody can say there’s a shortage of parking if drivers can always see one or two empty spaces on every block.

“Removing off-street parking requirements can have a big effect, even in the short run, because it allows the adaptive re-use of older buildings.”

Read more here.



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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19 Comments

  1. Michael Bisch

    Great quote from Robb above.  During the parking in-lieu fee discussion Tuesday night, Robb mirrored Shoup’s comments by saying:

    “It is time we consider going to parking maximums instead of parking minimums for redevelopment projects.”

  2. Ron

    From article:  He said, “One of the things that New Urbanism has definitely got right is the park-once strategy. With municipal parking structures, people can park in one location, and then walk around for as long as they’re in the district.”

    As long as it’s adequately funded via “in-lieu of fees” (e.g., from those creating and profiting from new demand), this seems like a fine idea. I usually “park once” now, when making trips downtown and visiting multiple locations, therein.

    1. Ron

      However, I personally don’t like parking in the existing multi-level garage (near the USDA building, and ACE).  A hassle to get in-and-out, tight spots on inclines (facilitating door dings), dark, have to listen that warning bell on the way out, etc.  Truly a last resort for me, at least.

      Still, this type of thing is likely the best overall solution, if the city is intent upon facilitating redevelopment downtown.

    2. Mark West

       “As long as it’s adequately funded via “in-lieu of fees””

      I’m not sure why you are hung up on this idea. What Donald Shoup, and the Mayor, are advocating is to get rid of on-site parking requirements.

      Donald Shoup: “My main criticism does not concern parking itself but parking requirements. I’m not against cars and I’m not against parking. I’m against off-street parking requirements in zoning ordinances which I think have led to pedestrian-free zones in cities.”

      Robb Davis: ““We don’t want developers to build surface lots. And our zoning, still to this day, is based on parking minimums…”

      If we follow the best practices prescribed by the experts in the field, we will get rid of parking minimums from our zoning codes, and with them, also get rid of the fees charged ‘in-lieu’ of those minimums, which is exactly what Michael Bisch has been advocating.

      1. Ron

        Mark:  I see that you chose to disregard the other quote from Donald Shoup (which I already posted above):

        He said, “One of the things that New Urbanism has definitely got right is the park-once strategy. With municipal parking structures, people can park in one location, and then walk around for as long as they’re in the district.”

        Why am I not surprised that development interests are attempting to abdicate responsibilities created by their proposed developments?  (What a surprise!)  (I particularly appreciate the “green lie”, as well.)

        At times, development interests are so greedy that they fail to even see the direct benefits (for their own proposals) of paying for the impacts that they create. And, some simultaneously attempt to demonize those who point out those impacts. (Truly a “winning strategy”.)

        I understand that Davis’ existing fees (which apparently have been waived, for now) are extremely low, compared to many other cities.

        1. Mark West

          Who is saying we shouldn’t have a municipal parking structure? Who is saying that downtown property owners shouldn’t help pay for that structure? No one is abdicating responsibility, we are trying to implement the best practices for creating an economically viable downtown and City.

        2. Ron

          Mark:  “No one is abdicating responsibility . . .”

          Mark:  ” . . . also get rid of the fees charged ‘in-lieu’ of those minimums, which is exactly what Michael Bisch has been advocating.”

          Did I really need to point this out?  It’s posted directly above, and has been repeated for days, now.

          As a side note, I believe that we already have an “economically viable” downtown. (Quite a nice one, especially for a valley town.) I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t appreciate it – especially when considering what’s occurred in other downtown areas, throughout the valley.

        3. Ron

          I suspect that Howard’s response (below) is the most accurate so far, overall. (Regarding realities and the solutions available, today.)

          Adequate “in-lieu of” fees will need to be part of the equation.  (It also ensures that those creating new demand are responsible for those impacts.)

  3. Howard P

    TNSTAFP… “Free Parking” may work on a board game, but doesn’t in real life.

    There is the cost of the parking structure… land, design, construction… then the maintenance and operation for as long as it is used.  There is also enforcement.

    Setting an in-lieu fee high enough to fully pay for capital costs, and an ‘endowment’ for operation/maintenance/enforcement will pretty much guarantee no re-development.  Might need to be a three legged stool, including in-lieu fees, parking fees, and assessments of businesses.  Finding the “sweet point” where costs can be paid, people will utilize the parking for a price, new business is still attracted, existing businesses can thrive, and the City experiences significant new net revenues will be no easy task.

    This will also necessitate paid on-street parking throughout the Core Area and possibly its margins.

     

    1. Mark West

      Even smart people get stuck in a rut. In-lieu fees should go away with parking minimums and should not be included in your plan. Create an assessment district to fund more parking if it is needed, but before going that route we should better manage the parking we have. Fully implementing the Parking Task Force’s recommendations, including paid on-street parking, would be a good starting point.

      As Donald Shoup says:

      “First, charge the right price for curb parking so there are always one or two open spaces on every block. Second, spend that revenue to pay for added public services on the metered blocks so that the stakeholders benefit from these metered spots. Some cities use the money to provide free wi-fi to everybody on the street. They pressure wash the sidewalks frequently, plant new street trees, and remove graffiti every night. Investing the money back into the metered street creates the political will to charge the right price for on-street parking. And third, remove off-street parking requirements because nobody can say there’s a shortage of parking if drivers can always see one or two empty spaces on every block. Removing off-street parking requirements can have a big effect, even in the short run, because it allows the adaptive re-use of older buildings.”

       

      1. Howard P

        I do not disagree, at all with the Shoup quote… thinking about it further is the ‘equity’ aspect between existing and future uses, particularly if there is consideration of dramatically increasing in-lieu fees… the existing businesses would have ‘bought in low’, and reap the same benefits as the newcomers, who ‘bought in high’…

        1. Ron

          Howard:  That’s the way things are in the traditional housing market (regarding fees, taxes, etc.), as well.  The “free lunch” is over. No one wants to (or should) pay to offset the costs of someone else’s development. This is a trend that will continue, as areas become more dense and impacted, and other funds are not as plentiful.

        2. Mark West

          “the existing businesses would have ‘bought in low’, and reap the same benefits as the newcomers, who ‘bought in high’…”

          I have not heard anyone advocate that the increased fees should be made retroactive, yet some of the strongest advocates for raising the fees have already seen their properties transition from low demand to high demand uses. ‘Let the newcomers pay for it’ could well be their motto.

  4. Michael Bisch

    For those having difficulty grasping what I, Mayor Davis, Shoup, Tumlin, the city’s CASP consultant and the city’s parking consultant have been saying:

    $8,700 x no minimum onsite parking requirements = $0.00

    1. Ron

      Michael:  That’s misleading.  I understand that the city is considering eliminating waivers and raising the fees to correspond more closely with other cities, to ensure that impacts created by new development are paid for.  Seems reasonable to me.

      1. Ron

        From the Davis Enterprise (about a week ago):

        “New projects downtown could also be faced with updated in-lieu parking fees, as a third-party consultant’s report is urging the city to almost double the current fees from $4,000 per space to $8,700. The council is set to weigh in on the new fees, with an official ordinance on the program expected later down the line.”

        “If approved, the parking fees may see added funds not only to improve the efficiency of downtown’s current stock of parking, but potentially to encourage car-free alternatives to get to downtown as well.”

        “This does not preclude future consideration of another parking structure when there is sufficient funding and driver demand,” states a recent city staff report.”

        “The in-lieu fees are typically triggered when either a new project is planned downtown or the owner plans on changing the site’s use, and the site doesn’t meet the zoning’s parking requirement.”

        “The new fees, however, would charge new developments with the same fee across the board. Parcels changing the “intensity” of their use — for example, from retail to restaurant or residential to office — would also be required to pay the fee.”

        “When the Downtown Parking Task Force began meeting in 2013, its members were concerned that the original in-lieu fee program may have been exacerbating downtown parking problems, especially during peak times.”

        http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/richards-blvd-downtown-parking-changes-in-the-pipeline/

  5. Todd Edelman

    What I wrote yesterday was essentially the same from Shoup above:

    “There are negatives, especially where parking is placed between the sidewalk and the front of a building so that when you’re walking along the street, you see a parking lot between you and the front of the store” 

    Which makes him an instant member of the SEUG (Starry Eyed Utopian Greenies). But also blocking traffic using parked cars is a poor substitute for having half that width with bollards and greenery on a street with less or no motorized traffic. (How many marriage proposals have been momentarily delayed when a car zoomed past? How many connections have been missed because you’re driving too fast to see people on the street? How many connections do I miss when moving slowly on a bike because I have to look out for potholes?)

    In the meantime I am clutching my Connect Card, my Zipcar card, my bike lock key, my driver’s license, my phone with its Amtrak and Lyft apps and hoping that in not too long we are “Rethinking Access” to Downtown.

     

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