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Downtown Parking - News & Updates

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion Development Downtown Parking – News & Updates

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    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans

    Parking ills hold back Downtown, panel says

    Friday, August 13, 2010



    Mass transit might be in vogue, but parking holds the key to Downtown revitalization, a panel of Columbus business and civic leaders says.

    A lack of cheap, available parking continues to put Downtown at a disadvantage to attracting and keeping employers, who tend to gravitate to the suburbs, they said.

    Addressing the future of Columbus at a Wednesday event sponsored by the Athletic Club of Columbus, one of the four panelists, developer Frank Kass, said the history of Downtown’s development led to the parking problem.

    READ MORE: http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/business/stories/2010/08/13/parking-ills-hold-back-downtown-panel-says.html?sid=101



    Hopefully someone who can do something about this was reading it too

    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans

    It’s interesting that the article only focuses on parking, because this event was about the larger discussion surrounding Downtown retail.

    Without going into a long diatribe, I agree on some aspects that parking is an issue Downtown and disagree on others. There’s no “one size fits all” parking solution for all types of retail businesses. A sit-down restaurant probably wants some sort of flat lot, a movie theatre would want a parking garage, and a coffee shop wants parking meters.

    I think the Dispatch article was a little misleading by starting off saying that “Mass transit might be in vogue, but parking holds the key to Downtown revitalization” as if we have to choose between one or the other, or that businesses see one or the other as more beneficial. Personally, I think parking changes are the cheaper short-term fix while mass transit is the more long-term solution that can change behavior, culture and land use.

    Thankfully, I think the 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan takes both into consideration.

    Anyway… this is a pretty complex issue that does need further discussion and study beyond what one panel event or one Dispatch article can fully articulate.



    I was a little worried when they stated that busses on High St are seen as a problem.

    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans

    I think bus congestion is seen as the problem, not the buses themselves.

    Downtown 2010 Plan Idea #6 – Bus Transit Station

    During peak hours, the curb lanes are designated for bus only. That makes it impossible for High Street businesses to have easy metered parking for customers.

    Imagine how different the Short North would be if all metered parking were eliminated and the curb lanes were designated for buses only.

    That’s the problem.



    Ok, that makes sense. Thanks for the clarification.



    I think its a visibility issue too. Retailers need to be seen and its tough when the buses idle in front of the existing businesses or potential retail spots during the times when the most traffic (and potential customers) is moving past.



    If you ask me the larger problem is customer access for retailers downtown, of which parking is currently the central aspect in Columbus. The two are often understandably conflated. But ultimately all retailers care about is that they have enough usable foot traffic to operate their business by whatever means they come.

    As it is now the only viable way for just about all remaining downtown Columbus retailers to get enough customers is to accommodate car customers, which means of course the retailer has to somehow try to provide attractive parking options relative to the consumer’s other choices (Easton, Grandview Yard, neighborhood shops etc). And it’s not just people in the burbs, most of our inner neighborhoods and actual downtown customers drive to us as well.

    All over America where there aren’t geographic, financial or density pressures making car travel difficult, people seem to choose shopping/commuting by car even if they complain about it. So even if you were to provide perceived equivalent public transit (quickness, cost, ease of use, privacy if desired), I’m not sure that alone would be enough to make downtown retail really vibrant again. Driving to other places would likely have to be difficult enough too for enough urban consumers to view urban retail options as more convenient. As long consumers have to, or choose to, drive to both downtown retailers and suburban ones, downtown retailers are going to be weighed by the consumer in suburban terms of parking ease. And from that perspective it’s going to be very tough for most of us to try to provide parking in a equivalent form most suburban stores do.

    Tough problem to be sure, with no clear cut “do this one thing and it will be solved” answer.

    The best way to address this I still believe is to encourage as much dense residential development in a few select targeted areas with an existing base population as possible. And it’s probably better to focus on the cheaper land parts of downtown since you’d be trying to rent/sell units that will have few amenities initially. As the long as the development growth continues to be spread out all over downtown as it has been so far, it won’t change the problem for retailers much.



    Part of this article was talking about how it was tough to get large employers downtown because of lack of parking. This is obviously a huge and complex issue, but there are a couple of things that i think get overlooked:

    1. If Cbus had a reasonable mass transit system that worked for the majority of employees of a downtown office building, then it could actually save potential employers money because they wouldn’t have to burden the cost of building, maintaining and securing a massive parking lot for all employees.

    2. Most execs want to have parking available for them regardless of the context. CBus already has lots of garages that can satisfy this need, and a small garage for exec parking and visitors that is built as part of a larger urban development should really be a relatively small cost compared to building a huge parking lot in the burbs.

    3. Cbus needs to continue to focus on affordable and convenient rental and for-sale residential development downtown and close to downtown. The shorter a walk/bike/bus ride for downtown workers, the easier it will be to reduce parking demand regardless of what our mass-transit system future holds.



    I read that article on Friday and I think ZHC is more on the money about the issue – customer accessibility than parking.

    Interestingly, the NYTimes has an article on the hidden prices of free parking that’s worth a read: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/business/economy/15view.html?_r=1

    My favorite quote from it: As Professor Shoup wrote, “Minimum parking requirements act like a fertility drug for cars.”

    The new variable rate parking program in San Francisco that the article mentions is also interesting.



    Thank you, clairehelene7, for mentioning Donald Shoup. Hearing the way some business and civic leaders here talk about parking, I might just pay him myself to come and speak.

    If you ask the same folks who complain about parking about their favorite cities to visit or which downtowns they think are most vibrant, all of those cited are likely to have more expensive or difficult parking than downtown Columbus. Clearly, cheap parking isn’t the magic ingredient for revitalization, though an intelligent parking policy can be part of the solution.



    Exactly – downtown will never compete with the suburbs on parking..it will never have endless space for expansion and free surface lots. A vibrant downtown, though, will draw businesses that want to be a part of it. Reading that article reminded me of a great quote I saw on Urbanophile (about Buffalo);

    Like all cities, we really have one essential choice; we can have a vibrant downtown where everyone complains about parking, or we can have a dead downtown where everyone complains about parking.




    A lack of cheap, available parking continues to put Downtown at a disadvantage to attracting and keeping employers, who tend to gravitate to the suburbs, they said.

    Yeah, those abandoned cities called Chicago and New York are testament to that. I mean parking is $450/mo in Chicago and $60 a day in New York.

    Must be the parking.
    I bet they could get at least 20 more spots if they shut down pearl market.

    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans

    jungaroo wrote >>
    If you ask the same folks who complain about parking about their favorite cities to visit or which downtowns they think are most vibrant, all of those cited are likely to have more expensive or difficult parking than downtown Columbus.


    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans

    We’ve focused our growth over the past 50 years around automobile accommodations and parking. This is where that got us:


    Taking some of those flat lots and making a few of them free instead of $5/day will not radically change anything.

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