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Brainstorming: Parking Requirements and Over-night Parking

Eliminating Parking Requirements

The difference of 500 or 100 ft.

Another change in Traverse City’s traffic control policies occurred on Monday night. The City Commission accepted a change to the parking requirement that required all new development or expansions to provide a minimum number of parking spaces if the property is located within 500 ft. of a public parking structure. The planning department originally was requesting a 1000 ft radius, but the politics of Central Neighborhood’s discomfort with overflow traffic reduced the coverage. This is unfortunate, because it creates a hole in the intended coverage downtown where a 3rd bookend parking deck is likely to be built on West Front St.

Eliminating parking requirements is something I support city-wide. Cities need not require any private parking and instead need to charge more market-based pricing to existing publicly provided parking facilities, including on-street parking. If a new business wants to build a surface lot, there should be mechanisms in place to discourage it. Currently, banks and investors drive a lot of parking requirements and a sure-fire way to counter that push is by making it less cost-effective to have a massive parking lot. Communities seem to not apply basic principles of real estate when comes to parking cars. Land dedicated to parking is wasted economic and social opportunity.

Neighborhood Streets and Parking

The morning after

The policy above makes sense, but during the discussion a lot of issues were raised about parking in the neighborhoods, namely that neighborhoods next to downtown carry a burden of over-flow commuter parking. I’m still not convinced that this is an issue. Access needn’t be a concern as the majority of homes have alley parking. The streets in our neighborhoods are generously wide enough to handle parking and two lanes of traffic (part of the reason we have speeding problems through the neighborhoods) and that extra paved surface space needs to be used or eliminated–ideally, the City does both. 

As written here before, I’m in support of narrowing as many streets as we can for benefits of safety, quality of the neighborhoods, improved water quality, and economic sustainability. The basics of the latter point is simple: less pavement=less investment.

I’m also in support of the City experimenting with 24/7 (overnight) residential parking. If the community can encourage more people to use their front entrance by parking there, we can achieve some street narrowing without huge infrastructure investment. We may also address some of the concerns about over-flow commuter parking, as then someone could, if they so chose, have first dibs on the public on-street parking in front of their residence. The details of the scheme could be worked out to discourage commuter parking as well as the parking of a fleet of cars by one owner. On May 23rd of this year, I sent a request to the traffic committee (an internal staff committee) to consider the possibilities. That email is below. I didn’t hear a reply other than that it would be discussed.

What do you think?

Would you like to park in front of your house over-night?

Makayla and the Traffic Committee,

I’m interested in seeing the City pursue a 24/7 parking permit program for our neighborhood streets. I think it may help achieve a better quality of life for city residents by:

  • Providing a service to residents who might feel inconvenienced having to move their cars at night
  • Providing more space for visitors who may visit city residents
  • Providing traffic calming by narrowing streets and creation of chicane effects
  • Providing a small, but useful, pot of money to re-invest into the neighborhoods in the form of sidewalks, traffic calming or park improvements.
  • ???? (There may well be other benefits once we begin to explore the opportunity)

I suggest a scheme where residents may purchase “neighborhood investment permits” that allow for 24/7 parking on city streets. It isn’t mandatory and would target residents who like the idea of getting a small service in return for contributing to city improvements and who also support the use of on street parking to calm traffic. The cost need not be restrictive, but substantial enough to raise funds. The 1st permit could be priced at $50-$75 and a 2nd permit at $100-$150. A 3rd permit could be explored, and good be priced at $200 or higher. I think an annual or bi-annual permit both could be explored. Permits could also be an opportunity to engage citizens about the benefits of traffic calming.

Obviously, this is not intended for long-term storage of under-utilized cars, so regulations would need to be established to ensure that cars are moved regularly. This is easily done through the need for snowplows and street cleaning, like requiring certain days for the cars to be on one side or the other. Many cities that have heavy snowfall also have 24/7 on-street parking, so the right policy could easily be found. These are for neighborhood streets, so perfectly cleared streets need not be a priority.

I’d be interested in what your initial thoughts are. I’ve run the idea by a few of my neighbors who were supportive and they also said they’d likely purchase a permit if it wasn’t priced to high, $100 seems to be the highest anyone would go for the first car. Around 10 pm on many nights, you can see people walking out in their pajamas to pull their cars around the block and most of us have had the dreaded $15 dollar ticket on more than one occasion.

Thank you for considering this and let me know how I could help.

Gary

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If you support this opportunity and/or have something to add, please let MyWHaT readers know. More importantly, let the City’s traffic committee know. You can send an email to the assistant to the city manager and the city planner at: “Makayla Vitous” <mvitous@ci.traverse-city.mi.us>, “Russ Soyring” <rsoyring@ci.traverse-city.mi.us>.

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Proven fact: typos and grammatical errors decrease following  a contribution to the management and cause of this blog.  


Keep the Wheels Turning

  1. BeSquirrely
    October 5, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I don’t like to see cars parked in front – it’s ugly and makes it harder to see when crossing the street, etc. Plus, our six months of snow make it difficult to remove snow in an efficient way. I love the alley/garage system in town. Occasionally, when we have visitors overnight we need to park on the street and we just tell our local police about it as to avoid a ticket. No big deal.

  2. October 6, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Over-night parking need not be instituted city-wide. If a group of neighbors refuse it, I guess they refuse it…that said, priority for more permanent traffic calming measures should probably go to the areas of the city willing to experiment with quick and inexpensive solutions like this.

    Just asking, but what is more ugly, parked cars, or cars going 45mph in a 25 mph zone? One is certainly more dangerous than the other.

  3. BeSquirrely
    October 6, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Does it have to be an either/or: more ugly, parked cars or cars going 45 in a 25? Can’t we think even further out of the box and get rid of more cars and create more incentives for people to choose not to drive and consequently not have to park, but walk, skip, hop, bike?

    hmmmm

  4. October 6, 2011 at 9:16 am

    …I hear ya, we talk about those issues daily here on MyWHaT: how to lesson the amount of planning and resources dedicated to moving/parking cars is a modern dilemma every community is facing.

    We need solutions that will get us through until cultural and infrastructure investments begin to pay-off. It took Boulder, Co. 20-30 years to get where they are (near 50% of downtown employees use other means besides SOV) and they still deal with a serious automobile storage issue. It’s why it’s so important to make the smartest investments every-time we touch a street or policy.

    Thanks for the comments, BeSquirrely.

  5. BeSquirrely
    October 6, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Wow, lots of down arrows today, Gary. Come on out and enter the discussion, people!

  6. Anne B
    October 6, 2011 at 10:55 am

    One conundrum of encouraging/allowing overnight parking on city streets is the impact it would have on the city’s ability to do adequate street cleaning. Comprehensive street cleaning is one of the most cost-effective ways of improving water quality by reducing the amount of sediment (which carries pollutants like the pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers applied to lawns), trash and organic matter, like leaves and grass clippings, and other bad actors that enter our waterways via our storm sewer system. Street cleaning is dramatically cheaper than replacing, redirecting or otherwise improving our city’s storm drain system. It is also a lot easier to do than alter most American’s love affair with the chemically-dependent outdoor carpet known as grass.

    That being said, having lived in various downtown neighborhoods, getting a ticket for parking in front of your own house, is hard to take!

    I think parking on neighborhood streets should be allowed and encouraged in downtown neighborhoods, but some system (alternating sides???) could be developed to allow street cleaning.

  7. Max
    October 7, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Do not agree! See my comment on Parking Calming 101. I also dislike a car parked here and there on a street. It means I have to weave out into the lane to get around it (on my bike). Bike lanes are much more preferred to cars parked!!

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