People not Parking – What Next for Louisville?

I wrote an in Op-Ed in the Colorado Hometown weekly back in December 2018. On August 21st, CHW printed a follow-up. The website for the Hometown Weekly seems to have stopped updating back in April, so I’ve reproduced it here.

It is, I think, very germain to the November Louisville CO election. There are 3x councillors and a new mayor up for election. I attended the City consultation on the Transportation Master Plan, and there are little to no improvements under discussion for Main St.

Louisville can change and still be historic

If things don’t change, they’ll stay the same, except they won’t.

Back in January this year, the Louisville City Council got the feedback it asked for from the Louisville Revitalization Commission (LRC) on a design and cost for a multi-story parking garage in the heart of downtown. Citizens showed up ‘en masse’ and rejected the concept. The city council agreed not to proceed, everyone was relieved.

Except that’s not what the council actually did. The city council agreed that “this council” would direct staff not to spend any more time working on a parking garage at “that site”, the site being the surface parking lot next to Sweet Cow.

Since then the LRC has had a number of resignations; in November the city will elect a new mayor and two new Councillors. So “this council” will no longer exist, and LRC with a host of new members will be pushing to deliver economic sustainability for downtown Louisville.

Add into the mix that the former ConocoPhillips’ (StorageTec) Campus is finally getting developed over 12-years and based on Daily Camera reporting will create “a new, mixed-use neighborhood featuring a 500,000-square-foot campus designed for a corporate headquarters — which reportedly already has an interested tenant — as well as a 1,500-unit senior living facility, and more than 3.4 million square feet designated for office, retail and hotel space.” and in the words of the developer “connect seamlessly with Historic Downtown Louisville”.

If nothing changes, the parking garage will be back somewhere, sometime soon. There is another way.

Louisville downtown/old town is a small compact area. It is served by much of the town from within 2-miles. The ConocoPhillips campus is less than 3-miles away. The challenge for Louisville is how to continue to enhance downtown while avoiding an $11+ million parking garage and strangling downtown with cars. If the garage was used to its full capacity, that would be hundreds of additional cars per day in downtown at least. Before we go any further, I’m not anti-car, we own two, neither of them is electric or hybrid. I’m pro people, pro a compact, safe, walk-able downtown. We often ride bikes and occasionally walk to downtown from a mile or so away.

We can make that the default for the majority of residents, leaving the parking spaces to those who have no choice. We do though need to go further. The core of downtown doesn’t need to be pedestrianized, but pedestrians do need to be prioritized. If I’m at Sweet Cow, and want to get to the History museum, I shouldn’t need to even think about driving. Once I get back in my car, I’m not limited to going somewhere else locally, I can go to Boulder, Broomfield, Westminster, even Denver. Continually enabling cars doesn’t provide economic viability, it provides traffic and congestion.

I should be able to cross diagonally at intersections, I should be able to cross mid-block, I shouldn’t have to fear cars won’t see me. Instead of shoehorning bike racks in on valuable sidewalk space, we should be dedicating a parking space on every block for bike and micro-mobility parking. We shouldn’t wait for electric scooters, bikes and whatever else to get mysteriously dumped in downtown Louisville and become a problem. We should be embracing and designing for it now as a solution.

Vehicles coming to downtown should be exactly that, coming to downtown. Not driving through it. The Louisville History Museum in their Summer 2019 newsletter revealed that “nearly 10,000 vehicles pass through the Pine and Main intersection each day”. If those vehicles were coming to downtown we’d already have an economically viable downtown. The majority are not. Stand on the corner by Moxie Bread Co in the evening, or on an art walk or street faire night, and try to get to Huckleberry Restaurant and Bakery. You shouldn’t have to wait for traffic to stop twice, to stair with trepidation into the windshield of cars wondering if the drivers see you. Vehicle speeds in the downtown core should be restricted to 10MPH and enforced. People coming to downtown won’t mind the 10MPH speed limit, after all they are less than 1/2 a mile from their destination.

On August 22, the City starts rolling out it’s Transportation Master Plan or TMP. The TMP will be used to prioritize investment over maybe the next 5-10 years. We should ensure that the investment goes into connecting people, not cars, to downtown. Everyone who lives within a 1.5-2-mile radius should know it’s quicker, easier and safer to get downtown without a car than it is with.

Louisville, it doesn’t have to stay the same to stay historic.

Residential Parking Permit Programs

This is bound to come up here in #louisvilleCO sometime, given the city wants to expand downtown, and doesn’t have a parking solution. Back in my old town, Austin Texas, it’s still a thing. I read this excellent blog post by Meghan Skornia.

I’d like to have commented on her blog directly, sadly it requires a facebook ID, which regular readers will know, I don’t have anymore.

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I tried to reply via twitter but it was typo-ridden and out of sequence. So, here it is with corrections.

I lived on the 600-block of W Johanna St for 10-years. The block west of S 1St Street. Although I was asked twice, and S 2nd at the end of my block was RPP, We never had RPP while I lived there. I wouldn’t sign, and the guy next door was the manager of Polvos Restaurant and he wouldn’t sign for obvious reasons, so didn’t happen.

  1. If all houses on either, or both sides of a block have kerb cuts or alley access, that’s a disqualifying condition for RPP. You already have nearly 8ft of public road reserved by your kerb cut. It’s not the cities problem if you use your garage for storage or park a trailer or old klunker on your drive. Nor is it the cities problem if you have 3-cars in your house, park parallel to the kerb cut and work it out. You can’t have RPP if people block your drive. That’s already an offence, call the cops, get the cars towed.
  2. Minimum price for RPP is the cities price per Sq yard for road maintenance and rebuilding. One side is 1/3 of the total price of the block length, want 2-sides then that’s 2/3 of the total price of the block. If your block is 270ft long, minus 20ft at each end for turning, that’s 240ft by 29ft giving, 773.33 sq/yds. Typical paving cost, is circa $31.40 per sq/yd for residential streets. 773.33 x $31.40 = $24,178. Divide by 1/3, or 2/3 depending on what RPP you want. That’s the upfront cost, in this case for both sides circa $18,600. Obviously streets are assets, otherwise you wouldn’t want to reserve space on them. Now you have to maintain the asset on yearly book value. You’d need to estimate how many years the RPP would run for, 25-years would likely be a good road lifespan. You then pay into ROF (road owners fund) that the city maintains for you to rebuild the road. Annualized, maybe $5k per year?
  3. If 2. above seems too complicated, you have to pay the TXDOT Road User Costs Per Vehicle Hour, it’s currently $29.35 per hour. Want ten hours per day on Saturdays and Sundays. That’s $587 per week, but for that you get a side of a block rather than a single space.
  4. No kerb cut? No problem. Since you bought the house at market price knowing it had no off street parking you can have the frontage of your house reserved, put a kerb cut in and use your yard. Doesn’t work for you? Ruins the neighborhood character? Sorry, not sorry.
  5. You are not entitled to park on a city street just because you live there, anymore than everyone else. Unless you moved in 80 years ago, you only EXPECTED to be able to park there, there was no legal agreement. Times change, so does need. Move on, literally.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  6. There is a quid per quo. Especially in Austin where they still have parking minimums. A Business may not expand either the size of the building, or add outdoor seating, if afterwards the total space occupied doesn’t have the correct parking minimums. No wavers. No fees. This is a deliberate constraint on the business. It gives residents the ability to limit commercial expansion, in exchange for not having RPP. This is why Polvos never expanded between 2006 and 2016, everytime they tried, I stopped it. They wanted to add more and more outdoor seating, they didn’t have the parking minimum spaces. Don’t like it? Get rid of parking minimums. Enough said

Finally, Meghan, was a little disingenuous when she mocked residents about the trash issue. In my 10 years I had people walking across the front yard, stopping and urinating against the fence, including a woman hiking up her skirt and peeing standing up. I found condoms and tissues on my drive a few times, and once a syringe/needle. Really. I also had people park on my driveway while one ran out to get takeout. It’s more of a problem  than simply trash.

I was able to get a discount on my property taxes for all this commercial blight. Everyone else should do the same.

Mor on parking

I got some interesting responses on twitter about my parking madness post. Yes, if was writing a critical analysis, I should have covered all those points, but then the blog entry wouldn’t have been as catchy and would have taken too long to read. Here are some more serious observations.

@mdahmus aka M1EK is someone whose opinion I can almost always appreciate, and mostly always agree with. Mikes point here is that the garages are not such a bad thing. It assumes that people own cars, put them in the garages and use them less as they live downtown and have no need for them. Right Mike?

That is a reasonable position. However, it doesn’t make the building of these garages on valuable land within 1/2 mile of city hall. If we restrict parking, forcing up prices, there will be either an uproar or push for alternate transportation solutions, or the prices will rise to what the market will bear.

This was my experience living on the central east side in Manhattan. I owned a car, but simply couldn’t afford to overnight it in Manhattan. Had I worked in Manhattan I wouldn’t have needed a car for the most part, but I worked some 28-miles outside the city. Driving to work was quicker than taking the train, sometimes the traffic delays getting home would push the time beyond taking the train, but for the most part it was quicker. The problem was the overnight cost, and on those days where I wasn’t at work, it was next to daylight robbery.

Solution? Rather than pay $40 to park in Manhattan, I paid $4 to park at Goldens Bridge Metro station, I’d take the train up and drive the rest of the way. At weekends if I needed the car, I’d either get up early, or drive the car home Friday evening. You rarely ever see them building dedicated parking garages in NY City or other major metropolitan cities anymore. The likelihood of these ever being torn down is remote and they with the others will remain as temples to the folly of the lack of usable transportation policy outside of the car.

Dan’s tweet was rather trying to understand WHY the garages were being built, and there are three possibilities:

  1. The city requires that number of parking spaces for the development that it goes with. If this is the case, then it’s the city that is at fault, Certainly in downtown and the central corridor between Lamar, I35, Barton Springs Rd, MLK this needs to be changed, the developments are either too big requiring too much parking, or the parking garages are wasting valuable land, especially since they are not integrated into the building.
  2. The developer feels the property/development won’t be viable without all those spaces. There are two answers to this, one the city needs to revise it’s transportation policy to make these potential buildings viable without huge parking garages; or the developer should scale back the building. If that means he development isn’t viable, so be it. We don’t need to waste the opportunity to redevelop these lots with oversize buildings, subsidized by inflicting additional car journeys, noise and air pollution, as well as the inevitable light pollution as in the Hyatt garage.
  3. The garages are not really required either to support the development, or are required by the city. In this case the developer has calculated that these are money makers, it’s a land grab, literally.

Still, as far as I can see, despite some sage commentary on twitter from people much more knowledgeable than I, but it remains these garages/carbuncles simply should have never been built. The city needs to act now to stop further parking madness.

For the record, I live in a single family home, less than a mile from here, I have a detached garage where I keep a car. I ride my bike around town as much as I can, even for meals and nights out. I also use car2go when I can, and Dadnab was one of my original Austin friends.