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.

Parking Madness

Nothing demonstrates the failure of the current City of Austins approach and transportation policy than these two pictures. We are constantly being told than density is key to Austins future, the central neighborhoods are ripped left right and center for opposing unrestricted growth, either through bogus PUD applications which for the most more about raising the lot property than actually doing something useful.

This week, Michael King in his point Austin column makes some great points about affordability, but then takes the easy way out by blaming the central neighborhoods for opposing multi-family development.

Finally, the City recently agreed to support the Project Connect proposal to go with the cities second rail line to somewhere which might need it, by the time its built, if the city can give developers sweet heart deals to actually build something that people won’t want to drive to/from. All this rather than tackle the very real problems we have now.

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So, whats wrong with these pictures? They are two huge parking garages on the same1/2 mile square area, on the east side of the Congress Ave. bridge. The recently finished Hyatt Parking completely overshadows the other buildings on the lots. It has 8-stories, and has lights on 24 hours a day.

Diagonally opposite just behind the old RunTex store lot is another monster garage under construction prior to the build out of the RunTex lots.

Given the urbanist outlook, this is simply to be considered a total failure of both planning, transport policy and building regulation. Where are the cars coming from to fill these garages, how are they going to get here? How are they going to get out?

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If land in downtown is so valuable, how come we can afford to give so much up for massive parking garages? For me this represents the worst of Austins problems. I live less than a mile from these monsters. I’m not anti-development, not anti-urban, but what this shows is for the most part Austin is clueless where it comes to urban efficiency, effective development standards, and most of all, can’t see beyond it’s increasingly long nose when it comes to transportation policy.

Sure, go ahead build the buildings, eliminate the parking requirement. I’d go further than this, we should actually ban the construction of these parking garages, or force them underground. Yep, there’s that pesky floodzone and the waterfront overlay. Hey, why give people unrealistic expectations that they are going to be able sensibly drive, by providing parking garages? Texas and Austins biggest asset, it’s size and available land, is also it’s biggest detraction when it comes to transport policy. Hey, if you can drive, fly, oh yeah and feel free to drive to the airport.