Tag Archives: parking

UTA to Start Charging for Parking at Draper Station

Parking at a transit station in Provo.

Parking at a transit station in Provo.

A few months ago, I argued that UTA had its parking and riding situation backward; rather than give away parking and charge for transit, they should give away train rides and charge for parking.

And now it looks like at least half of that plan is coming true. A Twitter friend alerted me earlier this week to this story, which reveals that UTA plans to begin charging $1 a day for parking at the Draper station:

“The charges help defray the costs of maintaining the facility,” he said. “We want to keep the service as accessible as possible for people, so we try to keep the price down as much as we can.”

The two-level Draper garage, which opened in December along with the Draper FrontRunner station, currently has capacity for 300 vehicles but will eventually expand to 600, Allnatt said.

UTA is charging far less than needed to cover the costs of the parking. And the cost of rides on transit aren’t going down, so this isn’t really what I had in mind.

But this new policy still demonstrates that “free” parking is not actually free. Right now transit riders and tax payers fund the parking. You and I literally are paying for people to park their cars at transit stations. This new fee, which is comically small, means that the people who actually use the parking will bear a small responsibility for funding it. I just wish the fee was higher and the cost of riding the train was going down.

Prepare to pay for parking at all transit stations, because that's certainly the future.

Prepare to pay for parking at all transit stations, because that’s certainly the future.

But in any case, this is the future: paid parking at transit stations. We should expect this type of policy at all Frontrunner stations, especially in the bigger cities along the Wasatch Front, in the future. And that’s a good thing because subsidizing parking for transit riders is vastly inferior to just subsidizing transit outright.



Filed under commuting

Cars Are Parking Machines, Not Mobility Machines

Over the past few days several different friends have shared with me a post about how cars are parked 95 percent of the time. So, I guess I better get blogging on this topic!

Parked cars in Provo. Note how what should be a sidewalk here is actually a parking lot. So this spot is particularly awful.

Parked cars in Provo. Note how what should be a sidewalk here is actually a parking lot. So this spot is particularly awful.

The post offers three different methods for testing how much of the time cars are parked. They’re all pretty easy to do, and the author ulimately concludes that Donald Shoup — author of The High Cost of Free Parking, among other things — is correct when he argues that cars are parked most of the time.

So, yeah, that’s basically a waste of resources.

But what I really like is where the author goes from there:

One reason to talk about this is to highlight the importance of parking. It is what cars do the vast majority of the time.

It highlights a crucial inefficiency of mass private car ownership. It points towards huge parking space savings (an enormous land bank) that shifts away from mass car ownership might open up, if only we could massively improve the alternatives including making car-sharing and other ‘metered access to shared cars’ (MASC) more of a mass market phenomenon. – See more at: http://www.reinventingparking.org/2013/02/cars-are-parked-95-of-time-lets-check.html#sthash.Q4GprSsD.dpuf

In other words, it would be much more efficient, almost mind-bogglingly so, if we only had the number of cars in a city that were needed at any given moment.

So, I might need a car for 30 minutes at 9 am and you might need one for an hour at noon. Right now, we both probably have our own cars, but it would really make more sense for us to have just one car between us. On both individual and city-wide scales this would translate into huge savings, greater efficiency, and generally prettier spaces.

Parked cars on Center Street.

Parked cars on Center Street.

Its also worth mentioning that if cars are parked nearly all the time they’re not really “mobility” machines so much as they are space-wasting devices. In other words, though we think about cars as a means of transportation, that’s almost incidental when compared to their “primary” role, which is sitting around. There are a lot of implications to this reasoning, but if nothing else presenting and discussing the situation more honestly would probably help us tackle problems like too much parking and too many cars.

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Filed under driving, economics

This is Not Density, Or, Lying About Parking Ratios

Some recent news about Provo is bad, and on a whole bunch of levels.

Basically, an article describes how developers want to build two “high rise” apartment buildings — at six and seven stories each they’re really only mid-rise buildings — in the Joaquin neighborhood.

I have nothing against big apartment buildings, and indeed I often like them.

But the problems here are legion. The biggest among them is that the developers want to add a massive amount of parking while residents are — in what seems like a bizarro act of post modern performance art — arguing that even more parking is needed:

Two proposed high-rise apartment complexes have some Joaquin neighborhood residents and property owners concerned that too many cars and not enough parking places will cause more parking and safety issues in an already beleaguered area.

There’s a lot I could potentially say about this project, but I’ll focus on density and parking because the situation shows how some people are basically lying about parking ratios.

Provo's Joaquin Neighborhood.

Provo’s Joaquin Neighborhood.

The article mentions that there will be “seven parking spots for every 10 beds.” That sounds great because it comes across as less than a 1:1 parking to unit ratio — one spot for each unit — which would be fairly progressive; though some cities have worked to limit their parking Provo has historically been mired in parking minimums (also, click herehere and here for more info on parking minimums).

In other words, those of us who want fewer parking lots in our neighborhoods hear “seven to ten” and think, “great, we’re moving in the right direction.”

But that’s not actually what is going on here. In a strange rhetorical maneuver, parking in Provo is usually discussed in terms of beds, not units. So, if each unit in these developments includes four beds — as is fairly typical for BYU student housing — 10 units will actually have 28 parking spots. That’s a nearly 3:1 parking-to-unit ratio and practically it means big seas of asphalt.

This is a perplexing way to discuss parking. I read about this topic daily and I’ve never come across any other place that matches parking spots to beds. To me, it doesn’t really makes sense  — why not base parking on couches, showers or the number of forks in an apartment — but ultimately that doesn’t even matter.

What matters is that it’s non-standard; it’s like posting a speed limit and then after someone gets pulled over having the cop say, “Oh, sorry, it was actually 120 kilometers per hour. You didn’t know that? Too bad.”

The point is that it obfuscates the issue and makes it seem as though Provo is on par with other cities when in fact it’s doing much, much worse with this issue. And while a 3:1 parking ratio is really bad anywhere, it especially doesn’t make sense in a walkable, growing, landlocked city that has Bus Rapid Transit on the horizon.

Ironically, this type of development also means very little change in overall density. After all, if developers cram a bunch of people into a small space but then surround that space with empty land for cars, the average density doesn’t really go up much. Calling it density gives real density a bad name.

And more fundamentally it’s just a lie. This isn’t 1:1 parking or less. It’s 2.8:1 and that is utterly inexcusable today.

So in sum, these developments are not dense. They have nearly three spots for each unit. And worst of all, no one is apparently talking about that. Instead, a boneheaded conversation based on misleading figures and  incorrect terminology is what has emerged.


Filed under construction, Development

Milking Dead Spaces, Or, Adding Angled Parking in Neighborhoods

In a recent post I argued that cities should try to increase the amount of on-street parking they have available. In Provo, that would better take advantage of existing infrastructure and would allow some of the private parking — of which there is a sickening 12,744 spots in Joaquin alone — to be developed into family housing.

But Provo already allows street parking, so how can it add more?

One way would be to install angled parking:

Angled parking uses less linear curb length per parking space than traditional parallel parking so more spaces can be provided on the same block. In addition, angled parking acts as a traffic calming device because a passing driver is aware that a parked vehicle could back into the roadway at any moment.

People in Provo will be familiar with angled parking from Center Street, where it lines both sides of the street as well as the median. And though this type of parking is more common in commercial districts like downtown, the traffic calming effects would be a great addition to residential neighborhoods as well. Indeed if we’re not going to make our streets narrower, we can at least de-incentivize speeding and unsafe driving.

Here’s a crude sketch of how this might work in a residential neighborhood:

Angled parking on a residential street.

Angled parking on a residential street.

In the picture above, the green lines represent the new angled parking, the blue boxes represent parked cars and the yellow boxes represent moving cars. I know it’s pretty rough, but you get the idea: today’s dead space is turned into the parking space of tomorrow.

As I hope is apparent, there’s plenty of room for this solution on Provo’s residential streets. I’ve chosen to stagger and limit the amount of angled parking in this picture because I think it looks better and might be better for traffic flow (and to preempt people who don’t want too much more street parking). However, there’s more than enough room to put in angled parking everywhere if people really wanted to be efficient.

Also note how in the picture traffic is basically not impacted by the addition of more parking. Right now this is a two lane street and with angled parking it remains a two lane street. The only thing this changes is that suddenly we’re getting more value out of our infrastructure investment.

In addition to downtown, there are a few spots where this is already sort of happening in Provo:

A street just off of 9th East.

A street just off of 9th East.

Angled and parallel parking in a mixed residential-commerical area of downtown.

Angled and parallel parking in a mixed residential-commerical area of downtown.

This picture was taken just up the street from the last one. I think this house is technically zoned for commercial use, but there's no reason this parking strategy wouldn't work in purely residential areas.

This picture was taken just up the street from the last one. I think this house is technically zoned for commercial use, but there’s no reason this parking strategy wouldn’t work in purely residential areas.

I realize that some people in Provo really dislike on-street parking. While I don’t fully understand the logic behind that position, I recognize that a bunch of angled parking on residential streets probably doesn’t sound like a great idea to everyone.

But most of us can also probably agree that huge parking lots in residential neighborhoods are a problem. I’ve never met someone who likes them. Adding angled parking would allow us to significantly reduce the number and frequency of these parking lots. (In the best case scenario, people who wanted could even add four angled spots in front of their houses, then build a new home in their driveway and sell it for a quarter of a million dollars. We’d all get rich.)

In any case, even if you don’t care about efficiency and getting the most out of our infrastructure dollars this idea makes sense because it allows us to reserve less of our residential land for parking. The streets exist and, despite my calls to narrow them, I’ve been told that they’re probably going to stay more or less the same. If that’s the case, we need to figure out better ways to use them.


Filed under Development, neighborhood, parking

What Should BYU Do Instead

In my last post, I argued that BYU’s Campus Unification Project isn’t a big improvement over what the school currently has. That doesn’t mean it’s without merit. I also realize that the project is designed to unify campus — not improve transit access or foster smart growth — but it’s still discouraging to see the school come so close to doing something great but still not quite get there.

Phase 1

In any case, here are a few things BYU could do if it really wanted to foster a “pedestrian” environment.

1. Stop offering free parking. When I started at BYU, on-campus parking permits cost money. A few years later, however, BYU started giving them away to any student who registered. It didn’t make sense at the time and it doesn’t make sense now.

As is widely accepted, parking —  especially free parking — creates more demand for parking. In other words, if you give away parking you effectively create more drivers. Everyone in Provo is eventually going to have to accept that to cut the number of cars we’ll have to reduce parking first. Hoping the cars will go away while we continue to provide free parking is just insanity.

And as I hinted earlier today, leaving all the parking lots around campus like an asphalt mote basically renders the redesign meaningless.

2. Subsidize transit passes. Also while I was a student BYU briefly experimented with giving students free transit passes. The school cancelled the program in order to give away free parking (yes, you read that correctly), but it’s not too late to fix the mistakes of the past.

If BYU really wants to make its campus better it should make it easier for students to use public transit.

If BYU really wants to make its campus better it should make it easier for students to use public transit.

Moreover, many other schools offer heavily subsidized transit passes. The University of Utah, for example, requires students to purchase a relatively cheap pass as part of their student fees. I’ve never met an alum of that school who begrudged the fee. It also proves that it can be done and that in this regard BYU chooses to behave irresponsibly.

3. Create a more robust bike infrastructure. BYU is bikeable in the sense that it has a lot of big open paved spaces combine with some bike racks. Apparently there is also a bike share program, though I hadn’t heard of it until two days ago.

But there is little to no dedicated bike infrastructure on campus beyond racks. BYU also hasn’t historically been deeply involved with Provo’s efforts to become more bikeable (though that may be changing, I’m not sure).

4. Loosen the grip on student housing. BYU creates an artificial housing market that hurts everyone in the city by tightly controlling where students may live. In theory, the rules protect students though in reality they simply drive rents up or down — depending on location — and create an effective student quarter that is the source of great conflict in the Joaquin neighborhood.

"BYU approved housing" south of campus. BYU's weird housing rules have a toxic effect on the housing market.

“BYU approved housing” south of campus. BYU’s weird housing rules have a toxic effect on the housing market.

Adopting a market-oriented approach to student housing — where BYU lets supply and demand determine rents, student distribution, etc. — would disperse students more evenly in the city, not to mention give them more choice. That would positively impact downtown Provo, create more competitive rents, and take the edge off the student-townie conflicts (i.e. “students should live in north Joaquin, families in south Joaquin” etc.) that frankly have almost exhausted my hope that Provo is moving toward greatness.

In any case, the collateral benefit of having more even student distribution is that there would be more even use of infrastructure across the city. Sprinkling a few thousand 20-somethings across south Maeser and/or Franklin, for example, would help justify more sidewalks, bike lanes, and bus routes in those areas. As it is, however, the people most likely to take transit, bike, and patronize local cultural offerings are clustered in a ghetto where those things either don’t exist or are unnecessary.

Ultimately in my ideal world BYU would have only handicapped parking (maybe a few dozen total stalls), it wouldn’t have a housing office at all (free the market!), and Provo residents would stop thinking of astonishingly well-behaved students as “them” or the enemy.

Those goals are perhaps unrealistic, but the upcoming redesign does little to nothing to actually improve transit and walkability on campus or in Provo. Indeed it seems like the people behind the redesign went to a nice place, looked at the trappings of that place, and tried to copy it without ever considering supply and demand or how one space interacts with another. BYU’s campus may be improved by it but if the school really wants to create better spaces it needs to look critically at the underlying issues that shape those spaces.

A street on the south end of BYU campus. This isn't the street slated for closure. However, I'd be against closing either of the streets to cars until Provo is less car centric. Right now, shutting these relatively small, slow streets forces more cars onto arterials and turns BYU into a huge black hole that drivers must navigate around. In other words, as a result of the redesign people driving north-south have to go around BYU campus, meaning there is actually going to me more total driving.

A street on the south end of BYU campus. This isn’t the street slated for closure. However, I’d be against closing either of the streets to cars until Provo is significantly less car centric. Right now, shutting these relatively small, slow streets (notice the bikes and pedestrians in this picture) forces more cars onto arterials and turns BYU into a huge black hole that drivers must navigate around. In other words, as a result of the redesign people driving north-south have to go around BYU campus, meaning there is actually going to me more total driving in Provo.


Filed under BYU, construction, Development

Parking Structures Don’t Have to be Hideous

Just a quick post today about parking. I’m sure we’ve all see parking structures that looked like huge concrete boxes. They’re boring at best and spatial black holes at worst.

But over the weekend I was up at the University of Utah Hospital and saw the structure in the picture below. As a parking structure, it’s still an under performing piece of real estate.

But it’s also not bad looking. It just goes to show that as is the case with other kinds of buildings, parking structures can be well-designed or not.


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Filed under parking

Provo Needs More Housing Without Parking

In my recent post on converting malls to housing I mentioned the need for more nice-but-affordable housing in Provo. I used loft style housing as my example because that’s popular right now, but really Provo just needs better housing of any kind that is appealing and not geared to either established families or students.

And one really great way to make housing affordable is to cut parking.

As is the case in many cities, it’s standard in Provo to include parking in new development. I recently attended a meeeting about a proposed development in the Joaquin Neighborhood — one of the more walkable places in Utah — that proposed two parking spaces per unit. It’s insanity because parking induces demand for parking.

But even most historic housing in Provo has parking; though there are really old homes here and there that lack garages, they’re the exceptions rather than the rules. The problem, then, is that even people who want to ditch their cars are forced to pay higher housing costs that include parking.

But up in Salt Lake City there are some buildings that don’t include parking. Take this listing, for example:

a condo w/out parking

Screen shot 2013-01-06 at 10.37.06 PMThe link includes additional pictures of this apartment, but really its quite an impressive place. And it has no parking. The result is that the $182,000 price tag buys more home for someone willing to take advantage of the walkable surroundings.

When I asked what people with cars do, I was told that “there’s plenty of parking on the street or you can buy a pass for a city lot.”

Here’s another parking-free listing for a very cheap but very cool place not far from the Gateway and Pioneer Park:

Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 7.37.00 PM

Note the extremely low price of this condo. There are some financing issues that contribute to that price, but comparably sized apartments with parking in downtown Salt Lake City go for $40,000-$100,000 more.

The point is that a city with aspirations of greatness and walkability needs housing like this. It doesn’t destroy the city, create nightmarish congestion, or generally ruin the world. Indeed it makes the city more diverse and affordable for the professionals and small families who choose these places. In many cases, these places also end up being some of the coolest, most valuable spots in the city.

And as I’ve mentioned before, there’s nothing like this in Provo.

Provo isn’t ready to eliminate all parking and that isn’t a realistic possibility anyway. But it is ready for some housing for people who choose not to drive, or who would rather not have their parking costs rolled into their housing costs. That type of housing is a reality in many other cities and given Provo’s age it’s surprising there isn’t more of it already. But until that changes, Provo will continue to be at a disadvantage in the competition for talent and growth.

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Filed under driving, parking