Thursday, August 6, 2015

Parking requirements

This is Joseph.

Okay, I read this article on Mike the Mad Biologist's site and I wanted to comment because I think the author is completely missing the implications of the piece.  Consider:
But at Velo Apartments—a new, 171-unit, fully leased building located at 3635 Woodland Park Avenue North in Seattle's Fremont area—just 100 out of 128 parking stalls have been rented, according to Rob Hackleman, associate development and asset manager for Mack Urban, which developed the building. Using the estimated $20,000-to-$50,000 per-stall calculation, that's about $560,000 to $1.4 million worth of unnecessary parking spaces. Ironically, Velo Apartments is marketed as "bike-friendly," with "bike-focused amenities" and close access to the Burke-Gilman Trail. The development's logo includes an old-fashioned bicycle, and its website states, "Your Ride Starts Here." Hackleman said five unused parking stalls were converted to create more bike storage because the existing bike storage wasn't enough to meet demand.
I work in Seattle with a lot of young professionals.  Many of them bike commute.  I struggle to find any without cars.  My wife and I share a single car.  This is actually the most common pattern among those with low rates of car ownership.  So why are stalls going unsold? 

Because on street parking is free.  Drive around Fremont and try to park.  I dare you.  Especially on an evening or weekend.  I avoid things I really like in Fremont because bus service is terrible and it's simply impossible to park.  Side streets tend to be three cars wide -- you can end up facing another car with no room to go around because both sides of the street are completely full of cars.  Driveways are often blocked (another reason one might not want to pay money to have one).  If many people pay > 30% of their salary on rent they may be economizing by trying not to have to pay for a parking stall.

Now Seattle wants to increase density.  But the state of Washington keeps cutting public transportation.   So how are people supposed to get around?  Biking is a nice idea, but the weather isn't always that good and many people may be elderly or disabled.  It is scary to be on a Seattle bike trail if you are not a fast rider. 

The real reason that costs are suddenly rising is a not a policy that has been in place since the 1950's.  It is that more people are moving to Seattle, often for well-paying jobs, and increasing the demand for housing.   This isn't a complicated issue.  Now, how one handles it might be.  But I would suggest that the place to start is figuring out a sensible transit policy.  But Seattle is the fastest growing city in the United States -- does it not make sense to decide how we are going to handle transit.  I would love more bike lanes (which, to be fair, is happening) and better transit services.  But I want to see a plausible way for this to happen (given it is the state that keeps cutting public transit) before I think that we should make the parking issues worse! 

As for bike lanes, the current city trick to make them work is to get rid of the on-street parking (to make it two lanes, a turn lane, and two bike lanes).  One might suspect that simply doing more of this (and making biking safer) could well lead to fewer unrented stalls. 

It is not that I think that parking requirements, as is, are necessarily optimal.  But it is worth thinking about these issues. 

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