Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Parking-O-Rama

28. March 2006 • Juliew
Email this article

The April issue of the Observer features an article on parking downtown titled Parking is Money: Who parks downtown—and who pays? The article discusses the complicated issue of downtown parking (is there enough? too much?), the effect it has on retail and residents, and who pays or doesn’t pay for parking downtown. Following on the heels of the delivery of the Observer, the Ann Arbor News runs a front-page article today on parking and density. Poll shows support for denser downtown area: But Ann Arborites see parking as a problem is based on a poll of 300 residents commissioned by the DDA.

So how about it? Do you see parking downtown as a problem or is it fine the way it is? If you think it is a problem, what are the possible solutions (car-sharing, increased public transportation, increased downtown density)?



  1. I haven’t read the Observer article yet since it hasn’t arrived at our home, but from what I’ve observed in my 5 years here, parking just isn’t a problem.

    Let’s face it. People complain about parking. I lived for a time in DC. People complained. Just last year I lived for a time in Santa Barbara, CA. People complained even though they get the first 75 minutes of parking free there.

    What does parking cost these days downtown? Are we really to believe that someone who just dropped a couple hundred bucks at dinner at the Chop House can’t afford 5 bucks for parking? That just seems silly to me.

    And as for where to park, I think the DDA (or their subcontractor) should be informing the public of other parking options. The structure on Ashley one recent Friday evening was virtually empty while a line was waiting at the Ashley surface lot. We had to drive down b/c of older relatives visiting. Now far be it from me to try to suggest city policy based on personal experience, but there you have it.

    As for that worthless poll by the DDA—shame on them, and shame on Leah Gunn for the deceitful way in which she’s spinning the response to that ridiculous multi-part question. Is this really the way we want to create policies for our town—based on half-truths, dishonest spin, and misleading poll questions?

    Unless DDA is coordinating with the townships, then sprawl outside of Ann Arbor doesn’t have a whole lot to do with density downtown as I understand it.


       —Young OWSider    Mar. 28 '06 - 04:06AM    #
  2. I agree and disagree. The Observer notes that the city council (I guess) wants to add businesses and residences but provide no parking. So, like, I’m going to load my two small kids and mother in law and husband onto bikes so we can go out for dinner. That’s crazy. You want to crush restaurants and businesses? Here’s a way. Build apartments without parking, and have those residents take up spots.

    I hate my car. But I need it. I ride my bike downtown all the time. However, let’s be realistic. You can’t encourage commerce and squash cars.

    Perfect example, Whole Foods. The place was built intentionally with too few parking spots. The goal was to get rich, white women to buy $300 worth of groceries and then cart them home on a city bus. Right. Instead, there are several dozen cars idoling in the parking lot, waiting for parking spots in high demand hours. That’s great for the environment, don’t you think?


       —JD    Mar. 28 '06 - 04:47AM    #
  3. The times when I’ve had to drive downtown during the day, evenings, weekends, I’ve never had a problem finding parking in any number of the lots, structures or in the neighborhoods. Now if you’re intent on finding “free” parking and not walking more than 50 feet, you might have problems with the parking. If you have to find a parking space without looking for more than 30 seconds, you might have problems with the parking. If you have “issues” with parking structures, you might have problems with parking. It’s all relative. Young OWSider’s comment about Washington DC reminded me of the parking situation for some of my friends there. They had an apartment in Adams-Morgan and you couldn’t even buy a parking spot where they lived. They had to park a couple blocks away on the street in an area where the cars were literally shoe-horned in bumper-to-bumper. I’ve never seen any Ann Arbor neighborhood ever approach that kind of demand for parking.


       —John Q.    Mar. 28 '06 - 07:11AM    #
  4. JD—
    I totally agree about new structures having at least some parking. Apartment buildings especially should provide parking for at least some of their tenants. You should contact your city council person to share your view on this. And you should also talk this up to your neighbors, local friends, and family. If more people let council know what they want, the better.

    Why is it so difficult to get developers to do this? I keep hearing how expensive it is for the developers. Three words: get over it. If council says there has to be parking provided, then that’s the deal. And that’s why having some sort of building code/design standards/basic amenities requirements on the books could help.

    This is what gets me the most about downtown growth. It needs to be smart, and frankly I’m not sure if the current council is capable of that. Calthorpe’s a start, but then the people who ask for smart growth shouldn’t be labeled as NIMBYists protecting short buildings and fighting windmills by the powers that be at DDA and by some developers who want to build cheap ugly buildings with no parking. It’s just not productive.

    John Q.—I used to live in Adams Morgan, and you’re right. Parking was crazy. People here complain about traffic and parking, but it’s not that big of a problem, really. Some coworkers were complaining the other day about how bad parking was downtown. I brought up the Ashley structure and they all three acknowledged that they never even think about parking there b/c it’s not on their radar. I wonder how common that is?


       —Young OWSider    Mar. 28 '06 - 02:24PM    #
  5. I have not found parking to be a problem in downtown the way it is now. I am willing to pay for it. I use the Ann-Ashley structure primarily, since it is close to the County Courthouse. I also use the Fourth and Washington structure (which I think is cute) and the Library Lot.

    I used to bike a great deal, but gave it up when we moved to Broadway, with its giant hill, 20 years ago. I drive my Honda Civic about 2500 miles per year (yes, twenty-five hundred), mostly to court appearances and for errands.

    My big concern is that allowing development downtown without requiring adequate parking (as Calthorpe recommends) is a recipe for failed projects, since Ann Arborites will not change their auto-oriented behavior.

    If you enjoyed the Whole Foods Disaster which JD discussed, then you’ll love a bunch of new projects without parking. 8-)


       —David Cahill    Mar. 28 '06 - 02:52PM    #
  6. several dozen cars idoling in the parking lot
    There’s an image for you…


       —tom    Mar. 28 '06 - 03:03PM    #
  7. “several dozen cars idoling in the parking lot”

    Oh no. I didn’t even notice the misspelling!! Too much time spent watching AI in the past weeks.


       —JD    Mar. 28 '06 - 03:06PM    #
  8. Yep, that Whole Foods is certainly a “disaster”. “Nobody goes there anymore – it’s too crowded.”

    Seems to me that all sorts of people go there, and are willing to hunt for a spot, despite the difficulty. Not that I’d necessarily call it a perfect situation – it was laughable to call it “new urbanist” in the approval process – but I think it provides exactly the opposite argument from what YOWS and David are trying to say.

    If the destination is attractive enough, people are willing to put up with a little bit of a hassle in parking.

    I’m also none too impressed with the spin involved here:

    * Young OWSider uses the term “smart growth” to refer to requiring parking in all new structures. Tragically, “Smart Growth” has an actual meaning, and, generally, involves UNlinking parking from development. Not necessarily “no parking”, just that you maintain as much parking as is needed, rather than requiring parking provision according to some formula that was created by…whom? Certainly nobody in Ann Arbor.

    * David, “allowing development downtown without requiring adequate parking (as Calthorpe recommends)” – funny, nowhere in Calthorpe did I see a recommendation, “maintain insufficient parking in downtown.” I remember the recommendation as more of creating a unified parking strategy. There’s nothing in that saying we need to have too little parking.

    Honestly, nobody has said, “We need no parking.” Neither has anybody said, “The current situation is the best possible.” What’s being called for is a parking plan that recognizes that downtown is different from Meijer, in uses and users, and that also recognizes that requiring downtown to have the same parking as Meijer will result in the physical destruction of downtown.


       —TPM    Mar. 28 '06 - 03:36PM    #
  9. TPM—
    I seriously used the words “smart” and “growth” together because I think A2 should be smart about density downtown—wasn’t aware that someone had dibs on it already.

    So wouldn’t requiring developers to include parking spots on the property, say underground or on the first few floors above an attractive and multi-use street level, be smart growth? Won’t that parking be needed? Or will the plan inform us?

    We don’t need more parking downtown now. But I’m pretty sure we will need more parking downtown if, as we’re told, we’ll be having an influx of citizens down there. Is it too much to make developers of condos/apartment buildings to create some parking on site?

    I’m all for the creation of a unified parking policy. But I just don’t think the DDA is honest enough to do it or to contract it out in a way that gets an honest result. With that article in the News, frankly, the DDA hit a new low.


       —Young OWSider    Mar. 28 '06 - 04:15PM    #
  10. Something Joey Scanga of Calthorpe repeatedly emphasized was that the Calthorpe report was not meant to contain “the parking strategy for downtown A2.” The details are something we’re supposed to figure out our own selves. When that document is portrayed as advocating inadequate parking, it sounds to me like the portrayer has already given up on the exercise.

    And it’s nice to see that AU is serving as one of many conversational forums for doing some of the figuring.

    Part of that figuring has to do with the cost of metered and structure parking. Young OWSider in Comment [1] seems to imply that parking is plenty cheap downtown. I tend to agree. My reference point is the two-dollars an hour for public parking in the city I moved to Ann Arbor from (ten years ago). My gut response to $.80 versus a dollar is: please let me pay $1.00, because I hate dimes; surely nobody makes a parking choice based on $.20 an hour! BUT, the Observer article indicates that the recent dropping of structure parking rates to $.80 while raising metered parking to $1.00 had a measurable effect on parking: a 30% increase of parking in structures. That surprised me.

    All I know about in-elastic demand is what I read of Larry Kestenbaum’s mini-tutorial in the AU minimum wage thread a while back, so perhaps someone can set me straight, but I would have guessed that parking demand would be relatively inelastic? Perpaps it’s relative elasticity depends on whether the consumer is a downtown shopper, worker, or resident. So while I might happily pay the extra $.20 for the convenience of not having two dimes in my pocket, I might not so happily pay the extra $200 on my parking bill every six months if I work downtown.


       —HD    Mar. 28 '06 - 04:56PM    #
  11. YOWS – Here’s a good (if lengthy) EPA report on smart growth parking considerations.

    In general, requiring every use to bring with it “sufficient” parking seems like a no-brainer, but, when applied widely, results in things that look more like, say, Carpenter Road, than like downtown. Personally, I’d rather go downtown.

    Consider Loft 322, or whatever the proper spelling is. First floor: parking. Ugly. Why? Because the developer is required, under current rules, to provide parking for residential uses, but the lot is too small to provide on site parking above or below the first-floor – it would all be ramp. There’s another building like this on Fifth Ave, between Huron and Washington. Small urban sites + individualized on-site parking = boring and pedestrian unfriendly first floors. Plus, most use-specific parking sits empty most of the time. Requiring everybody to bring their own, on-site, sufficient parking is expensive, wasteful, and generally has bad system-level effects.

    Now, mind you, I don’t disagree that downtown will need more parking than it has now as it gets more residents! Obviously, there will always be some need to serve cars downtown, but I very much don’t think requiring it of individual developers, on-site, will be a good solution.

    Generally, it’s recommended to run some sort of pooled/shared parking system, some combination of user-fee driven (like the current A2 facilities) with developer buy-in/in lieu of type fees. (That EPA doc has some examples.)

    But that brings up another question – why don’t you trust the DDA to run a parking system? As far as I can tell, they’ve done a good job in the past. I don’t mean to pull rank, but maybe you haven’t been around town long enuogh to see how much of an improvement the DDA has made in the parking system? I’m not saying they’re perfect – I’ve got my criticisms too – but “they’re not honest” seems like a pretty harsh sentiment.

    And, as for the survey the paper mentioned, you seem to be making an awful lot out of one question. If you’re unhappy with the results of a poll commissioned by the DDA that says people think parking is too difficult and the balance of green space to other things isn’t very good, what do you want out of them? The poll seems to me to have shown support for some of the biggest critiques I’ve heard of downtown. And, rereading, yes, that question was badly worded – but I also note the statement that the DDA did not see the questions before the surveyors did the poll. That’s an awful lot of venom you’re expending on something that the DDA wasn’t controllng.


       —TPM    Mar. 28 '06 - 06:03PM    #
  12. The Calthorpe Report recommends that developers no longer be required to provide or pay for parking. Luckily, Council did not approve that recommendation. It merely set a parking study in motion.


       —David Cahill    Mar. 28 '06 - 06:06PM    #
  13. TPM—
    Thanks for the info, but I can’t find the link. Am I just crazy?

    I agree that street level parking is less-than-ideal, and I’m open to whatever studies are out there about car sharing and public transit.

    About the venom towards DDA—I could be a little too quick to demonize here, and I’ll own that. And I’m sure they’ve done some good. I’ve only been here 5 years. But they’ve also done some bad. Doesn’t DDA play a role in the impending death (if you listen to some merchants downtown) of downtown? I find it hard to believe that the DDA didn’t feed potential questions or parts of questions to the polling company. Maybe the DDA didn’t know what the questions were going to be, but that just seems loco to me.

    Additionally, my experience with DDA is largely as a citizen who simply reads articles in the paper. At the beginning of the greenway debate, I was gathering as much info as possible from the greenway supporters and was interested in reasons why a greenway wouldn’t be a good idea. As it turns out, I don’t think a full scale greenway would be the way to go, but whatever. And when I read in the paper that DDA member Renee Greff labeled concerned citizens with broad brushstrokes and accused interested OWSiders of NIMBY-ism, or when the DDA uses a poorly worded question to slam concerned citizens, I take offense to that—especially when they use it to mislead people about real concerns that citizens have about creating a denser downtown in a thoughtful way. This isn’t, for most of us I think, an argument between no density and density. And to continue that myth is counterproductive and deceitful. Most of the people at the Council meeting I attended about Calthorpe stressed being smart about density. Very few felt that downtown shouldn’t grow, as I recall.

    I’ve found that many of DDA’s public statements create divisiveness and promote confusion.

    Anyway, their poll says that most of us think parking isn’t too expensive and that there’s plenty of it. So let’s talk about the greenway! j/k


       —Young OWSider    Mar. 28 '06 - 07:01PM    #
  14. Uh, no, you’re not crazy. I’m just dumb. I’ll try again:

    EPA smart growth parking article

    As far as feeding counterproductive, deceitful myths go, can we talk about the “full-scale greenway or no greenway” dichotomy next? :)


       —TPM    Mar. 28 '06 - 08:53PM    #
  15. Not on this thread.


       —John Q.    Mar. 28 '06 - 11:10PM    #
  16. David Cahill wrote: “The Calthorpe Report recommends that developers no longer be required to provide or pay for parking.”

    Now that much is true. And THAT could provide a starting point for a constructive conversation about how the relaxation of requirements in favor of incentives might or might not fit into a broader parking strategy for downtown.

    But that conversation makes the most sense within the broader context of the various recommendations (not just this one about whether specific parking requirements should be eliminated) made by Calthorpe about parking. The recommendation David Cahill is concerned about comes from 2 of 7 components of a parking policy recommendation, the one calling for a comprehensive parking strategy for Downtown Ann Arbor. The specific elements of that policy recommendation are:

    () Eliminate parking requirements on new projects in Downtown Ann Arbor;
    () Provide incentives to development proposals that incorporate parking into the proposal;
    () Work with AATA and the Link to increase the attractiveness of transit options;
    () Encourage companies and the university to reduce the number of employees arriving in Downtown by automobile by sponsoring transit voucher programs (go!pass);
    () Require the unbundling of parking from residential unit sales and rents;
    () Promote the purchase or renting of off-peak parking stalls within Downtown structures; and
    () Encourage a car-sharing program with free, priority parking Downtown.

    There are other specific policy recommendations related to parking (related to mass transit most relevantly), but this comment is already too long.

    If there’s a case to be made that incentives instead of requirements won’t work as a part of a unified parking strategy, that’s kind of discussion that would be interesting to have. Especially in light of whatever new data the parking study can bring to bear on the question.

    The one question reprinted in the A2 News from the DDA Parking Survey, which has struck most people, including me, as odd: “A dense downtown area is a good growth strategy because it works against urban sprawl and it also encourages a mix of independent as well as major retailers.” [Respondents were to indicate whether they agreed on a 5-point scale] I hope there were some questions that began, “A downtown that is not much more dense than the surrounding area is a good growth strategy because … it allows the city to preserve it’s small town feel and keeps things on a human scale.” Or however one might phrase the ‘because’ part. I think I’d probably select something like “Strongly Disagree” for that one. But corresponding items eliciting attitudes against density would give the survey results way more traction. Maybe they had items like that on the survey. Anybody who could get a copy of the survey items and post them would get a great big Thank You.


       —HD    Mar. 28 '06 - 11:20PM    #
  17. Have any parking studies identified what time of day that parking is most difficult to find?


       —JD    Mar. 28 '06 - 11:51PM    #
  18. The Survey

    I’d like to second HD’s request for a copy of the actual survey and the results. The limited info from the News article makes the survey sound terrible. A little transparency regarding the results, methodology, and intentions of the survey might limit the distrust some feel towards the DDA. My concern stems from the fact that this survey was part of a “larger $48,000 communications improvement strategy” run by a marketing firm. This suggests to me that the goal of this survey, in part, was to determine the best way to market the DDA and its programming. That seems in line with questions like the one partially reprinted in the News article. I’m not suggesting that this makes the survey worthless, only that it might be measuring how people react to certain spin more than determining residents’ preferences on parking, density and greenspace. We shouldn’t confuse the two.

    I would also point out that the respondents included 300 registered Ann Arbor voters (89% were home owners). This excludes a large number of parking consumers including commuters, shoppers and entertainment seekers, and students who are not registered Ann Arbor voters. While I don’t know what proportion of parking demand they represent, I would bet it is quite high. There are also benefits to knowing the opinions specifically of A2 residents, especially if the survey is part of a marketing strategy for the DDA.

    The good news I see is that responses indicate that there is not enough parking, not that it is too expensive. While I’d like to see how that question was phrased before jumping to conclusions, it seems to point towards an opportunity to raise parking prices to reduce demand. There also seems to be unity on the need for more greenspace downtown. Of course we don’t know how such a policy would affect non-A2 voters who park downtown.


       —Scott TenBrink    Mar. 29 '06 - 03:44AM    #
  19. Better parking management
    (with apologies for multiple, sequential posts)
    As pointed out numerous times by YOWS, there are empty spaces in the Ann-Ashley structure in the evenings. While these evenings do not necessarily represent parking demand peaks, the demand obviously varies geographically to the determent of all visitors. Clearly before building more parking we should manage the existing supply better. The DDA has been slow to do so, but they seem to be moving in the right direction with the parking study and the improved tallying equipment.
    After identifying the location and times of empty spaces, the next step is advertising them so that people can make an informed decision on where to park. Visitors don’t know where to look for parking and don’t know how much it would cost to park there. My suggestions include:
    1) Offering free parking at Ann-Ashley from 6pm on, Thursday-Saturday for a month. Do it during Curb Your Car Month and offer a free shuttle to Main Street, Kerrytown, and the Diag (the Link?)
    Put up big signs guiding people to “Free Parking All Evening” from the north Main highway off-ramp.
    Hand out flyers explaining that parking is free for a set period and only $2/night afterwards.
    2) Offer real-time parking availability and pricing for all attended structures and lots via Web and mobile phone (more involved, but easier than you might think).
    3) Provide small parking maps to downtown restaurants and bars that can be handed out with the bill. Put info on cycling, AATA, UM buses, the Link and go!passes on the back.
    4) Integrate parking management with getDowntown programming like go!pass, bike lockers, etc. Make it clear to parkers that there are many options for getting downtown and once they park, it is easy to get around town.


       —Scott TenBrink    Mar. 29 '06 - 05:07AM    #
  20. I’ve never found parking to be an issue, but I had to “learn the ropes” to find all the best locations for different areas of town. Scott’s suggestion of better parking management for first-time or occasional visitors to downtown Ann Arbor is a good one, and it seems relatively easy to implement. Delinking a requirement for residences to have a certain mandated amount of parking is not a bad idea either. I’m pretty sure that any successful developer already knows what sort of parking/residency ratio is needed to attract the type of clientele that he/she is marketing to. Look at all the urban areas that Ann Arbor “aspires” to be (Chicago, NYC, Boston, etc.). Buildings might have parking, and residents might have cars. They make their own arrangements, outside of the primary cost of the apartment. Some people might be willing to pay a premium for a private valet spot beneath their building (I’ve done that). Others might choose to leave their car at a friend/relative’s house in another neighborhood that’s quite far away (I’ve done that too). I don’t see blocks and blocks of empty apartments that are unsaleable because they have no parking. If there’s a demand for parking, the market will accomodate it.


       —jcp2    Mar. 29 '06 - 07:05AM    #
  21. Minimum Parking Requirements
    (last one today, I swear)

    David is concerned that we are subsidizing developers’ costs by using tax dollars to pay for parking demand they create. He sees parking provision as the burden of the developer. Calthorpe, on the other hand, is trying to shift the parking burden from the developer to the driver. They are doing this by adjusting parking policy so that drivers pay directly for the parking they consume instead of paying indirectly through higher costs at shops and restaurants and higher rent or purchase price for housing. Specifically these adjustments are removing any minimum parking requirements and unbundling parking from leases. The end goal for Calthorpe is to encourage downtown residents to use other means of transport and shop and work closer to home.

    So, I have to then ask three questions. Would these policy changes remove the burden from the developer? And would the burden be placed on the driver? Finally, would the shifted burden result in a change in transportation habits? I see problems for each question.

    First, removing minimum parking requirements may have no impact on developers if potential tenants demand parking. If there is not a market for no-parking condos, then developers probably won’t build them. In fact, they probably won’t find investors to fund the project. Unbundling parking from leases encounters the same pitfalls plus it would be difficult to mandate that property owners not include parking on leases. Stranger lease laws have passed, but it would still be an obstacle that the public would not be so inclined to rally behind.

    Next, The burden may be placed mostly on the driver, but there will undoubtedly be a spill-over effect on surrounding parking supply if residents can opt out of paid parking. Free street parking would provide an alternative to paying extra for parking. Demand for residential parking permit programs would probably go up, and they definitely don’t pay for themselves. If, in the longer run, there is public outcry for increased parking downtown, it may be the DDA who pays for it. Now tax dollars go to providing parking while my free street parking has been replaced with paid structure parking via increased demand and RPP programs that restrict parking supply.

    So finally, considering these potential problems, how could these policies ever lead to reduced car use, especially if, as David has also argued, Ann Arborites will not change their transportation habits? I think there are two ways that we can overcome this obstacle. First, as advised by HD, we should implement these policies as part of the larger collection of recommendations by Calthorpe. I would urge council not to pass an ordinance that included only 2 of the 7 recommendations. Moreover, these recommendations need to mesh with other aspects of parking provision (enforcement timing on meters, RPP, parking costs) as well as broader transportation, land use, and economic development goals. Secondly, I would focus the efforts of promoting reduced parking and increased transit and NMT at new residents and businesses because they have not already settled into a transportation rut. The incoming commuters and residents are vital to initiating a swing away from auto-centric lifestyle and planning in Ann Arbor.


       —Scott TenBrink    Mar. 29 '06 - 11:12AM    #
  22. I think Scott TenBrink’s three questions are useful enough to be numbered for easy future reference:
    (1)Would these policy changes remove the burden from the developer?
    (2)Would the burden be placed on the driver?
    (3)Would the shifted burden result in a change in transportation habits?

    On (1) Scott wonders if marketplace demands might still press developers to include parking in their proposals. I think this observation should tend to allay concerns that downtown will end up with inadequate parking. As I understand it, the idea behind the elimination of requirements is not to remove a burden, but rather to let that burden be defined by market forces instead by legislative forces.

    On (2) Scott points out that the impact on parking supply might mean: surrounding residential drivers are looped into the set of drivers who now share the burden. And he pushes that line of thought through to: one possible effect might be that DDA is the entity that ultimately bears the financial burden of building more parking. Based on the Observer article, the DDA doesn’t seem to be in position to do that right now. They’d need to increase revenues. What if DDA raised parking to $1.50/hour?

    On (3) Scott makes the crucial distinction between changing the habits of particular individuals and attracting different individuals as new residents. This distinction erodes some of the rhetorical force of David Cahill’s reasonable point that some people, just aren’t going to change their transportation habits. And some of these non-habit changers are like David Cahill: quite happy to bicycle and whatnot when it’s feasible, but when it becomes unfeasible stop doing it. The hill that David describes as the deal-breaking obstacle for his cycling is a big hill. I’m still optimistic that a certain percentage of current residents might be ‘converted’, recognizing that some cannot be, for good reasons. But as Scott points out, it’s the new residents who will figure crucially.


       —HD    Mar. 29 '06 - 02:20PM    #
  23. The DDA survey is available at the DDA office. Call 994-6697 to request a copy. You can pick it up at the office (Market Bldg., 301 Catherine – in Kerrytown) or it will be mailed to you. No cost.

    Also, there is a resolution to begin a pilot program for free parking at Ann/Ashley after 4 PM. It will be on the agenda for the Board meeting on April 5, 12 noon at the Kerrytown Concert House.


       —Leah    Mar. 29 '06 - 02:49PM    #
  24. Leah, thanks for the heads up. And thanks to Joan at DDA for the follow-through.


       —HD    Mar. 29 '06 - 04:17PM    #
  25. I don’t think downtown parking is a problem. It is cheap cheap cheap compared to other cities, and I’ve never had a problem finding a space. I probably use the Maynard garage and the one at Fourth and Washington most often, for dinner, movies, and errands. I’ve lived in DC and Chicago where parking can be a headache—either not enough of it, or it is really expensive (20 bucks or more). If I can park two blocks from a restaurant or theater for the evening for less than five bucks, I can’t see how that is expensive or inconvenient.


       —MJ    Mar. 29 '06 - 04:18PM    #
  26. The problem is that a lot of Ann Arborites are cheap cheap cheap cheap.


       —jcp2    Mar. 29 '06 - 04:37PM    #
  27. Ah, the “it’s cheaper than DC or Chicago” defense.

    Shaming people into feeling that it’s lazy to drive downtown is somewhat counterproductive; when I’m ashamed of an impulse to drive downtown on a freezing cold day, I usually deal with it by deciding I don’t really need to go there anyway. Even if I could park, I’d be paying to leave my car while I walked to a bunch of precious boutiques blocks apart from each other that may or may not have what I want. When I did live in a city, I walked six blocks to get my groceries, but I didn’t walk around in the cold window-shopping. The parking situation is fine if you’re from Livonia and you’re excited to be spending the day in A2, but it’s not worth it for residents to go downtown for a lot of things.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 29 '06 - 06:16PM    #
  28. I don’t think anyone is shaming anybody about wanting to drive downtown. The “cheaper than [insert large city] here” defense is used just to point out that while parking is not free, it is available at a reasonable rate for those people who go downtown to enjoy it in its current form as a destination(restaurants, boutiques, bookstores). I agree that it is a large waste of time to go downtown to obtain goods and services for daily living, but that speaks more to the current nature of what downtown is, rather than to parking downtown.


       —jcp2    Mar. 29 '06 - 06:39PM    #
  29. When we’re planning on buying a lot at the farmer’s market, we’ll drive down on Saturdays around 9 or 10 and still find parking in the courthouse lot not two blocks from the farmer’s market, Zingerman’s and the co-op. If we want to park downtown to go to dinner on the north end of Main or in Kerrytown, we’ll park for free in the courthouse lot or the metered lot there by Aut Bar. We’ve almost never had trouble parking in those lots—ever.

    Even in freezing weather I’ll walk downtown to the Michigan theater—it gives me an excuse to stop in Sweetwater’s to get a steamer or something, too.

    AAIO is of course right that most of downtown isn’t a great place to go to purchase day-to-day items for regular old living. I usually avoid the boutiques on Main unless we’re buying gifts or something. But the shops in Kerrytown (I’m talking food here) are the main draw for us to go downtown. Usually we walk, but as I said, we also drive.

    Is it shaming to point out that it’s lazy to drive downtown if one lives a few blocks from there? Because it is lazy and unhealthy and is bad for the individual and for society in general with increased healthcare costs.

    I’ve got it!—Perhaps we could have a physical fitness campaign in this town to do our part to help bring down Michigan’s abysmal obesity rate. And it could start in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown encouraging people to leave their cars at home when they go downtown.


       —Young OWSider    Mar. 29 '06 - 09:22PM    #
  30. I think everyone who has commented on this thread has demonstrated how incredibly complicated this issue is. The Planning Commission is meeting with the DDA at a work session on April 11th to hopefully gain a better understanding of the public parking system.

    No parking or transportation policy is going to work for every person or in every location. Everyone behaves differently and every location has it’s own particular needs. The key for public policy makers is to create a system that has the most flexibility over time. Everyone likes to use the Whole Foods example as a failure of limiting parking. It doesn’t seem to deter business (I’ve heard that A2 was their 2nd highest grossing store last year). And what would happen if the parking lot was bigger and then Whole Foods opened a second store in A2 … would all those extra spaces be needed? Or what if Whole Foods goes out of business (doesn’t seem likely, but it could happen someday), and something else takes over that space and doesn’t generate as much business? Shouldn’t we err on the side of the environment by creating less stormwater runoff and hoping people bus or bike (even though this location is not particularly easy to do that … but maybe someday it could be?) If it truly is a problem for business, I’m sure the businesses will find a solution (like a parking deck onsite?)

    I believe that part of reason for the Calthorpe recommendation for eliminating parking requirements has to do with providing other competing community values. I’ve heard (don’t know if it’s true, but it seems to make sense to me) that it’s not possible to provide affordable housing, open space, manage storm water, provide onsite parking, pay city utility fees without making the building extremely tall (or wide, I guess). So, I think the community needs to decide which of these things is most important and then set policy that way. Right now, we have too many competing requirements … all which seem to drive the height of the building up.


       —Jennifer Hall    Mar. 29 '06 - 09:48PM    #
  31. I agree that there is a need for better parking management downtown. Not better management of the physical structures, the DDA does a good job with that, but better management of the parking itself. There need to be instructions to structures that are less full, better signs (hey, how about a sign to Liberty Plaza parking from the Liberty entrance, which currently is only labeled “Liberty Square Pedestrian Entrance” with no directions on how to actually park in that lot), more usage data rather than anecdotes, more directions on how to get to the downtown from the more outlying structures (Ann-Ashley, Forest, and Liberty Plaza are tough if you are not from around here). I’m glad to see some of the happening now, but we have a long way to go.

    Ann-Ashley has several problems. First of all 130 (or so) spaces are reserved for One North Main full-time. So while it may look as if no one is in those spaces, they are bought and paid for. Second, Ann-Ashley is a scary, not very well-lit structure next to a liquor store. People have to feel comfortable to park there and that isn’t a comfortable feeling structure. It needs more light, more people stationed there (maybe put a police sub-station here?), and more signs showing where to go when you leave so people can get to Main Street or Kerrytown. It isn’t just about being free. Third, it is far away from most places people want to be downtown. If you want to go anyplace south of Liberty on Main, it is closer to park in the Leopolds lot (for free) than it is to park at Ann-Ashley.

    As for shopping, although Main Street has primarily boutiques and restaurants, Liberty, Kerrytown, State Street, and South U are all downtown and all have fine stores for “everyday items.” I find walking far easier than trying to park downtown because I am so close, but I agree that once you know where to park it usually isn’t much of a problem. There are many people who don’t feel that way though. The mall and suburban mentality is that you must be able to park close and you must be able to do it for free. The more restrictions we put on parking downtown, the harder it will be for the merchants. Even if we add two or three thousand residents downtown, that will in no way equal the buying power of the 70,000 people who commute in to town every day and the 100,000 or so Ann Arborites who don’t live downtown. We will need to provide parking downtown for some of them or they will all go to the suburbs to shop.


       —Juliew    Mar. 29 '06 - 10:33PM    #
  32. The problem is that the buildings that have been built with less parking in hopes that it would all work out, have not. Yes, the Whole Foods is an example. It was built as a suburban store with an urban parking lot. That same lot size might actually work out downtown because there are other places to park and other ways to get there, but it isn’t very good for the site it is in. And Jennifer, you say that the Whole Foods is doing well there, but what about the other stores in that shopping center? From what I heard, Barnes and Noble is not doing so well because of the parking. Look at the new Y. It is a parking nightmare that will most likely result in the death or injury of a young child. What about projects like 828 Greene or the newly approved residential buildings that have very undersized parking? What will they do to the surrounding neighborhoods and will these buildings really rent/sell? While there may be a few people who don’t have cars downtown, I would say 90%+ will. Most of those for good reasons. I did a quick check around my near-downtown neighborhood and picked out 30 random people (homeowners, grad and undergrad students, non-student renters): these 30 people own 33 cars (and a Hovercraft). If we had a good car-sharing program, you could maybe trade off ten of those cars, but I don’t expect it would go any higher than that. I think we can go a long way toward making people less-dependant on their cars and I would love to see that happen, but I don’t think it is realistic or productive to build as if we just hope the cars go away.


       —Juliew    Mar. 29 '06 - 11:10PM    #
  33. A Hovercraft? Seriously, a HOVERCRAFT?!

    The parking at the new YMCA is a candidate for one kind of example discussed by Scott in Comment [21].

    I live in that neighborhood. Parking on my street is the same now as it was before the new Y: no parking allowed ever on either side. So I can’t speak to the impact on parking. What I can speak to is the bicycle ride heading east down Washington Street from 7th heading towards the Y. It’s downhill and fast. Post new Y construction, Washington is typically saturated with cars on both sides. Cyclists need to be a bit more aware (of getting doored, people darting out etc.) than they used to be. Still rideable? Yes. More dangerous for little kids who might well wander out from in between parked cars into the path of a very quiet, but fast-moving bicycle rider? Yes.

    Leaving aside the apparent safety issues, anybody know how happy YMCA members are with the availability of parking?


       —HD    Mar. 30 '06 - 12:38AM    #
  34. I’m mystified by this plan to build a lot of housing with no parking. Does it escape city council that there are people living in downtown Ann Arbor who work somewhere else?


       —Alyssa P.    Mar. 30 '06 - 04:55AM    #
  35. If there is such a demand, developers will supply parking to meet it.


       —Dale    Mar. 30 '06 - 05:18AM    #
  36. “30 people own 33 cars (and a Hovercraft). If we had a good car-sharing program, you could maybe trade off ten of those cars, but I don’t expect it would go any higher than that.”

    If we could get nearly a 30% (10/33) reduction in car ownership as a result of any transportation program or policy it would be amazing. If that rate is possible in Julie’s neighborhood where people are presumably settled into their transit habits, imagine the impact a car-sharing program might have on new residents moving into downtown apartments with no parking available. Developers may be able to market these apartments to people who want to live car-free. The DDA already has a program (getDowntown) well positioned to assist developers’ efforts to do so.

    “The mall and suburban mentality is that you must be able to park close and you must be able to do it for free.”

    While I believe that downtown’s are fundamentally different than malls and therefore should not try to compete with them on mall terms, we may be able to shift this to become something a downtown can provide. Perhaps people want easily accessible parking more than free parking. If you can find your way to the mall, it is pretty easy to figure out where to park. We may not be able to offer free parking, but we can improve the convenience of finding parking, and of getting from your parking spot to your (multiple) downtown destinations.

    “While there may be a few people who don’t have cars downtown, I would say 90%+ will. Most of those for good reasons.”

    From my perspective, those reasons are that we continue to accommodate those with cars without providing attractive alternatives. Again, removing parking minimums will not work on its own. But in conjunction with other recommendations, less auto-oriented infrastructure may well attract people who don’t want the hassle of a car.

    “I don’t think it is realistic or productive to build as if we just hope the cars go away.”

    I agree, and I would think that developers and their investors would agree as well. If the city simply cut the parking minimum requirement, without implementing any of the other recommendations, how much parking would developers provide? I couldn’t find a study on this. I’m guessing that the average reduction would be close to zero and that the biggest determining factor would be lot size and shape. If the city offers a FAR bonus for on-site parking, the average number of spaces will go up.
    Wait, why are we offering FAR bonuses if we expect developers to accommodate parking demand? It would be great if someone could uncover impact studies of this policy in other downtowns. I for one would like to resolve the vague fear that we parking minimums equal not enough parking.
    For now I’m sticking with the perspective that maintaining parking minimums will create too much parking if we are ever able to implement attractive alternatives to driving. In presenting the removal of parking minimums as a problem, one should clarify why people who are adamant about owning a car would move in to such a place, why developers would propose a plan that does not cater to the target audience, and why anyone would invest in a development that is not going to sell units.


       —Scott TenBrink    Mar. 30 '06 - 05:24AM    #
  37. I am mystified by the repeatedly demonstrated confusion between “removing parking minimums” and “a plan to build a lot of housing with no parking” despite frequent posts clarifying the distinction. More mystifying is the confusion between the needs of people already living in the city with those of a potential addition of downtown residents whose potential transportation demands will vary based on what options are offered to them.


       —Scott TenBrink    Mar. 30 '06 - 05:35AM    #
  38. Scott, are you responding to me?

    What I have seen covered in the Ann Arbor News lately is the consideration and approval of building plans including no parking, or parking far below one space per unit. That’s not just removing parking minimums, that’s building housing (and quite a bit of it from what I’ve been reading—correct me if I’m wrong) with no parking.

    I do already live in the city, in an apartment. I would like to be able to buy housing and keep living in the city. Actually, the housing being built with no parking (mostly condos) would be ideal for me if it weren’t for the no parking thing. I like living in a densely populated neighborhood and I don’t really want a yard.

    But I drive about 25,000 miles a year (all in Michigan) for work. My job isn’t in one fixed place, or I would move there. I have to have a car. I’m willing to pay extra for parking, but it has to be there to be bought.

    It’s also not that I’m unsympathetic to (or even unsupportive of) the goal of having fewer cars downtown. I didn’t have one as a graduate student, and part of the reason I live where I do is so that I can live most of the rest of my life out of the car.

    But back to my original point—it’s unclear to me that anyone has even tried to count how many other current downtown residents are situated the way I am. If they’d counted us and found that there aren’t that many I’d be fine with it. Do you happen to know whether anyone’s studied this?


       —Alyssa P.    Mar. 30 '06 - 07:19AM    #
  39. Alyssa,

    I apologize for my misinterpretation of your comment. I took it to refer to the minimum parking requirement since that is the context of this thread.

    While I’m not sure which developments you are referring to, I assume that what you have seen is a result of current policy, not the recommendations proposed by Calthorpe. If this development is within the DDA boundary, then it is not required to provide any parking unless they exceed the normal maximum usable floor area (with another exception for PUDs in the DDA). If your current residence is within the DDA boundary, then the development you are in now was probably not required to provide parking for you.

    But note that the proposed revision does not prevent new development from providing parking. It only allows for development to provide less than the current minimum requirements (1-2 spaces per unit outside the DDA, depending on zoning). If there is demand for housing with parking downtown, the suggested revision still allows developers to accommodate that demand. In fact, it encourages it by providing FAR bonuses.

    Also, if you are willing to pay for parking, the DDA offers monthly permits for their lots. Depending on your location you may have to join a waitlist, but it is available. It is also quite cheap if you only want to park off-peak. the off-peak permit program vastly expands the parking options for downtown residents.

    I doubt that any city institution has made an effort to identify people who want to live and have a car downtown. In fact, when compared with other transportation options, the vast majority of funding and resources have gone towards accommodating car ownership and downtown parking. According to Julie’s estimate more than 90% of residents will have a good reason to have a car downtown. If anything, the city has assumed that everyone is in your position.

    Now the city is considering whether supporting high levels of car ownership downtown is really such a good idea. They are making concerted efforts to accommodate other modes, which will be to some degree at the expense of car owner’s convenience. While I support this change in perspective, I doubt that it will ever amount to barring car owners from living downtown.


       —Scott TenBrink    Mar. 30 '06 - 10:05AM    #
  40. Murph’s suggestion to explore www.a2c3.org, a local car sharing co-op, resulted in a conversation with one of the members, in the standard format.


       —HD    Mar. 30 '06 - 03:32PM    #
  41. (...The standard format?)


       —Murph    Mar. 30 '06 - 05:05PM    #
  42. (Oh, yeah, THAT standard format!)


       —Murph    Mar. 30 '06 - 07:27PM    #
  43. Yup, HD, my neighbor really has a Hovercraft (and a Porsche). He has set the bar high for midlife crises in the neighborhood!

    Parking at the Y has been the big issue among members since it opened. It is a main link on the web site, they have several incentives to park away from the Y, notices have been mailed to members about parking, signs in the lobby have helpful hints: “remember, you must park four feet from a driveway to be legally parked.” People have problems seeing around the cars parked (illegally) on Washington. After several near-misses and complaints from residents, the City now does several passes a day (starting at 7:00am) to ticket and tow people parked illegally on Washington. Also, the Krause lot is now busy from 5:25am to after 10:00pm, which is intrusive for the people whose yards back up to it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree that current parking requirements are too much downtown. We don’t need two parking spots for every 2-bedroom apartment. I think the Kingsley Lane development is good: the developer is providing some parking on-site, some parking off-site (one spot for every 2-bedroom condo somewhere), working with neighbors on residential parking, trying to develop car-sharing, has lots of bicycle parking, and is marketing the condos to people who don’t want to drive. On the other hand, I don’t like developments like 828 Greene where there are 9 parking spots for 6 6-bedroom apartments (36 bedrooms total), minimal bike parking, no attempt has been made to work with the neighbors, and it is advertised as having parking.

    If there is such a demand, developers will supply parking to meet it.
    The developers are supplying spaces, they are requesting (and getting) them from the DDA. Every new development downtown has requested parking permits in DDA lots. Unfortunately, this creates situations like Ann-Ashley where spaces look empty, but are unavailable (especially as many of the high-end condos will only be used during the football season). It raises a lot of questions about the purpose of downtown parking structures.

    As for car-sharing, it has to be a legitimate company with a good selection of relatively new cars. A small group of people with a few old clunker cars won’t make most people give up a car they already have. You would have to trust that the company is going to be around and the cars have to be presentable and reliable, with modern safety features.


       —Juliew    Mar. 30 '06 - 11:22PM    #
  44. ” A small group of people with a few old clunker cars won’t make most people give up a car they already have.”

    Yeah, but it might, say, allow some grad students to put off buying their first car for a few more years, if all they need one for is the occasional errand.

    There’s a tendency to rate any measure a failure if it wouldn’t convince a middle-income family to give up their family car. I don’t think that’s a sensible standard.

    There’s also a lot of younger people with minimal transportation needs and not a lot of money; a lot of families trying to decide whether to buy a 3rd car; etc. And there could be significant gains just from putting off those decisions by on average a few more years.


       —Bruce Fields    Mar. 30 '06 - 11:36PM    #
  45. Bruce, you are right that any car-sharing is probably better than no car-sharing (although it looks like A2C3 is not currently functioning and they have had a hard time really getting going). It probably wouldn’t appeal to people who are buying the $300,000-600,000 condos being built downtown, but might cause enough of a shift that they could more easily park in neighborhoods. The University of Colorado has a program where they put a car rental company on campus with discounts for CU affiliates and will rent to students 18 and above. It would be interesting to see how that is working. Low-end car-sharing might work for short trips, with rentals for weekends or longer trips.


       —Juliew    Mar. 31 '06 - 12:01AM    #
  46. What I have seen covered in the Ann Arbor News lately is the consideration and approval of building plans including no parking, or parking far below one space per unit.

    Yes, this is true … but there is more to the story. Our city ordinance allows parking to be provided on-site or off-site in another location or in the public parking system. It also allows a reduction in the minimum parking with a recommendation from planning commission to city council. That last part is especially important to me because it says that council alone cannot decide to reduce parking requirments – it has to be vetted by the citizen planning commission. I can explain a few of the recent recommendations from Planning Commission to clarify the parking issue (I don’t think Council has acted on all these projects, but when they have, I think they’ve upheld the recommendation of Planning Commission):

    William Street Station parking requirement was recommended to be reduced and OKed to be provided in the public system (off site). Same is true for project on Maynard. Metro 202 had permits already secured in the Tally Hall structure. Kingsley Lane was a PUD, so I believe the parking ordinance doesn’t strictly apply – they have some onsite and were seeking permits in Ann-Ashley. Planning Commission had concerns about all this parking being provided in the public system – because we don’t know how that system operates. We were assured by DDA that the spaces were available and wouldn’t put an increased burden on the system (at least that is what I recall from the conversation). We will be learning more about the system and how it works on April 11.

    Some of us (me included) also felt that a downtown was an appropriate place to decrease parking requirements. I recognize that some people will need a car. But, some won’t. If we continue to design a system that operates under the assumption that 90% of the people will have cars, then it’s likely that 90% of the people will have cars. But, studies have shown in other locations that people will make life choices about cars based on parking expense and availability.


       —Jennifer Hall    Mar. 31 '06 - 12:12AM    #
  47. They’ll also make life choices about cars by simply not going to a relatively small area (downtown) where they can’t park easily, and where free parking is readily available at other retail nodes. (Did I really write “retail nodes”?!)

    I must say that if the Planning Commission doesn’t know how the DDA operates, it is risky at best to rely on DDA promises. “Trust, but verify.”


       —David Cahill    Mar. 31 '06 - 12:37AM    #
  48. Juliew—
    Instead of calling the Krause lot busy maybe we should say more active? I was just at the Krause lot this morning at 6—with about 10 other cars. And the other day I was there at 5pm and it wasn’t close to full or what I’d call busy. I’ll check tomorrow morning, too, when I’m there at 6am and report back.


       —Young OWSider    Mar. 31 '06 - 01:51AM    #
  49. “you are right that any car-sharing is probably better than no car-sharing”

    OK, but that wasn’t really my point.

    My point was that “X won’t cause anyone to give up their car” isn’t a sufficient argument that X won’t reduce car use.


       —Bruce Fields    Mar. 31 '06 - 02:20AM    #
  50. YOWS, I guess busy is a subjective term. If “more active” works for you, it works for me. I don’t usually walk by the Krause lot until a bit before 7:00am, but I can tell you that 11 cars with lights on and doors slamming by 6:00am in the morning in my backyard would bug the heck out of me!


       —Juliew    Mar. 31 '06 - 03:20AM    #
  51. “My point was that ‘X won’t cause anyone to give up their car’ isn’t a sufficient argument that X won’t reduce car use.”

    This is a good point. However, providing car sharing does necessarily mean a reduction in car use either. I’ve been looking for data on this, and from what I’ve read, there has not been a significant reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as a result of carsharing programs in the US. Part of the problem is that the impact has not been research sufficiently. But a paper submitted to the Research Transportation Board on carsharing programs in Portland and San Francisco show about a 5% reduction in VMT. The study also showed a minimal decrease in car ownership and a larger impact, like Bruce points to, in deferred car purchases. But the validity of people claiming that car sharing saved them from buying a car is not as strong as the other measures. I’m not saying that there is no impact; only that the survey method may not the best way to measure this impact.

    Carsharing can have two types of impact, usually simultaneously.
    A)It can provide an alternative to owning a car, which hopefully would lead to fewer car trips and reliance on other modes for many trips that a car owner may choose to drive. This would include both existing car owners and potential car purchasers.
    B)It also provides access to cars for people who can’t afford to buy, park and maintain a car (or choose not to). This is a great mobility service to those who are victims of auto-oriented planning and design. But it also perpetuates the demand for such design by providing more access to automobiles.

    If the impact of B is greater than the impact of A is greater than B, we should see an increase in trips and VMT as a result of car sharing.

    I know of no studies that look at the impact of car sharing on parking. Intuitively, it seems that car sharing could only reduce parking demand, but maybe not if the number of trips increases. The report I read did mention that the largest non-financial contribution to car sharing efforts by government is provision of free parking. However, one might argue that is the case for all vehicles.

    If carsharing does not reduce car ownership or VMT, is it still something that the city should support?

    Of course if Juliew’s informal survey is representative and nearly 30% of Ann Arbor cars would be given up for a good carsharing program, this question is moot.


       —Scott TenBrink    Mar. 31 '06 - 03:23AM    #
  52. Julie,
    While I can sympathize with the frustrations of adjusting to new neighbors, in light of the parking concerns addressed in this thread, it seems inappropriate to suggest that there is a problem with utilizing available parking for fear of irritating the neighbors. While the surrounding houses may not have had to deal with off-peak parking previously, they do live next to a parking lot. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that this wouldn’t irritate me as well. But it seems like a relatively minor growing pain in the larger scope.


       —Scott TenBrink    Mar. 31 '06 - 03:34AM    #
  53. While the surrounding houses may not have had to deal with off-peak parking previously, they do live next to a parking lot.
    And this attitude is exactly why so many people fight so hard to prevent parking lots from being built in or near their neighborhoods. Changes in usage of a neighborhood resource can have a very big impact. The neighbors should at least be considered, not dismissed.


       —Juliew    Mar. 31 '06 - 04:13AM    #
  54. Julie,
    I’m not clear on what consideration is lacking in this situation, or rather, what further consideration would help.
    UM owns and enforces the lot (starting at 6am). Should they consider locking people out after these hours? I don’t think the U would go for that and I think the neighborhood benefits from parking there during non-enforced hours.
    Should the city consider building more parking somewhere else near the Y? Should the Y consider building more parking? It seems from your comment (and others’ throughout this blog) that such a proposal would not fly with neighbors either.
    Building some kind of sound/light barrier might help, but who would pay for it? The U, who is not using the parking late at night, or the Y who doesn’t own or support parking in that lot (it’s not listed in the parking section of the website, at least)?

    I’ve tried to include all the consideration that my previous post was generated from. In the end, I still think that this is part of living next to a parking lot and nearby a great amenity like the Y.
    What further considerations might help this situation? (without imposing greater burdens on another group)


       —Scott TenBrink    Mar. 31 '06 - 05:23AM    #
  55. I live three houses away from Huron. I hear loud cars, loud music, firetrucks, and just general traffic noise. We knew that when we bought the house, figured it wasn’t any worse than the noises in the cities we came from, and we deal. And it isn’t an issue. We live near a busy street. We live in a city with city noises. So be it.

    Folks who live near a parking lot should expect it to be used. I myself never even knew it existed and can’t figure out how it hasn’t been found by people looking for free parking close to downtown. Was it really never used at night before?


       —Young OWSider    Mar. 31 '06 - 01:01PM    #
  56. One conclusion from the Y’s problems is that the Y should not have been built on that site without adequate on-site parking.

    Multiply the Y situation by ten or so, and you see what Calthorpe may have for the downtown.


       —David Cahill    Mar. 31 '06 - 03:46PM    #
  57. YOWS notes – live in a city, expect city noises. I can agree with that; I can hear the AARR go by at 2 am (and find it comforting…).

    There’s a limit to that, though – as Juliew and Scott are discussing, impacts of changes do need to be considered. Who is benefiting and who is bearing the costs of that, and how can we balance those fairly?

    The Y provides a community-wide benefit but has very localized impacts. We can’t say, “That’s just what they get for living there!” and write them off, but we also can’t say, “Oops, there’s a negative impact – guess we can’t put the Y here!” The former is unfair, the latter results in generic, auto-dependant sprawl as we build nothing anywhere near anything, and that has its own negative impacts.

    What if we were to try to capture more of the regional benefit to balance out the local impacts? Just to throw something out, what if we installed parking meters in the neighborhood around the Y – residents can buy permits that exempt them from the meters – and then have any revenue from the meters that exceeds the costs of this program go into projects completely within that neighborhood? (In general, I think that meters are strong net revenue generators, though I think somebody mentioned that the res. permit programs were money losers, so there’d be some tweaking to do…)

    We say, yes, we understand that you’re being burdened by the parking demands of this regional benefit, but, as partial compensation – and in thanks – for that, we’ll put the parking revenues into a sidewalk replacement fund, or a street tree replacement fund, that can only be used within your neighborhood.


       —TPM    Mar. 31 '06 - 03:48PM    #
  58. The detail of managing the Krause lot isn’t really the issue here. My point was more that the Y was built knowing that they were undersizing the parking for the projected usage (2000 members) and the reasons for doing this were the same reasons that everyone is giving for building new housing downtown without parking: it is close to everything, there is other parking available, people won’t need to drive, and parking just shouldn’t be a problem. Now the Y membership is 3000 people, not that many walk, and parking has been a very big problem for the Y administration, the members, the neighbors, and the city. I worry that the same thing will happen with many of these new developments and if we make it too difficult, people may just not bother coming downtown anymore.


       —Juliew    Mar. 31 '06 - 03:52PM    #
  59. “parking has been a very big problem for the Y administration, the members, the neighbors, and the city.”

    I’m not convinced. Certainly the membership numbers show that the “people may just not bother coming downtown anymore” thing isn’t happening.

    I think what is demonstrates is that while people like to complain about parking, when push comes to shove they’ll happily pay a little extra or walk an extra block if there’s something worth going to.


       —Bruce Fields    Mar. 31 '06 - 04:50PM    #
  60. With respect to the parking situation at the new YMCA, I think it’s uncontroversial that there’s been an impact on the availability of street parking in surrounding neighborhoods.

    But before declaring this impact a ‘problem’ that should serve as an example driving City policy in the direction of getting relatively more parking built onsite at new developments, I’d like to see the impact quantified in some way.

    (On a Never, Almost Never, Sometimes, Almost Always, Always scale)

    Questions for YMCA members who drive to the Y: How often have you (1) had to park more than 400 yards away from the Y? (2) been late for a class or had to shorten a work-out due to difficulty finding a parking spot? (3) given up on your intended Y session because you could not find a suitable parking spot? (4) thought about cancelling your membership because of the parking difficulty?

    Question for YMCA administration: How often do Y members who decided not to renew or who cancel their memberships cite the parking challenge as a contributing reason?

    Question for neighbors who need to use on-street parking: How often do you (1) wind up having to park more than two [?] blocks away from your home? (2) have to spend more time than you would like finding parking? (3) find yourself irritated, annoyed, or otherwise inconvenienced by ‘interloper’ parkers?

    But, for all I know, this kind of data has already been gathered and is sitting on someone’s desk. I wonder if an assessment of the parking situation around the Y will be a specific part of the ‘parking study’? Would that be apparent from the RFP? I think the RFP for that study is available from DDA.


       —HD    Mar. 31 '06 - 04:50PM    #
  61. I think it’s a good idea to include the Y area as part of the parking study!


       —David Cahill    Mar. 31 '06 - 06:43PM    #
  62. I think the idea of the meters is a good one, and I especially like the idea of helping the neighborhood out with the cash raised. I’m wondering, though, if that might go over like a lead balloon here in a town where paying a dollar to park for an hour is considered outrageous by many.

    My frustration with people complaining about a parking resource being used is similar to my frustration with people who move to the countryside and then start complaining about the normal odors coming from the farm down the road. The lot was there when you moved it (usually) and the lot is there to be used. Is it busier now? Yep. But so was my street when Liberty was under construction and folks needed an North/South pass through. I guess the question is how do we deal with that in a useful way.


       —Young OWSider    Mar. 31 '06 - 08:16PM    #
  63. Yeah, it’s such an important issue…but very encouraging to see that there’s a real dialogue going on about it.

    “The mall and suburban mentality is that you must be able to park close and you must be able to do it for free.” This is very true, and is kind of the secret problem. One reason why people line up for the Ashley surface lot and not the structure further up is because it’s flat and nearby. That’s what they want and that’s what they expect—and that’s exactly what they can get if they go elsewhere. If you want to go to Outback or Applebees, there is a free surface lot to park in. If you want to shop at Meijer’s or Wal-Mart, there is a free surface lot to park in that never runs out of spaces. Obviously we can’t have that downtown any more. But will we be able to bring people downtown if there are no surface lots left? Even large cities (I am thinking of Manhattan and Chicago, for example) still have surface lots. It might be nice to think that you can just build structures on top of all of them, but I wonder what the effect would be on the perceptions of people who drive in from out of town (and I’m thinking of the townships as well as the surrounding counties.) And perceptions are a big part of what we’re looking at here. For better or for worse, perceptions affect people’s behavior, and they can be hard to change.

    I agree that hoping people bus or ride bikes into downtown Ann Arbor has its limits. People visiting for the evening or the weekend are just not going to go for that. It’s not that urbanized an area. For daytime traffic, it’s fine, but the nightlife is going to want to use a car. Indeed, many city residents are going to avoid biking and the buses altogether, and are going to resent the sense of being told they have to use them. They also may not walk if they are very far from downtown. Think of the average well-to-do older couple…they may want to use downtown on the weekend, but they’re certainly going to want to use their car, too.

    Is the Ann-Ashley structure really so poorly-lit? Personally I’ve never noticed. I guess underneath it seems a bit dark—especially the section underneath the supports on the south side of Ann. I guess more lighting would be a good idea there. Also if the image of the “downtown area” could be extended beyond Huron to N. Main and down from Kerrytown. (I have no idea how that could happen—there’s only that one block of businesses on N. Main. There is also that row of shops and law firms on Ann north of the courthouse, but for some reason that isn’t seen as a part of the business district. Landscaping and/or some small-scale development might help tie all those streets together more effectively.)

    (BTW, I have a feeling the Whole Foods situation was a way for the parcel to work for the developer…don’t forget it included housing behind B&N. Eliminating the housing would no doubt have made the parking lot bigger. Might have been a compromise the city made. Just a wild guess, though.)


       —Young Urban Amateur    Apr. 1 '06 - 12:53AM    #
  64. YUA—
    My hubby and I were just talking about the north end of Main the other evening after eating at Sabor Latino. The problem with extending downtown via Main Street is that the block between Huron and Ann is dead space. There’s the big ugly courthouse, the big ugly bank building, other businesses, and a surface lot. What they could do is turn that lot into a garage with actual street level business space or something more pedestrian friendly. But I’m afraid there’s not much more to be done with the courthouse and bank buildings.

    Ah, thanks Ann Arborites of the past for such thoughtful planning!


       —Young OWSider    Apr. 1 '06 - 02:05AM    #
  65. Yes, that’s one way to do that (though that is a great surface lot…) I was thinking the other way would be to encourage retail businesses along north Fourth Street (maybe as part of narrowing Huron or making it a boulevard), and maybe building something where that day spa currently is (which could also include expanding the space for the spa.) Another problem for unifying that area besides the Courthouse buildings is the parking for them behind the buildings. Come to think of it, if we’re going to force visitors to park in structures, why not encourage county workers to park in structures, too? Why should they get all the nice free surface spots during the daytime? (No offense intended towards the county workers. I’m just trying to be fair.)


       —Young Urban Amateur    Apr. 1 '06 - 02:21AM    #
  66. “parking…nightlife”

    Say it with me now: “Mass transit prevents drunk driving.” (or a long, cold walk home when you miss the last bus.)

    If there were any sort of nighttime transit, maybe we could talk about whether people were using it. I know I certainly would, as would a very very large number of 20- and 30-somethings I’ve known over the years.

    I’m also curious about how our current automobile use trends will scale into the future. I don’t mean to sound like a crackpot, but nobody thinks gas won’t get more expensive, for one thing. For another, I know my grandmother is nearing the end of her ability to drive, and my mother was saying that, when my grandmother can’t drive anymore, a great number of people around her will lose their mobility vicariously. As more and more people move into that position (hello, aging boomers), we’re going to rethink our current assumptions about driving as the default.


       —TPM    Apr. 1 '06 - 04:20AM    #
  67. Parking at the Y

    Julie, I agree that the issue is larger than one parking lot. But the fact that there is more parking activity in the Krause lot supports the theory that existing parking would alleviate some of the need to build more. Same with street parking. Bruce also makes a good point that 150% of projected membership suggests parking concerns are not turning people away (although that may come up eventually). People are finding parking solutions instead of giving up because of “parking problems”. Those solutions are making more efficient use of the parking supply. I realize that there are problems as well, but I’d hate to see the baby go with the bath water here. In considering the residents concerns, efficient use of parking should not be demonized.

    As HD points out, there is no debate over whether traffic and parking demand has increased. It has, and it would have even if the Y had provided more parking. This amenity has certainly changed the traffic flow and will likely require driving behavior to change in this neighborhood. An important question to add to HD’s list is for those who don’t currently drive to the Y: “would you drive more often if parking was less difficult to find?” That would tell us if more parking would induce more parking demand.

    At the same time, I’m not sure HD’s survey would necessarily determine if a parking “problem” exists (or the extent of it). There would be a problem for members if they can’t park “close” to the Y. That “problem doesn’t register with the Y until they could not maintain membership levels as a result of limited access to parking. Restrictive measures like closing the Krause lot or implementing an RPP would create that problem. Yet those are exactly the measures that would resolve the residents’ complaints of too much Y traffic and off-site parking.

    While I like TPM’s effort to find a middle ground, I disagree with granting money to neighborhoods for the right to have public parking on their streets. The city doesn’t lease those streets from the neighborhood and I would be concerned about setting a precedent. I also don’t see this proposal fitting into a “comprehensive parking strategy”, though I’d like to hear a case for how it could be incorporated.

    There are more practical obstacles as well, which are not insurmountable but would have to be overcome. This area is outside of the DDA boundary and the DDA manages all the metered parking. Further, they manage meters as part of the larger parking system and currently meters help cover the cost of structured parking (this strategy is discussed in other threads, so please don’t bring up the Subsidy issue here), and changing that policy would probably require some major financial restructuring. Enforcement is not done by the DDA, nor is the RPP program. The city handles these and a hybrid of the two would incur (probably surprisingly high) costs for the city. Also, if I were still living on Broadway when this proposal passed, I’d be standing in line for with the next application siting the Lowertown project and UM hospital commuters as reasons that my neighborhood should get revenue from our own parking meters. How far would such a policy extend?

    I wish I wasn’t doing so much nay-saying here as I do agree that the city has to find some way to accommodate neighborhoods in conjunction with promoting denser development.


       —Scott TenBrink    Apr. 1 '06 - 11:33AM    #
  68. I’m really glad people brought up the Y! The more we discuss it, the better an example it is of how not to do a development. For the neighborhood, the Y is not an “amenity”; it is a “nuisance”.

    Downtown doesn’t need any more nuisances. A new project should either provide its own parking on-site, or pay for additional spaces in a nearby structure or lot.


       —David Cahill    Apr. 1 '06 - 02:42PM    #
  69. Four wheels good, two wheels baaaad…


       —Dale    Apr. 1 '06 - 02:58PM    #
  70. David—
    Did the Y pay for parking when it was downtown? Did they have a garage available for members? If not, why should they just because they’ve shifted a few blocks?

    I don’t live on Washington. In fact, I live to the west of Seventh by a couple blocks. And when I walk downtown (as I have for the past 5 years on weekday mornings and weekends), I haven’t noticed that much change in parking on Washington. I mean, Washington has always been full of parked cars. Has the neighborhood been polled and results compiled to show that the Y is a nuisance?


       —Young OWSider    Apr. 1 '06 - 03:07PM    #
  71. David Cahill wrote about the new Y: “The more we discuss it, the better an example it is of how not to do a development.”

    Well, no. The discussion on this thread, doesn’t particularly point towards that conclusion at all.

    But David Cahill, if that’s a conclusion you’ve already drawn for yourself personally, I’d be interested in reading the case you’d make for that conclusion.

    And the kind of case that would be make for interesting reading would consist of more that the bald assertion that “for the neighborhood, the Y is not an ‘amenity’; it is a ‘nuisance’.

    As a neighbor of the new Y, who is affected by the increased traffic volume I experience on my street and by the additional challenges that increased levels of street-parking throughout the neighborhood pose to me as a part of vehicular traffic, I’m willing to go on record: the new YMCA is a wonderful neighborhood amenity and is in no way a nuisance … to me or any of the many neighbors I’ve spoken to face-to-face about this issue. Anecdotal? Sure.

    But David Cahill, if you’ve already made up your mind, based on a discussion on a blog, why even bother to advocate for inclusion of the new Y as a part of the parking study as you did in your comment above? Are you open to the possibility that such a study of the impact on the neighborhood might clearly demonstrate in quantifiable fashion that the new Y is not, in fact, as you claim a nuisance?


       —HD    Apr. 1 '06 - 04:26PM    #
  72. “Say it with me now: “Mass transit prevents drunk driving.””

    I also think it’s too bad there aren’t more neighborhood pub-type places. It would be nice to have a shared place you could go hang out at the end of the day without having to make an expedition out of it.

    And places like that can be made quiet enough if the neighbors require it.


       —Bruce Fields    Apr. 1 '06 - 05:33PM    #
  73. For the neighborhood, the Y is not an “amenity”; it is a “nuisance”...Downtown doesn’t need any more nuisances.

    For someone who thinks the amenities of downtown are dubious, Cahill, you have a curious and suspicious habit of wanting to talk about them. Why not leave the discussion be as a constructive one, carried on by people who actually value downtown?

    For now, I’ll take the word of HD and his neighbors that the Y is a good thing. Also, I never once had trouble finding parking right out front there…for my bike.


       —FAA    Apr. 1 '06 - 08:31PM    #
  74. There’s a city lot only two blocks away from the new Y. It’s never full.


       —Edward Vielmetti    Apr. 1 '06 - 09:16PM    #
  75. Just picture it – a whole row of giant, Y-type buildings stretching along the west side of downtown, each generating parking demand it can’t accommodate. Ah, a developer’s dream, and a neighbor’s nightmare.


       —David Cahill    Apr. 1 '06 - 11:59PM    #
  76. You see, of course, that David didn’t make his mind up by drawing premature conclusions by misinterpreting discussion on this blog. He made his mind up well before this discussion. I’d wager it was right about the time he moved into his house on Broadway. He looked out at his front yard, the woods, the nice neighbors, and thought of the short drive into downtown where he could always find a parking spot near the shops he loved, and thought “I never want this to change. This is what I’ve worked for and I love it.”

    It’s not uncommon and it’s not necessarily wrong to try to protect the things you like, whatever the effect on others. It is not, however, grounds for public policy. City leaders and most other citizens realize that.


       —Dale    Apr. 2 '06 - 12:48AM    #
  77. Thanks for reminding us, Dale, that you are the second coming of Jesus Christ, and that even without a crystal ball or Miss Cleo’s Psychic Friends Network, you know Cahill’s thoughts better than he does himself.

    Also, thanks for reminding us that, re, “It’s not uncommon and it’s not necessarily wrong to try to protect the things you like, whatever the effect on others. It is not, however, grounds for public policy. City leaders and most other citizens realize that.”, Cahill is a selfish ignoramus on an inferior intellectual and moral plane not ONLY to “city leaders” but ALSO to “most other citizens”!!! —On a less April Fooly note: Mr. Cahill, I apologize for the behavior of certain “contributors” on this weblog. Please do not judge everyone by the behavior of some. Thank you.
       —David Boyle    Apr. 2 '06 - 03:00AM    #
  78. David Cahill:

    Doesn’t the Y, surrounding lots, and surrounding streets meet the parking demand? I’m confused. Are people unable to find parking anywhere nearby the YMCA?

    The Y creates demand for parking. That’s true. But there aren’t, as far as I know, plans to create a row of Y-type buildings along the west side of downtown. That just wouldn’t make sense, would it?

    Has anyone argued in this thread that there should be a row of Y-type buildings creating impossible parking demands that destroy our neighborhoods? Or are you creating that straw man argument just to be curmudgeonly?


       —Young OWSider    Apr. 2 '06 - 03:46AM    #
  79. Boyle, I would say that you are speaking for yourself. It’s clear that Cahill’s comments show that he has little interest in having an actual discussion on this issue. Based on the comments of people who actually live in the neighborhood, I would say that Cahill’s comments are quite off-the-mark.


       —John Q.    Apr. 2 '06 - 08:10AM    #
  80. The “surrounding streets” should be for the people who live on them, not big underparked projects.

    As to big Y-type projects on the west side of downtown without adequate parking – can you say “Calthorpe”? I knew you could. 8-)

    One example of such a project would be “Calthorpe Place”, which I designed according to the Calthorpe recommendations. If no parking structure were built to provide the needed parking, the neighborhood nearby would be impacted by its cars.


       —David Cahill    Apr. 2 '06 - 03:00PM    #
  81. David C. at least seems to be consistant in his desire to perpetuate Southeast Michigan’s sprawling condition; I’ll grant that.

    Surrounding streets should serve the needs of the people who live on them, yes, but not exclusively and not at the expense of everything else. The public streets are just that – public – and are maintained by all of us for the benefit of all of us. As long as the people who live on a street are not prevented from using it (“prevented” is different from “somewhat limited”) by the level of through traffic or parking, I don’t think that we can say that they deserve exclusive use of the street. Again, it’s a matter of needing to consider the impacts on existing residents and businesses, but not to exclusion of all other considerations.

    David, you seem to occupy a very strange position, in the Libertarian wing of the Democratic party – your populist appeals sound very well and good, until one realizes that what you’re asking for is the City to build and maintain roads for the exclusive use and control of the citizens who live immediately on them.


       —TPM    Apr. 2 '06 - 03:24PM    #
  82. David Cahill:

    Poppycock! My street doesn’t solely exist for my benefit. Afterall, people are allowed to use my street as a way to get from point A to point B even though they don’t live on my street. A public street exists for citizens to use it—for driving or parking.

    Sometimes Slauson Middle School has events and parking becomes difficult on our street. And I’m pretty sure they don’t have enough parking for faculty and staff in their small lot, though I could be wrong about that. Slightly inconvenient? Sometimes. But it’s a part of living in a multi-use neighborhood in a medium-sized town.

    By your reasoning I should be outraged (OUTRAGED!) when my neighbors have parties and the interloping guests dare park in front of my home.


       —Young OWSider    Apr. 2 '06 - 03:36PM    #
  83. “By your reasoning I should be outraged (OUTRAGED!) when my neighbors have parties and the interloping guests dare park in front of my home.”

    Absolutely. We should require all new Ann Arbor homes to include a minimum 6-car garage. If we don’t require each of them to provide sufficient parking to meet the observed maximum demand created by the average residence, we’re giving those evil home developers a free ride.


       —Bruce Fields    Apr. 2 '06 - 04:43PM    #
  84. One example of such a project would be “Calthorpe Place”, which I designed…

    You are still not an architect, and not a planner, correct?

    If no parking structure were built to provide the needed parking, the neighborhood nearby would be impacted by its cars.

    You say that as if it is a bad thing. How can it be? One who repeats “In Michigan there can be nothing wrong with the car.” should respond with “Yay! More cars in the nearby neighborhoods! There’s nothing wrong with cars!”.


       —FAA    Apr. 2 '06 - 05:55PM    #
  85. Just an update for everyone:

    Today at noon and again at 2 when we walked by the YMCA there was oodles and oodles of parking available in the Y’s very own lot, in the Krause lot, and on the street.

    Additionally, almost every house there on Washington has a driveway and a garage. Funny, that.

    Curse the Y and the damnable parking situation!!


       —Young OWSider    Apr. 2 '06 - 06:36PM    #
  86. The more intelligent response is “make sure developments have enough parking provided so that they don’t impact nearby neighborhoods.”

    The present residential permit system shows that the City can, if it wishes, restrict street parking largely to those who live there. Of course, in a “normal” neighborhood, nobody would consider such a system because big developments don’t push parking onto their streets. Wherever there is a permit system, ther is an impacted neighborhood.

    Sorry if I’m upsetting some people’s delusional systems about the wonderfulness of big projects… 8-)


       —David Cahill    Apr. 2 '06 - 09:04PM    #
  87. Like on the Old West Side? Or Oxbridge? Damn those big projects!


       —Dale    Apr. 2 '06 - 09:43PM    #
  88. David:

    So do you think the Y should have enough parking for peak times? What would that be? Because it appears that for a lot of the time (maybe even most of the time) the Y has perfectly adequate parking. I guess I’m confused because from what I see when I go past the Y on a daily basis and from what others who live in the immediate vicinity of the Y have said on this threatd, the Y doesn’t have that great of a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

    It would appear that with the Krause lot, the Y’s lot, and the nearby city lots, in addition to legally parking on the public street, there’s plenty of parking for the YMCA.

    Or do you get people parking up on Broadway?

    I guess I’m confused why you’re trying to justify vast swaths of concrete lots or parking garages just so someone doesn’t have to park a block from his or her home.


       —Young OWSider    Apr. 2 '06 - 09:59PM    #
  89. “Wherever there is a permit system, ther is an impacted neighborhood.”

    So, what exactly do you see as the primary “impact” here, and why doesn’t the permit system mitigate it?


       —Bruce Fields    Apr. 2 '06 - 10:38PM    #
  90. “The present residential permit system shows that the City can, if it wishes, restrict street parking largely to those who live there.”

    the RP system does nothing of the kind—if you have been reading this blog, then you know that few permits are actually sold.

    what the RP system does is to make sure that street parking is available to short-term visitors.


       —peter honeyman    Apr. 3 '06 - 01:59AM    #
  91. For reference,

    A lengthy discussion on Residential Parking Permit programs, including benefits and pitfalls can be found here http://arborupdate.com/article/836/ .

    David Cahill’s proposed Calthorpe Place and a number of concerns over the assumptions that proposal is based on are archived here http://www.arborupdate.com/article/1143/ (post #85 on).

    Also,

    I noticed on the Y’s website that they charge for parking in the lot. It also appears that they validate some (but I assume not all) parking. I would think that this policy would contribute to off-site parking. Some here may see this as an argument for the Y eliminating the parking charge. I think that is a foolish position to take, but we could debate it. I see this policy more as a reason why an increase in on-site parking would not necessarily reduce the off-site demand. As long as people have a reasonable free alternative on nearby streets, some portion of those who drive to the Y will take advantage of that option.

    As for a RPP program, besides all the problems mentioned in other threads, RPP does not make sense in an area where there is a large property attracting non-residents. The Y has a large property with significant street frontage and so should be allowed to participate in a program for the neighborhood, but they don’t have any residents, so they can’t apply for permits. On the other hand, as Peter notes, RPP zones generally permit short term parking (2 hour) which would likely accommodate a large portion of those Y visitors currently parking on the street. RPP is really designed for exclusively residential areas that have significant long-term parking influx, usually from commuters employed near-by but outside of the neighborhood.


       —Scott TenBrink    Apr. 3 '06 - 03:24AM    #
  92. “I guess I’m confused why you’re trying to justify vast swaths of concrete lots or parking garages just so someone doesn’t have to park a block from his or her home.”

    You’re missing David’s little game – he has no interest in allowing any change that would ever lead one to consider such kinds of parking infrastructure. In David’s world, there are no Y’s or any other use like it because he’s implemented irrational rules that demand parking lots far beyond what’s needed. He doesn’t demand them because he wants them to be built. Instead, he sees them as a way to block the development he doesn’t want.


       —John Q.    Apr. 3 '06 - 04:15AM    #
  93. John Q.

    Interesting. But really he’s not even a neighbor of the Y’s. He doesn’t even live on the OWS! I mean, not that that has to be the rule for complaining about things, but still. It’s not very productive.

    Everyone I talk to in my ‘hood loves the Y and tons of people belong. It’s been fantastic.

    By the way, everyone—I was at the Y this morning. We arrived and parked in the Krause lot at 6:20. There were 4 other cars there. When we left at 7:20 there were 7 other cars there. There was ample parking on Washington, and the Y’s lot wasn’t full.

    As a resident of the Old West Side, I’m hoping we get more fantastic community amenities like the Y within walking distance. I mean, we already have the Y, Kerrytown and the Farmer’s Market. Here’s hoping the west side of downtown is developed in an intelligent way that incorporates living space, green space, and commercial space.

    Here’s something I was thinking about recently:

    We primarily walk downtown. But we almost exclusively drive to Stadium—the hardware stores, etc—even though it’s not that much farther. Heck, Stadium might even be closer than downtown for all I know.

    Why do we drive? Well, because the planners haven’t really thought about the pedestrians in the development (and even this new redevelopment) of Stadium. And that’s too bad. Imagine if that Stadium corridor were really redeveloped to be something similar to a town square/transportation hub (I’m thinking like the T is the Boston ‘burbs) and more pedestrian friendly.

    Just some thoughts.


       —Young OWSider    Apr. 3 '06 - 12:12PM    #
  94. I am a frequent Y user, and it appears to me that peak parking demand is in the morning before work, and after 4:45 pm. I have never seen the Y lot full. In the morning, many Y users park on Washington, and along 1st. Parking is free at that time because you don’t have to feed the meters before 8am. I don’t what things are like west of the Y – I don’t come from that way.


       —tom    Apr. 3 '06 - 12:45PM    #
  95. “Why do we drive? Well, because the planners haven’t really thought about the pedestrians in the development (and even this new redevelopment) of Stadium.”

    In what ways, specifically, is it a problem for pedestrians?


       —Bruce Fields    Apr. 3 '06 - 01:06PM    #
  96. Bruce—
    This is going to sound pathetic, probably, but it’s just not nice. There’s too much traffic whizzing by, you’re too close to that traffic, and the stores are typically set way back or behind large parking lots.

    Cars are the first thought and everything else is secondary. Is this bad? Not exactly. But it seems that the choice has been made to focus on car traffic rather than foot or bike traffic in several areas, and I think that’s unfortunate.

    I was just talking to a neighbor I saw on Saturday who had, indeed, taken a walk west of the OWS to Stadium. She’s an avid biker/walker, but admitted she almost never goes west on foot or bike. But on this day she did and wandered through the neighborhoods and snaked around and eventually made it to Stadium. She said that as long as one stays on the east side of Stadium it’s not that bad. But walking on Stadium or getting to a convenient crosswalk is an unpleasant experience.

    It’s probably too late, but it sure would be nice for Ann Arbor to start thinking of itself as a collection of hubs/neighborhoods and guide future development along those lines and keep in mind foot, bike, and car/bus traffic.


       —Young OWSider    Apr. 3 '06 - 01:46PM    #
  97. YOWSer, the planners would LOVE to make A2 more pedestrian friendly—it’s why they chose that career, mostly. However, unless there is a vocal public constituency to accelerate the change from auto-oriented to pedestrian friendly, it is very difficult and slow to change the status quo. Contact the planning commission and your local council member and tell them this is what you want. The Calthorpe recommendations are a good start for the downtown—tell them, as many of us have done, that they need to Calthorpe the whole city.


       —Dale    Apr. 3 '06 - 01:56PM    #
  98. Dale,

    Thanks. I’ve been pretty active in the Calthorpe debate with my Dem. precinct group, so I’m pretty sure my councilmembers know how I feel. And one of my acquaintances is on the Planning Commission, but you’re right that it’s a good idea to send them a note saying telling them what I’d like to see.

    It’s too bad there isn’t vision on the council, though. . .or in the mayor’s office.

    It seems like we suffer across the board from lack of the vision thing.


       —Young OWSider    Apr. 3 '06 - 02:20PM    #
  99. YOWSer, it’s not really so bad on Stadium for non-drivers. Just different. The only really big lots I can think of are the ones in front of Westgate and the Arbor Farms/Ace Hardware malls. The car dealers don’t count in my mind, and the rest are lots that are at the most two spaces deep. It’s true that there’s not much setback of the sidewalk from the street and the traffic moves faster, but think of Huron or the Packard/Platt areas. Drivers can use the Arbor Farms lot as a “basecamp” for walking to the post office, bike shop, video store, hardware store, and grocery store, all in one trip.

    P.S. Use the back way off of Maple for a hassle free entry and exit.


       —jcp2    Apr. 3 '06 - 02:34PM    #
  100. I disagree. I think it’s a matter of will. The Cahills and the Glories and the Cowherds are vocal enough that the council’s vision (which I think is modest, but is generally in the right direction) is watered down because nobody on Council wants to lose by ticking off an activist with time on their hands. So they generally go for modest and uncontroversial change much of the time because they have to. Downtown should have been replanned 10 years ago, but we had to wait until the local business community was decimated to do anything about it.


       —Dale    Apr. 3 '06 - 02:34PM    #
  101. Dale—
    Interesting. I tend to shy away from the “my way or the highway” groups, and it seems to be reaching the point where people are in camps and, by gum, are going to stay there in those camps.

    So maybe council doesn’t have the will, but that’s almost just as bad! I guess when I said vision I was imagining in my mind someone with communication skills and vision enough to lead people towards a common goal without caring about the next council or mayoral election.

    My whole thing about Calthorpe that I appreciated was mention of design standards—even if they’re just to say that council should look to build new buildings that are in scale with their surroundings and are concerned with the street level. I’m no expert, but the old bank bldg on Main that’s 10 stories tall is a great bldg.

    jcp2—
    I refuse to walk down Huron for any reason even though I live three doors down from it. We walk into town via Washington. When we walk up the the Huron split to visit friends in neighborhoods on the other side of the Huron Highway, we walk up Washington. But maybe we’ll just try walking west the next time we need to go out that way.


       —Young OWSider    Apr. 3 '06 - 02:44PM    #
  102. The more intelligent response is “make sure developments have enough parking provided so that they don’t impact nearby neighborhoods.”

    I was going to reply something along the lines of: No, I’m pretty sure that would be the more short-sighted and close-minded response which set and keeps countless areas dependent upon individual automobile ownership…

    But then I read John Q.’s enlightened hypothesis from comment 92. I like the way you think, Mr. Q.


       —FAA    Apr. 3 '06 - 03:36PM    #
  103. The Y parking is less crowded in general now that spring is here (sort of) and it is lighter and warmer out (and people are over the whole New Year’s resolution exercise thing). However, I think the biggest problem is still the illegally parked cars, not the cars parked legally in the neighborhoods. It is the cars that block driveways and park in the no parking zones that cause the problems. This morning when I arrived at the Y around 7:00am, although the Krause lot was not full, nor was the Y lot, there were at least four cars parked in the posted no parking, tow-away zones directly in front of the Y. It is that behavior that keeps the City busy and is hard for the neighbors, not the legally parked cars. The Mayor did discuss the Y parking problems in the budget meeting last week and made some mention of how they were working to resolve the issues. Mostly I think they have stepped up the ticketing and towing. Maybe that will help change behavior for the people who are causing trouble for what is a wonderful local resource.

    As for making other areas of town more like a neighborhood and pedestrian-friendly, I think that is a great idea and have advocated it all along. Stadium is a perfect example. It is a great area with two grocery stores, drug stores, all the amenities anyone could want, a lot of pedestrians already, and many different kinds of housing (from truly affordable to pretty high-end), but we are so fixated on downtown that we don’t extend the vision. It seems like every new project is just the same: parking in front, one to two stories, undistinguished architecture. We have such opportunities on Stadium to actually do what Calthorpe is proposing, but we aren’t doing it at all. Why not require mixed use projects on Stadium? Why not require parking behind the buildings? How about better hard-surface management? Plant more trees and greenery to soften the pedestrian experience and mitigate some of the heat? Unfortunately, new buildings have only made the landscape worse. Take the Dimos building: it used to be a cool example of 50’s architecture, now it is just a big ugly box. There are so many opportunities here, but very little good is happening.


       —Juliew    Apr. 3 '06 - 04:24PM    #
  104. Juliew said: “Why not require mixed use projects on Stadium?”

    I think Dale(?) posted something to that effect sometime in the last year.

    Young OWSider said: “It’s too bad there isn’t vision on the council, though. . .or in the mayor’s office.”

    Young – how young are you? I think this is a matter of perspective. Give it a few years and I think you’ll see a difference. The problem is that bad development and bad planning doesn’t happen overnight and it isn’t fixed overnight. I think there is a general vision that’s heading in the right direction but usually happens one project at a time. Over time, with enough prodding from people, the vision will come to be but it takes time and we’re smack-dab-in-the-middle of one of those periods where we are just starting to see the fruits of years of pushing to get the City to do the right thing when it comes to planning, development, pedestrian traffic, etc.


       —John Q.    Apr. 3 '06 - 07:24PM    #
  105. To help illustrate this point:

    Township buys 1st land with millage
    http://www.mlive.com/news/aanews/index.ssf?/base/news-17/1144073528169710.xml&coll=2

    15 years ago, Ann Arbor Township was on its way to being the home of high-density cookie-cutter subdivisions and the home base for the Monaghan empire. At some point, the residents and taxpayers figured out that being Pittsfield Township North wasn’t what they wanted for their township. Over the years, they went from being pro-development to adopting ordinances to protect natural features, adopt a master plan that protects farmland and finally approved a millage to purchase development rights for farmland. None of that happened overnight and Monaghan and the development community tried to bankroll the campaigns of pro-development candidates, all to no avail. I’m sure that things aren’t perfect in the Township but the article above never would have happened even 10 years ago. The point – positive change takes hard work and time and persistence. We’ll get their as long as we’re all pushing in the same general direction.


       —John Q.    Apr. 3 '06 - 07:33PM    #
  106. When you read the article, you will see that the price was split among the AA Twp. millage, the feds, and money from Ann Arbor City taxpayers via the Greenbelt. So hooray for both the Twp. and the City!


       —Leah    Apr. 3 '06 - 07:54PM    #
  107. YUA said: BTW, I have a feeling the Whole Foods situation was a way for the parcel to work for the developer…don’t forget it included housing behind B&N. Eliminating the housing would no doubt have made the parking lot bigger. Might have been a compromise the city made. Just a wild guess, though.

    The housing behind B&N is actually a completely separate development from the Whole Foods strip mall. Planning Commission asked that some pedestrian connections be made between the two, even though the housing is looking at the back of a fairly standard strip mall building elevation (i.e. blank walls).

    And more on the Whole Foods development: keep in mind that when this project was coming through the planning process, Planning Commission & City Council had no idea what stores would be going there. There was no mention of Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, or any other store by name. The developer was probably still negotiating with them at the time.

    Personally I see any difficulty in the parking of that site as a fault of the developer/owner, rather than the city planning process. We simply can’t plan for every project to be as demanding for parking as that retail combination has been; witness the sea of empty parking at the Kmart in Maple Village as an example of what we should not to do. The stores in that strip mall simply never have the demand that the Whole Foods mall does, and it is entirely the mix & popularity of the stores that drives the desire for parking.


       —KGS    Apr. 3 '06 - 09:02PM    #
  108. Regarding Stadium & it’s lack of pedestrian amenities… as someone who used to live quite close to Stadium and walked along it frequently, I have several observations:

    1) The so-called pedestrian crosswalks are a joke. If you attempt to cross at Pauline & Stadium, the walk sign is already blinking red by the time you reach the halfway point, and you barely make it across before it goes totally red – and that is for a 30-something walking quickly. How can anyone with children, or the elderly, or the disabled, make it across safely? I’ve no idea. This is why a boulevard made so much sense to me, so that people could have an island of refuge. Instead the so-called improvements have just made it worse.

    2) The sidewalks are right next to the 45+ mile an hour traffic, with no barriers of any kind between the pedestrian and the zooming cars. It feels incredibly unsafe.

    3) There are frequent curb cuts which result in cars pulling out in front of pedestrians and bike-riders – if they aren’t hit instead. I’ve seen both happen numerous times.

    4) A pedestrian almost always has to cut through a parking lot to reach the store they want. Personally I think we should make an ordinance in this town that requires at least one pedestrian route from the sidewalk to every buisiness that does not cross a parking lot, driveway, or access road. Worst example of this is the new Bank of Ann Arbor at the corner of Stadium & Liberty; the parking and driveways there are practically a moat against pedestrian access.

    5) Unlike Main Street, the stores are all set back from the street behind – you guessed it – a sea of parking. That means that pedestrians have to walk that much further to reach their destinations, whereas people who drive cars can park very close. This is the opposite of how parking works in the downtown, generally.

    6) There is virtually no greenery of any sort along Stadium, from Pauline north to Jackson. Few street trees, no plantings, no benches, no pedestrian amenties of any sort for people to use while hiking the distance.

    I think that the idea of mixed-use projects on Stadium is a huge missed opportunity. The width of the right-of-way would easily support 3 story buildings without feeling at all hampered or even urban. It would be great for people to really be able to walk to Arbor Farms, ACE hardware, the post office, heck even the Dairy Queen. And with more people walking, drivers would eventually learn to watch out for them…. I hope.


       —KGS    Apr. 3 '06 - 09:04PM    #
  109. Personally I see any difficulty in the parking of that site as a fault of the developer/owner, rather than the city planning process…

    Out of curiosity, then, who is to fault for adding a chain restaurant to the corner of that lot, sacrificing parking spots? Or was that bright idea conceived and approved well beforehand, but only (and possibly rather poorly) implemented after Whole Foods was more successful than expected?


       —FAA    Apr. 3 '06 - 09:11PM    #
  110. The latter, actually. The corner lot was always planned for some sort of restaurant, and again, it was the owner who decided to sacrifice the parking spaces to do it.

    As others have pointed out though, it isn’t like the high parking has made those destinations any less popular. People keep going there and add time to park if they need to.


       —KGS    Apr. 3 '06 - 09:31PM    #
  111. The funniest part of the Whole Foods parking lot is watching someone in an enormous SUV try to navigate when its crowded. Heh. Maybe it’s a way to persuade people to buy smaller cars.


       —JD    Apr. 3 '06 - 11:15PM    #
  112. JD, it’s not as hard as it looks. You must be too considerate a driver.


       —jcp2    Apr. 4 '06 - 01:18AM    #
  113. The conversation about parking highlights the real problem. Ann Arbor is still largely a suburban town populated by suburbanites with a suburban mentality about parking. Sure, you might be more “enlightened” than someone from say Sterling Heights or River Rouge but too many people still have the expectation that we should be able to park our cars anywhere, anytime.

    The statements that Whole Foods’ parking lot is a failure is indicative of this. Go to any real urban center and the idea that you would even have that much parking for a store that size is ridiculous. I never saw that kind of parking for a store in Washington DC or NYC or San Fran. And guess what? The stores there continue to stay in business despite almost little or no parking. But that’s because most people don’t expect to be able to pull right up in front of the store with a sea of parking waiting for them. They expect to have to take mass transit or use a parking structure or park on a side street or pay for parking or to walk or ride a bike. I think some of us would like to reach a point where people adopt that thinking, at least as it relates to downtown, and there’s the infrastructure in terms of mass transit and pedestrian walkways, etc. in place to allow people to act in a way that matches their mindset.

    Until we can get people to start thinking like people who live in an urban area, not a glorified suburb, we’ll be doomed to more strip malls with a sea of parking.


       —John Q.    Apr. 4 '06 - 03:12AM    #
  114. I have a feeling that the Stadium area will start to see some changes in the coming years, beginning with the new condos that are going up at Maple & Liberty. The new street surfacing will help encourage that as well. Just a feeling. (And I have heard there is less interest in that area than you might think.) I’m not sure it’ll be anything particularly pedestrian-friendly, however.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Apr. 4 '06 - 01:41PM    #
  115. Here’s a timely article, from Planetizen: Onsite Parking: The scourge of America’s Commercial Districts

    And an interesting quote on a point no one’s mentioned yet – namely that if one store provides parking, it is in their best interest to have that parking used only by their immediate customers.

    “When retail parking must be provided onsite, owners have a strong incentive to “trap” visitors in their stores’ lot and discourage them from traveling anywhere elsewhere on foot. (If they didn’t discourage walking to other properties, their parking could potentially be filled by people shopping at competitors’ establishments.) The result is that shops are designed to be inward-looking, and opportunities to encourage pedestrian activity are quashed.”


       —KGS    Apr. 4 '06 - 04:48PM    #
  116. The article KGS refers to is one in a three part series, and I found the other two to actually be better.
    This article recommends four steps to improving downtown via parking policy:
    -don’t require on-site parking
    -provide shared parking spaces
    -offer entitlements to shared spaces as a replacement for on-site provision
    -offer free parking

    The first three are already being done in the DDA. But offering free parking doesn’t really fit in with the rest of his recommendations. Who pays for this community parking to be constructed and maintained?

    The author argues that the plentiful, cheap parking offered by shopping malls will always pull customers away from a downtown with expensive parking. But, as I mentioned before, it is likely that convenient, easy to find parking is more important and can be offered in downtown areas, assuming they manage parking well. Providing info on available spaces, directing guests to those spaces, and making it easy to get from parking to final destinations are key components.


       —Scott TenBrink    Apr. 5 '06 - 07:47AM    #
  117. SCott, downtown Northville has something like that, and the parking is free.


       —jcp2    Apr. 5 '06 - 01:24PM    #
  118. I’ve been thinking back to the Whole Foods/not enough parking by design.

    ACtually the Whole Foods/shopping center parking lot works in that it is often used to capacity.

    I guess what I find confusing is the idea that somehow not providing parking would discourage people from driving to Whole Foods, and would get them to ride bikes or take the bus. Clearly, that hasn’t happened.

    I worry that the same logic applied to other parts of the city would yield the same results, ie. people drive anyway.


       —JD    Apr. 5 '06 - 05:46PM    #
  119. Seeking out the most recent parking thread to bump up:

    It doesn’t look like David C. said “In Michigan, there can be nothing wrong with the car,” in this particular thread – which is surprising – but he’s said it enough that we’re all familiar with it.

    Today’s Detroit News (aren’t they supposed to be conservative, and aren’t conservatives supposed to hate transit?) seems to say, “EVEN in Michigan, people will find something wrong with the car if gas gets expensive enough.” Apparently $3/gallon is the point at which enough people are changing travel habits for the News to notice. Some choice snippets:

    daily ridership has risen 25 percent to 40,000 in April over the same month in 2005 on SMART, the suburban bus system. The city’s counterpart, the Detroit Transportation Department, had an 11 percent jump in March to about 132,000 daily riders.

    and,

    Owens’ family routine has changed to reflect the new realities at the pump. (emphasis mine.)

    The News does note that cars are obviously still dominant, but – “new realities”? Did the Detroit News really say that? It would be shameful if Ann Arbor lagged behind the Detroit News and their sample of early adopters in recognizing new realities in the world.

    David, I’ll let you respond?


       —TPM    Apr. 25 '06 - 04:06PM    #
  120. This might be common knowledge by now, but that flat space at the former site of the First and Washington Parking Structure has been marked out and seems open for parking. The sign posted says FREE.


       —HD    Apr. 25 '06 - 04:34PM    #
  121. The 1st and Washington lot is free until May 1.


       —tom    Apr. 25 '06 - 04:37PM    #